Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Encouragement from the courthouse...

We live in a world where only bad news sells it seems in the news media and watching the local or national evening news can be downright depressing. We’re told all that’s going wrong in our country today. Politicians seem to be able to easily talk out of both sides of their mouth to please the particular audience they have at that moment.  They have the unique “skill” to be non-committal on everything and sufficiently vague with their comments so they can’t be pinned down to their views on certain controversial issues. The court systems seem to be nothing more than a charade of justice because justice really isn’t blind if you can pay. Well I had the occasion to be at the Harford County Courthouse this past Tuesday to be with one of my sheep who was to appear before a judge to see if the unfortunate incident he was involved in would finally be resolved. Because of my law enforcement experience, I know the “hurry up and wait” routine really well. It seems to me in my experience  that the proverbial wheels of justice grind slower than a slave trying to push a mammoth grind stone alone. Continuances,  lawyers double booking cases, detached judges not interested in other people’s time, officers detained and not able to appear, witnesses who don’t show and you can begin to see why stuff takes so long to get resolved as this is the “normal” courthouse routine.

While waiting for my friend’s hearing and having a general interest in the law since I actually considered law school as a career, I enjoy watching the proceedings to kill time since you can’t have your cell phone or computer with you in court. Well I was treated to a wonderful breath of fresh air watching the honorable Judge James Vaughan hold court. From what I was able to glean, Judge Vaughan is a highly respected judge in Maryland who retired from his full time post and apparently was filling in on Tuesday. He was prompt and kept things moving. We were treated to his discussion with an attorney representing a client from out of state related to a traffic ticket and she did not show up for court apparently for the last time. Judge Vaughan warned that attorney he was tired of this woman manipulating the system and the taxpayers of Maryland with her shenanigans and that there would not be a next time!

We were treated to a public defender who was extremely late coming into the courtroom after having Judge Vaughan’s bailiff go tell the lawyer the court was in session and waiting. When he finally came in with a flippant “my apologies your honor”; Judge Vaughan instantly corrected the young barrister that his delay and apology were not acceptable to the court. He told the attorney he had a courtroom full of people waiting for him, people with jobs, lives and things to do and he had no right to delay when he was summoned to the courtroom and the judge did not appreciate him holding all of us hostage. He told this shocked attorney now standing before this no-nonsense judge that if he needed more time to prepare, he could have the time but he needed to ask for permission from the judge and not presume upon the court’s goodness. Wow - A judge who cares about other people’s time and lives and won’t stand for arrogance from anyone, no matter what law school they went to!

We were shocked and saddened as Judge Vaughan had to decide a case where a father had taken a car belonging to his 22 year old daughter, who consequently pays the car payment faithfully and her own insurance, and withheld it from her for 3 months, driving it and even wrecking it and filing the claim on her insurance, along with her purse, checkbook, bank card and numerous personal items leaving her no choice to file theft charges against her own dad. Judge Vaughan asked the question everybody was dying to holler…. “What kind of father????” In finding this man guilty, he told this man point blank he was a thief and a bully; a man who steals from his daughter and bullies his own child. Yet the judge was compassionate and gave the man a chance to leave with a deputy to get the poor girl’s belongings, 45 minutes provided to make amends before sentence pronounced. I wondered while watching this public servant preside and decide cases what it must have been like to watch King Solomon render justice in Israel (CF 1st Kings 3:16-28).

As he pondered my friend’s case and read all the reports; not having had any exposure to any of the previous discussions in court, I appreciated him examining the evidence of my friend’s unique medical situation that caused his encounter with law enforcement. This Judge did not publically disclose the problems my friend had that would embarrass him; showed great kindness in allowing him to remain seated and signed off on the agreement reached by the state and the defense. An answer to prayer for sure as the case turned out the best for all parties involved and justice was served.

As I walked out of that courtroom and headed to my truck after a morning there, I thanked the Lord for the honorable Judge James Vaughan. I was encouraged to see all hope is not lost for our country and there are still people who serve the public faithfully with the wisdom only God can provide. I was thankful for seeing a public servant, a man with authority given to him by Almighty God exercise some good old common sense in dealing with people who’ve royally messed up their lives, holding them accountable but also with compassion and dignity. I don’t know if Judge Vaughan is a Christian but I pray that he becomes one if he is not already. Paul was inspired by God to write “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1st Tim.2:1-4).” What an opportunity we have as believers to influence our communities for Christ by praying for “kings and all who are in authority” that God would save them! There is hope for our country, it’s not in judges, lawyers, or the government, it’s in “God our Savior.” It’s amazing that verse 5 continues “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” As much as I’m thankful for Judge Vaughan, I’m thankful the Lord Jesus is my mediator, my advocate with God the Father. When I stand before the Judge of the Universe someday, I won’t have to fear because Jesus will plead my case for me and He’ll tell the Judge that He’s already paid my sin debt and that I’m forgiven; Satan has no case against me; not because I’m good, but because of Jesus Christ and what He did for me on that old rugged cross.

So I remind us all of our obligation to pray for our public servants to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth and to thank God for them. Pray that God will grant to them wisdom to rule with righteousness, justice and mercy and they would walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8). I was encouraged at the courthouse the other day and thought I’d share it, from my little corner of the world to yours…

Ralph Green

Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church

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