KNOW THE LAW – View from The Bench: City Court Launches Judicial Evaluation Initiative

Governmental Accountability. It is something that we all instinctively know is a highly appropriate expectation, but it is something that we all too seldom actually see. All too often, our hard-earned dollars are compelled from our pockets through taxation, and we feel that we have little, if any, control over the objectives toward which our money is applied … or how wisely, or effectively, our money is actually spent. And we grow to question if any true “public good” is actually achieved in the spending. Regardless of which level of government: federal, state, county or local, it seems that the fiscal “wants” always seem to increase, sometimes in a way that is not commensurate with the ability of taxpaying citizens to keep up with the government’s appetite for more money and greater expansion.

To be sure, none of us would want to live in a City, State or Nation in which there is “no government”. Anarchy is never a winning strategy. Our Constitution is based upon the reality that if men and women are to live together in peace, safety and prosperity, some government is necessary. But what kind of government it is becomes the issue … and what motivates the exercise of its power is of paramount importance. The framers of the Constitution believed that government should be our Servant, and not our Master.

As a lawyer and a Judge, with a career spanning almost 30 years, I have now served in all levels of government: federal, state, county and now local, serving presently as your City Judge. It has been my pleasure to serve in government, and I have the profoundest respect for all those men and women I have worked with in government over the years who have served with honesty and integrity … as true servants of the people. And, since stepping into the role of City Judge, I have seen “up close and personal” the tremendous and professional job that the ladies in the City Hall Clerk’s Office do to make our City Court flow smoothly through their integrity, their proficiency in their jobs, their great attitudes and their quality of service to the people of Spring Hill. And they are not alone. Our City has some amazing “Servant Leaders” throughout Spring Hill government. As a City, we are truly blessed to have them.

Because of the wide and deep reach of government into our lives, I care greatly about integrity in government … and accountability to the public. No one serving in government can or should be above adherence to our Constitution and the rule of law. And of all places where both should be respected and adhered to … it should be in our governmental structures at all levels, and most especially, in our Judiciary. Because the Founding Fathers of our nation knew that government could exercise power over our lives as either our Servants … or our Masters, the power struggle at all levels of government is precisely over this issue. In seeking to enforce the law, is government “punishing to serve”, or “serving to punish”, as one of our Aldermen said to me recently?

So, as a public Servant for the City of Spring Hill, and one who is accountable to the public, I have just launched a “Judicial Evaluation Initiative” for our City. This initiative allows all persons who interface in any way with Spring Hill Municipal Court the opportunity to anonymously fill out a 4 page evaluation about all phases of the event that brought them to Municipal Court … from the time they were cited with an infraction of City law … up until the disposition of their case. Any litigant appearing before me in City Court can request an evaluation packet from my Deputy Clerk, can fill it out anonymously, and can mail it back to me, offering criticism (constructive or otherwise) and suggestions for how we might improve our City Court functions. Judicial accountability begins with me.

This Week’s Word of Wisdom: “I long to accomplish a great work and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved not only by the mighty shoves of the heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.”
Helen Keller

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By Judge Blair Scoville Morgan

Blair S. Morgan is an Attorney, Mediator and Municipal Court Judge in Spring Hill, TN; P. O. Box 88, Spring Hill, TN 37174, (615) 302-8434