THE LIFE BEHIND A RACIAL MISTAKE

Nothing like it has ever occurred in Arizona. Last Thursday, Judge Stanley Goodfarb stood in a courtroom, stripped of the familiar comfort he usually takes from his black robes. Ushered before the Arizona Supreme Court in the civilian clothes of the accused, Goodfarb stood charged with making racist comments and uttering vulgar remarks. While these particular trespasses do not normally make their way onto a courthouse docket, today the state's highest justices are reviewing Goodfarb's behavior and weighing their disciplinary options. No one expects Goodfarb to escape with anything less than a shattering rebuke and a suspension from his post; in fact, I would not be at all surprised should the brethren terminate his career as a judge. If Goodfarb is not permanently removed from his seat on the Maricopa County Superior Court, the head of the black lawyers' association in Arizona has promised to work against his reelection this fall. These events, and their facile portrayal in other news media as the righteous culling of a bigot from the judiciary, ought to grate upon you like a rasp scouring blemished metal. Yes, this particular judge is uncouth. But if Stanley Goodfarb is a racist, what white person is not? Certainly not me. And, perhaps, not even you. Once again, we see the razor of racial retribution wedged stiffly against everyone's throat. We have seen this before. Jesse Jackson was almost slashed off the political landscape because he referred to New York City as "Hymietown." A lifetime of trying to raise people up was to be obliterated because Jackson's human frailty did not stand the measure of a hysterical level of political correctness.

Now we must vilify Stanley Goodfarb, once again ignoring the man's life, preferring instead to obsess upon a mistake. The tragedy of Stanley Goodfarb is not a tale of prejudice revealed and punished; rather, it is the story of a good and just man destroyed for political expediency. @rule:

@body:Ronnie Joseph, a black man, was convicted in Goodfarb's court in 1988 of attempted murder. Joseph based his appeal on the premise that minorities were improperly excluded from his jury. During an in-chambers conference with the prosecutor and the defense attorney handling the appeal, Judge Goodfarb exploded, saying that he could well understand why the state would not want any "fucking niggers" on the jury. Judge Goodfarb's sordid words were not ambiguous. Although it took four years for his remarks to become public, when they did, Goodfarb's racist comments scalded the public sensibility like Crisco in a hot skillet splattering the skin.

Goodfarb was described as a foul-tempered Kluxer on every Arizona newspaper's opinion page and savagely lampooned as a judicial cracker--not once, but twice--by Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Benson.

No matter how the Supreme Court rules, Judge Goodfarb has come nearly to the end of a 36-year career of public service disgraced, humiliated and thinking of early retirement. As Goodfarb considers, and confronts, spending the rest of his life fishing on his beloved lakes in northern Arizona, friends offering solace have thrown their arms around the judge's shoulders. These supporters include minorities who were stunned by Goodfarb's words, but who were also convinced that the offending remarks are not a reflection of the man's soul. "There is a much-overused term, 'wearing your heart on your sleeve,' that applies to Goodfarb," says Cecil Patterson. "He has an emotional attachment, an involvement, with the poor, the less fortunate, the downtrodden." As a young public defender representing the poor of all colors, Patterson practiced in front of Goodfarb. "There was never any problem, never a hint of prejudice," observes Patterson. Cecil Patterson became the first black appointed as a judge in Arizona's Superior Court. Today, he heads up the Human Rights division of the Arizona Attorney General's Office. He has known Goodfarb, personally and fondly, for close to 14 years. When Patterson first submitted his name to the judicial commission for a seat on the bench, his application went nowhere. On two different attempts to gain judicial appointment, he did not advance past the interview stage. Goodfarb intervened. He took it upon himself to mentor the young black man, so Patterson would do better the next time a vacancy on the bench occurred. "He was one of the people on the inside that I could talk with," says Patterson. "He helped me in my preparation for the commission, giving me ideas on where I needed to shore up my knowledge, helping me in the question-and-answer preparation . . . I got on the bench, in part, because of his help. He continued to educate me, to acculturate me. He was someone I could go to with questions." Goodfarb and Patterson moved beyond professional contacts. "We related on a social level," says Patterson. "Every Monday morning, we'd talk about his son playing football and my daughter being on pompom. It was on a real personal level. One to one. We'd talk about music and my love of jazz and blues." Patterson also remembers that Goodfarb was keen on hiring, promoting and retaining minorities within the court system. "He has a genuine commitment to the rights of people regardless of color," says Patterson. Patterson is not alone in his assessment of Goodfarb. In the bowels of the Supreme Court building, an enormous file on Stanley Goodfarb's disciplinary case is packed with letters. There are expressions of outrage about his coarse remarks, sent by representatives of local black and Hispanic bar associations. There are also letters of concern from the Arizona Women's Lawyers Association and the NAACP.

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