Best way to serve: As united leaders

Published 10:24 am Wednesday, January 9, 2019


Mitch Templeton hasn’t rendered a single verdict from his civil court bench in the 172nd District Court yet. But what he pronounced at his swearing-in ceremony Friday in Beaumont ought to give all Jefferson County people pause to think.

Templeton, a Republican, was elected by a mere sliver in the Nov. 6 General Election in Jefferson County. A veteran attorney, he won in a near photo finish against Melody Chappell, a well-known lawyer who has represented local school boards. It was a tight contest between two respected lawyers. Voters were given good, clear choices in the election.

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Templeton, sworn in by his predecessor, the Honorable Donald Floyd, a Democrat, demonstrated that Republicans and Democrats can — and sometimes should —appreciate one another across party lines. That a member of one party asked a member of the other to swear him in to office — and that the other accepted — speaks well of both men. Templeton also confirmed that he would continue to use — if not codify — Judge Floyd’s “10 rules” for treating witnesses with respect in court.

In establishing rules to ensure order and respect for all people in the courtroom, Floyd set a sterling example for 29 years. That Templeton learned by that example and intends to continue it suggests he will run a good courtroom.

For his part, Floyd speaks respectfully and well of his successor, which helps the orderly transfer of authority in that courtroom. That is to the benefit of all Jefferson County people.

Templeton also attended a swearing-in ceremony Wednesday in which Democrats alone participated. Some Democrats attended Templeton’s swearing in. What Templeton suggested Friday — that Democrats and Republicans ought to be sworn in jointly — suggests comity that ought to be second nature to us all.

“I want to suggest going forward — and I’m speaking to both leaders of both parties — if we swear people in, we should do it jointly. It’s just a suggestion. I know I’m the new guy. As public servants, we should serve everybody, no matter their political stripe,” he said.

Partisan politics ought to fade after votes are counted — especially in courts of law. It would be naïve to think that Democrats and Republicans do not sometimes differ in their outlooks — in national politics, the divide is wide — and candidates choose parties for a reason. But we ought to feel some confidence that — elections behind them — judges and county leaders will be fair and reasonable to everyone in their courtroom, no matter their party affiliation or even if they have a party affiliation. That’s how they build confidence in the courts.

Likewise, after the votes are counted, we trust that most elected leaders will perform their duties reasonably and fairly, as the offices demand.

Joint swearing-in ceremonies? That’s worth consideration.