The Cultured Scholar's Cataogue

Campaign Blog Post

Statement: Why Dukes County’s Superior Court Needs a Fresh Perspective (Piland 2018)

I first want to congratulate T. George Davis on his win in the primary held earlier this month. It was an intense race, but you came out victorious. I hope to be a worthy candidate who also challenges you to be your best self.

After witnessing two experienced and notable lawyers spar over who is more credentialed to serve Dukes County as the Clerk of Courts, I spent some time contemplating the meaning of service to our community and what truly qualifies one to serve in this role. Yes, Dukes County Superior Court needs to become more efficient, responsive, and effective, but the role of clerk deserves focus, integrity, and dignity.

To make the courts more efficient, the clerk must be focused on the task at hand, the completeness of documentation, the swift education of jurors, and the accuracy of court docket management. To make the courts responsive, the clerk must serve with integrity, ensuring all concerns are acknowledged immediately, court documents are maintained with accuracy, and small claims cases are decided fairly. To make the courts effective, the clerk must uphold a standard of dignity, nurturing a relationship between the court and the citizenry that is based on the honor, respect, and decency deserving of both parties.

Outgoing Clerk of Courts, Joe Sollitto, Jr. is an attorney and career civil servant who served Martha’s Vineyard with honor and respect. Yet, his 41 years of service and an aged courthouse have placed limitations on his ability to optimize the processes of Dukes County’s Superior Court. In 2017, the Vineyard Gazette published a profile on Sollitto, showcasing the day-to-day routine for the Clerk of Courts and the juror selection process. The article noted the court educates jurors with an “ancient television” in a building that has been “crudely retrofitted with wiring and fire alarms.” The piece went on to illustrate Sollitto’s interaction with juror candidates as “ignoring discontentment” and his juror education as an “exhaustive history of the courthouse, judges, and cases” worthy of a college history professor.

Clerk Sollitto is a noble man that has done a great service to our county; however, the systems he has worked with are outdated and in need of innovation. Technology needs to be updated to keep jury candidates engaged. The courthouse needs modern infrastructure so jurors, lawyers, judges, and citizens can feel safe and comfortable. The juror education process should be concise, informative, and interesting. The court should anticipate jury candidate discontentment and seek to minimize frustration.

In the profile piece, Sollitto shared a quote by G.K. Chesterton’s “The Prisoner in the Dock” from the Clerk of Courts binder. It reads:

‘The horrific thing about all legal officials, even the best, about all judges, magistrates, barristers, detectives, and policemen, is not that they are wicked (some of them are good), not that they are stupid (some of them are quite intelligent), it is simply that they have gotten used to it.

They simply do not see the prisoner in the dock; all they see is the usual man in the usual place.

They do not see the awful court of judgment; they see only their own workshop.’

I believe this quote not only applies to how justice professionals see prisoners but also the court system itself. It is an ancient institution that makes minor adjustments here and there, but over time, remains quintessentially the same. They only see the status quo and stay in their comfort zone.

It is valuable to have caring legal professionals, generally well-versed in the workings of the court system, serving in public office, but a law degree is not a pre-requisite for serving or being electable and old systems are not the only way to get things done. What is required for effective service in the 21st century is a vision for the people of Dukes County, a passion for public service, and the ability and know-how to deliver results.

The time has come and gone for the tried and true. What I mean by this is, it’s time for a new perspective. A new strategy. A new face that knows the people of Dukes County personally, has cared for their families, and has selflessly served on the battlefield as well as in the operating room. Dukes County deserves a servant that is efficient, responsive, effective and exudes focus, integrity, and dignity in everyday life. The people of Dukes County need a familiar face that can relate to their everyday problems without any jaded bias from years in the legal field. The Dukes County Superior Court needs a focused Clerk that advocates for responsiveness, innovation, efficiency, and education to benefit our community.

Based on those standards, I think it’s obvious who the better choice is for this position. However, the final vote is yours.

Sincerely in service,

Anthony Piland

Independent Candidate for Dukes County Clerk of Courts