Last week I responded to a parking ticket that I received in downtown West Point. Due to the circumstances relevant to the ticket, rather than pay the fine, I decided to appear in Court as printed on my ticket.
BIG MISTAKE! I sat in the Court and witnessed an array of law violators appearing before the Judge. I was not aware that my case was not even on the docket, so I sat through a bunch of cases without ever hearing mine.
It was the most MISERABLE HOUR that I can recall. The first case was an out of town man caught speeding and marijuana was found his car. While he stood before the Judge, his wife sat in the rear of the Court Room with two crying kids in her lap. The next case was a guy ticketed for running 95 miles per hour on the Interstate and could not pay the fine. The next guy failed to show up in Court on his due date and he was fined for his offense as well as his failure to appear. Among the group was a lady who failed to appear previously and had to be brought to Court by a law officer. She said that she was not able to pay any of the fines and the Judge told her that she would have to go to jail. As an observer, it appeared to me that none of the law violators in Court could afford to pay their fines. It made me want to be rich like Bloomberg and pay anonymously for the fines.
I was absolutely moved by the way the Judge handled the cases brought before him. Instead of scolding them for their offenses, he indicated passion and respect for all who stood before him and took the oath. One would think that the Judge would be like a TV Judge Judy, who shows no respect or compassion for those living a life of misery. In my book, the Judge merits a lot of gratitude as well as the lawyer trying to help those who are going through a trial in their lives.
Afterwards, I asked the Judge how he managed to have respect for the law violators during frequent court appearances. He told me that some of the penalties for violating the law have to be appropriately balanced. In most courts, there are more cases than ever to be heard even though the local citizenship is in decline. The news of late is reporting that our incarceration facilities are maxed out. This is certainly true in our locale as Chambers County is spending 4.7 million dollars in order to add 120 cells to the jail in Lafayette.
I wanted to know Judge Wesley Leonard’s background and how he became a local judge. He was kind enough to provide me a copy of his resume. I was pleased to learn that his roots are in our neighborhood. He graduated from Springwood High School, then with honors in Political Science from Auburn University and then graduated cum laude from Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law. Judge Leonard lives in LaGrange and has practiced law with the firm Duncan, Thomasson & Leonard for over 21 years. He is currently running for Troup County State Court Judge.
Everyone should experience sitting through these court hearings. It would certainly let you know that there is a lot of suffering in the world that is not recognized in today’s society. I am thankful for judges like Wesley Leonard who uphold the laws of our land while still showing kindness and patience.