“The bench was at an elevation that permitted me to look down on everyone in that impressive room. One has to experience such wondrous looking-down to appreciate it — to have the glorious feeling of being closer to the Divine than anyone else in the room. Having everyone stand up when I stalked onto the bench from my special door, with my black robes flowing, enhanced the exalted feelings.
“I’ve known very few judges who, after sitting on the bench for ten years, didn’t think they were sitting at the right hand of the Divine One.” — the late Hon. John Fitzgerald Molloy, on his installation as a Pima County, AZ Superior Court Judge1
And all this time I labored under another misapprehension — that ‘the bigger the hair’ brought you ‘closer to God.’
Divinely divined discretion.
Big hair or black robe, if you think you’re at the right hand of the Divine One, then someplace between judicial discretion and mandatory sentencing, there’s room for divinely inspired dispensation of justice.
Take, for instance, what was happening in small town Georgia a few months ago where indigent traffic violators unable to immediately pay fines were threatened with incarceration.
Called “debtor’s prison” cases, the practice is supposedly common throughout Georgia according to a lawyer from the Southern Center for Human Rights. What is uncommon, though, is getting it on tape since videotaping of court proceedings is routinely and expressly banned as is cellphone use.
But for the embarrassing cell phone video and accompanying national news outing, “A Surreptitious Courtroom Video Prompts Changes in a Georgia Town,” it might still be going on. There is, however, a state supreme court rule pending that would prophylactically put the kibosh on anyone recording court proceedings without obtaining 24 hours permission.
Payment in blood.
Then there was the New York Times story about Marion, Ala. Circuit Court Judge Marvin Wiggins with his own version of a so-called “payment-due hearing.” According to a recording of a court hearing, Judge Wiggins told defendants, “For your consideration, there’s a blood drive outside. If you don’t have any money, go out there and give blood and bring in a receipt indicating you gave blood.
“The sheriff has enough handcuffs,” Judge Wiggins also purportedly told the defendants unable to part with either pesos or plasma. Defendants, observers and commentators expressed dismay over what the Southern Poverty Law Center subsequently complained was “a violation of bodily integrity” by Judge Wiggins.
My take-away from the foregoing is that if you’re poor and haled into municipal court in Georgia and Alabama (and I have little doubt in other burghs, e.g. Ferguson, Mo, where budgets depend too heavily on court fines and fees) — best bring your toothbrush, say your prayers, and get ready for a divinely inspired night in jail — when you can’t pay — or in one courtroom, give blood.
 John Fitzgerald Molloy, The Fraternity (St. Paul, Minnesota: Paragon House, 2004), 63.
Photos: “I think I need no words,” by Molinovski at Wikimedia Commons, public domain by the author; Smeden og bageren by Th. Kittelsen at Wikimedia Commons, public domain; Janie Hutchens Awesome Hairdo, by Ethan at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution.