July 10, 2009
Those seeking assembly-line justice won’t find it in Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely’s courtroom.
That was fairly evident Wednesday during a protection order hearing for Shane Aldrich. Aldrich’s case certainly isn’t earth-shattering; it’s that of an apparently chronic drinker who finds himself in trouble a lot.
Over the years his alcohol-fueled outbursts have triggered five protection orders. In fact, he’s currently in jail for violating one of those orders. He’s also stood trial twice for his misbehavior, and was acquitted both times.
So for Fernandez-Ely, she had a bit of a dilemma in Wednesday’s hearing. Sure, she could have easily made the protection order, sought by one of Aldrich’s neighbors, permanent. In fact, she said she probably will when the hearing is continued July 22.
But the judge decided to take it a step further, by trying to find out what makes this guy tick, or, in other words, implode. Four sheriff’s deputies, at the judge’s request, appeared at the hearing as well, all telling Fernandez-Ely the same thing: When Aldrich gets on the sauce, he is trouble not only to himself, but others around him. It’s as simple as that.
It’s understandable why the neighbors at the Woody Creek Subdivision, where Aldrich resides, were vocally disappointed with the judge’s decision to put off a ruling on the restraining order. Deputies are called to the neighborhood an average of three to five times a year because of Aldrich’s antics. Clearly, he’s the neighborhood nuisance – when he’s drinking.
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But Fernandez-Ely acquitted herself rather nicely when she told the residents that the problem will continue once Aldrich gets out of jail – if he does not undergo an intensive in-patient alcohol rehabilitation program.
A protection order, she said, will only go so far. Based on Aldrich’s history, she’s right.
“The whole idea is to stop the madness,” Fernandez-Ely said.
Of course, Aldrich also could go through extensive alcohol rehabilitation and still drink and again find himself in trouble. The judge cannot, nor can anyone else for that matter, make him stop drinking.
But at least we can rest assured knowing that the judge realizes that the simple, convenient course of ushering Aldrich through the court system is not working. There’s a pattern here, and Fernandez-Ely hopes to help stop it.
She deserves some praise for at least trying.