Judge's View: Hopes instead of resolutions for 2019
I have mostly given up on New Year's resolutions, mainly because I've had the same ones for about 10 years running.
Notwithstanding the annual attempts at motivation, the bathroom scale's number is trending upward not downward, and most of those home improvement projects remain in the planning stages. So instead of resolutions, here is my list of hopes for 2019:
First: I hope that our country continues to respect the rule of law in spite of its internal divisions. Our legal system is far from perfect, and politics will always creep into it on some level, but I still believe in the concept of dispassionate judges deciding each case on its merits.
The coming months will likely put some historic and difficult questions before the judicial branch. Hopefully, the judges are up to that challenge, and the public will respect those decisions.
Second: I hope for a smooth transition of power at the state and federal levels. Congress will have a very different look in 2019, as will our Minnesota Legislature. A new governor will take office.
As the father of a midshipman, the appointment of a new Secretary of Defense is on my mind as well. What is truly important is not whether there is a "D" or an "R" next to anyone's name, but whether those elected leaders are ready to do the work that needs to be done.
For example, appointing a new judge in our district might not be at the top of the incoming governor's list, but it obviously is very important to all of us who work in a courthouse in northeastern Minnesota, or who have cases pending in one.
Third: I hope people can find time to put down their phones, tablets and other "connectivity" devices to connect the old-fashioned way. Make time for a family meal. Look up an old friend. Shovel a neighbor's driveway. Attend a city council or school board meeting and address an issue important to you.
There is no question that communication is different now than it was a generation ago, but we still need some level of that basic human interaction. It is too easy to hide behind the technology and forget how to be part of a community.
Fourth: I hope we never forget that there are real people behind all the issues that dominate our discussions. Judges know all too well how hard that can be. When I am on the bench, I'm usually trying to look at several different documents at once, and sometimes I have to remind myself to make eye contact with the person appearing before me.
I might have a hundred cases on my calendar, but each of those cases is very important to the person whose name is on the case. And each of those people has a right to my undivided attention, if only for a couple minutes.
I'm sure I'll still have an extra 15 pounds as we look ahead to 2020, but this seems like a pretty good start for 2019.
Judge Dale Harris is a judge in the Sixth Judicial District, working out of the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth. He was born in Two Harbors. He and his wife, Barbara, live in Hermantown with their four children.