BurtLaw's Daily Judge is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, this is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal non-profit pro bono publico First-Amendment protected "web log" or "blog," one with a subjective, idiosyncratic, and eccentric sociological and social-psychological slant that focuses not on the latest judicial decisions of supposed great legal importance but on a) the institution of judge in the United States and in other countries throughout the world, b) the judicial office and role, c) judicial personalities, d) the great common law tradition of judging as practiced here and throughout the world, e) judges as judges, f) judges as ordinary people with the usual mix of virtues and flaws, etc. We link to newspapers and other sources in order to alert you to ideas, articles, stories, speeches, law books, literary works and other things that have interested us and that may interest you. In linking to another site or source, we don't mean either to suggest we necessarily agree with views or ideas expressed there or to attest to the accuracy of facts set forth there. We urge you in every instance to click on the link and read the entire story or other printed source to which we link. We often use the linked piece as a springboard for expressing our opinion, typically clearly labelled "Comment."
About links. a) Links, like judges, eventually retire or expire, some sooner than others. b) Access to all stories via these links is free, at least initially, although some sites require free registration. c) Free access often turns to fee access after a day or a week or some such period. d) Entries, following the typical blog format, are in reverse chronological order.
Complaints? If you feel we have made a factual error or been unfair in expressing our opinion, please contact us (see, infra) and give us an opportunity to correct the perceived wrong.
Want to contact us? Send an e-mail addressed to "BurtLaw" at "The Daily Judge.Com" (we have deliberately not put the address in typical e-mail form, e.g., ABC@TheDailyClog.Com, because when one does so, the automated web-trollers used by spammers add such e-mail addresses to their lists). We trust you are smart enough to put "BurtLaw" together with "@" and "TheDailyJudge.Com," because you wouldn't be interested in this site if you weren't smart.
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.
Lady Mathilda (11.15.1995 - 03.25.2007). I've devoted considerable attention of late to the care of an ailing friend, a smart and beautiful tri-color Australian Shepherd named Mathilda, who became a part of our family in late 1995. Readers of my original law blog, BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else, know her as the blog's mascot. A shared dog since April of 1996, when my ex-wife and I separated, Mathilda has been living full time here at the old homestead since last fall. For several months, as her physical condition has worsened, I've been putting her interests (and my interests in caring for her) ahead of the interests of the faithful perusers of this sorry blog. This afternoon around 5:20 I carried her outside so she could get ready for a scheduled 6:00 visit from my ex-wife. At 5:25, as I was trying to help her as she struggled, she died of heart failure -- in my arms. I feel privileged to say that she was in my arms, knowing I loved her. (03.25.2007).
Clerk resigns after fuss with judge. "Longtime city recorder-treasurer Debbie Cook resigned suddenly Friday over a dispute with Lenoir City Court Judge Terry Vann. Cook, who has been with the city for 30 years, cited 'malice and discontent' at city hall in her letter of resignation. She alleges that her dispute with Vann stems from a time she confronted him over a transfer of funds to a private organization. Vann says the issue is that the city is owed $347,000 in unpaid fines and court costs. Cook disputes the amount and described a call by the judge for her resignation as retaliat[ory]." More (Knoxville News Sentinel 03.24.2007).
Annals of judge as super-hero crime-fighter. "As County Judge Ron Flury was driving on Tharpe Street with his wife, Theresa, and 8-week-old baby, Kasey, a rock suddenly hit the windshield of his SUV about 12:30 p.m...His wife then pointed to three teenagers on the sidewalk who proceeded to throw a rock at another car, he said. He turned the car around and followed the boys [and told them to stop].The boys[, who] are 13, 14, and 15 years old...were arrested...." More (Tallahassee Democrat 03.24.2007). Comment. This story reminds us of the story of the overweight law school dean as superhero. As a student at Harvard Law School in the 1960's, we became fond of the school's great tunnel system, connecting all the class & office & library buildings. Although it was before our time, we have it on reliable hearsay that the legendary, and legendarily-large (he was Nebraska-bred), Dean Roscoe Pound once hid out in the tunnels at night & "tackled" a thief who'd been taking things from student lockers.
Chief 'rooted out' 292 corrupt judges last year, vows he won't relax. "Chief judge Xiao Yang [President of the Supreme People's Court,] has pledged to keep up the fight against judicial corruption after the nation's court system rooted out 292 judges last year because of unethical deeds...[B]eginning last year, the court introduced an 'anti-corruption deposit' system. If a 22-year-old court staff member deposits 500 yuan ($63) every year and does not do anything illegal, he will get 300,000 yuan ($37,600) upon retirement - including his premium and reward." More (China Daily 03.24.2007).
Annals of blind justice. "Richard Conway Casey of the United States District Court in Manhattan, who was the nation's first blind federal trial judge...died on Thursday. He was 74. ...Judge Casey...was nominated for federal judgeship by President Bill Clinton in 1997, 10 years after he became blind from retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited degenerative eye disease...[He] had to overcome skeptics when he took on a load of 300 to 400 cases...using computer and audio technology while studying documents and preparing to speak in court. Some questioned whether a blind judge could accurately assess the credibility of a witness he could not see...." More (NYT 03.24.2007). Comment. When I was a student at Harvard Law School in the mid-1960's, the school began admitting a number of blind students, a breakthrough at the time. One of them, Harold "Hal" Krents, who died in 1987 of a brain tumor at age 43, wrote an autobiography, To Race the Wind, which was published in 1972 and made into a CBS-TV movie in 1980. His story about being reclassified 1-A by his local draft board inspired the 1969 hit Broadway play Butterflies Are Free. Anyhow, my time at HLS overlapped with that of at least three blind students, one of whom later practiced law here in MN. I remember another one, a classmate of mine, who had a bevy of beautiful 'Cliffies who were recruited by Phillip Brooks House to serve as his volunteer readers. Many a night I'd be sitting in the huge football-field-long reading room of the library on the third floor of Langdell Hall and look up from my studies and see him walk by with one of the gorgeous 'Cliffies, heading for, I think, the Root Room. It was then I learned the meaning of true irony. Further reading. Being blind at Harvard (Harvard Crimson 01.16.1969).
Annals of judicial family law. "[Andrea Claire Fraser, 29, t]he daughter of Alberta's top judge [Catherine Fraser] has pleaded guilty to identity theft and unauthorized use of credit card data in a Vancouver court...." More (Calgary Sun 03.23.2007).
Judge's son avoids theft trial. "The son of a circuit judge entered a pretrial intervention program Friday to avoid a felony conviction on charges of stealing more than $2,000 from a golf course west of Boca Raton that had fired him...." More (Sun-Sentinel 03.24.2007).
Witness says Chief was told judges were taking bribes but failed to act. "A former Chief Justice was notified as early as 1999 that judges in Nyeri were taking bribes, but he failed to act, a tribunal heard yesterday. A witness told the judicial tribunal that advocates at the station wrote to Chief Justice Bernard Chunga complaining of the misconduct...The hearing continues...." More (The Nation (Nairobi, Kenya) via All Africa 03.23.2007).
Taipei trial judge is probed in TV host case. "The Judicial Yuan has started an investigation into a report that Taipei District Court Judge Wu Meng-liang allegedly accepted bribe from the fiancee of popular entertainer Hu Gua before he ruled that Hu was innocent of cheating on fellow mahjong gamblers. Fan Kuang-chuan, secretary general of the Judicial Yuan, said the probe is necessary to mete out penalties on Wu if he is found guilty as reported or clear his name if he is innocent...." More (China Post 03.23.2007).
NYS Bar Assn. urges upping judicial mandatory retirement age. "A special task force of the New York State Bar Association...has issued a report calling for an increase in the mandatory retirement age for New York State judges to 76. Under current law, judges of the Court of Appeals -- New York's highest court, and most trial courts must retire at age 70. The only exception is for justices of the Supreme Court, New York's most powerful trial court, who may remain on the bench until age 76 if approved in a certification process every two years starting at age 70...Ending age discrimination in the legal profession, in both the private and public sectors, is one of the top agenda items [the current president] is pursuing...Implicitly recognizing that additional reforms might be proposed in the future, the Task Force stated that 'reform should be done in stages, not all at once.'" More (Press Release - ReadMedia.Com 03.23.2007). Comment. Why not go the whole way and simply abandon mandatory retirement at any age. The proposal, which is better than nothing, is sort of like proposing to end racial discrimination in stages: "First, we'll end it against people who are of mixed race; part-Causcasian and part-something-else, then if that goes well we'll end it completely."
Judge resigns over one bad night in the big city. "The province's attorney general said the resignation of a Kamloops judge is a tragedy. Wally Oppal said provincial court Judge William Sundhu was 'a very good judge, a very popular judge and it is most tragic that one lapse on one night has led to this. I question whether a resignation was in order.' Sundhu, a 10-year veteran of the bench who grew up in Williams Lake, was arrested on Feb. 17, 2006 following a drunken altercation at a Vancouver hotel, after he made offensive and derogatory remarks to staff and guests, and was aggressive with hotel security and police when they interceded. He resigned Thursday, the same day a report on his conduct was released by Chief Justice Hugh Stansfield...." More (Williams Lake Tribune 03.22.2007). Comment. The judge is quoted as saying, "I look forward to being free of judicial strictures and working for the things I believe and for which I am passionate. I still have much to contribute to society and look forward to being a truly free citizen again." This is revelatory: a judge truly is not as free as other people. Emerson wrote: "A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates when he becomes a conformist....What folly...to say 'Let us examine,' & purse the mouth with the wrinkles of a judge....[T]his air of judgeship is mere affectation. Even so it is with...most politicians." (Journal, 03.22.1839) Do we expect too much of judges? Are judges who never do anything wrong better judges? Might it be that, on balance, they're not better but worse in some ways? If we only want judges who strictly follow the straight and narrow, might we wind up with judges who are simply strict and narrow?
Title of press release from Texas Watch: 'Come clean, Justice Hecht.' "Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht should reveal the names of the individuals, corporations, lobbyists, and political action committees who have donated more than $300,000 to cover his personal legal expenses, according to Texas Watch, a consumer organization that monitors the Court. According to news reports, Justice Hecht is not planning to reveal the names of those who are covering his legal expenses until July when he files his next campaign finance report with the Texas Ethics Commission. 'Individuals with cases pending before the Texas Supreme Court have every right to know who is paying Justice Hecht's personal bills and if any conflict of interest exists,' said Alex Winslow, Texas Watch's Executive Director...Winslow also raised concerns that Justice Hecht may not have complied with contribution limits imposed on judges and judicial candidates by state law. According to news reports, Hecht solicited donations of at least $20,000. The Judicial Campaign Fairness Act limits individual judicial contributions to $5,000...." More (Texas Watch 03.23.2007).
Two right-wing SCOTUS justices to teach courses at conservative law school. "Two sitting U.S. Supreme Court justices will teach intensive courses at the [Pepperdine] School of Law this summer. Justice Samuel Alito will teach a two-week course on advanced constitutional law and Justice Antonin Scalia will teach a two-day course on separation of powers and federalism in London...Like any Pepperdine faculty member, Alito will have an office, grade papers, administer an exam and receive the same stipend as a typical School of Law summer professor...[S]ome students said they lament that Alito and Scalia represent the same type of conservatism typical at Pepperdine's School of Law...." More (Pepperdine U. Graphic 03.22.2007). Articles in NYT about Pepperdine U.
Annals of courthouse vandalism: tarring courthouse steps. "A man found guilty of pouring roofing tar on the steps of the federal courthouse in downtown Louisville was ordered to jail on Thursday. Daniel L. Cobble, 54, was found guilty Wednesday of pouring 16 five-gallon buckets of tar on courthouse steps last May...." More (Lexington Herald-Leader 03.22.2007).
Ex-judge is suspended from practicing law. "[Marion Neal Cox, 58, a]n East Cleveland attorney and former acting Municipal judge [from 1999-2006] has lost his law license for retaliating against a man who called him a crook and later directing some choice name-calling of his own at two rival lawyers...The court cited Cox for three counts of misconduct, including having a man arrested and punished in 2004 while he was an East Cleveland acting judge because the man told a court cashier that Cox was a crook...Cox was also cited for an altercation following a pretrial hearing in 2005 in which he -- acting as a private attorney -- called two rival lawyers 'pathological liars' and taunted them with loud profanities and racial slurs, according to court records...." More (Cleveland Plain Dealer 03.22.2007).
Judges are slow to disclose trip perks. "A new requirement that federal judges promptly tell the public about their expense-paid trips has so far produced no disclosures, a judicial ethics watchdog group said Wednesday. The change took effect Jan. 1, requiring sponsors of trips to report in advance who is paying for judges' travel and lodging at private seminars. The information is supposed to be made available quickly to the public. Then, within 30 days of the end of each trip, judges must file a report about it. Local court Web sites will have the information...." More (Centre Daily Times 03.22.2007).
Former district judge pleads guilty to obstruction. "A former district judge pleaded guilty in federal court to instructing someone to lie to a grand jury about a bribe. Ernest L. Marraccini, 62, who was district judge in Elizabeth, pleaded guilty Wednesday to obstruction of justice...[for] trying to get a witness -- an FBI informant -- to provide false information about a trip Marraccini took in July 2001 to Nassau, Bahamas [that was given to him] in return for his support for an alternative housing facility the witness wanted to build...." More (PennLive 03.22.2007).
German judge under fire for citing Koran in denying divorce. "A German judge has come under fire for her refusal to grant a divorce to a Muslim woman beaten by her husband on the grounds that marital violence is condoned by the Koran. Politicians, Muslims and legal experts have criticized the judge's remarks, which came in a letter denying the 26-year-old mother-of-two a fast-track divorce from her Moroccan husband...." More (Monsters and Critics 03.22.2007).
Actor Woody Harrelson's dad dies; was convicted of killing judge. "Actor Woody Harrelson's father, Charles Harrelson, [69,] died of a heart attack in the Supermax federal prison where he was serving two life sentences for the murder of a federal judge, officials said today...Harrelson was convicted of murder in the May 29, 1979, slaying of U.S. District Judge John Wood Jr. outside his San Antonio, Texas, home...Wood, known as 'Maximum John' for the sentences he gave in drug cases, was the first federal judge to be killed in the 20th century...." More (The Coloradoan 03.21.2007).
Board recommends censure of 'habitually rude' judge. "Mark Badgett, a District Court judge for Surry and Stokes counties, should not be removed from office but should be publicly condemned for misconduct, the N.C. Judicial Standards Commission recommended this week...Badgett was accused of not disclosing a business relationship with Clark Dummit, a Winston-Salem lawyer, who rented a building in King from him. He also was accused of giving Dummit preferential treatment in cases. The commission said it did not find any evidence that Badgett gave Dummit preferential treatment, but it did find problems with the way Badgett handled the situation. It also found that Badgett 'has been habitually rude and condescending to those who appear before him in court.'" More (Winston-Salem Journal 03.21.2007).
Judge pleads guilty to violating open-bottle law. "A St. Clair County judge[, Judge Jan Fiss, 64,] was ordered to spend two months under court supervision and pay a $500 fine after pleading guilty to illegally transporting alcohol...[The prosecution] stemmed from an auto accident last December that resulted in a drunken-driving conviction against another judge[, Circuit Judge Patrick Young]...[T]he men were returning to Belleville after attending a St. Louis Rams football game, when Young's sport-utility vehicle collided with a pickup truck driven by a Swansea man, injuring that driver. Police said Fiss was seen by an officer dumping out a beer after the crash and trying to hide a beer can...." More (Belleville News-Democrat 03.21.2007).
Judge dies while hearing case. "A longtime judge in our area has died, while hearing a case Wednesday morning. Retired Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge L. Leonard Ruben[, 81,] was on the bench, hearing a traffic case in District Court in Silver Spring. The cause of death is still undetermined, but it appears Ruben may have suffered a heart attack...." More (WTOP 03.21.2007).
Competition for year's 'biggest political plum' is under way as judge retires. "The competition for the year's biggest political plum is under way with the official announcement that Jackson County District Judge Charles Falahee Jr. is retiring. Falahee said Tuesday he will retire May 1 and has agreed to work through June 15 under contract. He will turn 55 on April 15. [Michigan] Gov. Jennifer Granholm[, a Democrat,] will appoint his replacement this spring...'Typically, it's a political appointment[,' said Falahee]. Republicans can apply, but it's understood the next judge will be a Democrat...." More (MLive 03.21.2007). Comment. The paper gets it right: a judicial appointment is a "plum" and it's a "political" plum, which is why we like "the Minnesota Plan," as opposed to "the Missouri Plan." In the MN Plan, as in Michigan, the governor temporarily fills vacancies for around two years but any attorney may run for the full six year term in the next election. The right to select judges for full six year terms (as opposed to the MO Plan's right to merely reject those thought to be incompetent) thus remains ultimately with the people, where it belongs.
Judge's ex parte 'coaching' of lawyer in divorce case broke the rules, jury in criminal trial is told. "The videotape shows two lawyers, a veteran and a younger man, discussing strategy in a divorce case...There are very big problems with this scene, prosecutors say. The older lawyer is the judge hearing the case. The younger lawyer, who plied the judge with free meals and drinks for years, was meeting privately with him in his chambers. The wife's lawyer was nowhere in sight. The surveillance tape, made in 2003, was played for jurors in Brooklyn yesterday at the trial of the former State Supreme Court justice, Gerald P. Garson, who is accused of taking bribes...." More (NYT 03.21.2007).
Michigan Supreme Court judge assails her colleagues. "Dissident Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Weaver issued another broadside against four of her [six] colleagues on the court late Tuesday, accusing them of abusing the process by which the court publishes minutes of its administrative proceedings. Weaver issued a 24-page memorandum she described as a dissent to minutes approved by the court on March 14, and attached a letter to Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the Legislature renewing her request for a review of what she calls abuse of power by the court majority...." More (Detroit Free Press 03.21.2007). Comment. Some might criticize Judge Weaver and say she's airing the court's dirty laundry in public. But if there is dirty laundry, that's exactly where it ought to be aired. The people are the ultimate sovereigns; if the allegations are true, the people deserve to know.
Child's arrest becomes issue in judge race. "Two lawyers who are challenging District Attorney Diane Gibbons for a county judge seat in the upcoming election are criticizing her decision to send a 10-year-old Plumstead boy to juvenile court for allegedly burglarizing the home of one of her senior staffers...Both said Gibbons' involvement in the case was a conflict and accused her of milking the alleged crime for publicity...." More (Philadelphia Intelligencer 03.21.2007).
Judge says his relationship with 16-year-old girl was 'platonic.' "A showjumping judge who allowed a talented 16-year-old rider to live with him against her parents' wishes insisted yesterday the relationship is platonic and denied he brainwashed her. Peter Rowe, 57, described Sam Staples as a 'lodger,' despite admitting he allows her to stay at his remote farmhouse rent-free...[The parents,] who moved from South Yorkshire to Lincolnshire to help to further Samantha's riding career, [said,] 'He's used his position as a judge to get to her'...A spokesman for Lincolnshire Police said the girl involved was 16 and has not made any allegations. 'We will not be conducting an ongoing investigation.'" More (Yorkshire Post 03.21.2007).
