No one can ever remember seeing a Davidson County judge doing what Judge Mike Jameson does. Some say it's a security risk, while others call it gutsy. Jameson said it's no big deal.
"Come on up. I don't bite," Jameson said to one defendant.
Jameson makes it a point to shake the hand of every defendant that comes before him on the bench.
"As a judge, I get an air-conditioned parking garage. I get to ride up a private elevator. I get a fancy black robe. And I get to sit at a nice desk. And if you let that go to your head, then you're really not going to be an influence," Jameson said. "Every judge here has some technique they use to keep themselves grounded, and for me it's a handshake."
Monday was a typical day in Division III County court. This is small time stuff, including cases of shoplifting, simple drug possession and driving without a license.
Jameson encounters dozens of people, hears dozens of cases and receives dozens of guilty pleas. Some days, he hears 200 cases and hands down 100 sentences.
"If I am looking them in the eye, hearing their plea, and then giving them a recommendation and a sentence on the spot, that's the best way of dealing with it. This is sort of the M.A.S.H. unit of justice," Jameson said.
His court officers don't like his handshake practice, and the sheriff's office has told him it's a security risk. After all, he could keep everyone in the jury box and at the podium a safe distance away.
But that's not Jameson's style. For him, it's a handshake, a sentence and a small taste of human kindness.
However, don't be fooled. There are some defendants who are angry, drug dependent and unstable. There is some risk to letting them get so close to the man who is going to put them in jail. Jameson understands that.
"Looks like you are going to put this behind you and go on to a better life," Jameson said to one defendant.
Of course, the first day Jameson started shaking hands, three containers of Purell hand sanitizer showed up on his desk as a little court house joke.
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