But in real life, all hell is breaking loose in Los Angeles County's courtrooms.
Amid the flagging economy, judges have noticed a rise in shouting, brawls and other courtroom disturbances, according to the Superior Court's 2010 annual report.
The courts have also noted big increases in family law, landlord-tenant, creditors' collections and similar cases closely associated with high tension.
And with a rise in foreclosures, evictions, debts and divorces, judges say an increasing number of attorneys are suing their clients for not paying their fees. And guilty defendants are asking for jail time or community service because they can't pay their fines.
All this was happening before Superior Court Presiding Judge Charles W. "Tim" McCoy recently announced the layoffs of 329 employees and the closure of 17 courtrooms due to an unprecedented $79 million shortfall.
The court's the East district - which includes the courthouses in Pomona, West Covina and El Monte - will lose 16 positions, 12 through layoffs.
Layoff numbers for individual courthouses could not be separated, said Allan Parachini, public information director for the Los Angeles Superior Court.
The Pomona courthouses would not be effected by courtroom
Without additional state funding, McCoy expects 1,800 layoffs and the closures of 180 courtrooms and nine courthouses within two years.
Department of Children and Family Services social worker Marissa Cathy Ruiz said children and families will suffer and victims of domestic violence will have a harder time obtaining restraining orders.
"It's going to create chaos and put victims at risk," Ruiz said.
Meanwhile, the time it takes to go to trial on civil lawsuits is expected to increase from 16 months to nearly five years, according to the report.
Don Mike Anthony, president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, said the budget cuts will likely lead to one-third reductions in Superior Court and Juvenile Courts and the closure of half the civil courts downtown.
"Our courts are being decimated," Anthony said.
"This will be a significant problem for the 100,000 people who walk through the doors of L.A. Superior Court every day it's open."
Already, court services assistant Ciara Tymony said, the courthouses are filled with lots of angry and emotional people.
"I've never seen it this bad," Tymony said. "People can't afford their regular bills now, let alone their legal bills. ... I've had grown men crying on the phone because they have the choice to either pay their traffic ticket and keep their license or pay their rent. If they don't pay the rent, their family will be homeless and have to live in their car."
The layoffs and courtroom closures in the nation's largest court system come as the fallout from the recession - soaring unemployment and evictions and foreclosures - has placed even greater demands on the court system.
From 2006-07 to 2008-09, the courts experienced a 41 percent increase in unlawful detainer cases - evictions of tenants who don't pay their rent or foreclosed homeowners who refuse to leave their homes. Countywide, those cases increased from 52,834 to 74,420 in that time.
As the court system faces annual deficits as high as $140 million over the next several years, McCoy said the state Administrative Office of the Courts could help reduce layoffs and closures by redirecting money designated for construction of new courthouses and computer systems. The state plans to raise $7 billion from bond sales for those purposes. They will repay bondholders with new revenue raised by higher traffic ticket amounts and increased court fees.
"My view is that the very top priority of the justice system is operating the courtrooms we currently have, and it's not going to do us any good to build new courthouses when we can't occupy them because we've closed over half our civil justice system," McCoy said.
Philip Carrizosa, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the Courts, said the office reviewed McCoy's request to redirect funds, but does not agree with it.
Such a move would take approval by the Legislature and reduce "badly needed" funds to renovate courthouses across the state, he said. He also noted the court system has shifted funds from its case management system to help with the courts' operating budgets.
"We sympathize with the financial difficulties faced by the Los Angeles Superior Court and all of the courts in California because of a severe reduction in funding from the state," Carrizosa said. "However, we have reviewed L.A.'s cost reduction measures and it appears from our preliminary review that many of the planned layoffs are unnecessary at this time from a financial perspective."
Meanwhile, Freixes said she expects to see more "very sad cases" like a recent one involving a woman who was unable to pay her traffic ticket. The woman kept asking for payment extensions until she came in one morning and Freixes told her she had to pay. Later that afternoon, Freixes noticed the woman had come back to her courtroom.
"I said, `Can I help you? You said you were going to pay,"' Freixes said. "She broke down crying. She said, `I have $8 to my name, I have two kids and my husband is out of work.'
"It was absolutely heart-rending. She was crying and it was very clear it was absolutely true. I found she had an extreme financial hardship and I ended up forgiving the fine. With $8 to her name and a family of four ... that to me is just tragic."