Dahlia Lithwick on oral arguments in the 'Bong hits 4 Jesus' case. "It's hard to imagine that the students of America will be better served by giving their educators the ultimate gateway drug: the apparently limitless power to define their 'educational mission' in any way they please in order to suppress any and all student speech that doesn't conform. That kind of power strikes me as more addictive, and even more dangerous, than any drug." More (Slate 03.20.2007).
Move to end mandatory retirement of judges in N.Y. gains momentum. "New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer said he wants to review the state Constitution's 150-year-old mandate that most judges retire at the end of the year in which they turn 70. Just after attending a swearing-in ceremony Monday for Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye to a term that will end when she is forced to step down on Dec. 31, 2008, Spitzer said in an interview that leaders in private industries and professions 'are wondering whether rules of that sort make any sense. I'm serious about it,' he said. 'I think it's an issue we should put on the table.'" More (NY Law Journal via Law.Com 03.21.2007).
'I'm in charge.' "The first day of former Qwest chief executive Joe Nacchio's trial ended Monday with little doubt that U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham is in charge. Nottingham scolded the defense, issued warnings to reporters and buzzed through jury selection with good-humored questioning that occasionally drew laughter from spectators and even the defendant...." More (Denver Post 03.20.2007). Comment. Have you ever seen a headline at the start of trial suggesting the judge left doubt as to who was in charge?
Judge who's been 'friend of underdog' is charged with smoking pot in park. "Broward Circuit Judge Lawrence Korda is facing a misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession after city police officers said they busted him for smoking pot in a Hollywood park Sunday afternoon. The judge played a role in the Anna Nicole Smith case when he briefly handled a small part of the paternity battle over the former Playboy centerfold's infant daughter. Korda, 59, was not arrested but was issued a notice to appear on April 26 in the satellite courthouse in Hollywood...The officers did not know who Korda was until they asked his profession. 'He at no time asked for preferential treatment,' [an officer] said." More (Sun-Sentinel 03.20.2007). Comment. I point no finger. I believe it is good for a man or woman of justice to have some personal experience, even vicarious, with wrongdoing. Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd wrote, "Fill the seats of justice with good [people], not so absolute in goodness as to forget what human frailty is...." I was delighted, not ashamed, when I unearthed the old news story detailing that in the summer of 1916 my dad's maternal grandfather, 69-year-old Carelius Johnson Myhre, a Norwegian immigrant shoe man, was caught running a blind pig in his son's barber shop in Austin, MN. But I was saddened when I learned that the stress of the arrest and the proceedings leading to his pleading guilty triggered a fatal heart attack. Our late Chief Justice, William Rehnquist, acknowledged in a speech in 2001 to some Swedes that one of his Swedish ancestors in the 17th century "was executed for having embezzled funds from an estate for which he was the steward." See, The scandalous past of Bill Rehnquist! Generalizing from the particulars, one might say that the difference between Swedes and Norwegians back then was that Swedes executed people caught embezzling whereas Norwegians caught selling booze illegally felt so guilty they died.
Brooklyn judge's bribery trial kicks off. "The ex-wives club whose members say they were betrayed by a disgraced Brooklyn divorce judge finally got some revenge yesterday when he went on trial on charges that he took bribes to fix cases. 'I want the judge to sit in jail for every year that I don't see my sons,' said Sigal Levi, who is expected to testify how suspended Supreme Court Justice Gerald Garson gave her two eldest sons to her ex-husband, who later pleaded guilty to paying a $10,000 bribe to a middleman to get them...." More (N.Y. Daily News 03.20.2007).
Know any judges who are good at appearing to be humble? "I'm as capable as anyone of manipulative self-deprecation. It's obviously a ploy, but I don't think it's an obligation. I do think I have the reputation increasingly as someone who is insufferably arrogant. I don't want to be." -- Novelist Lionel Shriver, an American novelist who lives in London, on her having "violated the British law of self-deprecation by boldly declaring that she had wanted her book to win the [Orange P]rize," a literary prize open only to female authors. More (NYT 03.19.2007). Comment. I like her refusal to be falsely modest, manipulatively self-deprecating. As I've said before, I'm wary of judges and other people who, when speaking of themselves, toss about terms like "modesty" and "humility." My fellow Norwegians are good at it and it irritates the hell out of me. They want you to think they're modest and humble, when deep down they really think they're pretty hot stuff. One wants to say to some of them, as Golda Meier, the late Prime Minister of Israel, said to a member of her cabinet, "Don't be so humble, you're not that great."
Surprise! -- cost estimates for courthouse were too low. "Higher-than-expected construction bids will doom the state judiciary's proposal for a Family Court courthouse and juvenile detention center in Kapolei unless the Legislature approves about $25 million more for the project this session, court officials say. Judiciary officials were hoping that the bids to construct the four-story courthouse and 66-bed juvenile detention facility would be covered by about $92 million from the $95 million approved by state lawmakers two years ago. The rest of the money is for design and other costs. But when three bids were opened March 1, one was deemed to be not responsive to the construction request, and the other two came at about $110 million. Because the state requires funding at 5 percent above the bid amount to cover unexpected increases, the judiciary would need about $25 million more, officials say...." More (Honolulu Advertiser 03.19.2007). Comment. Close enough for government?
Judge's son is accused of witness intimidation. "As the state's courts grapple with witness intimidation, the Herald has learned the son of a Superior Court judge is accused of threatening the life of a Wellesley youth to 'send a message' to the youth's friend days before the friend testified...." More (Boston Herald 03.19.2007). Comment. The judge in question is an appointee of former MA Gov. Mitt Romney.
Quote-of-the-day. "[In a democracy] it can never be unwise to acquaint the public with the truth about the workings of any branch of government...It is a mistake, therefore, to try to establish and maintain, through ignorance, public esteem for our courts." - Judge Jerome Frank.
Pakistani judges resign; call for more protests. "Seven Pakistani judges resigned on Monday over government moves to sack the country's chief judge, and the leader of an opposition alliance of conservative religious parties called for more protests. The suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary on March 9 and his subsequent treatment has outraged lawyers, the opposition and many ordinary Pakistanis, and presented President Pervez Musharraf with his biggest political crisis as elections loom...." More (AlertNet 03.19.2007).
Are Judges finding law reviews irrelevant? "'I haven't opened up a law review in years,' said Chief Judge Dennis G. Jacobs of the federal appeals court in New York. 'No one speaks of them. No one relies on them.' In a cheerfully dismissive presentation, Judge Jacobs and six of his colleagues on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said in a lecture hall jammed with law professors at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law this month that their scholarship no longer had any impact on the courts. The assembled professors mostly agreed, though they differed about the reasons and about whether the trend was also a problem...." More (NYT 03.19.2007). Comments. a) When I was in law school (Harvard Law '67), Harvard had just one, the ever-prestigious Harvard Law Review, and 25 of the 500+ members of my class (the top 25 test-takers) "made" law review. Now Harvard has many law reviews, some good, like the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, some not so good. Practically anyone who wants to be on "a" law review may do so. Law reviews have proliferated at other law schools, too. A sizeable number of them aren't very good, but then a sizeable number of lawyers (or judges or doctors or law profs) aren't either. b) i) It's probably true that most appellate judges around the country these days don't read law reviews. ii) Consistent with that, and sadly, one suspects a lot of them probably don't even read the transcripts in cases they review. iii) Instead, many of them delegate that task to their law clerks, to whom they also delegate the task of reading the cases cited by the parties, doing independent research, summarizing the record, preparing a bench memo, preparing a draft (and maybe final) opinion. iv) Paradoxically, the law clerks who do all this are mostly alums of the law reviews the judges don't read. This is because, although appellate judges don't read law reviews, in hiring law clerks they attach great significance to an applicant's experience in working on the law reviews that the judges don't consider worth reading (often doing menial cite-checking, etc.). c) I've been a devoted reader of law reviews since I was in law school. I was able to continue this practice by virtue of my employment as a law clerk for three years (one year in state district court and two years in state supreme court) and as aide for 26 years to state supreme court. There are many bad law reviews, but perhaps forty that I checked out whenever a new issue arrived. Of the forty, maybe twenty were very good -- and of the twenty, ten very, very good. In summer or at other times when my workload might lessen a bit, I made it a point to try read articles that would challenge my current thinking in areas of particular interest to me, as well as articles that helped to broaden my knowledge in other areas. I think that judges who don't keep an eye on the best law reviews are making a big mistake. But then I think judges who rely too much on law clerks who once worked on the law reviews the judges mistakenly think irrelevant are making a big mistake, too.
Disgraced ex-judge's farmland to be sold. "For the last four years, many residents of Downstate Cumberland County have driven past former Judge Robert Cochonour's stately second home -- and his family's 500 acres of farmland -- and seethed. They couldn't fathom how Cochonour kept these trappings of his once regal status, even after being sent to prison in 2003 for looting the $2.2 million estate of a local businessman...On Sunday [their] frustration will ease just a bit, as a federal Bankruptcy Court oversees the auction of the Cochonour family's farmland, horse barn and seven grain bins. The ex-judge's second home, which he used for entertaining, is to be sold separately." More (Chicago Tribune 03.18.2007).
Confronting the state's chief justice over the court budget. "After first postponing Hannah's planned presentation [to the Joint Budget personnel subcommittee] for 30 minutes or so, [Rep. Jim Medley of Fort Smith] was waiting in ambush for Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Hannah and the court's budget. Medley dumped a proposal few on the committee had seen previously -- to lop fully 14 jobs off the court's 44-person payroll. Medley named specific names, including Hannah's own secretary...Hannah also got a pummeling from Sen. Steve Faris...concern[ing] the justices' annual six-week summer vacation and, moreover, the question of whether the court staff gets to knock off for six weeks at that time as well. By the account I heard from someone who was there, Hannah didn't handle the staff vacation question very adroitly...." More (Arkansas Times - Arkansas Blog 03.17.2007). Comment. The blogger suggests Medley's proposals represent "payback" over a decision he didn't like. We're not up to snuff on judicial politics in ARK.
A state run by judges? "Is our country run by judges? Is our judiciary intervening in the operation of executive and legislative authorities? Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis believes so. Judges are setting their own wages and, irrespective of budget limits, they are receiving them, even retroactively. At the moment, judges are claiming -- 1.5 billion in back pay -- a huge sum for a budget that has been under European Commission supervision and at least twice the amount earmarked for pensioners and the poor...." More (Ekathimerini - Greece 03.17.2007).
Courts will test offering trial audiotapes online. "A computer and an Internet connection may soon be all you need to hear closing arguments in a corruption trial or listen to the testimony of a mob turncoat. The federal judiciary panel has approved a pilot program to make audio recordings of court proceedings available online for free...Federal Judge Thomas Hogan, who heads the policy-making body, said it's an attempt to make court proceedings 'more inclusive and transparent.'" More (KSBW 03.17.2007).
Chief Justice warns judges not to allow themselves to be used by politicians. "[T]he Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJIN), Justice Legbo Kutigi has told judges and kadis not to allow themselves to be used by politicians to satisfy their whims and caprices. Kutigi cautioned the judicial officers not to collect bribes from politicians to pervert the course of justice...." More (The Tide News 03.17.2007).
A Michigan judge's very expensive car. "An Arizona car auction company is suing a Michigan judge who says his car sold for too little. The 1970 Hemi 'Cuda sold for [$300,000] in January. Former owner David Clabuesch[, a 57-year-old judge in the Huron County Probate Court,] says the car should have fetched between [$700,000] and a million dollars. Barrett-Jackson is suing Clabuesch in Phoenix for 'outrageous and defamatory actions,' including chaining the car's wheels at the auction tent and putting up a sign calling its sale void...." More (WLNS 03.17.2007). Comment. 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.
Tales of a lonely, insecure, ethically-challenged female trial judge. In the words of an insecure female judge named Alex Cormier: "'What I really want is something with a waist,' Alex jokes about her robes; she also tries to make coffee for the courthouse staff and sneaks out to visit the groundskeeper in search of friendship. 'Could you maybe forget that I'm the judge?' Alex asks this woman, signaling that the high-school shooting case may be too much for her, professionally speaking. But Alex insists that there is no need for her to recuse herself even though her daughter, Josie, was involved in the incident. Or because Josie's boyfriend was killed. Or because Josie was the object of [the killer's] frustrated longings...." -- From Janet Maslin, After the Shooting Is Over, a review of Jodi Picoult's novel, Nineteen Minutes. More (NYT 03.16.2007).
Judge, a Bush relative, is cleared in fatal accident involving officer. "An appeals court judge was cleared of any wrongdoing Thursday in an accident that killed New Haven police officer Dan Picagli last year. New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington says there was no evidence that Judge John Walker Junior was driving erratically or impaired when he struck Officer Picagli at a construction site on Church Street in October, 2006...." More (WTNH 03.16.2007). Comment. Judge Walker is a cousin of President George Herbert Walker Bush, a/k/a "No. 41." President Reagan appointed Walker to the federal district court in 1985, and "No. 41" appointed him to the circuit bench in 1989. Both appointments presumably were based on merit, as of course are all judicial appointments, whether by a president or by a governor or by a "nonpartisan" board or commission.
Judge who was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct resigns. "A B.C. Provincial Court judge has resigned after being arrested for being drunk and disorderly at a downtown Vancouver hotel bar. Balwinder William Sundhu, who sat as a judge in Kamloops, was charged after an altercation at the Four Seasons hotel in February, 2006...Although Judge Sundhu was charged with creating a disturbance, a special prosecutor decided last October to enter a stay of proceedings to allow him to be diverted to an alternative measures program...." More (Globe and Mail 03.16.2007). Earlier. A provincial judge's excellent adventure in the big city.
Judge breaks down in open court, recuses self. "Tears welling in his eyes, an emotionally choked Supreme Court judge Justice A. R. Lakshmanan on Friday refused to hear a review petition of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav's son Akhilesh telling a shocked court that he had received an anonymous letter levelling allegations against him...'In seventeen-and-a-half years of my judicial career, I have never gone through such a thing. I am very much pained. The contents of the letter are so heinous that my wife and I are very disturbed,' he told the court...As the brother judge on the Bench Justice Altamas Kabir and senior counsel present in the court tried to comfort him and ask[ed] him to ignore the allegations, Justice Lakshmanan refused to budge...." More (Times of India 03.16.2007).
Annals of current socially-unacceptable judicial fulminations. "A judge in the Republic of Ireland has apologised for telling a court he would use a shotgun to 'blow the head off' anyone who broke into his home. Judge Sean McBride had made the comment as he sentenced a man for robbery in the border county of Monaghan...In a statement issued through the Courts Service, the district court judge said...'I was trying to emphasise my revulsion at the violation of the safety of peoples homes -- of the sanctuary of their private space...I regret my choice of language and want to make it clear that I am totally opposed to the use of guns and against all violence.'" More (BBC News 03.16.2007). Comment. Read on...
OMG! A judge is caught cussing! With kids present! What to do? "Swearing to tell the truth is required of all courtroom witnesses. But B.C. Supreme Court Justice Peter Leask did some courtroom swearing of his own this week. And his oaths had nothing to do with swearing on a Bible. 'He'd have had to have been out of his fuckin' mind to store [the cocaine] in his own locker,' Judge Leask observed, during a series of prolonged, often colourful exchanges with prosecutor Ernie Froess in a cocaine-smuggling case...Judge Leask also sprinkled in a 'what the hell,' an 'oh shit' and two 'goddamns' during his morning bantering with Mr. Froess. In and out of the court at the time was a class of young high-school students on a class field trip...." More (Globe and Mail 03.15.2007). Update. "A contrite B.C. Supreme Court judge made an extraordinary, emotional public apology yesterday for making a number of profanity-laced observations during a criminal trial this week...With a trembling voice and a catch in his throat, Judge Leask, a veteran former defence lawyer appointed to the bench 18 months ago, said that he wished 'to make an unreserved apology...I deeply regret my actions.'" More (The Globe and Mail 03.17.2007).
Annals of videotaped interrogations -- herein of camera perspective. "[M]any police departments now videotape interrogations. This should eliminate all potential for abuse, right? Wrong. Teams led by Daniel Lassiter have found that when the camera is focused on the suspect instead of both the suspect and the interrogator, people are more likely to view the confession as voluntary rather than coerced (the video the viewers saw was based on the transcript of an actual false confession). Even when a judge warns jurors of the potential for bias due to camera perspective, the bias still occurs...[Moreover, t]he study found that judges and law enforcement officers considered the suspect-focus version of the confession to be more voluntary than the equal-focus and detective-focus versions...Lassiter recommends a side-view or even a detective-view perspective to eliminate this bias." More (Cognitive Daily 03.15.2007). Comment. The Minnesota Supreme Court, as well constituted in 1994 -- see, State v. Scales, 518 N.W.2d 587 (1994) -- was a pioneer in requiring the use of electronic recording of police-conducted interrogations, both in the field and at the stationhouse. My detailed analysis of the caselaw continues to receive good play not only around the country but around the world. I continue to urge courts and/or legislatures around the country to follow the Minnesota example, with the modification suggested in my analysis. There is no good excuse for not doing so.
Judge appoints lawyers for people allegedly fired for grand jury service. "In an unprecedented action Wednesday, Chicago's chief federal judge[, James Holderman,] appointed lawyers for two grand jurors who contend they were fired unfairly from their jobs because they fulfilled their civic responsibilities. Both employers denied the firings had anything to do with the employees' grand jury service...." More (Chicago Tribune 03.15.2007).
The judge, his pregnant wife...and his married lover. "As a judge and highly successful barrister, C------ J----- M------- M----- QC is used to dealing with deceit on a criminal level. During the complex fraud trials in which he specialises, his brilliant legal mind cuts through the elaborate web of lies woven by many of those he encounters in court. Privately, however, the 54-year-old married father of seven used his intellectual agility to commit deception on a monstrous scale. Last year, having lied to his family and friends, he abandoned his pregnant wife to set up home with his married former college sweetheart." More (Daily Mail 03.15.2007). Comment. I guess I don't see why this, even if true (which we don't know), made the news in the UK.
Judge as hero of TV's '24'? "What if there was an outbreak of avian flu in Pennsylvania and public health officials had to institute quarantines to stop the spread of the deadly disease? How would the state's courts respond if someone resisted or challenged a quarantine in court, particularly since no Pennsylvania case law, statute or court ruling has ever established specifically who can petition a court to institute a quarantine or what procedures to follow to do so?...To give judges and their legal staff some guidance...in a public health emergency, the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Public Health Preparedness (UPCPHP), in conjunction with the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC), today released a report titled Pennsylvania Public Health Law Bench Book...." More (Spirit India 03.15.2007).
When a judge goes ill -- court rule needed? "The Michigan Supreme Court is seeking public comment on a proposed court rule that would require judges who miss more than 12 weeks of work for medical reasons to provide a doctor's excuse. Supreme Court spokeswoman Marcia McBrien said the proposal was suggested by trial court chief judges who said 'they wanted another management tool if they have to deal with malingering judges on their benches,' not because of any specific cases of judicial absenteeism...." More (Detroit Free Press 03.15.2007).
