Judge not lest ye be judged
When retired District Court Judge John W. Pope sat down to talk with us recently about his retirement, his health, his alcoholism and his career, he simply wanted to tell his story.
While his career ended somewhat sensationally, having tested positive for alcohol while on probation mandated by the New Mexico Supreme Court, he knew his story had to be told. Not because he wanted to be in the newspaper, but because he knew his friends, his coworkers and his constituents were curious about his well-being.
For nearly 20 years, Pope presided over his courtroom with a determination to make sure everyone got a fair shake. While some may not have agreed with all of his rulings, he made sure that his decisions, his orders and his rulings were what he felt was just.
In our interview with Pope, he admitted he wasn’t ready to retire. He admitted he isn’t perfect, and he admitted that he has a problem with alcohol. But, at the same time, he is proud of what he’s accomplished on the bench, and he’s proud to call Valencia County his home.
Of all the judges across the state who have been “forced” to retire for one reason or another, Pope is the only one who has publicly admitted what he did was wrong. He has owned up and is taking responsibility for his faults.
Still, today, there are people out there who don’t believe that alcoholism is a disease. There are people who say that you can stop drinking anytime you want.
But, according to the Mayo Clinic, “alcoholism is a chronic disease in which your body becomes dependent on alcohol. When you have alcoholism, you lose control over your drinking. You may not be able to control when you drink, how much you drink, or how long you drink on each occasion. If you have alcoholism, you continue to drink even though you know it’s causing problems with your relationships, health, work or finances.”
For Judge Pope, his disease not only affected his career, but it affected his health as well.
Alcoholism affects millions of people throughout our country. It affects our communities and our families. So before you judge the judge, remember that he is not perfect — no one is.