Questions Linger After ‘Meet the Judges’ Forum in Germantown – Memphis Local, Sports, Business & Food News

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The pews at Germantown Presbyterian Church were packed with spectators Thursday as 60 justice candidates took to the podium, arguing for election to the general sessions, circuit, criminal and environmental courts.

The forum, titled “Meet the Judges,” was broadcast on Facebook Live and hosted by WMC-TV’s Joe Birch, who held each contestant to a minute on the podium.

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Refreshments were provided by Germantown Commissary, Fresh Market and Makeda’s Cookies.

Memphian Wendolyn Payne had a seat on the third bench, eager to get an up close and personal view and listen to each candidate.

“I know this is going to sound weird, but I want to look into the contestants’ eyes,” Payne said. “I want to be able to hear specifically, what are you going to do differently than the person you’re trying to replace, and why do you want my vote?”

Armed with a pen and a notepad, Payne added that she was ready to take notes because in previous elections she was not as informed as she wanted.

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“Eight years later, I will look at these eight years. I was an uninformed voter when it came to the legal side,” Payne said. “I am 45 years old and I have no children, but I think of this generation. I want to understand who they are going to face. Who holds people accountable? Who is fair? Who is authentic? We have an expectation from each of them, from each of the judges down to the last one.

Payne noted that she will be on the lookout for the winners of the August 2022 judicial election and intends to follow their decisions.

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“I really wanted to see over the next eight years, whoever takes office – will they collectively come together for the good of our city?” Payne said. “It’s not just your division and this division. I want to see some unity in our judicial leaders.

After the 60 statements were completed, event volunteer Marie Pizano asked the judges two questions, whether they had been reprimanded by the Professional Responsibility Council and whether they believed in judicial reform.

While many of the contestants seemed puzzled and muttered that they needed clarification, Pizano shifted gears and wrapped up the Q&A portion, suggesting that at the end of the forum attendees meet directly with the contestants.

Ariel Wooten, 25, is a manager at Enterprise in Memphis and attended the forum.

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“I thought the forum was informative. It’s important, especially for people in my age group, to know what they’re voting for,” Wooton said. “And that’s really the problem – they don’t vote because they don’t know for the ballot. What these judges stand for, their platforms, what they actually do and what they protect.

When asked if there was anything she would have changed on the forum, Wooten said time was definitely a factor.

“Nothing is perfect, I wish they had talked a bit more about what they stand for and what they plan to change,” Wooten said. “But I guess we will see at the polls when they are elected, because actions speak louder than words.”

Memphian Vontyna Durham was delighted to have had the opportunity to hear from all the candidates, as forums like this don’t happen often.

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“Having all the judges here will help us finalize our decision and how we’re going to vote because by being non-partisan we can go both ways,” Durham said. “It’s the only time we can be the judges, actually watch the judges and make our voices heard.”

While excited to hear the contestants’ perspective, Durham was disappointed there wasn’t a more structured question-and-answer format.

“A good question was, ‘How many of you have all been reprimanded?’ because the judge asks people who walk into the courtroom if they have a criminal record,” Durham said. “Just like they do a history and have that file for the person who comes to court? Judges must do the same.

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Pizano says a Q&A forum is planned based on questions sent to Facebook Live during the event, but no official date has been set.

“We want to have a Q&A next week or before the August 4 election,” Pizano said. “Nothing is set in stone yet.”

Melvin B. Baillie