Chief Justice warns of 'campaign' against legal system. "Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch said Wednesday that a campaign was being waged against the public's faith in the legal system. 'It's become a trend of sorts, wherein every judge is a suspect,' complained Beinisch, 'there is an ongoing campaign being waged against the public's faith in the system and I don't know who is leading this campaign.'" More (YNetNews 03.15.2007). Comment. "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" is an essay by the American historian Richard J. Hofstadter, first published in Harper's magazine in November 1964. Written at a time when Senator Barry Goldwater had won the Republican Presidential nomination over the more moderate Nelson A. Rockefeller, Hofstadter's article explores the influence of conspiracy theory and "movements of suspicious discontent" throughout American history. More (Wikipedia). Of course, we'd never accuse a specific public figure of using "the paranoid style," much less of being actually paranoid in any clinical sense.
Egypt appoints 31 women judges. "Egypt has approved the appointment of 31 female judges for the position of judge or chief justice...In a statement released to the press, Supreme Judicial Council Chairman Mokbel Shaker said that the 31 women were chosen according to their marks in written and oral examinations organized by the council...Egypt joins Sudan, Tunisia and Morocco as the only Arab nations to appoint women to the judiciary...." More (All Headline News 03.15.2007).
China's sort of Congress. "The annual session of China's National People's Congress...is not quite the ritual of absolute fealty it used to be. Reporters get to chase delegates in the hallways, and insiders say there have been some lively debates in the closed sessions. Still, the two-week gathering of 2,980 carefully vetted delegates remain[s] largely a choreographed show to put the stamp of legality on decisions already made...If the Communist leaders are willing to put aside ideology to continue their remarkable economic boom, why not take another essential step and make the congress a real legislature that listens to the unmuzzled views of real people? And follow that up with an independent -- and uncorrupted -- judiciary...." More (NYT - Editorial 03.15.2007). Further reading. We in America are not above using choreography to create the appearance of open-minded investigation. See, my mini-essay, Those 'blue-ribbon commissions' and 'task forces.' See, also, my comments at my political opinion blog on Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Norm Coleman, Tim Pawlenty and the choreography of American electoral politics.
Conference recommends change to secret dockets. "The U.S. Judicial Conference is urging all federal trial courts to change their electronic docketing systems so that [sealed off-the-docket] cases that were falsely labeled 'No such case' are acknowledged [as being actual cases that have been sealed]...The Judicial Conference's move follows the uncovering of thousands of cases that proceeded through the federal courts completely shrouded in secrecy...Keeping cases off the docket differs from sealing them. Sealed cases are assigned case numbers that appear on the docket. The only way to determine the existence of off-the-docket cases is to scroll through public dockets searching for missing case numbers. That means the public has no way of knowing the cases exist -- and has no way of challenging the secrecy...." More (RCFP.Org 03.13.2007).
Ex-judge to be jailed in section for 'vulnerable' people. "Former Judge Patrick Vella yesterday expressed remorse for his actions soon after he pleaded guilty to accepting a Lm10,000 bribe to reduce a drug trafficker's jail term by four years. The former judge was jailed for two years after Mr Justice Giannino Caruana Demajo, presiding over the trial, ruled that his actions 'dealt a harsh blow' to the trust the public had in the judicial system...Sources said Dr Vella will he kept in a prison section for 'vulnerable' people...." More (Times of Malta 03.14.2007).
Judges reflect on 'medical emergency' at courthouse. "Lawrence County Judge J. Craig Cox called it 'quite an adventure'...Cox and attorney William Panella were in a hallway outside courtroom number 2, talking about procedural issues for a case, when Panella said, 'My chest is hurting'...When Cox asked if he should call an ambulance, and Panella said, 'I don't know,' the judge knew that meant yes...The [fire] department sent three firemen and Cox noted he was 'really impressed with them' as they gave Panella oxygen, took his blood pressure and gathered his medical history...." More (New Castle News 03.14.2007).
Pressure wash clears pigeon droppings at courthouse. "Some of the evidence of the Columbiana County Courthouse pigeon problem washed away over the weekend, giving the historical structure a new shine. The commissioners paid the Weavertown Environmental Group $4,800 to power wash the exterior of the building which had become covered with unsightly pigeon droppings. Commissioner Dan Bing said the cleanup work was completed during the weekend. 'There was a lot of buildup over the years, over a foot deep in some places,' he said." Over the years commissioners have tried a number of means to keep the pigeons away: noise-emitting machines; hanging shiny compact discs from strings; more recently, trapping the pigeons and releasing them elsewhere. More (Salem News 03.14.2007).
Judicial system of Finland. Curious about it? Click here and here.
Ex-judge is arrested for pushing girlfriend. "A former Cook County judge, [Oliver Spurlock, 62,] who was ousted from the bench in 2001 on sexual misconduct charges, was arrested Sunday after authorities said he pushed a girlfriend who was moving out of his home." The charge? Misdemeanor domestic battery and failure to have a valid firearm owner's identification card. More (Chicago Tribune 03.13.2007).
Immigration judge is relieved of duties and reassigned to desk job. "An immigration judge in New York[, Jeffrey S. Chase,] who has been repeatedly rebuked by federal appeals judges for his hostile questioning of asylum-seekers[,] was relieved of courtroom duties yesterday and reassigned to a desk job, lawyers and a union official said...A spokesman for the Justice Department...said that 11 of the nation's roughly 215 immigration judges had been temporarily suspended from courtroom duties since June...[but that s]ome have since returned to the bench...." More (NYT 03.13.2007).
Annals of life after judging: retired judge to run for mayor. "A week into retirement after a 20-year run as a Yonkers City Court judge, Democrat Arthur Doran Jr. is expected to announce his candidacy for mayor tomorrow at the Polish Community Center...." More (The Journal News 03.13.2007).
Annals of judicial delays. "Perhaps, the issues are too complex for the judge. He certainly can't claim he hasn't had enough time to write an opinion. It is approaching four years since a jury in July 2003 returned a verdict of $2.5 million against East Haven in the death of Malik Jones. Immediately after the verdict, East Haven's attorney asked that it be set aside, citing Supreme Court precedents. U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson still hasn't ruled on the motion to set aside. His office said recently, as it has every year since, that the judge 'is working on it.'" More (New Haven Register 03.12.2007).
Judge running for SCOWIS owns stock in companies whose cases she heard. "Washington County Circuit judge Annette Ziegler presided over 22 cases involving companies in which she owned at least $50,000 worth of stock, an analysis of court records found. In her 10 years as a circuit judge, she also handled 12 lawsuits involving companies in which she owned between $5,000 and $50,000 in stock...Ziegler recently withdrew from a case involving Wal-Mart after critics noted that she owned at least $100,000 worth of stock in the retail giant...Ziegler drew 57 percent of the vote in a three-way Feb. 20 primary for a seat on the state's high court. She is considered more conservative than Madison attorney Linda Clifford, whom Ziegler will face in the April 3 general election...." More and more (Winona Daily News - info from Wisconsin State Journal via 03.12.2007). Earlier. "Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Annette Ziegler failed to disclose a conflict of interest in at least four cases over which she presided as a circuit judge in the past year, interviews and court documents indicate...All four cases in 2006 involved people sued by West Bend Savings Bank, where Ziegler's husband, J.J. Ziegler, is a paid member of the board of directors. The defendants said the Washington County Circuit judge did not withdraw from the cases -- nor did she disclose her conflict -- as required by Supreme Court rules governing the conduct of judges in Wisconsin...." More (Wisconsin State Journal 03.04.2007).
Judge is arrested for allegedly shooting hubby. "[A] Floyd County justice of the peace has been arrested for allegedly shooting her husband Romeo Araujo. Judge Michelle Araujo now faces aggravated assault charges but has since bonded out of jail on a $25,000 bond...." More (KCBD 03.11.2007).
Women to judge wine in national competition. "Women buy a lot of the wine purchased in the United States, and they make quite a bit of it, too. But it's mostly male critics who proclaim what's prime and what's plonk. Enter the National Women's Wine Competition being held this month in Northern California. The event, judged entirely by women, boldly sports the slogan 'Wine Women Want.'" More (Fayetteville Observer 03.11.2007). Comment. And the top overall picks are (surprise, surprise) a rosé and a chablis.
Judge who sentenced Saddam seeks asylum. "The Iraqi judge who sent Saddam Hussein to the gallows has fled to Britain in fear of his life...[and] has applied for political asylum...." More (Sunday Mirror UK 03.11.2007). Update. Some in Iraq are denying the accuracy of this report.
Judge jails court reporter over delay in delivering transcript. "A stenographer who failed to deliver a transcript needed for an appeal was sentenced to jail for contempt of court. Circuit Judge Charles Greene said Friday he will release stenographer Ann Margaret Smith, 44, as soon as she completes the transcript...." More (Orlando Sentinel 03.11.2007). Comment. Now if we can figure out how to light a fire under appellate judges who "sit" on cases on which they're sitting and trial judges who don't know the meaning of "prolific" or "prompt." Update. "Greene [on Monday] told Smith that he thinks he got her attention with her weekend stint in jail and decided to put a GPS bracelet on her ankle and has ordered her to work from 8:30 a.m. to well into each night with hopes that the transcript will be done this week." More (NBC6 03.13.2007).
Minnesota journalists petition for cameras in courts. "[A] coalition of media groups is...asking the [Minnesota] Supreme Court to revise rules that effectively make Minnesota one of a handful of states that still keep cameras out of trial courts. The groups plan to file their petition Monday to coincide with Sunshine Week, a nationwide effort by journalists to foster open records and freedom of information. 'It is a basic issue of the public's right to know,' said Mark Anfinson, an attorney for the media groups. 'Minnesota is generally a progressive state. Why are we bringing up the rear on this kind of thing?'" More (Pioneer-Press 03.11.2007). Comment. I say, Let the sun shine in. In other ways, too. See, among my many postings, Letting the sun shine in (on The Punchclock Campaign); my 2000 essay, BurtLaw on Judicial Independence and Accountability, in which I advocated my own version of "Internet transparency" on the part of judges; and "Sunshine and fresh air as judicial disinfectants" and "Let the sun shine in" at BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else - Court Gazing V (scroll down). A Google search found these prior entries on "sunshine" for judges at BurtLaw coordinated sites. Disclosure. Mark Anfinson, quoted supra, is a distant cousin of mine -- among his direct ancestors are two of my great-great-grandparents, Rasmus and Guri Hanson, who rest in rarely-visited tombs in Six Mile Grove Lutheran Cemetery, six miles southwest of my hometown.
Judges get ears full during town hall meeting. "A panel of D.C. judges yesterday fielded...a flurry of complaints from residents in Northeast at a morning forum on how to improve the city's judicial system...Annette Cherry, a Ward 7 resident...complained of poor treatment from courthouse officials. 'I'm not rich; I'm not middle class,' she said. 'I'm a retired grandmother...When they greet you when you walk through the door as if you've done something wrong by asking them a question, I really resent that'...The judges said they were taken aback by residents' perception of unfair treatment in city courts...." More (Washington Times 03.11.2007). Comment. Eighty percent of those in attendance said they believed there is unequal treatment of minority groups. I give the participants credit for speaking their minds and the judges credit for listening and, hopefully, learning.
Judge is arrested for allegedly abetting wife's suicide. "Jetpur Judicial Magistrate was arrested on Friday night for abetting wife's suicide and was sent to Rajkot Central Jail. Nitish Kumar Thakkar was produced in the court of a first class judicial magistrate and was then remanded in judicial custody, said Jetpur DySP and investigating officer K K Maisurvala. The judicial magistrate faces charges of causing mental and physical harassment to his wife, Archana, over dowry which provoked her to end her life...." More (Express India 03.11.2007). Earlier. See, Judge, family members booked and awaiting charges in his wife's death.
Legislature considers paying justice's $340,000 in legal fees. "The Legislature is considering two bills that would erase a $340,000 legal debt owed by Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht. Hecht incurred the debt when he challenged an ethics rebuke that stemmed from his support of friend Harriet Miers' 2005 nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court...." More (Austin American-Statesman 03.11.2007). Comment. Just a crazy question: Ought it cost $340,000 to get the rather easy free-speech issue in the misguided disciplinary proceeding against Justice Hecht decided correctly/promptly? What in hell is wrong with a system in which it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees and other costs to decide a simple legal issue clearly governed by SCOTUS precedent?
Talent scouts hunting for latest TV judge are looking in local courtrooms. "The casting producer came to Houston looking for a feisty, in-your-face judge -- the sort who could dominate a courtroom and make a smug defendant cower for the TV cameras...[Sherman] Ross, a Harris County criminal court judge, and [Jim] Wallace, a state district judge, were interviewed Friday and recorded during routine court proceedings as part of a nationwide search for yet another fiery TV jurist. Karen Gruber, of production company Endemol USA, said she's looking for a powerful, commanding, 'scares you, but in a good way,' judge for a possible primetime show, with higher stakes than her previous projects, Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown. 'Quiet, passionate people don't make it in TV,' Gruber said. 'They have to be mouthy. They have to have a large personality.'...The search is continuing...and recommendations can be submitted to www.tvjudgesearch.com." More (Houston Chronicle 03.11.2007). Comment. At this very moment, just after reading this, Judge Hans Anders Pederson-Johnson, the under-appreciated (by his wife, colleagues, law clerks and litigants) MN jurist, is sitting at his desk in chambers, standard-issue mahogony-finish credenza behind him, staring out on a sunny March day, fantasizing about lots of things, including the possibility that if he just tweaked his courtroom manner a bit he, yes he, might become a star TV judge and earn millions a year rather than the paltry, poverty-level $100,000+ he now makes -- if only, if only one of those scouts would stop by his courtroom on a Monday morning during the cattle call.
King appoints top judges. "His Majesty King Mswati III has appointed two judges of the High Court, Qinisile Mabuza and Mbutfo Mamba on permanent basis as per the dictates of the Constitution, with immediate effect. Justice Nkosinathi Nkonyane has also been appointed permanent judge of the Industrial Court. The judges have been idle for a month after their three month contracts expired at the beginning of February this year...." More (The Weekend Observer 03.11.2007). Comment. At this very moment, just after reading this, Judge Hans Anders Pederson-Johnson, the under-appreciated (by his wife, colleagues, law clerks and litigants) MN jurist, is sitting at his desk in chambers, standard-issue mahogony-finish credenza behind him, staring out on a sunny March day, fantasizing about lots of things, in addition to the possibility that if he just tweaked his courtroom manner a bit he, yes he, might become a star TV judge (see here) -- fantasizing, specifically, about the possibility that some commission on judicial selection and tenure might be constituted that would produce a superficially-objective "study" that would recommend a constitutional amendment giving "the king" (the governor) power to appoint judges who thereafter wouldn't have to fear that some renegade lawyers -- the kind who don't work for big corporate law firms, don't belong to five different bar association committees, don't have any connections with the bigwigs in either the Republican or Democratic party -- might run against them in the next election. Then, or so Hans Anders fantasized, with "Missouri-Plan tenure," he could be truly independent (of everyone, especially hoi polloi voters) and wouldn't have to daydream foolishly about becoming the next TV judge.
Judge feared defendant might try to 'nobble' the jury. "The Supreme Court judge hearing Tony Mokbel's 2006 cocaine trial believed there was a risk Mokbel might try to nobble the jury. Justice Bill Gillard was so concerned about the risk that he ordered potential and selected jurors be identified by number rather than name...." More (Melbourne Herald-Sun 03.11.2007). Comment. I figured out the meaning of "nobble" from the context without having heard it before. Its synonyms include: "victimize, swindle, rook, goldbrick,...diddle, bunco, defraud, scam, mulct, gyp, gip, hornswoggle, short-change, con (deprive of by deceit)." More (WordNet).
England's top judge again challenges sentences as unduly harsh. "England's top judge has renewed his call for shorter prison sentences, saying that murderers are being jailed for too long. Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips said in a speech at the University of Birmingham on Thursday that mandatory life sentences for murderers meant prisons risked becoming 'full of geriatric lifers' and suggested they were compounding the prisons overcrowding crisis. He echoed comments he made last year when he compared the 30-year jail terms meted out to murderers now to the 'utterly barbaric' practices of the flogging, branding and the stocks used to punish criminals in the 18th century...." More (Guardian UK 03.09.2007). Politicians, victim advocates denounce Lord Phillips' remarks. More (icSouthLondonPress 03.09.2007). Update. "I expect exaggerated, misleading and sometimes deliberately false responses to just about any comment the lord chief justice makes about sentencing policy. Successive home secretaries and certain newspapers can be relied on to react in Pavlovian fashion. But I was disappointed to see Downing Street joining in the mindless attacks." More (Guardian - Opinion of Marcel Berlins 03.12.2007). Earlier. See, my extensive comments in support of Lord Phillips' views at Top judge says 5-year-term is a 'very weighty punishment.' Text of speech: Crime and Punishment (PDF).
Pakistan's top judge is suspended. "Pakistan's top judge, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, has been suspended by President Pervez Musharraf for 'misuse of authority.' The president has asked the Supreme Judicial Council, which oversees the judiciary, to investigate the charges. As the main judge in the Supreme Court, Mr Chaudhry had a reputation for taking a firm line against government misdemeanours and human rights abuses...The details of Mr Chaudhry's alleged offences are not yet clear...." More (BBC 03.09.2007). Update. "Lawyers boycotted court proceedings, clashed with riot police, and burned an image of Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf Monday in a countrywide protest against the ouster of the country's top judge. The country's main opposition party also decried the removal of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, in a high-profile test of judicial independence in military-dominated Pakistan." More (Houston Chronicle 03.12.2007). Update. "A judge [Saeed Khursheed Ahmed, a magistrate in the central city of Bahawalpur] has resigned to protest the maltreatment of Pakistan's ousted chief justice, whom police allegedly roughed up as he went to face charges that he abused his authority, a court official said Thursday." More (Brandon Sun 03.15.2007).
Listening to everything at the courts. "The Delaware County Court...is streamlining its recording system for all proceedings with a brand new, state-of-the-art, $800,000 digital system that will replace the bulky, old taping devices that have been in existence since 1984...A court reporter is on hand if needed, but every word uttered by lawyers, judges and witnesses is recorded exactly as said in the courtroom through the recording system...[T]he new system will make it far easier for lawyers and others to retrieve and replay testimony...Just by clicking a key tag word, the matter can be found and played...." More (Delco Times 03.09.2007).
Top court removes judge from yet another case for lack of fairness. "For the third time in as many years, the state Supreme Court has removed Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green from a case, citing her lack of fairness...The court, without comment, removed Green from hearing Jackson Mayor Frank Melton's case on Thursday, vacating her order to jail him for alleged probation violations...The 400-member Magnolia Bar Association is supporting Green, saying she has been treated unfairly by the high court." More (Hattiesburg American 03.09.2007).
