Judge Gelfman handled case compassionatelyAs a member of...

Letters

August 11, 1996

Judge Gelfman handled case compassionately

As a member of the Howard County Bar Association bench-bar committee, my attention was directed to John C. Howes' July 21 letter to The Sun about his Korean daughter's first experience with the American justice system, and I then listened to the tape of Judge Lenore Gelfman's July 2 morning docket.

A young lady charged with speeding appeared before Judge Gelfman. It became evident to the judge that the defendant was not fluent in English.

The defendant's father wanted to plead her guilty, but the judge quite properly, while understanding and appreciating the father's concern, very kindly and with much courtesy explained that pleading guilty was a serious matter which required the defendant's full understanding of the consequences. Given the language problem and that an official interpreter was not then available, the judge continued the case to another date when the court interpreter will be present.

This is exactly what the law requires, and the defendant -- when she realized what was being done -- thanked Judge Gelfman for her action.

No reasonable person can hear this tape without being impressed with the civility and tenderness of the exchange between these two women -- one young, under a handicap, charged with a criminal offense in a strange land, and the other a mature judicial official, cloaked with a robe in a powerful setting in an austere courtroom, who is charged with enforcing the law of the land.

I sympathize with Mr. Howes' concern. No man can easily sit still while his child faces the full measure of the law alone. But I am confident this young lady's vision of America was not the least bit damaged by her experience. Rather, I'm sure it was strengthened, and I'm also sure she is worth Judge Gelfman's extra effort.

Thomas E. Lloyd

Ellicott City

Council's Emery on jobs past and present

This is in response to Norris West's column of July 21, where he questioned my qualifications. I am curious as to the timing of his article. Nevertheless, let me again clarify what my job at the White House involved.

The Usher's Office is the managing office for the White House Executive Residence, the home of the First Family. I directly supervised a staff of 22 and was responsible for a budget in excess of $2 million in overseeing the operation and events of the White House. The nature of my job provided me with unlimited access to the three presidents for whom I worked. Today, I find it an honor to work for the county. County employees are here for one reason and that is to serve the citizens of Howard County. It is in this capacity that sometimes my job requires asking tough questions.

I would hope The Sun would find it a better service to its readers to concentrate on the County Council's legislative agenda. Recently, the council considered 16 amendments to the charter -- Howard County's constitution. Why wasn't more written about this?

Christopher B. Emery

Ellicott City

The writer is administrator to the Howard County Council.

Abe Bates' fight for civil liberties

When your reporter, Dolly Merritt, called me for comments about the activities of Abraham Bates in the Howard County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, I was caught by surprise and failed to contribute as much as I should have to the article that appeared July 25.

I hope you will permit me to say more in print about my old friend Abe. Amazingly enough, Abe Bates was born in Mongolia, attended high school in New York City and returned to the Far East (China) for college. That's why I regard him as a citizen of the world.

Making the establishment uncomfortable is par for the course for Abe. He tells how, while in high school, he and some of his classmates effectively squelched indoctrination efforts by loudly putting their own words to religious songs. The years he spent in China surely made him more committed to democracy, civil liberties, population control and a just society. Long before I became involved in the Howard County ACLU, Abe was there leading the good fight for the constitutional rights of the weak and the unpopular. He continues to recognize that compromising just a little of the Bill of Rights for the sake of expediency may later lead to the loss of it all for a growing number of us.

We can be sure that Abe Bates, unlike some political operatives, will never sacrifice his principles for the sake of personal popularity or power. For that alone, he well deserves his Outstanding Senior Citizen of the Year award.

Kenneth A. Stevens

Savage

Identifying 'suspicious people' doesn't mean focusing on African-Americans

I found Norris West's column of July 28 most interesting, yet confusing. Somehow Mr. West has concluded that my statement that the police department and the community coming together to identify "suspicious people" in some way singles out young African-American males of Columbia.

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