Americans rushed to California in 1849 seeking gold. Most found what the little boy shot at. But now there is gold to be found by college football teams heading to California, and Florida, Texas, etc., etc., to play in one of the college bowl games. It is estimated that in excess of half a billion dollars will change hands between the first bowl game on December 16, 2017 (The Celebration Bowl played between Grambling and North Carolina A & T in Atlanta, Georgia) and the National Championship Bowl to be held January 08, 2018 in the same place.
My alma mater, Indiana University, will not be among the 80 colleges participating. We will, however, share in a portion of the bowl revenues that other Big 10 universities will rake in. Maybe we can use the money to help fund the one event I.U. students always get to play in, the Little 500 bike race. Okay, enough sour grapes. Let’s move along with the main topic which is the college football bowl season.
Less than forty years after the end of the Civil War (1902) the first college bowl game was held between the University of Michigan (representing the east) and Stanford University (representing the west). America’s Civil War wounds were still too raw to pit a northern team versus a southern one. The game was conceived as a fundraiser to help Pasadena, California defray the expenses of the Rose Parade that was always held to celebrate the New Year. Unfortunately, Michigan beat Stanford so badly that Stanford walked off the field and quit in the third quarter (49-0). This was so embarrassing the Rose Bowl game was not held again until 1916.
However, due to the financial success of games from 1916 up to the time of the Great Depression other communities jumped on the bowl bandwagon. Miami, Florida started the Orange Bowl in 1933, New Orleans added the Sugar Bowl in 1935 and Texas started the Sun Bowl in 1936 and the Cotton Bowl in 1937. A true gold rush was in full swing.
The 2018 Rose Bowl will be held New Year’s Day between The University of Oklahoma and the University of Georgia. Each school’s conference will be paid $40 million dollars and each of the two schools playing will get paid over $2 million as “compensation for expenses”. My guess is each university will use the money to snag five star recruits and build evermore state of the art practice facilities. I say we should not expect the money to be invested in each university’s academic needs. On the other hand, Peg and I have not seen fit to buy any tickets to watch the exciting lectures on physics at I.U. instead of the moribund football games!
President Trump has decided to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Administration’s two main stated reasons for doing so are: (1) it simply acknowledges the reality, i.e., the Jews of Israel already say it’s their capital; and, (2) America’s decision will promote peace among the Jews, Christians and Muslims who live there. Of course, many of the residents of Jerusalem are sectarian and do not ascribe to any religion. However, none of them can escape their own or their neighbor’s cultural heritage.
According to the Old Testament people were already living in the areas we now call Palestine and Israel when the Hebrews migrated there. And according to the Torah, the Bible and the Quran, Arabs and Jews have the common founder, Abraham. They are genetically half-siblings at their origin.
This makes some sense to me as science has established all humans arose from one source in Africa and the Middle East is geographically connected to that source. We are all connected genetically, although it seems unfair I cannot understand nuclear physics nor run a 4.3 forty.
It is our elected federal government’s function to set and execute our foreign policy. I am good with that. But I would like to respectfully suggest to President Trump that if we want to truly recognize the reality on the ground in Jerusalem and promote peace as an honest broker, we should also recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, just saying.
Gentle Reader do not despair. We have reached the final week of our discussion of the Internet course for Rural Court Judges. You will no doubt recall our previous sessions on the scintillating topics of Rural Court Case and Court Management. Well, the best is yet to come. I only wish we could hear from the student judges from Alaska to Maryland who attended the seven week National Judicial College course that I helped teach. Surely they were filled with the same excitement I felt as an Indiana University freshman law student during Contracts classes, perhaps much as you have been while reading Gavel Gamut the past few weeks. But, all good things must come to an end so let us summarize what we have studied.
We started with the proposition that the most essential criterion for being a Rural Court judge, or any judge, is good character. Intelligence and industry are fine attributes but ring hollow if a judge cannot choose the harder right over the easier wrong. As Socrates told his Athenian judges who tried to have it both ways, “Your job is to do justice, not make a present of it.”
