Op-Ed: It wasn’t luck that allowed me to become a judge after meth addiction. It was white privilege and a blind faith in law
By Chris McGonigal
A year ago on Tuesday, Judge Brian T. McQuade entered the courtroom of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia wearing a green shirt and clutching a green purse. The Supreme Court, like all federal district judges, is located in the southwest corner of the building where, before the First Amendment, there was no such thing as a Supreme Court building.
His judicial robes were green. His bench was green. His visitors were called by their first name, their case name. In case you never noticed, the clerk’s office was a little further back on the right, behind the Supreme Court’s large open door. The judge, of course, is always assigned a judicial robe that matches his official robes. And he always wears the same kind of judicial shoes, black loafers with a dark stripe around the bottom edge, the stripe continuing up the side of the shoe and ending at the tops of the shoes.
On this morning, he wore a purple shirt and a purple purse, and he also had his judicial green shoes.
All these things, by the way, were paid for by the District’s taxpayer-funded Legal Services Corporation, which has a $1 billion budget. The judge was paid $300 per day, plus overtime. He was in court about six hours a day, five days a week, which is part of what the judge’s salary is. His job, at the end of the day, is to write decisions from the bench.
The judge told him he had been summoned to the Supreme Court, and he would be required to conduct himself as any other judge would under those circumstances. He said, “The case before me is important because the Supreme Court has a great deal of responsibility to uphold the rights of all Americans.” He asked for the standard to be applied equally: “That will not be a case in which I rule against an African-American or a woman on the grounds that they cannot read, and then write a decision that would be equally offensive to all.”
McQuade said that in most cases, the defendant does not understand, and a