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About Burton Hanson. Burton Hanson is a graduate of Harvard Law School, admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Minnesota. He worked one year as Hennepin County District Court Special Term (Civil) Law Clerk, two years as law clerk for the late Justice C. Donald Peterson of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and over 26 years as Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Supreme Court. He was a nonpartisan candidate for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election in November 2000 and a liberal anti-war candidate for Congress in the Republican primary in the Minnesota Third District in September 2004. He was one of the first law bloggers (blawgers). He began planning his first blog, BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else in 1999 but delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. His campaign website, the no-longer extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first such use of a weblog or blog. In 2004 he also used the personal blog format in his primary campaign for Congress. That site, BurtonHanson.Com, has morphed into a personal political opinion blog and also contains the archives of his 2004 campaign web pages and blog postings.
Leading senator accuses MN's chief justice of 'outright fabrication.' We link today to two news reports regarding statements this week by State Senator Dean Johnson giving new life to the issue of what, if anything, did one or two or three Minnesota Supreme Court Justices say to him regarding the explosive issue of same-sex marriage:
News Report #1. "[S]tate Sen. Dean Johnson now says that Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Russell Anderson told 'an outright fabrication' in March when he denied that any justices had talked to Johnson about the state's legal ban on same-sex marriage. For the first time, the outgoing Senate majority leader also singled out Justice Paul Anderson, a 'longtime friend,' as the other justice with whom he had informally discussed the ban, known as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)...." More (Minneapolis Star-Tribune 11.22.2006).
News Report #2. "Sen. Dean Johnson said he has no idea why the Minnesota Supreme Court justices lied about conversations that were held in his office about issues, including the marriage amendment. 'They have to answer for themselves,' said Johnson on Wednesday in Willmar during a press conference with local media...On Wednesday, Johnson said he had 'professional discussions' with justices on three occasions -- two times in his office and one time in the Capitol Rotunda. One conversation involved two justices and the others involved a single justice, he said...'All I’m saying is there w[ere] discussions...professional, political discussions about these issues.'" More (West Central Tribune 11.24.2006).
For the benefit of our readers outside Minnesota, a little background or context is in order, followed by some comments and recommendations:
1. The seminal case on same-sex marriage. In Baker v. Nelson, 291 Minn. 310, 191 N.W.2d 185 (Minn. 1971), appeal dismissed for want of federal question, 409 U.S. 810 (1972), reproduced here, Justice C. Donald Peterson, speaking for a unanimous court, held that 1) the Minnesota legislature, in using the term "marriage" in the statute governing marriage, undoubtedly used the term in its commonly-understood meaning, as "the state of union between persons of the opposite sex," and 2) the statute, as interpreted, "does not offend the First, Eighth, Ninth, or Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution." (Disclosure: I was Justice Peterson's law clerk at the time. Nothing contained herein reveals any confidences or "inside information" gained from my relationship to Justice Peterson or from my work on that case.)
2. Subsequent legislative action. Subsequent to Baker, in 1997 I think, the legislature amended the statute to reflect and show its approval of the result in Baker by expressly prohibiting marriage "between persons of the same sex," Minn. St. 517.03, subd. 1(4). There was no need to do so, but the legislature did so.
3. Attempt to put the prohibition in the state constitution. Not satisfied with that, opponents of same-sex marriage, for various reasons (you don't need a great imagination to guess them), want to put the prohibition in the state constitution. Some of the supporters of the proposed amendment, which would require approval in the general election, argue that absent that, there's nothing to prevent the Minnesota Supreme Court from abandoning Baker and holding that the statutory prohibition violates the state constitution.
4. State Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson's resistance. Dean Johnson, Minnesota's state senate majority leader, a Republican-turned-DFLer, who also is a Lutheran pastor, does not support same-sex marriage but has opposed the attempt to place the proposal to amend the state constitution on the ballot. One of his arguments has been that there's no likelihood that the state supreme court will declare the state statute unconstitutional. Which brings us to the matter at hand:
5. Senator Johnson's January bombshell. In January he spoke to members of the New London-Spicer Ministerial Association. Brent Waldemarsen, an area minister who is not a member of the association, asked to attend, then bought a digital recorder and, without anyone's authorizing it, taped Johnson's remarks, which he then made public. According to the 03.17.2006 St. Paul Pioneer-Press:
On the recording, Johnson can be heard saying he had spoken [to] three Supreme Court [justices] about the issue, including former Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz. "I have had a number of visits with them about our law. All of them, every one of them, including the lady who just stepped down, Kathleen Blatz, was my seatmate (in the Minnesota House) for four years. She was the chief justice. You know what her response was? 'Dean, we all stand for election too, every six years.' She said 'We're not going to touch it.' That's what she said to me." He also said that he had talked with two of the three justices named Anderson and that they had told him, "Dean, we're not going to do it." More (St. Paul Pioneer-Press 03.17.2006).
6. Denials. Former Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz reportedly denied making such an assurance, and Chief Justice Russell Anderson released a written statement saying: "I take any suggestion of judicial impropriety very seriously. I have spoken with every member of my court and my predecessor and I can say with confidence that no member of the Supreme Court has made any commitment to Sen. Johnson on this matter" [Emphasis supplied by BRH]. "Asked if that meant no justice had discussed the marriage issue with Johnson, court spokesman John Kostouros said, 'We'll let the statement stand on its own.'" More (St. Paul Pioneer-Press 03.17.2006). (Comment: I can't resist noting that the court, which is always saying it is short of money, has enough funds to hire a "p.r." or press-relations aide.)
7. Senator Johnson's clarification. Senator Johnson issued a clarification saying he had talked with just one of the justices: "'I embellished it to say the judiciary doesn't seem too interested in overturning this...I suppose I was becoming frustrated. I made a mistake.'" More (St. Paul Pioneer-Press 03.17.2006).
8. The chief justice tries again. In his second response to the allegations, the chief justice, who was out of state on vacation, released a written statement in connection with a conference call with reporters. In the statement the chief said: "[N]o member of this court or my predecessor, Kathleen Blatz, ever made a commitment to Senator Johnson about this matter or any other likely to come before us. Contrary to Senator Johnson’s original assertion, and any speculation by commentators since then, there have been no discussions by former Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz or any current member of the Supreme Court with Senator Johnson about the Defense of Marriage Act, let alone any assurances given in regard to that law." Full text (KSTP 03.20.2006). I offered a number of comments at the time. I remarked that the idea of using the conference call format proved to be a bad one, in my opinion. I heard a clip from it on a couple local TV news shows. The sound quality is poor -- it sounds as if the chief was talking from an echo chamber. A friend of mine laughed when he heard it, not because of the content but because it made the chief sound so bad. I also said, inter alia:
Will this end the matter? I'm not sure it will end it -- or should end it. Minnesota reporters are awfully deferential toward supreme court justices, which suggests they might not pursue the matter. But if I were a reporter I would not be satisfied with the chief's use of the conference-call format instead of a face-to-face press conference, nor would I be satisfied with the chief's speaking for the other justices. The latter is a little like a mother, in response to being told that her kids have done something wrong, saying she's spoken to them and they all said no, they have not. In other words, a good reporter would want to talk face-to-face with the individual justices and, perhaps, with other people associated with the court who sometimes or often are in contact with legislators on court budgetary matters, etc. In any event, it's not just up to the reporters. Ultimately, it's all up to the people senators and justices alike serve, i.e., all of us. This is a great public relations crisis for the court as an institution and for each of the justices. If I were a justice and I had not talked with legislators, I'd have doubts that the chief and the court's p.r. people have handled the matter effectively.
9. Reaction to the chief's statement. Despite the chief's saying that Senator Johnson had apologized for the statement that was taped, there remained still a gap between what Sen. Johnson said in his clarifying statement on the matter and the chief's statement that no one ever discussed the matter with Johnson. As the Pioneer-Press put it, "The justice's comments keep the controversy alive because they directly contradict every version of Johnson's retelling of his interaction with members of the Supreme Court." The Pioneer-Press quoted state Republican Chairman Ron Carey as saying at a Capitol news conference that "Somebody is lying." The viewpoint of the Republicans, who were trying to make political hay of the matter, was that Johnson was lying. The Democrats stuck by Johnson as leader and said that "the continued differences between what Johnson and Anderson have said about discussions the senator had or didn't have with Supreme Court justices 'are for them to work out.'"
10. Was somebody necessarily lying? Did Johnson need 'forgiveness'? Continuing with Mr. Carey's line, Craig Westover, writing in the 03.22.2006 Pioneer-Press, opined, with reference to MN's "Johnsongate": "Somebody is lying. There simply is no other, nicer way to say it. Either [Sen.] Johnson is lying about having a conversation with a member of the court, and by doing so compromising the personal integrity of state Supreme Court justices and the judicial system, or one or more of the justices is lying, in which case there has been a significant breach of judicial ethics that compromises the legislative process." More. Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Pawlenty, whose wife is a district court judge, said people ought to forgive Johnson, a Democrat, for his "big mistake" and the parties ought to move on to other issues. More. I offered the following speculative comments:
Two points. a) Sometimes people "forgive" not as a simple act of forgiveness but as part of an indirect way of placing blame and of resolving a disputed issue to one's own benefit. Perhaps Pawlenty is not being magnanimous but pragmatic: perhaps he wants to avoid further inquiry into who, if anyone, said what, if anything, and perhaps he feels the Republicans have gotten as much mileage out of the issue as possible and that prolongation of the controversy might backfire. b) In making his argument that someone is lying, Westover is echoing the Republican line. Is it necessarily so that someone is lying? Legislative leaders talk to many people in the course of a day, thousands in the course of a year. Speaking hypothetically and rhetorically, one may ask: Might someone other than former Chief Justice Blatz or a current member of the court but someone closely connected with the justices have said to Sen. Johnson that he or she had spoken to or knew the thinking of some justices and there's no way the court would touch the same-sex marriage issue? And might the senator, who is a minister and a general besides being a respected legislator, have remembered the remark as having come from the one unidentified justice to whom he now refers? Or, to take a different angle, might Johnson, who presumably is a gentleman, have seriously regretted betraying one or more actual confidences in his taped statement and might his subsequent partial retraction and mea culpa have been the gallant act of a gentleman? On the other hand, might Chief Justice Anderson, a man who as chief is widely respected, be telling the truth as he believes it but still be mistaken? His version, after all, is based on self-serving hearsay statements from seven other people. We should presume the truthfulness of those seven other people, just as we presume the innocence of those who are charged with wrongdoing, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility that one of them at a minimum has a bad memory or that he/she said something that Johnson misinterpreted. Not every dispute among people of presumed honor and integrity can be resolved by simplistic either/or thinking. In other words, in my opinion, perhaps no one is "lying." Perhaps some people of honor, all acting in good faith, just have some different versions of reality and we won't ever know "the truth" with any certainty.
