Thursday, July 9, 2009

Being a Judge

This morning I had to do something that I absolutely hate doing: evicting a tenant for non-payment of rent. She had owed for two months and nearly over $700 dollars in a water bill. We were simply submitting a Summary Judgment as the tenant had agreed that she owned us in excess of nearly $4,000 dollars. I tried to work with the tenant, considering that she's a singel mother with two children who had lost her job. But she had refused to call us over the last two months and would not return any calls. My partner is by far less sympathetic. But we both agreed it was time.

When I have to go to court, I usually take a good book as the court is usually full of tenants, landlords and lawyers. This time the book was Works of Love by Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, one of my favorites. Although our lawyer was present, I had written in my book all the back pay in rent, including late fees, lawyer fees and court administration fees. All are in our contract and all were gone over carefully before the tenants sign the lease. I go over this thoroughly myself beforehand.

After the judge had awarded us the judgment, I noticed that she was glaring at me.

"What are you reading?"
"Yes, I thought so. Do you just read that stuff for fun?"
"It's interesting stuff."
"I know I studied history and psychology, even reading a bit of philosophy."
"That's great, Your Honor."
"Have you studied philosophy?"
"Yes, Your Honor."
"That's great. It's not everyday that those entering my courtroom are reading such books."
"I enjoy it. It helps me be a better person, challenging my assumptions."
"Yes, Your Honor, not that I'm successful all the time."
"You're an interesting lady. I'm impressed."
"I'm pretty inquisitive; that's for sure."
"I think that's clear. You have been in my courtroom before, haven't you?"
"Yes, Your Honor."
"Yes, I remember you. Have a good day."
"Thank you, Your Honor. You too."

As we left my lawyer who has appeared before this particular judge many times said, "Wow, she rarely interacts with those in her courtroom the way she had with you." Now, the judgment granted was surely by the law and I do not expect anything else should I appear before her again. But judges do use their judgment on human beings and the arguments from all sides being told to them. That's why they are guessed it...judges. Getting in my car I thought about Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Many people seem to feel as if judges should leave their humanity and experience at the door upon entering the courtroom. While their decisions should be governed by the law, their humanity without a doubt influences their judgment. How can it not?


Marion said...

I agree that just because they're judges, doesn't mean they're not human, too. I was a little nervous reading the story, though, hoping she didn't dislike Kierkegaard!! LOL!

I had a doctor's assistant question me about a book once. I was reading "The Sage's Tao te Ching" edited by William Martin. He, too, was studying The Tao and we had a fascinating discussion. I highly recommend always having a good book to read at all times. Blessings!

Judith Ellis said...

Marion - You make me smile. Thanks!

Thanks also for the book recommendation. I'll order it.

Isn't it great to share? An unexpected "fascinating discussion" is always great fun.

Blessings also to you!