On May 7, 2019, I officially completed my first “term of court” as a Circuit Judge. In the judicial world, the court calendar is divided into three four-month long periods referred to as “terms of court.” The first term begins on the second Tuesday in January, the second term begins on the second Tuesday in May, and the third term begins on the second Tuesday in September. These terms are important because the grand jury meets at least once during each term and a different panel of petit jurors for criminal and civil trials is called for each term.
Obviously, during my first term of court as a judge, there have been many firsts: My first arraignment day. My first petit jury orientation. My first grand jury. Presiding over the Fayette County Adult Drug Court and so on.
Transitioning from a practicing attorney to a judge was not a gradual process, however. Before I took the bench, there was no formal training. The nature of the job has been to learn on the fly, which can be stressful when you are dealing with such important matters as personal liberty and parental rights. Fortunately, Chief Judge Paul M. Blake Jr. has been a tremendous resource for me during these early days, and the lawyers and litigants have been patient and understanding as I get my feet under me. Other circuit judges from around the state have graciously provided guidance and assistance when I have called upon them. I am also blessed to be surrounded by the hard-working and smart support team at the office.
Looking back, I can see where I (and my office staff) have grown tremendously over these past four months. I have transitioned from those uncomfortable and nervous moments that simply accompanied putting on the robe and taking the bench before hearings in those early days to the quiet confidence that I can do this job. I have learned so much, but I realize that I have much more to learn, and that many, many more challenging decisions lie ahead.
I was appointed at a critical time following the recent turmoil involving the state’s highest court which created a crisis of public confidence in the judiciary. I am proud to follow Judge John W. Hatcher Jr., who served Fayette County with honor and distinction as circuit judge for over 28 years until his recent retirement. As I have said numerous times, however, I am not trying to replace Judge Hatcher. That would be a grave mistake. I have to be true to myself and my personality and be the best judge that I can be. But as former American President Andrew Jackson once said: “I’ve got big shoes to fill. This is my chance to do something. I have to seize the moment.”
I am truly humbled by the honor and privilege to serve Fayette County in this capacity. I will do my absolute best to continue to serve with honor and integrity and do my part to help restore public confidence in the judicial branch.
In closing, although I am not perfect and I will undoubtedly make errors along the way, I promise you that I will continue to work hard to be prepared in an effort to make the right decision in every case and give everyone appearing before me a fair opportunity. The robe that I now put on every day did not make me instantly smarter than everyone else; it does not mean that I will have the right answer all of the time. But, the robe “does serve as a reminder of what’s expected of [me as a judge]: Impartiality and independence, collegiality and courage” (Neil Gorsuch, associate justice, United States Supreme Court).
Ewing is a judge in the 12th Judicial Circuit serving Fayette County.