South Carolina Justice visits Southern Wesleyan University
South Carolina Supreme Court Justice John W. Kittredge shared his views about issues facing the criminal justice system to Southern Wesleyan University students, faculty, staff and invited guests Oct. 10 at the Central campus.
Kittredge, who serves in South Carolina’s highest court, gave an overview of the system of law enforcement, corrections and the judiciary. He stressed the importance of those in the criminal justice profession being true to principles set forth in the United States Constitution and noted how law schools transitioned from teaching the text of the Constitution towards study of case law and the opinions of the judges involved.
Kittredge shared his observations about how three principle components of the criminal justice system – police, courts and corrections – tend to operate independently, often resulting in a vicious cycle that places enormous burdens on each component, whether it’s dealing with hiring more police officers, overburdened caseloads in courtrooms, or dealing with overcrowded prisons.
“When one component acts in a significant way, it has an undeniable effect and impact on the other two components. You’d think this reality would lead to a better collaboration between the components, but the natural tendency for each to want to operate independently largely continues,” Kittredge said.
Kittredge also challenged criminal justice majors, who made up a significant portion of his student audience, to consider the pros and cons of entering their chosen field.
“You have to have a tremendous skill set. Technology is changing. Officers deal daily with people in situations the rest of society is unable, unwilling or afraid to confront. Make a mistake as an officer and expect to be vilified through the lens of hindsight. Many officers die in line of duty each year. Recent senseless cold blooded murder of officers are painful reminders of the sacrifice law enforcement professionals make every day,” Kittredge said, but added that “the privilege of working in the criminal justice system, and specifically the privilege of wearing a badge carries the potential for a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that transcends most other professions.”
Kittredge also spoke extensively of the role his personal faith plays as he carries out his sworn duty.
“If I’m going to be faithful to God, then I have to be faithful to the rule of law. As a judge there are many times I make decisions that I don’t like at all. There are difficult decisions, but showing restraint and honoring the rule of law is the essence of being a good, effective judge,” Kittredge said.
Akilah Jefferson, a Southern Wesleyan forensic science major from St. Helena Island who hopes to become a crime scene investigator, said “One piece of great advice Judge Kittredge gave was to rookies just entering Law Enforcement, ‘eyes and ears open! mouth shut!’ He advised to get with a great FTO (Field Training Officer) and try to learn and soak up as much information as possible.”
“I was encouraged to hear the heart of Justice Kittredge, his willingness to share his testimony and how he honors the oath of office and still have deep rooted faith as he stands firm on his relationship with God,” said Robbie Bryant, a criminal Justice major from Six Mile.
“Hearing encouragement about how it is possible to balance a strong personal faith with the responsibility of upholding the law from one of the members of the highest offices in the state judicial branch gives me hope for the future of the state of South Carolina,” said Mikkaela Bailey, a history major from Greenwood.
Gary Clary, a retired circuit judge now representing Pickens County District 3 in the S.C. House of Representatives, followed Kittredge’s presentation with a perspective on his own service in the judiciary and his role as a legislator in electing judges.
“When I look at people who should serve in the judiciary, I look at it from a different perspective because I’ve been there. John Kittredge epitomizes what I’m looking for as a judge,” Clary said. South Carolina and Virginia are the only two states where the legislature elects judges.
Kittredge met earlier in the evening with Southern Wesleyan faculty and staff for a dinner, where Rev. Ken Dill, university chaplain and associate vice president for spiritual life, gave a prayer written by George Washington.
Southern Wesleyan Criminal Justice Professor James McDonald stated that he has “a great appreciation and respect” for both Kittredge and Clary.
Southern Wesleyan University is a Christ-centered, student-focused learning community devoted to transforming lives by challenging students to be dedicated scholars and servant-leaders who impact the world for Christ. For details about degree programs, go online to swu.edu.