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Old school is best school for bad actors

By Walter Geiger It was Throwback Thursday August 14 in Lamar superior court and the members of the criminal underclass horde got a taste of what the courtroom experience used to be like and what it should be more like today. Senior Judge E. Byron Smith was on the bench and old school courtroom decorum was on the menu. There are very few innocent people in court. All are guilty to some degree or another if of nothing other than hanging out with the wrong crowd. Judge Smith knows this and treated his clientele accordingly. When court began, he ordered the doors shut and latecomers detained in the hall. Eventually, those who had arrived late were seated on the front row of the courtroom. As their cases were called, Judge Smith asked why they were late. If the answer was not sufficient, they were slapped with a contempt of court charge and a $50 fine. Two hapless young men seemed destined to spend the night in jail because they did not have the money and no one would pony it up for them. This will teach them a good lesson: respect the laws of this county, state and nation. Judge Smith also expects the criminal element to arrive in court properly dressed. Several arrived in shorts and were sent home or to a nearby store to acquire long britches before returning. Another man approached the bench with a ball cap on. ’Take that hat off. This isn’t a ballgame. This is a court of law,’ the judge snapped. The cap disappeared quickly as did the smirks on the faces of all the gangbangers in attendance. Judge Smith had their undivided attention. Shirts got tucked in and saggy pants hiked up. Though most were already familiar with jail, they didn’t want to go back this day on account of what passes for their wardrobes. Those who had been summoned but did not show up got bench warrants issued for their arrests as is common. Judge Smith, however, added the requirement that those warrants would carry no opportunity to post bond. If every judge did that, there would be far fewer no shows. Judge Smith was not unfair. His point was the justice system belongs to the law abiding citizens not the denizens that spend so much time ensnared in it. He listened closely to the technical reasons a woman who severely beat her three-monthold daughter was entitled to a bond. He agreed and set bond but demanded she post $250,000 in cash. That’s not gonna happen and, thusly, justice was served. In another case, a 62-year-old man charged with pushing around his mother was seeking bond. It was, according to court documents, not the first time he had abused the elderly woman and the bond was refused. Another family member was up next. It seems he took offense at the first defendant striking the old woman and hit the man with an object. His charges were more serious than those against the man he hit. The judge listened, dismissed all charges against the second man and set him free. ’You’re not supposed to hit your mother. I can’t imagine hitting mine,’ he added. Those of us observing the action were left in awe. Those amongst the criminal element may have left mad but they respected this judge. Judge Smith hobbled down the courthouse steps on his way out. He was puffing away on a huge cigar, his trademark, in the building. No one dared challenge him on it. It was old school justice on display for a bunch of bad actors. Maybe, just maybe, a few will learn from it. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette.

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