11. Dismissal of complaint; Johnson apology. "Saying they doubted they could force state Supreme Court justices to testify, members of a Senate ethics panel Friday agreed to dismiss a complaint against Majority Leader Dean Johnson, averting an inquiry that would have pitted the credibility of the court against that of the senator...." Details (Minneapolis Star-Tribune 03.25.2006). Then on the following Monday Johnson apologized to his colleagues for making an "inaccurate" statement to ministers and reiterated he received no "commitments" from any supreme court judges on how court would decide same-sex marriage case.
12. Johnson's lawyer reveals there were witnesses to conversations. But we also learned that "Johnson's lawyer...Ellen Sampson said if the special subcommittee on ethical conduct pressed on, Johnson was prepared to call witnesses who would testify to discussions he had with justices. 'If the committee tells us to name them, we will name them and we will call the witnesses who were in those meetings and heard those conversations,' Sampson said during a closed portion of a hearing held by the panel...." More (Minneapolis Star-Tribune 03.28.2006). To the same effect, see, St. Paul Pioneer-Press (03.28.2006) ("[Johnson's apology for making an 'inaccurate' statement at the ministers' meeting] does not clear up who is telling the truth about conversations Johnson has claimed to have had with Supreme Court justices about the 1997 law. The senator maintains that he had some conversations about the subject, and last Friday his lawyer said several of those conversations had witnesses....").
13. Response to assertions by Johnson's lawyer. On 03.29 we learned that two senators on the ethics panel were saying Johnson's claim he has witnesses was plausible: "GOP Sen. Tom Neuville of Northfield and DFL Sen. Wes Skoglund of Minneapolis said they couldn't dismiss the possibility that conversations [with justices] took place...'I think it is possible he had a meeting and the topic came up,' said Sen. Thomas Neuville, R-Northfield. 'If push had come to shove, I think (Johnson) would have had witnesses. I didn't sense he was gaming or bluffing.'" More (Grand Forks Herald 03.29.2006).
14. Two attorneys file ethics complaints against justices. "Two attorneys -- a Minnesota House member [Rep. Tom Emmer] and a crusader against state Supreme Court rules [Greg Wersal] -- filed separate ethics complaints Friday...with the Board on Judicial Standards and the Lawyers Board of Professional Responsibility, question[ing] whether [one or more] justices violated the [court's rules] by [allegedly] talking to Johnson about the 1997 state law that bans gay marriage...." More (St. Paul Pioneer-Press 04.01.2006).
16. MN Board of Judicial Standards says supreme court did no wrong. "The Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards...ended its investigation last Thursday, finding no evidence that any of the seven justices talked about the marriage law with Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson...'There is no evidence that any promises, commitments or predictions were made to anyone by any justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court concerning how any court might rule on any issue relating to the Defense of Marriage Act or any of the issues raised in Sen. Johnson's remarks,' said David Paull, the board's executive secretary...." More (Duluth News Tribune 06.27.2006). The Board went further and declared that, in the words of Mr. Paull, "there was no evidence to indicate that any justice had any discussion with Senator Johnson concerning this or any related issue." Board's Press Release. I commented:
I guess no one should be surprised at the Board's decision. It would be nice if a transcript of the testimony were available to the public, but I'm assuming that won't happen. In my opinion, the proceedings ought to have been public. At a bare minimum, a transcript ought to be made public. If one is to form an opinion of the adequacy of an applicant's affidavit in support of a search warrant, one needs to read the affidavit, not a summary of it. Similarly, one can't independently assess the Board's decision without having full access to the record of the examination of the various witnesses under oath. It's always best to let the sun shine in, the sun -- as Brandeis reminded us -- being the "best disinfectant" in a democracy.
17. The election: Johnson is defeated. Johnson discusses past, present, future of his political career (West Central Tribune 11.24.2006). I didn't pay attention to the campaign out Willmar way, but this excellent article in the West Central Tribune suggests Johnson has good reason to be angry with the advertising campaign run against him by "outside" interest groups.
18. Johnson reignites the controversy. The Star-Tribune story to which I've linked quotes Johnson as saying that "while no justice ever told him what specific action the high court would take on the Marriage Act, discussions 'did take place. I told myself before I got to my grave, it would be nice to have the court 'fess up to what actually happened.'" Johnson stated further: "I'll put my hand on the Bible -- there were meetings in the Senate majority leader's office that included gay marriage and DOMA. I have no reason to lie. I'm not trying to get even with anyone. I'm just telling the truth of what happened. The judges can deny it, but at some point in time they will have to confess to their makers about the truth." He told the Strib reporter that Chief Justice Anderson told "an outright fabrication" and he told the press in Willmar that the chief's statement was "simply not true."
19. The court's p.r. man responds and tries to squelch publication. Once again the supreme court relied on its "spokesman," John Kostouros, to speak for the court. He told the Strib reporter the justices had no comment but "noted that the state Board on Judicial Standards had ruled in June that there was no evidence that any such discussions ever took place." But it appears that he later sent an e-mail to an editor in an attempt to get the paper to squelch publication of the report. In that e-mail he reportedly stated: "[E]very time you run one of these it allows Johnson, who has changed his story many times...to besmirch the names of many good and honorable people...I just hate to see good people who place a high value on their reputations for integrity dragged through the mud with so little credibility by the accuser." But Mr. Johnson, a Lutheran minister and an honored military man as well as long-time public servant -- indeed, he has a longer record of public service than many members of the court -- is also a "good and honorable person." Indeed, I know a fellow who grew up just down the street from Mr. Johnson in Willmar. He says Johnson is "true blue." Who's besmirching whom? Interestingly, according to Minnesota Lawyer (issue dated 11.27.2006), Kostouros told the Strib he didn't want his e-mail to the editor published. Hmm, what exactly is the job description of "court information officer" or "court spokesperson" -- to say "No comment" publicly but work behind the scenes to squelch publication of stories of great public interest, all the while attempting to cover his tracks? For more of my critique of spending taxpayer money to hire what in effect is a court "p.r." or "press relations" person and my distinction between faux openness and real openness, see my comments and the links at Arizona becomes a sunshine state in re judicial complaints.
20. Johnson's corroborating evidence. With reference to Mr. Kostouros' reminder that "the Board" ruled there was "no evidence" that any discussions of same-sex marriage between Johnson and the justices ever occurred, Johnson told the reporter, "That is not an accurate statement at all." Specifically, he told the reporter that "he had talked with Blatz in his office about a variety of topics that included, in a general way, the Marriage Act" and that "he later had a conversation with Paul Anderson in which the Marriage Act came up and Anderson told him repeatedly what a tough issue it would be." Echoing what I alluded to in section 12, supra, Johnson said "that his former chief of staff, Cristine Almeida, was present on both occasions and that depositions by her and former executive assistant John Kavanaugh corroborate that. 'They're both lawyers and the one thing a lawyer knows is you don't lie in a deposition,' Johnson said." Interestingly, Johnson said that when Chief Justice Anderson conducted his conference call with reporters (see, section 8, supra), "I sat back in my chair and said, 'This can't be. The man is not telling the truth.'" The Strib quotes him as saying that "Kavanaugh and Almeida entered his office in disbelief.
21. The Board says the record is confidential. As of the date of the Strib's story, its reporter had been unable to get access to the record on which the Board deliberated, including the allegedly corroborating depositions referred to by Johnson. Mr. Paull, the board's executive secretary, told the reporter that as a rule it was all confidential.
22. Where did the Board go wrong? This is what I said shortly after the Chief's conference call:
While I wouldn't want to see any justice's career ended or the court hurt by anything that would be revealed by an investigation, I believe that Chief Justice Anderson's statement is inadequate and that an investigation into precisely who said precisely what is imperative. I believe the judicial conduct folks, who are supposed to be independent of the court in matters like this, need to subpoena each current justice, as well as former Chief Justice Blatz, and question each one individually, under oath, and on the public record about his or her knowledge of the making of any extra-judicial statements by any of them to Sen. Johnson or any other legislator. My guess is that the court will be hurt more by no investigation than it will be by the investigation I propose. In any event, an investigation is imperative and a failure to conduct a thorough and open one may seriously hurt the court's credibility as an institution and unfairly injure individual justices who may have done nothing wrong.
For all I know, the Board did conduct a thorough investigation. But it was not an open one, on the public record. Without a transparent, open process, the Board's decision does not carry more weight with us than Senator Johnson's allegations.
23. What next? We suggest that Johnson and his aides waive confidentiality and that the justices and any judicial employees questioned do the same, thereby freeing the Board from whatever constraints it feels exist to a complete opening of the entire record on which it based its decision. Absent that, it may be appropriate and necessary for the Legislature, as an equal and independent branch of government, to conduct its own open, public inquiry, using its subpeona powers, along the lines of the inquiry the Connecticut legislature seeks to conduct into the controversy concerning its former (and recently-disciplined) chief justice's improperly delaying release of an opinion for political reasons. More. We also suggest that the Legislature use all means at its disposal to reform the procedures for disciplining judges, reforms that should include changes in the membership of the Board (is it really appropriate, e.g., for subordinate judges to sit in proceedings involving investigation of the very supreme court justices who review their decisions?) and the opening of the shutters that keep the sun from shining in on the proceedings of the Board. In the words of the song made popular in the 1950's by the Cowboy Church Sunday School, I say to judges and courts and judicial conduct boards everywhere -- and I say it with respect -- "Open up your heart/ And let the sun shine in." Further reading: Arizona becomes a sunshine state in re judicial complaints (and comments thereto) and BurtLaw on Judicial Independence and Accountability.
