Wednesday, August 14, 2013

More Damned Judicial Activism!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Years ago I sat at a political rally and listened to comedian Dick Gregory speak on social injustice.  One way that he had found to combat discrimination on a personal level was the naming of his daughter.  Her formal name was “Miss Gregory” so named, according to her father, so that people who addressed her would be forced to do so in a respectful manner.

The naming of a child, at least in this country, is generally left to the parent, and rarely tampered with by the courts.  Other countries may be more rigid in the process of naming babies.  Denmark, for example, has a list of nearly 7,000 acceptable names from which parents must choose.   In Germany, the first name must make the child’s gender readily apparent and names must be chosen which do not negatively affect the well-being of the child.

I don’t know whether Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew of the Cocke County Chancery Court in Tennessee went to law school or not, but if she did it either wasn’t a very good one, or she was sitting on the back row praying when the U.S. Constitution was being discussed.  She obviously missed the part about the importance of keeping church and state separate.

Judge Ballew made the news this week when she arbitrarily used her position of authority to change the name of 7-month-old baby boy.  The infant, Messiah DeShawn Martin, was in court because the parents, Ms. Martin and Mr. McCullough, were in disagreement over which of their surnames he should bear.  Judge Ballew came up with a compromise of sorts, and, in the process, changed the baby’s first name.

The new name of the little guy, at least temporarily, is Martin DeShawn McCullough.

The judge didn’t like a mere mortal bearing the moniker “Messiah.”  In addition to her fear that it might cause him problems later in life, Judge Ballew imposed a healthy dose of her own personal religious beliefs into her decision to rename the baby.    A local television station quoted her as saying, “The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person – and that one person is Jesus Christ.”

The Social Security Administration has reported that “Messiah” was in the top four hundred baby names for 2012.  “Messiah,” however, may not be used as a name in New Zealand – which had some fairly rigid naming laws.

Baby Messiah’s mother, Jaleesa Martin, is appealing the judge’s action.

Praise Jesus and pass me a copy of Inherit the Wind - another fine Tennessee courtroom drama which shows the circus that can result when God and government get co-mingled!

1 comment:

Xobekim said...

Do the Magistrate's judicial robes rankle when she is confronted by parents of Latin descent who have named their son Jesus? That's not an uncommon practice.

The child's name was not a contested issue before the court. Her judicial fiat lacks statutory authority and requires an expansively twisted reading of the best interests of the child standard to reach her improbable conclusion.

This magistrate needs a serious course on Tennessee's Rule 10 the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Specifically she needs to read "CANON 2 — A JUDGE SHALL PERFORM THE DUTIES OF JUDICIAL OFFICE IMPARTIALLY, COMPETENTLY, AND DILIGENTLY" together with its "RULE 2.3 Bias, Prejudice, and Harassment
(A) A judge shall perform the duties of judicial office, including administrative duties, without bias or prejudice.
(B) A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, or engage in harassment, including but not limited to bias, prejudice, or harassment based upon race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation, and shall not permit court staff, court officials, or others subject to the judge’s direction and control to do so.
(C) A judge shall require lawyers in proceedings before the court to refrain from manifesting bias or prejudice, or engaging in harassment, based upon attributes including but not limited to race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation, against parties, witnesses, lawyers, or others.
(D) The restrictions of paragraphs (B) and (C) do not preclude judges or lawyers from making legitimate reference to the listed factors, or similar factors, when they are relevant to an issue in a proceeding."

If this magistrate intends to continue on the bench then she will curtail her activities. However if this were just a mere political stunt designed to give her credibility with the right wing tea partying base of the state's GOP, then her campaign is unofficially off and running.