My Judicial Philosophy is clear: It is a judge’s job to apply the existing law to the facts of a case, not bend and shape the law to match a desired outcome.
The court should be seen by all sides as a fair way to resolve a dispute the parties cannot resolve on their own. “Fair” doesn’t always mean finding a middle ground. I believe that if a party is wrong, it should be held fully accountable. At the same time, if a party is wrongly accused, it should be quickly, completely and (if appropriate) publicly cleared of the accusation. Fairness in a courtroom means a commitment to find the truth, whatever it may be, and to apply the law consistently to those facts regardless of any personal preference.
Occasionally, following the law can lead to an outcome that is hard to accept. Laws are written by people and we know both individuals and societies make mistakes, change priorities and evolve in their attitudes over time. The law is almost always behind that curve of change. It is not until we see a problem, that we can begin to craft a solution. When judges ignore the law to achieve an outcome in a particular case, it often helps to hide, rather than fix, problems in the law. It creates inconsistency and bias, not fairness. Our system has methods to change bad laws. Judges have an important, but very limited, role in that process.
Legal conflicts often involve disagreements not just about what facts are true, but about how laws should be applied, which portions of the case are most important, and/or what process will be used. Those decisions are not always easy to make. When a judge has to use his or her discretion, it is important that it be informed, reasoned and clear. Judges explaining the information relied upon, and the reasons a choice was made, is not only helpful to the parties involved but is the best way to find and correct any errors if they exist. Once a decision is made, it should be consistently applied throughout the rest of the case. If it can’t be, it probably was the wrong decision.
A good judge is a servant of the law, not its master. The enormous power of the court should rest in the hands of one who respects the dignity and rights of all the people it serves. A judge should only exercise those powers necessary to preserve the rule of law and to maintain a confidence that fairness and order are available to everyone who comes to court. Anything beyond that limited use of power creates distrust and erodes a community’s peace.
Because we live together, we should work together to create the best community possible. Our courts can be an important part of that process. Courts can guide the first step out of a bad situation. Courts can lessen the pain of a broken promise. Courts can help protect those who have been unfairly attacked. Judges should embrace the impact they have on the community and accept their responsibility to make things better by preserving a just process for all.