Catherine Forsythe

Catherine Forsythe
know a bit about computer security, dogs, horses, skiing, medicine and making risotto. My nickname in real life/online is "Noggie" - I'm on Twitter, with the @dogreader account.

Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 19, 2010 10:00AM

Federal Judge Ronald Leighton's Kind Remarks from the Bench

Rate: 13 Flag

Judge Ronald Leighton, a federal judge in Tacoma, may have become part of a social revolution. In September of this year, he presided over the reinstatement trial of Major Margaret Witt of the U.S. Air Force. Major Witt had been a decorated, experienced flight nurse. She had been suspended from duties owing to the military's 'don't ask - don't tell' policy. It had been revealed that Major Witt was in a relationship with a civilian female.

The ruling that Judge Leighton made was that Major Witt was to be reinstated. The decision made by the Air Force to suspend Major Witt, after seventeen years of dedicated service, was overturned. While the ruling may have judicial impact once the military's policy on sexual orientation finally is resolved, another aspect of this trial has been noted. Judge Leighton added some remarks from the bench:

Major Witt, you and I are unlikely to see one another again, in this context, anyway. I'd like to make a couple of points before you go:

1) I hope you will request reinstatement with the Air Force Reserves and the 446th [her former unit]. You will provide the best evidence that open service of gays and lesbians will have no adverse effect on cohesion, morale or readiness in this or perhaps any Air Force or military unit.

2) You have been and continue to be a central figure in a long-term, highly charged civil-rights movement. That role places extraordinary stresses on you, I know. Today, you have won a victory in that struggle, the depth and duration of which will be determined by other judicial officers and, hopefully soon, the political branches of government. You said something in the trial that resonated with me. You said the best thing to come out of all this turmoil is the reaction of your parents when you told them of your sexual orientation: their love and support for you.

Not withstanding the victory you obtained here today, for yourself and for others, I would submit to you that the best thing to come out of all this tumult is still that love and support you have received from your family. You are truly blessed as a family and I am sure they will see you through whatever obstacles and difficulties you may encounter along the road ahead.

It is encouragement - and a kindness - from the bench. Judge Leighton commented on love and support. He recognized the human side of the drama that had been played out before him. 

Further, the decision may have future impact upon some future military service person in need of nursing care. Judge Leighton ruled that it was unconstitutional that Major Witt had been suspended. For those future miliary personnel in need of nursing care, they will have Major Witt's expertise. Undoubtedly, they will not be concerned what her sexual orientation is. The only factor that will be important is that she is there to lend her professional skill. Judge Leighton's ruling and the kindness of his remarks paved the way.

Catherine Forsythe

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Sigh.. will this ever end? :(
Thank goodness for him though.
Rated with hugs
kindness? a judge? He'll be impeached for sure...
Congratulations and thanks to Witt for her victory and for her service. Thanks to Leighton for demonstrating humanity in his post verdict remarks.
It is always nice to hear complimentary and kind words from the bench; and it happens more frequently than most people would thing, thankfully. It was certainly merited here.
Thanks for this Catherine...a terrific example of sanity in the face of homophobic bigotry!
Progress is often made in small steps, and such acts of kindness.
Nice to know that not everyone on the bench is just there for the wardrobe. Rated.
Thanks very much for this, Catherine--it filled in many details for me. r.
Hey Brian, it might surprise you that Judge Leighton was nominated by President George W. Bush. Thanks for this, Catherine!
Thank you for all the comments. For me, one if the salient points that Judge Leighton makes is that this is a "civil rights movement". Where once courageous African American students dared to go into school and classrooms that were divided by colour, military personnel are standing up for their right to serve their country, regardless of sexual orientation. Perhaps the day will come when history looks back on this time and wonder why the resolution wasn't obvious and why it took people so long to reconcile this.
Thanks for featuring this, Catherine.
Slow and steady wins this race.

Hurrah, Judge Leighton!
Something else remarkable about Judge Leighton is that he admitted he was wrong when he initially heard the case and dismissed it. He was overturned on appeal to the 9th Circuit, and he genuinely appears to have accepted that he made a mistake.
KUDOS to judge Leighton. I don't think many know how rare and how brave judges have to be to show such humanity and kindness. Sadly, a judge taking such a stand will face untold scrutiny and even retaliation.
Thanks for writing about this. If good judges got more support maybe things would change for the better.
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