Making the World a Better Place
Judge David Rippel
Collin County Court at Law no. 4
As a people’s attorney (defense lawyer standing up for the citizen against the government in the defense of one’s constitutional rights) for 20 years, the wisdom I have gained in what makes the world a better place is truly invaluable. Here are a few nuggets and observations.
A court focused on their statistics (how many trials they have a year, how old their oldest cases are, the number of dispositions), is not one that is attentive to the needs of the citizen accused or society as a whole. You can’t force justice. Most of the time, it is like baking a cake. For all the parts to come together perfectly- it takes time. Courts that harangue defense lawyers by not allowing them some say in scheduling, do this to everyone’s (including theirs) detriment. This is a court concerned about bragging rights to their fellow colleagues. The fact is- hardly anyone knows the judges they are voting for, much less their court statistics. I applaud Dallas County courts for being efficient by not requiring citizens accused to show up to every court date when a lawyer can do it. Many Tarrant County courts (particularly felony courts) are not respectful of the citizen accused’s rights or time when they require a mandatory appearance for every court date which could be handled by the attorney. Judges and court staff need to remember rule number one: don’t treat someone like a criminal before they are convicted.
The number one thing I observe wrong with the jury system is jurors not actually following the law. Jurors need to stop disassociating themselves from the case. The whole point of the jury system is to keep it real for the citizens. When jurors ignore reasonable doubt, issue guilty verdicts because they think they are suppose to, they render the system meaningless. A trial is not a rubber stamp process, it is a due process evidential hearing. Follow the law, reasonable doubt means NOT GUILTY. Listen and respect the evidence and law as if your own child were on trial. I walk away from many a guilty verdict knowing that the jury would not convict based on the law and the same evidence had it been their loved one on trial. Unfortunately the last 20 years has been quite the age of hypocrisy. Most trials have serious factual dispute issues. We would not have jury trials if the police were always right, prosecutors always honest and reasonable, and judges beyond reproach. Not to mention, most cases are resolved by plea bargain so a trial is the first indicator of serious issues at play that merit serious attention. When jurors don’t follow the law, they should know their verdict isn’t fooling anyone. They should not hope too hard if they should ever become accused, as repercussions breed a societal mentality. The general consensus of the last 20 years has been “tough on crime.” It has bred the overcrowded jails, millions of broken homes, and billions in federal poverty subsidies. When a justice system is concerned chiefly with “the stick” approach (retributive “eye for an eye” mentality), solutions and improvements lag behind retarding society from progress. Love, compassion, mercy and understanding is a far more effective answer and approach in reducing crime, and the civilized one.
Today I handled a few pleas in Collin County’s Court at Law no. 4. My repeated pleasant experiences with Judge David Rippel merits mention. The judge reminds me of what works in bettering society. Some may call his sentences given to my clients slaps on the wrist, but this is misdemeanor court where for many (a wise judge once told me), people self correct. Not only did he treat me along with all the other defense lawyers with the utmost respect (defense lawyers are too often treated like redheaded stepchildren receiving the brunt of a court’s venom and frustration), he treated my client with dignity, compassion and humanity. He even reached out to my client and asked caring questions (no, he did not preach or get on a soapbox about drinking). His judgments were the kind that produce good effects. Much akin to child rearing, the greater the love and positivity- the better the results. Inevitably, I have seen strict parents have the worst results. Life is about trust, respect, and encouragement. Who doesn’t make a mistake? The secret for those in power is not pleasuring in the negative (very indicative of low self esteem) or control, but gaining one’s happiness by encouraging and helping others. The justice system works when those caught in it want to turn it around for good by being good themselves. You just don’t do that when you fail to recognize basic humanity in the process. I would love to see all the courts more full of positive, forgiving, hopeful and compassionate people (judges, their staff , law enforcement and prosecution). It’s time to trend positive and reject what has clearly not worked in this new age of record number prisons. We have ailed as a society when cops feel like they have to arrest every violator they see. There was a time when a cop would warn a DWI to call a ride and not do that again and they wouldn’t. We live in an age where people parked in parking lots intoxicated (because they don’t want to endanger others by driving) are arrested and convicted.
Judge David Rippel, you change the world for the better. You focus on hope and the positive. You are a beacon and with heroes like you, others will follow. One day, cops will feel free again to let people who made mistakes call for a ride and they will be thanking people who pull over in parking lots to do the right thing. Good always wins over evil and society will be better for it.