Friday, January 22, 2010

Judge Hart's Rule: Don't Get Mad, Get Even

In my last entry I mentioned my Grand Uncle, the Hon. John M. Hart, also known as "Judge Hart" was once Commissioner of the Revenue for Roanoke City. (Oh, as of this post I haven't heard back on my letter). How he got elected is a story in itself.

Uncle John was Judge of the Hustings Court for Roanoke City (it's since become part of the Circuit Court), 'way back in the 1920's and early '30's. Check your history: this was during Prohibition, the "No alcoholic drinking" thing. So, in theory, anyone caught drinking or with liquor would be arrested.

So Uncle John had a lot of working stiffs ("Joe Lunchpail") show up in his court charged with having a pint or a fifth, or with drinking.  However, at the same time, the Elite of Roanoke (Doctors, Bankers, Businessmen and - of course - Lawyers) were happily drinking Franklin County's finest 'shine and if caught by police would simply be escorted home.

Not fair, huh? That's what Uncle John thought. So Joe ended up with the minimum fine and no jail. This caused the WCTU (Women's Christian Temperance Union) to dislike hizzoner.  They called him "Soft on Drinking".  The irony here is that Judge Hart was a Tee-Totaler -- never touched a drop of alcohol in his life. (We call him "The Sober Hart" in the family)

The then Commissioner of the Revenue's wife was big in the WCTU in Roanoke. So the then Commissioner of the Revenue was the leader in removing Uncle John from the bench by not reappointing him for another term. In Virginia the General Assembly selects judges; Uncle John lost by a very very few votes to Lindsay Almond.

A year or so later the Commissioner of the Revenue was up for re-election.  Yep, Uncle John ran against him and won.

Now THAT's 'Rossiferous'. Any wonder where I got it?

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