Mixed bench court system proposed for Taiwan. "The Judicial Yuan proposed a draft bill on Tuesday that will allow citizens aged 25 to 70 to directly participate in ruling on major criminal cases, with an aim to 'democratizing' the nation's judicial system. 'The draft allows for a panel, comprised of four qualified citizens and three professional judges, to decide on the verdict in major legal cases,' Judicial Yuan Secretary-General Fan Kuang-chun said at a press conference on Tuesday...Under the current system, a panel of three judges decides the verdict in criminal cases...." More (Taipei Times 11.22.2006).
Judicial superstition. "A bench [of the Supreme Court] headed by Chief Justice Y. K. Sabharwal has conveyed its displeasure to the Kerala High Court on a petition which complained that officials of the State's highest judicial instituition were rooted in a strong superstition about the number 13 and were avoiding numbering its court hall with that number...." More (Hindu 11.22.2006). Comment. The courtroom that should have been numbered "13" was instead numbered "12b." The man who complained said that the superstition regarding "13" is a Christian superstition and that if such Christian superstitions are respected, then those of Hindu faith might argue that Hindu superstitions also must be respected.
Judges are given 78% salary increase. "The Ugandan government has given judges a 78 percent salary increase, making them some of the country’s highly paid government officials. The judges’ salary increase comes at a time that the government says it cannot meet the demands of striking lecturers at the country’s prestigious Makerere University for salary increases. Nsaba Buturo is Uganda’s former minister of information and now minister for ethics and integrity in government...dismissed suggestions by some that the Ugandan government raised the judges’ salary as a reward because the judges regularly ruled in the government’s favor...." More (Voice of America 11.22.2006).
Retired judge kills self after standoff with police. The ex-judge in question, Judge G.R. Hovey Johnson, 76, retired as a circuit judge from the Prince George's County bench in 2000. He "was known as stern and serious, a hard-working Army veteran, a man who had a friendly side but brooked little nonsense during more than 15 years of meting out justice. A pillar of the law. According to preliminary reports, Johnson's wife, the only other occupant of the house, fled unharmed about midday and called police...Police said they had received indications that the judge might have been suffering from dementia or possibly Alzheimer's disease...." More (Washington Post 11.20.2006).
A Texas courthouse at Christmas. "Almost every town and village in the Hill Country has some sort of lighting display, but the largest concerted celebration of Christmas involves 11 communities...Burnet decorates the courthouse square and Hamilton Creek Park with thousands of lights and luminarias. The town also hosts Main Street Bethlehem on the first two weekends of December from 6 to 9pm. The re-creation of the town of Bethlehem features costumed townspeople going about their business among real donkeys, camels, and other animals...Take a carriage ride to see the courthouse in Johnson City, one of the most beautiful attractions on the trail. In Llano the historic courthouse and town square are decorated in lights, but the real attraction is the pathway of lights in Llano River Park...." More (Austin Chronicle 11.22.2006).
Judges' hangout is closing. Since 1974 Duffy's, a downtown bar in Denver, has been the place where Denver trial judges, male and female, have gathered for cheap lunch and valuable conversation and camaraderie. Duffy's is closing for good on 11.30. In an entertaining piece in the Denver Post about the institution, retired Denver District Judge Lynn Hufnagel is quoted saying, "You could learn more over [lunch with his colleagues at Duffy's] than you could doing research for an hour in a law library." Now the judges need to find a new place. "What we need,"one judge said, "is a place with a 10 for ambiance and a 3 for food," to which Hufnagel added, "a 1 for cost." More (Denver Post 11.22.2006).
The flying court. "A young woman who brought alcohol into a dry village [in Alaska] that contributed to the death of her boyfriend was sentenced in the village last week. The sentencing involved the unusual relocation of the Kotzebue District Court to the Kobuk school gymnasium -- a gesture meant to drive home the impact that illegal alcohol importation has on communities, said Department of Law spokesman Mark Marones. Judge Karen Bendler flew 130 miles from Kotzebue to Kobuk with the court clerk, public defender and prosecutor for the day. She ordered Heather Lee, who traveled to the village from nearby Shungnak by snowmachine, to 120 hours of community service for the misdemeanor charge of importing alcohol...." More (Anchorage Daily News 11.22.2006).
New courthouse is on trial. "It's the newest showcase in the Bronx, but not everybody may love it -- especially if they happen to be there for the wrong reasons. It's the Civic Center's new $400 million high-tech courthouse, expected to open next month...[T]he 11-story glass building [which houses 47 courtrooms] extends two-and-a-half blocks. The glass design makes the building extremely energy-efficient. It's also bullet-proof and is said to be able to withstand the force of a bomb blast...." Some are criticizing what they refer to as all the "glass, glitz and gadgets" in the courthouse. More (N.Y. Daily News 11.22.2006).
Judge not our work ethic. "For some carousers, shoplifters, panhandlers and other small-time criminals arrested on a Friday, it’s a chance to get out from behind bars sooner. To elected officials, it’s a way to better manage the city’s inmate population. And for Nashville’s 11 General Sessions Court judges, it means holding court once every 11th Saturday...." From a story about Saturday court sessions in Nashville. More (Nashville Scene 11.22.2006).
Ex-judge is disbarred for groping girl at pop concert. "The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has disbarred [Mark Pazuhanich,] a former Monroe County judge who is serving 10 years' probation for groping a preteen girl at a pop music concert...A former Monroe County district attorney, Pazuhanich was arrested weeks after being elected to a 10-year-term as judge. He was sworn in but never heard a case...." More (Centre Daily Times 11.20.2006).
Malawi: commercial courts needed in order to attract foreign investors. "Malawi urgently needs to produce commercial courts that would act as a security guarantee to foreign investors who are uncomfortable with the current slow commercial legal proceedings in Malawi, Reserve Bank of Malawi Victor Mbewe said Saturday...." More (Malawi Daily Times 11.20.2006).
More on ILL justice's big defamation award against paper that criticized him. "'It’s obviously troubling when a sitting state Supreme Court justice can use his own court to secure a multimillion-dollar judgment against a local paper,' said Leib Dodell, president and chief executive of Media/Professional Insurance, which insures several newspapers, including The Chronicle. 'To be sure, there’s a chilling effect on small papers and reporting on local political matters.' Steven P. Mandell, part of the defense team, said those who testified against The Chronicle were beholden to Justice Thomas, who oversees the state’s entire legal system, and those who declined to testify for the defense were afraid of retaliation. Mr. Mandell also said Justice Thomas’s involvement would muddy the route to a fair appeal, in that most of his fellow Supreme Court justices had testified on his behalf...." Clash of a judge and a small paper underlines the tangled history of defamation (N.Y. Times 11.20.2006). Earlier postings. a) Chief Justice doesn't get mad -- he sues; b) Illinois judges opine on key issue in Chief Justice's defamation suit; c) When a judge sues for libel; d) Justice seeks millions in his defamation suit; e) Illinois jury awards supreme court justice $7 million in defamation suit. Comment. As we've said before, even assuming as a factual matter that the columns complained of were false in whole or in part, we hope and suspect Thomas, now the Chief Justice, will lose on appeal. But if that happens, it'll presumably have to happen in the federal courts. Our hope and suspicion that the judge will lose on appeal are not "personal," although we do not admire any judge's suing anyone for libel. Justice Frankfurter said, "Weak characters ought not to be judges." We would never accuse a former pro football player of being a weak character, but our ideal judge is one who is courageously oblivious to all that is said of him, good or bad, true or false. For our postings on defamation suits filed by other judges and an explanation of our minority view that the cause of action for defamation, regardless of who the plaintiff is, ought to be abolished, see: Newspaper attacks $2 million libel verdict awarded trial judge; Court upholds dismissal of judge's libel suit against TV station; Illinois judges opine on judicial privilege; and Spicing up the courts. Links to reporting on the suit. First day of testimony (Chicago Sun-Times 10.28.2006). Editor and judge both testify (Chicago Tribune 10.31.2006). More evidence in defamation case (Chicago Sun-Times 11.11.2006). Suit heading for jury (Chicago Tribune 11.12.2006). Good summary (N.Y. Times 11.15.2006).
Deep thoughts for new members of the guild. Each new crop of bar admitees in MN is treated to a bromide-filled address by one of the members of the state supreme court. According to the current issue of Minnesota Lawyer, the weekly tabloid-sized MN legal newspaper (some might say cheerleading organ of MN's judicial-legal establishment), the fall admitees this year also got a freebie keepsake/momento/booklet from Justice Paul H. Anderson titled "Eight Points of Good Advice He Gave His Children," the "He" being PHA's maternal grandfather, Nels J. Holden, of Aitkin, MN. Among the points: "Obtain knowledge" and "Use your time well...." More (Minnesota Lawyer 11.20.2006). Comment. Why do Jack Handey (a/k/a Jack Handy) and his deep thoughts (e.g., "A man doesn't automatically get my respect. He has to get down in the dirt and beg for it.") come to mind?
