July 26, 2008
This is not a personal letter to you. This is a press release to respond to your public and eloquent attack on the procedure I followed in getting to the truth about the adoption of our Local Rules. Ironically you begin the letter talking about “truth” and “perception of truth” while the very document you published pretends to be something it is not. Personal letters are not sent to newspapers. No one needs to remind me about my brother or sister’s last name.
From the moment I decided to refuse campaign contributions from lawyers my political opponent and his supporters have been saying that I am accusing every other lawyer and judge of being dishonest. I’m not doing that, won’t do it, and have never done it. I believe in the principles and ideals of our Constitution and our legal system and I will do more than anyone else to bring those high ideas into practice. Almost every day now I read and re-read Canon 2 of the Judicial Code of Conduct and question myself about whether my actions will promote “public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”
People are not stupid. They know judges are human beings full of faults and imperfections and how well they know that lawyers are just like the rest of us, full of self-interest and frailty. I for one am absolutely convinced that promoting public confidence requires openly confronting mistakes and misstatements so that they can be corrected. If it requires working weekend after weekend and getting investigated then so be it.
As a young lawyer I used to run into a man in the breakfast crowd at Hardees they called “Preacher.” Preacher more than once looked me in the eye and asked me: “Meares are you a lawyer or a fixer?” At first I pretended to not understand what he was talking about but he was insistent that I knew the difference. As the joke goes, “A good lawyer knows the law, but a great lawyer knows the judge.” I never liked Preacher’s question and never liked the insinuation but the reality is people are smart and they have their own “perception of truth.” If this were not so, David, why did you offer in the presence of my opponent to donate money to my campaign after having contributed to his? The problem is you can’t hedge your bets with me.
I am working full time to dispel any notion that cases are fixed by lawyers in the back room. I have not taken contributions from lawyers and will not apologize for working on Saturday or for requiring anyone including lawyers for having to appear in open court and tell the truth. We do it everyday with ordinary folks and lawyers are not one bit better before the law than anyone else.
I will not apologize for my 22 page opinion ruling a portion of our local rules invalid or for questioning the quality of legal work that is incomplete, inaccurate and serves to allow partiality in the assignment of cases. I will no more apologize for that Order than I will for my decision to require the prosecution of the 202 defendants who hadn’t even been logged into either the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) or our county’s computers. Case files represent real people whom we serve and not one of them should be singled out for special treatment.
Finally, I have several admissions to make. First, I will never forget your generosity in letting me keep the Volkswagen I lost in the poker game 34 years ago. Thank you. Second, I have always admired your elegant persuasion as a lawyer and will always be proud that you participated in my ceremonial swearing-in as Judge. Thank you, again. Third, if you or Mayor Cunningham or Judge Young wants to hurt me politically don’t call me a “splinter” or a “monkey” or a “hog” or go and cook up statistics to say I haven’t done a good job as Judge. Those things are not even close to true. The politics to maintain total control of our local judiciary are unsavory enough but if you folks have to sling mud to keep me from getting elected, leave my family out of it and then say whatever you want about me personally. The problem you and a few powerful people in this County will still have is that I won’t cover-up the truth! I will do the public’s business in public and no-one can hedge their bets with me.
I have seen enough trouble in this life to be glad that my soul has already been paid for by our Lord and Savior. The good ole boys who think they run everything in this County do not run me. My oath as Judge will never be compromised.
Judge Mike Meares