The Right Stuff: A Judge for Now, A Judge for All Time
I attended the investiture of Judge Alan Fine today. It was a remarkable event. A testament to a man who is well loved and highly regarded, the event was natural, down to earth, and sincere. Multiple speakers from Judge Fine’s life came and expressed their admiration and their love for him. They extolled his intellect, his perseverance, his success, and even his good looks. But most importantly, they extolled his judicial demeanor and his judicial mindset. Speaker after speaker confirmed that this was a man worthy of being a judge.
I left the event pondering the importance of what the speakers had to say. Integrity and intelligence. Respect and candor. Open mindedness and grace. The qualities listed for Judge Fine are the qualities that all judges and lawyers ought to emulate. Our system is designed to be adversarial. We fight over money, freedom, and parental rights. In the process, those entering the judicial system, most importantly our clients, but also lawyers and witnesses, feel threatened, challenged, and scared. The experience is almost always a drain on the emotional makeup of the participants. There are alternative ways to deal with this stress, but no way is more suitable or more likely to deliver just results than the way of a judge like the one the speakers described today.
Open mindedness, patience, intelligence, respect for all sides of the argument, integrity, and a calm demeanor. One can still rule with confidence and force while manifesting all of these admirable traits. There is no sign of weakness in being fair, respectful, thoughtful, and full of integrity. If all our judges and all our advocates could approach their work in court with this in mind, our system of justice would better endure the inevitable challenges to its credibility. At a time when our justice system is treated as the unwanted step child in our tripartite branched government, when special interest groups have taken aim at our system for personal gain, using propaganda and myth to restrict legal rights and to unseat sitting judges, this investiture was a breath of fresh air. Our system of justice has shown, over time, to be the best and most democratic the world has ever known. But our system of justice will always depend on the quality, composure, and intellectual integrity of its judges and lawyers in order for it to reach its true potential.
Thank you Judge Fine for standing for all the right things, for becoming a judge, and for a great investiture. I believe it touched all of us who were privileged to attend.