Monday, April 26, 2010

More on Chad Coker

We're pleased to present the vision statement of Chad Coker, candidate for Colbert County District Judge, along with additional biographical material:

Biographical Information:

This year I will celebrate my seventh wedding anniversary with my wife, Catherine. She teaches
nineteen first graders at G.W. Trenholm Primary School in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Catherine loves her job and the children that she inspires. This is her sixth year to teach. Catherine and I have not been blessed with children yet but we are the proud aunt and uncle to our four nephews (soon to be five) and one niece, all under the age of ten. We await God’s blessing and fully understand that his plan always works.

My parents are Don and Arweeda Coker. Both of my parents were born in different communities outside of Tupelo, Mississippi. Both were reared on farms and were the first in their families to graduate from college. My dad graduated from Florence State University and my mother from Blue Mountain College and Mississippi State University. My parent’s degrees were in education. My father started his career teaching and coaching basketball in Lexington. His career led him to Sulligent and then to Pell City, Alabama. After 26 years of teaching and educating, my parents retired from the Alabama public school system. They then returned home to care for their aging parents and began teaching in Mississippi. My parents are now retired after 40 years of teaching numerous children throughout Alabama and Mississippi.

Vision Statement:

Upon graduating from the University of Alabama School of Law, I moved to Tuscumbia to serve as the law clerk. For a year and a half I researched the applicable law and wrote briefs for the two circuit court judges and Judge Carpenter. I believe that work experience prepared me for my own practice. On January 1, 2001, I began my law practice. I’m proud of the practice I have built representing clients in civil, criminal, domestic, probate and juvenile matters. I am also pleased with my work as Municipal Court Judge for the City of Russellville and the Town of Cherokee.

I have practiced in most of the courts throughout our area. I have seen good judges and I know their traits. They are fair, firm and yet compassionate when the situation calls for it, and most importantly, curious about the law. The best judges are those that are as equally prepared to discuss the merits of the case when the lawyers approach the bench. I believe that the District Court in Colbert County, under Judge Carpenter’s leadership, is well run and as fair a courtroom as you will find in the Shoals area. I want to continue in that tradition.

I feel that too often any candidate running for office espouses change when they might not really fully grasp why the system is working the way that it is. There are over 15,000 cases filed each year in the District Court of Colbert County. The system that is in place in that office has evolved over time to address that increase in volume. There are certainly things that can be improved upon to make things more efficient such as the move to go paperless. Judge Carpenter, despite being one of the longest serving judges in the state, has embraced this move whole heartedly. I could not agree more. It will save the state resources, time and taxpayer’s dollars. I would hope that the county might consider implementing video conferencing whereby criminal arraignments and bond hearings could be held via a video monitor from the jail thus negating the need of the sheriff’s department using manpower and resources in transporting the criminal defendants to the courtroom. I think these are small measures which can be expanded to make the court more efficient and cost effective.

In Colbert County, the District Court Judge serves as the Juvenile Court Judge. It is my involvement in juvenile court cases which have been the most rewarding to me. I’ve handled over 700 of these juvenile cases which have been either custody or delinquency matters. I have represented the rights of parents but also served as an advocate for children in the role of Guardian ad Litem. The State of Alabama now requires certification and continued retraining to serve as a Guardian ad Litem. I have continued to remain certified since the inception of that requirement. Through the role of Guardian ad Litem, I have worked with the Department of Human Resources on hundreds of occasions. In cases where the child has been removed from the home and placed into foster care, I believe that it is equally important that DHR be held accountable to make sure all available resources are being used to reunite that parent and the child. Just as the parents are to be held accountable and follow certain guidelines, so should the State of Alabama operating through the Department of Human Resources.

The next District Court Judge will have an incredible responsibility in hearing these juvenile cases. Often times that child is too young to express his or her own concerns. Too many cases continue to come before the court where the parents are choosing drugs over the safety of their children. You continue to see a cycle of children having children and they are immature and ill-prepared as parents. They are signing on for the toughest job in the world, to be a parent, and they do not have the basic skills to ever begin that journey. As a court, we need to make sure these parents are given an opportunity to gain these skills while keeping the children safe from any neglect. We do need to consider the implementation of additional parenting programs and continue to support the Court Appointed Special Advocate (C.A.S.A.) program which continues to grow in Colbert County. We also need to take full advantage of the Children’s Policy Council and use this group to enhance and increase the resources available to the children of our community. I believe the juvenile court should consider the establishment of a mentoring program for troubled youth that come before the court on truancy or delinquency charges. There are numerous homes throughout our communities where there are too few role models. By placing community leaders and volunteers into mentoring roles for these youth, it can only help the situation and hopefully break a cycle of delinquent behavior.

Finally, as District Judge, I’m going to be fair. The words “innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” should mean something to all of us. Just because someone is charged with a crime does not mean they are guilty. It is the burden of the state to prove that guilt. The facts, applied to the law, must support the conviction. Our court system can never become a place where one side is favored over the other. The courtroom must remain a fair, neutral ground where cases are decided based upon the laws of this state and country.

As the next District Judge, I’m going to run my courtroom according to the rule of law. I’ll be firm but fair. I’ll rule quickly because I understand that each of those 15,000 files that I see every year impact our citizen’s lives. I understand that my rulings may carry drastic consequences for those individuals and their families. It is an incredible responsibility that I won’t take lightly.

Note: It's refreshing that Mr. Coker is one of the candidates in this race that doesn't see the need to smear the names of others and that he has a good grasp on the need change does or doesn't need to play in today's court system.