Courthouses aren't made much for spectators. Maybe they should be.
That's our takeaway from the enthusiasm garnered by the West Virginia Supreme Court's road show, which stopped in Huntington last week for a live session at Marshall University.
Set in an auditorium and promoted to the public, people did indeed come to take in the sight of our most important judges and lawyers doing their thing. Aspirant college students and teachers with their classrooms joined the curious public as the court heard four cases, none of which featured Judge Judy or a celebrity defendant.
That distinction-- of non-distinction-- is important. We here at The Record should know.
When we got started covering civil lawsuits in Charleston and elsewhere, the naysayers claimed nobody would be interested. Who wants to read about average folks suing or getting sued? Who gives a care about judges unless they're throwing the book with chutzpah at criminals or carefully presiding over a sensational trial?
The answer is many of us, apparently. No, despite the ivory tower warnings we received, everyday lawsuits about everyday West Virginians aren't too high-minded or arcane to appreciate. And you don't need a law degree to grasp the subject matter.
Starting last November at zero, The Record's web site now averages more than 25,000 different readers each month. They cannot all be lawyers and law professors.
This new civic awareness of our civil justice system is a great thing, as one doesn't have to be involved as a plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit for it to truly impact your life. Each case heard at Marshall last week portended serious repercussions for the way we practice medicine, pay taxes and do business. And save for the unique venue, each would have been lucky to earn a paragraph of mention on page D20 of our daily newspaper.
Changing the traditional media ambivalence about court matters won't come easy. But we applaud the Court's publicity efforts as a positive first step.
Our justices aren't rock stars, but a little more touring would do West Virginia good.