The Flint Enquirer
Extensive Interview with 68th District Court Judge,
by publisher Ronald Parker
The Flint Enquirer Interviews 68th District Court Judge, The Honorable Herman Marable Jr. Flint 68th District Court Judge Herman Marable, Jr. elected in 2000 in an upset victory over Judge Raymond Branch is again on the campaign trail for a second term.
Flint Enquirer Publisher Ronald Parker talked to Judge Marable at length about a number of issues. The judge discusses his views on issues and alternative ways the court can best serve the public, and gives his judicial philosophy.
Flint Inquirer: Why did you grant the Flint Enquirer's request for an interview?
HM: It's important for the voters to hear from me in my own words about some of the things that have appeared in the press. I believe the Enquirer is fair and balanced. That cannot always be said about the Flint Journal and the local television news outlets. FE: Letís talk about some of the things that have been said about you. You have been accused of processing cases in your courtroom slower than other judges. How do you respond to that charge?
HM: First, I would say that I am sensitive to the fact that we have to
be efficient in how we process cases at
the courthouse, but judges make
decisions that affect peopleís lives. We are impacting this community with the stroke of a pen. The stroke of
a clock may not be the only
consideration here. We need to make sure that
we are getting it right.
FE: Is this an issue for people that come to your court?
HM: Unfortunately, it is an issue. A majority of the people that appear in front of me on criminal cases are young people between the ages of 17 and 27. Most of them have either dropped out of school, or were kicked out. Most of the defendants on misdemeanor cases come to court without lawyers. Keep in mind that nearly 50% of the kids in high school in the 68th District (City of Flint) do not even maintain a "C" average in school, and that the high school dropout rate in Flint is above 30%. Factor in that about one third of adults in the city of Flint are functionally illiterate. You can see that I deal with a large population who do not understand how the justice system works. They don't understand their legal rights very well. Many have difficulty reading the legal paperwork that they must sign.
FE: So, you are saying that you take the extra time to explain to defendants their legal rights in your court room.
HM: Yes, if I believe they don't understand. I work very hard everyday to see that people have the opportunity to truly be heard in court.
FE: I know that you have talked about this in the past. Why would this be an issue; isn't that part of your responsibility as a judge, to explain to the people their rights when they come to your court?
HM: Yes, it is my responsibility, but my detractors at the court and a few attorneys have attacked me on this and other issues. But I will tell you that I do not consider myself to be a part of the cliques in the legal community.I suspect that if I were in the clique, I would have fewer problems. But remember the cliques did not elect me to office; the people of Flint elected me to represent them at 68th District Court. A major priority for me is to work toward my goal of seeing that the courts be closer to the community. And that's what I will continue to do.
FE: Why donít you believe you are a part of the legal community "in crowd?"
HM: I have many supporters in the legal community. However, you have to understand you're not going to be part of the "in crowd" if you are not going along with certain attorneys and all of the deals they want for their clients.
FE: Does race play a role in this?
HM: Sometimes it does. I have told you in the past that A. Glen Epps [a prominent Flint Black Civil Rights Attorney who died in 2002] was a mentor to me. Glen reminded me that change comes slowly. Glen was a pioneer when he began practicing law in Flint in the 1950's. When he came to Flint, African-American attorneys were not very welcome, due to racism. It was not until the mid 1960's or later that African-American attorneys began to actively participate in the Bar Association. It has never been lost on me that a few of the "old guard" attorneys who were practicing law at the time have passed on their law practices to their descendents. It would be naÔve to think that racism has been completely wiped out.
FE: Talk to me about the "no confidence" vote taken by a group of black attorneys.
HM: We have about 40 African-American attorneys in Genesee County. The
Mallory, Van Dyne Scott Bar
Association has seen little activity in the
last couple of years.
FE: Do they make political endorsements?
HM: The by-laws of the group specifically state that they are not to
make political endorsements. This is in
part due to the non-profit status
of the organization.
What I found out is that attorneys who took the vote are the same
people who have bashed me in the media
for years even before I heard a
single case. I defeated their friend and they now support my opponents in
race. Letís be real here, Loyst Fletcher who is Judge Crawfordís campaign
chairman, and former law partner mailed
FE: Is it true that the letter was unsigned?
HM: Yes that is a fact. I have been told that none of the officers of
the organization were even willing to sign
But I am not concerned what a couple of elitist lawyers who have bashed me for years say. They donít even have the "confidence" to place their names on and stand behind their letter. They know as well as I that their allegations are untrue, and this is all about politics. I believe the voters understand that as well.
FE: You have told us in the past that your judicial philosophy may be different than some of your colleagues because of your background and experiences. What has been your approach?
HM: When I ran for judge, I said that the court needed to be closer to the community and that there needed to be change. I also said that I would be fair, and make the punishment fit the crime. I also said that we needed to bring the courtroom to the classroom. I believe I have made good on those promises even though I have been obstructed, and opposed by some of my colleagues in the things that I wanted to accomplish.
Iím sure that your readers understand that Flint is not the same city that it was years ago. We have the highest unemployment rate in the state. We have the highest poverty rate in the state. I discussed earlier the problems we have with low achievement and high dropout rates in the schools. But, we also have a very high crime rate. We have a high rate of drug usage and all of the problems that come with that.
