The Ottumwa Courier

August 13, 2012

Everyone needs good courts

Judge Annette J. Schieszinski

OTTUMWA — At the end of a civil trial, the judge often makes remarks before gathering up the files, the exhibits and the testimony notes to take the case under study. Judicial comments to the folks in the courtroom are not required by law, but in my 16 years on the bench, I have found them instrumental in casting a context for the case in the big picture of “justice for all.” The judge’s pledge as to how carefully the case will be treated under the facts and the prevailing law is reassuring to people in the throes of uncertainty who want to know they have been heard and will get a fair shake. Because it is rare that a judge may speak personally to parties about their lawsuit, the window of opportunity when everyone is assembled is invaluable.

Over time, I find myself saying things at the close of a courtroom proceeding that reaffirm certain themes: the humanity that laces through the situation, the importance of the issues, the need for a timely ruling, my duty to be fair and impartial. It is a pleasure to get to know the people in the course of the trial, and they should know that they are respected as human beings, I tell them.

The civil disputes we hear on the general-jurisdiction bench are of all different types: some are wrenching child-custody battles; some are misunderstandings or breaches in a business deal; some pit neighbor against neighbor or family against its kin; some are fueled by grief or anger or love; some come with victims of bad choices, a bad economy, or just bad luck. Despite the unrest and outright hostility underlying many a trial, the people involved are still shown to be good people for the most part. Indeed, all of us could find ourselves in the court system at any time seeking civic help with problems we can’t solve otherwise.

In each case, it is clear that the court system serves a unique and crucial role in bringing disagreements to orderly resolution and the people to closure and peace. A judge’s ability to set the tone for the court’s work as the litigants leave the courtroom is a high calling and one that must never be overlooked or averted for expediency. It just bears saying: Good people do end up in court, each case is important and justice will be served.

Judge Scieszinski serves the 8-A Judicial District, comprised of the following counties: Appanoose, Davis, Jefferson, Keokuk, Mahaska, Monroe, Poweshiek, Van Buren, Wapello and Washington. She may be reached at