“How can one person make a difference?”

People ask that question often, usually when they’re trying to justify their failure or unwillingness to do something they know they should do, despite its apparent difficulty or unpopularity.

They’re afraid of failing, afraid of being laughed at, afraid of being ostracized. They’re afraid that, even if they succeed in doing the thing they’d rather not do, no one will notice, no one will follow their example, and nothing will change.

They’re wrong, of course.

Any time you answer the call of conscience and stand up for what’s right -- instead of keeping quiet, minding your own business, and going along to get along -- things change.

The person who does the right thing changes and becomes a better person. All who witness an act of character are changed by it, if only minimally or momentarily. Some may be emboldened by it, and the courage become contagious.

Movements that have changed the world, for good and ill, have started with one person.

How often have advocates of legal reform heard their friends and associates ask what one person can do about the judicial hellhole that is Madison County?

The answer is: plenty. One person could do a lot to change the climate of corruption in our community, particularly if that one person were a judge – say, a judge in charge of our asbestos docket.

One judge could make things worse, as Barbara Crowder tried to do in 2011, when she assigned more than 500 trial slots for the 2013 asbestos docket and made sure that most of them went to her biggest campaign supporters.

Another judge could make things better, by discouraging case filings from plaintiffs with no connection to Madison, dismissing flimsy cases, and so on.

Our asbestos docket will have a new judge as of Oct. 28th: Madison County Associate Justice Stephen Stobbs. He’s just one person, but he could make a real difference.

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