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."
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About Burton Hanson. Burton Hanson is a graduate of Harvard Law School, admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Minnesota. He worked one year as Hennepin County District Court Special Term (Civil) Law Clerk, two years as law clerk for the late Justice C. Donald Peterson of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and over 26 years as Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Supreme Court. He was a nonpartisan candidate for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election in November 2000 and a liberal anti-war candidate for Congress in the Republican primary in the Minnesota Third District in September 2004. He was one of the first law bloggers (blawgers). He began planning his first blog, BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else in 1999 but delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. His campaign website, the no-longer extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first such use of a weblog or blog. In 2004 he also used the personal blog format in his primary campaign for Congress. That site, BurtonHanson.Com, has morphed into a personal political opinion blog and also contains the archives of his 2004 campaign web pages and blog postings.
Supreme court judge, 49, dies after suffering heart attack while bicycling. "ACT Supreme Court judge Terry Connolly died today after suffering a heart attack while cycling around Parliament House in Canberra. Police believe the 49-year-old was cycling with a group when he collapsed...." More (SMH 09.25.2007).
Feds indict yet another state judge. "A magistrate judge from rural Clinch County [GA] has been charged with perjury in an indictment that says she lied to a federal grand jury investigating judicial corruption. According to the indictment, Magistrate Judge Linda C. Peterson lied to grand jurors June 13th when she denied, under oath, ever suggesting to criminal defendants that they could use her own father as a bail bondsman...." More (WSAV 09.25.2007). Comment. As anyone who regularly reads our postings over the last two years, the feds under Bush/Gonzales seem to feel they have a "roving commission," to use Justice Cardozo's phrase, to clean up state and local government. With respect to the feds' pursuit of state judges around the country, I guess I'm more of a states'-righter than I thought I was, because I think the feds' claims of jurisdiction to prosecute some of these cases are a little contrived. It all seems so un-Republican, even to this liberal Eisenhower/Rockefeller Republican (there are only a couple of us left).
Judge appears at anti-immigration news conference at capitol. "Lawyers and Pennsylvania court experts are raising ethical questions about the appearance of a state appellate judge at a Capitol news conference yesterday on illegal immigration. Superior Court Justice Correale F. Stevens stood on the Rotunda steps with State Rep. Daryl D. Metcalfe (R., Butler) Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta and others as they called for the passage of state laws to halt the 'alien invasion.'" More (Philadelphia Inquirer 09.25.2007). Comment. The judge is up for retention this year.
Brit judge becomes 'laughingstock' of gallery as wig falls off in court. "There was exciting real-life courtroom drama at the Old Bailey today as one of Britain's most senior judges became the laughing stock of the gallery in Court 4 when his wig fell off. Lord Chief Justice Tarquin Scoggins, 57, entered the Court 'fully thatched,' but, as he took his seat and the members of the jury took theirs, his hairpiece became entangled with his gavel, and the wig became detached from his head...." More (The Spoof - Satire 09.25.2007). Note. This is a satirical "news story."
Why Norwegians make better judges than Swedes. "I have plenty of time to be alone, and I like it. I always have. I like my own company. And I am not the only one who feels this way; a high percentage of the Norwegian population feel as I do. It is our brand of Buddhism. If you have read Pan, by Knut Hamsun, you will get an idea of what I mean." -- Per Petterson, Norwegian author of Our Stealing Horses, published in U.S. by MN's Graywolf Press. More (Mpls. Star-Tribune Books 09.23.2007). Comment. A kindred spirit.
Love will find a way. The "Weddings/Celebrations" section of the Sunday NYT announced the marriage of Deecy Gray and Douglas H. Ginsburg, the chief judge of USCA D.C. Circuit. Chief Justice Roberts of officiated in the east conference room of SCOTUS. This is his third marriage. More (NYT 09.23.2007). Comment. Ginsburg is the judge who was nominated by Reagan to SCOTUS in 1987 only to have the nomination withdrawn "at his request" after it was revealed he'd used marijuana both as a student and later as a law school prof. If you look at his curriculum vitae, you will see under "Employment," among other jobs, the following: "Compatibility Research, Inc., Cambridge, MA, Vice President, Marketing for 'Operation Match' computer service, 1965 - 1968." Operation Match was the original computer dating service in the United States, starting during the 1964-65 school year. It cost $3.00 to fill out a questionnaire. Many, many college and graduate school students in the Boston area participated, so the "pool" was a good one, something that's necessary for computer people-matching to work. After a month or two or three, the big old rented computer -- used at night when rental rates were lowest -- spat out a list of "compatible" matches of nearby college students of the opposite sex. You might say my two children, both adults now, owe their lives to Ginsburg & his fellow pioneers in computer dating, because I met my wife of nearly 30 years (now ex-wife), their mother, then a Wellesley student, through participating in Operation Match during the 1965-66 school year at Harvard Law School. For further details and links, see, Annals of judicial cyber-dating, part III -- Which judge named to Supreme Court was a computer dating pioneer? BTW, did I ever use pot? No, my life has been too boring to have done that. Do I think it should have mattered that Judge Ginsburg used pot? No. The big hysterical "to-do" among our sad excuses for Senators, etc., about his pot use was akin to the big hysterical "to-do" among our sad excuses for Senators about Senator Craig's foot-tapping in the men's room at the airport in Bloomington, MN. See, Frank Rich, Pardon Poor Larry Craig (NYT 09.23.2007). P.S., Have you noted that whenever some poor soul in public life gets caught doing something or other, one of those you can count on to "pile on" is MN's own Stormin' Norman Coleman, our own resident Chickenhawk General.
Is it 'cruel and unusual' that I've slept on the floor for 11 years? "In a significant legal victory for thousands of former Los Angeles County jail inmates, a federal court judge has ruled that jail officials violated the prisoners' constitutional rights when they had them sleep on [mats on] concrete floors because of chronic overcrowding...'Quite simply, that a custom of leaving inmates nowhere to sleep but the floor constitutes cruel and unusual punishment is nothing short of self-evident,' [U.S. District Judge Dean] Pregerson concluded in a 33-page decision in a class-action lawsuit...." More (LAT 09.24.2007). Comment. I'm a "softie" when it comes to punishment -- the old use of indeterminate sentences and the goal of rehabilitation followed by probation makes more sense to me than the harsher and more rigid guidelines, mandatory minimum sentences, and indeterminate sentences touted and used today -- so I have no problem with the ruling, even if it fails to comport with SCOTUS' strict interpretations of "cruel and unusual punishment." But I must say, based on experience, that sleeping on the floor on a mat ain't necessarily bad. Since my ex-wife moved to her own house 11 years ago, taking her beds and other furniture belonging to her with her, I've slept in a sleeping bag on a wool carpeted floor in the master bedroom. It's good for my back. I sleep well. It suits my Norwegian appreciation of spareness. I don't feel deprived. Neither did Mahatma Ghandi, who, like most people in India today, slept on a straw mat. BTW, whenever a judge says a proposition is self-evident, it pays to ask yourself if it really is. It's BurtLaw Rule of Thumb #190: That which someone says is "self-evident," usually isn't.
Fiercely liberal judge, friend of spotted owls and prisoners, dies in sleep. "Carl Muecke, the fiercely liberal judge who battled former Gov. Fife Symington over prisons and spotted owls, died Friday in his sleep at his Flagstaff summer home. He was 89. Muecke (pronounced Mick-ee), who retired from the bench in 1997, had suffered from Alzheimer's disease and other ailments in recent years...He came of age in the idealism of the New Deal and as a soldier was among the first Americans to witness the horrors of Nazi concentration camps. Both experiences had a profound influence on him...He helped desegregate Arizona schools before the U.S. Supreme Court made it federal law...He wore his liberalism as a badge of honor and once called to scold a reporter who had dared to write that there were no liberal judges in Arizona. His voice boomed down from the bench as from Mount Olympus...." More (Arizona Republic 09.24.2007). Comment. Presumably he was asleep on a bed (see, supra) but it wouldn't have mattered if he'd died sleeping on a straw mat. He rose each day with a stout and loyal heart. And I like to think that as he fell asleep for the last time, the owls were hooting softly outside his window.
Judges in India are 'touchy.' "Despite their general reputation for independence and activism, Indian judges have a record of being touchy about criticism and invoking criminal contempt powers more to uphold their own dignity than in the public interest. But the contempt problem is part of the larger syndrome of Indian courts, compared to their western counterparts, being non-transparent and unaccountable. India has the dubious distinction of being the only country where judges have assumed primacy in deciding judicial appointments. And Indian judges still cling to the notion that if any outsider were to look into complaints against any of them, it would compromise the independence of the judiciary." More (Times of India 09.24.2007). Comment. Alas, many judges in the U.S., including here in Minnesota, are "touchy," love to talk about threats to their independence but don't like the word "accountability," and think it would be just nifty if judges could insinuate themselves into the appointment process, as in the "nonpartisan" commission plan revered by college poli-sci profs, the "Great Missouri Plan," thereby excluding voters from the selection process and pretty much ensuring their tenure. More and more, ordinary people are demanding greater judicial accountability as a necessary concomitant of judicial independence. Judges should get used to it. Echoing the cliche one novice judge naively but entusiastically uttered a few years ago, "Change is good."
