I grew up in a small town in Illinois, where we had a Justice of the Peace. He wasn’t a Lawyer, but he had nowhere near the amount of power these JP’s have (or perhaps he just didn’t take more power than he was allotted).
This is a great two-part article, but it is long. You should still read it!
(Note – the link to the second page is broken – there is an extra “h” in it. Remove it, and it will work fine, or just click here for part two.
In Alexandria Bay, where Justice Pennington presided at a metal desk in a tiny room inside the police building, a quarter-century in office did not seem to deepen his understanding of his role. Just three days after he took home the 17-year-old girl, another case raised fresh questions about his familiarity with the law, or even the world outside his court.
Eeric D. Bailey, a 21-year-old black soldier from nearby Fort Drum, was facing a disorderly conduct charge after a tussle with a white bar bouncer. Sitting three feet from Mr. Bailey, the bouncer identified him as Ã¢â‚¬Å“that colored man.Ã¢â‚¬Â Mr. BaileyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s jaw dropped.
The soldier, who did not have a lawyer, told the judge that the term was offensive. But Justice Pennington said that while certain other words were racist, Ã¢â‚¬Å“coloredÃ¢â‚¬Â was not. Ã¢â‚¬Å“For years we had no colored people here,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
The commission had heard worse. After arraigning three black defendants arrested in a college disturbance in 1994, a justice in the Finger Lakes region said in court, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Oh, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been a rough day Ã¢â‚¬â€ all those blacks in here.Ã¢â‚¬Â A few years before that, a Catskill justice reminisced in court that it was safe for young women to walk around Ã¢â‚¬Å“before the blacks and Puerto Ricans moved here.Ã¢â‚¬Â
In an interview, Justice Pennington said the commission had treated him unfairly. But he may not have helped his case when he told the commission that Ã¢â‚¬Å“coloredÃ¢â‚¬Â was an acceptable description.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I mean, to me,Ã¢â‚¬Â he testified, Ã¢â‚¬Å“colored doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t preferably mean black. It could be an Indian, whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s red. It could be Chinese, whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s considered yellow.Ã¢â‚¬Â