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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Final "Ask the Judge" column in La Prensa SA, 12-30

Ask the Judge: Review of past columns
By Judge Steve Walker

For the past two years (24 months=96 columns) it has been my privilege to see my Sunday weekly column “Ask the Judge” published on the editorial page of La Prensa.

I thank Publisher Tino Duran and Editor Nina Duran for allowing me that opportunity. It has been a wonderful experience to continue to hone my journalistic skills I learned while in the military as a public affairs specialist. Apparently all that broadcast, photo print journalism training actually paid off. It did not go to waste. La Prensa on occasion also published a number of my photos of local events. For that I am also grateful and hopefully they will continue to do so.

As a retired English/Journalism teacher and now Judge, I have attempted to inform the readers on every aspect of the courtroom that I preside over. Since taking the bench, I have encountered numerous plaintiffs and defendants who have never been in a court of any kind and for many it is a very scary and intimidating experience.

By educating the reader in the workings of the court and what to expect when they find themselves in a courtroom, it can make the experience less intimidating and stressful.

In two years “Ask the Judge” covered on more than one occasion dockets addressing all aspects of truancy, disorderly students, evictions, small claims and traffic violations.

The columns have addressed the duties of bailiffs, clerks, how to file paper work for small claims and evictions, what to do when you sue the wrong defendant, the appeal process, the advantages of hiring an attorney, courtroom demeanor, information on how to get moving violations off your record (defensive driving and deferred adjudication) so your insurance will not be affected or have your driver’s license revoked…and so on.

For those of you who have followed “Ask the Judge” these past two years, you may recall my three part series on how to appear on the Judge Judy show in San Francisco rather than face off in my court.

In reality Judge Judy comes to basically the same conclusions I do in my court, except as a reality show host she is able to exhibit a much harsher demeanor.

I am not allowed by judicial behavior to speak to defendants in the same tone or manor she is allowed to do. While it makes for good TV, for me it could mean sanctions, reprimand or removal from the bench.

I also related a success story on a five year old pre-K student who had missed numerous days of school because her single father relied on relatives and others to take her to school because of his work schedule. Unfortunately they didn’t follow through and he was still held responsible.

When she came back to court with her father two weeks later she personally and proudly informed me that she graduated Pre-K, walked the stage and received her diploma!

Everyone in the court clapped and cheered her for her success. When she told her story in court she constantly referred to me as “Judge.” She serves as a role model for older students finding themselves in court for skipping school.

Now that I will be leaving the bench within days and moving on to other journalistic endeavors, this will be my last official column as a Judge. “Ask the Judge” will be no more.

While the column will be no more, I hope to write about other issues in the future related or unrelated to the courtroom. Having said that I will close the column with the weekly tagline “Lastly as always, if you are due in court, be sure to show up to court on time. It is in everyone’s best interest.

Justice of the Peace, Pct. 2 Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and a former Journalist. Walker's new column will begin next week under the title, "Just a Thought."

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