Area judges: We hope to help survivors trust the judicial system

  • Leading a discussion on domestic violence at the Franklin County Justice Center on Thursday are Justice William F. Mazanek, Justice Beth A. Crawford, Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan and Justice Maureen E. Walsh. Jan 17, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Leading a discussion on domestic violence at the Franklin County Justice Center on Thursday are Justice William F. Mazanek, Justice Beth A. Crawford, Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan and Justice Maureen E. Walsh. Jan 17, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Leading a discussion on domestic violence at the Franklin County Justice Center on Thursday are Justice William F. Mazanek, Justice Beth A. Crawford, Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan and Justice Maureen E. Walsh. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

For the Gazette
Published: 1/18/2018 10:31:50 PM

GREENFIELD — They went down the line, answering one of the more personal questions of the afternoon: What was your most difficult case?

The three judges, panelists in a discussion on domestic violence, shared stories about dealing with a person who was suicidal, a person who followed through with a prior ruling that now landed them back in court and a person who would wholeheartedly go back home to a person who had been committing the crime.

There were cases where the judges showed their hearts on their sleeves, before a full house of about 75 people at the Franklin County Justice Center Thursday afternoon.

“A good reminder is that judges are human, too, and they have to make hard decisions that they know may have consequences, but they have to follow the law, much like all of us,” said Greenfield Police Deputy Chief Mark Williams, one of many professionals in attendance. “It’s comforting to know that they’re not always comfortable with the decisions they have to make.”

The conversation, “Domestic Violence: A View from the Bench,” brought justices William Mazanec, first justice of Greenfield District Court, Beth Crawford, first justice of Franklin Probate and Family Court, and Maureen Walsh, first justice of Holyoke District Court and regional administrative district court judge of Region 6.

The event was moderated by the Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, who was excited that people could hear candidly from the judges who make many of the rulings in the county.

“It’s always good when the public can interact with the judges,” Sullivan said after the event.

The event was sponsored by Sullivan’s Task Force on Domestic & Sexual Violence and the Franklin County Bar Association.

Throughout the afternoon’s program, the judges were asked a series of questions, sent in beforehand by people in attendance, who included attorneys, judges, law enforcement, advocates and survivors.

Questions ranged from the process in which the judges make their decisions to what those on the other side of the aisle can do to help people in these situations.

The judges talked about credibility judgments. “As a judge, often times, credibility judgments are the most difficult thing we’re being asked to do,” Mazanec said. He pointed to modern day strengths and challenges in dealing with conversations and complaints that center around exchanges over text messages and Facebook.

Another point addressed was how to best support a survivor of domestic violence. Walsh said, “To me, they are the most important person in this equation. ... This is a relationship: the good, the bad, the ugly,” she said. “In so many other crimes, they’re victims of crimes” from people they don’t know or love.

Mazanec added, it’s important to convey to the survivors a trust in the judicial system, by “empowering them” so that when they leave the courthouse, they feel in control of their cases.

When asked a question about what the judges can do to be better advocates for the LGBTQ community, Walsh took a strong stance, saying, “We don’t have enough awareness and competency, myself included.”

Walsh asked for more trainings, on top of what they already have. She also hoped advocates in the community could come forward to help further educate judges.

“We would be better judges if we were more aware, more sensitive,” Walsh said.




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