D.C. Superior Court officials will examine procedures after Chris Brown hearing

Chris Brown’s appearance at D.C. Superior Court on Monday created the biggest stir courthouse employees have ever witnessed, and as a result, court officials plan to convene a meeting to examine what went right, and wrong, during the R&B singer’s hearing.

Hundreds of people gathered in the front and back of the courthouse, and dozens waited in line for hours inside the courthouse just to get a glimpse of Brown, a Grammy-award winner who was charged with one misdemeanor count of assault after his arrest early Sunday following an alleged altercation with a fan outside the W Hotel.

In the coming weeks, court officials plan to meet to discuss how to better handle such cases and to prepare for Brown’s return to court Nov. 25.

Washington figures never garner such interest from observers. Not former Washington Wizards player Gilbert Arenas, who was charged with gun possession in 2010. Not former California congressman Gary Condit when he was called in 2010 to testify at the trial in the murder of his former intern Chandra Levy.

Court officials admit that they were caught off-guard by the pandemonium. Mondays are traditionally long days in the arraignment courtroom, C-10, in the lower level of the courthouse. That’s because hundreds of people who have been arrested over the weekend are waiting to be seen by the judge.

What also made the day more challenging is that court officials only had Monday morning to prepare for the fans who crowded into the courtroom. There weren’t enough seats for Washington area residents who were at the courthouse to support their loved ones, and who became angry when they could not get into the courtroom. Numerous fans carried signs that read “Free Chris Brown” or “Chris Brown hit me too.”

Court officials, from judges to security chiefs, walked through the courtroom and hallways, trying to get a glimpse of the melee and what could be done. Judge Robert E. Morin, presiding judge of the D.C. Superior Court criminal division, overheard one angry parent criticizing the process because he was unable to see his son’s hearing. Morin, serving as a traffic cop, apologized and directed the parent to the overflow room that was set up where audience members could listen to the proceedings.

Monday’s confusion also affected some cases. One defendant who was scheduled to return to court Monday was not present, causing Magistrate Judge Karen Howze to begin ordering a bench warrant for his arrest. Defense attorney Betty Ballester requested that her client be given another chance, contending that he may not have been able to get into the courtroom.

And as news trickled out via Twitter and Facebook that Brown’s childhood friend and fellow R&B singer Trey Songz was also in the courtroom, more fans, mostly women, converged on the courthouse in hopes of getting a glimpse.

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of intern Chandra Levy.
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