DECATUR – A Macon County Circuit Court case that rocked the Land of Make Believe ended with a shocking jury verdict Wednesday morning: Her Royal Highness the Princess Cinderella is owed back wages after suing her stepmother.
Cinderella, as portrayed by French Academy sixth-grader Kaisha Alcorn, was all smiles at the unanimous verdict reached by a jury of her classroom peers after a tense 45 minute hearing in courtroom 3A of the Macon County Courts Facility.
Welcome to the Decatur Bar Association's "Law Week,” a local celebration tied to national Law Day, May 1. Lawyers seek to introduce themselves and the mysteries of their profession to the lay public, especially the young lay public. One way to do that is to stage a mock trial with kids taking the key non-lawyer parts and actual lawyers playing, well, lawyers and the judge.
“I feel happy,” said Alcorn, 12. “And no, I didn't think I would win.” Her new husband, referred to only in court as “The Prince” but otherwise known as fellow French Academy student Jaylynn Norman, said he had been more confident of victory.
“And we do need the money,” he added.
How much does Cinderella, referred to as Cindy throughout the proceedings, believe she is owed? “I would like, um, $5 million thousand,” she said.
Everybody works off a script, and the plot this time involved Cinderella's civil lawsuit targeting her stepmother. More than 40 French Academy sixth-graders packed the courtroom to watch a bunch of their friends step out of reality into a make-believe legal drama that was run to real-life court rules.
In addition to Cinderella and the Prince, the stepmother, Lady Malice Nonmadre Mia Tremaine, was played by student Christina Rice; and students Riley Kitchen and Sequoia Tyus played Cinderella's stepsisters Gorgonzola Autist Tremaine and Stiltona Sycophant Tremaine.
Attorney Jon Erickson of the law firm Erickson, Davis, Murphy, Johnson and Walsh took on the role of the judge. Jordan Klein, an associate with the same law firm, represented Cinderella as “Barrister Bigbucks Bonanza” while Michelle Sanders, a law clerk under Justice Lisa Holder White for the Fourth District Appellate Court, handled defense for Lady Tremaine as lawyer “Pompous Preservator.”
Things got tense after the proceedings got under way. Subjected to withering cross-examination by Preservator, Cinderella's case wobbled like a pumpkin coach: “But you've never heard of any family members getting paid some sort of hourly wage for doing cleaning around the house, have you?” asked Preservator with scathing scorn.
“Well, no, but I ...” faltered the princess.
More damage was done when Preservator sought to question Cinderella's mental competency: “Isn't it a fact that you, Cinderella, talk to a ghost you call 'Fairy Godmother?'”
Cinderella replied before Bonanza could get to his feet to object: “Why of course I do. Doesn't everyone?”
Bonanza was later reprimanded by the judge for describing his client's stepsisters as “repulsive” but scored big with the jury when he hammered the stepmother on her treatment of Cinderella.
“Lady Tremaine, you never once bought a new dress or jewelry or makeup for Cinderella, did you, despite all the work she did for you," Bonanza said.
“No,” said Tremaine, in a weak whisper.
“Lady Tremaine, Cinderella was nothing more than an unpaid servant, wasn't she?” added Bonanza. “No! I wouldn't put it like that, no!” said Tremaine, clearly wounded.
And then the verdict came back after the jury retired for barely 10 minutes, and the rest is history, apart from the questions.
And there were dozens of them from the French Academy students. They ranged from wanting to know if lawyers are rich (some are, admitted the attorneys) to how do you get to become a lawyer (lots of school, lots of tests) and what do you think of TV shows like “Judge Judy?”
“If you want to learn what happens in a courtroom, do not watch Judge Judy,” said the judge, aka Erickson. “It's ridiculous; they act like Jerry Springer on that show.”
One sad postscript to the day, however, suggested that Cinderella's fortunes would not end happily ever after in the real legal world. Asked what the stepmother would do next, her lawyer went off script to reply she believed Cinderella's verdict would get killed on appeal.