Bush's federal prosecutors pursue mainly Democrats (and Democrat judges). Paul Krugman of the NYT has an interesting column on federal prosecution of state political officeholders that corroborates an observation I've made on a number of occasions in recent years in regard to federal prosecutions of state judges for corruption -- the Republican prosecutors have been going after more Democrats than Republicans:
Donald Shields and John Cragan, two professors of communication, have compiled a database of investigations and/or indictments...Of the 375 cases they identified, 10 involved independents, 67 involved Republicans, and 298 involved Democrats. The main source of this partisan tilt was a huge disparity in investigations of local politicians, in which Democrats were seven times as likely as Republicans to face Justice Department scrutiny....
More (NYT 03.09.2007). Comment. The authors of the report are quoted suggesting that the national press has missed the story because "local (non-statewide and non-Congressional) investigations occur under the radar of [the] national press" with "[e]ach instance [being] treated by a local beat reporter as an isolated case that is only of local interest." Here's what we at the international headquarters of The Daily Judge have been saying for a long time:
There've been a number of federal prosecutions of state judges recently for bribery, etc., & in almost all of them the feds use legal fictions to obtain jurisdiction. One fiction involves relying on federal grants given to the court systems in which the judges work. Another is the one in this case -- using the mails in commiting fraud. When I was in high school I argued in a debate before the local PTA that federal aid to secondary school education would lead to federal control. As a junior GOP-Man I was, of course, just mouthing the political platitudes of the GOP party. But it turns out I was right, as evinced by the GOP's "No Child Left Behind" initiative (which pulls off the slick trick of accomplishing federal control without much or any aid). And now, it seems, federal aid to state courts = federal criminalization of judicial conduct that the states traditionally have been thought (by Republicans, at least) able to regulate. Can it be fairly said that Republicans -- & I am one, though of the liberal Eisenhower-Rockefeller variety -- believe in states' rights? Or do they feel they have a "roving commission," to use Justice Cardozo's phrase, to clean up state and local government? But wait! I think the states where all or most of these investigations/prosecutions have occurred are historically Democratic, on the local level, at least. Hmmm. What's the great principle -- that it all depends on whose ox is being gored?
Obituary. James Randal Ross, 80, judge was great-grandson of Jesse James. "Retired Orange County Superior Court Judge James Randal Ross, the great-grandson of Western outlaw Jesse James who was once criticized for selling copies of [I, Jesse James,] a  book he wrote about his notorious ancestor from his chambers, has died. He was 80...." More (LAT 03.09.2007).
Boston federal court's new diversity plan for juries. "Under the new plan instituted March 1, when a jury summons is returned as undeliverable, the court will randomly send another summons to another resident in the same zip code. The court will also update its jury mailing list twice a year, instead of once, to cut down on the number of summonses that go to people who have moved...The revisions followed a study ordered by US District Judge Nancy Gertner in 2005 , which found that wealthier towns with fewer members of minority groups do a better job of keeping accurate residency lists than more diverse cities, including Boston. As a result, she found that a higher percentage of jury summonses sent to minorities come back as undeliverable or go unanswered...." More (Boston Globe 03.09.2007). Earlier. See, my extended comments at Thinking about mostly-white jury pools on a snowy white day in MN. And see, Battle wages on Boston fed judge's plan to up minority jurors.
Top judge says middle class can't afford justice. "Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin...said in a text prepared for delivery to a Toronto audience [that] 'The Canadian legal system is sometimes said to be open to two groups -- the wealthy and corporations at one end of the spectrum, and those charged with serious crimes at the other.' The first group has money, and the second legal aid. She added a third group, families who can get legal aid when the welfare of children is at stake. But that still leaves average Canadians outside the system, McLachlin said. 'Their options are grim: use up the family assets in litigation, become their own lawyers, or give up.'" More (CBC 03.09.2007).
Ethics panel rules on judges hearing cases by lawyer-legislators. "A state ethics panel has ruled that judges should not decline to hear cases in which the lawyers are legislators just because the Legislature has declined to raise their salaries. Some judges who are suing the Legislature for pay raises insisted that they were ethically bound to withdraw from those cases, and said the panel's decision would not change their minds. But some legislators and fellow judges have described their refusal as a retaliatory tactic that was likely to backfire...." More (NYT 03.09.2007).
Conclusion: 'Equality Courts' are ineffective. "Untrained court officials, reluctant magistrates and lack of public awareness have rendered [South Africa's] Equality Courts ineffective, the Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of Chapter 9 institutions heard on Friday...The courts, which were supposed to be assisting people who have suffered unfair discrimination, hate speak or harassment to bring their case to court easier and faster, were established by the justice department three years ago...[D]espite having been in existence for three years, some of the courts had only managed to hear two cases...." More (iAfrica 03.09.2007).
Leading judge denies charges of indecent exposure. "One of Britain's most senior judges pleaded not guilty yesterday to two counts of exposure. Welshman Lord Justice [Stephen] Richards, who sits in the Court of Appeal, appeared at City of Westminster Magistrates' in central London to answer charges relating to two alleged incidents on trains in south-west London in October last year...." More (ic Wales 03.09.2007).
Michigan's feuding justices -- WWF (working while fighting). "With the reputation of Michigan's highest court sinking fast, a simmering dispute among its justices boiled over Wednesday in ugly insinuations, sarcasm, and even lyrics from a Broadway tune...Justice Betty Weaver...and Justices Maura Corrigan and Robert Young exchanged sharp comments in the court's opinion in a routine court action released Wednesday. Weaver criticized what she described as the court's 'helter-skelter approach' regarding when and how justices excuse themselves from cases in which they have potential conflicts of interest. Maura Corrigan, who had withdrawn from the case, wrote: 'Betty, can't we stop wasting the taxpayers' money on this frolic and detour? Or are you determined to continue these theatrics?'" More (Detroit News 03.08.2007). Comment. The lyrics Corrigan quoted were from the musical comedy A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which I saw performed at Radcliffe College (since merged with Harvard) back in the mid-1960's, when I was attending Harvard Law School. I find myself siding with Justice Weaver in this delightful ongoing feud, reported in stories to which I've enjoyed linking.
Judicial intervention in dropping case in re judge caught with stolen laptop? "Three days before the story broke that a former Denver judge had been caught in possession of a stolen state laptop computer, a top Colorado judicial department official asked Denver police to drop the case...Citing that request, a deputy Denver district attorney the next day officially declined to file charges against former Judge Larry Manzanares, who was then Denver's city attorney. She was quickly overruled by top DA brass, who on the same day decided to turn the case over to a special prosecutor because of the conflict of interest with the Denver DA's office. The Jefferson County district attorney is now handling the case and will decide whether Manzanares will be charged...." According to the report, a state court administrator reported the $1,579 laptop as missing on 01.26.2007 from the Denver City and County Building. On 01.31 an electronic monitoring center received notice via theft detection software installed in the laptop that it was logged on to the Internet via a specific internet protocol address. A judge on 02.07 issued a search warrant allowing police access to the ISP's subscriber records to identify the subscriber. On 02.20 the legal counsel for the state court administrator's office asked police not to prosecute. The next day a deputy DA dropped the case. That decision was reversed by superiors when they learned that Manzanares, the former judge, was the suspect. On 02.23 the story hit the airwaves and the mayor put Manzanares on leave. He resigned on 02.27. More (Rocky Mountain News 03.08.2007). But see, Court officials say ex-judge got no special treatment (Denver Post 03.09.2007).
Superhero, Captain America, is killed on courthouse steps! "Captain America is dead. The Marvel Entertainment superhero, created in 1941 as a patriotic adversary for the Nazis, is killed off in Captain America #25, which hits the stands today. As Captain America emerges from a courthouse building, he is struck by a sniper's bullet in the shoulder and then hit again in the stomach, blood seeping out of his star-spangled costume. His death is sure to ignite controversy in the comic book world -- still reeling from Superman's death in 1993 and resurrection the following year -- and even political pundits, who may see Captain America's demise as an allegory for the United States...." More (NY Daily News 03.07.2007). Comment. When will we see his likes again? Without Captain America around, how will courts remain independent?
OK judge puts end to daily wedding docket. "The decision, handed down by presiding Judge Vicki Robertson, set Friday as the final day that brides and bridegrooms to be can go before an assigned judge to take their vows [in Oklahoma County, which] was the last in the state to offer a daily wedding docket...." More (Playfuls 03.07.2007). Comment. No more Captain America. No daily wedding docket. What is happening to this once great country?
Farmers market to move to Courthouse Square. "Two weeks after the Stroudsburg farmers market announced it would be expanding to East Stroudsburg, it's got a new location in its original borough. Stroudsburg Borough Council approved the farmers market, held every summer Saturday on the 900 block of Main Street, to move to Courthouse Square starting this summer...." More (Pocono Record 03.08.2007).
Defendant indicted on Women's Day for breaking nose of female judge. "The case of Serhat Öztürk, who broke the nose of a female judge, [Insaf Gündüz,] has been opened on Women's Day...." More (Sabah - Turkey 03.08.2007). Comment. All of us here at the International Headquarters of BurtLaw's The Daily Judge strongly condemn the intentional breaking of noses not only of female judges but of all judges.
Critic calls governor's new 'bipartisan' judicial appointments panel a 'farce.' "Saying he wanted to appoint qualified candidates, Gov. Ted Strickland implemented a process he said would take politics out of appointing new judges... But Joe Deters, the Republican prosecutor and former head of the Hamilton County Republican Party, calls it a farce. 'Strickland won the governor's race and he deserves to appoint his party to judgeships but the charade of this being a fair and open process is just that. A charade,' Deters said...." More (Cincinnati Enquirer 03.07.2007).
Special judge off bench amid state probe. "Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb on Friday removed retired Circuit Court Judge Bobby Aderholt from a special judgeship in Winston and Marion counties amid a state investigation. Aderholt said Monday he believes the attorney general's office probe was triggered by a rumor that his judicial assistant never did any work for the state. He and the assistant said that's not true...For the 30 years he's served as a judge, Aderholt has had his judicial office in space he set aside at his business, Nailfast, a wire manufacturing plant in the Winston County city of Haleyville near the Marion County line...." More (Birmingham News 03.06.2007).
Penis-pumping judge, now in prison, fights to keep pension. "A former Creek County judge convicted of indecent exposure wants to keep his state pension. Donald Thompson has been in prison for the last several months. The former legislator and long-time judge resigned from his position after more than 20 years on the bench. The question now is whether he earned the rights to receive his pension, which would total more than $93,000 a year. Thompson's lawyers will appear at a hearing in Oklahoma City today, to argue that Thompson is entitled to the money...." More (KOTV 03.06.2007).
Waiting in line in cold and rain outside the courthouse. "Marcin Matuzik wasn't wearing a jacket Thursday as he stood in line in front of the Will County Courthouse. The Naperville man had on only a thin white shirt to protect him from the chilly temperatures and intermittent rain. 'This is just ridiculous,' he said. 'I'm used to the Cook County courts, you just walk in and you don't have to wait in line.' Long lines of people waiting to get into the Will County Courthouse are becoming routine...What often happens is courthouse visitors make it through the line to security, and they have to leave the courthouse because they have a camera phone, nail clippers or a pocket knife on them. That means they have to walk a long distance back to their cars and then wait in the line again to get back into court...." More (Herald News 03.06.2007). Comment. Here's a novel idea: make it extremely difficult for people to get into the courthouse. This will a) help deter litigation (Who will sue if it means standing in line?), b) lead to settlements (people who stand in line usually wind up talking to each other, a first step toward agreement), c) increase the number of default judgments (wise judges hoping to keep current need only enter judgment immediately anytime some poor sucker caught in line is late), d) increase revenues (people will pay their traffic tickets by mail rather than contest them in person), e) keep the hoi polloi out (those of us who constitute the hoi polloi can't stand waiting in line or otherwise deferring gratification), and f) make for a safer environment inside the courthouse for the elect few who get in (by converting in-the-courthouse crime to outside-the-courthouse crime).
When top judges become 'Chatty Cathys.' "Back in the 1980s, Justice Harry Blackmun would regularly give a speech at the annual conference for judges and lawyers held by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit -- the appellate court on which Blackmun previously had served. Inevitably, Blackmun would use the occasion to deliver a few pointed criticisms of his more conservative brethren. And just as inevitably, Blackmun's speech would generate headlines and stir up some consternation among his colleagues about his propensity to discuss Court business outside the Court's cloistered confines. For journalists covering the Court at that time, Blackmun's annual address was a rare field day at which a sitting justice would let drop a few candid remarks about the Court's inner dynamics. Public speechifying by Justices -- and mildly indiscreet speechifying at that -- was a rare commodity in those days. Not anymore...." Edward Lazarus, writing in Writ. More (Writ 03.06.2007).
S.C. justices quit country club after free memberships are revealed. "Two Delaware Supreme Court justices canceled their honorary memberships in Wild Quail Country Club last week, days after revelations in The News Journal about the gifts, both judges said Monday. Chief Justice Myron T. Steele and Justice Henry duPont Ridgely had disclosed the gifts -- valued at $2,855 each -- on their annual financial statements last year. The gifts were among dozens mentioned in the newspaper's two-day special report on spending by lobbyists and others on Delaware public officials...The paper also found that...Steele and Ridgely took gifts...from private businesses and trade groups. The gifts are legal under Delaware law...." More (News-Journal 03.06.2007).
New money is printed in Mugabe's Zimbabwe to buy judges new 4x4s. "President Robert Mugabe has moved with speed to pamper Zimbabwe's disgruntled judiciary: the country's 27 judges have each been given new 4x4 twin-cab bakkies, laptops and desktop computers. Their salaries have been hiked from Z$600 000 (about R17 000) to a whopping Z$5-million (R143 000) with immediate effect, exactly a month after Judge President Justice Rita Makarau publicly complained bitterly over low salaries and poor working conditions...The Toyota IMV 4x4 turbo trucks each cost US$63 000..The all-terrain vehicles are in addition to Mercedes sedans, which were officially issued to judges upon their appointment. After five years the judges are allowed to buy the cars at book value. The majority of the judges, cherry-picked by Mugabe from a list of loyalists...are also proud recipients of the choicest farms seized by Mugabe from former white commercial farms under his controversial land reform programme...."
More (Sunday Times - South Africa 03.06.2007). Comment. Our own Chief Justice, John Roberts, surprisingly (and to stinging criticism) recently linked judicial independence to adequate compensation in pleading for a pay increase for federal judges. Bob Mugabe, who runs Zimbabwe, seems to think paying judges handsomely pays off.
Cleaning company employee is caught with hand in district judge's soda fund. "A magistrate caught an alleged thief Friday night when he spotted a cleaning company employee take money from a jar of loose bills inside the judge's office, according to Old Lycoming Township police. District Judge James H. Sortman called officers to his office at...about 6:40 p.m. when he saw the theft take place as he watched from outside through a set of office widows...Sortman said he decided to conduct a stakeout of his own after he and his staff had discovered money missing from the office's soda fund in recent days...." More (Williamsport Sun-Gazette 03.06.2007). Comment. When I first began working for the state, the capitol janitors were government employees, and the supreme court had its own janitor. As part of the general outsourcing trend, the state long ago switched to contracting out the cleaning of state buildings. Although the outside cleaners I got to know were fine, upstanding people, I've always felt, for multiple reasons, that the outsourcing was bad public policy.
Annals of judicial selection: the politics of selecting the selectors. "Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann is seeking to change the composition of the selection panel for new judges, in order to diminish the power of the Supreme Court in the selection process...Following on Friedmann's instructions, Justice Ministry officials in recent days have begun to formulate a government law bill seeking to narrow down the number of Supreme Court justices [on] the panel in selecting new judges for all courts...[According to Friedmann,] 'Supreme Court justices today enjoy an almost unrestricted rule over the appointments at the Supreme Court; quality candidates are being disqualified while lesser candidates enjoy enthusiastic support and get appointed....'" More (Ha'aretz 03.05.2007).
Supreme court justice denies court is dysfunctional. "The man whose nomination as chief justice to the [CT] Supreme Court was derailed last year discounted speculation by state lawmakers Friday that the state's highest court is dysfunctional...The committee is investigating former Chief Justice William Sullivan's decision to delay the release of a court ruling for several weeks last year to help Zarella win legislative confirmation as chief justice...Zarella withdrew his name from consideration once the news of the delayed court decision broke...." More (Stamford Advocate 03.02.2007).
University cancels top court judge's LLB certificate. "Controversial High Court (HC) Judge Faisal Mahmud Faizee did not attend his court yesterday, a day after the Chittagong University (CU) syndicate cancelled his LLB certificate...On Saturday, 70 people including Faizee were stripped of their Bachelor of Laws degrees on charge of tampering with mark sheets and asked to return their certificates immediately...President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) barrister Amir-Ul Islam [said] that Faizee has lost the qualifications mandated by the constitution for continuing as a judge...." More (The Daily Star 03.05.2007).
Judge's bright idea helps rescue vehicles find homes. "Trumbull County Probate Judge Thomas A. Swift said it was a simple idea that came to him while he was jogging one morning in a more rural area of Vienna Township. 'Paramedics were driving very slow down the street, and you could tell they were looking for an address...,' Swift said. Within a month, the judge [with the help of others] up with the LifeLite Project, an effort to reduce the time it takes for emergency vehicles to link up with those in need...[O]ld cell phones are being turned into emergency phones, and blinking porch lights help rescue vehicles find the home where a call is...." More (Tribune-Chronicle - OH 03.05.2007).
Rumsfield's plan for grandiose Guantanamo courthouse is scrapped. "By scrapping a $100 million judicial complex at Guantanamo Bay (call it the Donald Rumsfeld Memorial Courthouse), Defense Secretary Robert Gates has put even more distance between himself and his inscrutable predecessor...During congressional testimony this week, Gates called the earlier plan 'ridiculous.' It's hard to disagree." More (Boston Herald - Editorial 03.05.2007).
Judicial application screening panelist faced obstruction charge in '99. "[Patty Allison Fairweather[, o]ne of the new members of the panel that picks finalists for state judgeships[,] was charged in 1999 with obstructing the police...[She] was appointed to the Judicial Nominating Commission last week by Governor Carcieri. In June 1999, Fairweather was accused of lying to the East Greenwich police investigating her daughter's role in a bomb threat at the former Cole Junior High School. In August 2000, Fairweather entered an Alford plea to the misdemeanor charge...Since then, that record has apparently been expunged...." More (Providence Journal 03.05.2007).
NPR to test smarts of Justice Breyer. "Justice Stephen G. Breyer, in a first for the Supreme Court, plans to follow in the footsteps of Sen. John McCain, Sen. Barack Obama, Weird Al Yankovic, Elmo and many other notables. The justice will be a guest on NPR's 'Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me,' the radio network's humorous weekly news quiz show...The program will air the weekend of March 17...Justice Breyer, apparently a fan of radio quiz shows during his youth, was volunteered for the program by his brother, Charles, also a federal judge...." More (Washington Times 03.05.2007).
Judge enjoys company in basketball courtside seats. "Two of Lawrence's most powerful residents have a friendship that's taken a visible, front-row seat this basketball season. Since the beginning of the men's basketball season, John Lungstrum, chief judge of the U.S. District Court of Kansas, has sat courtside with Kansas University Athletic Director Lew Perkins. The two often can be seen in the background during televised games, Lungstrum wearing his lucky blue KU sweater. 'He's there as my guest,' Perkins said. 'We're friends, and we enjoy talking basketball with each other.'" More (Lawrence Journal-World 03.04.2007).
