Compared to the behemoths in DC and Fairfax, Alexandria City's Franklin P. Backus courthouse seems tiny, which is understandable because Alexandria is a city of "only" about 139,000. Inside, the hallways are stately but simple, and the General District and Circuit courtrooms have an old-time feel, with large windows, high vaulted ceilings with chandeliers, and paintings of judges of years past on the walls. And unlike some of the newer judicial buildings in the DC metropolitan area, Alexandria's halls of justice are brightly colored and make great use of natural light, giving an almost cheerful atmosphere -- if only your matter weren't so serious. The docket was light that day with no family law cases on the schedule, so I spent the first part of the morning checking out traffic court. Unlike my experiences in Fairfax and DC, the courtroom was sparsely populated with folks challenging tickets, and the judge zipped through uncontested cases in lightning speed. Later, I picked up the tail end of a civil docket, a very short small claims session, and a couple of more hardcore criminal cases in Circuit Court.
Another observation: since the courthouse is in the middle of Old Town Alexandria, the surrounding neighborhood is a lot less forbidding than its counterparts in DC and Fairfax and Arlington. Don't forget to get a sandwich or visit the waterfront after your day in court.
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