Editor's note: This is one of four stories by 4th Judicial Circuit judges as they share their insight into the 2023 Law Day theme: Cornerstones of Democracy: Civics, Civility, and Collaboration.
As judges, we have the privilege to be a part of a legal system, which upholds the rule of law and ensures that justice is served every single day in our courtrooms.
It is a great responsibility that has been entrusted to us. This is why the 2023 Law Day theme, “Cornerstones of Democracy: Civics, Civility, and Collaboration,” is particularly meaningful to me. I know that my colleagues feel the same way.
Civics education is an essential cornerstone of democracy. Without a solid understanding of civics, it is impossible to fully participate in our democracy. It is imperative that judges participate in civics education programs in our local communities.
This allows individuals to learn about their rights and responsibilities as citizens, as well as the workings of government and the legal system.
As a judge, I am acutely aware of the importance of civics education both on and off the bench. Many of the cases that come before judges involve individuals who are not familiar with their rights or the legal system. It is our responsibility to ensure that they receive a fair hearing.
This requires us to not only apply the law, but also to promote the core principles of procedural fairness, which are voice, understanding, trust and neutrality.
Through this process, we endeavor to ensure greater understanding of civics and the legal system, and to empower individuals to fully participate in our system of justice and our democracy.
Civility is also critical to the functioning of our democracy. In a time of deep political polarization, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that we are all Americans, and that we share a common interest in the success of our democracy.
Civility requires us to treat one another with respect, even when we disagree. It is only through civility that we can engage in productive dialogue and collaboration, and work together to solve the complex problems facing our society.
As a judge, I strive to model civility in the courtroom. I believe that the behavior of the Court, reflects the behavior in court.
All parties should be treated with respect. That example begins from the bench. This promotes cooperation and greater understanding. It also ensures that all parties have an opportunity to be heard which ensures a fair and impartial proceeding.
By promoting civility, I hope to encourage greater respect and understanding among all members of our society.
Collaboration is also critical to the success of our democracy. While we may have different viewpoints and beliefs, we all share a common goal of creating a better future for ourselves and for future generations.
Collaboration requires us to set aside our differences, and to work together to find common ground and shared solutions to the challenges we face.
I have seen firsthand the benefits of collaboration in the legal system. Many cases involve multiple parties with different interests, and it is often through collaboration that the best outcomes are achieved.
By working together, parties can identify common goals and find creative solutions to complex problems. I believe that this same approach can be applied to other areas of our society, and that collaboration can lead to greater understanding and progress.
The 2023 Law Day theme, “Cornerstones of Democracy: Civics, Civility, and Collaboration,” is a powerful reminder of the values that underlie our democracy.
I am committed to promoting greater understanding of civics, modeling civility in the courtroom, and encouraging collaboration among all members of our society.
By working together, I believe that we can build a stronger and more just society for all.
• Circuit Judge Steven Fahlgren: Let us all strive to be civil in professional interactions. Story here
• Circuit Judge Steven Whittington: Share your knowledge, skills with fellow citizens. Story here
• Circuit Judge John Guy: In collaboration, everyone should work towards same goal. Story here