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A Day in Court with Rose

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

On Tuesday, April 13, 2021, I went to the court with Rose. Rose is a homeless lady who provides food for about 500-1000 people a day. Unfortunately, Rose's neighbors view her as an eyesore, and the city of Campbell and the police consider her a trouble maker. They want to drive her out of the town.

I am fascinated by her story and deeply troubled by what she has to endure to help the most vulnerable people, the homeless, in our society.

Navigating the court system was an adventure. About 7:30 in the morning, I picked her up where she usually stayed during the day and got her a coffee. She neatly condensed all her belongings, including her shopping carts and boxes of food, against a fence off the road. She hoped that the police would not take property while she was in court.

She had a great deal of trouble getting in my car because of her leg injuries. When I tried to lift her right foot gently, she cried out "STOP" because of great pain. It pains me to see Rose, a 70-year-old lady, 4'5" tall with many physical difficulties, moving three shopping carts one at a time, lifting boxes about 20 lbs on and off the shopping carts every day to evade the police. I was afraid of getting into legal trouble myself by helping her.

As we drove to the courthouse in downtown San Jose, Rose told me about the case and said that Saint Lucy's parish school filed a restraining order against her. The charge was that Rose had molested the school principal, a woman in her forties and about 6' tall. Rose could not tell me more about it because the city of Campbell has taken her documents. They may have thrown them away like garbage.

I was amazed at how calm Rose was despite all her troubles. She only knew that she was required to show up at the court by 9 in the morning. Rose believed that she was innocent and would be content with the court decision, and all she needed to do was showing up and fighting for herself.

We arrived at the courthouse at about 8 o'clock. When we went through the security checkpoint, I heard "good morning, Rose!" and noticed several sheriffs recognizing Rose and greeting her warmly by name.

We went to the clerk's office on the first floor, trying to find out where her court was. Several people were ahead of us. While waiting, we started to look for the information posted on the information board, where various cases were listed. A gentleman, who saw we were at a loss, kindly asked us if he could help. After talking to Rose, he told us we should check out Court No. 4 on the second floor because Court 4 deals with the restraining orders. We took the elevator to the second floor and found Court 4. The sheriff who stood next to the door confirmed that Rose was on the list.

After reading the court's information, I told Rose that the judge for the court is Eric Johnson. Rose immediately started to read about Eric on her phone while waiting. She told me she needed to learn about the judge to prepare for court.

While waiting, I met Robert and Scott, who were advocates for the homeless. They were homeless themselves at one point and just wanted to support Rose. They have known Rose for about three years. They told me that I could get all of the public records about Rose at the clerk's office for a small fee. I was thrilled to hear that because I had tried to get it for six months without much success.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we were not allowed in the courtroom. The sheriff called Rose at 10 o'clock. Rose went into the courtroom, and the sheriff closed the door behind her. We (Robert, Scott, and myself) were not allowed to enter the courtroom to support Rose. We could not even look into the courthouse. I could imagine only a terrifying scene, Rose, an old, small, and weak homeless lady, wearing dirty clothes and alone in a courtroom facing her accusers, two tall, well-dressed professional women in front of a judge. She had trouble hearing, could not understand the order from the judge or the arguments from her accusor's attorney.

When Rose came out, she told us that the judge issued an order of "continue" and could not tell us any more about the case. I had no idea what it means. I found out by examing the court record that I obtained from the clerk's office a few days later that a new court date is set for June 8, and the judge will hear the case then. I have also learned that the facts do not support the molestation charge. The church and the school used this because it is easier to get a restraining order, counting that homeless people often do not show up in court and do not know their rights.

The homeless problem is getting worse every day. Should we treat them with respect as fellow human beings or like garbage throwing them into a landfill? What will you do?

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