Obituary. Emil Narick, judge on field and in court, dies at 90. "Retired Senior Commonwealth Judge Emil Narick, a coal miner's son and University of Pittsburgh football star whose common-sense approach to law ended many labor disputes, died yesterday at the age of 90...In the midst of it all, he officiated college football games. 'He was a people's judge,' said state Supreme Court Justice Ralph J. Cappy...He relentlessly maintained his football physique...His last workout was two weeks before his death. His trademark was a handshake that could knock recipients off their feet...[I]n 1993 Mr. Narick became a key witness in a corruption case that led to Justice [Rolf] Larsen's impeachment and removal...." More (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 03.04.2007).
Sir Paul reportedly says to friends that the divorce judge is 'on our side.' "Sir Paul McCartney believes he is on the brink of a sensational victory in his divorce battle with Heather Mills. After two days locked behind closed doors in court 47 at the High Court in London, he told friends: 'The judge is a good guy. He's on our side. We've won every point to date...The judge has got the measure of her. She started shouting and ranting at one point'...A legal source revealed: 'Heather thought everything would be very simple. She was gobsmacked by how Paul countered all her points...." More (Sunday Mirror 03.04.2007).
Women judges are rapped. "Egyptian women must not sit as judges because it would be against Islamic law as they would have to spend time alone with men, a male Egyptian judge [Yahia Ragheb Daqruri] was quoted as saying yesterday...'When a woman works as a judge, her work requires her to be alone in a room with two or more male judges to deliberate...Is this appropriate? A woman judge will also become pregnant at some point, and that will certainly have an impact on the judiciary's prestige and on judges' public image,' he said." More (Gulf Daily News 03.04.2007). Earlier. See, my 2002 piece titled "Should women be allowed to practice law?" at BurtLaw's Law&Women (scroll down).
Report released on gender, ethnic makeup of California courts. "A recently released demographic study of California justices and judges reveals the gender and ethnic makeup of California's Supreme Court, the state Courts of Appeal and trial courts...Overall, women represent 27.1 percent of judges and justices in California, according to the report...Overall, 70.1 percent of judges and justices in California identified themselves as white, 6.3 percent Hispanic, 4.4 percent black, 4.4 percent Asian, 4.4 percent more than one race, and 9.9 percent did not respond...." More (CBS5 03.04.2007). Report.
Judge says don't tell women they were abused while under anesthesia. "A judge in Oregon has ruled that women who were touched inappropriately while unconscious by a predatory anesthesiologist should not be told about it. Circuit Judge Ronald Cinniger in Multnomah County agreed with a grand jury witness who did not want to identify possible victims of Dr. David Burleson. The witness argued that learning of Burleson's actions might scare the women into staying away from medical treatment...." More (Post-Chronicle 03.04.2007).
Judge has clever idea to help Barack Obama in 'Bama. "Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard may have struck upon a novel way for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama to win votes in the Yellowhammer State...Ballard, who is an avid Alabama football fan, said, 'If he adds a 'G' to the beginning of his name it'd be 'Go-bama.' Then he have a chance to pick up 75 percent of the vote in Alabama.'" More (Montgomery Advertiser 03.04.2007).
Annals of judicial transparency: judge is charged with indecent exposure. "One of Britain's top judges has been charged with exposure. Lord Justice [Stephen] Richards, who sits in the Court of Appeal, was arrested...after a complaint from a woman train passenger that a man exposed himself to her. A British Transport Police spokesman said he was charged with two counts of exposure relating to two separate incidents on trains in London last year...." More (Manchester Evening News 03.03.2007). Comment. We presume he's innocent.
Judges go on strike. "Citing gross defiance of the rule of law and persistent infringement on their independence by the executive, Ugandan judges late Friday suspended their services, marking the first strike by the judicial officials in the history of the East African nation...." More (Africa News 03.03.2007).
U.N. weighs in on Maldives' judicial independence. "A U.N. representative has called for speedy reforms in the Maldives' justice system, saying the president's direct control of the judiciary has affected its independence...President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has tightly controlled the Maldives, an archipelago of 1,192 small islets and 300,000 people, since 1978...." More (IHT 03.03.2007).
Judge likes to fish, brew beer, feed the poor. "To get federal Judge David Bunning talking, ask him about the 8-pound steelhead he has mounted on his wall...Fishing is only one thing the judge likes to do when he's not behind the bench. He also brews beer, shoots a little basketball and helps prepare food for the poor. So who is David Bunning, other than a federal judge and a senator's son?...He rarely reads for fun, having to do so much reading for work, but he's currently in the middle of The Purpose Driven Life...." More (Cincinnati Post 03.03.2007). Comment. Sounds like a cliched personals ad on Match.Com: Professional man, likes fishing, brewing beer, feeding the poor, living with a purpose. Chicks dig that. (Just kidding.)
Judge says unity among churches can make difference. "Genesee Circuit Judge Geoffrey L. Neithercut said one church alone can't do what churches together can do to fight such problems as drug addiction, poverty, challenges in schools, street crime, sexual promiscuity and the lost. Members of the Greater Flint Council of Churches got a pep talk this week from the veteran jurist as they celebrated their 78th year of uplifting the community...." More (Flint Journal 03.03.2007).
Following in daddy's and mommy's footsteps.
Son of county will run for city judgeship once held by dad. "The son of Ulster County Judge J. Michael Bruhn says he will seek the Republican nomination to run for city judge this November. Michael Bruhn Jr., 38, will run for the same position his father held from 1982-93. The elder Bruhn became county judge in 1994...." More (Kingston Daily Freeman 03.04.2007).
Son is sworn in as judge on court his mom serves as chief. "A familiar face welcomed Richard AtLee Jr. Friday as he officially took the bench as a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge for the 9th Judicial District. His mother, Isabel AtLee, serves as chief judge of the same court, and helped her son as he was ceremonially 'robed' for the first time...." More (Daily Press - VA 03.03.2007).
Comment. We have nothing against kids of bricklayers, pipefitters, lawyers, doctors, etc., becoming bricklayers, pipefitters, lawyers, doctors, etc.
When it snows, chief custodian 'moves in' to Minnesota Courthouse. "As chief custodian at the Meeker County Courthouse, Larry Jones knows what to do when a winter storm hits. He grabs a flannel blanket and pillow from a storage room and spends the night on the floor in the courthouse...It's a crazy routine he's done, on average, six nights every year during the 31 years he's worked for the county. One winter he spent 17 nights at the courthouse. Since 1976, Jones has spent a total of 186 nights sleeping on the courthouse floor during winter blizzards...." More (West Central Tribune 03.03.2007).
Allegation: judge 'brawled in street after running off with my wife.' "A twice-married judge accused of having an affair with a friend's wife was branded a family wrecker last night. [Art dealer] Patrick Kennaugh called Charles Miskin, QC a 'complete cad' for allegedly running off with his...heiress wife Catharine. The pair also brawled in the street over her affections, according to Mr Kennaugh...Last summer Mr Kennaugh...took her to St Tropez in an attempt to repair their 25-year marriage. But he claims that the judge followed them to the south of France and carried on his affair with Mrs Kennaugh at another hotel...." More (UK Telegraph 03.03.2007). Note. The Sun "broke" this story. Judge Miskin sought an injunction barring publication, claiming the story was not in the public interest but he "caved in...before a hearing resumed at the High Court in London." See, Judge is called 'love rat' and 'pig in a wig' (The Sun - UK 03.02.2007). Comment. We know nothing about the validity of the allegations. All we will say is, "Hey, judges are human and we ought not expect them to be better than the rest of us."
The running judge. "Jim Smith took up running in 1971, shortly after becoming an Orange County Superior Court judge. Smith stepped down from the bench in 1997. But he hasn't stopped running. The 69-year-old Orange resident has completed all 21 annual Los Angeles Marathons, making him what race organizers call an L.A. Marathon Legacy Runner...Smith's running career began when a marshal invited the rookie judge to go for a jog. Lunchtime jogs, sometimes as long as 10 miles through the neighborhood surrounding the Santa Ana courthouse, were a ritual for Smith and colleagues...." More (OC Register 03.03.2007). Comment. The consensus position of the staff at The Daily Judge is that judges are free to run over the lunch hour as long as they wear their robes, so that they may mete out emergency justice along the way if the need arises. Like the proverbial nuns who wear their outfits even when showering, judges should wear their robes when showering after running over the lunch hour.
Courthouse cafe faces hard times. "A homemade aroma is attracting people to the basement of the Buchanan County courthouse, but the owner of the Courthouse Cafe said the aroma isn't enough to keep business going...Etta has owned the courthouse cafe for eight months. She has a five year lease but she`s not sure if she'll stay. It all is depending on business." More (KQTV - MO 03.03.2007).
Woman threatens gender discrimination lawsuit over judgeship. "An Oregon City lawyer is threatening to sue the City of Beaverton, alleging she, rather than a less-experienced man, should have been hired as a municipal judge...." More (KOIN 03.03.07).
The luxurious life of judges (as paid for by the taxpayer). "The palatial lodgings of the high-ranking judiciary are costing the taxpayer £5m a year despite a hard-hitting economy drive that recommended judges give up their butlers and luxury cars...A league table of Victorian gothic manor houses and other ancient buildings used to accommodate high court judges when they are hearing cases away from London reveals that the upkeep of some of the buildings has risen by more than a third in five years...[For example,] the cost per night for a judge to stay in the luxury lodgings in Chelmsford is £2,316, an increase of nearly £800 since Lord Irvine of Lairg ordered a clampdown on judges' accommodation expenses in 2001...." -- From a long, detailed story. More (The Independent - UK 03.02.2007).
The jury-replacing truth-and-lie detector. "Its inventor called it the cardio-pneumo-psychograph. To a clutch of coeds in Berkeley, Calif., in 1921, it was a newfangled magic box that was somehow going to look into their minds and find out who was pilfering cash and jewelry at their college boardinghouse. To the newspaper-reading public and future generations, it was the lie detector, a contraption with dubious scientific credentials, a shady ethical aura and, as it turned out, amazing longevity...." From a review by William Grimes of Ken Alder's book, The Lie Detectors - The History of an American Obsession. More (NYT 03.02.2007).
State supreme court suspends probate judge. "The state's highest court publicly censured a York County probate judge on Thursday and suspended him for 30 days for violating the Maine Code of Judicial Conduct. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court said Robert Nadeau's suspension will be shortened to seven days if he attends a treatment program for depression and participates in a course on judicial ethics. The court ruled in January that Nadeau had violated the Code of Judicial Conduct in connection with a political advertisement published a week before the 2004 primary...." More (Portland Press-Herald 03.02.2007).
Judge upholds firing of detective for taking toilet paper from police station. "An administrative law judge on Wednesday upheld the firing of a former Dallas police detective who had been accused of taking toilet paper and paper towels from her patrol station...[The officer] denied the theft. She also accused her co-workers of colluding to lie about her because she had filed a harassment complaint against another officer...." More (Dallas Morning News 03.02.2007). Comment. Coincidentally, in a soon-to-be-published novel about "judges" by the Swedish-Argentinian-American novelist, Ramon St. Clair Swenson, one of the characters, a judge, is removed from office after she is caught taking rolls of toilet paper from the judges' lavatory. Her world does not end with either a bang or a whimper...but with a few too many ill-advised, totally unnecessary wipes.
Judges say judicial selection panel is stacked. "The Harper government's federally appointed selection committee for Alberta judges is stacked with Conservative supporters and two police officers, a situation that a senior Alberta judge says will undermine the public's trust in the judiciary...." More (Edmonton Journal 03.02.2007). Comment. "They" wouldn't stack a nonpartisan judicial selection panel, would they?
The great nonpartisan 'Missouri Plan.' "The president of Enterprise Rent-A-Car was appointed Wednesday by the governor to a panel that nominates judges to serve on the state's highest courts. Donald Ross, 63, of St. Louis, is [Republican] Gov. Matt Blunt's first appointment to the seven-member Appellate Judicial Commission, a relatively low-profile but powerful body...Until Wednesday, all three appointed members had been picked by previous Democratic governors...Previewing Ross' appointment without mentioning his name, Blunt told a gathering of Republican lawyers several weeks ago that they would be 'very pleased' with his upcoming conservative choice for the panel...." More (Kansas City Star 03.01.2007).
Judge is censured for 'shifting and evasive' testimony. "A Surrogate Court judge should be censured for giving 'shifting and evasive' answers when questioned by investigators about a legal fund set up for a Supreme Court judge tossed from the bench last year, a state panel overseeing judges said Wednesday. The state Commission on Judicial Conduct said Albany County Surrogate Court Judge Cathryn Doyle 'violated her duty to be forthright and cooperative' in 2004 during its investigation of the fund set up for Justice Thomas Spargo...." More (Empire State News 03.01.2007).
Minnesota state judges leave bench for other careers, bigger bucks. "Low pay, stressful conditions and the retirement of many baby boomer judges contributed to a high turnover rate in federal and state judiciaries this year...In Minnesota, state district judges earn about $121,712 on average, while Minnesota Supreme Court associate justices earn an average of $137,601, according to state records...'We don't make that much money,' Minnesota's 4th District Chief Judge Lucy Wieland said. 'As judges are approaching 60 years old, many of them are saying, 'you know, I could make a lot more money if I go off and do something different.'" More (MN Daily 03.01.2007). Comment. Hey, if more money is what motivates you, you oughta move on. There a lots of very, very good lawyers who'd be happy to serve the public interest as judges for that sort of pay, especially given the good working conditions (including regular hours), high status, and great perks (good insurance, good vacation and sick leave, and a super pension plan).
Judge hits politics in choice of marshals. "A federal judge in Boston has blasted the U.S. Marshals Service as a 'second rate' agency because it is headed by a patronage appointee, and called on Congress to 'professionalize' the law enforcement agency. Judge William G. Young , in an unusual addendum to a ruling in an employment discrimination case last week, went out of his way to criticize the way marshals are appointed throughout the country...Traditionally, the marshal's job has gone to a prominent political figure from the same political party of the president in office...Senator Edward M. Kennedy has long advocated for professionalizing the Marshals Service...." More (Boston Globe 03.01.2007). Comment. Bill Young is a fellow member of my graduating class at Harvard Law School. We lived on the same floor of the same dorm (top floor, Story Hall) as One-L's.
Opinion: 'Judges claw like cats to keep cushy retirement program intact.' "The catfight (it's gone way past the point of polite debate) over the so-called 'senior status' judge program has yet another judge out in the state yowling at Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Stengel. Stengel broke the polite silence about this loosely run retirement benefit scam for some of Kentucky's judges, and some of the beneficiaries are furious. The cost of the program has mushroomed to four times its original budget...and it's going to get more expensive. It also has created a perverse incentive for good, healthy judges to retire early...." More (Louisville Courier-Journal - Columnist David Hawpe 02.28.2007).
Woman sends fan note to judge, is committed to mental institution. "A woman in court [on a mischief charge] who wrote a card to a Singapore judge addressing him as 'dearest' and admiring his 'cuteness and sweetness' was sent to a mental institution for three weeks...." More (India ENews 02.28.2007).
Man gets ten years in prison for plotting to blow up courthouse. "A rural Kenyon, Minn., man[, Allan Weatherford, 45,] has been sentenced to the maximum 10 years in federal prison in connection with a plot to blow up the Rice County Courthouse in Faribault...." More (Mpls. Star-Tribune 02.28.2007).
Judge is fined $1,375 for tardy campaign finance report. "A 'disappointed' Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Catherine Brunson was fined $1,375 by the Florida Elections Commission this month for being tardy with a 2006 campaign finance report...Brunson, reelected without opposition last year, was required to file an electronic copy of her final campaign report with the state Division of Elections by Aug. 11. On Aug. 15, she mailed a hard copy to the Division along with a letter saying she had tried unsuccessfully to file the electronic version. She eventually filed the electronic report Sept. 22...." More (Palm Beach Post 02.28.2007). Comment. According to the paper, the rule provides that late filers "accrue $50-a-day fines up to 25 percent of their campaign's total receipts or expenditures" You'd think the commission would waive the fine, given the judge's reasonable good-faith attempt to comply with the filing requirement. But no -- it strictly applied the electronic filing requirement, not even crediting the judge, who was unopposed in the election, with having provided the commission with a hard copy, rather than an electronic copy, when she sent it by slow mail on August 15. The $1,375 fine is 25% of the money the judge placed in her campaign account.
Kenya judges hold 'Judiciary Open Day.' "Seated dressed in red-over-black robes with horse-hair wigs on their heads, Kenya's judges gave a healthy jolt to the country's new democratic culture by sitting in what was dubbed the launch of the first 'Judiciary Open Day'...The judges met with the public under clouds of accusations of corruption and gross delays in court procedures. More (Daily Trust via AllAfrica - Editorial 02.28.2007).
In re a judge's receiving 'special treatment' in DWI case. "The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Wednesday expressed its ire at the 'preferential treatment' extended to Pretoria High Court Judge Nkola Motata on Tuesday...Officials at the Hillbrow magistrate's court had bent over backwards to ensure that Motata's court hearing on charges of drunk driving was shielded from the public...DA spokesperson Sheila Camerer said...." More (Independent - SA 02.28.2007).
A criminal defendant's right to doodle during trial. "Potential jurors in the trial of Jessica Lunsford's accused killer addressed serious questions Monday about the death penalty, but the man in the hot seat didn't even notice. John Couey spent most of the day in court coloring -- as he has for the last two weeks -- after Circuit Judge Ric Howard thwarted attempts by prosecutors to get him to stop." A state's attorney argued that the "coloring" constituted "unsworn, nonverbal testimony" intended to influence jurors who will consider his mental competency in deciding whether to impose the death penalty if they find him guilty. But a public defender noted that jail guards had mentioned in pre-trial testimony that Couey often doodles with colored pencils. Judge Howard agreed with the defense, saying, "It's as troublesome as a cloudy day." More (St. Petersburgh Times 02.27.2007). Comment. The judge is right. It's a no brainer.
Victim's dad, a sheriff's deputy, brings loaded gun to courtroom. "A judge is seeking tighter security after a Grant County sheriff's deputy carried a loaded handgun into a courtroom where a man was charged with killing the deputy's daughter...." More (Indianapolis Star 02.27.2007). Comment. The deputy brought the gun to the hearing at which the defendant pleaded guilty to reckless homicide in killing the deputy's daughter. He could have carried the loaded gun in court if he'd been on duty, but he wasn't. He apparently was unaware he couldn't carry the gun.
Janitor locks self in courthouse cell, is stuck there all weekend. Harold Jones, 32, is a janitor with a private company, Occupations, Inc., that supplies janitorial services to the Dutchess County Courthouse. Friday night he was in a secure meeting room when the door, which can't be opened from the inside, swung shut, and he wound up spending the weekend there "without food, water or access to a restroom." He has a cell phone but it was in a locker outside the room. Jones is quoted saying, "'It was the worst night of my life, those three nights.'" More (Poughkeepsie Journal 02.27.2007).
