Six-year-old Jesse Lewis sits next to Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred Ferguson. The judge invited Lewis, an aspiring judge, to join him on the bench Aug. 3. (Photo by Curtis Johnson/The Herald-Dispatch)
Jesse Lewis poses in Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred Ferguson's office. The judge invited Lewis, an aspiring judge, to join him on the bench Aug. 3. (Photo by Curtis Johnson/The Herald-Dispatch)
By CURTIS JOHNSON
HUNTINGTON -- Six-year-old Jesse Lewis struggled to see over the bench Monday morning, but still grasped his dream of becoming a judge.
The Fairland East (Ohio) Elementary School student sat alongside Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred Ferguson for a two-hour experience that allowed Lewis to trade in his living-room and stuffed-animal courtroom for the real thing.
"I wanted to see what it was like to be a judge with the robe and bigger courtroom," he said.
Susan Roghe said her son loves playing judge.
"He's been on cloud nine," she said. "This was a dream come true for him."
Monday's experience first included a tour of the courtroom and the judge's private office. Lewis then walked into the courtroom followed by Ferguson. The two judges took their seats as the bailiff finished his prayer and called for silence.
"You're in luck today. You've got two judges," Ferguson told the courtroom. "Hopefully, Judge Jesse's decisions will be a little better than mine."
Lewis sat next to Ferguson with an ink pen in hand. Lewis fidgeted a bit and played with the microphone, as would any 6-year-old. The two judges would talk between cases. Ferguson said topics included breakfast and Lewis' desire to see someone in orange.
Lewis said the experience was good. He talked afterward about seeing those orange jumpsuits, the bigger courtroom and numerous chairs. He also recalled getting to see how people "are treated when they are bad."
The boy's interest in being a judge started about two years ago, Roghe said. Each day her son arrives home from the babysitter's, changes into his suit and tie and the fun begins. The couch, table and chairs are moved into place. Stuffed animals fill the jury box and his mother and stepfather become willing participants. Sometimes, his aunt joins in. Many cases involve bank robberies and theft.
"That is all he wants to play," she said. "He will go get the chairs, set up the courtroom and he tells everybody where to sit ... Anybody that's there, he makes them play."
Ferguson and Roghe are friends. She told Ferguson about her son's obsession and his response was simple.
"I said, 'Well, have him come on over,'" he said. "I want to encourage people to do things that they want to do in life."
Lewis doesn't watch any of the numerous judge shows on television, so his mother cannot explain his passion.
"I really don't know where this came from," she said. "He is very articulate. He questions everything. He gets an idea in his head, and he runs with it. I mean he is very creative with playing things."
A child-sized robe is the only item missing from Lewis' judicial wardrobe. Roghe said he will use a suit from her or his stepfather to substitute.