Judge Steve C. Jones, a Superior Court judge in Clarke and Oconee Counties, has been nominated for a position on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. This news is both outstanding and disappointing at the same time. Judge Jones will be a wonderful addition to the federal courts, but sadly, it means that we will lose him locally.
I would like to pass along some information about Judge Jones. A few months ago, he presided over an aggravated stalking case in which the defendant chose to represent himself (he had a legal advisor on hand). Due to the defendant’s lack of familiarity with court room procedure, what normally would have been a two or three day trial turned into a five day trial with three of those days the trial lasting past 8:00PM. Obviously, this was a very taxing experience for the jury.
I have always respected Judge Jones, but in the minutes after the trial concluded my respect for him reached a new level. He printed out a copy of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and passed it out to the jurors. For those of you that do not remember from your middle school civics class, the Sixth Amendment guarantees the right of a defendant to a trial by an impartial jury.
After giving each juror a chance to read it, he then talked of the other rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and said that if the right to a trial by jury can be sacrificed then all of the other rights can be sacrificed as well. It showed that he is a man that respects the Constitution as a guiding principle and not an anachronism. It shows that he believes in the rights of the individual and not simply the textual context of law.
This is the type of judge that I want to see on the federal bench ruling on Constitutional issues and applying the Constitution to the cases brought before him. May his confirmation be quick, and may his tenure on the federal bench be long!