Pianistic plagiarism and red-faced critics. "It seemed almost too good to be true, and in the end it was. A conscientious pianist who had enjoyed an active if undistinguished career in London falls ill and retreats to a small town. Here she undertakes a project to record virtually the entire standard classical repertoire. Her recordings, CDs made when she was in her late 60s and 70s, are staggering, showing a masterful technique, a preternatural ability to adapt to different styles and a depth of musical insight hardly seen elsewhere...[It now turns out that] the entire Joyce Hatto oeuvre recorded after 1989 appears to be stolen from the CDs of other pianists. It is a scandal unparalleled in the annals of classical music...." From a fascinating op/ed piece by Dennis Dutton, editor of Arts and Letters Daily, one of the premier and earliest weblogs. More (NYT 02.26.2007). Comment. Ever read a number of opinions by a single appellate judge filed over a number of years and noticed that their quality seems to vary from year to year and within a year? It's something that may happen when a judge delegates opinion writing to his law clerks and doesn't edit their drafts and put "his stamp" upon them. Some (most) law clerks -- even (especially?) those with law review experience -- are terrible writers, others are good writers, some few are very good writers. I would not be as troubled if I were sure that all judges themselves read not just the law clerk's memo and draft opinion but the briefs and the entire record and independently researched the caselaw. But I'd still be troubled. So often when a bright, wise, experienced, and fair-minded judge struggles with the writing of an opinion -- working through the issues and "seeing how the opinion writes" -- he discovers that his opinion, on both the result and on what the opinion should say, changes. When one excessively delegates writing opinions to law clerks, one may well stop being fully the judge and, indeed, may violate one's oath.
Cost of senior-status judge program balloons. "When legislators were asked to approve the senior status judge program seven years ago, it was sold as a cost-efficient way to clear growing case backlogs. At a cost of $420,000 a year to taxpayers, a pool of around 25 retired judges would work part time in exchange for an enhanced retirement benefit of several thousand dollars, they were told. Today, there are 45 senior judges, and the Judicial Form Retirement System will pay out at least $1.57 million for the program this year...At least eight senior judges are drawing pension checks that are 100 percent of their final three years' average salary...." More (Lexington Herald-Leader 02.26.2007). Comment. Good reporting by the Herald-Leader.
Tennis courts may become courts of law. "Indoor tennis courts expected to be closed at the Queensbury Racquet Club could be converted to space for criminal and family courts, under the latest idea floated for dealing with space limitations at the Warren County Municipal Center...." More (Glens Falls Post-Star 02.26.2007). Comment. No expensive conversion seems necessary to me. Why not just set up portable tables and chairs during the day, and then when the court is not in session, open the courts to judges and thieir staff for tennis?
John Q. Public speaks to Justice Kennedy's complaint about judicial salaries. "Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy recently complained to Congress that federal judges, who are appointed for life and are paid more than $165,000 a year, are leaving the bench for the better wages and greener pastures of law schools and private law firms. One can almost picture the tears streaming down Kennedy's face as he tells the horror stories of countless judges sitting around in their ratty bathrobes, eating peanut butter sandwiches, clipping coupons by candlelight, and worrying how to make ends meet on only $13,750 a month...." More (Montgomery Advertiser - Letter by Stan Alexander 02.25.2007).
Former chief justice is quizzed by lawmakers over delaying release of decision. "State lawmakers, mostly majority Democrats, prodded and probed William 'Tocco' Sullivan, the former chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, like a dead dog with a stick. It was practically painful to hear Sullivan say 'I'm sorry,' another dozen times above and beyond the protracted mea culpas that highlighted the disciplinary hearings of the Judicial Review Council last year that led to his 15-day suspension...." More (Connecticut Post - Opinion by Ken Dixon 02.24.2007).
Appeals court suggests review of an immigration judge's cases. "A federal appeals court has taken the unusual step of recommending that an immigration appeals board review all pending cases of an immigration judge whose actions have drawn sharp criticism in the past...[T]he 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals...said it would 'improve judicial efficiency' if the Board of Immigration Appeals 'closely re-examined all' cases still on appeal from Judge Jeffrey S. Chase...In the past, three-judge panels of the appeals court in Manhattan had accused Chase of 'pervasive bias and hostility,' 'combative and insulting language' and of intemperate remarks which 'demean the witness, demean the government, and demean the judicial system.'" More (IHT 02.24.2007).
Lawyers beat judges in cricket match! "The Bench and the Bar normally try to convince each other with their legal understanding and acumen in the Court but today they were pitted against each other in a cricket match in which the lawyers scored over their lordships. The decision of Justice Arijit Pasayat to invite lawyers XI to bat after winning the toss proved wrong as the judges XI lost the match for the first time in 16 years, organised to foster better understanding between the Bench and the Bar...." More (The Hindu 02.24.2007). Comment. Judges are "just plain folks," you know.
Chief judge's commission is 'deeply concerned' about small-town courts. "Saying its members are 'deeply concerned' about the quality of justice in New York's town and village courts, a state commission will conduct an intensive review to consider changes in the widely criticized system, a report to be released on Monday says. New York's chief judge, Judith S. Kaye, who appointed the commission last year to consider other aspects of the state's judicial system, will extend its life until next fall to focus on the justice courts, as they are widely known -- a loose network of more than 1,250 courts that have been assailed as outmoded and unfair for a century by governors, judges and commissions...." More (NYT 02.24.2007).
Annals of phony court orders. "Forgery was added to the Anna Nicole Smith legal complications Friday when someone sent out a phony court order under a California judge's name saying he was barring the release of Smith's body for burial. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert A. Schnider received a call Friday from the Florida medical examiner asking about the document purporting to invalidate a judge's ruling there Thursday regarding Smith's remains. Joshua Perper wanted to know if the order was authentic, court spokesman Allan Parachini said. Schnider said he had issued no such order...." More (San Diego Union-Tribune 02.24.2007).
Fourteen new high courts to hear piled up civil appeals. "Sri Lanka judiciary will have 14 new High Courts soon to hear the civil appeals which have been piling up in Sri Lankan courts for decades...Judiciary sources said that over 14,600 civil appeals had piled up now and they may take eight years to hear them." More (Colombo Page - Sri Lanka 02.24.2007).
Man 'slips through cracks,' serves19 months in jail for taking bottle of pop. "When Benny Freeman took over as warden of the Lake County Jail last month, he did a manual check of all inmates, said Sheriff Rogelio 'Roy' Dominguez. That's when he discovered Edward Perez, 22, on the medical wing. Perez, also listed as Hammer-Perez, had been incarcerated for 19 months on a charge he stole pop from Wal-Mart. 'When the case was transferred from Schererville town court to the county, he slipped through the cracks,' Dominguez said. 'There was a mixup with his name and case numbers. Even his lawyer presumed he had been let out.'" More (NW Indiana Times 02.24.2007). Comment. File this under either "Mistakes may have been made by someone" or "Close enough for government."
Candidate for supreme court touts her lack of judicial experience. "State Supreme Court candidate Linda Clifford says her lack of experience as a judge is a major plus -- not a liability -- in her race against Washington County Judge Annette Ziegler. 'I can tell you now why I'm the most qualified candidate for election this April...It's because I'm not a judge.'" Clifford argues, inter alia, a) that the court works best when its membership is diverse and includes attorneys from private practice without prior judicial experience and b) that "The skills that are required to serve as a local judge are not the same skills required to serve well on the Supreme Court." More (Madison Capital Times 02.23.2007). Comments. There's no positive correlation between, on the one hand, a lawyer's prior experience as a trial judge or trial lawyer and, on the other hand, a lawyer's excellence as an appellate judge.
Judge, told he's facing inquiry, has 'out of body experience.' "Ontario Superior Court Judge Ted Matlow faces possible removal from the bench over allegations that he mixed a personal civic crusade -- his opposition to a neighbourhood development project -- with his ethical responsibilities as a judge...Judge Matlow said in an interview yesterday [that he] 'intend[s] to fight this effort to remove me from the bench as vigorously as I can.' Judge Matlow said that he felt stunned last Saturday upon reading a confidential report issued by the CJC's five-judge judicial conduct committee that recommends a full public inquiry into his conduct...'When I read the report, I couldn't believe my eyes. It was one of what people call 'an out of body experience.'" More (Globe&Mail 02.23.2007).
Roaches bugging judges. "Criminals sometimes are referred to as roaches but it's the real thing bugging Milwaukee County Courthouse judges...[T]he courthouse complex is infested...." More (UPI 02.22.2007). Comment. The courthouse cut back on custodial services several years ago and now it's infested with bugs. During my 29+ years working as a judicial aide in the state court system in MN, I found the company of janitors no less edifying than the company of judges. My mini-essay, "Justice Todd and the janitors of the world," at BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else - Secular Sermons for Lawyers & Judges (scroll down), deals with this.
Special agent is investigating judge hopefuls for governor. "Rumor has it someone from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation spent the past two days in Hutchinson performing a little sleuth work for Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. John Gaunt, a special agent with the top state investigative agency, came to Hutchinson as part of the Bureau's background investigation on the two finalists for the Reno County Magistrate Judge appointment...." More (Hutchinson News 02.23.2007).
Courthouse's $480,000 piece of motorized art malfunctions. "Less than two weeks after the dedication of Mecklenburg County's new courthouse, one of its most talked-about features -- a $480,000 piece of motorized public art -- is on the fritz. A motorized platform connected to 'The Persistence of Vision,' a collection of tiny sculpted heads, malfunctioned last week, officials said. The 3,200 pewter heads hang from cables that are supposed to start moving each Monday. By Wednesday, the heads align to create one of 14 larger faces...." The heads are controlled by 1,600smaller motors. It's a "bigger motor," still under warranty, that needs fixing. More (Charlotte Observer 02.23.2007). Comment. Still under warranty after two weeks? Sounds like the county got a good deal.
Judges defy order to work faster. "Greek judges have defied a government order to work faster in an effort to clear the backlog of some 40,000 cases that are apparently clogging up the judicial system, the Greek Kathimerini newspaper reported Friday. The plenary session of first-instance court judges had decided to reject an appeal by Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras to wrap up more trials each day...." More (Monsters&Critics 02.23.2007).
Ex-judge is in the wedding business. "Are you looking for judges/officiants with an intimate knowledge of the many beautiful background settings Chicago has to offer?...Then allow me, Judge John G. Laurie, to officiate your nuptials...In general my fee for a downtown Chicago wedding will range from $175 (midweek) to $250 (weekends). The fee for other Chicagoland locations, including suburbs, will vary based upon day, date and distance, but is usually between $250 and $350, depending on the services requested...." Laurie is formerly a judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County (Illinois).
Town court judge's troubles. "The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has determined that Jean Marshall, a justice of the Cuyler Town Court, Cortland County, should be removed from office...[for] dismiss[ing] code violation charges in four cases based on out-of-court conversations and then attempt[ing] to conceal her misconduct by altering her court calendar and testifying falsely about her actions...." More (Empiure State News 02.22.2007).
Courthouse Bible study group gets a new meeting place. "A St. Charles County judge who raised eyebrows by leading a weekly Bible study group at the courthouse has found a new place to meet. Associate Judge Matthew Thornhill will now lead his group in a meeting room in the county administration building, a room that is made available to the public...'I sought the Lord, and I made the decision that I believe was best for the circuit,' Thornhill said...Thornhill, who took the bench last month, has been at the center of another controversy at the courthouse. He resigned as an assistant prosecutor in December amid an allegation that he solicited baseball memorabilia in exchange for reducing a criminal charge in a drug case. Thornhill denied the allegation...." More (St. Louis Post-Dispatch 02.22.2007). Comment. Praise the Lord.
Judge's son pleads guilty to money laundering, conspiracy. "The son of an Allegheny County Common Pleas judge pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday to money laundering and conspiring to obtain bank loans in his father's name. Lee Mazur Jr., 38, of Millers Lane, Plum,...admitted to conspiring with businessman Christopher Fekos of Dormont to obtain bank loans in the name of his father, Judge Lee Mazur. The men falsified W-2 forms and other income statements to apply for loans in the judge's name...The loss to all parties in the case is from $400,000 to $1 million...." More (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 02.22.2007).
Judge leaves bench to work for AG. "Queens Administrative Judge Leslie Leach took a step up - and to the side - yesterday when he was appointed a deputy state attorney general...Leach, first appointed a judge by Mayor David Dinkins in 1993, will be defending judges and other state workers in his new role as deputy attorney general of state counsel, and will be one of a handful of deputies under [Attorney General Andrew] Cuomo...." More (N.Y. Daily News 02.22.2007).
Conman 'forensic expert' faces incarceration. "A conman whose 30-year posturing as a forensic expert has prompted police to re-investigate 700 court cases will be jailed on Thursday. Gene Morrison left school with no qualifications but bluffed his way through hundreds of trials, conning judges, barristers, solicitors and police into believing he was qualified...." More (Guardian Unlimited 02.22.2007).
Court revises appointment procedures. "Criminal defendants who can't afford lawyers in Allegheny County will get court-appointed counsel through a more evenhanded process starting this spring...[A court administrator] said that the judges' decision yesterday was 'by no means a result of the [federal] investigations' reported to be examining improprieties linked to court appointments...." More (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 02.22.2007).
French judge stole colleague's credit card to pay for visit to brothel. "A French appeals court on Thursday imposed a heavier sentence on a former magistrate who was convicted of stealing a colleague's credit card to pay for a visit to a brothel...[The former magistrate] was found guilty last year of stealing the credit card from a fellow participant at a European magistrates congress in Germany where he gave a talk on 'basic ethical principles in public administration.'" More (Reuter's 02.22.2007).
Juris ayaw mag-solo. "Hindi ma-imagine ni Juris na magso-solo siya at mas gusto niyang kasama si Chin (Jacques Alcantara), her working partner sa MYMP (Make Your Momma Proud)." More (Tempo.Com). Comment. You go, babe!
Turk believes woman's place is in kitchen, not on bench. "A Turk shouted 'women should stay in the kitchen' before he broke a female judge's nose after she jailed his brother. Umit Karaslaan is on assault charges in Istanbul." More (Daily Record 02.22.2007). Comment. All I'll say is that when I was a kid I'd unintentionally drive my mom crazy (I'm guessing) by repetitively singing the phrase "Istanbul, Constantinople and de Istanbul" from the popular song. By the time I entered fifth grade she'd had enough and resumed her career as rural school teacher, which required her to drive 40-50 miles a day round-trip (the school board in the city in which we lived, like so many school boards around the state, barred married women from teaching in the district). So it's not too long ago that many self-satisfied Norwegian-Americans and others thought the way that Turk thought.
Ex chief justice apologizes for judicial drama. "Nearly a year after an effort to help a colleague succeed him as chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court backfired, Senior Justice William J. Sullivan told lawmakers Wednesday it was 'a catastrophe.' Sullivan, finally testifying before the General Assembly's Judiciary Committee after battling lawmakers for months in court to avoid an appearance, said he was sorry for a lapse of judgment when he delayed release of a controversial court case. During a hearing that started at 11:10 a.m. and ended at 4:50 p.m., Sullivan, 67, stressed that he became the first judge in the nation to be penalized for using his power to withhold release of a court ruling...Sullivan is appealing [a 15-day suspension], while lawmakers are appealing a state Superior Court ruling that quashed a legislative subpoena issued to Sullivan, who appeared voluntarily Wednesday...." More (Connecticut Post 02.22.2007). Comment. If he'd known his judicial history, he'd have known it was wrong. Delaying release of an opinion became a big issue in California not that many years ago. If he'd merely thought about it carefully, using basic Kantian ethical reasoning, he'd have known it was wrong.
Annals of judicial super-secrecy. "A Superior Court judge has ruled that the identities of parties involved in some court cases now completely hidden from the public must be released. The ruling by Superior Court Judge Robert E. Beach Jr. is a victory for The Courant and the Connecticut Law Tribune newspaper in their four-year legal battle to reveal the identities of individuals who took advantage of a judicial branch practice of 'super-sealing' cases...." More (Hartford Courant 02.22.2007).
Governor prevails in court fight over appointing supreme court justices. "The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in favor of Gov. Phil Bredesen in a case over appointing justices to the state's high court...Bredesen last summer threw out the first panel of candidates submitted by the [selection] commission after the only minority candidate, Davidson County Chancellor Richard Dinkins, withdrew for family reasons. Bredesen said in a letter to the commission he wanted the panel to include qualified minority candidates. When the Judicial Selection Commission sent him a second panel that included [a candidate the governor had rejected], the governor sued claiming the panel's repeated nomination of a rejected Supreme Court candidate diminishes his ability to choose the best person for the job...." More (The Tennessean 02.22.2007).
SCOTUS will review way New York selects judicial candidates. "The United States Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to review New York's method of selecting candidates to its own Supreme Courts -- the 324 judges who have general trial jurisdiction throughout the state and whose nomination to 14-year terms is tightly controlled by a political process that two lower federal courts declared unconstitutional last year...." More (NYT 02.21.2007).
Blaming the judge. "Petulantly accusing a judge of being a 'threat to public safety' will bring California no closer to resolving the state's prison crisis. Yet, that was how Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's reacted to Sacramento Superior Court Judge Gail Ohanesian's ruling Tuesday blocking the governor's plan to transfer California inmates to private out-of-state prisons...Our prisons are in crisis largely because our 'solutions' to crime have been driven by emotion rather than reason...A judge's attempt to reasonably interpret the law does not represent a 'threat to public safety.'" More (San Francisco Chronicle - Editorial 02.21.2007).
Midnight ruling by duty judge. "When NSW Supreme Court judge Megan Latham went home from court on Tuesday, she knew she...was the duty judge. Every day, the court ensures that one of its judges is available around the clock to deal with legal emergencies. As a result, judges sometimes issue orders in their loungerooms, dressed in slippers and dressing gowns...Justice Latham got the call from [former Judge] Marcus Einfeld's legal team very late in the evening [asking for] an injunction that required Sydney's The Daily Telegraph to stop the presses and remove an article about Mr. Einfeld's legal problems...." More (The Australian 02.21.2007).
Judges don't like PM's saying he wants judges who are tough on crime. "Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and a contingent of other senior judges took a swipe on Tuesday at the Conservative government by asserting that the independence of the judiciary is 'in peril' and that it must be free to make rulings 'irrespective of political or ideological considerations'...The council also denounced the [Conservative] government for tampering with the system of appointing federal judges so that the appearance of judicial independence is in jeopardy...." More (Canada.Com 02.21.2007). Comment. The council, in effect, seems to be saying the PM wants to be able to stack the appointment commission so that the nominees will have a Conservative bent.
