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Opening Arguments


I thought The Journal Gazette's editorial Sunday on traffic tickets was thoughtful and well-said, and I found myself largely in agreement with it right up until the unfortunate last sentence.

Until this year, judges in traffic cases had a certain amount of discretion to offer diversion or education to less-risky violators and stiffer fines to the worst offenders. But a single judge in Marion County, William Young, abused his discretion,  habitually levying excessive fines and harsh criticisn against defendants contesting their tickets intstead of just admitting guilt and paying their fines. So the General Assembly changed the traffic laws to, among other things, remove all discretion from the judges' sentencing. Critics worry that the changes, which went into effect July 1, will cause fewer people to use deferral programs.

All well and good, but here's the concluding sentence, which sort of ruined the piece for me:

Sadly, it appears that one judge's actions will take away discretion from many more judges throughout the state.

No, it was the legislature's reaction to the judge's actions that will take away discretion, which could be called a hasty and ill-thought-out reacton or an overreaction. The judge is responsible for his own actions and whatever misery they inflict on the people who come before his court, but the General Assembly is responsible for spreading the misery. Is it too much to ask for our lawmakers to inhibit one rogue judge without upsetting the equilibrium of traffic courts throughout the state?