Hello, and welcome back to Gracie Meets…! Do you or your family watch Judge Judy? I’ve personally watched a few episodes and I’ve always wondered if the cases are real or just scripted for entertainment. To help me figure out, I’ve invited Judge Lincoln Goodwin, the Harris County Judge, to be on the show! Go ahead and take a listen!

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Gracie Meets...

Show Music: 2019 07 25 cello pizz 01 and 250109 rhodes 02 by Morusque used under Creative Commons License CC BY.  No alterations were made to the original composition. 

Cover Art: Kyleigh Kinsey. Instagram: @ato._.noodle


Gracie Solomon  00:13

Hello and welcome back to Gracie Meets… Have you or your parents watched Judge Judy on TV? I’ve always wondered if those cases were real or just scripted interactions for entertainment. To help me understand, I invited Judge Lincoln Goodwin, the county judge for Harris County. Tell me a little about yourself Judge Goodwin.

Lincoln Goodwin  00:35

Well, thanks for hosting me, Gracie. This is really, really neat. This is my first podcast. So this is really really cool for me. Um, my name is Lincoln Goodwin, I’m a judge. Specifically, I’m the Justice of the Peace for Harris County, Precinct Four, Place One. I have been here almost six years as this community’s judge and so I have enjoyed every minute that I’ve been here on the bench serving the community.

Gracie Solomon  01:05

So if a teenager came up to you and asked about your job, how would you kind of explain or describe it to them?

Lincoln Goodwin  01:12

Okay. Well, since we do have teenagers that come into court, this is this is actually maybe kind of important. Really, my job as a judge is to operate the courts. A lot of people have an idea of how courts operate by looking on TV, and sometimes they’re accurate. Sometimes that’s not very accurate. But I wear a robe up on the bench and people will stand when I come in because you’re not honoring the person you’re honoring the court the process of law. But what I would explain to a teenager is that this is a place where cases are heard. Those can be civil cases. That’s another name for lawsuit or criminal cases. That’s where somebody has been charged with an offense by the state of Texas. And we do have some dockets here that involve people who are under 17 years of age, and it can be traffic citations. That’s kind of the most common. But we also have cases where maybe somebody is charged with a drug offense or an alcohol offense, tobacco offense or a theft or an assault, those kinds of things. So we do handle some cases, where folks, young and older are involved in cases where the state of Texas brings a criminal charge against that individual. So I handle the evidence and those kinds of things as far as making sure that all the rights of the individuals are protected, the law is followed and that the processes are fair.

Gracie Solomon  02:38

What is the docket cause you said that word?

Lincoln Goodwin  02:41

Oh, that’s a good question. I should I should have been a little more specific. So a docket really is just a group of cases that are set that day or on a particular time. So we might have a docket of cases. Maybe we have 30 or 40 cases set at nine o’clock one day, and so once or twice a month, we have a docket where we have a teenage docket. So that’s just a group of cases that are that are similar set at a certain time.

Gracie Solomon  03:09

What is the most unique part of your job?

Lincoln Goodwin  03:13

The most unique part of my job, really, is that I get to be the judge of the people’s court. Now, you’re too young to remember this show. It might still be on but there was a show called The People’s Court when I was a kid, and it was on for a long time. And really, what that meant was that a lot of folks came in and they represented themselves. They didn’t necessarily have attorneys that either they didn’t want one or they didn’t want to hire one. And they thought they could handle the case on their own and a lot of people can. And so this type of court allows people to come in and handle their cases on their own if they want to. A lot of people do have attorneys that come here and represent them, but a lot of people handle their own cases. So what makes this particular job unique versus other courts is that maybe half of the cases are ones where people are representing themselves. And so really, it’s unique because people have the opportunity to have access to courts and justice system and do that process on their own to make sure the courts are open for everybody.

Gracie Solomon  04:18

So is this like Judge Judy?

Lincoln Goodwin  04:21

It can be yeah!  Is it like Judge Judy, that’s so funny! There are days that it can be because sometimes, you know, you have to give people a lot of latitude and grace when they’re representing themselves. You know, they haven’t gone to law school and they don’t know all the ins and outs you still have to follow the law and the rules, but you give people a little grace. Now on Judge Judy, the parties will argue and those kinds of things and Judge Judy get to she can get a little fussy with the folks in court. I don’t I don’t do that. Nobody you know, nobody yells in court really or those kinds of things, but it can be entertaining sometimes. And here’s a here’s an interesting story that the Judge Judy show used to have a person that would come here and look at our lawsuits. And if they saw one that was interesting, they would contact the parties. And they did this all over the country, they would contact the parties in the lawsuit and say, if you will dismiss your case will fly you out to wherever they film probably Los Angeles or New York. And you Judge Judy will handle your case. And so it’s not technically it’s not a real court. It’s called binding arbitration, where she comes out wearing a robe and those kinds of things, but it’s not really a court. She’s they’ve just agreed to say we’re going to let that person make the decision. So they used to, they used to actually come to our court, and every now and then somebody would dismiss their case here and then let Judge Judy decided.

