I ran into Judge Martha Christian this week. She and I were both out rounding up groceries getting ready for the gluttony that is this holiday season. I realized I had not noted in this column that she is retiring.
Judge Christian had the distinct honor of being the first and last judge I ever dealt with as a lawyer. My first case as a lawyer was on behalf of an indigent criminal defendant who had been arrested for driving under the influence. The police found crack under the driver’s seat.
I made my way to the Law Enforcement Center, referred to by everyone as the “LEC” and met with my client. I once, later and wiser, had a client in the same situation who insisted a “crack fairy” planted the drugs under his driver’s seat. Not this guy. This guy said “the man” put the crack under his seat.
I was 25, newly married, and sure as the sun comes up had no idea who this “man” was, but my client insisted the “man” put the crack under his seat and, extremely alarming, my client insisted this mystery man looked like me.
That’s all he would give me. That’s it.
So we go to court. I finally convinced him to plea guilty. But having explained this bizarre situation to one of the lawyers in my firm, he suggested I ask for a psychological evaluation. In court, I go up to Judge Christian and explain that we were going to plea, but I think my client needs a psych evaluation. I explained that he claims some “man” put crack under his driver’s seat and that he claims this man looked like me.
Clearly Judge Christian had been around this block before and immediately understood I had just gotten off the boat. She called over to my client and said, cutting to the chase, “Do you mean the white man?” “Yes,” my client replied. I went from being very white to turning beet red. “Your client doesn’t need a psychological evaluation, Mr. Erickson,” Judge Christian said. “He needs to take this plea.”
He did. I learned. I’ll miss Judge Christian.
Being a conservative, white male who opposes affirmation action, I hope Gov. Nathan Deal notes that in a diverse county in a diverse judicial district we have an all-white, all-male bench with Judge Christian’s departure.
Justice is blind and the color of the judge should not matter. But as long as we ultimately elect the judges in our community, keeping an all-white, all- male bench provides an unneeded grievance within our electoral politics.
Another retirement will be Elmo Richardson from the Bibb County Commission. The lone Republican on the commission, Richardson became a technocratic manager of the budget, making sure the county did not go the way of the city in its finances. He got grief from me and others. He got a lot of grief over roads.
A lot of people thought there was some dark business or corruption behind the commissioner’s refusal to listen on some points or budge on others. It may have been his business ties or something. In truth, I suspect it was because he is an engineer. Successful engineers get a plan and stick to the plan. There was nothing dark or sinister. He just liked the plan and it rarely mattered that anyone else agreed.
Richardson, whether I agreed or not with his decisions, kept the county solvent. His institutional knowledge will be missed.
Erick Erickson is a CNN contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.