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A judges perspective
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I absolutely love what I do; however, my occupation can be quite burdensome at times, for some of the decisions I make may forever change a person’s life, whether for the good or bad. If I allow it, those decisions could also affect my life in an inauspicious way; therefore, I do not ponder or try to second-guess the decisions I make, but only ponder the method by which I came about those conclusions. I must make decisions based on the information that I am given, and it is up to me to interpret the information to intelligently render an acceptable decision.

There is no grey area in what I do. In the end, everything is either black or white, hence the meaning of the scales of justice.  It doesn’t take much to tip the scales, and much of the time there is neither gratification nor even a conciliation price for the loser.

Call it the yin and yang of the judicial system, even though I had a former Superior Court judge tell me that if both parties leave unhappy, then you’ve given a fair and impartial decision. You would think that half of the litigants that come into my court would be pleased with the outcome; unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

John Wayne once said, “If everything isn’t black and white; I say, why the hell not?”  People: yes, this is my job, but how is what I do any different than what we should be doing as American citizens, or even Effingham County citizens, each and every day? There comes a time in our lives when we must take a stand and make difficult choices. If you truly believe that the choice you made was the best you could make with the information you have been given; then find comfort in it. It is the method in which a decision was formulated that gives us the courage we need, not the decision itself.

I do not recall at what point in time this country became so co-dependent, that the viewpoint of one uneducated, opinionated person can force the three branches of government to want to change the behavior of an entire nation, or even themselves. We allow ourselves to get bullied into submission, swayed to popular opinion, or let the ignorant rant of one person force us to question our own beliefs. We cower down and lose our courage to stand up for what we truly believe in. We have become complacent in the status quo, and obviously, the current status quo is inadequate.

Our Constitution has been interpreted so many times and in so many ways over the last couple of hundred years to where it’s true meaning upon its inception has been lost in translation.

Our legislative branch is to be a small representation of a large mass of citizens. Their decisions should be based on what the needs are for the majority of people they represent; however, they can only make intelligent decisions based on the information they receive, whether that be from one person or 52,000 people. They too should find comfort in their decisions, if their method is honest and pure.

 Recently, I have invited local pastors and laymen to pray before each session of court. I must say, though, that I am not trying to force my religious beliefs on anyone, for my decision is based solely on my personal needs.  The pastors and laymen who pray, are praying for the court and for comfort in the decisions being made. It would feel reassuring for me to know that the person who is about to make a decision affecting the rest of my life believes in God.

James 1:5 states that “If you need wisdom — if you want to know what God wants you to do — ask him, and he will gladly tell you.” Wisdom means ‘practical discernment’.  It begins with respect for God, leads to right living, and results in an increased ability to tell right from wrong. James is talking not only about knowledge when he refers to wisdom, but about the ability to make wise decisions in difficult circumstances.

Relying on and trusting in God’s word aids in the methods I choose when I render my decisions; therefore, giving me the comfort I need with regards to these decisions.  Isaiah 11:2-3 says “And the spirit of the Lord will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. He will delight in obeying the Lord. He will never judge by appearance, false evidence, or hearsay.”

To adjudicate in a manner which I feel is honest and fair, I must have counsel for guidance, and I must publically acknowledge my faith in Him. Jesus stated in the Book of John that if He was to judge others, His judgment would be correct in every respect because He is not alone — He has with Him, the Father who sent Him.

I stand firm in my belief, and find solace because I know that my decision in God was made with sincere honesty, courage, and divine comfort. When you see someone stand up for what they believe in, have the courage to follow. Have the courage to follow those who were willing to sacrifice their comfort and reputation to make a change, just as our forefathers did.

The formal prayer before each session of the Congress, according to a recent chaplain for the House of Representatives, “casts a light on the day that awakens faith and calls forth a nation to stand with its leaders and affirm: In God We Trust”. The mere utterance of those four words harkens back to the early 1950s when they were adopted as the national motto. On every dollar bill and coin we spend is a stark reminder: In God We Trust.

The desire and need for prayer was felt back in 1787 when Benjamin Franklin said, “…I therefore beg leave to move that hencefore prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business.” Just recently, the constable of this court, Jose Velasquez (also pastor of Mizpah United Methodist Church), was given a wonderful opportunity to administer the opening prayer before a session of the Georgia House of Representatives ( at time 3:00).

You are not growing in spirit if you are moving laterally. Find the comfort you require to make your decisions Godly decisions, and then and only then will you find the courage it takes to truly stand up for what you believe in to make a divine change in either yours, or someone else’s life.

I am reminded of this pun: how many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but only if the light bulb wants to change.

Remember that it takes but one person to make a stand, but a community to make a movement.

Judge Scott Hinson is the Chief Magistrate of Effingham County.