Friday, February 08, 2008

The Worst (And Best) Of America

A traffic judge apologized to a man who had been hounded for 17 years by officials trying to get his similarly named twin brother to resolve $1,800 in unpaid tickets and fines.

Judge Willie Adams refused to look at the paperwork that showed Harris was innocent, then told him to start paying the tickets or go to jail. That prompted him to take his story to the Philadelphia Daily News.

After the column ran Monday, a different traffic judge, Bernice DeAngelis, caught wind of the story. She apologized and said the court would give Edward Harris a refund.

"I'd like the chance to look him in the eye and apologize, from the bottom of my heart," DeAngelis told the newspaper for a story Thursday. "I see what we do in this court as a sacred trust. That might sound corny, but I truly believe it. I'm sorry for everything he had to go through."

This story typifies the worst aspects of the US: bumbling, stumbling, inefficient, stupid bureaucracy and apathetic justice system. It also shows, in case we have forgotten, what makes the US great: Individuals willing to take responsibility for mistakes made, to publicly acknowledge and apologize for those mistakes. Kudos to Bernice DeAngelis.

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