My experience has led me to believe that justice neither begins nor ends with a court judgment. People have to believe in the system for the system to work at its best. Our system is flawed, but I believe it is the best in the world. Nevertheless, I am always striving to improve where we can. I believe everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law. Everyone who enters a courtroom is there, generally, because something has gone wrong, and the most important case on the docket that day is their own. They are entitled to their day in court. I believe everyone who enters the court should be treated respectfully, fairly, and consistently. Courts should run as efficiently as possible while still taking the time to properly hear the evidence and arguments and carefully consider the law as it applies to each case.
General Sessions Courts have a direct impact on people’s lives, and that responsibility should be taken seriously. These courts handle cases from misdemeanors, felonies, traffic tickets, personal injuries, property claims, landlord tenant issues and many other situations. Everyone-victims, witnesses, people accused of crimes, officers, plaintiffs, defendants, and lawyers should expect that they are getting a fair chance when they enter the courtroom. The best judges from whom I’ve learned taught me that even if a party is unsuccessful, they can maintain respect for the system and the law when they are treated professionally and ethically. That is what I will tirelessly strive to do. I am used to working hard for justice, and I want to continue that hard work on the bench as General Sessions Judge for the citizens of Knox County.
I have evaluated innumerable cases in my career and have been tasked with making many difficult decisions. I have always strived to make those decisions as objectively as possible, relying on what facts can be proved. There is no “one size fits all” approach to evaluating a case, and I am willing to take the time to listen and carefully consider the facts of the case and the law that should be applied to achieve the ends of justice for our community.
My experience has shown me that mental health is under-addressed by our court system. More resources should be dedicated toward identifying the mental health issues of parties to cases and applying the best interventions we can to those situations. To that end, I would pursue a mental health court docket, modelled after our existing Knox County Recovery Court (also known as “Drug Court”) and Veterans Court. A Mental Health Court could better address the needs of many underserved in our community, including those suffering from mental illness and/or co-occurring substance abuse disorders, and our homeless population, just to name a few. It would be a large undertaking, but I believe it would be worth it in the long term to improve both the life outcomes for those individuals and to improve public safety.
Elect Sarah W. Keith as your next General Sessions Court Judge, Division I. She brings the right level of hard work, fairness, and experience!