The questions a judge faces about his wife and himself as he seeks retention. The judge in question is Bradford County PA Court Judge John C. Mott, whose wife served time in jail and was ordered to pay restitution of more than $600,000 in connection with stealing money from the Canton Boro Authority. See, Annals of judicial spouses. Now he's up for retention, and a long letter to the editor reveals the kinds of questions he'll be facing. More (Towanda Daily Review 09.24.2007). Interestingly, anti-judge sentiment is so high among some people in PA that "two activist groups [have] called for the ouster of more than 65 judges facing retention votes in November." More (Philadelphia Inquirer 09.23.2007). This is one reason judges in MN might come to regret it if we adopt the so-called Quie Commission's recommendation to take away the voters' right to select judges and replace the MN Plan with the MO Plan: it's hard to find lawyers to run against individual judges when their terms are up but it'd be relatively easy to finance a statewide non-retention campaign aimed at all judges. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for -- you just might get it, and the unintended consequences that go with it.
Annals of judicial hardship. "One time I was in a weeklong trial and it was 8 degrees outside. It was so hot inside that I had both doors open at my back in order to cool the courthouse down enough that we could finish the trial. You couldn't breathe. Of course I got sick from it and it's probably the sickest I've ever been, but we got through the trial." -- Tony Frohlich, chief circuit judge for Gallatin and Boone counties, quoted in an article on the renovation of the Gallatin County Ohio Courthouse, built before the Civil War. More (Cincinnati Enquirer 09.24.2007).
Judges as landlords. A couple judges in Philly are under scrutiny for their allegedly bad records as landlords. Details (Philadelphia Inquirer 09.23.2007).
Annals of judges caught on tape. "A senior judge [in Kuala Lumpur] has denied he was the one a lawyer was talking to in a video recording of an alleged phone conversation between the two to discuss judicial appointments...." More (New Straits Times - Malaysia 09.24.2007).
The stones will judge us. "Millions of serious-minded citizens of the world want to visit Greece. It is now up to us to show whether we are worthy of the task of being guardians of a global heritage...The ancient, sculpted stones that are scattered around us will bear witness to our success or to our indifference. Because they will be here long after we are gone, just as they were here before us." -- From a neat piece titled The stones will judge us by Nikos Konstandaras (Ekathimerini - Greece 09.24.2007).
Alaska not so sure about its Missouri Plan? "Ever since statehood, Alaska has followed Missouri in the way it selects its judges. There are no elections here to fill vacancies on the bench. Rather, judges are appointed from a short list of nominees submitted by the Alaska Judicial Council. That was made a part of our Constitution even before we were admitted into the Union on Jan. 3, 1959. In the past, we have raised the hackles of the lawyer establishment by criticizing this procedure for making it too much of a closed-shop operation. The lawyers, not the public nor the governor, in essence picks the judges...." More (Anchorage Times - Editorial 09.24.2007).
Giving up the appellate bench for a more rustic one. "From behind his redwood desk, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Wunderlich has to crane his neck just slightly to gaze up at Yosemite Falls. Wunderlich's corner office is in a tiny, slate-gray courthouse, just off the beaten path from Yosemite Village. His 'commute' is typically a five-minute stroll down a dirt trail, past the Bear Management Office and horse stables to a cabin nestled across from a deer-infested meadow. The 60-year-old Wunderlich knows he may just have the best judge job in America. 'Someone is willing to pay me a salary to live and work in a national park,' Wunderlich says. 'Sometimes I have to pinch myself.'" More (San Jose Mercury-News 09.23.2007). Comment. Terrific profile. Wunderlich gave up a seat on the state appeals court for the job. He's glad to have it. And he's not complaining about his salary, near as I can tell. Perhaps he feels as I felt during my nearly 30 years as a trusted aide to the top judges in Minnesota, priviliged to be doing the people's business -- inside, where it was warm in the winter and cool in the summer -- at any salary.
Mystery writers convene, meet with CSI's, judges, cadaver dogs, etc. "Murder. Lies. Kidnapping. Corruption. Infidelity. Betrayal. Motive. Just everyday fare for your mystery book fan. But these also are subjects that will be dissected, probed and combed over next week in Alaska during Bouchercon 2007, the yearly conference for mystery writers. During the five-day gathering, readers can rub shoulders with about 225 authors as well as crime scene experts, criminal court judges and even cadaver dogs who sniff out corpses...." More (San Diego Union-Tribune 09.23.2007). Comment. In my role as resident criminal law specialist on the staff at the state supreme court, I probably read as many (or more) criminal trial transcripts from start-to-finish as anyone in America. In my work and reading, I learned a thing or two about criminals, about attorneys, about trial judges, and about appellate judges. I could tell these writers some things they don't know. BTW, if you want to read a good novel written by a judge about a judge who uses drugs, etc., etc., try Martin Clark, The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living (2000).
The Ballad of Judge John Phillips. "A Brooklyn-based filmmaker has spent the better part of the last two years compiling a documentary on a retired civil court judge's legal efforts to restore his once-vast real estate empire...The filmmaker, Hugo Espinel, a native of Colombia, has reportedly compiled in the neighborhood of 20 hours of footage. The film tells the story of how a real estate empire worth an estimated $10 million was dissipated, under the administration of a series of attorneys appointed by a state guardianship court. The current property guardian of Phillips' remaining estate, James Cahill, has said in a recent court proceeding that the estate is close to bankrupt...." More (Brooklyn Daily Eagle 09.22.2007). Comment. Hang down your head and cry....
Free press in India? Not if it involves criticizing judges. "A New Delhi court sentenced four journalists Friday to four months in prison for contempt of court after they criticized a former chief justice in print, a verdict slammed by critics as an assault on India's press freedom. The court said the four - two editors, a cartoonist and a publisher of the New Delhi-based Mid-Day newspaper - had tarnished the image of the court by alleging in their articles that former Chief Justice of India YK Sabharwal had ruled on the demolition of unauthorized buildings to benefit his sons' business interests...." More (Daily Times - Pakistan 09.22.2007). Comment. Couldn't happen in America, right?
Free speech for judges. "The state board that disciplines judges Friday followed the recommendation of a three-member panel and dismissed judicial misconduct allegations against outspoken state Court of Appeals Judge Wendell Griffen. 'It's about time,' Griffen said after the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission voted 5-1 to dismiss the allegations. 'I'm grateful to God that this has been dismissed. Everyone recognizes that this is a very important first amendment issue and how we look at freedom of speech.'" More (Arkansas News Bureau 09.22.2007). Comment. We said at the outset that we wondered if the members of the commission had read Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002), and its progeny. It now appears they have, but the cost to Judge Griffen in defending himself has been, we presume, considerable
Justice Stevens, the liberal conserver in dissent. "Judicial liberalism, in other words, has largely become a conservative project: an effort to preserve the legal status quo in the face of efforts by a younger generation of conservatives to uproot the precedents of the past 40 years. Stevens, who wrote or supported many of those precedents, understandably objects when he feels they are distorted or mischaracterized by justices who were in college when he was appointed to the court. At the same time, merely conserving the achievements of the past is less than what many liberals today ultimately hope for. Can Stevens provide a model for a new vision of legal liberalism in the 21st century?" -- From Jeffrey Rosen, The Dissenter (NYT Magazine 09.23.2007).
Another review of Toobin's book on SCOTUS. "Of course, the myth is that the justices sit sealed on their Olympian perches, forever mum. In truth, some talk when it suits them, to toot their own horns, unburden their souls, allay their loneliness or justify something they've done. They talk very selectively: the more eminent and powerful the reporter or the publication, the more likely such conversations are. One can usually guess who's gabbing, for among those who follow such things, their penchants are well known. But there are other hints, like a certain kindness of tone in whatever ends up on the air or the printed page...." -- From David Margolick, Meet the Supremes, a review of Jeffrey Toobin's The Nine -- Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court (NYT Sunday Book Review 09.23.2007). Comment. Margolick writes that "without [the justices'] off-the-record whispers, there would be no 'inside' story of any 'secret' world" for Toobin to tell. He's right that some of them are blabbers, but so are law clerks, who have their own partially-inside stories, and some of them have been known to blab, too. See, for example, Edward Lazarus, Closed Chambers (1998).
