Bern takes oath as judge

Bern takes oath as judge
Tami Bern expressed words of thanks as she fastened the front of her black robe after taking the oath as magistrate judge for the First Judicial Circuit in the Clay County Courthouse Friday afternoon, March 23.

"When I was at Judge (Mary Dell) Cody's retirement reception yesterday, she said that her mentor was the one who asked her to be a magistrate judge, and she was so honored that he selected her because she has so much respect for him.

"I certainly feel the same way about our presiding judge in the First Circuit, Judge (Art) Rusch," Bern said. "I feel so honored that he has the confidence in me to appoint me to this position."

Bern told an audience of well-wishers in the third-floor courtroom that she plans to bring the lessons she learned from one of her important childhood role models to her new position behind the bench.

"To this day, the most influential person in my life is my grandfather," she said. "He would play with kids from sunrise to sunset, and never tire. But one of the things I remember most about him is that even when you are a 5-year old kid with a runny nose and a scraped knee, he would listen to you.

"He would bend down, look me in the eye and listen to me, and that stayed with me through my whole life," Bern said. "I knew what it felt like to be listened to, and I knew what it felt like to be heard." Her goal in her new job, she said, is to have people "walk out of this courtroom feeling they were heard, they were listened to, and they were respected."

"Tami, you really deserve this day, you worked hard for it, and I'm really glad for you," said First Circuit Court Judge Steve Jensen, who administered the oath of office. "I think that Judge Rusch really made a good decision."

Tami has all the attributes and qualities that you would like to see in a judge, he said.

"Two things that really stand out about her to me is, one, she cares, and secondly, she brings a sense of fairness, and I think those two things will really serve you well," he said to Bern.

Magistrate judges are on the front line, Jensen said, working directly with the public.

"Many of the people who appear before a magistrate judge don't have lawyers, a lot of them have no experience with the court system, and a magistrate judge has a responsibility of explaining how the system works, and telling people what their rights are," Jensen said. "For a lot of people, it's a very intimidating experience. Because Tami is the person that she is, I think she will be excellent in that role, and she is going to be an excellent judge."

Bern noted that that at least one thing will stay the same, despite Cody's retirement.

"As I was cleaning out my office, so many people were asking me 'what are you going to do with this?' and eventually a question I was asked constantly was, 'What about your robe? Do you have to buy a new robe?' "

The new magistrate judge finally sought an answer to that question, and was simply told by court officials that she will be able to wear Judge Cody's robe.

"After 30 years on the bench, Judge Cody isn't going to take her robe with her," Bern said.

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