Review council finds chief justice guilty of ethics violations, suspends him. "The eight-month saga of former Chief Supreme Court Justice William J. Sullivan came to an abrupt end Friday night when the Judicial Review Council found him guilty of two ethics violations and voted 9-3 to suspend him for 15 days." The "saga" or scandal referred to involves, inter alia, retiring Chief Justice William Sullivan's deferring release of an opinion dealing with access to court records for the political purpose of shielding a likely successor from hard questions relating to the case during confirmation hearings. And actually the saga isn't necessarily over, because Sullivan could still be impeached and thereby prevented from serving as a retired justice rather than merely being suspended briefly from doing so: "[L]awmakers still want to question Sullivan on possible violations of the state constitution's separation of powers[, an issue that] is pending before the state Supreme Court, following a rare hearing earlier this month in which the Appellate Court sat in place of the Supreme Court, which claimed conflicts. Sullivan is fighting a legislative subpoena...Lawmakers and the governor have agreed to not review new Supreme Court chief justice nominees until the General Assembly is satisfied...." More (Connecticut Post 11.19.2006). Comment. Among those testifying before the Judicial Review Council was Prof. Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr., a prominent legal/judicial ethics scholar, who is quoted as saying, "Perhaps in days past, we would have said that this is OK between colleagues and so on, but I think it is not consistent with the rules. I think [Sullivan's conduct] was designed to affect a constitutional decision in the Legislature and I think the whole thing is tragic." Earlier. We've posted a number of entries on the scandal: Latest on supreme court scandal; Legislators subpoena former chief justice; More fallout in CT court scandal; The 'Judges Protection Council'?; CT Supreme Court mess: lawmakers to ask justices to testify; Latest on uproar over C.J.'s deferring opinion's release; and Outgoing C.J. admits holding up decision to help colleague succeed him. The fact that two task forces or commissions were created as a result of the scandal, one established by the acting chief, one by the governor, gives one some idea of the turf war among the three branches of government that's taking place. Here are links to postings about the acting chief's task force as well as a link to the task force's report: Acting chief justice urges cameras in court, other reforms; 38 new varieties of judicial open-ness?; Public Access Task Force Report (in irritating PDF format). Here's a link to a posting about the governor's task force: Seeking judicial control. On the subject of task forces in general, see, Those 'blue-ribbon' commissions and task forces. BTW, we argued for greater real (as opposed to faux) openness of courts in an essay/position paper we wrote in 2000 in connection with our general election campaign for state chief justice in MN. See, BurtLaw on Judicial Independence and Accountability. And see, a flurry of recent postings on the subject of judicial accountability and transparency. Disciplinary hearing postings: Embattled ex-chief justice defends actions before disciplinary board; Hearings involving ex-chief offer peeks behind red velour curtains.
Judge waits 'til after election, then announces retirement. "Circuit Court Judge Charles D. Corwin [said he] intentionally waited until after the election to announce his retirement...[because] he wanted the person who was elected governor to select his replacement...." More (Traverse City Record-Eagle 11.19.2006).
Judges are urged to remove their 'Catholic glasses.' "A human rights attorney[, Monica Roa (30),] who overturned Colombia's constitutional ban on abortion has urged Irish judges to remove their 'Catholic glasses'...when they are confronted with complex cases involving the rights of the unborn and women's reproductive rights, including abortion...." More (Irish Independent 11.19.2006).
Judge and spouse are found guilty of stealing power. No, not a power grab by a judge across one or both of the divides that separate the judicial branch from the executive and legislative branches. Not even a grab for more judicial power. Just a grab for power, literally. Charles Myles, a 64-year-old "long-time upstate town judge" in Schoharie County, and his wife, Stephanie, were convicted recently of "stealing power" by bypassing the electric meter and thereby altering their billing info by around $3,000. Sentencing is set for after the Holidays, in January. More (WSTM 11.18.2006).
The judge's wife is out of the clinker. "Bradford County Judge John C. Mott on Wednesday said he was most hurt by the actions of his wife, Brenda K. Mott, and stressed that he had no knowledge of or involvement with her theft from the Canton Borough Water and Sewer Authority...Last month, she was released on parole from Tioga County Prison after serving a minimum nine-month prison sentence...." More (Towanda Daily Review 11.17.2006). Earlier. a) Judge says he still loves incarcerated wife. b) Annals of judicial spouses (includes Special BurtLaw Q & A with our resident expert, Dr. F. Lavoris Pusso, Ph.D., Super-Nintendent, on the topic of whether there is an epidemic of crime -- thievery, armed robbery, burglary, extortion, rape, murder, assault, etc. -- committed by spouses of judges).
Judge files suit for funds to operate court. "The Girard Municipal Court attempted to function Thursday, the day after Judge Michael Bernard laid off the bulk of its employees....Bernard said he will file a suit in the Ohio Supreme Court as soon as Monday...because City Council is unwilling to follow its statutory obligation as a host city to support its municipal court...The 11th District Court of Appeals ruled in September that an order by Bernard for his $600,000 appropriation to be increased to $905,000 was unnecessary and unreasonable. The appellate judges further advised the two entities should work together to come to a more suitable appropriation...." More (Tribune Chronicle - OH 11.17.2006). Comment. Breathes there within the heart of many a judge the desire to have the appropriations power.
Panel expands investigation of judge's public speaking. "The state judicial discipline panel has expanded its investigation of Appeals Court Judge Wendell Griffen...[to] include comments he made speaking out against the war in Iraq and a column he wrote criticizing members of the Bush administration. The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission postponed a hearing scheduled Friday over claims that Griffen violated a judicial canon...[in making] remarks...about the nomination of John Roberts...and an effort to raise Arkansas' minimum wage...." More (5 KFSM 11.17.2006). Earlier. Judge asks supreme court to open his discipline hearing to public. Comment. We wonder if the members of the commission have read Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002), and its progeny.
Traffic judge charged with DWI. "[Judge Johnny Barajas, a] Denver County judge who handles traffic cases was charged with driving under the influence, police said Thursday...." More (Denver Post 11.17.2006).
Lawyers will be screened at courthouse. "Local lawyers have been receiving letters this week from Forsyth County officials confirming that they will be screened for weapons when they enter the courthouse, though there has been no clear explanation by officials as to why they will be checked. There have been no incidents reported in Forsyth of any security threats posed by a lawyer in recent memory, court officials say...'Nobody is against security at the courthouse, but we need to examine what threats we're securing against,' said Christopher Small, a lawyer who has been vocal in questioning the changes...." More (Winston-Salem Journal 11.17.2006). Comments. a) We've dealt with this issue before. See, Should lawyers be allowed to skip courthouse security screening? We generally oppose "judicial privilege" in matters like access to flu shot, exemption from rules against smoking in the courthouse, etc. See, Judicial privilege and Judges ask to smoke despite smoking ban (and comment). There are multiple factors involved in deciding whether to allow certain people -- say, all pre-screened courthouse workers, judges, lawyers, etc. -- to bypass screening. If I were a judge, I would feel more secure -- and more comfortable as an egalitarian -- if everyone were screened, but that's just me. One the subject of whether only judges should be exempt, see, Who gets to use courthouse side doors, who gets fined? and Editorial: courthouse screening should be required of everyone (Decatur Daily 08.17.2006). b) On the apparent irrelevance of traditional cost-benefit analysis in the context of courthouse (and most other kinds of) security post-09.11, see, my posting titled Clarke County, AL courthouse is insured against attack by foreigners and The Onion (10.03.2001) (Security Beefed Up at Cedar Rapids Public Library, reporting on Cedar Rapids, Iowa Library Director Glenda Quarles' expression of concerns about foreign terrorists attacking their library: "As caretakers of the most prominent public building in the second largest city in Iowa, this library can no longer afford to take chances"). For some of my eccentric views on courthouse security, see, i) How about a courthouse surrounded by & filled with flowers? ii) Prayer Day at the county courthouse. iii) Building courthouses with security in mind. iv) BurtLaw and Montaigne on Court Security. v) Should judges be exempt from airport frisking? vi) Woman 'forced' to remove bra to gain entry to courthouse? Query. What if the Forsyth County lawyers, in responding to the new policy, were to do the lawyer equivalent of what Frank Henderson did with his courthouse shoeshine business out in Stockton, CA when courthouse bureaucracy got in the way? Read on....
Shoeshine man outfoxes the courthouse bureaucrats and the competition. Frank Henderson, 79, started shining shoes in the 1950s and has been doing it in Stockton, CA for over 10 years. Awhile back he got the bright idea of moving his stand to the lobby of the San Joaquin County Courthouse in Stockton, but the county, although liking his idea, asked him to fill out some papers, get an insurance policy and submit a bid. He didn't want to fill out any papers or buy insurance and therefore didn't bid. Another guy, Joe Kover, Jr., the lone bidder, got the contract and opened the stand in January. Henderson, whose stand was a couple blocks away, moved to a building 50 yards away and put up signs near the courthouse directing people to stop by his stand. Kover closed his operation over the summer. Henderson is still going strong. More (Stockton Record 11.17.2006). Comments. a) My late dad's maternal grandfather, C.J. Myhre, was a Norwegian immigrant shoemaker who ran his business in Austin, MN. I was delighted, not ashamed, when I unearthed a 1916 news story in the Austin paper detailing that Myhre, then 69, was caught running a blind pig in his son's barber shop in Austin, but I was saddened when I learned in reading the next issue that the stress of the arrest and the proceedings leading to his pleading guilty triggered a fatal heart attack. b) Shoeshine stands were everywhere present in my small-town MN youth. I still remember the one-seater stand that was moved outside the Paris Hotel Barber Shop on summer Saturday nights in the early 1950s, when the stores were open and the town was filled to the brim with farmers taking a break from work at week's end. And I remember in the mid-1960s regularly walking from Harvard Law School to Harvard Sq. of a Friday or Saturday afternoon to get a pre-date shoeshine in a multi-stand shop a few doors' north of the main entrance to the Harvard Co-op on Mass. Ave. One day the guy in the chair next to the one I was seated in was a Harvard prof with a common touch who later became a Senator from N.Y., Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Alas, Moynihan is dead and shoeshine stands are pretty much a thing of the past, even in courthouses and hotels and barber shops.
Justice O'Connor says judges got special recipe cookies in mail. "Cookies mailed to the U.S. Supreme Court last year contained enough rat poison to kill all nine justices, retired member Sandra Day O'Connor said at a conference last week...." More (CNN 11.17.2006).
Judge: death threat had family living in fear. "Municipal Judge Michael Cicconetti switched seats Tuesday, taking the witness stand to describe his family's fear over a plot to kill him and three other public officials...I'll never forget that day when I heard him say he was going to kill me,' Cicconetti said, referring to a police tape that contained the death threats. 'It was in between surreal and panic.' Cicconetti said he and his wife told their two young sons that the family had to leave the house because of a gas leak. He said his sons questioned why they left behind the guinea pigs. 'We were like nomads. We had to move to a lot of places,' Cicconetti said...." More (Cleveland Plain Dealer 11.15.2006).