Gracie Solomon  05:53

That’s cool.

Lincoln Goodwin  05:54

So yeah, and that that’d be a great job to have. I think she works only a few days a month and does very, very well.

Gracie Solomon  05:59

What changes might there be in the future that would affect your job?

Lincoln Goodwin  06:01

So what changes might affect my job? Well, every two years, as you may know, the state legislature in Texas meets and they’re going to meet again in 2021. And every time they meet, that’s where our that’s where our laws are formed and changed. And so pretty much every time the legislature meets, there’s some change that comes down to the court system, including our courts. So the most recent change that we’re going to have is that our, the amount of money that someone can sue another person for in this court is going to increase to up to $20,000. So, right now, it’s currently at $10,000. So to give people more opportunity with higher value claims to come to court.

Gracie Solomon  06:47

I know everything right now is kind of crazy, because there’s a whole bunch of protests and riots and all that. How could that change your line of work?

Lincoln Goodwin  06:57

Well, I don’t think that the protests The riots are going to change the line of the work for this court or for any court. I think it’s important that we as a country recognize the ability for people to gather and protest and address their grievances with the government. I think that’s important that our nation’s history is filled with that. As soon as it crosses over to another dimension where you’re harming other people or harming property, those kinds of things. That’s something that we as a society simply just cannot tolerate. And so I don’t anticipate any changes here to the to the court, but I think that there’s always that balance for people to recognize, yes, demonstrate protest. I think that’s important, but do so peacefully as far as changes. I don’t think there really would be any, thankfully. We want to be a place where people can come and feel like they can get their day in court and that justice is fair for anybody and everybody who come in here regardless of where you’re from what you look like, what you have what you don’t have.

Gracie Solomon  08:05

Yeah, cause it just seems like with the protesters being like arrested and all that it would have a big kind of impact on the court system.

Lincoln Goodwin  08:16

It may some courts, you know, in Texas when somebody damages other people’s property there, there would be a criminal mischief charge and, and most of those cases are going to be Class B or class A misdemeanor, some might be felonies, and that’s determined by how much the value of the property is that that could be damaged, or criminal trespass, those kinds of things. Those are all cases that if there are arrests for those types of things, they’d be handled in courts downtown in the criminal district courts. So very rarely would anything probably come to this court just given the value of the property at issue.

Gracie Solomon  08:58

Well I’ll lighten it up a bit.

Lincoln Goodwin  08:59

Sure .

Gracie Solomon  09:00

What is your favorite part of being a judge?

Lincoln Goodwin  09:03

My favorite part about being the judge was really the reason why I decided to come over here. One is to really help young people we do have a lot of young people that come here. Some that are making some pretty poor decisions in life, and if we can help get them nudged back in the right direction, that’s, that’s a huge victory. And that’s why I’m here. I like about this job that you really do get to help people. Gives you a new unique opportunity to especially young person to kind of think about what they’re doing and you know, should I stay in school and, and who am I hanging around and or if I’m ingesting, you know, certain illegal substances and those kinds of things, we get them connected up with programs or mentors or those kinds of things and really have changed a lot of lives and hopefully that they continue down a path where they’re going to have a good and fruitful life rather than one where it’s headed towards more cases more crime, prison or even death. So really, that’s the best part of my job is we have those success stories and we see them all the time kids will come back or their parents will say and you know, my son or daughter is doing really well now. And so yeah, that sleep at night.

Gracie Solomon  10:22

Well, thank you for letting me interview you is a lot of fun.

Lincoln Goodwin  10:25

Oh my goodness, Gracie, thank you so much. This is my first podcast, I’m honored that you’d let me be, you know, on your, on your podcast, what a great novel idea. And I’m really impressed I really am that this is something that you’re doing and you’re, you’re meeting people of all walks of life professions and, and fame levels and those kinds of things, you know, and so it’s important that you’re doing this and that, as you gain a following that you’re exposing them to things in the world. It’s easy to kind of just focus on your little world and so I’m really impressed and proud of you that you’re doing this.  So well done!

Gracie Solomon  11:01

Thank you.

Lincoln Goodwin  11:02

You bet.

Gracie Solomon  11:03

From this interview with Judge Goodwin, I gathered that it’s a very rewarding experience to go on the path of being a judge. You’d get to help teens and adults get through difficult problems peacefully, and see people change. You’d get to see relationships grow and solve different disputes every day. No normal person could handle a set of new problems every day. But then again, show me a normal teenager. Thanks for listening. Thanks for tuning in. If you like Gracie Meets… subscribe so you can listen every time a new episode is dropped and follow Gracie meets on Instagram at Gracie dot meets (@gracie.meets).  Tune in next Saturday for an insightful interview with a futurist.