You have a job to do. You sought that job. You campaigned for that job. You were elected to that job. You have constituents now who are your boss, you are answerable to them. You receive a paycheck, a handsome one, that provides for you and your family and sets you up with a more than decent retirement. You no longer have to compete in the marketplace for individual clients and cases and, while you do have to suffer the indignity of a new campaign every four years, you have a fairly cushy life.
You have a job to do. Now Do It!
Hopefully you ran for the position because you felt called to the Bench, because you wanted to serve, because you wanted to give back to your community. Hopefully, you felt the awesome responsibility to judge fairly and accurately, to be patient and listen with an open mind, to render an impartial and compassionate decision for all involved. Hopefully, you blended your pretty certain sense that you were smarter than most with humility that keeps you human, down to earth and attached to the people who appear before you.
Truly, you have a fairly cushy life. Almost everyone shows you great deference, some are obsequious to an unnerving level. You take nice, regularly scheduled vacations. You can afford to live in a very pleasant house and your children are well provided for. You drive a nice car. You wear nice clothes. You attend judicial conferences in pretty pleasant places where you have the opportunity to engage in fun and fulfilling activities.
Truly, you have a fairly meaningful life. You sit in judgment of people. You make law. You are faced with some of the thorniest issues that humankind can come up with. People look to you for your wisdom. You are considered a town sage. You are privileged to engage your life with such meaning and you get paid for it.
So why would it be that you wouldn’t do your job? Why would you postpone hearing after hearing, allowing the common rabble to suffer more days, weeks, months in the painful situation for which they sought relief from you? If they need a custody decision, why would you leave parents and children in limbo? If they need a final judgment, why would you leave them married, sometimes months even years without granting resolution by the stroke of your pen? Why would you let them suffer? Why would you make them suffer? Why wouldn’t you give your constituents their day in court and resolution at the end of it?
Please understand that there are hundreds of judges in Georgia doing all manner and level of work and most of them take their jobs seriously and do their jobs well. Most of them show up for work ready to go. Most of them care about the cases before them. Most of them are worthy of our respect and praise.
But some of them are not worthy of our respect and praise. Some of them do not want to spend their time on the bench or even in their chambers, resolving cases. Some of them would rather do anything than their jobs. They just can’t stand the thought of not having the healthy paycheck, lifestyle and status that their jobs afford. The public suffers. The judiciary suffers. The justice system suffers. They still aren’t moved to do their jobs.
The Judicial Qualifications Commission of Georgia promulgates rules by which judges are judged. Rule 6, Grounds for Discipline; Sanctions; Felony Indictment or Conviction provides:
A. Grounds for Discipline. Pursuant to Article VI, Section VII, Paragraph VII (a)
of the Georgia Constitution of 1983, the grounds for discipline are:
(1) willful misconduct in office;
(2) willful and persistent failure to perform the duties of office;
(3) habitual intemperance;
(4) conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude; and
(5) conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the judicial
office into disrepute.
Not showing up for work. Not showing up ready. Refusing to try cases. All these should be grounds for removal under Section 2, willful and persistent failure to perform the duties of office and Section 5, conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the judicial
office into disrepute. Not doing your job makes the justice system look bad. Not doing your job makes the justice system work bad. Not doing your job brings the judicial office into disrepute.
On behalf of the entire justice system, I apologize for those bad judges who won’t do their jobs.
Just know we’re working on it.