Clerks laid off in budget cuts picket courthouse celebration. "Courthouse clerks who lost their jobs picketed outside the new Kim C. Hammond Justice Center on Friday evening, still fuming from firings and layoffs over the past year and in late August. The clerks protested while guests walked into the justice center for a private evening to honor courthouse namesake Circuit Judge Kim Hammond. Some of the clerks said they felt as if they were treated like criminals the day 10 of them were asked to walk across the street to a meeting room, told by various directors they had lost their jobs and that their belongings would be gathered for them and brought outside...." More (Daytona Beach News-Journal 09.22.2007). Comments. a) If true, it's a helluva way to let loyal members of "the court family" go. But who really believes that "court family" nonsense? b) I've come to the view, after thinking about it for many years, that public buildings such as courthouses ought not be named after former judges -- or anyone else, for that matter.
Inmate gets 20 years for filing false liens against judges. "Mycal Antoine Poole was already serving a 60-year state prison sentence, but now he'll serve an extra 20 years for filing fraudulent liens totaling millions of dollars against two federal judges...." More (Texas Lawyer via Law.Com 09.22.2007).
To protect and serve: deputy saves toddler from courthouse fountain. "[William Powell, a] sheriff's deputy in Seminole County is being credited with saving the life of a 16-month-old girl who fell into a fountain outside a courthouse...." More (Local6 09.22.2007).
New 12-foot concrete security barrier to surround judges' parking lot. "The security wall that will surround a parking lot used by Cameron County state district judges and the district attorney is finally taking shape. County workers on Thursday were laying concrete blocks for the 12-foot concrete barrier that will also have an electronic gate entrance that only the judges and the district attorney will have access to. Currently, the judges are escorted to and from the courthouse by their court bailiffs...." More (Brownsville Herald - TX 09.21.2007). Comment. My opinion? It's an absurd waste of the taxpayers' money. Courts, by the way, aren't the only institutions that are becoming fortresses of solitude. See, Harvey Silverglate, Evolving Campus Culture - Tear Down This Wall (The Free for All 09.12.2007). Harvey Silverglate is a prominent Boston civil liberties attorney and a classmate of mine at HLS. The Free for All is a great blog he maintains with Wendy Kaminer, the First Amendment scholar.
The 'science' of collective decisionmaking. "A] seven-judge committee must decide whether to promote a candidate to a position requiring a young, trilingual person. Each judge estimates whether the candidate is young, and whether she is trilingual. In the end, 4 out of 7 judges think she is young and 4 out of 7 think that she is trilingual, but only two of the judges think she is both. How should the committee proceed?" Jean-François Bonnefon, a University of Toulouse psychologist, has published a report of his research on this titled "How Do Individuals Solve the Doctrinal Paradox in Collective Decisions? An Empirical Investigation." It's in the September issue of Psychological Science. More (Science Daily 09.21.2007). Comment. Here's another little puzzle. Each of nine members of a hypothetical appellate court gets a new law clerk each year. The judges in the hypothetical interview 50 candidates for the upcoming year. Candidate Y is the #2 pick of each judge but she is not selected, whereas some who were ranked as low as #49 or #50 are selected. Why? The answer is simple: each judge picks individually. They all rate different candidates ahead of her and select those candidates. For example, one judge picks his wife's brother's friend's kid. Another picks a less-impressive guy, giving him the edge because he graduated from the judge's law school. This illustrates subjective individual decisionmaking in a superficially-collective superficially-collegeal superficially-fair context.
Judge Sean MacBride says Ireland is going to hell. "A judge has declared that Ireland is 'going to hell' thanks to the number of foreign nationals who are entering the country. In an extraordinary outburst, Judge Sean MacBride raged against people who are travelling to Ireland illegally and claimed we are a 'laughing stock' because of the situation. 'This country is going to hell with people coming in with no papers whatsoever,' he said at a sitting of Cavan District Court. He made the comments after a 35-year-old foreign national appeared before him seeking bail...." More (Independent 09.21.2007).
Judge says he wants 'no nudity' in video link-ups with jail. "Video of a naked man being strip-searched in an Alberta jail cell flashed momentarily in front of a group of lawyers and other officials in a Victoria courtroom yesterday. The nude scene occurred when a dial-in video link between the Victoria courthouse and a man being sentenced from a jail cell in Alberta was established without warning to the jailers or the jailed. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Johnston didn't see the video but warned Crown and jail authorities that any similar problems will mean the end to video appearances. That means the accused would have to be flown to Victoria for every hearing. 'I want no nudity in any linkup with the court,' he said." More (Victoria Times-Colonist 09.21.2007). Comment. Love that quote: "I want no nudity in any linkup with the court." It's a keeper.
Sick judges get sympathy but not 'sick' jurors.
a) "Many judges are falling sick due to stress as a result of the enormous work load. Not less than six judges are currently ill and being treated in hospitals both in Uganda and abroad, Justice Patrick Tabaro of the High Court said yesterday. He said he had suffered two strokes and at one time he was confined in a wheel chair...." More (All Africa 09.21.2007).
b) "High court judge Justice Courtney Day has warned against the practice of persons using doctors' certificates as excuses not to serve as jurors when subpoenaed by the court. Justice Day issued the warning during the opening of the Michaelmas session of the St Catherine Circuit Court in Spanish Town...." More (Jamaica Observer 09.21.2007).
Comment. The juxtaposition of these two stories calls to mind the hypothetical female judge who is tough on all the court employees with kids, telling them flex-time is verboten, but who believes a different set of more flexible rules applies to her situation as working parent, even though she has a nanny for her kids.
Judge and wife are charged with animal cruelty. "Well known dog show judge David Balfour and his wife have been remanded for trial on charges of animal cruelty at the Palmerston North District Court...." More (TV3 - NZ 09.21.2007). Comment. Misleading headline? We think not. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, a judge is a judge is....
Group alleges former chief justice's sons got favors from government. "A group of jurists and intellectuals said on Thursday that they had official documents to prove that the companies run by the sons of former Chief Justice of India Y.K. Sabharwal benefited from out-of-turn allotment of institutional and industrial plots in Noida in 2004-06, at rates far below the market price...." More (Hindustan Times - India 09.21.2007). Comment. If you've got proof of wrongdoing, let's see it.
Courthouse painter finds old mural under five layers of paint; it'll be restored. "It started out as just another day at work for Dundee Andrews, as he pressure washed the walls of the Stephens County Courthouse and got them ready to re-paint. That was until he saw something a bit unusual under five layers of paint...." More (NewsChannel32 - GA 09.20.2007).
Defendant gets 75 years -- plus an extra six months for hurling file at judge. "On Wednesday...Damen Toy hurled a thick legal file at Cook County Judge James Obbish during a sentencing, striking the judge in the face, according to witnesses. The incident prompted Obbish to slap an extra six months onto Toy's 75-year sentence...." More (Chicago Sun-Times 09.20.2007). Cf., Throwing slippers (chappals) at judges in India.
Judge is chastized for chastizing weeping asylum-seeker. "A New York immigration judge[, Noel A. Ferris,] who rebuked a Chinese man for weeping during his asylum hearing has been rebuked herself by a federal appeals court that took the rare step of ordering her off the case...." More (NYT 09.20.2007).
Suspect is blown up in courtroom. "A man on trial for murder and rape has been blown up inside a courthouse in India's lawless state of Bihar, police said Thursday. The suspect was being escorted into a courthouse in Patna, the state capital, when unidentified attackers lobbed three bombs at him. The prisoner died on the spot of shrapnel injuries and three lawyers were hurt, a police spokesman said, describing the bombs as 'low-intensity improvised explosive devices.'" More (Inquirer - Philippines 09.20.2007).
Witnesses: judge gave preferential treatment to her clerk's live-in boyfriend. "In February 2004, Judge Beverley Nettles-Nickerson ordered the early release of a probationer who was her clerk's live-in boyfriend, according to testimony Wednesday at a special trial. The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission says the Ingham County circuit judge gave special treatment to the man, Deshawn Anderson, who had been convicted of felony weapons and drug charges and violated his probation several times in 2003...." More (Lansing State Journal 09.20.2007).
Can the President fire John Roberts? "What would happen if the next U.S. president fired Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts? This is a question I put to U.S. law students visiting Prague recently. Not surprisingly, my question was met with uncomprehending silence, as such a move is inconceivable in just about any Western democratic country. An exception seems to be in the Czech Republic, where President Václav Klaus attempted to remove of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iva Broová from office in February 2006. The Constitutional Court subsequently invalidated Klaus' directive, but he and other politicians are still attempting to unseat her...." More (Prague Post - Commentary by Mark Gillis 09.20.2007).
Judge censured for ex parte communication, vacating another judge's order. "[Judge Theodore S. Royster Jr., a] District Court judge[,] was censured late last month by the N.C. Supreme Court for how he handled a child-support case in Iredell County...Royster [was] accused of having a one-sided, or ex parte, conversation with an attorney representing a man who owed child support in 2005. Royster then struck down an order by another judge that called for the man to pay his child support, according to the N.C. Judicial Standards Commission...." More (Winston-Salem Journal 09.20.2007). Comment. Whenever I hear the name Winston-Salem, I think of Winston and Salem cigarettes. Whenever I think of Salem cigarettes, I think of the MAD magazine "ad," circa 1960, showing a man "sailing" his packs of Salem cigarettes as if they were toy boats. The punchline, a good one, was "Sail 'em, don't inhale 'em!"
