The Old Diocesan Issue5 Mar2020 - Page 53

Zandy Bicket (1973S) is a judge in the Allegheny County
Court of Common Pleas in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has
a master’s degree in psychology from Columbia University,
and practised as a trial lawyer in civil litigation for 23 years.
In 2009 I decided to make a
career change. In Pennsylvania,
as in most states in the US, judges
are elected by the people (and not
appointed as they are elsewhere in
the world). I campaigned to be a
judge and was elected to the bench
as a trial judge in 2011. After four
years in the Family Division,
presiding over child custody
and domestic violence cases,
I was assigned to the Criminal
Division, where I have been for
the past four years – and what an
experience it has turned out to be!
The 14 judges assigned to
the Criminal Division handle all
kinds of cases, from shoplifting
to capital murder. I see cases that
involve guns, drugs, burglaries,
robberies, rapes and assaults of
various varieties. It’s never boring.
And it’s certainly not Bishops.
As you can imagine, I have
had many incredibly interesting
cases. As was reported in Issue 4
of The Old Diocesan, in March 2019
I presided over a high-profile jury
trial involving the shooting and
killing of Antwon Rose II, an
unarmed black teenager, by
a local police officer during the
course of an arrest. Because of the
high number of such incidents in
the US in recent years, this case
grabbed the attention of the
national media and developed
a life of its own. My family was
provided with police protection
during the events leading up to
the trial, during the trial and for
a week or so after its conclusion.
It was, to say the least, a daunting
experience. During the trial itself,
the courthouse was cordoned off
by the police and the entrances
barricaded. On the advice of police,
many people didn’t come into
town for work for its duration.
There were numerous protests
when the trial concluded with
the jury acquitting the police
officer on all charges – but life
in Pittsburgh returned to normal
relatively quickly. Our house
is quiet again and I continue to
handle my regular cases as usual.
I love my job as a judge. I love
the work and the ability to remain
involved with the law without
having to be a practitioner. It is
a job that comes with enormous
power and responsibility. I take
it very seriously.
Cicero said that the more laws
there are, the less justice there is.
While Bishops had rules, what it
instilled in me was a sense of fair
play and justice. The great learning
I took away from my 12 years at
the school was that, although you
cannot make rules for everything,
there was an expectation of being
a responsible member of a
(boarding) community to do
the right thing and stand up
for principles. Attending school
during the dark days of apartheid
perhaps amplified the message
– and how it has served me,
especially in my legal career.
I think every day of where
I ended up professionally and
geographically – thousands of
miles from the planned teaching
career at Bishops or employment
with Pick n Pay in Cape Town.
Walking out of the College on that
hot December afternoon in 1973,
I never contemplated any of this.
It hasn’t always been easy.
I have no doubt many expats
feel the same way. With lots of
luck, some breaks, a marvellous
Bishops education and a wife who
entertained no thoughts of ever
returning to South Africa with
me, Pittsburgh, after 37 years,
has become my home.
Looking back, I wouldn’t have
had it any differently – but I do
and always will miss South Africa
and my Bishops friends.
Raymond (1948S) and Wendy
Ackerman, with Zandy and
wife Susan, at Zandy’s Oath
of Office Ceremony in 2011.

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