In a perfect world, those elected and appointed to public office represent the individuals they serve fairly .
Fairness and equality are key ingredients that enable a system to function at a high level agreeable to all. Openness and honesty help keep intact a sense of justice for all, administered by and for the people.
Whenever either of these aspects are compromised, minorities feel victimized. In examining our court system here in Edgefield, S.C., it becomes obvious to me that adjustments for improvement are imperative. In our general court, as it is all across America, we have an exposed public gallery where litigants are seen and heard by all. Decisions are declared, verdicts are rendered and cases are concluded. Good. However, when it comes to our magistrate court, we seem to operate backward, and our sense of fairness is questionable and obsolete, and needs to change.
Instead of having the public witness the process, defendants settling disputes are seated out front while adjudication takes place in a back room in front of government officials (police and the judge) with, in my opinion, little or no recourse for people to rebut charges. This revenue-raising office almost always ends in fines, fees and, in my opinion, threats of aggression. We are not perfect and may never be, but if we bring the judges out of hiding and allow their behavior to be examined publicly, it will go a long way toward improving a system long overdue for correction.
We also need new blood and diversity that reflect the population being served. This creates a sense of inclusion and consideration with respect to cultural and ethnic concerns and connection. The all-white power structure system of the past should be relegated to the past. We call upon state Sen. Shane Massey, who appoints magistrate judges, to review this process and mandate appropriate changes.