In case this dreary day passed you by without much fanfare, let us stop to talk about a bright spot: Judge Jack Garvey.
Mayor Francis Slay proclaimed this December 14, 2011 as "Jack Garvey Day" in the city of St. Louis, and it's quite well-deserved if you ask those who have worked with him.
The judge sits in Division 16. He's tasked with handling docket control, routine motions and bond settings. As Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce says, it's the "nerve center" of the criminal justice system, meaning Judge Garvey has a big hand in setting the tone for how cases will be handled.
Earlier this year, he initiated weekly meetings with Joyce and St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Dan Isom. The goal was simple: get on the same page. Garvey, a former city alderman, might arguably know the true community impact better than most judges. It made him keenly aware of the gun violence plaguing our community. And he set out to tackle it.
If you were caught with an illegal weapon or committed a crime with a gun, there was a good chance you sat in a jail cell rather than walking free until your trial date. That's because Judge Garvey substantially increased bond amounts for accused offenders. In many cases, bonds for gun cases were set at $100,000, cash only. And Joyce thinks that's one of the largest contributors to the city's decline in homicides. There were 144 in 2010. So far this year, there have been 112. Not great. But better.
Here's what Joyce had to say about it on the facebook page she keeps for the Circuit Attorney's Office:
"Nowadays the only reason someone would be carrying a gun illegally is if they couldn't qualify for a CCW Endorsement because they had a criminal history, were underage, or had stolen the gun.
Firearms are the leading cause of death for young people in this City. Since Judge Garvey started setting higher bonds on these cases, the homicide rate has dropped significantly, well behind last year's rate. Chief Isom and I believe that the higher gun bonds had a real impact on violence in St. Louis."
Let's just hope the next judge assigned to Division 16 for 2012 is as much of a game-changer as Garvey was for 2011. As a resident of this city, my proverbial hat is off to you, Judge.
Now, here is what the mayor had to say in his proclamation:
For nearly 25 years, St. Louis Circuit Judge John F. ("Jack") Garvey has occupied a prominent place in this city's civic scene; and
WHEREAS, Judge Garvey grew up in New Jersey. He came to St. Louis to attend St. Louis University and decided to make this city his home. He married Kathy McCool and they raised four outstanding children, Matt, Tim, Colleen and Sheila; and
WHEREAS, Judge Garvey has devoted himself to public service, including as an Assistant Circuit Attorney, Alderman for the 14th Ward of the City of St. Louis, President of the Board of Directors of the St. Louis Public Library, and, since 1997, as a judge on the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court, having been appointed Associate Circuit Judge by Gov. Mel Carnahan and Circuit Judge by Gov. Bob Holden; and
WHEREAS, Judge Garvey has served with high distinction on the Circuit Court bench, including as Juvenile Court Judge and, over the past year, presiding over Division 16, the court's criminal assignment division; and
WHEREAS, Judge Garvey now is completing his term as Criminal Assignment Judge, and deserves the gratitude of all citizens of the City of St. Louis. He has fostered productive cooperation in the criminal justice system and brought to it special innovation, making it more just and helping St. Louis to become a safer place to live, work, and play. He has exemplified the highest ideals of judicial integrity, independence, diligence and impartiality.
Now therefore I, Francis G. Slay Mayor of the City of St. Louis, do hereby proclaim December 14, 2011, as:
"JACK GARVEY DAY"
IN THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the seal of the City of St. Louis, this 14th day of December, A.D. 2011.