Thursday, January 6, 2011

Judge David Certo and Judicial Integrity

When a judge abuses the position, knowingly violates the law, deprives parties of their rights, is disrespectful to litigants or just makes bad judgments I will attack the integrity of that judge and do so vigorously. Often times with a ferocity that would make the most accomplished and successful businessmen, athletes of artisans jealous. I am a passionate person.

I do feel that in life we often point out or focus on the negative far too often. I suppose much of that comes from working within the adversarial system involving child custody battles where day-in and day-out recitations of a plethora of the worst traits, actions and abuses of children that a parent can possess are presented to me.

Congruous with that are the opinions about the judges whose decisions generally fall outside the realm of that wished for by the complaining party. Often times though those complaints are meritorious and I have been successful in achieving corrective action.

But, for a moment, I want to focus on the good. It's a new year, the legislature has just reassembled and in a week where I am meeting with four clients who have some of the most contentious cases I need a respite from the negativity that swirls about my head.

Yesterday, during the day, I attended the prayer session offered by the Capitol Commission which was followed by a lunch provided by the Circle Center Chik Fil-A. While enjoying this delicious meal, sans-chicken sandwich for this vegetarian, I had the privilege to meet and briefly converse with a legal mind for which I have great respect, Justice Dickson of the Indiana Supreme Court. I also met his wife who had made special mention in her prayer of the children affected by divorce.

Onto last night when I attended the Monthly Meeting of the Downtown Republican Club. Samantha DeWester had just become the new president of the club. I first met her when she was representing a client of mine in a criminal case related to a custody battle. We were in the Marion County Superior Court where Judge David Certo was presiding.

The Marion County Superior Court system operates a little differently than those in most of the smaller jurisdictions. There is a confluence of characters arriving for cases assigned to a 9:00 a.m. hearing. It was a real hodge-podge of cases that I got to sit through in no discernible order until our mid-afternoon bench trial.

What that system lacks in efficiency is made up for by Judge Certo who displays a patience and acceptance of the parties that come before him of which all people should be envious. At my best I would only be able to tolerate some of the parties that appeared that day. Certo, I felt, went beyond the call of duty in making everyone feel welcomed in their appearance and thoughts, especially pro se litigants who I feel are often slighted by judges.

So back to the Monthly Meeting. As one of the early arrivals, the fourth person actually, I received the customary welcome from Judge Certo who made an attempt to greet everyone until the crowd became overwhelming. Joining him this time was both of his children and his wife.

Over the past year it has been common to see his infant daughter at his side, or more often in his arms, as he attended various functions. Last night was no exception, his eyes occasionally drifting across the room to catch a glimpse of his children. At one point when I heard the faint cries of "daddy, daddy" over the raucous clamoring of a crowd that must have exceeded one hundred I made my way to a teary-eyed girl navigating her way through an unrecognizable field of knees.

I led her through the crowd until she came upon daddy who severed himself from the conversation in which he was engaged as though he had been waiting on a porch stoop with outstretched arms to welcome home a child from the first day of school. This display of affection, the demonstration that children and family come first are reflected through Certo's general demeanor and are apparent from the bench.

The children of Indiana would each be well-served by having a father like David Certo. In reluctantly accepting the reality that this is a desire that will forever remain unfilled it is comforting to know that some, who lacking a significant father figure, will be touched by the wisdom, compassion and understanding that Judge Certo displays in life and from the bench.

I hope all of our judicial figures can have an epiphany today and display the qualities of or emulate Judge Certo in leadership not only from the bench, but in life, through their interactions with the public outside of the courtroom setting.

If you know of another member of the judiciary that demonstrates similar qualities please let me know.

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1 comment:

Jonsie said...

I really enjoyed and appreciated this post. My daughter did an internship at The Indianapolis Recorder and attended the The Community Court Judge Certo presides over in Fountain Square. She has nothing but positive things to say about him as she is very political for a 16 year old. All of the students expressed that he was very sincere and answered all of their questions without making them feel rushed or irrelevant. A complaint she has of many adults. I am currently taking Intro to Courts for my criminal justice degree and we were assigned a paper to research a local judge in our area. I decided to focus on Judge Certo. Thank you for your post, I will be citing it and adding it to my report. I admire what you are doing and I think many people don't understand what really happens in court during cases involving kids, especially custody and visitation issues.

It's nice to hear a judge that values father's and understands they are just as competent,capable and decent as women. A tragic disservice I witnessed many times when I did an internship with the division of family and children many, many moons ago. Unfortunately that stigma has not changed much in that time. Keep advocating, I'm sure you have many a difference it many lives.

Audery Lane