Former judge collapses as he is sentenced for child porn possession. "A former Orange County judge [Ronald C. Kline] collapsed in a Los Angeles federal courtroom Tuesday moments after being sentenced to 27 months in prison for possessing child pornography, bringing a dramatic end to a case that tested privacy rights and nearly fell apart because of a computer hacker's role in the investigation...The investigation began after Bradley Willman, a Canadian hacker who saw himself as a computer cop, used a virus to gain access to Kline's home computer and download explicit diary excerpts about the judge's sexual desires and more than 1,500 pornographic photos of young boys...." More (Los Angeles Times 02.21.2007). Earlier. Ex-judge in plea deal for possessing child porn. Comment. As I said earlier, this is yet another instance of "the feds" prosecuting a state judge for conduct that traditionally has been regulated by the states. See, Two judges incarcerated and comments thereto.
Quie panel proposes taking away voters' constitutional right to select judges. "Minnesota's judges would face up-or-down elections without opponents at least four years after their appointment by the governor under an overhaul of the state's judicial selection system proposed by an influential but unofficial panel headed by former Gov. Al Quie. Under the plan proposed Tuesday, all judicial appointees would be chosen from the nominees of a selection commission federal courts, whose judges never face election and may serve until they die...." More (Mpls. Star-Tribune 02.21.2007). Comment. My thoughts? Click here.
Missing judge is found shot to death. "Vladimir Albegov, a North Ossetian district court judge who went missing late last week, has been found dead...." The judge's body, which had three gunshot wounds, was found in his car on a country road "20 kilometers from Vladikavkaz." More (Interfax 02.21.2007).
Former chief judge who served time is seeking to get law license back. "[Sol Wachtler, t]he former chief judge of New York state's highest court who suffered a spectacular fall from grace after being arrested for stalking an ex-girlfriend[,] has received preliminary approval to have his law license reinstated...While he was in prison, Wachtler wrote an autobiography titled After the Madness: A Judge's Own Prison Memoir, in which he advocated for significant prison reform...." More (The Journal News 02.21.2007). Comment. There was no need to send him to prison. We hope he gets his license back. We hope policy makers listen to his wise, experience-based counsel.
Governor wants more flexibility in picking judges. "[Rhode Island] Governor Carcieri wants to change the process for picking state judges so that he can select any finalist that the Judicial Nominating Commission has recommended over the previous two years or so..Under Carcieri's proposal, the commission would still create a new list each time there's a vacancy, but the governor would be able to choose from either the new list or from any list submitted over the previous two years or so...." More (Providence Journal 02.21.2007).
Judicial waitstaff. "Elijah's Cafe held their annual Valentine's celebrity breakfast last week to raise money for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for children. Jasper County Judge Mark Allen along with many local officials served as waitstaff and donated all tips; Elijah's donated food and all receipts." More (Jasper Newsboy - TX 02.21.2007).
Judge threatened to reduce fines if not given pay increase. "The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has determined that John Tauscher, a justice of the Alabama Town Court, Genesee County, should be admonished. In a determination dated February 5, 2007, the Commission found that Judge Tauscher made public statements in which he implicitly threatened to reduce fines in future cases unless the Town Board approved a proposed salary increase for himself and his co-judge...." More (Empire State News 02.21.2007).
Judge plays the 'narcissistic personality disorder' card. Mason, Ohio Municipal Judge George M. Parker, who is facing discipline because of misconduct, is arguing through his attorney that a public reprimand is more appropriate because a) he has been diagnosed by a state-appointed expert as suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder, b) this caused him to flare-up under stress, and c) he is now receiving treatment for the disorder. More (Cincinnati Enquirer 02.20.2007).
County is replacing 65-year-old courtroom carpets. "After more than 60 years, carpeting in the two courtrooms of the McKean County Courthouse is being replaced. '[The old carpet] was in there a long, long time,' said Commissioner Chairman Cliff Lane. 'It was good carpet.'...To replicate the carpet, samples had to be sent to the manufacturer -- but where do you get a section of 60-year-old carpet still in good enough condition to duplicate? 'We took pictures and sent sections that didn't get much fade or wear,' [a spokesperson] explained, saying pieces were taken from beneath the judges' benches...." More (Bradford Era 02.20.2007).
Judge who didn't accept campaign contributions is fined. "Judge Bruce Priddy says he didn't raise a dime before last year's election because he wanted to avoid ethics problems. But now he owes $10,500 to the Texas Ethics Commission for failing to file campaign finance reports...'It's ironic that I'm now branded as a campaign finance violator,' he said. 'My trouble with the whole system is the fact that judicial campaigns are run mainly by asking attorneys who practice before you for money. It is something that has always been a big conflict for me.'" More (KLTV 7 02.19.2007). Comment. I've stood for office twice, once for a state judicial position, once for Congress, in both instances accepting no contributions and spending less than $100. In the Congressional campaign, I had to waste hours filling out forms explaining that under the law I wasn't required to file a report. I'm reminded of the great line from Ch. 8 of Thoreau's Walden -- "[W]herever a man goes, men will pursue and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate odd-fellow society." The late Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy of Minnesota (not to be confused with Wisconsin's Sen. Joseph McCarthy) was right in his opposition to the federal campaign finance laws. They have created a huge bureaucracy and they have not made for better elections or better government.
Some reflections on the Canadian P.M.'s court-stacking plan. "The appointment of judges has always been tricky. Someone has to appoint them so the 'trick' for governments has always been to appoint someone who looked OK while ensuring he or she is a 'safe pair of hands for the government in power'...But the conundrum remains -- someone has to appoint judges, but who and under what, if any, constraints? Prime Minister Stephen Harper has an interesting thought. Set up a council to advise him, then stack the council with faithful Tories and 'hang 'em high' reactionaries. This, evidently, is better than Harper just appointing pals. He can always respond to criticism by blaming the appointment on his 'impartial' council. (In fact the minister of justice does the appointing but I'm sure I needn't remind you of who appoints the minister of justice.)" More (The Tyee - Opinion 02.19.2007). Comment. Great op/ed piece.
A lawyer's testamentary attack on five judges. "Judge President John Hlophe, one of the five Cape High Court judges vilified in the will of controversial attorney Peter Soller, declined on Sunday to comment on the vitriolic attack on him...[Soller] reportedly wrote: 'To Judge Hlophe, Judge (Jeanette) Traverso, to Judge (Dennis) Davis, to Mr Acting Justice (Michael) Donen and Judge (Wilfrid) Thring I wish to say 'f*** you' and I have requested that this will be sent to you for your amusement and subsequent use in the bathroom where it may be of great assistance.'" More (Independent - South Africa 02.19.2007). Comment. Don't you just love it?
SCOMN's white whale. Judge Jack Nordby, a classmate of mine at Harvard Law, wrote a great letter to the editor of Minnesota Lawyer, to which I don't subscribe. It is reproduced in part here. In it Judge Nordby criticizes an editorial attacking MN judicial "gadfly" Greg Wersal and "minimiz[ing] Wersal's resounding victories" in the judicial free speech cases. Writes Nordby: "[H]e undertook, with a good deal of courage and at great personal risk...to confront a Minnesota Supreme Court, that loomed with enormous power over him, for its wholesale stifling of constitutional rights. And he won -- not only in the U.S. Supreme Court, but in the 8th Circuit as well...[I]t is time for the bench and bar to stop being pettily poor losers. [Wersal's victories for free speech] should make judges (and journalists) joyful and respectful, not morose and spiteful. You misuse Moby Dick. The courts are not Mr. Wersal's white whale. He is theirs." Comment. I've been saying the same thing as Jack, my Harvard Law School classmate, for some time. Great minds think alike. :-)
Judge Simionescu's witchcraft. "Judge Elena Simionescu was accused of being a witch and of creating an atmosphere of conflict during her term as a president of the court in Vatra Dornei, a small town in eastern Romania. She was alleged to have performed rituals involving splashing water, mud and 'other liquids,' as well as salt and pepper, on fellow judges' desks in what some saw as an attempt to bewitch them...The judge denied the accusations, telling investigators that her practices were in accordance with the Christian faith. She said: 'I splash my colleagues' desks with holy water every day, in the spirit of good Christians' rituals'...[T]he Superior Magistracy Council, a judiciary watchdog...relieved the judge of her position as court president and reduced by 15 per cent her monthly salary of £660 for three months." More (Telegraph - UK 02.19.2007). Comment. Romanian Judge Elena Simionescu should not be confused with one of our favorite judges, Hon. John E. Simonett, retired justice extraordinaire of SCOMN.
Opinion: judges are coddled by sweetheart process. "In nine elections since the judicial performance review system began in 1988, more than 1,000 judges have faced the voters for retention or dismissal. Fewer than 1 percent were dismissed (seven, to be exact). Only 13 were even recommended as 'do not retain' by the sweetheart-minded performance commissions... State Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, thinks these lopsided numbers signal near-impotence in the review process, not near-perfection in the courts...[O]ur courts will continue with a dysfunctional status quo in which, among other absurdities, the chief justice's report card is written by a panel where her own appointees hold the deciding voice...No wonder so many people are alienated." More (Denver Post - Opinion by By John Andrews 02.17.2007). Comment. Another reason the Minnesota Plan, with voters being able to select judges in contested elections, is better than the Missouri Plan, with its retention elections. Even many in Missouri are fed up with the Missouri Plan. Read on....
Will Missouri repeal the 'Missouri Plan'? [I]n 1940, Missourians adopted a first-of-its kind judicial system. For appellate and urban-trial courts, a special-selection panel submits three nominees to the governor, who appoints one to the bench. The judges then stand for retention elections. The intent is to remove partisan politics from the courtroom...At a meeting of the Missouri chapter of the Republican National Lawyers Association a week ago, there was talk of changing -- even doing away -- with the Missouri Plan...." Their complaint? The process, as one influential Republican put it, "appears to be partisan." And the governor said, "I don't think it's a very good system." More (News-Leader 02.19.2007).
Who knows Illinois DUI law better than a judge? "Cases filed by the state's Judicial Inquiry Board, which prosecutes judicial misconduct, read like a playbook for limiting your culpability during a DUI stop. Since the 1970s, the JIB has charged at least seven judges...with misconduct after their DUI arrests....." More (Rockford Register-Star 02.18.2007).
California focus: who will help pick the judges? "Gov. Schwarzenegger must select a new judicial appointments secretary...His secretary will have a major impact on whether these appointments are conservative Republicans or liberal Democrats...[T]he judicial appointments secretary...determines which candidates get final interviews...conducts the interviews and questions judges and lawyers who know the candidate...Schwarzenegger should select [one] who will work to appoint judges who share [conservative] principles, not someone who wishes to use the judiciary to impose his or her liberal views on Californians." Op/ed piece by Steve Baric and Keith Carlson, prominent California Republicans. More (O.C. Register - Opinion 02.19.2007). Comment. Contrast the use of the word "share" with the use of the word "impose." "Conservative" judges apparently "share" their views, while "liberal" judges "impose" theirs.
Judge's casual manner bothers some. "His friends say Broward County Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin could have been a comedian and should have been the first judge to preside over The People's Court on TV. But he shocked many television viewers who watched as the robed Seidlin, leaning back in his chair in chambers, pronounced that Anna Nicole Smith's 'body belongs to me now' and 'that baby is in a cold, cold storage room'...For attorneys who frequent his courtroom, the judge's 'open mouth, insert foot' style was no shock. They say he has been talking that way in the anonymous halls of juvenile and probate court for years...." More (AZ Central 02.17.2007).
Ann Althouse on what Justice Kennedy didn't say. "Needing to present himself as an excellent judge, Justice Kennedy couldn't say anything intemperate. Think of what he didn't say. If the pay is low, the judges will be the kind of people who don't care that much about money. They might be monkish scholars, or they might be ideologues who see in the law whatever it is they think is good for us...We need judges who are the kind of solid, common-sense lawyers who factor money into their decisions. These are the same people who take the kind of conventional law-firm jobs that pay a good salary and require the greatest sacrifice to leave. Low judicial pay should trouble us not because the judges will somehow lack 'excellence.' It should trouble us because the law will be articulated by ideologues and recluses...." More (NYT 02.17.2007). Comment. So bar association types and corporate lawyers aren't ideologues? Glad-handers and Babbits make better judges than solitary types?
N.Y. county plans to keep homeless sex offenders on the move. "Suffolk County officials have long searched for ways to provide temporary housing for homeless sex offenders, from the controversial practice of placing them in local motels to the unusual proposal of loading them on a houseboat docked in a marina. Now officials of this county on Long Island say they have a solution: putting sex offenders in trailers to be moved regularly around the county, parked for several weeks at a time on public land away from residential areas and enforcing stiff curfews...." More (NYT 02.17.2007). Comments. See, my extensive comments and links at If you cry out for justice, a judge will appear: bus as mobile courtroom.
Bomb blast in Pak courtroom kills 13, including senior judge. "At least 13 people, including a senior judge, were on Saturday killed and several others injured in a suspected suicide bomb attack in a district court in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan's Balochistan province. The explosion took place when a suspected suicide bomber entered the court premises and set off the bomb killing Additional Judge Abdul Wahid Durani and others, local TV channels quoted eye witnesses as saying...." More (Times of India 02.17.2006).
Judges and jurors' questions. "[Judge Thomas] Bateman said about 38 states and dozens of federal jurisdictions allow juror questions. Recently, jurors were allowed to submit written questions in the high-profile obstruction of justice and perjury trial of I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff. One juror asked former New York Times reporter Judith Miller where she kept her notes from interviews with Libby. But some judicial officials say the practice is too risky to allow in a criminal courtroom. Some states have banned it, most recently Minnesota, where the state Supreme Court decided it presents 'inherent risks so significant that the practice must be proscribed.' Last week...." More (Palm Beach Post 02.17.2007).
Wis. court reprimands ex-judge for overseeing relatives' cases. "The state Supreme Court reprimanded a former municipal judge Friday for presiding over cases involving his niece and nephew, saying his actions undermined public confidence in the judiciary. Daryl Laatsch should have recused himself from those cases and another involving a client he represented in a criminal case, the court said. Laatsch was a part-time judge for the Mid-Moraine Municipal Court until he lost re-election in 2005...." More (Rhinelander Daily News 02.16.2007).
Man is accused of chasing and beating judge during hearing. "A man who became angry during a court hearing is accused of chasing the judge into a hall and beating him up, authorities said Friday. Judge Michael McClurg, the Darke County Common Pleas Juvenile/Probate judge, had cuts and bruises on his face, said Kelly Ormsby, assistant county prosecutor. The judge was treated at Wayne Hospital and released...." More (Palladium Item 02.17.2007). Comment. Movie scriptwriters and directors, take note: it is possible to set a chase sequence inside a courthouse.
Judge blasts divorce court; says system 'stinks.' "'Whatever you do, try to keep your case out of divorce court -- the system stinks,' writes Judge Roderic Duncan in A Judge's Guide to Divorce: Uncommon Advice from the Bench..." More (PRWeb 02.16.2007). Comment. BurtLaw Rule-of-Thumb #219: If you have significant assets, never underestimate the interest your attorney has in dragging things out or in, to switch metaphors, milking the cash cow.
Governor sues judicial nominating commission. "Gov. Bill Richardson said Thursday he will sue a judicial nominating commission, challenging its decision to twice send him a single nominee for a vacant judgeship in Carlsbad. 'The power of a governor to appoint means the power to choose,' said Richardson, who said he finds it hard to believe there's only one person in the community qualified to be judge...'It is inappropriate for a group consisting principally of non-elected individuals to take away the choice of an elected official who is responsible for representing the voters. The commission failed to fulfill its duties, which is a disservice to the courts and the local community.'" More (Free New Mexican 02.16.2007). Comment. Speaking generally and without specific reference to the commission in question, it's clear to me as an observer that so-called nonpartisan, merit-based screening commissions inevitably develop agendas of their own, that they become every bit as "political" as "politicians," and that there's no evidence they improve judicial selection one whit. We think that, at least for Minnesota, the Minnesota Plan, which gives voters the ultimate say in selection, not mere retention, of judges, is best.
Annals of judicial delays -- coincidental or purposeful? "A state investigation of two Roxbury[, MA] District Court judges has concluded that a delayed judgment last year in a civil case against state Senator Dianne Wilkerson was inadvertent and that there was no misconduct on the part of the judges, Michael C. Bolden and Edward R. Redd...Bolden took the case under advisement after a June 27 hearing and did not issue a ruling until Sept. 25, several days after Wilkerson declared victory in a tight primary election. Redd, who is in charge of all case flow at the court, had been a Wilkerson campaign contributor before being sworn in as a judge in 1993 and had listed the senator as one of five witnesses to vouch for his qualifications for the bench before the Governor's Council..." More (Boston Globe 02.16.2007). Comment. The commission said it determined that the delay was inadvertent. That should reassure those who had doubts.
Judge retires; will visit grandkids in lower 48. "Larry Weeks, 64, of the Juneau Superior Court sent a letter last week to Gov. Sarah Palin, announcing his intention to step down in June. 'I hear it's supposed to be a great fish year,' he said Monday when asked why. Joking aside, Weeks said he intends to spend retirement traveling with his wife and visiting grandchildren in the Lower 48." More (Anchorage Daily News 02.16.2007).
Appeals court says trial judge can't refuse pay raise. "A state appeals court ruled that Superior Court Judge Joan Orie Melvin cannot refuse her 11 percent pay raise. Orie Melvin does not want the raise, which increased her annual salary from $145,658 to $162,100, and sued in October for the right to refuse it. On Thursday, the Commonwealth Court ruled that rejecting the pay hike would 'violate the rule of law'...The raise was part of a legislative pay hike enacted in July 2005, but repealed in November 2005, after public criticism. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reinstated the raises for 1,100 state judges in September. More (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 02.16.2007). Comment. Judge Melvin may be wise, in the pragmatic sense, in trying to distance herself from the raise. It undoubtedly will be used successfully against some judges in the next round of retention elections, as it was in the last one.
Annals of judicial secretaries. "Ingham County Circuit Judge Beverley Nettles-Nickerson's former secretary has filed a lawsuit claiming the judge fired her last year after she provided information to a state commission investigating the judge...In the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Ingham County Circuit Court, Angela Morgan says Nettles-Nickerson lied in a letter to the court administrator, in which the judge claimed she had accepted a letter of resignation from Morgan.
Morgan [says she] refused to resign...." More (Lansing State Journal 02.16.2007).
Justice Kennedy pleads for pay raise. "During a rare appearance on Capitol Hill, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Wednesday pleaded with senators to hike federal judges' salaries or risk discouraging brilliant lawyers from donning black robes and sitting on the bench...Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) noted that, every day, lawyers eschew higher salaries at private firms to become public defenders and prosecutors...Durbin said that at their current salaries, federal district judges already earn more than 95 percent of Americans...." More (Chicago Tribune 02.15.2007). Compare and contrast. American Idol contestant Marianna Riccio gets on her knees and begs, then returns with mom and pleads that judges change their mind and send her to next stage; Simon says, "You sang like Cher after she's gone to the dentist." More (TV Squad - Blogging Television 02.01.2007). Further reading. See, Funny opinion piece about 'low' judicial pay and embedded comments/links.
