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Knowing your judge, including the former pipefitter

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When a judge, during sentencing, starts encouraging a defendant to expand his or her horizons, and relates that back to the judge’s own challenges as a youth, the hope is that the judge’s sentence will be on the more moderate to lenient scale.

Recently in court, I learned for the first time that a judge whom I have appeared before for years at some point around his college age was a pipefitter. One day, he was out in the rain doing that work while seeing people having fun inside the nearby building at a social club or country club. He figured it was time to make some changes, he applied himself more to his studies, improved his grades, became a lawyer, and the rest is history.

The judge was talking to a college-age defendant who was working at a pizza restaurant, and encouraging him to learn from the judge’s experience, about whether he might wish to go beyond the pizza experience.

A key in life, of course, is to find joy and fulfillment in whatever we are doing right this moment, even if our job is not ideal (mine is).

In any event, hearing the judge’s story, while waiting for my own case to be called, provided me further insight into this judge for when I appear before him in the future. With this particular defendant, the judge gave a desirable sentence.