Election 2012 Profile: Judge John Yoder, Candidate for State Supreme Court and Dog Lover

HNN Staff
Judge John Yoder and "Roxie"
Judge John Yoder and "Roxie"

While owning a dog may not be an actual qualification for a seat on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, dog lovers across the state may bark if you suggest that a man's care for his dog is not relevant to his character.

Followers of Judge John Yoder's Facebook page get a regular update on "Roxie," Yoder's part-German Shepherd, part-Border Collie. 

Roxie, like so many dogs, has a distinct personality.  Only four years old, she has the spirit of a puppy, yet secures Yoder's home like a champion guard dog, barking seriously at any unfamiliar guest.

When Yoder has had an especially long day on the campaign trail, he notes how glad he is to be back home in Harpers Ferry with Roxie, who has patiently waited on him for their evening walk.

But Judge Yoder isn't just glad to be home to relax; he's relieved to get back to check on Roxie.  Any reader of Judge Yoder's Facebook can tell that they are more than just man and beast--the judge and his dog are good friends.  They've even shared time together at court.

You read that right.  Roxie accompanied Judge Yoder to work one day, following a fire in their home.  Neither Yoder nor Roxie expected Roxie to make a civic contribution that day.

But Judge Yoder mentioned that he had his dog in his chambers when he was dealing with a case in which a little girl in foster care wanted to talk with the judge. The girl's attorney told Yoder that the girl wanted to talk to him in private.  Yoder stated that perhaps they should use the jury room, but the girl said she preferred to go where the dog was.

The girl then started crying and said she was scared to talk, and to break the ice, Judge Yoder took Roxie to the girl.  She started to pet Roxie, quit crying, and then started speaking to Roxie, telling Roxie what she wanted the judge to hear while he listened. 

This was done with the permission of the attorneys, and Judge Yoder realized he could use Roxie in other cases to help communicate with victims of abuse and neglect to give him needed testimony.

While we want our Supreme Court Justices to be firm in their application of the law, a sense of humanity is good to see, too.  Judge Yoder says that he tries to employ both in the administration of justice. 

Obviously, Judge Yoder's load is eased by meeting up with his four-legged friend to buoy his spirits after a long day of hearing cases.

Maybe we should insist that every Supreme Court Justice gets a dog.


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