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‘All right Makeai, is it all right to have your mom be your guardian?’

You probably haven’t been in the Clerk’s Courtroom. It’s tucked away on the second floor of the Durham County Courthouse. It’s where Archie Smith, the jovial clerk of the courts, handles guardianship cases.

They usually get little public attention. When 9th Street Journal reporter Kristi Sturgill attended recently, there were only four people in the courtroom. The case she saw, one of 150 that Smith handles every year, was typical: He was assessing whether a young woman on the autism spectrum was competent to handle her legal and financial affairs. 

Kristi’s account of the case involving 18-year-old Makeai Respass is a tender story that sheds light on a little-known process in the courthouse. It ends with a hug.