You may remember the prescient observation made by Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) when he wrote of his impressions of America in Democracy in America: “In America practically every political question eventually becomes a judicial one.” Of course, for those questions to be answered properly the judiciary must be fair and impartial and the public must have confidence they are; politics must not enter into a judge’s decisions.
That astute one-time Hoosier Abraham Lincoln who knew a little bit about politics and a lot about judging saw the legal profession’s role as to first be peacekeepers. To keep the peace judges must enjoy the public’s confidence in the absolute impartiality of judicial decisions. Character is the cloak that must robe a judge.
And when a judge is faced with those difficult cases where he or she is tempted to slip off the blindfold and tip the scales of justice, the only refuge a judge has is his or her character. That is what judges heard during our Internet course and what Bobby Kennedy meant when he said, “Some see things as they are and ask, why? I dream what things could be and ask, why not?”
Of course, society often rewards those of weak character and severely punishes those who choose the harder right. But that pressure is what judges must withstand. So where we start and end our course on Rural Court judges is the same proposition: judges must keep the blindfold on and their thumbs off the scale.
You may know that for about twenty years I have been serving on the faculty of the National Judicial College where judges teach other judges to be judges. The NJC has a fairly high-tech approach due to needing to reach judges from all across America and in many foreign countries. About six years ago the College asked me and five other faculty judges to conduct a seven-week Internet class. Each faculty member is assigned areas of concentration. Mine are Court and Case Management and Judicial Ethics. If you have followed Gavel Gamut recently you may recall the other faculty and I just completed this year’s course.
Now, this week you and I could address the vicissitudes of Hoosier football or the most salacious sexual harassment scandal. Perhaps we could delve into the mysteries of competing religious philosophies or even this week’s almost certain to occur mass shooting. But I know my audience, small though it may be, and I am confident you would prefer to reflect upon the issues I hammered into the student judges via the Internet. Let’s get right to it.
May we start with the simple question, “Why do we even have Courts?” This topic might feel a little broad and somewhat amorphous. So, why don’t we narrow our focus and discuss just one court, say the Posey Circuit Court; What is its purpose?
Posey County government has numerous elements but each part can be reasonably placed in three general categories: (1) Executive, such as the Board of County Commissioners, (2) Legislative, the County Council; and (3) the Judiciary, which consists of two courts, Superior and Circuit.
The Commissioners are hired by Posey County voters to plan and execute short, medium and long-term functions, such as roads, jails and courthouses. The County Council is charged with managing the funding of all county services. I do not mean to ignore the important duties of such officers as the Prosecuting Attorney, the Sheriff, the County Clerk, the Treasurer, Assessor, Auditor and many other public servants. However we are painting with a very broad brush here; general, three-branch democracy is our subject.
Officials who engage in executive or legislative functions are not only allowed to, they are encouraged to advocate for certain policies and positions. Should Posey County have zoning and, if so, what kind? Can Posey County afford to hire more workers, and, if so, how much should they be paid? In county government there are thousands of important and often competing interests and interest groups to be advocated for and against. These are proper functions of those two branches of Posey County government. Therefore, it is altogether fitting that politics are involved. Policies are advanced and the voters decide whose policies they prefer, Democracy at work.
But, what happens when competing interests reach a conflict or an impasse? Where do citizens look to get a problem resolved? Where is there a fair arbiter? And, most importantly, where can citizens go with confidence the arbiter is not biased for or against either side? Of course, it is the Court, HOPEFULLY. However, if the Judge is perceived to be beholding to particular groups, a political party for example, people may fear any decisions the Judge makes is based less on fact than favor.
Perhaps next week you can be regaled with an even more in depth exposition of what I taught the judges about judges who may be perceived as partisan instead of blind to the identities and attachments of the people who have to appear in front of the Judge in Court.
Matthew may have had a bad experience in either the Roman courts or the Jewish courts in Jerusalem. He does not refer to any such case but his emphasis on “measure for measure” suggests to me he had run into a bad judge. See Matthew, Chapter 7, verses 1-5.