Chief Justice as media star. "Before 3,000 spectators at the University of Miami, [Chief Justice] Roberts[, appearing on Nightline,] proved that his whole sweet/funny/smart/humble thing at last year's televised confirmation hearings was just foreplay. Not only is the new chief justice unafraid of the media spotlight, he -- perhaps alone among his Supreme Court colleagues -- has figured out how to use it to his advantage...." From Dahlia Lithwick, "The High Court Goes Courting -- Supreme Court justices talk to the media in self-defense." More (Slate 11.14.2006). Comment. Joining the Chief in the "media charm offensive," says Lithwick, are former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Justice Stephen Breyer. Usually skeptical, Lithwick is downright giddy about "this unprecedented new era of the Talk Show Jurist," predicting that "As Americans begin to see their justices as real people with real concerns and real dandruff, their fear of an isolated, elitist, and out-of-touch judiciary begins to recede." Me? I'm not persuaded. Most of my judicial heroes are monkish in their approach to the job and would never consent to an interview, on camera or off camera, and surely not one before 3,000 spectators on Nightline. In other words, I like judges who make their money the old-fashioned way -- they earn it doing the lonely, often boring, work of reading transcripts, doing their own research, thinking long and sometimes deep thoughts, humming to themselves that old Nelson Eddy-Jeanette MacDonald tune ("Constitutional Love Call"), writing their own opinions, letting their opinions speak for themselves, etc.
Divorce judge convinces couple to stay married. "A Shandong court has successfully persuaded a newly-wed couple to withdraw their divorce application. The couple said they believed their marriage was inauspicious because of a car accident on the way to the wedding ceremony...." More (China Daily 11.15.2006). Comment. I don't have ready access as I write this to the MN Supreme Court opinion database, but I recall one old, old opinion written by Judge Julius Olson, I believe, in which the husband sought a divorce from his wife on the ground of adultery. The opinion quoted extensively from the New Testament in denying the divorce, telling the plaintiff husband to do and say as Jesus would do and say -- forgive her and tell her to "sin no more." :-)
Should we use Reality-TV competition to select 'Next Great Chief Justice'? "An annual competition that looks for a young Canadian political science junkie with enough smarts to one day lead the country is returning to the airwaves. The 2007 Next Great Prime Minister challenge, which gives five aspiring politicians a chance to get grilled by a panel of former prime ministers on TV, is set to air March 18 on CBC...Former prime ministers Brian Mulroney, John Turner, Kim Campbell and Joe Clark are to return for a second consecutive time as judges...The contest is open to Canadians between the ages of 18 and 25...." More (Canada.Com 11.15.2006).
Presbytery judges rely on procedural defect to sidestep hot issue. "Charges were dismissed Wednesday against a Presbyterian minister accused of breaking church law by performing a marriage ceremony for two women after church officials determined the charges were filed too late. The Permanent Judicial Commission of the Pittsburgh Presbytery voted 8-0 to dismiss the charges against Janet Edwards because they were filed several days after a filing deadline...." More (Houston Chronicle 11.15.2006).
Judge acquitted of child porn allegation quits. "Brian Curtin tendered his letter of resignation to the Irish government halting an inquiry by politicians into allegations of 'stated misbehaviour'...He was acquitted in 2004 of possession of child pornography by direction of a judge after it emerged Irish police used an out of date search warrant...." More (BBC News 11.13.2006).
Illinois jury awards supreme court justice $7 million in defamation suit. "After about eight hours of deliberations, the jury ruled the 14,000-circulation Kane County Chronicle libeled Justice Bob Thomas when Bill Page wrote columns in 2003 that said Thomas played politics with a big case. Thomas -- a former placekicker for the Chicago Bears -- sued over columns that criticized his actions in a case involving former Kane County State’s Attorney Meg Gorecki...." More (Chicago Sun-Times 11.14.2006). Earlier postings. a) Chief Justice doesn't get mad -- he sues; b) Illinois judges opine on key issue in Chief Justice's defamation suit; c) When a judge sues for libel; d) Justice seeks millions in his defamation suit. Comment. As we've said before, even assuming as a factual matter that the columns complained of were false in whole or in part, we hope and suspect Thomas, now the Chief Justice, will lose on appeal. But if that happens, it'll presumably have to happen in the federal courts. Our hope and suspicion that the judge will lose on appeal are not "personal," although we do not admire any judge's suing anyone for libel. Justice Frankfurter said, "Weak characters ought not to be judges." We would never accuse a former pro football player of being a weak character, but our ideal judge is one who is courageously oblivious to all that is said of him, good or bad, true or false. For our postings on defamation suits filed by other judges and an explanation of our minority view that the cause of action for defamation, regardless of who the plaintiff is, ought to be abolished, see: Newspaper attacks $2 million libel verdict awarded trial judge; Court upholds dismissal of judge's libel suit against TV station; Illinois judges opine on judicial privilege; and Spicing up the courts. Links to reporting on the suit. First day of testimony (Chicago Sun-Times 10.28.2006). Editor and judge both testify (Chicago Tribune 10.31.2006). More evidence in defamation case (Chicago Sun-Times 11.11.2006). Suit heading for jury (Chicago Tribune 11.12.2006). Good summary (N.Y. Times 11.15.2006). Update. Clash of a judge and a small paper underlines the tangled history of defamation (N.Y. Times 11.20.2006).
The high cost of defending the unconstitutional -- the MN experience. Attorney James Bopp of Terre Haute, Indiana, represented the prevailing party in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002), the case that ruled that the Minnesota judiciary's approach to regulating judicial campaigns violated the First Amendment ban on government restriction of free speech. Now, in a profile in the November issue of the ABA Journal -- Terry Carter, "The Big Bopper: This Terre Haute Lawyer is Exploding the Canons of Judicial Campaign Ethics" -- we learn that Bopp's "payday" in the White case, $867,000, came from "the other side," i.e., ultimately/presumably (unless I'm missing something) from the Minnesota taxpayers. More (ABA Journal November 2006 via Indiana Law Blog). Comment. Here are hyper-links to some of my critical entries relating to the Minnesota legal community's negative response to the U.S. Supreme Court's "judicial free-speech decision" in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002): a) SCOTUS declines review of USCA's case on judicial campaigns. b) Speaking of the MN judicial system... c) MN. Supreme Court reversed again on free speech. d) Free speech is a 'bad idea'? Further related reading. a) Those 'blue-ribbon commissions' and 'task forces.' b) Sorry, bar association, but.... c) The 'Citizens Committee on the Preservation of an Independent Judiciary. d) MN's 'establishment' still upset by S. Ct.'s judicial free speech decisions. e) Group-think on judicial selection.
Judge charged with rape is on the run. "Justice is finally catching up with a judicial official, who is on the run after he is alleged to have repeatedly raped his daughter in a shocking tale of depravity and incest. Virendra Kumar Dohre, sub-divisional magistrate of Mahoba...has been suspended and cannot be traced. The Dalit official allegedly raped his daughter Pratima Singh, 25, in the presence of her mother, for the first time in 2001. The Uttar Pradesh government has deputed two senior officers of the rank of deputy inspector general of police to arrest Dohre...." More (Peninsula On-line 11.13.2006).
Courthouse Square glows with Christmas lights. "Local veteran Gary Park pulled the switch Saturday at sunset lighting the trees on the Grayson County Courthouse square...Shaping Sherman’s Future teams have worked the past 18 months on various aspects of promoting Sherman and making the city more attractive to visitors. The courthouse is regarded by many as the center of Sherman and several of the teams have been working to make it a special destination...The commissioners’ court and Sherman’s city council both agreed to the committee’s request for permanent electric receptacles for year-round illumination of the courthouse trees...." More (Sherman Denison Herald Democrat 11.13.2006). Related. Meanwhile, it's Christmas at the courthouse....
Scott Turow on how some judges decide cases. "The protagonist, George Mason, is an appellate court judge with a stellar legal bloodline. His work is pleasantly benumbing, not as thrilling certainly as in his previous incarnation as a criminal court judge, but for an aging legal hand who still loves to adjudicate, it's not a bad gig. Like the characters in a few of Turow's previous novels (Mack Malloy from Pleading Guilty comes to mind), Mason carries his world weariness like a yoke, and his deeply buried secrets are creeping up to haunt him...." From a review by Marc Weingarten of Limitations: A Novel by Scott Turow (Picador: 208 pp., $13 paper). More (Calendar Live 11.13.2006).
Renaissance man as judge. "It's not often that you meet someone who's proud to have his head in the clouds. But to A. Jay Cristol, that label doesn't mean he's not on top of his game. Cristol, 77, will tell you that he is just 'a character who has led a lucky life.' In a more academic setting though, the sitting U.S. bankruptcy judge, poet, veteran attorney, published author, recognized terrorism expert and volunteer nursing home worker might be called a Renaissance man. Oh, and the bit about his head in the clouds? 'I've been flying planes since I was a teenager,' Cristol says...." From a profile in The Miami Herald. More (Miami Herald 11.13.2006).
Should a judge have to ask for a raise? "Oak Ridge City Judge Robert A. McNees III has asked City Council members to almost double his salary -- from $23,400 a year to $41,600 a year...McNees said his annual salary was set at $23,400 in 1995, based on an average weekly workload of about six hours at a rate of $75 an hour...The judge said his current salary request is based on an average of eight hours per week at a rate of $100 an hour...[H]e said rates for attorneys with more than 20 years experience range from $150 to $250 an hour. Although his salary cannot be related to the amount of money collected by the court, McNees said city officials have budgeted about $106,000 a year for the Oak Ridge City Court and received revenues of about $272,000 a year." More (Oak Ridger 11.13.2006). Comment. In colleges football teams are the big revenue earners, providing money to help run other competitive sports. Judge McNees is one of the few judges we've heard of whose court turns a tidy profit.
