Let’s presume that Judge Jack T. Camp, native of Coweta County, Georgia is innocent of having hired a stripper to dance for him, snort cocaine and grind up prescription pain killers for a quick high. Let’s presume he didn’t bring along the two loaded guns in his car when she was out buying more drugs and that the judge was just being a gentleman and providing the young lady a ride. The defense attorney’s assertion about the judge’s character are alone worth any coverage in the media he gets:

During his more than two decades on the federal bench, he hated when attorneys grandstanded and sometimes required them to cite the specific federal code when they dared raise an objection. But he always maintained a cordial relationship, said defense attorney Page Pate.

“He was a true Southern gentleman who was definitely tough with defenders — even more so in drug cases,” said Pate.

At first reading, it seems the defense attorney misspoke, saying “defenders” when he meant “defendants,” since that’s what the next paragraphs are about. But, what he’s really saying is that the judge, albeit friendly in that superficial returning a smile for a smile way some southerners perfect, really didn’t have much use for lawyers who defend the accused.

It’s a characteristic of punitive personalities who start from the preconceived notion that “evil lurks in the hearts of men” and don’t have much patience with people who want proof of a crime before locking people away. See, the punitive person argues that not being punished or deprived of life, liberty and peace of mind has to be earned. So, when someone’s accused he’s already guilty and the judge just has to decide what the punishment should be.

Is it fair to associate this attitude with gentlemen of the South? Not really. But, it does seem that the people of the Southern states are more inclined to put up with it. Perhaps it’s because deprivation under cover of law — i.e. harsh living conditions reinforced by the sheriff and the bailiff and the warden — have a more deep rooted history in this region of the country and the tendrils of slavery continue to send up sprouts. We see it in domestic violence and child abuse, oft hidden behind the veil of parental property rights, and we see it in the punitive attitude towards what individuals ingest, inhale, inject or excrete from their own bodies. The integrity of the person is violated pretty consistently.

So, why point a finger at Judge Jack T. Camp? After all, the accusations against him are based on what are euphemistically called “victimless crimes,” as if the injury to an individual person were ever a higher priority than upholding the impersonal “rule of law” and the authority of the state. As an example of yet another conservative being hoist on his own petard, the story of Jack T. Camp has some amusement, albeit not edifying, value. But, that’s not my interest.

As the story unfolds, it’s almost certain to be cited as yet another example of conservative officials engaging in hypocrisy, of preaching one thing and doing the opposite. What I’d argue is that’s not quite accurate. Because what I contend is that the instinct-driven, which is what most conservatives are, don’t perceive themselves as acting out of their own volition. All their behavior is reactive. Somebody or something provides a hint (collected via superficial optics) and they follow it. Period. Well, not quite. The source of the hint is hereby defined as the cause of the action or inaction. Which explains, for example, the defense attorney’s conclusion, speaking on behalf of his client, the judge, that:

“This is really a case between Judge Camp and his wife. It’s not about Judge Camp being a judge. It’s about him being a husband,” said Morrison, who added: “It is not a case about judging. It’s a case about judgment.”

That’s a perfect example of the conservative penchant for defining the moral value of an act in terms of the social standing or role of the persons involved. So, presumably, since a judge’s role is to interpret the law and impose punishment, it’s not possible for him to be a criminal, just as it wasn’t possible for Richard Nixon, the supreme leader, to commit a crime. After all, the law reserves the right to order the execution of other people to the chief executive. If murder is permitted, how can the lesser, included actions like physical assault or ordering the hunt for terrorists with remote-controlled missile carrying drones be against the law?

You see, it’s not just a Southern thing this elevation of position over the rights of persons and other living things. Never was. The whole nation has been complicit in the deprivation of human rights. Which is why the ERA was never adopted and the United States is the lone hold-out (Somalia is working on it) in failing to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children, after all, are the last vestige of humans being owned under the law. Children are the property of their parents. Parents are entitled to be provided with lawyers by the state, if they can’t afford to pay one, when the state proposes to terminate parental rights; the children aren’t. Punitive parents are OK, as long as they don’t go so far as to threaten the state’s rights to another fungible body to send off to war. Yes, the draft has been declared against the law, but “Selective Service” remains on the books — just in case not enough bodies can be persuaded to voluntarily indenture themselves.

The power to punish. That’s what conservatives are about. Why? Some people get addicted to things; some to people. Power over other persons seems as attractive to the addict as the temporary euphoria induced by some drugs. Which brings me to the final question: “Which is worse, a drug-abusing addict or a power-addicted judge?”


Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."