He apparently thought his judge was tainted:
“Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam in your own eye then (perhaps) you can see to cast out the mote in the eye of the one (Matthew?) you are judging.”
Of course, I do not know if Matthew had a run-in with a corrupt or ignorant or lazy judge; the Bible is silent on that point. However, after having numerous experiences with judges myself, I sense an undertow of bad judging in Matthew’s lament.
Gentle Reader, you might surmise that for years I have been contemplating what makes for a good judge and especially what makes a bad one. I have been judging, observing others judging and teaching the mysteries of judging for some time. My general conclusion is that Matthew hit the head of the nail. One should first demand a person be of good character then build a judge on that foundation.
Sure, it is helpful if your judges are of, at least, average intelligence and do not consider “work” a four letter word. However, as with any job requiring specialized knowledge there is no substitute for experience. We all learn best by doing and if we have not done it ourselves the next best teacher is someone who has done it. Naturally, we should not countenance experience being first gained on litigants in court any more than we should allow new surgeons to learn on patients.
America’s systems, there are several, of selecting our judges could all benefit from emulating countries where judges are chosen from a pool of persons who have concentrated on the profession of judging during law school then have served a lengthy apprenticeship under experienced judges. Unfortunately, in America our law schools have no option of a major in “Judging” and there are no requirements in most states to be a judge other than a law degree.
If we turned new doctors loose on patients after four years of classroom only education, Hippocrates (460 B.C. – 370 B.C.) would arise from his grave in anguish. But we do not hesitate to entrust decisions from child custody to the death penalty to people who may have never seen a court case other than on television.
The solution is not complicated. I suggest we copy the medical model and require a strong foundation of specialized law school training followed by several years of mentoring by experienced judges. Of course, none of this matters if the future judge has poor judgment, a defective character or is like the hypocrite in Matthew.
Gentle Reader, you may recall last week’s column that set out the general philosophy of the Posey Circuit Court: “Talking is better than fighting”. Or, more generally, resolving conflicts instead of exacerbating them is what courts should do and the earlier the better.
Over twenty years ago my staff and I were searching for ways to ease the pain of Posey County families involved in divorce cases. At that time, my court reporter Synda Waters had the main responsibility for domestic relations matters in the Posey Circuit Court. With Synda’s help and the input of the rest of the court staff we initiated the procedure we still use today to attempt to assuage the fear, anger and frustration of couples who managed to once fall in love but for myriad reasons must now apply to the Court to untangle themselves.
The most salient feature we noted in many of these cases was people refused to talk to one another. Pride, disgust, jealousy, etc., etc., etc., prevented once loving couples from communicating with each other and, therefore, from any real chance of solving their problems.
Other sticking points were often lack of money and almost every case took too long. We decided we needed a faster, cheaper, less traumatic system of getting divorcing couples to where they could get on with their new lives even though they might still be tethered to their old ones, say for example, because of children or ongoing businesses.
We knew that statistically practically every court case resulted in some form of settlement. So we sought a procedure that would help couples settle their cases by themselves inexpensively and as close as possible to when the case was filed. Talking to one another at the beginning of the case as opposed to avoiding contact until later during an expensive and lengthy trial appeared to us to offer a better opportunity to set aside pride and discuss problems. The court-ordered Pre-pre-trial method was born.
Couples who had ceased communicating during their marriage were encouraged and facilitated by the Court to meet and attempt to resolve their conflicts. What we found was that once couples discussed their problems, often with the help of a court-appointed mediator, they could usually settle their case on their own. This simple, inexpensive procedure usually results in cases being resolved, children being better cared for, money being saved and families being able to maintain civil relationships even after the divorce.
A similar procedure is employed in most cases in the Posey Circuit Court although, of course, not every case is settled early and sometimes problems never get solved. However, I suggest Posey County is a more pleasant place for all of us to live when people with what they may have once thought were intractable problems sit down and work them out on their own.
As I have occasionally explained to warring couples who find it difficult to talk to one another and instead decide to come into Court spoiling for a fight, they can either have some stranger, me for example, decide their futures or they can do it themselves quicker, cheaper and better.