In ancient times, it was believed there were only five basic elements: earth, air, fire, water and space. It’s now known elements are made of atoms. One hundred and eighteen elements have been identified. Ninety-four occur naturally on Earth, and 24 are synthetic. It’s taken us a long time to come to this understanding, and we know there’s much more to discover and learn.
After thousands of years, we realize that science can explain many substances and occurrences from the smallest thing known to mankind, a quark, to the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall, the largest known supercluster of galaxies. With the remarkable advances in knowledge, technology and experiences, it boggles the mind we still have difficulty understanding ourselves and each other.
Paradoxically, we’re all made of DNA, and, at our core, we desire the same things. Although we may look different, practice various beliefs, and have diverse customs, we’re all still part of the same Human Element. There’s right and wrong, selfless and selfish, reasonable and unreasonable, perfection and fault in each and every one of us. Perhaps by design, fate or simply coincidence, the Human Element has provided enough conflict and drama for our amusement and despair since the beginning of time, and there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight.
As judges, we have the difficult task of analyzing, on a daily basis, various aspects of human behavior. We see all types of people, controversy and despair. It may be surprising to most, but we also have occasion to see the better side of people. We see countless numbers in our society at various stages of struggle. There are those in the process of overcoming their demons with horizons yet unseen. Some may be on a difficult and dark path, but there is hope that with fairness, consequence and encouragement, choices our citizens make will become better. As such, there are numerous individuals who have met the demanding tests life presents and have been able to successfully maneuver to an improved, safer and happier place.
Faced with this responsibility, we try our best to make good decisions that are accurate, upholding our constitution and laws, with fairness to all affected by the circumstances. We also try to find the truth. President John F. Kennedy once said, “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. … We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”
As judges, we are obligated by our oaths of office to disregard opinion, rely solely on thought, regardless of its discomfort, and find the truth. It’s not easy, and despite our best efforts, virtually every decision is wrought with the “comfort of opinion.” Moreover, there’s rarely any acknowledgement for the many decisions we get right. Needless to say, it’s a tough job. There are those who may wonder why we do it?
The answers vary, but I like to think it’s because we have faith in the Human Element and we’re trying to do our part to make the world and our community a better place. After all, this is one of the many wonderful aspects of being human. We endeavor to get things done and get them done right, even when there are challenges and obstacles to face. We strive for a form of excellence which includes a desire for righteousness and justice.
There certainly are many tough decisions. Every day, hearts are broken and mended, only to be broken and mended, over and over again. Presidents Kennedy and Ronald Reagan commenting on the human experience, respectively, once said: “Life is never easy. There is work to be done and obligations to be met – obligations to truth, justice and liberty.” “I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph. And there’s purpose and worth to each and every life.” It appears both presidents understood that faith, patience and perseverance have served the Human Element well over time.
Another great American also pointed out, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. … Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” That was Martin Luther King Jr. It’s important we remain true to these ideologies as we discover and learn more about ourselves and each other. It’s these values that explain why, as judges, we do what we do, even when our arduous efforts may be subject to a prefabricated set of interpretations.
Judge Frank Sedillo presides over the civil division of the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the judge individually and not those of the court.