The Proper Role of Judges on the Bench

We at BJU
had the priviledge of hearing Judge Billy Wilkins Chief Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals at a special convocation tonight. He has been on the short list for Supreme Court justices multiple times. He spoke on the Proper Role of Judges on the Bench.
He stated that he had spent much time in preparing what he was going to say, but he had difficulty in how he wanted to present his remarks. He finally decided on a question and answer session, in which he gave both the answers and the questions. These were his questions.

Q 1: What exactly do judges do?
A: He first addressed what judges do not do. The judiciary branch was not designed to run society, it was designed to prevent society from getting out of control. Ultimately, “the judge’s role is that of an interpreter.” He presented a story about Oliver Wendell Holmes’s reply to the remark of a friend, “Do justice, sir.” Holmes’s reply was that his job was not to “do justice,” but to enforce the rules of law, whether he liked them or not.

Q 2: Why give judges life tenure?
A: Life tenure insulates them from the pressure of public opinion. However, they still should benefit from informed criticism.

Q 3: Do I have any role as a citizen in shaping the federal judiciary?
A: Yes! Public opinion leads to the election of presidents who then appoint judges as they retire from their terms. Although the system is not perfect, it has worked for well over 200 years.

Q 4: With all this lawyer bashing, what kind of profession is the legal profession anyway?
A: He answered this question by listing many famous statesmen, all of whom were lawyers, and their contributions to our great nation. Men like John Adams, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Marshall, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. Every major political advance in our country be it abolition of slavery, suffrage for women, etc. has been spearheaded by a lawyer.

He closed his remarks with a poem about an old country preacher’s prayer for the leaders of our country. The poem stated that more prayers for judges were not what was necessary. Then the poem and Judge Wilkins’s remarks ended with this line
More praying judges is what we need.


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