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October 20, 2011 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-10-20

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metro >> on the cover

Up close an
Judge Kim Small
explains why her
critics don't bother
her and how she
stays optimistic.

Ronelle Grier


Contributing Writer




"It wasn't about you; it was about him,"
she said, "his limitations and his pain?'
Then came the moment of truth.
"I'm not going to put you in jail;' she
told the man, whose relief was palpable.
Instead she ordered him to serve
probation, to attend AA (Alcoholics
Anonymous) meetings and to work with
a sponsor, and to write, but not mail, a let-
ter to his father.
"It's time to dump your anger:' Small
told him. "Sometimes we can't help what
happens to us, but we can always control
our response:'
It was the second sentencing in one
afternoon that did not include jail time.
The first was a young man below the legal
drinking age of 21 who was arrested for
being intoxicated. He had a 10-month-old
daughter and was attending 0 college
0 to
become a nurse. After talking to him at
length about the devastating effect his
behavior could have on his child, Small
sentenced him to one-year probation and
to attend mandatory AA meetings.
"I don't think you have any idea how
good you are Small told the young man.
"I just threw you a lifeline. Thank me with

your life. Look in the mirror and become
somebody you respect:'
These situations might surprise those
who decry Small for being excessively
hard on drunk drivers. The 51-year-old
judge became the subject of nationwide
media attention last summer when she
sentenced sports analyst and former NBA
basketball player Jalen Rose to 20 days in
jail for driving while intoxicated. Critics
decried Rose's punishment as unnecessar-
ily severe, citing that it was his first such
Small makes no apologies for taking
a tough stance with those convicted of
drunk driving. She acknowledges that
not everyone who drinks and drives is an
alcoholic, but she maintains that it is a
preventable crime.
"I don't believe that people get to roll
the dice on our lives," she said. "it's simple
— make a phone call. People who would
never consider stealing a 0 get behind the
wheel after they've been drinking. There's
a disconnect out there."
Although she cannot discuss the spe-
cifics of Rose's case, Small said that he
handled himself "like a gentleman?'

What does disturb Small are the accu-
sations of bias or impartiality, such as
the recent motion filed by local attor-
neys Robert Larin and Ken Mogill. The
lawyers want Small to disqualify herself
from hearing a case involving a West
Bloomfield man who was arrested for
driving while intoxicated. It was his first
In a hearing before Small on Oct. 13,
Mogill said that public statements made
by Small have created the perception that
she is biased and that she has a sentenc-
ing policy regarding drunk drivers.
"A judge is free to have personal feel-
ings, but when it causes her to have a
policy that goes against legislative policy,
it crosses a line Mogill said.
Small contended he was confusing
"policy" with "philosophy; and that her
sentences were determined by the cir-
cumstances of each individual case in
accordance with four guidelines judges
are required to follow: the likelihood that
the defendant will repeat the offense,
rehabilitation, punishment and deterrents
to the rest of the community.
"I consider what it is going to take to




October 20 a 2011

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