Questions remain after ‘Meet the Judges’ forum in Germantown

By , Daily Memphian Updated: July 22, 2022 3:48 PM CT | Published: July 21, 2022 11:10 PM CT

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The pews of Germantown Presbyterian Church were filled with spectators Thursday as 60 judicial candidates took to the podium, making their case for election to general sessions, circuit, criminal and environmental courts.

The forum, titled “Meet the Judges,” was streamed on Facebook Live and moderated by WMC-TV’s Joe Birch, who held each candidate to one minute at the podium. 


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

Memphian Wendolyn Payne had a seat in the third pew, eager to get an up-close and personal view and listen of each candidate.

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

Armed with a pen and notepad, Payne added she came prepared to take notes because in previous elections she wasn’t as informed as she wanted to be.


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“Eight years down the line, I’m going to be watching these eight years. I was an uninformed voter as far as the judicial piece of it,” Payne said. “I’m 45 with no children, but I’m thinking about this generation. I want to understand who they are about to face. Who’s holding people accountable? Who’s being fair? Who’s being genuine? We have an expectation from all of them, every last one of the judges.”

Payne noted that she will be on the watch for winners in the judicial election come August 2022 and intends to keep track of their rulings.


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“I really wanted to see in the next eight years, whoever takes office — will they collectively come together for the betterment 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 concluded, event organizer and host Marie Pizano posed two questions for the judges, regarding if they had been reprimanded by the Board of Judicial Reform and if they believed in judicial reform.

With many candidates looking puzzled and murmurs of needing clarification, Pizano shifted gears and concluded the question-and-answer portion, suggesting at the forum’s conclusion attendees meet candidates directly.

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 about 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 about the forum, Wooten said time was certainly a factor.

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

Memphian Vontyna Durham was pleased she had an opportunity to hear from all the candidates as such forums are not held often. 


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“Having all the judges here will help us finalize our decision and how we’re going to vote since by it being non-partisan, we can go either way,” Durham said. “This is the only time we get to be the judges, to actually watch the judges and let our voice be heard.”

While pleased to hear the candidates’ point of view, Durham was disappointed there wasn’t a more structured question-and-answer format. 

“A good question was ‘How many of you all have been reprimanded?’ because the judge asks people that come into the courtroom if they have a record,” Durham said. “Just like they do a background and have that file for the person that comes to court? The judges need to do the same thing.”


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Pizano says a question-and-answer forum is planned based off questions sent to Facebook Live during the event, but no official date has been set. 

“We want to have a question-and-answer forum next week or before the election on Aug. 4,” Pizano said. “Nothing is set in stone quite yet.”

Topics

Germantown Presbyterian Church Joe Birch 2022 judicial races

Alicia Davidson

Alicia Davidson is a lifelong Memphis resident and graduate of The University of Memphis College of Journalism and Strategic Media. When not scribbling about the latest Memphis news, you will find her reading historical biographies, cooking Italian cuisine and practicing vinyasa yoga.


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