Waiting for justice

The Madison County Record Feb. 19, 2006, 11:06am

We the people don't pay our judges to take off afternoons, troll the Internet for dates, or attend Spanish classes on taxpayer time. But we do pay them to administer justice, which makes the institutional avoidance of Madison County Judge Don Weber increasingly perplexing.

This week, The Record's Ann Knef updates the Weber saga, reporting that lawyers have successfully substituted for Madison County's only Republican 66 separate times since he first donned robes last November. He's a man with a courtroom and a public salary, reports Knef, but little to actually do.

Judge Weber, it seems, isn't being allowed to administer much of anything.

This is thanks to plaintiffs like Tami Stalcup. Two years ago, her son, Justin, got his hands on a stash of the popular painkiller OxyContin stolen from the Medicine Shoppe. He then proceeded to overdose on it.

Generally, drug users like Justin Stalcup don't simply ingest such pills but, rather, they ground them up and snort them, as is the OxyContin tradition. It results in a keener "high," which is how the drug earned the moniker "Hillbilly Heroin."

Why the Medicine Shoppe is at fault for this, we cannot quite fathom. But we're admittedly insensitive, loath to blame one for another's actions.

That Stalcup's mother could well have caught the same vibe from Weber, a former prosecutor, is the best we can surmise. She apparently wants a bleeding-heart activist judge instead; someone ready to stick it to Corporate America.

Ask, in Madison County, and plaintiffs shall receive.

Hearing Stalcup's plea, notably mushy judge Nicholas Byron said "I do not willy-nilly allow changes from Judge Weber," right before he willy-nilly allowed a change from Judge Weber.

The Medicine Shoppe objected, arguing that substitution of a judge requires proof of personal bias, but to no avail.

As this keeps up, and we expect it will, one has to wonder the practical impact of keeping one judge idle (Weber) in an overwhelmed courthouse that is already one judge short (Moran), if only so plaintiffs like Tami Stalcup can have their day in court the precise way they like it.

Will Madison County voters care or even notice? In November, Ann Callis, Charles Romani and John Knight will be the first to find out.

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