The return of the prodigal judge. "Dallas County Democrats on Thursday are celebrating the return of John Creuzot, their prodigal judge...Sensing the changing political tide, he successfully switched parties in 1995 after the Republican political wave overwhelmed Democrats. But the tide turned again. And after watching last year's Democratic sweep, Judge Creuzot decided to go back home. He concedes that staying on the bench would be risky if he remained a Republican. 'There is an aspect of political reality, yes,' he said, adding that 'I probably wouldn't be making this decision' if Republicans were still in power...." More (Dallas Morning News 09.19.2007). Comment. Who says judges, no matter how they are selected, don't read the election returns and the polls? "Mr. Dooley" put it thusly: "'But there 's wan thing I 'm sure about.' 'What's that?' asked Mr. Hennessy. 'That is,' said Mr. Dooley, 'no matther whether th' constitution follows th' flag or not, th' supreme coort follows th' iliction returns.'" Finley Peter Dunne, "The Supreme Court's Decisions," from Mr. Dooley's Opinions (1901).
Wanna be a judge? Apply online! Now! "Thick judicial application packets are going the way of the storefront courthouse in California. This week, the Schwarzenegger administration will begin taking judicial applications on-line. The goal, officials said, is to encourage more people to apply as well as to reduce the reams of paper that now accompany most applications...." More (Press-Enterprise 09.19.2007).
Judicial economics: career law clerks are too damned expensive. "As expected, the Judicial Conference voted today to head off the pricey trend of federal judges stacking their chambers with multiple long-haul clerks. One judge, one career law clerk. That's the new rule...." More (Legal Times 09.19.2007). Comment. Speaking generally and everything else being equal, one experienced career clerk is probably worth three one-year novice clerks.
Annals of courthouse security. "It's a virtual treasure trove of contraband discovered in place where criminals gather and justice is the law of the land. We're talking about the Allen County Courthouse. Police say folks headed into the courthouse are stashing things in the bushes that are not allowed inside.
Six cell phones, two marijuana pipes and ten knives: that's what makes up the collection of items found by Parks Department employees in the courthouse bushes on Friday...." More (WANE-TV - Fort Wayne, Indiana 09.19.2007).
Men charged with terroristic threats against judge in rap video on YouTube. "Two northwest Missouri men have been charged with making a rap video that threatens to kill police officers, harm a judge and rape a female police officer. Police said the profanity-laced video, which has been pulled from the social networking Internet site YouTube, also threatens the destruction of a community...." More (Belleville News-Democrat 09.19.2007).
Former judge and accomplices are jailed over fraudulent land transactions. "The Gelephu dungkhag court yesterday sentenced four people to prison terms ranging from five to nine and half years in connection with the illegal transaction of 45.50 acres of land belonging to people who absconded the country in the early 90s. The Chukha dzongkhag's former drangpon, Thinley Wangdi, the former bench clerk of Sarpang district court, Tshejay Norbu, former Gelephu gup, C B Tiwari, and an accomplice, Dana Pati Khandal, were charged with forgery, criminal conspiracy, official misconduct and illegal transfer of immovable property...." More (Kuensel Online - Bhutan 09.19.2007). Comment. I didn't catch those names. Will you repeat them?
Closing argument of Anthony Forster, public defender. "[B]efore you go back into that jury room and send an innocent man off to die in prison, there is just one question I must ask each and every one of you. Will you marry me? Dammit, jury, I love you. I've loved you from the moment you were summoned to the courthouse, interviewed separately, and deemed to have no perceived bias or conflict of interest that would prevent you from ruling on this case...." More (The Onion 09.19.2007). Comment. Obviously a closing argument by a devotee of the Make-Love-to-the-Jury School of Winning Trial Tactics.
Judging wine. "[E]ven single-blind tastings never really eliminate context. You're rarely judging a wine solely on its own terms. What you tasted before and what you taste after affect how you experience what's in the glass, as do all sorts of other external factors like mood, health, time of day and other details of life. Most tasters try to be aware of these factors and to compensate for them as best they can. The more important questions involve the history and reason for a particular style of wine...[I]f you insist that this context is irrelevant you almost insure that you will never understand the wine. It's almost an anti-intellectual position. Obviously what's in the glass matters. But I think the more knowledge you can bring to a wine, the better your understanding of that wine will be...." -- Eric Asimov, Judging the judging (NYT 09.18.2007). Further reading. BurtLaw's Dog Judging, Jam&Jelly Judging, Etc.
Annals of judicial junkets and perks. "Chief Justice Marilyn Warren has cost Victorian taxpayers more than $50,000 in state-funded overseas trips since being appointed four years ago. Chief Justice Warren flew first class to conferences in the US, France and London. Taxpayers picked up the tab for a $7000 stay for the top judge and a guest at a luxury Paris hotel...." More (Melbourne Herald Sun 09.18.2007).
Annals of judicial embezzlement. "A Franklinville woman[, Karen M. Smith, 31,] pleaded guilty in Superior Court here on Monday to embezzling nearly $20,000 from three different municipal courts in Gloucester and Cumberland counties...Under the plea agreement, she must repay the money and will serve five years on probation. The Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office accused Smith of receiving payments for municipal court fines by altering computer records to reflect a lower fine than was actually assessed, keeping the difference for herself...." More (Cherry Hill Courier Post - NJ 09.18.2007).
Wigs in Hong Kong. "It is difficult to persuade people that judges and barristers understand life in the 21st century when they insist on dressing for work as if in the 18th century. Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice, has announced that from next January judges in civil cases will no longer wear wigs, collars and bands, although they will retain a simple gown...When the United Kingdom exported the common law to its colonies, the Ede and Ravenscroft wig box travelled along with the reasonable person on the Clapham omnibus, the rational behaviour of the Wednesbury Corporation, and the rule that what would be a nuisance in Belgrave Square would not necessarily be so in Bermondsey. A wig is hot in St Albans. But it is a positive health hazard in the courts of the Cayman Islands, Brunei and Hong Kong, even when the air-conditioning is working...." -- From a terrific piece, You are what you wear on your head? Nonsense! by David Pannick, QC. (Times UK 09.18.2007).
Ex-judge is out of jail after paying part of money he owes ex-wife, kids. "A disgraced former judge[, Reynold Mason,] was sprung from jail yesterday after he finally came up with some of the money he owes his ex-wife and kids. [He] forked over $30,000 of the $250,000 he owes his ex-wife, Tessa Abrams-Mason -- enough to convince Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Joan Lobis to let him out of jail after 3½ months behind bars...[He] was booted off the Brooklyn bench in 2003 for dipping into a client's escrow account." More (N.Y. Post 09.18.2007).
Judge as C.E.O. of city. "Judge Theodore Z. Davis, who has served as interim chief operating officer of Camden since January, got the job officially, as Gov. Jon Corzine extended the state takeover of the city for another five years and put Davis in the pilot's seat...." More (Cherry Hill Courier Post - NJ 09.18.2007).
A courthouse is a good place to have a heart attack? "John Davidson's racing heart was not a result of being on trial. The 72-year-old man from Merton just went to the Waukesha County Courthouse to fulfill jury duty. Lt. Larry Lafavor of the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department was chatting outside Judge Lee Dreyfus' courtroom...When Lafavor heard Bailiff Vicki Ferree call for an ambulance, he entered the courtroom to find Davidson lying on the benches as 'white as a clam,' Lafavor said. Davidson was gasping irregularly and, within 30 seconds, stopped breathing, Lafavor said." The AED (automated external defribrillator read "No shock advised" when Lafavor and another deputy held it to Davidson's chest. In other words, "he was a flat-liner." The two administered CPR and got Davidson's heart beating. At last report he's "doing fine" but needs surgery. Lafavor is quoted as saying that the courthouse is "a good place to have a heart attack," because it has AEDs "all over the place" as well as certified officers. Moreover, among the prospective jurors were a nurse and an AED instructor. More (Lake Country Reporter - WI 09.18.2007). Comment. Count on our friends in Wisconsin to "do it right" -- or, shall we say, to do it almost as well as we do here in MN.
Most unusual headline today: 'The Hanging of Judge Sonia Sotomayor.' "'When exactly is this hanging of the judge?' the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor[, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit,] innocently questioned the founder of Urban Health Plan. While her portrait will bear the brunt of the hanging, the occasion to which the first Puerto Rican woman federal court judge refers will take place on September 21, 2007 at 11:00 a.m. when she is inducted into the Wall of Fame at Urban Health Plan, Inc...." More (Hispanic PR Wire 09.18.2007).
