Carroll faith-fully seeks real solutions
By 02/01/2001 00:00:00
Ellis County Press
WAXAHACHIE - The Rule of Law is characterized by solution-driven compassion in Judge Bob Carroll's courtroom.
A defendant arrived an hour late for his scheduled appearance and got a reprieve - cancellation of a warrant for his arrest and an extension to allow him time to prepare for his trial.
A single mother in jail clothing was given a chance to pay out her fine and court costs over time, rather than serve extra time behind bars.
A blustery attorney trying to confuse a witness in a months-old shoplifting case was stopped. 'The witness needs to be given a chance to review his statement,' the judge said.
Everyone is addressed as 'sir' or 'ma'am' in this courtroom. Every day.
'I feel we need to live our life each day, as we intend to live it at the moment of our death,' stated Carroll. 'At that moment, we will not be clinging to our pride and self-reliance to take us into eternity, we will be trusting Jesus Christ to deliver us from death into an eternal resurrected life. So now is the time to live a life of faith and trust.
'This life of faith and trust has very practical applications,' he said. 'It means we have the freedom to live out our faith in the marketplace of our jobs.'
Carroll's job is in the Ellis County Court at Law. He presides over a seemingly endless procession of accused wrongdoers: An illegal alien charged with using an aerosol can as an illicit drug. A 21-year-old African American alleged to have purchased alcohol for minors.
There are other cases, no less distressing: A tearful woman seeking redress against a dentist whose carelessness scarred her face. A 40-year-old widow with three children settling her husband's estate.
'For me, this life of faith means I do not consider the politics affecting any of my court decisions,' Carroll wrote. 'As a man of faith, I must stand before God and make decisions based upon the law and evidence without regard to factors such as the social status of the parties, who the attorneys are, how the decision may be viewed by any given special interestgroup, or any other factor.'
Carroll, who has been on the bench for four years, maintains both his law license and his certified public accountant's license, and sees his job as a way to impact lives, providing real solutions.
'Right now in Ellis County the occurrence of triple-blended families - three children, each with a different father - is very common,' Carroll said.
'In this context you have one or more fathers, the mother, other relatives, sometimes a boyfriend, the agency, all vying for custody. Throw in some substance abuse issues, put a few attorneys into the mix, and suddenly you have a very involved case.'
According to law, child protective services cases must be resolved within one year. The legal focus must always be the best interest of the child, but Carroll said the determination is not always easy.
'It takes a lot of time and discernment to do what's right,' he said.
Carroll served five years as an assistant district attorney in Navarro County, which gave him a good understanding of what proper law enforcement is like.
'I always try to balance the constitutional rights of the accused with the right of the State to protect citizens and property,' he said.
Although he never planned to become a judge, Carroll said he enjoys the law and plans to run for reelection in March of 2002, for a new four-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2003.
'As judge I deal with families and individuals whose lives have been ripped apart by violence, substance abuse, bad choices and irresponsible behavior,' he said.
'If the State legislature were to pass a law allowing 15-year-olds to obtain abortions on demand without first talking with their parents or obtaining a judicial waiver, then our society will be moving further to a point of moral bankruptcy. As a state and nation we will suffer the serious consequences. I see it every day in court.'
Carroll said he enjoys working in the 'temporary' court facility, in the old Wal-Mart building in Waxahachie.
'For example, behind the elevated bench area is a sliding glass window like you would see in a doctor's office,' he said.
'Behind this window is Sharon McKinney, our court coordinator, busy at work with a telephone head set and using two computers for scheduling and monitoring over 3,000 cases. She always has the information I need.'
Carroll was disappointed to learn a similar layout would not be possible in the design of the county's new Justice Center.
Other features in the current facility appeal to Carroll. 'The courtroom is uniquely designed with three tables in an ‘L' shape, instead of just two. The reason is so that in CPS cases, the guardian ad litem for the children truly reflects a position of independence from the State agency, the parents, and the attorneys.'
Carroll said jurors appreciate the accessible jury deliberation room with its blackboard and hot coffee, as well as the building's plentiful parking and proximity to restaurants.
'All things considered, this facility has been a very functional place to accomplish our work and administer justice,' he said.
'Sharon and I are going to miss it.'
Four individuals have provided what Carroll characterized as 'profound influence' on his life, preparing him for the job.
'My Dad and Mom taught me the value of family and the importance of hard work,' Carroll said.
'My Dad was a kind man of uncommon courage. Throughout his life he dealt with a serious handicap, yet he always said he was very blessed. Never once in his entire life did I hear him speak of his handicap.'
Carroll's wife, Kathy, and their 22-month-old son, Shane, are the two other significant forces in his life.
'I have a great wife,' he said. 'She's my best friend. Her personality is genuine.'
According to Carroll, long years of waiting for Shane only deepened the joy when he arrived. 'For the first time in my life I realized how much my Dad and Mom loved me. How much God loves me,' he stated.
There is a certain look on the judge's face when he speaks of Shane, a strange mixture of joy, compassion, insight, thankfulness, and a touch of parental pride.
'This past Saturday, I took Shane out for a late lunch in Red Oak at the new Subway on Ovilla Road,' Carroll wrote.
'He sat in my lap. We shared the same bag of potato chips. He was gobbling up some chopped pieces of turkey and cheese. Then, he stopped, and his tiny hand removed a pickle from my sandwich.
'He took a little bite from the edge and cringed because it was sour. He turned and looked up into my eyes, and smiled. Then, he reached up and fed me the pickle.'
Referring to his favorite verse of Scripture, Carroll continued, 'The Bible says that God planned out all the days of our life, even when we were still in the womb. As I sat there at Subway holding my baby boy, I knew for sure that we serve an awesome God!'