JUDGE NOT By Jim Redwine



Gavel Gamut By Jim Redwine

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.

EDITORS FOOTNOTE:For more Gavel Gamut articles go to: