Anndreeze Hudson had not yet been hired when she discovered one of the challenges that would await her as the coordinator of D.C. Superior Court's most chaotic corner -- Courtroom C-10.
Arriving early on the morning of her job interview, Hudson wandered down for a look at C-10. Outside, she found quite a few people who, like her, had no idea that the courtroom was not even open yet and would not start handling the day's crush of business for hours.
"There were a bunch of people standing there, looking perplexed, just as I was," Hudson recalled.
C-10, in the depths of the D.C. Superior Court, is where most criminal defendants in the District first appear. For the anxious friends and relatives who often show up, the courtroom can be an enigma, with a rhythm all its own, starting with its schedule.
The place is hardly a welcoming setting. The lighting is harsh, the benches are uncomfortable and the acoustics are abysmal.
Figuring out when, or even if, a friend or family member is going to appear can be a daunting endeavor. People often end up lingering long after the person they've come to see has come and gone.
Enter Hudson, who in March signed on as Superior Court's first official C-10 coordinator.
"You should be able to come here and find out what you need to know without a lot of fuss and bother," she said during an interview in her unmarked office, just outside C-10.
Hudson, a prosecutor in Prince George's County for six years, left criminal law to work as a lawyer for Allstate. After a few years, though, she missed the twists and turns of daily life in criminal court.
A busy day can bring as many as 150 defendants through C-10 -- each of them booked by police, charged by the U.S. attorney's office, assessed by the D.C. Pretrial Services Agency and counseled by a lawyer. With so many interdependent agencies, the process is unpredictable and can drag on for hours.
In a perfect world, Hudson would have real-time information about each defendant posted on some sort of electronic display. For now, she's setting her sights a bit lower. She has resumed the practice of posting a mid-day listing of which cases have been heard and has added information about what happened in each case.
In the typical courtroom, the focus is on one case at a time. But C-10 cannot afford such indulgences. Even as the judge is dealing with one defendant, the marshals, lawyers and clerks might be at various stages of processing two or three others. Even so, it is not unusual for C-10 to be still chugging along at 6:30 or 7 p.m., long after every other courtroom has gone dark.
Judges often have just a few minutes to review a case and decide whether a defendant should be released on bond or held in the jail.
"It's fascinating, but it's tiring," said Magistrate Judge Andrea L. Harnett, who has rotated through C-10 for two decades and who says the pressure is intense. "You don't want to make a wrong decision, because there are consequences."
Other than the handful of court employees, none of the assorted actors in the C-10 drama answers to Hudson. So she must use persuasion more than power in getting them to keep cases moving.
Her boss, criminal division director Dan Cipullo, said her fresh eyes have been an asset. Even so, Hudson said she "was very conscious" of coming in from the outside.
So it not surprising that when Hudson talks about the problems that prompted the court to hire her, she speaks less like a hard-charging prosecutor and more like a circumspect diplomat. She cites members of her staff by name when talking about all the hard work that goes into the court's operation.
But when the talk turns to lingering troubles, Hudson carefully avoids pointing to any one person or agency.
She has the hot seat to herself now.