A Case of Perservence

May 18, 2010
By ShelbyTaylor BRONZE, Destrehan, Louisiana
ShelbyTaylor BRONZE, Destrehan, Louisiana
2 articles 1 photo 0 comments

Muhammad once said, “Four things support the world: the learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the good and the valor of the brave.” I believe that a family friend, Loretta Babst Stevens holds all of these great qualities. I learned through my interview with her that if you persevere and work hard, good things will come to you.

Loretta Babst Stevens is a dear friend of mine through my church. She has been my “adopted” grandmother for as long as I can remember. Mrs. Retta grew up in a time when, as a woman, few professional opportunities existed. She chose to be a secretary for a law firm and soon found she had talent in the profession. It wasn’t long before she decided to return to school. In l985, at the age of forty-five, Mrs. Retta became an attorney.

After completing her hard work, she was asked to support a friend who was running for Judgeship for Juvenile Court. She and several other colleagues agreed and assisted with his campaign. After he lost the election, the judge who won obtained a list of all of his opponent’s supporters including Mrs. Retta. The attorneys who signed their support were soon placed on a list for Pro Bono work, work without pay, in the new judge’s courtroom. Later, Ms. Retta received a case that would be the turning point of her professional career and her life.

Ms. Retta was assigned a custody case. Her first inclination, that something was wrong, was the fact that the Juvenile Judge took on the case. Custody cases were filled in First Level State Court and not in Juvenile Court. Also, she was informed that her client was “missing” and was told by her associates not to “rock the boat” but to simply file the appropriate paperwork and move on. “Bells went off in my head,” Mrs. Retta said to me, “I knew something was terribly wrong.” Soon she was able to locate her “missing” client who was not missing but in fact was in the process of getting out of jail. “The mother didn’t know a thing that was happening,” stated Mrs. Retta, “and it appeared that the judge was misusing his power to assist the father with obtaining custody.” Ms. Retta had previously thought that the Judge with all of his power would never abuse it. In fact she discovered quite quickly that the “justice of the great” was not always fair.

Mrs. Retta filed a request for documents regarding the case. She was allowed to do this because of the Freedom of Information Act. She wanted to view the Public Records regarding her case. Her first request was thrown away and she filed again. This request was denied soon after. Not to be outdone, Mrs. Retta then decided to file a petition with the court to be allowed access to the records. She lost her request through the District Court and filed again with the Court of Appeals. There she had a three judge panel with whom she had to argue her point in order to see records regarding her case. She must have been prepared because as she stated, she “talked on and on.” One of the Judges finally cut her off and stated, “Ms. Babst, you can stop now, you have won your case.” Now, finally, she was allowed to see the records she needed in order to fight her case. Today there is a court of appeals case titled, Babst vs. Jordan, this case states you are allowed to view the public records in Juvenile Court. Mrs. Retta must have been quite brave to continue with a fight that many others would have given up on. This shows that it takes bravery and courage to stand up for something you believe in when others around you may not.

Hearing Mrs. Retta’s story of perseverance and determination caused me to think back on times that I might have given up too quickly. I may have looked for the easy way out, and not given all the effort I should have in learning or fighting for what I believe. Hearing all of the obstacles she went through and people who were against her while seeking the truth caused me to admire her even more as a role model. At fifteen, I haven’t even begun to see the world with such “good and evil” eyes. I even had to ask myself, if I would I have stepped up for the right thing or would I have caved when my friends told me to?

Mrs. Retta Stevens is a pursuer of all great things. She is headstrong, independent, and a hard working individual who stands up for what she believes and doesn’t back down from a challenge. It was through her wisdom and love of the law that she realized how best to serve her client even though many roadblocks that were placed ahead of her. She believed in justice for all, even the poor and oppressed deserved equal representation. I know her to be a spiritual woman who prays for the right outcome. Her courage and bravery allowed her to stand up for her client and ultimately what was right. Muhammad words speak the truth then and I believe that Mrs. Retta is a fine example of what they mean today.

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