The Judge: Character, Cases, Courage Image

The Judge: Character, Cases, Courage

By Chris Salce | January 21, 2021

Lately, the topic of justice or the lack thereof has been the focal point of conversation. We see it on the news, social media, and sometimes in person. Incidents that bring up the subject have been happening long before any of us were born, and that is when we see people stand up for what is right. Judge Robert R. Merhige Jr. was one of those people. Judge Merhige went up against the KKK, companies like the A.H. Robins Company, tackled segregation and much more. These are just a few of his influences on the justice system highlighted in The Judge: Character, Cases, Courage.

I had never heard of Judge Merhige before coming across this documentary, but I feel like I want to know even more about him after watching it. Writer/ director Robert Griffith uses interviews and archival footage to show the actions, integrity, and bravery that Judge Merhige displayed during his twenty-plus years on the bench. One of his many famous cases was when he decided to desegregate Virginia public schools. During that case, he faced obstacles such as death threats, his house being lit on fire, and sadly, his dog being killed. Even with all of these acts of hatred, Judge Merhige did not give up. He continued the case and ruled against segregation. In the case of the desegregation of public schools, it was looked at as possibly something like a contradiction since Judge Merhige sent his children to private schools. Regardless, Judge Merhige lead the way when another judge would not.

“…went up against the KKK, companies like the A.H. Robins Company, tackled segregation and much more.”

Another case that Judge Merhige worked on was the landmark case of Wounded Knee. This is a case that I wish was examined more in the movie, but it is only mentioned within the first minute and not brought up again. I feel the case should have been explored more because it was such a historical event. But with the documentary lasting just an hour, it is possible that there just was not enough time to go more in-depth in that particular case because of its complexity.

This movie is very informative, as all documentaries should be. Although it deals with the justice system, it does not push an agenda, which sometimes is a problem when dealing with a political film. What it simply does is tells all of the influence that Judge Merhige had on the justice system, as does it tell the passion that he had for justice itself. Even as the end credits roll, we are still seeing a glimpse of the man as he delivers a speech, which is actually quite more comical than (presumably) it was intended to be. All of the cases discussed in the film were monumental and served a purpose in celebrating a man’s legacy that maybe does not get the due that he deserves. The man was as interesting as his cases, and The Judge: Character, Cases, Courage is likely the only place you will see it.

The Judge: Character, Cases, Courage (2021)

Directed: Robert Griffith

Written: Rodney Smolla

Starring: Judge Robert R. Merhige Jr., etc.

Movie score: 8.5/10

The Judge: Character, Cases, Courage Image

"…the man was as interesting as his cases..."

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