On Wednesday, October 24, Passaic County CASA was honored to host an “Ask the Judge” Volunteer In-Service with Passaic County Superior Court Judge Imre Karaszegi. The evening provided an opportunity for CASA volunteers to hear a judge’s perspective firsthand on topics ranging from Court Reports, to soliciting a child’s opinion/involvement in case decisions, non-compliance of parties on the case, and many other topics.
Throughout the discussion, Judge Karaszegi emphasized the value that he sees CASAs bring into his courtroom, and that he values their honest, genuine input into cases. “What you say and what you report is of immeasurable assistance.” His perspective is that when children become wards of the court, “they become my family” and CASA volunteers “provide a tremendous value to the kids, to the court, and especially to me.”
He recognized that for many CASAs, speaking in court can be a little nerve-wracking, but said “when you are given that opportunity to present, please take advantage and tell me what you’ve seen.” While the Court Report is a CASA’s best tool to present their full perspective on a case, the opportunity to speak in court can be useful for updates and progress on court-mandated orders. “Don’t be afraid to stand up and tell me when something isn’t working or getting worse.”
On a much lighter note, one CASA took the opportunity to ask about a familiar character always present in Judge Karaszegi’s courtroom: Mickey Mouse. Judge Karaszegi explained that the toy sitting on his courtroom bench was his son’s, and was brought in to help personalize the court. “Two kids so far have tried to steal it,” he said with a chuckle. He has started keeping toys in his chambers to give away to children. “These cases are challenging and emotionally draining,” he acknowledged, and in order to maintain his dedication day after day and not become burned out, he tries to never take work home with him. He encouraged the CASAs in attendance to do the same: “Do the best you can and leave it there…. Oh, and continue doing the good work you do.”