In response to the series of reports on domestic violence published by Gambit Weekly recently (June 11, June 18 and June 25), I feel compelled to recognize a silent hero whose crusade has never wavered.
In 1978, when Municipal Court Judge John Shea was elected to the bench, he became one of the first judges in the country to focus on the plight of the battered woman. He protected victims of domestic violence then, as he does now, not because it was politically correct, but because it has always been the correct thing to do.
Over the last two decades, Judge Shea's methods of addressing batterers has become a model for our city and nation's judiciary. His triage program includes measures designed to hold men who beat women accountable for their behaviors. First, Judge Shea avoids using the widely accepted "one-size-fits-all approach" when addressing issues of domestic violence. Instead, cases are individualized and the best strategies available to protect those at risk are implemented. While treatment may be utilized in some cases, jail is employed in many. Second, he issues, monitors and enforces more stay-away orders than any judge in the state of Louisiana. (The supervision and enforcement of restraining orders has long been recognized as a significant deterrent to future acts of violence by most batterers.) Third, evidence-based prosecution, almost unheard of in most city courts, is routinely practiced. It is not unusual, if evidence permits, to try a batterer in lieu of his victim's testimony. Fourth, high bonds are frequently placed on the habitual offender. It is not uncommon for Judge Shea to hold serial batterers under $20,000-$40,000 bonds pending their trial dates on misdemeanor spousal abuse cases.
While I will be the first to agree that habitual batterers rarely change --
irrespective of measures taken -- it is imperative that the judiciary takes
a strong position against such perpetrators. It is my professional opinion that
Judge Shea has always taken the position that men who beat women (and, in some
cases, women who beat men) will be held accountable for their behaviors. I applaud
Judge Shea's bench-side manner. He is truly a beacon of light for battered women
who try to find their way out of the darkness of domestic violence.
Senior Probation Officer
New Orleans Municipal Court
I am very sad to hear that the tap dancers are being chased off the streets of the Quarter ("Tapped Out," Aug. 6). I have been a frequent (at least annual) visitor to New Orleans for many, many years, having fallen in love with the city in the 1950s at the age of 8. I would gladly put up with the hustlers who can't really dance in order to preserve the ones who are genuinely trying to learn the age-old tradition. If the city's new mayor wants to make the Quarter better for tourists and residents alike, he can chase off the too-young, too-drunk crowd that fights and vomits in the streets. I am also dismayed to hear that the benches are gone from Jackson Square ("Tents Time for the Homeless?"July 23). Soon all that will distinguish New Orleans from other cities with great restaurants and a lot of bars will be the unique stench of the Quarter streets that no amount of cleaning seems to remove. Of course, there will always be the heat and humidity to attract the convention crows.
Approaching the Bench
Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson is wrong to claim that only homeless people used the benches in Jackson Square ("Tents Time for the Homeless?" July 23). I sat on those benches, along with tourists, musicians, people on lunch breaks and, yes, the homeless. While I don't equate vagrancy with French Quarter charm, neither do I think the question of homelessness can be answered simply by taking someone's seat away. As for public safety, I would rather walk through a square with the public in it than take my chances in the barren breezeway the city would at times seem to prefer. Considering how much summertime crime is committed by school children, tents might be better used in a camping program for New Orleans youths.
Siding with Soble
It sounds to me as if the reporter went into Dr. Soble's class determined to smear his reputation ("A Question for Professor Soble," July 23). I think it safe to assume that Constance Adler did not have any intention of writing an article that would show him as an accomplished author or teacher. I was a student in his class, and his teaching techniques far surpass the "bending over and showing his students his rear end" that she so tastefully describes. In talking about such a touchy subject, I found his class to be extremely interesting and open to opinion. I believe Adler missed the point of the class, but of course you can't expect to listen for one day and know what he's talking about. Perhaps it is she who doesn't care to listen, and, in doing so, she misses the opportunity to learn something about herself and her sexuality. But, of course, I'm just one of those poor girls in the back of the classroom still learning about the delicate intricacies of my own clitoris. I found her argument patronizingly one-sided and insulting. This article does no justice to Soble, me, UNO or your newspaper.
Last name withheld by request