Taxation, compensation & judicial independence. Jonathan Entin & Erik M. Jensen, Taxation, Compensation, and Judicial Independence, 56 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 965 (2006). Abstract: "Article III of the Constitution seeks to protect judicial independence, partly through a guarantee of life tenure and partly through a clause that prohibits the diminution of judges' 'compensation.' The Compensation Clause does not address the subject of taxation, but it has always been understood to affect the federal government's taxing power. This article examines the framing of the Compensation Clause, some nineteenth-century detours that are inconsistent with the original understanding of the Clause, and the Supreme Court's jurisprudence on taxation of judges under the Clause. The article critically analyzes the Court's most recent case on the subject, United States v. Hatter. Finally, the article rejects an alternative justification for the Compensation Clause that the Court has lately advanced, namely the need to make the bench financially attractive to prospective judges. That rationale is unworthy of constitutional status under any interpretive theory." Taxation, compensation & judicial independence (SSRN).
A scene out of Hitchcock? -- grackles converge on courthouse. "According to Charlene Hardin, Roosevelt County administrator, the [great-tailed grackles] have gradually taken over the trees at the [county] courthouse. They’ve been there since the summer and have gradually increased in numbers, as the months wore on, said Hardin. 'It started with a few and kept on multiplying,' said Hardin...." More (Portales News-Tribune 11.13.2006). Comment. The story makes it seem like a scene out of The Birds, a Hitchcock movie I saw in downtown Minneapolis in the spring of 1963 on a date with a classmate at the U. of M. who was a knockout then and still is (she lives nearby and we occasionally run into each other at the neighborhood grocery store). Some of the methods the folks have used or are contemplating using to get rid of the birds seem bizarre. For example, here's the latest: "Plastic pails with eight to 10 foot long flagging tape streamers will be hung in the trees during the day, to act as a deterrent. During the evening, as the birds come into roost, firecrackers will be placed in the buckets and set off simultaneously...." My idea? If all else fails, they might try a judicial variation of a method used by some monks at an old monastery: The Dance of the Black-robed Monks. Every night for several hours starting an hour before sundown the county's judges, wearing their robes, should dance to the blaring endlessly-repetitive sound of "Bolero" (a/k/a "The Theme from 10"). We don't know if it's the music or the ridiculousness of the judges' dancing or a combination of both, but it drives the grackles, and everyone else, crazy.
Courthouse display lists veterans as 'whites' and 'coloreds.' "A display in a central Georgia community divides the names of 800 local veterans into two lists, marked in large type: 'Whites' and 'Colored.' The display has been in the lobby of the Taylor County courthouse since 1944, honoring servicemembers who fought in World War II. The two lists are mounted side by side behind glass in two large frames....In January, the Taylor County Commission unanimously decided to create an 'integrated' list...But the commission also decided to leave the 'Whites' and 'Colored' lists up in the lobby of the building...." Would removing the display constitute an attempt to rewrite or suppress history? Some think so. More (USA Today 11.12.2006).
Judge rebuked for bringing loaded gun into courtroom and saying... "A first-year Bay County judge was ordered to accept mentoring after bringing a loaded gun into his courtroom and announcing he was 'locked and loaded.' County Judge Michael Hauversburk said he brought the handgun to court because he was frustrated that a defendant facing a felony parole violation was being tried for a separate misdemeanor charge in a courtroom with inadequate security...The July 24 incident was not reported to Chief Circuit Judge William Wright until last month. Wright said Hauversburk assured him it was an isolated incident and accepted mentoring...." More (Bradenton Herald 11.11.2006).
Tories are accused of trying to politicize judiciary. "Opposition parties accused the Conservative government yesterday of trying to use the courts to advance its tough-on-crime agenda...[Nonetheless, Justice Minister Vic] Toews announced that he will proceed with his plan to give police officials a voice in the appointment of federal judges...On Thursday, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of the Supreme Court of Canada sharply criticized the minister's actions...." More (Globe and Mail 11.11.2006).
The judicial mind at work. Is a burrito a "sandwich"? It depends on, among other things, a) what a "burrito" is, b) what a "sandwich" is, c) who you ask, and d) why you want to know. More (Chicago Sun-Times 11.11.2006).
Investigation of Mafia includes judiciary. "Italian police said Friday they have arrested 13 people, including a judge accused of ties with the Mafia, as part of a crackdown on organized crime in southern Italy...." More (IHC 11.10.2006).
Judge is removed a day after being re-elected. "Embattled Doña Ana County Magistrate Carlos Garza has been removed from the bench and banned from ever holding another judgeship in the state...The decision [by the New Mexico Supreme Court] comes one day after Garza garnered more than 23,500 votes running uncontested in the general election to retain his seat." More (Las Cruces Sun-News 11.11.2006).
Judge is ousted in retention election. "Third District Judge Leslie Lewis and Grand County Justice Court Judge Paul C. Cox were voted off the bench Tuesday, becoming the third and fourth judges ousted since Utah adopted a retention election system in 1985. Lewis came under fire by Gun Owners of Utah, as well as an anonymous group that posted a Web site, after she berated the brother of a man accused of poaching a deer...Cox, meanwhile, was not certified for retention by the Utah Judicial Council...." More (Salt Lake Tribune 11.08.2006). Comment. See, BurtLaw on 'the MN Plan' vs. 'the MO Plan.'
Results of major judicial ballot intiatives, proposed amendments.
a) Oregonians reject proposal for district seats on appeals courts. It appears that Oregonians rejected, by 55% to 45%, a proposal for electing judges of the Oregon appellate courts by district. More (The Oregonian 11.08.2006). Earlier posting. Geography shapes judge debate (we opposed the proposal).
c) 'J.A.I.L. 4 Judges' initiative fails 'big time' in SoDak. "The nation¹s most closely watched anti-court ballot measure, the so-called 'JAIL 4 Judges' proposal in South Dakota, was dealt a devastating defeat at the ballot box on Tuesday evening. As of 10:30 pm est, the South Dakota Secretary of State's office was reporting that only 10 percent of South Dakota voters backed the measure that would have stripped judicial immunity and established an unaccountable fourth branch of government to intimidate judges...." More (BBS News 11.08.2006). Earlier posting. Maker of livestock-feed grinders wants J.A.I.L. for judges (we opposed the intiative).
d) Hawaiians reject amendment abolishing mandatory retirement. In Hawaii 62.4% of the voters voted for Republican Governor Lingle and 62.5% rejected the proposed constitutional amendment that would have abolished mandatory retirement of judges. Judges in Hawaii are not subject to direct election as in my state, MN. "Had the measure passed, mandatory retirement for judges would have been repealed, enabling judges to remain on the bench for life, subject to reappointment [every ten years]." More and more (Honolulu Star-Bulletin 11.08-09.2006). Comment. Readers of The Daily Judge are familiar with my opposition to mandatory retirement of judges. My views are set forth in comments at AARP urges voters to end mandatory retirement of judges in Hawaii and in a 2000 essay, BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges. Some opponents of the proposed reform in Hawaii argued that the proposal represented a power play by legislators who wanted to deprive the Republican governor of the opportunity of filling a number of expected vacancies: "Five judges currently serving on the bench, including Chief Judge James Burns and Chief Justice Ronald Moon, will be among those forced to retire in the next few years before their 10-year terms expire." While the ACLU and the AARP of Hawaii urged abolishing mandatory retirement, it ought not surprise anyone that the organized bar in Hawaii opposed the amendment, ostensibly on the ground that further study is needed. As Emerson wrote, "[L]awyers...are a prudent race though not very fond of liberty." Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journal 04.1850). In our view, term limits of all kinds -- those based on age and those based on numbers of terms served -- are wrong, but particularly for judges. In general, one gets better at judging the more one does it, the longer one does it, and the older one gets. Justice Holmes began judging in Massachusetts, on its supreme judicial court, at around age 40, eventually becoming chief justice. After 20 years doing that, he was named by T.R. to the U.S. Supreme Court, serving it as an associate justice from around age 60 to around age 90. In my opinion he didn't become a great judge until his late 70's. With term limits and mandatory retirement, our country's greatest judge would never have achieved the judicial greatness we attribute to him. Term limits, including mandatory retirement, are especially uncalled for in states like MN, in which judges are subject to challenge in popular elections every six years. Attorneys are free to run against sitting judges when their terms are up, and the voters are free to limit the terms of judges they feel have served long enough by simply voting for the challengers. Judicial term limits, including mandatory retirement, are -- paradoxically -- both undemocratic and anti-aristocratic. They are anti-aristocratic because they target our "elected aristocrats," i.e., judges (read The Federalist if you don't know what I'm saying). And they are undemocratic because they say to voters, "Although you are sovereign, you may no longer elect Justice Mini Holmes, no matter how good he is, no matter how good you think he might become, no matter how good in fact he might become, because our arbitrary term limits say you may not."
Pakistani judge bars female lawyers from wearing veils in courtroom. "A senior judge of Pakistan has ordered woman lawyers not to wear veils in courtrooms, the Daily Times reported...'You are professionals and should be dressed as required of lawyers,' chief justice Tariq Pervaiz Khan of the Peshawar High Court told veiled lawyer Raees Anjum, ordering the ban on veils...." More (Times of India 11.06.2006). Comment. Ms. Anjum is quoted as saying she feels more confident in court wearing her hijab, but the chief justice reportedly said it muffled her voice. He also said judges suspect that some female lawyers, hidden behind veils, have misrepresented themselves as other female lawyers in seeking continuances. Updates. a) "A senior judge has become involved in a controversy over the wearing of the full-face veil after a legal adviser refused to remove her headwear in court. Shabnam Mughal was appearing at an immigration tribunal in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, when Judge George Glossop asked her to remove her veil. It is understood that he could not hear her properly. She declined twice to remove it and eventually the judge adjourned the hearing until Monday to seek advice from Sir Henry Hodge, a High Court judge and president of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT)...Gary Slapper, the director of the law programme at the Open University, said: 'In a democracy, a religious person is never asked to forsake their preferred observances. But it would be unreasonable to contend that all religious practices are consistent with all professions. The British practice, established over eight centuries, is that justice requires good, clear advocacy, and it would be difficult to assert that advocacy can be done equally well with or without a full-face veil.'" More (Times 11.08.2006). Update to this story: "Lawyers and other legal advisers will be allowed to wear the Islamic veil in court unless it interferes with the 'interests of justice,' the top judge in England and Wales announced. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, said that the guidelines were temporary and that he had asked a judicial rights committee 'to address urgently' rules on the use of veils by lawyers, jurors and even parties to the case...." More (N.Y.Times 11.10.2006). b) "A judge in the west German city of Dortmund dismissed a female Muslim woman lay assessor for her refusal to take off her headscarf for the duration of a fraud trial, DPA reported...In Germany's court system, guilt or innocence of a defendant in a more serious criminal case is usually decided by a judge and two lay members...." More (IranMania 11.08.2006).
