by Jennifer Bowman
I was recently given the opportunity to tag along with Judge Amy Reedy, who is the candidate for 10th Judicial District Criminal Court Judge. She was an old friend of my dad's, and I vaguely remembered visiting her horse farm/house when I was younger. I thought the experience would help me with my observation skills and my writing, but it was far more than that.
First, to describe Amy. She insisted on being called "Amy" instead of my engrained and enforced "ma'am." She was chipper at a very early hour of the morning. I'm not a grumpy person in the morning, believe it or not, but I find it hard to be so vigorous. She, however, doesn't. And at first glance, she doesn't seem like a judge. She's too. . . happy. My impression of a judge is someone who looks like they should reside in an eighteenth century English Parliament, or some angry person on Law & Order.
But no, that wasn't the case at all. (Hah.) I was invited to witness a fairly disturbing case in Monroe County. It's important to know that everyone in Monroe County smokes, even in the courthouse, though not in the courtroom, obviously. The only people who didn't were those of us who weren't from Monroe County. I don't say this to be condescending, but to give a description to the casual kind of atmosphere that people had with each other in the courthouse. It was tense between the two sides and with all the nervous witnesses, but it wasn't uptight. A man was being tried and later was convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor, and aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. The trial was a two-day process, and I was only there for one day, so I didn't learn of the outcome until later. I thought the judge would get some kind of background on the case before they were given it, but no, as Amy told me, "The judges are in the dark as much as the jurors."
The whole process seemed somewhat systematic, until after lunch. That's when the public defender and prosecutor began objecting each other and really getting into it. Amy never seemed partial one way or the other. I found I could never be a judge for this reason - I could never remain impartial. By the end of the day, I was completely exhausted. Excluding lunch, I'd done nothing but sit and take tedious little notes for nearly eight hours. As easy as that sounds, it's quite tiring. I can't imagine driving an hour to my job. But Judge Amy Reedy does it about three times a week to the separate counties of her district.
Driving on the way back, I inquire as to her personal feelings about the quirks of being a judge. As cynical as I am, I still feel pity for certain types of people in certain situations. I have a soft side and I would find it hard to impose a harsh sentence sometimes. She told me that while she's never felt guilty for sentencing a criminal, she feels like "it's the hardest part of being a judge."
"It's like being a parent," she said as she kept her eyes focused on the road. "If I want my child to be a good person, I have to be a disciplinarian. I have to hold my child accountable for his actions. As a judge, I have to put people in jail. I have to hold them accountable."
As the first woman criminal judge in the 10th Judicial District, she certainly holds a certain admirable quality for me. I want her to go on and become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court immediately. I ask her if she has any higher goals in her career.
She responds, in a matter-of-fact tone, "I never dreamed of being a judge. I am not doing this because this is a personal goal for Amy Reedy. I am doing this because I love the criminal justice system. I feel that we need a judge who has real courtroom experience from all sides of the courtroom. I care enough about the criminal justice system to do this. I don't have a goal to be an appellate judge, or a Supreme Court judge. I think that would require a move, and I love where I live. Family comes before profession, for me. Faith, then family, then career. That's what my priorities are."
Her answer doesn't disappoint me. I don't think you need to have national merit to make a big difference, and I think of all people, Judge Amy Reedy can see that.