I was intrigued when a recent online search included a hit posing this question: “What if lawyers were Peacemakers, Problem Solvers and Healers of Conflict?”
Judge Tracey McCooey
A few clicks later and I was listening to Judge Tracey McCooey, who serves on the bench of Alabama’s 15th Judicial Circuit Court in Montgomery, on the website Cutting Edge Law. (More on that in an upcoming post.)
In a six-part video series, Judge McCooey talks passionately about her believe that justice requires much more than the court system provides, especially in the area of giving crime victims the opportunity to meet the offenders, face-to-face, in a safe place, and to do so on a voluntary basis. (If you walk out of here and find someone has stolen your car radio, chances are you don’t have much interest in meeting the thief, she says in one segment. But the more deeply you have been hurt, the more likely you want to meet the offender and ask questions like “why?”.)
As appealing as her speaking style and warmth is her story about the unorthodox path that led her to the bench. Serving as a judge was never in her long-range plans, but when she won her first election against a well-established Montgomery lawyer, surprising herself in the process, she knew there were some new thing she wanted to try. Finding ways of implementing a restorative justice program was among them, and she set about methodically but quietly to make this happen.
Watch this series if you’d like to meet a judge who approaches her calling 24/7, who believes in the power of personal interaction — which has included working closely with offenders as they pick up trash, and spending her Saturday afternoons quilting with people who have passed through the drug court.
Watch the entire series, if you prefer, on this page of the Cutting Edge Law website.
To see how thoroughly the Montgomery court has integrated restorative justice principles into their programs, be sure to visit the court’s website.