We seem to be on the way to setting a record for homicides. We have
young people killed nearly every week. To make matters even worse, our citizens have to put up with a lot of
nuisance crimes that bring down the quality of life in our neighborhoods. Things like illegal dumping, graffiti, prostitution, aluminum siding
being stripped off houses, noise
ordinance violations e.g. overly loud car
stereos. I am clearly aware of this. I attend neighborhood meetings
FE: How have you addressed these issues?
HM: One of the first things I did was to appoint a citizens advisory
committee-- people who are from a wide
variety of backgrounds-- after I
was elected so that I could get input on how the court could serve the
community. I even brought the idea of this committee to my colleagues and they
were very cool to the idea. So it became
Some of your readers know that I am a big believer in innovative
sentencing. I have sentenced non-violent
offenders to do community service
as a part of their punishment.
On prostitution cases, I sentence the offenders to perform community
service sometimes--if I can arrange it--in the neighborhoods where they
committed their crimes, so that they can meet the citizens that they have
impacted. We have had many of these defendants come back to court and tell us
what a valuable lesson they learned
I have even had some of my unemployed defendants offered jobs by some of the agencies where they did their community service. In other words the community service assignment was the foot in the door that they needed to be offered the opportunity for work. That is very powerful when we can take a negative situation, and turn it into something that lifts a man or woman up so that they can support themselves or their families.
FE: That is quite remarkable.
HM: I have received national recognition about the program that I
developed. I sentenced noise polluters,
people who blasted their loud car
stereos as they came down the street---to listen to a tape that I
It was "elevator" music. They could now see what it was like to be forced to listen to music not
of their choosing. This is a way of
It makes my point about people being considerate of their fellow
citizens, and it doesnít cost anything.
Even the Flint Journal, who has
never supported me, wrote a favorable editorial about my noise tape. Unfortunately as I told you in the past, the program was stopped by
Judge Perry when he was the
I am also a big believer in education for our young people. It is my
practice frequently that if you are
under age 25 that I will insist that
you enroll in and attend school or a GED program if you have dropped
of school. If you do not comply, there are consequences. You know, it is not lost
on me that for many of the young
I am the first male authority figure that tells them that they have to do something, and they know that I have the ability to back up my directive. I accept this role as a part of my responsibility to the community.
FE: Speaking of the young people, talk with me about your Student of the Month/Year program.
HM: I want to first thank the Enquirer for publicizing the achievements of the students, and letting the community know about my Student of the Month program. As many of your regular readers know, we are beginning our third year of this mentoring/scholarship program. I give a savings bond each month to a 10th grader who either lives in or attends a school located in the city of Flint based on their completion of an essay about their career goals.
I also give these students a trophy, a certificate, the opportunity for
them to come to the courthouse
and shadow me for the day. I engrave their names on a plaque on the wall of my courtroom so that
everybody can see their name
on the wall for a positive purpose. We also got Michigan State University to sponsor an overnight visit to
the campus in East Lansing
where the kids got to stay in the dorm, and sit
in on classes so that they can experience what college life may be like. I give one of the monthly winners $500 if the committee selects them to
be Student of the Year. I fund this program out of my pocket because I realize that a key to
preventing crime and addressing
FE: Donít you have a program for Senior Citizens too?
HM: Yes, we have the Herman, Sr. & Iris Marable Senior Citizen of The
Month Award. This program
recognizes those over age 60 in Genesee County
that have performed community service. The award was named for my mother and late-father because they were
active in community service
I agree with Hubert Humphrey when he said that as a society we will be judged by how we treat those in the "dawn" of life (our youth); and how we treat those in the "twilight" of life (our elderly). That is one of the reasons that we do these programs.
FE: Readers can get more information by going to your website, www.judgemarable.net Why do you believe the voters should re-elect you to office?
HM: I made certain promises and I have kept them. I am connected to the community, and I am proud of that fact. We have had a lot of negative things and hardships to occur in Flint over the last several years. I have tried to be a positive forceóa positive leader in the community. I am pro-active and I believe that the measure of a judgeís performance particularly at the District Court which is the "peopleís court" must be judged on more that what happens in the courtroom.
The fact is much of the discretion that judges once had has been taken away by mandatory sentencing, standardized fines, and other factors. We are obligated to enforce the laws and ordinances in the cases that come before us. I have been very blessed to serve my fellow citizens for the last six years and I would like to continue. I am asking to be returned to office to fight the good fight. I am fair to people.
I give them an opportunity to be heard, and I have the vision to see
well beyond the courthouse.
I believe the people on November 7th
will show that they are not concerned with all the inside baseball
courthouse. I told people when I ran that I was not a legal system insider. I am
capable of thinking independently,
A few legal system insiders and detractors have attempted to run a smear campaign against me. They are fighting to protect their turf and special interests. It is our citizens who will have the final say in this election, not the legal system insiders. I believe I have the vision to utilize our court system so that we address some issues in the community. Although I have had to overcome many obstacles since I have been there, I have kept my promises.
FE: Thank you for talking with us.
Judge Herman Marable, Jr., 68th District Court Judge,
and his Citizens Advisory Committee has announced
the establishment of a
new award designed to recognize area senior citizens for their community