Earlier this year, I heard of a case where a federal judge was legislating from the bench. Now that phrase sends send shivers up the back of most people. Liberal or Conservative or Libertarian. Most folks say that is not the right way to go about the laws of the land. Some would say that is having the judicial branch micromanaging another branch of the government.
Unless you happen to be in Morgan County, Alabama.
Early on in 2009, a federal judge stepped in to the business of Sheriff Greg Bartlett. The reason? State law says the sheriff's are given $1.75 per day per prisoner for food. According to state law, sheriff's may pocket the difference between money allocated for meals for prisoners and money spent. For Bartlett, the amount added up to over $210,000 in the last three years. The judge sentenced the sheriff to one night in jail.
Now there are a couple of things here worth looking at. $1.75 per prisoner per day? Now that may equal a sizable amount of grits but it would be stretching most diets to feed anyone on that amount. How can you feed anyone on that amount of money? My grandkids are just starting solid foods and their strained veggies and cereal cost more than that. Why does Alabama law allow sheriff's to pocket what is saved in the kitchen budget? Isn't this asking for abuse of the system?
Now in this case, the law needs to be changed to increase the amount per day and remove the incentives to skimp. The sheriff's of Alabama met within the week of the judges' decision. They offered a compromise. Raise our salary and we won't keep the extra budgeted funds.
Thanks guys. I hope the judges' response was "kiss my grits".
The problem with this situation is that the sheriff's are acting within the law. Sure, they are stretching things to pocket the money for themselves but it is the law. The best way to handle this would be change the law. But even after national attention being brought to the issue, the legislative year passed without anything being done, according to a Birmingham news service. Thanks to all of the state legislators.
It is situations like this that cause me to believe that sometimes when the judge legislates from the bench it is a good thing. I never thought I would believe this but I guess there is a first time for most everything. Not sure if I should thank the judge for calling out this atrocity, the legislators for dealing with less pressing issues or for greedy sheriff's that caused the issue to come to life.
Let's hope someone in the federal government doesn't hear about this and apply it to health care.