Ethics and professionalism were the topics of the hour during a visit by Georgia Supreme Court Justice Harold D. Melton with the Rockdale Rotary Club.
During Wednesday morning’s meeting, Melton took the historical view of the formation of the country into “a nation of laws, not of men.”
Seminal moments in this development included the 1803 Marbury vs. Madison case, where then Chief Justice John Marshall first quoted those words, Brown vs. the Topeka, Kan. Board of Education, and Watergate, where the White House was ordered by the Supreme Court to turn over their tapes.
In his own life, he recounted an occasion where he considered letting his position as a newly minted judge help get his wife out of a speeding ticket, before he realized the error in that thinking.
“More than ever, we hold people accountable for their actions,” said Melton, describing governors, mayors and other high officials that have been arrested, indicted and prosecuted.
However, it is not enough to be ethical, said Melton.
“Ethics is the stuff that you do and don’t do to avoid getting in trouble,” he explained. “We don’t want to live our lives based on will that get me in trouble or not. Often, the higher standard in law we talk about is professionalism. What are the things I can do to represent what I do in a community well.”
Melton attended Wheeler High School in Marietta, is a 1988 Auburn University alumnus, and received his law degree from University of Georgia in 1991. He began his legal career at the Georgia Department of Law, went on to be section leader of the Consumer Interests Division, and served as executive counsel to Governor Sonny Perdue. He was appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court in 2005 by Perdue when Chief Justice Norman Fletcher retired.
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