There are probably few other jobs as psychologically demanding as being a judge at a criminal court.
Here’s a story of Ronald Solomon, one of the longest-serving Australian judges. A namesake of the wise Biblical judge King Solomon, Ronald announced his retirement this month after 30 years on the bench.
As a judge, Ronald Solomon has witnessed some “very dark places” of human nature – yet as a daily practitioner of Transcendental Meditation he has been able to keep his mind calm and heart compassionate.
On the eve of his retirement, Judge Solomon (72) recalled a harrowing case early in his 30-year career on the bench that had a profound effect on him.
The mother of a boy facing serious robbery offenses was giving evidence about how her son had been treated like an animal by his father, who chained him to the back door and threw food to him.
‘‘The boy started to wail. It wasn’t a cry, it was a wail … I just looked down and there was the hardened crown prosecutor with tears in his eyes. I had tears in my eyes. That’s something I will never forget,’’ Judge Solomon said at his top-floor chambers of the John Maddison Tower. ‘‘But I haven’t come out of that dark place in a black mood.’’
Born in the then impoverished suburb of Darlinghurst, Judge Solomon grew up in a pub in the 1940s and attended the local public school where, as he said in a speech on Friday night at an informal farewell, most children did not wear shoes even in winter, and ‘‘there were daily fights over the morning recess milk, which was breakfast for most of the pupils.’’
His best mate’s mother was a prostitute and another friend’s mother was single and an alcoholic. Judge Solomon’s father had a big win at the races and they moved to Vaucluse.
‘‘I didn’t come into real contact again with the underprivileged, the damaged and the poor until I was appointed a judge in 1983, and since then they have played a very significant part in my thinking and my work life,’’ he said in his speech.
‘‘I knew from my early experience that poverty existed but I was not aware until I worked as a judge that physical poverty was in the main accompanied by emotional poverty, which most of the persons I have sentenced experienced through no fault of their own except that they were born into their environment. In my view, governments do not provide sufficient resources to deal with underprivileged families.’’
Read the full article by Natasha Wallace for The South Coast Register