Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Judge Stories

Dermot Meagher was the first openly gay man to be serve as a judge in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and he sat in Boston. Now retired he has written a series of vignettes from his years on the bench which will be published in the spring under the title of Bench Marks: Tales of a Trial Judge. I have been reading the manuscript to provide a promotional comment a.k.a. a blurb. The stories are short, each involving a case or a character, seen from the point of view of the judge which, as Judge Meagher observes in his introduction is almost never depicted in literature about the law. Again and again in these stories one gets the sense of a deeply humane man trying to thread the law through the needle of human misery; not that the judge is naive. To the contrary, he is quite worldly but he is not cynical -- he is what was once called civilized. I love these stories and I am inspired by Judge Meagher's example. I also love the quotation with which he prefaces his stories, from Charles Evans Hughes, of all people in a speech he made as Chief Justices to the New York Bar Association: "The Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeal will take care of themselves. Look after the courts of the poor, who stand most in need of justice. The security of the republic will be found in the treatment of the poor and the ignorant. In indifference to their misery and helplessness lies disaster."

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