Judge Andersons in (or not in) the news.
a) "A Route 21 bus driver experienced some terrifying moments Thursday when she was hijacked by a man who choked and threatened to kill her. The man was the only passenger on board and the Metro Transit driver quickly summoned help by activating a silent alarm...The Ramsey County Attorney's Office charged Paul Merrill Anderson, 49, of Minneapolis, with kidnapping Thursday...." More (Pioneer-Press 11.10.2006). Note. This is not the Paul Anderson who is the senior Anderson in terms of service of the three Andersons on the seven-member state supreme court in this Land of 10,000 Andersons (also known as Minnesota).
b) Justice G. Barry Anderson, running unopposed for his first six-year term on the Minnesota Supreme Court, received a whopping 99.16% of the vote (impressive but not quite as impressive as the 99.22% received respectively by Court of Appeals Judges Renee Worke and Jill Flaskamp Halbrooks or the even more impressive 99.25% received by Judge Gordon Shumaker). More (Secretary of State's Office). Background: Judge Anderson was named to the Minnesota Supreme Court by Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty and was endorsed by the Republican Party of Minnesota (perhaps the endorsement accounts for his lower percentage). BTW, coincidentally or not, Governor Pawlenty is married to Judge Mary Anderson, a district court judge who was publicly described by the governor himself on 11.08, the day after getting re-elected, as "smokin' hot." For Christmas, we suggest he give her one of our BurtLaw Judicial Swimsuits.
c) "[In South Carolina] Federal Judge G. Ross Anderson Jr. showed his gratitude when sentencing an inmate who alerted authorities to a plot to kill the judge. Anderson asked Maurice Rice on Friday if he was the man who turned in people planning to kill Anderson. Rice said he was the one...Two years ago, Anderson had sentenced Rice to almost 11 years in prison for a cocaine trafficking conviction in Spartanburg County. On Friday, Anderson reduced that sentence to three years...." More (Charlotte Observer 11.06.2006). Comment. Am I the only one who thinks Judge Anderson, as beneficiary of Rice's action, should have recused and allowed a different judge to rule on the prosecutor's motion to reduce?
Justice seeks millions in his defamation suit. "A witness for state Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Thomas said Wednesday that it could take up to $7.7 million to make up for lost earnings if a series of [allegedly defamatory] newspaper columns...kept Thomas from landing a top position at a Chicago law firm or prevented him from becoming a federal judge...Thomas is suing the Kane County Chronicle over three columns that claimed...Thomas had been pushing for [former Kane County State's Atty. Meg] Gorecki's disbarment [in a disciplinary proceeding] but agreed to a lighter penalty in return for support by other justices for a judicial candidate he favored...." More (Chicago Tribune 11.09.2006). Earlier. For reasons explained elsewhere (When a judge sues for libel), we hope the judge loses his suit even if the columns contained false info/allegations. Even if he wins at trial, we suspect he'll lose on appeal. Update. Suit heading for jury (Chicago Tribune 11.12.2006). More evidence in defamation case (Chicago Sun-Times 11.11.2006).
Where judges, vermin grazed together. "[W]hen someone from the attorney general’s office or the Supreme Court staff wanted a sandwich or a cup of soup at lunchtime, the cafeteria at the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex served the purpose. But that was not all that was served, and that was the problem. On Wednesday, after a second inspection by the state’s Department of Health, the cafeteria was shut for the foreseeable future and the vendor’s contract terminated...Many [state employees who ate there] described swarming ants near the soda fountain, roaches roaming the salad bar, undercooked pork, objects floating in drinks -- and managers who seemed indifferent to complaints...." More (N.Y.Times 11.10.2006). Comment. The cafeteria serves 3,000 state employees, including judges and other employees at the state supreme court. One patron is quoted saying when she complained about a roach on a potato chip, a manager simply squashed it for her. This story reminds me of a joke from my youth: When served soup containing a fly, the customer says to the waitress, "I would prefer mine without."
Judge's estranged wife gets protective order. "Patrice 'Patti' Hauser, 51, a Maitland attorney and former public defender, claimed in a petition for temporary protection on Nov. 3 that she was 'terrified' of James C. Hauser, who has served on the county and circuit bench since 1980...Through his Winter Park lawyer, Bill Barnett, Hauser released a one-page statement denying any violence...He called the domestic violence petition 'a culmination of threats that she has continuously made during our unhappy marriage that if I dare left her, she would do everything she could to destroy me.'" More (Orlando Sentinel 11.09.2006).
Legislators try to influence outcome in court case. "An African-American father's fight against white foster parents for the right to raise his son has prompted Milwaukee's [seven-member] black legislative caucus to urge the judge in the case to give the child to his father...Court officials said this week they are unaware of any other case in which a group of legislators has lobbied a judge in a case to rule a certain way. An attorney for the foster parents called the letter an 'outrageous attempt to influence a decision by a member of our judiciary.'" More (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 11.09.2006).
Voters prefer former law clerk to sitting judge. "A law clerk...John Melbye beat his former boss, Judge Terrance Holter, in the only contested race among 9th District Court judges on Tuesday. Melbye, Holter's law clerk for more than four years before he decided to challenge him...[He] served as a clerk for the late Judge James Preece before going to work for Holter...." More (Pioneer-Press 11.09.2006).
Judge provides rules for spectators in spotlighted trial. "The B.C. Supreme Court has issued instructions that touch several aspects of court room decorum for the Robert Pickton trial. They include:
Permitted beverages - Allowed in Victim Family Room/Media Room only
Gum chewing - Allowed in Victim Family Room/Media Room only.
Reading - Allowed in Victim Family Room/Media Room only.
Banned - Food; Loud talking; Deputies will initially warn parties that their talking is excessive or too loud; Standing.
Allowed in Victim Family Room/Media Room only - Sleeping; Deputies will initially warn parties that there will be no sleeping in court.
Child disturbances - Deputies will warn caregiver that this trial may be inappropriate for children at search gate.
Computers - Not allowed in Courtroom or Victim/Family Room.
More (Globe and Mail 11.09.2006).
For activist judges, try India. "If you think the U.S. has a problem with activist judges, take a look at India -- this country's judiciary is among the most opinionated and interventionist in the world. The Indian Supreme Court regularly wades into national debates; nudges lawmakers by making its opinions and, therefore, its possible future rulings, known; and criticizes government policies. The judges' contribution certainly adds a wonderful air of rowdiness to the public discourse of the world's biggest democracy, but it can sometimes seem that the Supreme Court, as much as the government, runs the country...." More (Time 11.09.2006).
Judge who walked across Texas loses bid for high court. "When District Judge William E. 'Bill' Moody began his bid for Texas Supreme Court justice, Place 2, he knew that he was the Democratic underdog in a state dominated by Republican politicians. The 19-year El Paso judge faced Republican incumbent Don Willett, who was appointed last year by Gov. Rick Perry, and Libertarian candidate Wade Wilson in his attempt to gain a position on the court. While Moody commanded the majority of the vote in El Paso on Tuesday, he lost the statewide race to Willett...." More (El Paso Times 11.08.2006).
Dog show judge sues for defamation. "A Fort Lauderdale, Fla., dog show judge is biting back after a dog breeder made catty comments about him on an Internet discussion forum for people who breed Doberman pinschers. Philip Martin, an American Kennel Club judge, alleges in a libel suit filed last month in Broward Circuit Court that Orlando, Fla., dog breeder Sandra Teague defamed him. Among the libelous statements, Martin claims, is that Teague suggested he had shown favoritism toward a show dog that was sired by his own stud dog...." More (N.Y.L.J. 11.08.2006).
Courthouse windows are getting 'blast film.' "Crews are about halfway through applying 'blast film' to thousands of windows in the downtown federal courthouse as a security measure to protect from flying glass. The move comes as part of a larger facade restoration project that cost $19.5 million...The blast film portion of the project cost $2.5 million...." More (Chicago Sun-Times 11.08.2006).
Short-tempered judge locks up shorts-wearing student. "A no-nonsense Cape Cod judge threw the book at a college kid for wearing shorts in his courtroom during the high-profile Worthington murder trial -- locking the sloppy student up with the accused killer, according to sources and media reports...Barnstable Superior Court Judge Gary Nickerson had court officers lock up the student after he was told to leave the courtroom for wearing shorts but did not...The student reportedly was at the courthouse on a class assignment ..." More (Boston Herald 11.07.2006).
Judges in child porn cases must view the material. "Judges who are reluctant to view child pornography in criminal cases are compromising their ability to make fair rulings, a prominent Ontario judicial leader says. It’s understandable some judges in Canada might tend to shy away from viewing such material, but it’s their duty to resist the impulse to look away, said George Beatty, president of the Ontario Conference of Judges...." More (Toronto Star 11.08.2006).
Five judges arrested on corruption charges. "Five senior judges in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen have been arrested in connection with a corruption scandal, amid reports of millions of dollars stashed behind air conditioners, toilets and even inside a goldfish pond...." More (IHT 11.08.2006).
Judge is fined for refusing to perform same-sex marriages. "The General Council for Judicial Power, the organization which oversees the judiciary in Spain, has decided to fine the Dénia judge, Laura Alabau, who is considered to have stimulated constitutional questions about the new gay marriage law and who has refused to carry out such unions...." More (Typically Spanish 11.08.2006).
One of Ethiopia's top judges seeks asylum in Great Britain. "One of Ethiopia's leading judges is to seek asylum in the UK after receiving threats from the government. Teshale Aberra, the president of the supreme court in the Oromia region, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme yesterday that 'continued harassment' from President Meles Zenawi's regime had caused him to flee the country. He said the government was as bad as that of Mengistu Haile Mariam, the Marxist dictator toppled by Mr Meles...." More (Guardian Unlimited 11.07.2006).