State senator sues 'God' in order to make a point. "State Sen. Ernie Chambers sued God last week. Angered by another lawsuit he considers frivolous, Chambers says he's trying to make the point that anybody can file a lawsuit against anybody...The Omaha senator, who skips morning prayers during the legislative session and often criticizes Christians...says God has caused 'fearsome floods...horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes.' He's seeking a permanent injunction against the Almighty. Chambers said the lawsuit was triggered by a federal suit filed against a judge who recently barred words such as 'rape' and 'victim' from a sexual assault trial...." More (Detroit Free Press 09.18.2007).
Appeals court rebukes a law school classmate of mine -- for the 10th time. "[T]he Appellate Division, 1st Department, has rebuked a Manhattan Supreme Court justice for excessively interfering with the examination of witnesses during a criminal trial. In the present case, the unanimous panel ruled that Justice Arlene R. Silverman's 'almost continuous interference' during both the defense's and the prosecution's questioning constituted reversible error, requiring the panel to throw out a guilty verdict in a felony drug-possession trial...Although the 1st Department has previously admonished Silverman nine times in varying degrees for her 'unduly and extensive' interference...the present decision marks the first instance in which a panel has cited her interference as grounds for reversal." More (Law.Com via NYLJ 09.18.2007). Comment. Arlene and I were classmates at Harvard Law School, Class of 1967. As I recall, she sat in an assigned seat near the front in first-year criminal law in 1964-65, taught in Austin Hall by then-novice law school prof Alan Morten Dershowitz, a whiz kid fresh from Yale Law School and a clerkship with Justice Arthur Goldberg at SCOTUS. I sat in back, one of the best of the backbenchers. BTW, I follow a double standard in the matter of judicial intervention in criminal trials: I think a judge ought to be inclined to intervene if need be to protect a defendant's right to a fair trial but ought rarely intervene otherwise.
Lafayette's courthouse. "His likeness boldly surveys the exterior of the historic Fayette County Courthouse, so it's only fitting that an image of the Marquis de Lafayette will be on display inside the walls of the stately building. The Fayette County Historic Landmark Commission has paid for a print of an oil painting of the statesman for whom Fayette County was named in 1831 and will soon hang the painting in the main hallway of the courthouse. Three years ago this month, the commission realized a long-held dream when a Lafayette statue was placed on the courthouse lawn...." More (FayetteTribune - WV 09.18.2007).
FLA courts may be asked to cut budget by 4.2%. "While Florida courts may only be asked to make a 4.2 percent budget cut as opposed to 10 percent, such a reduction could still have significant effects on courts and citizens' ability to seek redress, according to State Courts Administrator Lisa Goodner...." More (Jacksonville Daily Record 09.18.2007).
Judicial contempt for criticism. "Delhi high court suo motu initiated contempt proceedings against Mid Day journalists for publishing a story questioning the acts of former chief justice of India (CJI) Y K Sabharwal. The message to the media was loud and clear -- you dare not write anything against the courts...[B]y gagging the media, the Delhi high court is only lending credence to the allegations against Justice Sabharwal. The Delhi high court in its judgment against Mid Day journalists said that they were guilty of lowering the dignity of Supreme Court in the eyes of the public. If the voice of the media were to be gagged, the dignity of the Supreme Court would be lowered for ever...." More (Times of India - Editorial 09.18.2007).
Judge Florentino Floro Redux. "[A] series of disturbing incidents appear to have the nation's top jurists rattled. According to local newspaper reports, a mysterious fire in January destroyed the Supreme Court's crest in its session hall, and a number of members of the court and their close family members have developed serious illnesses or have fallen victim to car accidents...." Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr., who was removed by the Supreme Court after he said he regularly consulted three elves in reaching his decisions, denies involvement but "points the finger squarely at 'king of kings' elf Luis, who Mr. Floro says is bent on cleaning up what he says is the Philippines' corrupt legal system." More (WSJ 09.17.2007).
Judge goes easy on ex-soldier who sought 'suicide by police.' "A judge has spoken out about the impact of modern warfare on soldiers' behaviour after hearing how a former serviceman threatened to kill staff at a York mental health unit. James Mayo subjected staff at the unit, in Union Terrace, to a terrifying ordeal during which he also said he hoped to be shot dead himself by armed police. At the time, he was already subject to two court orders imposed to control his behaviour. But Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC decided not to lock up Mayo, saying he needed help and that he was 'very impressed' by his efforts in serving his country...." More (This is York - UK 09.17.2007).
Judges may soon be judged by fellow judges on performance. "Judges face having their performance in court assessed under plans to ensure that their skills in handling cases are up to scratch and that they treat people fairly and courteously. Judges across all ranks could find themselves being examined on handling a court, showing authority, communicating and resolving issues and managing time and workloads, in the plans under discussion. The move would see them appraised formally on how well they listen; whether they communicate clearly without using legal jargon and on the general handling of their cases...." More (UK Times 09.17.2007). Comment. But what if the judge who sits in on one of your sessions is an incompetent drip himself?
Stanley Grizzle's long journey. "'All we black kids could do was run, eat, shine shoes and say 'yes, sir' and 'yes, ma'am,' [Stanley] Grizzle, 88, said yesterday. Still, being a porter [for the Canadian Pacific Railway] 'was a beautiful experience for a young black man who had nothing but hope.' With only the rails ahead of him, he had no inkling of how far that hope would carry him, or the titles he would add, one by one, to CPR porter: Second World War veteran, union activist, politician, civil servant, citizenship court judge, member of the Order of Canada. He certainly didn't anticipate having a city rename a small park in his honour, as Toronto is poised to do...." More (Globe and Mail 09.17.2007).
Keeping an eye on people wearing black robes. "Just because they wear black robes doesn't mean their temperament is always judicial. A Houston bankruptcy judge last August ordered a lawyer to the back of the courtroom to write out 50 times that he would not be disrespectful. A Harris County district judge during the 1980s demanded lawyers call each other 'doctor.' Another local judge cleaned guns on the bench while overseeing jury selection in a murder case...." -- From a report on the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct. More (Houston Chronicle 09.17.2007). Comment. If you're a judge and you want a better sense of what can get you in trouble with the ethics folks, read The Daily Judge. And, for a limited time, we've doubled the cover price so that we can offer you a 50%-off deal, thereby allowing you to feel good about your purchase. Pay no attention to the fine print, which basically says that three months from now the cover price will triple and if you're one day late in paying you'll owe us 20% interest, compounded daily, plus a modest late-payment processing fee of $37. (Don't you just love the way our nice American businesses do business?)
Candidate for judge is hurt in single-tractor accident. "A 52-year-old Tiro man sustained serious injuries Saturday evening after a tree top fell on him while he was riding his tractor in the woods. Patrick Murphy, an attorney running for municipal court judge, was hurt when he backed his tractor into a tree while working alone in woods on his property...." More (Bucyrust Telegraph Forum - OH 09.17.2007).
Annals of Scandinavians getting each other's goat. "Police arrested a Danish marine for violating police regulation by urinating on the Reykjavík District Court building on Saturday night. According to police, the man was very drunk and was made to sleep it off in a cell. 'The captain of his ship came the next day, bailed him out and apologized to the Icelandic nation on behalf of the Danish Navy,' a senior police officer on duty told Fréttabladid...." More (Iceland Review 09.17.2007). Comment. Would a Norwegian sailor do that sort of thing? To ask the question is to answer it -- i.e., we think not. Moreover, if he did, he wouldn't need a captain to apologize for him. And he wouldn't just apologize, he'd feel guilty about it the rest of his life.
Judicial politics, Chicago style. "The things ya gotta do to become a judge in Cook County. Sometimes you have to spend years cultivating relationships with Democratic committeemen, drive senior citizens to the polling place on Election Day, and hand out palm cards in the cold. Or you have to be born into, or marry into, a politically connected family. Sometimes you have to spend years cultivating relationships with Democratic committeemen, drive senior citizens to the polling place on Election Day, and hand out palm cards in the cold. Or you have to be born into, or marry into, a politically connected family. Here's the new wrinkle: Now some committeemen want you to have quality courtroom experience, too...." More (Chicago Sun-Times 09.17.2007). Comment. This is a hilarious, detailed report on the candidate selection process, with excerpts from the supplicants' pleas. The bad news for the committeemen? Voters are increasingly independent-minded, "taking newspaper endorsements to the polls instead of the party's palm card."
Courthouses as community gathering places. "Early birds were standing in line waiting for Mexican and Salvadoran food at the 10th annual Hispanic Heritage Celebration held on the Courthouse grounds Saturday in Sherman. By 11:30 a.m. those attending were either strolling through all the booths on the east and west side of the Courthouse, waiting in long lines for food, checking out some high flying kicks, or experiencing some high decibels down the glimmering Lowrider Lane -- AKA Travis Street...." More (Sherman Denison Herald Democrat - TX 09.17.2007). Comment. The secret to courthouse security is not turning courthouses into Supermaniacal "fortresses of solitude" but opening them up, getting more ordinary people to go there and watch trials, view art exhibits, see the flowers, attend community events, hear political speeches, or sit on benches and watch people go by.
