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Carroll and Dunston Sworn In as Newest Superior Court Judges

July 16, 2007 — Amidst a wide array of lighthearted jokes and stories, family members, friends and several local dignitaries still shared a few emotional moments Monday, as attorneys James S. Carroll and Michael C. Dunston were sworn in as the territory's newest Superior Court judges.
Throughout the ceremony, the support and praise heaped upon the two judges was overwhelming, as a continuous flow of speakers highlighted several past accomplishments achieved in both the judges' public and personal lives. Many speakers, such as attorneys Adrianne J. Dudley and Master of Ceremonies Francis Jackson, also commended Gov. John deJongh Jr. for appointing Carroll and Dunston to their new positions, saying that the two "gentlemen" will bring a sense of balance and fairness to the bench.
Speaking later in the ceremony, deJongh explained that the decision to nominate the two judges was not difficult, since both Carroll and Dunston came highly recommended, receiving much support from their employers and members of the V.I. Bar Association.
"When it came time to fill these positions, Greg (Lt. Gov. Gregory R. Francis)and I canvassed the legal community, and these two names came up in all locations, no matter where we looked," deJongh said. "And when that happens, you know it's an easy choice."
He added that the investiture of Carroll and Dunston represents a turning point for the local judicial system, which has morphed into a more comprehensive branch of government, now encompassing a newly added magistrate and supreme courts.
"Making these selections was not just about today, but about our future, as our judiciary continues to grow," deJongh said.
Speaking on a more personal level, deJongh described the two judges as "fair," capable of making "tough but just" decisions in the cases that come before them. This sentiment was also expressed by many speaking during Monday's event.
"These individuals have served their communities well up until now, and I know they will continue to do so during their time on the bench," Jackson said. "For they are gentlemen of character, integrity and above all, fairness."
After donning their judicial robes and receiving their gavels, both judges said they would be taking these words to heart by making sure all residents enter and leave the courtroom on equal footing.
"I promise to administer justice in a fair and evenhanded manner," Carroll said. "And I will do it as wisely as I can, approaching this position with an eagerness to serve."
At a Senate hearing in May, Carroll also said that he, like his idols Thurgood Marshall and former St. Thomas District Court Judge Almeric Christian, hopes to "fight in the area" of community justice, advancing the rights of local citizens to make sure that "anyone, regardless of their position, gets a fair trial."
Carroll, a native of New York, has served on staff at the local U.S. Attorney's Office for the past 28 years. On Monday, he said that his greatest achievement within the agency was promoting community outreach activities, which included providing college tuition for local students.
"I've also been able to see hundreds of youngsters take an oath against perpetuating violence in our community," Carroll said, referring to his work with the St. Thomas chapter of Mothers Against Guns and the Jason Carroll Memorial Fund. "If anything, these are the things I am most proud of accomplishing during my time at the U.S. Attorney's Office."
After receiving an emotional tribute from Dudley, Dunston's time at the podium was spent thanking his family for the hard work and sacrifices that allowed him to "come to the Virgin Islands and pursue" his dreams.
Choking back tears, he added, "I am humbled and honored by this position, and I pledge that I will devote every fiber of my being to serving the people of the Virgin Islands."
Dunston, an assistant attorney general at the local Department of Justice since 1981, grew up on a farm in West Frankfort, Ill. In his home state, Dunston worked extensively in the criminal and civil law arenas, both as a prosecutor and public defender, which Dudley said would bring a sense of "balance" to the Superior Court bench.
"He has experienced the entire spectrum of roles that will be coming before him," Dudley added. "And what is equally as important is that he brings with him a great love for this territory. He has also taught law, he has an excellent temperament and above all, he has a terrific sense of humor. In short, he's just an all-around good guy."
During a Senate hearing held in May, Dunston said some of his goals for the Superior Court bench include reducing the system's backlog of civil cases, helping stem the tide of violent crime in the community, and using the court's available resources to steer younger, first-time offenders toward academic, vocational and community-oriented activities.
Both judges have been appointed to serve six-year terms, which will expire in May 2013.
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