The hallway was crowded with people waiting for Judge Manley’s courtroom doors to open at 9:00am. I did not know what to expect. This was my first time at Drug Court. I was there on behalf of a community member who came to ACJP who needed support.
Judge Manley began to address the court room, “I look forward to having people move on with their lives. There are eight to ten graduates this week.” He further instructed the courtroom. “I do not want anyone laughing when a client’s case is being heard.” He also wanted everyone to clap for every client after their case is heard, even if they have failed. “I believe that they can get it right.”
As I watched Judge Manley’s courtroom operations, I could see justice playing out at its highest level. Clients looked like the weight of the world was being lifted off their shoulders. Justice was seeing them as a human being and not PFN#.
In one particular case, Judge Manley told the client to see her probation officer (PO) within the next couples of days. The client replied, “I don’t have any money, or transportation to go see my PO.” Judge Manley then said, “See your case manager. They will help assist with that.” A lady got up, and walked over, sat down beside her, and started talking with her. I guess her job was to make sure she was connected with a case manager who would assist with her financial needs.
A young man’s name was called. He stepped forward. Judge Manley praised him for completing the program and spoke words of encouragement for his future. All of a sudden, Judge Manley got up from his chair, came down to the floor, walked up to the young man, and extended his hand to shake. They shook hands, and the Judge gave the young man a hug in the process. I stared with amazement; everyone began clapping. I was moved by the caring and compassion that Judge Manley displayed towards the graduate and to all the other clients that followed.
Justice is not blind in Judge Manley’s courtroom.