A postage stamp for jury duty -- and the celebrities who were too busy. "The celebrities assembled last week by the Postal Service to launch a new stamp in honor of jury duty had one thing in common: none had ever served on a jury...The festivities [at the New York County Courthouse building] were delayed for the arrival of Mariah Carey, who teetered into the courthouse on five-inch heels half an hour after the unveiling was to start. (Explaining her own failure to perform jury service, she said, 'I was on tour.') At the ceremony, Carey said little. 'It's so early,' she began, before a microphone that had been affixed to her clingy black dress fell to the floor. 'It's very important to do your part in this wonderful country where we live,' she went on, before adding, again, 'It's so early.' (It was noon.)" -- From a great 'Talk of the Town' piece in The New Yorker by Jeffrey Toobin, author of a new book about SCOTUS titled The Nine. More (New Yorker 09.17.2007 - Issue dated 09.24.2007).
'I sentence you to an hour listening to Barry Manilow.' "Violaters of the city of Fort Lupton's noise ordinance were in for a big surprise this past Friday. The city's judge sentenced citizens who have been busted for being too loud to 1 hour of listening to unpopular or unusual music...Judge Paul Sacco carries out the punishment about four times per year. He said he believes the sentence fits the crime. 'When you have a person playing rap at extreme volumes all over the city, and they have to sit down and listen for an hour to Barry Manilow, it's horrible punishment,' he said...." More (CBS4Denver 09.16.2007).
Courthouse benches honor boys killed in Viet Nam. "A special project that was started a few years has finally come to fruition. Benches that will serve as a tribute to Mark Houston, Leslie McKillop, Mike Ash and Mike Chaney, Vietnam War veterans who died while serving. Between 80 and 100 people attended the benches' dedication Saturday afternoon on the Vigo County Courthouse's lawn...." More (Terre Haute Tribune Star 09.16.2007).
Annals of trial tactics: make love to the judges with your eyes. "'Make Love to the Judges With Your Eyes' is little short of an ace album, the plaintive, slow-burning, piano-driven opening of 'Dance for Me' stretching out into the kind of broad and easy melodies that will underpin the majority of the songs...." -- From a review of Pony Up's new album. More (MusicOMH.Com 09.16.2007).
'Reforms' proposed in the UK. "A former high court judge has suggested that judges hearing difficult legal cases could be allowed to call in colleagues to give a second opinion. Lord Coulsfield spoke in the wake of the collapsed World's End murder trial in Edinburgh, when the judge ruled there was not enough evidence. He told BBC Scotland there was an issue as to whether such major decisions should be taken by a single judge. The Scottish government has already hinted at legal reforms...The changes -- including the removal of 'double jeopardy,' the ban on suspects being tried twice for the same crime, and giving the Crown the right to appeal -- could form part of new criminal justice legislation scheduled for late 2008." More (BBC News 09.16.2007). Comment. Kipling's great poem, 'If,' bears re-reading now and again, when politicians -- of the legislative, executive and judicial kind -- are more and more "playing to the crowd," the baying crowd: "If you can keep your head when all about you/ Are losing theirs...." Further reading. Here's another relevant poem, by Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819-1881), that my mom taught me:
God, give us men!
GOD, give us men! A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;
Men whom the lust of office does not kill;
Men whom the spoils of office can not buy;
Men who possess opinions and a will;
Men who have honor; men who will not lie;
Men who can stand before a demagogue
And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!
Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog
In public duty, and in private thinking;
For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,
Their large professions and their little deeds,
Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,
Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps.
China further limits use of death penalty. "China has ordered judges to use the death penalty more sparingly by showing leniency for murderers who cooperate with authorities and white collar criminals who help recoup their ill-gotten gains, the government said Friday...." More (IHT 09.14.2007). Comment. If China wants to "beat us" in yet another "category," it ought to abolish capital punishment and thereby join the ranks of Western Europe and most other civilized countries, leaving us in the company of sad countries like Iran, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, etc. Further reading. BurtLaw's Law and Capital Punishment.
Judge named to hear disciplinary matter involving SCOWIS justice recuses. "An appeals court judge who gave Annette Ziegler's Supreme Court campaign $100 last fall withdrew late Thursday from the panel that will handle her disciplinary proceedings. Third District Court of Appeals Judge Michael Hoover was chosen Thursday afternoon to lead the panel, which will make a recommendation on possible discipline for Ziegler for overseeing cases while on the Washington County bench involving a bank for which her husband served on the board of directors...." More (WisPolitics 09.14.2007). Comment. What's an appeals court judge doing giving money to the campaign of a justice for SCOWIS? And what's a candidate doing in accepting contributions from judges and lawyers? When I ran for statewide judicial office in the general election in 2000, I made it clear I wouldn't accept contributions or endorsements from any lawyers -- or from anyone else, for that matter. Just say no -- it's easy, unless you're obsessed with inevitably compromising yourself and with "winning."
Latest on judge's wife convicted of refusing test and biting cop's finger. "Convicted at the age of 62 over biting a policeman's finger and a violent struggle after three attempts at a random breath test, a District Court judge's wife had her previous good reputation reinstated today after a judge dismissed two charges and quashed her $900 fine. Acting Judge Boulton dismissed charges of assault and resisting arrest against Joyce Wilhelmina Davies, now 63...." More (SMH - AU 09.14.2007). Comment. Every judge's wife gets one free bite? Just kidding. I'm sure she's a fine woman. The presiding judge says she just acted impulsively, with no assaultive intent. That's often the case, we think, when one discovers one's self biting someone's finger.
Texas courthouse preservation expert will tour condemned Ohio courthouse. "A courthouse preservation expert from Texas will be permitted to tour Seneca County's endangered 1884 courthouse next week, although county commissioners again denied a request to allow him to make a presentation at their meeting on Monday. Stan Graves, an architect who directs the Texas Historic County Courthouse Preservation Program, is to be in Tiffin next week at the invitation of the Tiffin Historic Trust, a local preservation group that is fighting to save the now-shuttered courthouse from the wrecking ball...." More (Toledo Blade 09.14.2007). Comment. The commissioners are allowing themselves to appear close-minded on the subject of reversing their unpopular and unwise decision to tear down the historic courthouse. Are they close-minded? We hope they'll change their minds. Tearing down the courthouse is a big mistake. Texas has made itself proud and is the leader in preserving historic courthouses. Many of the saved-and-restored courthouses are part of the Texas tradition of Christmas lighting festivals, that draw visitors (and shoppers) from far and wide.
Let's-Make-a-Deal Courts. "Until recently, if you were picked up on a DUI charge in little Waverly, Ohio, you could make a $1,000 'donation' to the village in exchange for a light sentence on a lesser charge. This isn't justice. It's 'Let's Make a Deal.' It's also the latest reason why the state Legislature should pass a bill that would abolish mayor's courts...." More (Canton Repository - Editorial 09.14.2007). Comment. And if you don't have a K note handy, well, you can always eat cake.
Judge sues to end mandatory retirement. "A Cook County circuit judge says a state law that restricts older judges from running for re-election is discriminatory. That law says judges can't run for their seat again after they turn 75. Judge William Maddux filed a lawsuit yesterday challenging the law. Maddux says age is not an indicator of ability...." More (Chicago Public Radio 09.14.2007). Comment. We're with the judge on this. See, BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges. Interestingly, in the last year we've seen an increase in interest in abolishing mandatory retirement of judges. Most notable of those who've seen the light is N.Y. Gov. and Harvard Law grad Eliot Spitzer. Update. "This kind of age discrimination is profoundly un-American -- a flagrant violation of the idea that people deserve to be evaluated individually, by their abilities and their performance, and not as members of the demographic group to which they happen to belong. Substitute an ethnicity, gender or physical disability for the age limit on judges who want to run for retention, and this statutory presumption of incompetence becomes brazenly ugly and indefensible...." -- Columnist Eric Zorn. More (Chicago Tribune 09.18.2007).
Annals of judicial comp: judges living in government low-income housing. "A Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court judge who lived rent-free for nearly two years in a home owned by a government affordable housing agency has agreed to a reprimand and to pay $17,000 in back rent. The disciplinary deal involving Judge Theresa Gomez must be approved by the state Supreme Court...Attorneys for Gomez and the state Judicial Standards Commission asked the court to approve it. 'The misconduct in this matter is indeed significant,' commission attorneys told the justices...." More (Las Cruces Sun-News 09.13.2007). Comment. It's become common these days to blame all bad-weather events on a) "global warming" and b) "El Nino." Similarly, isn't it clear -- and I ask this without addressing the specifics of this case -- that it's getting impossible for judges to live normal lives when they only make more than 95% of wage earners?
