Friday, September 12, 2014

A Warrior of Procedural Justice


Tonight Victoria Pratt was sworn in as the chief judge of the Newark Municipal Court before several hundred people in downtown Newark.  I've admired Judge Pratt from the first time I saw her in action.  As part of our Newark Community Solutions project, she helps link low-level offenders in Newark to treatment and community service instead of fines and jail.  Judge Pratt is blessed with a courtroom presence that effortlessly communicates both compassion and respect for the law.  If procedural justice didn't exist, the idea would have had to be invented to describe what seems to come to her naturally.

The swearing-in ceremony had a distinctly Newark Community Solutions flavor.  It began with an invocation by Raul Hernandez, who oversees alternative sanctions for the project.  Nearly every speaker referenced Judge Pratt's leadership at Newark Community Solutions.  Mayor Ras Baraka spoke of how proud he is of the national and international visitors that come to see Newark Community Solutions in action.  Julien Neals, one of Judge Pratt's predecessors as chief judge, talked about how Newark Community Solutions was a "labor of love" for Pratt and that it demonstrated that "courts can be a place of construction."  He went on to predict that in the days to come, Pratt will spread the philosophy, energy and "positive action" of Newark Community Solutions to the rest of the courthouse.  Judge Fern Fisher from New York had perhaps my favorite line, labeling Judge Pratt a "warrior of procedural justice."  

It always nice to see good people and hard work rewarded.  Congrats to Judge Pratt and the rest of the Newark Community Solutions team.