The race for General Sessions Judge seems to be a friendly one, if the atmosphere surrounding candidates Bill Locke and Jean Brock during a recent forum is any indication. The two spoke at a Southern Standard/ WCPI forum held at the Administrative Building last week.
Both Brock and Locke cited their ties to the community with Locke being a life-long resident and Brock hailing from neighboring Coffee County and being married to a native Warren countian. Both cited juvenile cases as ones which they think need to be addressed.
The candidates were not asked questions because they are not allowed to address issues that may come before them in the future. They could tell their judicial philosophy and how they would manage their court, along with anything thing else they deemed appropriate.
Brock was the first to speak to the crowd. She said she was raised in the Hoodoo community which is located down Old Shelbyville Road in Coffee County. She is married to Brent Brock who is from Warren County. The couple have one nine-year-old daughter.
Brock said, “I grew up in a family where we didn’t have any indoor water or even a well until I was 10. So, I learned how to work. I actually earned a scholarship to Belmont College right out of high school. However, being a private college, that was still very expensive. So, I opted to go into the United States Air Force instead. And, I am very glad that I did. I learned so much about life, about myself and about other people. And, I will bring all of that to the bench.”
Locke said he, his parents, and his wife, Brenda were all born and raised in Warren County. He and his wife have two adult children.
“This is my hometown. I love it. I grew up here. My father ran Locke’s Five and Dime Store for almost 70 years on Main Street. I’ve been involved with your children as a coach, working in booster clubs, PTOs, concession stands. I’ve been very much involved in this community.” said Locke.
Brock said, “I came to Warren County as a prosecutor. So, I know that criminal court. I also know that juvenile court. One thing I know after 17 years of working with children who were abused, neglected or were heading down that delinquent path is that I am certain if we do not intervene with some of these children who are on a delinquent path, they will end up in our criminal court. “
Brock said she has gone to the teachers of those kids. And, she believes Warren County Juvenile Court can have the biggest impact on our community.
“Teachers always know what talent a kid has, what they are capable of and what motivates them. Often they have information about what’s going on in that child’s kid home. The one thing I will be able to do as a judge is bring that information into court in order to change the direction of these children’s’ lives. If we can change the direction of the life of a child, we change that child’s future and we change future generations within that family,” said Brock.
Locke said, “When Larry Ross retired in 2012, the county commission and then the voters elected me to do this job and I have tried to earn the trust that was placed in me at that time every day when I go to court. I have over 30 years of courtroom experience, as a lawyer, a prosecutor, and now a judge and I bring that to court with me every day. General Sessions Court has nearly 6,000 cases, criminal cases, civil cases, juvenile cases, domestic relations cases and workman’s comp cases. As a prosecutor for over 25 years, I had the opportunity to handle cases every week and try cases from first degree murder to public intoxication. I think those are important qualities to have as a judge. If you are going to sit there in judgment on a case and preside over a case your judge should know how to try cases. He should know the law, evidence and procedure.”
Brock said, “Now, years ago attorneys could sit in cases on courts when the judges who were on the bench conflicted out. I did that several times for Judge Larry Ross when he was sitting on the bench. I sat in on domestic cases and things like that for him. I am ready for this job. I know this community. I know this law. I would be honored and privileged to serve as your General Sessions Judge”
Locke said, “There’s no substitute for courtroom experience and no shortcuts to getting there. My over 25 years as a prosecutor and my last two-and-a-half years as a judge I have gained the experience that is necessary to do this job. It is not an easy job. You have to make decisions that affect people’s lives every day. As a prosecutor, I had the ability and responsibility of doing that. Also as an assistant district attorney and as a district attorney both. The court system is my life and I take pride in it. I take that pride every day to the courtroom with me. I try to run an organized, efficient courtroom, treat everyone fairly and respectfully. There are times you have to be firm. There are times you have to be tough. I have the ability to do all of that. There are people who commit crimes and do things they aren’t supposed to and you have to hold them accountable and hold them responsible. But, we don’t have jail space to lock up everyone who commits a crime. So, you have to, if they are willing to turn their life around, give them an opportunity to do that. We have probation and we have programs that we try to help people turn their life around. I started a certified batterer’s intervention program here with CPS Probation, one of only 20 in the state, to address the domestic violence situations we have. I utilize the adult recovery and behavior court. I allow people to go to that court if they wish to turn their life around from drugs, alcohol and disorders that they need to address. And, I started a juvenile drug court program in juvenile court to help address the issues of juveniles and drugs which is rampant in this community and it’s something I see every day. Civil, criminal, juvenile court … all cases unfortunately revolve around drugs and it’s tragic and a shame but, it’s a way of life here. I take pride in my job. And, if you will give me your trust one more time, I will try and do the best job that I can to make you proud of your court,” said Locke.
Both candidates spoke highly of Kids of the Community and said they intend to support that organization as well as others that target at-risk youth.
Locke said, “I am now involved with Kids of the Community which we have that I think is very important to this community where we have 175 to 225 at-risk, underprivileged kids and we have mentoring for them. “Locke.
Brock said, “I also was one of the founding members of the Kids of the Community organization. We actually met over in the First Presbyterian Church and on blackboards, sat down and wrote out what we were going to do for these kids. Then, I had an opportunity when I worked at Yorozu Automotive to start donating money to that program. So, I intend to keep that program strong. Additionally, I do think there are a lot of programs that we need in our court to keep people from returning to crime or activity like that. And, I believe the mental health and the drug court program are programs that General Sessions Judge should support.”
Video footage from the political forum is available on the Standard’s website, www.southernstandard.com.