Jim Moffatt was born near Sandusky, MI, and finished his growing up years in Minor Hill, TN. His family was involved in farming, and Jim graduated from high school in 1975. He attended the University of Tennessee and then the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where he received his bachelor’s degree, having majored in political science with a minor in history. Then he was off to law school at Tuscaloosa, and graduated from the University of Alabama in 1982. He has 33 years of experience as a lawyer, and, as the title suggests, has “experience from A-Z, from adoptions to zoning.”
He has been appointed Special Prosecutor in some cases, and has been on both sides of medical malpractice suits, as well as domestic cases. One year he filed more appellate briefs than any other lawyer in the State of Alabama.
Jim has also been to the “school of hard knocks”, experiencing the death of his son’s mother, and being a widower as well as a single parent for nearly 4 years. I asked him how that changed him as a lawyer, and he thought for a good while, after having initially replied, “You know, I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that.” Then he answered, “I think it gave me more compassion.”
Compassion is good, no doubt, and a judge also needs to be able to mix it with “tough love,” along with a fierce passion for the understanding as well as the upholding of the Constitution. Jim feels he possesses all three qualities. We chatted about the fact that if he is elected, he is going to have some big shoes to fill. His respect for our soon-to-retire Judge Woodroof was clear, and we spent some time talking about what makes for a good judge.
“First of all, a judge needs to keep his cool and composure, and to rule with dignity and respect, which sometimes isn’t easy,” he said. I then asked him, “What do you do, when you are in court and things that are aggravating are happening, either a witness is doing poorly, or someone lies or drops the ball?” He answered, “I slow down. That’s something my dad taught me. I slow way down, and I try to help my client to stay calm, too,” he said. He also mentioned, “A good judge doesn’t just keep from losing his temper, he can also have a sense of humor which is appropriate for the court room.” I could tell that Jim has that quality, not just because we laughed at each other’s “lawyer jokes,” but because I have seen him at Poke Sallett in a number of roles.
I asked him if there was a case in his career that he considered to be a “benchmark case,” one that, as the definition of the word well describes as being, “a standard or point of reference against which things may be compared or assessed.” It did not take him more than a moment to answer. “It was a custody case, and while obviously I can’t talk about it, there was a true need for one parent to no longer have custody of a child. It was a very, very difficult case, but in the end the judge ruled in my client’s favor, and I know that the child’s well being was protected. That was what I cared about.”
Mr. Moffatt is a strong proponent of drug court, and feels that, properly applied, the standard sentence of years of rehab with absolutely no mess-ups is fair, and it works. He has seen it be the thing that has turned around the lives of several of his clients, and when it is in the best interest of all concerned, including the State, he would not hesitate to sentence someone to that program. “It gets to the root of the problem, which is what has to happen if someone is ever going to get free from drugs, and thus be able to stop committing crimes.”
I asked him some final questions about why I should vote for him, and in addition to the aforementioned 33 years of experience, his demeanor and his sense of humor, he said, “Work ethic. I am the first one here at the office, and quite often, the last one to leave. I also am very aware that if I am elected, the people have given me a ‘temp job,’ one that can be filled by someone else, if they so desire, so I had better do my best.”
If these qualities are what you are looking for in a District Judge, then Jim Moffatt would appreciate your vote on March 1st.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner