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Straight from the Mike…Will the next statue moved be Lady Justice?


The last couple of week’s activities involving two major court cases in our judicial system should give us all pause. 

The mere thought of the presumption of innocence disappearing, being minimized, or ignored should give us heartburn. Additionally, the minimization of our jury system and the lack of confidence there portends ominous storm clouds ahead. 

We are becoming too used to hearing about judgments on major cases being offered – particularly by elected officials, community leaders and centers of influence – that happen to have access to a microphone and fawning media access. It is, oftentimes, ill timed, inappropriate, and damaging to our legal system. Furthermore, in situations of the wrong call, an apology is seldom heard or shared with the party offended.

The very terra firma by which our justice system relies upon is one of fairness and equal justice. I have long felt that the courts in our halls of justice are the people’s court, not the judge’s kingdom. We also have to be mature enough to realize that every judgment may not be to our liking. It does not mean the decision is based on bias, racism, or even one’s assets or notoriety. The system is not a perfect one, but it just happens to be the best on this planet.

 It should be particularly alarming for people of color the rising need to pay close attention to the attempts of placing weight on Lady Justice’s scales and even tug at lifting her blind folds to invite in partiality and bias. Our courts have been and continue to be the one level playing field that can provide a straight shot of making our case before our peers and garnering their attention and fair judgment.

 This is one of the reasons I have wondered, in states where judges are elected, that at candidate forums, they seem to always be the last persons to take to the dais to make their case for our vote. Usually, the bulk of the attendees and some candidates have exited by that time. This should be of concern because it just may be the case that you may interface with a judge before a politician. By the way, you may find it interesting that there are just two states in the nation that do not elect their judges, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the state of New Hampshire. They get a lifetime appointment from the Governor.

Also, we should view with a degree of concern the current backlog in our courts. Thankfully, we know the pandemic is over. Nevertheless, it is surmised that the court backlog could take years to clear. I have wondered if the thought of ‘night court’ could be considered, at least temporarily, to help get the backlog reduced. However, I have become aware of the rising vacancies of competent prosecutors due to retirements, etc. It sure serves to support the point, justice delayed is justice denied.

Even the words ‘it’s unconstitutional’ have begun to sound hollow because of the feeling that the judicial branch of our government has become but a shadow of what it used to represent.

I can recall the abject disappointment and feeling of despair when the late Justice Thurgood Marshall announced his retirement from the bench. The people present at this particular meeting in Washington, DC pleaded with him to stay on the court. In his usual visceral manner, he responded by saying, “I’m too old”. I often say that it is a wise man or woman that knows their fill. It can also apply to one’s profession, relationships, or the dinner table.

However, the key point for me was how well respected and revered Justice Marshall was in black communities across America. They felt he had their back and proved his credibility both as the Solicitor General and as a Supreme Court Justice.

Regardless, instances of rush to judgment, even in our social circles, should be discouraged. We all should know by now that the wheels of justice roll slowly sometimes, but those wheels tend to stay steered toward the middle of the road, until judgment is passed. In my mind, it all boils down to open presentation, fair evaluation, and then, the judgment. On the contrary, the more we see instances of panic and anxiety rising over reason, look out!

May Lady Justice continue to stand tall and be the safe harbor to all that needs what she represents. We cannot allow her to meet the same fate of statue removal as of Thomas Jefferson that took place in an Eastern city last week.

The words of the late Judge Learned Hand, perhaps best puts it all in perspective, “If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou shalt not ration justice. 

Until next time…

Michael Murphy 


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