State's 'greatest jurist of 20th century' dies at 94. "Tom Fairchild, one of the state's top judicial minds, spent 70 years in public service, right up until his death Monday in Madison at age 94. Fairchild served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court from 1957 until 1966, when President Lyndon Johnson appointed him to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. He was a Progressive Party leader in the 1930sand entered public office in 1948, when he became Wisconsin attorney general. He left that post in 1952, when he waged a bitter contest for the U.S. Senate, losing to Joe McCarthy...." More (Madison Capital Times 02.15.2007).
Annals of mid-trial courtroom LUV. "Normally jurors do not speak in trials until the last day. Not the jurors in former White House aide I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby's perjury trial. On the last day of testimony Wednesday[,Valentine's Day,] the 12 jurors and two alternates came into court with a surprise: Thirteen wore red T-shirts with a white heart-shaped outline over the heart. A retired math teacher on the jury rose and thanked U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton and other court personnel for taking care of 'our safety and comfort.'" More (Washington Post 02.15.2007). Comment. We sorta identify with the one juror who didn't wear a red tee-shirt. My mom always said, "Dare to be different" and "Don't follow the crowd."
P.M. admits he's picking judges to advance Tory 'objectives.' "Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he intends to appoint judges who will advance his Conservative government's law-and-order objectives. Harper has been under opposition fire for recent changes to the judicial-selection process that opponents say is designed to stack the courts with right-wing judges...The opposition expressed outrage at the prime minister's comments Wednesday and said he is threatening the independence of the judicial system." More (Canada.Com 02.15.2007). Comment. It's when the executive or a member of some appointments commission tells me judicial appointments aren't political that I have to laugh.
One appellate judge swims against tide as other judges go with flow. "The High Court is split. On one side is the great dissenter, Michael Kirby, who outdid his own record, disagreeing with the court's decision in every second case he heard last year. On the other side is everyone else. The most recent appointment, Susan Crennan, has joined the majority, and more. She has become the great consenter, not once disagreeing with the majority decision in the 46 cases she heard last year...." More (Sydney Morning Herald 02.15.2007). Comment. The "great consenter" -- is that a new one?
Jan Crawford Greenburg blogs about judges. "Judges write opinions. Judges get criticized. Judges continue writing opinions, some for the rest of their lives (i.e., life tenure). It's called democracy. I find it quite astonishing that criticism could be considered a threat to judicial independence and has been the topic of recent speeches and conferences and, now, it seemed, congressional hearings...So. I rushed through the slush and ice so I could hear Justice Kennedy explain why the current assault on judicial independence is so dire today and why he's been talking so much about it and why it was worth breathless discussion at this unprecedented congressional hearing to discuss. But Kennedy surprised me. Instead of verbal threats, he talked about pay...." More (JCG Blog 02.14.2007). Comment. JCG covers SCOTUS for ABC News. She's also author of a new book about SCOTUS.
Jury acquits man of threatening judge. "Patrick Cahill, 45, was in a bitter custody battle over his son. In the middle of that battle, Cahill sent two e-mails to two Jacksonville family court judges...In one email Cahill wrote, 'I haven't seen my son in 15 months...You stupid fat lazy pig, are the reason for this happening in the first place.' Cahill then wrote to [the judge] that she was on his 'list for personal visits.' In the second e-mail Cahill wrote, 'I haven't forgotten about you...You have already ruined my son's life. You will suffer as much as he has.' At the end of the email, Cahill told [the judge], 'This is not a threat.' The jury acquitted after two hours' deliberation. More (First Coast News 02.15.2007). Further reading. See, comments and links at my entry titled Judge receives 'contagious' letter (questioning whether violence against judges is on the rise, questioning the wisdom of turning courthouses into fortresses, and recalling how my late father, a small-town banker, responded to threats of violence during the midwestern agricultural depressions in the 1930's and the 1980's.
Judge is not persuaded by Valentine plea for leniency. "Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Ethna Cooper has heard lots of pleas for leniency, but never one like Darrell Dorsey's on Wednesday. Dorsey, who was facing up to five years in prison, wrote Cooper a Valentine's Day poem in which he asked for mercy...[The judge] sentenced Dorsey to four years in prison. 'But I do wish you a Happy Valentine's Day back,' she said." More (Cincinnati Enquirer 02.15.2007).
Fleeing high court judges get stuck. "Lords Menzies, Bracadale, Hardie, Turnbull and temporary judge Michael O'Grady were evacuated from the High Court in Glasgow when burning toast set off the sirens. They were taken by chauffeur-driven cars to the nearby sheriff court -- but Menzies, Bracadale and O'Grady ended up stuck when the lift broke down...Meanwhile, Hardie and Turnbull, who'd spurned the lift in favour of the stairs, got lost in a maze of corridors...'The fire brigade were called but refused to come out to rescue them, saying it was a job for a lift engineer.'" More (Daily Record 02.15.2007). Comment. But -- and this is the good part -- they always show good judgment in deciding your cases.
Divorce filings outnumber courthouse wedding license applications on V-Day. "Romantic love was blossoming in the lobby of the Lake County Building on Wednesday, as two dozen couples took their marriage vows underneath a flowered trellis. At the same time, the dark side of Cupid was also active down in the Circuit Court Clerk's office. If you're keeping score, two couples filed for marriage licenses on Valentine's Day in County Clerk Willard Helander's office, while eight couples filed for divorce in the office of Circuit Court Clerk Sally Coffelt. The anti-Cupid may have been dampened a bit by the love holiday. By comparison, last Wednesday 18 couples filed for divorce...." More (Waukegan News-Sun 02.15.2007).
Courthouse customers will miss the sunny snack bar lady. "After 12 years operating the snack bar in the Madison County Courthouse, Deloris 'Dee' Smith is moving back to her hometown in Birmingham. Smith, who is visually impaired, is moving her operation into the Social Security Administration building. She is eager to go back to Birmingham to help take care of her aging parents, a sister and a brother who are blind...Smith's departure brings a dark cloud into the lives of many who have grown to appreciate her encouraging words every day, said Circuit Judge Loyd H. Little Jr. 'I go in there the first thing in the morning to get some sunshine,' he said. 'The sun is always shining in Dee's Deli.'" More (Huntsville Times 02.15.2007). Comment. I like people who, even when they may be "down," follow the advice of the song in Bye, Bye Birdie, the Broadway musical, to "put on a happy face" at work, etc., and "spread sunshine all over the place." Sometimes, merely by forcing yourself to smile, you start to feel better -- and you make others feel better, and they make others feel better, etc.
Review sought on judicial selection process. "The head of the Virginia Women Attorneys Association has asked for a [legislative] review of the way candidates were screened and selected for two open judgeships in Norfolk, as well as an investigation into other ways to pick judges. The bar group's president, Kai Memmer...also asked the legislators to address comments made by Sen. Nick Rerras, R-Norfolk, during an interview with a judicial candidate in which he used the term 'femi-Nazi' and questioned the candidate on her views about abortion and prayer in public forums...As the sole Republican in Norfolk's legislative delegation, Rerras has exclusive power to nominate judicial candidates because his party holds the majority...." More (Hampton Roads Pilot 02.15.2007).
Judge is irked over message on court officers' tee shirts. "Bronx Court officers have been wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the image of a Satanic skeleton and the phrase 'Some call it hell...We call it home,' a family court judge charged yesterday. Judge Marian Shelton's lawyer said she didn't see the humor behind the shirts, which also allegedly had the insignia of the New York State Court Officers Association and '666' -- the mark of the devil. Shelton's lawyer leveled the charges yesterday as part of a counterattack in a nasty battle between the judge and the court officers who guard her courtroom. But the court officers union President Dennis Quirk rejected the allegations, saying the officers never wore the shirts...." More (N.Y. Daily News 02.15.2007).
Traffic court encounter leads to wedding presided over by traffic court judge. "Stacy Rosen and Milton Arrue eyed each other across the uncomfortable wooden benches of a judge's courtroom nearly all day. She was a car crash victim; he got a ticket for driving without a license. The two strangers connected. When they left the Broward County courthouse at the same time that afternoon in January 2006, they shared a bag of potato chips, discovered they were parked next to each other and realized they could share so much more...The man who presided over their separate cases, Broward County Court Judge Robert F. Diaz, will conduct [a] March 10 marriage ceremony...." More (Miami Herald 02.14.2007).
Annals of judicial resignations. "City officials are bemused by the sudden resignation of a municipal judge over a proposal to raise marijuana fines from $100 to $1,000...Frieling is not currently a judge for the City of Lafayette. He was unaware he had been replaced in April of last year...." More (9News.Com - Colorado 02.14.2007). But see, Judge Leonard I. Frieling disputes claim he was replaced (StopTheDrugWar.Org - Press Release 02.16.2007).
Should court be exempt from guv's four-day cost-saving shutdown? "Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank J. Williams is telling Governor Carcieri that state court employees must not be forced to take unpaid days off because they provide 'essential services.'...On Jan. 31, Carcieri unveiled a $7-billion budget that called for a four-day shutdown of 'nonessential state operations' this fiscal year, followed by a three-day shutdown next year...." More (Providence Journal 02.14.2007). Comment. When the fellow said to the judge, "Judge, I can't do five days in jail," the judge replied, "Do what you can." It doesn't seem to matter the state, whenever a governor proposes sharing in the hardship, the judicial branch seems to react reflexively by saying, "It can't be done."
ABA's House of Delegates adopts revised Model Code of Judicial Conduct. "The American Bar Association's policy-making House of Delegates has revised the Model Code of Judicial Conduct to provide clear guidance to judges regarding their professional and personal conduct and to assure the public that effective standards exist to regulate the conduct of judges...Changes in the Model Code include items addressing political activities of judges, prohibiting judges from making pledges or commitments regarding cases that may come before them...." More (ABANet 02.14.2007).
Judge is a no-show at council meeting on court facilities. "Try as they may to make facilities at 125 Downs Dr. suitable for a Municipal Court, Ruidoso Downs City Councilors' plans may be in vain. Monday, Judge Harrold Mansell failed to appear before council to discuss a move of his court, [saying], 'It is not up to them, it is up to a district judge to decide. This thing is in litigation.'" The judge says "an old trailer" proposed by the city as a suitable location "doesn't meet ADA or court standards." More (Ruidoso News - NM 02.14.2007).
Release of stats on opinion output by USDC judges. "A recent study of the 11 U.S. District Court judges who regularly sit in Boston confirms that members of the federal judiciary enjoy significant discretion in determining whether a case before them warrants a written opinion...As part of a 'Judging in the American Legal System' seminar taught by Judge William G. Young at Boston University School of Law, third-year student Dawn Lyons analyzed the number of opinions written and published by each of the judges who regularly sit at the Moakley U.S. Courthouse...[F]our judges -- Lindsay, Patti B. Saris, Richard G. Stearns and Nancy Gertner -- who all have between 154 and 157 months on the bench, had significantly different opinion-writing results. While Saris had written 440 opinions since being confirmed in November 1993, the study shows that Lindsay had authored 176 during the same period...." More (MA Lawyers Weekly 02.12.2007).
Annals of specialized courts: courts for atrocities against women. "Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan on Tuesday said separate courts will be set up in the state for handling atrocities against women...." More (NewIndPress 02.14.2007).
Alito says he can't get a word in. "Justice Samuel Alito says he has a hard time getting in a word during oral arguments as the newest member of the Supreme Court...Poking fun at some of his colleagues during a talk to University of Alabama law students Tuesday, Alito played audio snippets of convoluted, sometimes sarcastic remarks made by fellow justices during his first year on the court..." More (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer 02.13.2007). Comment. A new judge on a multi-member appellate court, like the new kid on the block, ought to keep his mouth shut for awhile. Few do these days.
Judge to be inducted into Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame. "The game of tennis has been a part of Aaron Cohn's life as the robe he wears as a juvenile court judge for the Chattahoochaa Judicial Circuit. He's spent nearly his entire life in tennis...There was no such thing as a line judge in the days when Cohn, nearly 91, was learning the intricacies of tennis. The players themselves were responsible for deciding whether shots were in or out, creating an unofficial moral code that trips up competitive tennis players to this day. But Cohn always took a player's duty to be honest seriously -- a premise he later applied in his position as a judge and passed on to the players he taught about the 'gentleman's game' as an adult...." More (Columbus Enquirer-Ledger 02.14.2007). Comment. That's the way we played the game, too -- if you had any doubt as to whether your opponent's ball was "in," you called it "in." But when I was a kid, we pretty much learned the game on our own. Which goes to show that kids, left to their own devices, tend toward working out their own perfectly-adequate system of fairness.
Resolution would change method for choosing justices. "A [proposed change] would remove a current nominating commission and insert Senate confirmation into the process [of selecting state supreme court justices in Kansas]...[The nonpartisan commission] was set up after 1957 when both an ailing Supreme Court justice and an outgoing governor resigned, and the new governor appointed his predecessor to the bench. Kansas voters then amended the state constitution to insulate the court from politics. But proponents of changing the current system say the nominating committee injects politics of its own into selecting the three nominees...'Because prospective judges in Kansas must curry favor with the Kansas bar in order to have a chance at getting through the gate, they must either conform themselves to the political expectations of the bar or cease to be candidates,' said Alan Cobb, director of the Kansas chapter of Americans for Prosperity...." More (Topeka Capital-Journal 02.14.2007). Comment. Mr. Cobb makes a good point about the so-called great Missouri Plan, with its commissions and retention votes. But since when do legislators in fact represent the people, as he suggests? I see little evidence of it. Which is why I like the Minnesota Plan, with the voters as ultimate selectors (and not just retainers) of judges, a plan that has worked damn well, giving Minnesota one of the better judicial systems in the country.
Editorial: Do 'endorsements' really matter for cop, courts candidates? "Right now, voters are being treated to a new round of TV ads from at least one state Supreme Court candidate...Washington County Circuit Court Judge Annette Ziegler's first ad, now airing, proudly spotlights her 41 county district attorney and 46 county sheriff endorsements...The endorsement-boasting strategy...has long been used to wow the voter -- to demonstrate that there is a unified court and law enforcement armada backing the judge, district attorney or attorney general candidate in frame...But, to a skeptic...all those police and attorney endorsements, lined up in fliers and on Web sites like a daunting database, skew a tad scary...." More (Oshkosh Northwestern - Editorial 02.14.2007). Comment. Voters, like consumers, would be wise to pay no attention to endorsements.
Judicial economics -- 'performance contracts,' 'working hours.' "Deputy justice minister Johnny de Lange says the issue of performance contracts for judges should be debated, along with the number of hours judges should be expected to work. Answering questions in the National Council of Provinces, he said the 'very sensitive issue' was likely to be met with 'some hysterics' in the current climate...." More (Cape Times - IOL 11.09.2005). Comment. I merely ask, What is it about the role of judge that makes some judges almost -- might one say? -- prone to hysteria?
Napping on the job may prolong judge's life. "In the largest study to date on the health effects of napping, researchers tracked 23,681 healthy Greek adults for an average of about six years. Those who napped for about half an hour at least three times weekly had a 37 percent lower risk of dying from heart attacks or other heart problems than those who did not nap...'My advice is if you can (nap), do it. If you have a sofa in your office, if you can relax, do it,' [Dr. Dimitrios] Trichopoulos[, the study's senior author,] said...Siestas aren't ingrained in U.S. culture, and napping usually is equated with laziness in the high-charging corporate world, said Bill Anthony, a Boston University psychologist and co-author of The Art of Napping at Work. Still, some offices allow on-the-job naps, and many workers say it makes them more, not less, productive...." Archives of Internal Medicine. More (Yahoo News 02.12.2007). Comment. If you look in executive suites, law-firm partner offices, and judicial chambers, you'll often find couches or recliner chairs. One suspects the occupants occasionally use them for nothing more scandalous than an after-lunch nap. A well-known appellate judge took such naps. He was not a slacker. Unlike some of his peers around the country, he was never behind in his opinion writing. Moreover, the quality of his opinions exceeded that of most appellate judges. One of his tricks was he hired law clerks on merit, not because they were children of friends or members of a certain political party or because they fit within some temporarily-favored demographic category. And he didn't waste his waking work hours. He used them to actually read briefs, cases cited by the parties, and transcripts, to think, to write his own opinions, etc. According to Felix Frankfurter, Justice Holmes "never made a fetish of long hours...indeed, he believed that what he called work -- really creative labor -- could not be pursued for more than four hours a day. But he worked with almost feverish intensity." Unlike so many of our appellate judges across the country, he was both prolific and prompt. And brief. And memorable. Felix Frankfurter, Of Law and Men 164-65 (1956). A qualification: while napping in chambers may prolong a judge's life, napping on the bench may shorten his career. See, More people claim judge was guilty of NWP (napping while presiding) and my comments thereto (where I remind everyone, inter alia, of BurtLaw Rule of Thumb #164: "You can't tell if a judge, or anyone else, is asleep by merely looking at her eyes; she may well be very much 'in the moment.'").
Eating in chambers. "These days, more and more employees consume their lunches from the comforts of their cubicles. 'I see it all the time,' said Joseph Gibbons, the research director of the FutureWork Institute, a consulting firm in Brooklyn that focuses on workplace issues. 'We're used to eating alone and having everything we need right there and being very self-sufficient. That carries over to the workplace.' Other reasons people dine 'al desko' vary, said Robin Jay, author of The Art of the Business Lunch. They need to high-tail it out of the office at 5 p.m. sharp to pick up the kids. They want to save money, or they are just too stressed to leave....." More (NYT 02.18.2007). Comment. During my years as an aide to the Minnesota Supreme Court, I was a pioneer of sorts, a participatory dad on flex-time, arriving at work by 6:30 a.m., leaving in time to pick up the kids after school. Partly to save time, I ate almost all my meals at my desk, from a paper bag, working as I did so. Never much cared for eating with (and being smoked on by) office mates, and did so only on special occasions, when it was literally required. Also, being a cheapskate, never much cared for paying ten times as much for a sandwich that wasn't as good as the one I made for myself in one minute. Also, mixing business with lunch is sort of like mixing business with home, it causes indigestion.
Our Motto - "Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat" (Horace). Loose translation: Does anything prevent telling the truth with a smile?
Click here for DMCA Digital Millennium Copyright Act Claim Notification Info pursuant to Subsection 512(c)
Affiliated Web sites
Advertisers - Please consider patronizing the advertisers, including today's featured advertiser, Bob's Perpetuities, Ltd., a multinational boutique law firm specializing in all facets of the arcane Rule Against Perpetuities. Founded in 2004, Bob's is already the leading firm in the field. You may not know you have a perpetuities problem. That's why the motto of Bob's Perpetuities, Ltd., is: "Whatever your situation in life, better contact Bob's."
Adv. - In response to the "makeover craze" that's sweeping the nation, Klara's Kut 'n' Kurl announces that it will be setting aside Saturdays for judicial makeovers. Many judges, we find, have an image problem in the courtroom. They do not project authority or wisdom or gravitas or experience - whatever. Klara Fribund Kollevitz can help. For example, if you're an obviously-young judge or an older judge cursed with a Dick Klark youthful appearance, Klara can use state-of-the-art aging technology -- Gravi-Tox -- to add gravitas to your look. Judge-appropriate konfidentiality assured. Kall Klara's at Local 536 for a free konsultation.
Affiliated Web sites
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.