Courts staff seize 60 knives a month. "Up to 60 knives a month are confiscated by security staff at Bradford courts, it has been revealed...." More (Craben Herald 11.07.2006).
Judge denies DWI rumors. "In an unusual move, Union-Snyder President Judge Harold F. Woelfel Jr. is speaking out in an attempt to put to rest a widely circulating rumor that he's been arrested for drunken driving...Intent on dispelling the rumor, the judge released a statement through court administrator Charlotte Kratzer after being contacted at his courthouse office in Middleburg on Monday...." More (Sudbury Daily Item 11.07.2006).
Judge, son in tenant assault. "A retired magistrate of Bankshal court and his son were arrested on Sunday night for allegedly beating up a middle-aged tenant suffering from cardiac ailments so badly that she had to be admitted to hospital...." More (Calcutta Telegraph 11.07.2006).
Judge who performed wedding of Marilyn and Joe dies at 94. "Seymour Robinowitz, the former City Court judge who made international news presiding over Marilyn Monroe's wedding to Arthur Miller in a hushed ceremony in a lawyer's office in 1956, died Sunday at White Plains Hospital Center. He was 94 years old, and had worked on client files from his law practice in his hospital room right up until a few days before his death, friends and relatives said...It was while he was...serving as a City Court judge that he got the phone call on June 29, 1956, that would catapult him into the celebrity world. His friend, a fellow lawyer named Sam Slavitt, called at 5 p.m. and said he needed a favor for a client, an hour before Robinowitz was to meet his wife for dinner for their 15th wedding anniversary. Robinowitz convinced his wife to come along and act as a witness. When Monroe and Miller walked into Slavitt's office, Robinowitz later told The Journal News, his wife was 'almost flabbergasted'...." More (Journal-News 11.07.2006).
Ex-judge remembered as folksy, spiritual leader. "Even though it had been decades since Leonard A. Damron formally held the title, the eulogist on Monday referred to him by the name most people still used: Judge Damron. 'This community lost a great spiritual leader,' said the Rev. David A. Throckmorton, pastor of First Baptist Church of Crystal River, where Mr. Damron worshiped...In eulogizing a man whom he called a close friend, Throckmorton compared Mr. Damron to Jesus Christ...Mr. Damron's service as county judge was during Citrus' growth years...." More (St. Petersburg Times 11.07.2006).
Judges launch gay insults at each other. "[Judge] Simon Cowell and [Judge] Louis Walsh had a blazing row after slinging gay insults at each other during X Factor's first live show. Bodyguards had to pull the feuding judges apart seconds after the cameras stopped rolling. Cowell later stormed off the set without telling anyone, snubbing ITV2 spin-off The Xtra Factor. An X Factor insider said: 'It was a humdinger of a row...Simon's bodyguard Big Tony had to step between them because it got so heated....'" More (Mirror 11.06.2006). Comment. "Real" judges sometimes mix it up a bit, too. See, e.g., Tea-time brawl erupts in judges' common room and Did judge berate, belittle, shove & mock?
Hubby assaults judge over judge's decision in re wife. "The husband of Strictly Come Dancing’s Jan Ravens took his frustrations out on judge Craig Revel Horwood after his wife was booted off the show...[Her husband] lunged for Craig in what he has deemed 'a physical assault'...." More (Entertainment Wise 11.06.2006).
Laura Bush suspects anniversary card penned by speechwriter. "Although first lady Laura Bush 'very much appreciated' the wedding anniversary card she recently received from President Bush, she said she 'harbored suspicions' that its inscription is the work of one of the commander in chief's speechwriters. 'Make no mistake, my beloved spouse: This marriage has been an enduring achievement that will continue to make significant strides well into the 21st century,' the pastel-colored document read...." More (The Onion 11.03.2006). Comment. Not that far fetched, given that men in positions of authority, including judges, have been known to ask their female secretaries to select gifts or buy flowers for their spouses.
Queen loses throne for sleeping with judge. "Miss Great Britain has been forced to return her 'tiara' and step down for 'bringing the pageant into disrepute,' after letting slip that she was bedding judge Teddy Sheringham when he voted for her in the final of the contest...." More (Hindustan Times 11.03.2006). Comment. Judge Sheringham was the only judge who voted for her but she won the public vote. It's been no secret she's had a relationship with the judge but she maintained it began at the after-party. Recently, however, she reportedly told a magazine interviewer she began seeing him two months before the contest.
Judge's wife is accused of biting cops after DWI stop. "[Joyce Davies, 62, wife of District Court Judge Joseph Gibson, who is] accused of biting two police officers after refusing to submit to a roadside breath test[,] yesterday blamed a medical condition on her inability to provide an adequate breath sample...." More (Daily Telegraph 11.03.2006). Comment. Query: Can we infer from this as yet unproven specific allegation that as a general rule all wives of judges bite when stopped? We admit we're drawn to the generality but ultimately defer making it.
Distraught father kills daughter over wife's affair with 'swinging judge.' "The judge at the centre of alleged romps with a mum which led her husband to murder his little daughter is today named by The Sun as James Muir-Little. Dad Gavin Hall, 33, was sentenced to life yesterday for smothering Millie, three, with chloroform to punish his wife Joanne. She had met deputy district judge Mr Muir-Little through a website used by married people seeking affairs. They exchanged explicit emails and naked photos, and met in hotels for sex...." More (The Sun 11.03.2006). Comments. a) But why kill the daughter? b) Are the photos and the e-mails posted online somewhere? c) Memo to male judges: Always let "the woman" drive to the hot-sheet motel and have her register in her name & using her car's license plate number. It's a BurtLaw Judicial Tip-of-the-Week.
Forced off bench at 91, judge mulls new career. "Some time this afternoon, Judge Julius M. Title, 91 years old, with hearing aids in both ears but a back that's still ramrod straight, will leave the bench for the last time. Or maybe not. Because come Monday morning, Title, who was appointed to the bench in 1966 and is being forced off, said he plans to start looking for another job...Title loves to paint but does not relish the idea of having all day to do it. He adores his three grandchildren but said he is horrified by the idea of staying home, or traveling, or pretending that a hobby, even one he is passionate about, will occupy him full time...Title said perhaps he'll become a private judge...." More (L.A. Times 11.03.2006). Comment. I like guys like Judge Title. I remember back in the 1970's when my ex-wife's maternal grandfather, John G. Rauch, a prominent Indianapolis attorney then in his 80's, received word that the lease on his law office couldn't be renewed. He promptly found a new office and signed another lease and took his safe full of wills, and his lawyer son, with him. BTW, John Rauch's daughter, Jane Rauch Kitchen, who was my ex-mother-in-law, died recently, at age 91. She, too, had the spirit. She was a brilliant, generous and very funny woman (with a sense of humor somewhat similar to that of her second-cousin, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.), a great mother-in-law, and an even greater grandmother to the kids. I had the privilege of knowing her since 1967.
Glare on judge with fake caste papers. "The Tripura government has identified 68 people, including a judge, an engineer and senior officials in the state government, who have fake Scheduled Caste certificates...The errant officials face termination of service, withdrawal of pension benefits and criminal proceedings...[Among the 68 is] district and sessions judge Joydipta Debbarma...." More (Calcutta Telegraph 11.02.2006). Comments. a) As a result of reforms, so-called "Untouchables," originally beneath caste or outside caste, are "scheduled caste" members. As a kind of affirmative action, certain jobs and opportunities are reserved for scheduled caste members. But some who are not "Untouchables" have used fake or forged scheduled caste papers to get these jobs or opportunities reserved for backward caste members. At least that's how I understand it. b) Using fake scheduled caste papers to get appointed judge is sort of -- but not a lot -- like the Exeter or Choate grad's saying in his judicial campaign brochure that he walked to school every day (omitting that he merely walked across the courtyard from the residence hall to the classroom building).
Retired judges aid fight against anti-terror law. "Seven retired federal judges from both political parties have joined dozens of Guantánamo Bay detainees in urging an appeals court to declare key parts of President George W. Bush's new anti-terrorism law unconstitutional...The judges, in a rare court filing Wednesday, said stripping courts of the right to question how the military handles terrorism suspects 'challenges the integrity of our judicial system' and effectively sanctions the use of torture...." More (IHT 11.02.2006). Comment. We admire especially the military lawyers who've been fighting the good fight against the Administration's war on our liberties.
A real life British mystery: new inquest is ordered in judge's death. Back in 2001 Judge Andrew Chubb, 58, was having an affair with Kerry Sparrow, 37, during the work week in Portsmouth. On weekends he'd return home to his wife in Chard, Somerset. One Friday evening in July around 7:30 he arrived home, changed into gardening clothes, told his wife of 34 years he wanted a divorce, then went to his garden shed. Around 8:50 p.m. an explosion occurred in the garden shed and Judge Chubb was killed in a fireball. His wife, who inherited a £1m estate, was arrested on suspicion of murder but released without being charged. An inquest concluded the death was accidental. The widow moved to Australia. Sparrow, the mistress, supported by the judge's brother and sister, has been seeking a second inquest. Now the high court has granted her wish, while suggesting it suspected if the inquest showed anything, it would show the death was suicide. More (Guardian Unlimited 11.01.2006). Earlier. Dead millionaire judge's lover gets AG to review his death. Background. Nick Davies, How a judge's death in country garden exposed fatal flaws in system - part one and part two (Guardian Unlimited 12.13.2003). Comment. Sounds like the making of a plot for Mystery on PBS.
Woozy judge declares mistrial - not drunk but on cold medicine. "A state judge accused of being intoxicated on the bench was woozy from cold medicine, not alcohol, [Susan Hofer,] a spokeswoman said Tuesday. Judge James J. Canavan, an administrative judge in the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, granted a mistrial Monday after attorney Edward Williams complained that Canavan had been intoxicated during motions the previous week...." More (Chicago Tribune 11.01.2006). Comment. We wouldn't discount or discredit the judge's claim. We hope the judge will bear his experience in mind next time a criminal defendant raises a potentially legitimate claim of involuntary intoxication.
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Slate's list of Judge Roberts resources. Slate has created a John Roberts Roundup, a regularly-updated page of links to some of the better web postings relating to Judge Roberts. Click here.