Gentle souls

Gentle souls are harder to find than one would imagine.  Watch parents yelling at a soccer game or on a baseball diamond, if you think I’m wrong.  Aggression, ambition, competition, are all honored attributes in our society and our fostered in our work and in our play.  Unfortunately, such values can sometimes cut against the gentle soul.  And when you add a dash of arrogance to the mess, lord, those who look at the world with kindness and awe need to run for the hills.  Pronto!

Or do they?

I was reminded of this when I was walking around Downtown Des Moines.  I came upon this sculpture on the west side of the Polk County Courthouse:

The inscription reads: “In memory of Judge Jack Levin — his efforts bettered the lives of children and families.”  I’m sure he did.  But that is not the Judge Levin of my memory.

Jack Levin wasn’t coddling babies and assisting the widowed back when I knew him in the rough and tumble world of adult criminal prosecution.  He sat up on the bench in the black robe and made the decision as to whether you were going to jail or back on the street; whether the lawyers needed to stop grandstanding and get to work; whether the innocent were being wrongfully accused; whether victims were going to have a voice after a horrible rape or assault; and whether the rapist was being treated fairly.  He was the end of the line for all practical purposes.  His was the voice of god for many lawyers, defendants, and victims.  And quite a voice it was amongst all the drama.  Lawyers pranced and argued and shouted in mimicry of the latest TV show — and Jack Levin quietly ruled.

So to say he “bettered the lives of children and families” says too little.  Back in the judge’s chambers is when he first told me: “It’s going to be all right.”  Really?

I just peed my pants in opening statement.  The victim identified the defense lawyer as the sexual abuser not the guy sitting next to the lawyer.  The cop blurted out that he can’t remember the confession by the killer — but he does remember clearly not giving Miranda warnings.   Witnesses aren’t coming to trial because they’re in detox.  Jurors are requesting more breaks.  And I just ate a half-dozen donuts and feel like I might throw-up.

“It’s going to be all right.”

Jack Levin was a gentle soul.  With warm, twinkly eyes, wispy hair, and an oval face, he would smile at me and softly talk me off the ledge.  No theatrics.  No ego.  No aggression.  And I was one of many lawyers he helped.  He would glide in and out of the courtroom without notice — particularly as his health began to fail and he became thinner and thinner — and then, lo and behold, he’d make everything all right. His was a reasonable voice — and, most importantly, a voice of compassion.

He died several years ago.  Too bad.  Gentle souls count double.









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