Notes from a Reluctant Magistrate

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About the author:
The Honorable Jeanette Mullen Harper was born Arlie Jeanette Lovin in Tellico Plains, Tennessee. She earned a degree in English-speech from Carson-Newman College and did her graduate work at the Citadel in South Carolina.

For nineteen years she taught twelfth grade English and was Governor Edwards' liaison to the State Board of Education. During those years she was also active as a wife, mother, Presbyterian Elder, and community volunteer.

In 1985, Jeanette was approached by senators from her district and asked to serve as a magistrate for Charleston County, East Cooper Court. She said, "Oh, no. I am a teacher. I don't want to do that." Her husband Jim thought she should have a break from teaching and persuaded her to accept the appointment, especially since the commitment was for only two years. That was over twenty-five years ago.

As a Charleston County Magistrate, Judge Harper served as President of the National Judges Association (2002-2003); and was voted the most Outstanding Non-attorney Judge in the United States (2005). Judge Harper founded the Mount Pleasant chapter of Toastmasters International.

Judge Harper retired from the Magistrate Court in 2007, but continues to preside as the Chief Judge for the Isle of Palms Municipal Court.

The quieter pace allows Judge Harper and her husband Jim to enjoy more time with their combined family of six children and twelve grandchildren.

Judge Harper remains grateful for opportunities to serve, and is thankful for a wonderful family who values her work.

Notes from a Reluctant Magistrate

Authored by Hon Jeanette Mullen Harper
Introduction by Timothy "Thor" Mullen

Notes from a Reluctant Magistrate is a collection of stories accumulated from the author's service as a County Magistrate (25 years). Also included are stories from her twenty years teaching English to high school seniors, a chapter on life lessons, and several contributions from collegues. Probably the best person to recommend Judge Harper's book is Timothy "Thor" Mullen, author of Microsoft Security Bible ( Here is what Timothy had to say:
"Growing up as the son of a judge is not a typical upbringing. Before my mother became a magistrate judge, she spent many years as a high school English teacher both at Wando and Moultrie High School in Charleston County. I was not only her son, but also a student in the metaphorical sense and in actuality. She was my high school teacher in both Speech and Developmental Reading during my junior year, as well as my primary English teacher during my senior year.

Getting to visit politically powerful people is exciting but around the Mullen household such opportunities were common. It seemed as though every other day some senator, congressman, judge, or other famously popular, highly respected and tremendously admired political figure stopped by for visits. I think a Democrat or two dropped in as well.

I watched my mother move and grow through many different stages of both our lives, from a "stay at home mom" to working mother and teacher, to political activist and magistrate judge. Regardless of what she was doing, whether it was presiding on the bench or simply picking blue crabs caught off the Old Bridge while I mixed the cornbread, she always did it with an underlying, unwavering sense of integrity. It was always around her and came as naturally to her as water to a porpoise. And it still does.

As such, I am incredibly fortunate that some of her traits have been passed down to me. I would like to think I have a strong sense of right and wrong, and that I have a strong ethic. I don't always do the right thing, but at least I know when I am not doing it.

As a young man, it was important for me to be independent and to earn my way in the world. That was not always easy when your mother is a judge in a (then) small city. I was once stopped for speeding by a Town of Mount Pleasant police officer, who upon reviewing my license, said, "Tim Mullen? Any relationship to Judge Mullen?" I reluctantly said, "Yes, sir, she is my mother." He rolled his eyes and exhaled condescendingly, obviously self-resigned that he would have to let me off, which he did under protests.

I was standing with a group of young lawyers at a cocktail party as they discussed a case heard in court that day. A loser in that case said, "I don't think she's a very good judge," not knowing that son Tim was in the group. In my coolest voice, I said, "Well, I don't know whether she is a good judge or not. I do know that she is a really good mother." The conversation changed quickly as the lawyer moved on to another subject.

Some have called her friend, some have called her Judge, and some have called her Your Honor. It is, however, my honor to have simply called her 'Mom.' "

Publication Date:
1463560540 / 9781463560546
Page Count:
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
6" x 9"
Black and White
Related Categories:
Biography & Autobiography / Lawyers & Judges

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