Occasionally, I’ll stop for coffee before heading to court in Gaylord. I will often get a chuckle or a smile when I rise to leave and say, “Got to be going – it’s time to do some Justice!”
I have to admit that I milk that phrase a lot. For a long time, it was just a clever quip. Then I took some time to reflect on what it means to “Do Justice.” Though I may appear to make light of the responsibilities of my position, I must and do take them most seriously.
Many times at work, I simply need to decide – put an end to the conflict between opposing parties. Once the matter at issue is determined, these folks can get on with their lives. The actual decision – who “won” or “lost” – is not always critical or vital to the parties. They simply need assistance in making a decision so they can get on with their lives.
Other times, the quality of my decision makes a significant and life-changing difference in people’s lives. Contested child custody cases or commitment hearings for mentally ill or sexually dangerous persons, among many others, fall into this category.
What a great maxim to guide the work of a judge! We need to strive to balance justice and kindness, but always remembering that we are required to do Justice first. But even when we must make a decision that is painful for a party, we must never do so in a mean or callous manner. We strive to be as kind, courteous and respectful as we can while following the law and attempting, as best we can, to do Justice.
For me, personally, the final words of that Bible verse are a reminder that I am blessed to be able to be in a position where I can help people who appear before me. It reminds me that humility, especially when holding a position that demands the respect of those who hold the office, as well as those who appear before me, is essential.
And, it reminds me that I can call upon God for assistance. I’ll give Him credit for any wise decisions I have made, and I’ll take responsibility for the poor decisions. In those cases, I obviously did not listen carefully enough.
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Next week: Everyone Leaves the Courtroom Happy