Repeat DWI offender, ex-judge gets five days in jail and.... "When Maureen A. Cronin starts driving again [after 18 days of house arrest and five days in jail], the retired judge's car will have yellow license plates that signify a multiple drunken-driving offender. She'll also have an ignition interlock device on her dashboard that will measure her alcohol concentration when she blows into it. If the reading is acceptable, the car will start...." More (Youngstown Vindicator - OH 09.13.2007).
Glass as metaphor - the new courthouse in Plymouth, MA. "Judge Margaret Marshall, chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, said the wealth of glass panels in the imposing three-story structure 'was a symbol of the transparency of the justice within.'" More (Boston Globe 09.13.2007).
The Texas Judicial Cookbook. "If you're into photos of Texas courthouses -- and who isn't? -- there's a new cookbook you'll want to pick up. Described as a 'culinary tribute to these monuments of justice and leadership,' Dennis R. Mott's new Texas Judicial Cookbook (Ovation Books, $19.95) is a compilation of 59 recipes from current and former judges and state and county officials...." More (Philadelphia Daily News 09.13.2007). Comment. Count me in as a Texas courthouse photo fetishist.
Bringing the rule of law to college dorms. "This year, a new policy has been instituted that deals with the consequences of minor first-offenses on Fairfield[ University]'s campus. In the past, these minor offenders would be referred to the dean's office and the FUSA student court. Now, small, student conduct boards will be established in each residence hall to hear minor first-offense cases. The boards will consist of a representative from the dean of students, the area coordinator for the residence hall, and two members of the Fairfield RCC (Residence Community Council) for the building. Together, they will be called the RHCB, the Residential Hall Conduct Board...." More (Fairfield Mirror 09.13.2007). Comment. Now if judges can just establish the rule of law at their own family dinner tables, ensuring free speech by all family members, due process in adjudicating disputes over table manners, alternative dispute resolution of dinner table arguments, etc.
Betting on Supreme Court 'stocks'? "A generation ago, the financial writer Burton Malkiel suggested that the motions of the stock market, though in broad outline reflective of economic trends, were random and unpredictable from day to day. A similar case, it seems to me, can be made for the Supreme Court. Courts move in broad directions as a result of the political leanings of new justices; but in individual cases they can be quirky and unpredictable." -- From a review by Garrett Epps of Jeffrey Toobin's new book about SCOTUS, The Nine. More (Salon 09.13.2007).
Judicial house calls. "To serve justice, a Malaysian judge decided she can go any distance -- even if it means driving to the house of the accused to determine the truth. When Khalid Arshad, on trial for alleged improper business practice, was not in court Wednesday, Judge Nurmala Salim decided to personally verify the claim that he was bedridden after suffering a stroke, defense lawyer Venu Nair said Thursday...." More (IHT 09.13.2007). Comment. I recall numerous occasions when I was sick as a kid and my mom would call Dr. Silas Waldimar Giere, M.D., and he'd arrive with his little black leather bag and check me out briefly, then give me a penicillin shot in the rump. House call by judge to check on party or witness? New to me.
Britain's chief judge opposes role for Parliament in judicial selection. "Britain's most senior judge has strongly opposed any move towards American-style selection of judges involving Parliament. Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers made clear yesterday that he is completely against any role for the executive in appointing judges, as floated in the Prime Minister's recent Green Paper on governance...." More (UK Times 09.13.2007). Comment. When I was 7 or 8 years old I used to accompany my bro, who was four years older, and some of his friends to a secret hideaway in some bushes in a ditch next to a little-used dirt road at the edge of town, several blocks from our house. There they'd smoke -- and let me smoke with them -- Parliament-brand and Sir Herbert Tareyton-brand cigarettes. One of my bro's pals always got a chuckle out of a little twerp like me smoking cigarettes with such pretentious names. I guess the choice the Brits are contemplating is the choice between judicial selection involving Parliament and one left to a greater elite that includes the likes of Sir Herbert Tareyton. I gave up smoking when I was 8 or 9 years old, but I look upon Parliament and Sir Herbert Tareyton as old friends of my youth. Therefore I will not choose between them any more than I would choose between my kids. :-)
Annals of judicial notice: trial judge as sexpert. Superior Court Justice Bruce Glass was trying a 24-year-old man accused of rape in a case in which the man claimed consent. The defendant testified he was wearing a condom during consensual sex with the woman, who was 10 years older, when he began losing his erection, causing the condom to slip off. In rejecting the defendant's testimony, the judge said, "This man was 24 years old. He appears to be in good health and there is no indication he was not. A virile young man with a full erection bound on having a climax would not lose his erection. There is only one reasonable interpretation. He did not have a condom on at all." The judge added that the fact the defendant said he left for work shortly after having sex showed the sex was not consensual: "If it had been consensual intercourse, one would have expected him to show more compassion" instead of "callous[ly]" leaving for work right after the act. The Ontario Court of Appeals, granting a new trial, said the judge violated rules of "judicial notice" in reasoning as he did, in effect setting himself up as an expert and then crediting his own expertise. More (National Post 09.13.2007). Comment. And yet, jurors employ such personal-experience-based "reasoning" all the time in reaching their verdicts.
Baby Barista -- the ongoing soap opera of a young pupil barrister. "The story so far: BabyBarista has been a pupil barrister fighting to get a place at a London chambers since October last year. Early on, he made a faustian pact with The Boss to help cover up his negligence in return for preferment. Meanwhile, he has been committing various acts of subterfuge against his fellow pupils. First, he encouraged Worrier to make a career-limiting sex discrimination complaint. Then he set up BusyBody by making it appear as if she put a recording of the head of chambers' comments on YouTube. He is currently testing the faithfulness of TopFirst to his fiancee using HoneyTrap. Since April, another pupil, ThirdSix has arrived and UpTights has become his pupilmistress. OldRuin looks on unmoved...." For the latest installment in the ongoing adventures of Baby Barista and links to the earlier ones, click here (UK Times 09.13.2007).
Should Judge Hanson be impeached over decision in same-sex marriage case? "A conservative political activist is demanding that the Iowa Legislature impeach Polk County District Judge Robert Hanson, who ruled in August that the state's gay-marriage ban is unconstitutional...." More (Des Moines Register 09.13.2007). Comment. Impeach a judge named Hanson? Nay! Let no one suggest it! It is so difficult in places like Iowa and Minnesota -- where Andersons rule the public roost -- for a Hanson to achieve public office. See, 'If I change my name to Anderson, will the MN governor name me a judge?' That being so, we believe it is incumbent upon Iowans, Minnesotans, etc., who believe in equality of opportunity for all Scandinavian-Americans, not just those named Anderson, to rise up and defend Judge Hanson. Besides, what's so awful about a judge following his oath and deciding a case according to the constitution as he reads it? Further reading. Burton Hanson on Marriage and the Law.
Are judges' home addresses 'private' information? "Judges have reacted swiftly to condemn as 'inappropriate and irresponsible the publication of their home addresses by a fathers' campaign group. In an unprecedented statement, the Judicial Communications Office has said that the 'Judgebuster' campaign by the Fathers4Justice pressure group was designed to encourage harassment of judges...." More (UK Times 09.13.2007). Comment. Engaging in acts of rudeness and incivility -- as in picketing a judge's home, which is what the group has urged -- strikes me as a misguided strategy for winning sympathizers and achieving change. Did I say it's rude and uncivil? Yes. I think it's rude and uncivil to picket the home of a judge or any other public (or private) figure, and also rude and uncivil for reporters to camp out outside a person's home. Picketing outside a courthouse ought generally to be permitted -- see, my comments at Limiting speech outside courthouse -- but picketing outside a judge's home ought not generally be permitted. Everyone is a private figure once he enters his castle and deserves the protection of the law against improper intrusion into that castle and upon the moat of privacy surrounding it.
Free speech at Harvard Law? "Even at Harvard Law School, the apex of the American legal establishment, there is a speech code -- dubbed 'Sexual Harassment Guidelines' -- that grew out of a 1990's student parody of feminist legal theory. Today students may safely engage in parody or other 'offensive' speech in Harvard Square (protected by the venerable First Amendment, after all) that would be punishable if spoken in Harvard Yard or Harvard Law School. A student may not, at Harvard, engage in the kind of parody we normal citizens freely watch every night on Comedy Central's The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Our campuses of higher education, once the most free places in our society, are now the second least free (outranked, still, by our maximum security prisons)." -- Harvey Silverglate in Evolving Campus Culture -- Tear Down This Wall (Free for All 09.12.2006). Comment. Harvey Silverglate was a classmate of mine at Harvard Law and is one of the premier civil liberties lawyers and defenders of the damned in America. One could say of Harvard Law what Emerson said of lawyers in his great journal, "[L]awyers...are a prudent race though not very fond of liberty." Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journal 04.1850). Harvey and Wendy Kaminer, the First Amendment scholar, have a great blog affiliated with Boston Phoenix, to which they both contribute, titled The Free for All. For some of my thoughts about Harvard Law, see, BurtLaw's Harvard Law.
Allegation: two judges in politically-sensitive case have eyes on SCOPHIL seat. "A possible seat in the Supreme Court might have motivated two of three justices of the anti-graft court to vote for the conviction of former president Joseph Estrada for plunder, a former opposition member-turned administration ally said Wednesday...." More (Inquirer - Philippines 09.12.2007).
Opinion: Sandra Day O'Connor Courthouse is 'overblown igloo.' "Look about seven blocks west on Washington Street and you'll see the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse, designed by an 'award-winning' New York architect. From an aesthetic and functional point of view, this $127.2 million overblown igloo is a pathetic testament to our 'tax dollars at work.'" -- From a letter to the editor. More (Arizona Republic 09.12.2007).
Of the Bhagavad Gita and the rule of law. "It's one of the most revered Hindu texts, but a controversial observation by an Allahabad High Court judge that the Gita should be made the national 'dharma shastra' or book of law has led to nationwide condemnation. Arguing that following the Gita must be a fundamental duty for all, Justice SN Srivastava observed 'As India has recognised its national flag, national anthem, national bird, national animal and national flower, Bhagvad Gita may be considered as national dharma shastra.' It's a statement that hits at the heart of India's secular laws and was immediately condemned by the Union Law Minister who said, 'For Muslims, it is the Quran and the Christians have the Bible. Every religion has its own dharma shastra, so how can we say it (Gita) is for the entire nation...." More (TimesNow.TV - India 09.12.2007). Comment. "The Bhagavad Gita...is a Sanskrit text from the Bhishma Parva of the Mahabharata epic...[It] is revered as sacred by the majority of Hindu traditions, and especially so by followers of Krishna. It is commonly referred to as The Gita." More (Wikipedia 09.12.2007). It is sometimes confused, by some Americans, with the Kama Sutra. "Kamasutram, generally known to the Western world as Kama Sutra, is [the] ancient Indian text widely considered to be the standard work on love in Sanskrit literature...A portion of the work deals with human sexual behavior." More (Wikipedia 09.12.2007). The judge's making the statement was akin to some SCOTUS justice saying that ours is a Christian nation and that the "national book" ought to be the Bible. Actually, our "national book" is the U. S. Constitution, which guarantees each of us the right to read anything we want, including The Gita and Kama Sutra.
Did fear of retention election prompt chief justice in PA to retire early? "Most actions at upper levels of government tend to spark speculation. So it is with the oddly timed resignation of state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy. Yesterday, he said he was leaving the bench at the end of the year despite the fact that he could serve, potentially, another six years. Political instinct suggests that the 64-year old Pittsburgh jurist, inextricably clothed in the 2005 pay raise he tailored, defended and kept, grew weary of wearing that self-made mantle or worried about facing voters in a yes/no election two years from now...." More (Philadelphia Daily News - John Baer's column 09.12.2007). Comment. One justice was discarded over the pay raise fiasco in the retention election in 2005 and another narrowly missed being ousted. Wise judges fear retention elections (Missouri Plan) over the rare contested election involving a real live challenger (Minnesota Plan). First, they know that lawyers, fearful of the consequences to their practices and standing in the bar, rarely challenge sitting judges in states like MN. Moreover, they know that voters who are vaguely dissatisfied with courts and judges seem to find it easier to vote "no" (against a sitting judge) in a retention election than they do to vote "for" some unknown or less-than-appealing challenger over a sitting judge. Read on...
PA judge is worried about pay raise backlash in retention elections. "The state's top Superior Court judge is speaking out. President Judge Kate Ford Elliot is worried that some experienced judges may be tossed out because of the continuing backlash against the judicial pay raise...Sixty-seven judges across Pennsylvania, including seven statewide judges are up for retention or reelection. Some anti pay-raise groups are urging voters to send a message by voting 'no.'" More (KDKA 09.12.2007). Comment. Russ Diamond of "PA Clean Sweep" is reported as saying that he "wants voters to vote 'no' on the retention of every judge on the ballot this November because judges got to keep the pay raise."
Judging beers is a sobering task. Tony Kiss, "The Beer Guy" columnist for the Citizen-Times in Asheville, NC, birthplace of the great American novelist and beer drinker, Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938), was one of the judges, in the light lager category, of the Blue Ridge Brew Off, an annual homebrewing competition hosted by the Mountain Ale and Lager Tasters homebrewing club. He writes that "[j]udging made me realize how much there is to learn about homebrewing," that "it's not just a matter of drinking some beers and deciding which was best," that "[a] detailed report had to be made on each of the brews," that the other judges were "much more knowledgeable, picking out various flaws and highlights," that there was "spirited debate" among the judges, and that the experience made "realize just how little I really know about the nuances of brewing." More (Asheville Citizen-Times - NC 09.12.2007). Comment. Sounds to me like "the rule of law" -- including the independence of beer judges from improper influence (except by the beer) -- governs the immensely serious task of beer judging. This is as it should be. Let's just make sure we judge our fellow citizens as fairly as we judge our beer.
Lawyers boycott courts in Twin Cities! "Lawyers boycott courts in twin cities. RAWALPINDI: Lawyers boycotted courts in Islamabad and Rawalpindi to protest the killing of a lawyer, Raja Muhammad Riaz, in Karachi on Tuesday. Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) issued the strike call. Lawyers also protested tear gassing of their colleagues by police in Rawalpindi, in which seven lawyers were injured and eight cars were damaged. The deportation of Nawaz Sharif was also a subject of this strike...." More (Daily Times - Pakistan 09.12.2007). Comment. We didn't say "the" Twin Cities. If you thought we were referring to Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, you were outrageously wrong.
Woman who impersonated judge's daughter is indicted again. "[Rebecca Jo Burke, 24, a] Tucson woman indicted in June on charges she impersonated a judge's daughter[,] has been indicted again, this time for fraud, theft and forgery...Three months ago, another Pima County grand jury charged Burke with one count each of taking the identity of another, fraudulent scheme and artifice, and theft by misrepresentation...That indictment also alleges that Burke passed herself off as Rebecca Bernini in that same time period. Deborah Bernini, a Pima County Superior Court judge, told the Arizona Daily Star Burke had been telling people she was the judge's daughter for the past couple of years...." More (Arizona Daily Star 09.12.2007).
Did judge tell woman seeking TRO to 'go home to Nicaragua'? "Anna Calixto went to court Friday seeking an order of protection from her husband, Fernando Calixto. Instead, she was told to go back to her native country of Nicaragua by Blount County Circuit Court Judge W. Dale Young, according to witnesses...." More (Maryville Daily Times - TN 09.12.2007).
Fake annulment scam in courthouse is investigated. "Alarmed over the reported 'annulment scam' inside the Palace of Justice, Regional Trial Court (RTC) Executive Judge Fortunato de Gracia conducted yesterday a fact-finding conference between him and the lawyer of the complainant. De Gracia urged lawyer Eugene Sumampong to convince his client to file an administrative complaint against the alleged 'facilitator,' who was identified as a utility worker...." More (Sun-Star - Philippines 09.12.2007).
'Dawson's Creek Courthouse' is damaged by contractor's cutting water pipe. "A broken water pipe in the New Hanover County Historic Courthouse that left a hole in the building's ornate ceiling and waterlogged carpet is going to prevent the New Hanover County commissioners from returning to downtown Wilmington anytime soon. A contractor accidentally cut the hot water pipe two weeks ago, sending water cascading through the building's third floor and plaster crashing to the floor. The leak left a roughly 4-by-6-foot hole in the red-brick structure's third-floor ceiling...." More (Wilmington Morning Star - NC 09.12.2007). Comment. The courthouse is where Dawson and Joey would have gotten their marriage license if they'd gotten back together, because Dawson's Creek, was filmed on location in Wilmington, NC. Dawson's Creek FAQ (CapeFearCoast.Com 09.12.2007). Who knows, maybe someday that dream will become a reality, say, in a made-for-TV movie titled Return to Dawson's Creek.
Was AG 'out to get' judge? "Alabama Attorney General Troy King ordered an investigator to find anything to get Bessemer Circuit Judge Dan King 'off the bench,' according to a sworn statement by former investigator Anthony Castaldo. Troy King's order came after a yearlong investigation by Castaldo found no evidence of wrongdoing by Judge King, according to the affidavit attached to a motion filed Monday in the Bessemer Division of Jefferson County Circuit Court. Castaldo's continuing investigation eventually led to a 56-count indictment against Judge King, charging him with tax, ethics and election-law violations. His trial is set for December. The motion filed Monday asks for the 56-count indictment to be thrown out...." More (Birmingham News - AL 09.12.2007). Comment. Don't know if allegation is true. We never believe mere allegations. But, if true, it all reminds me of a law school prof of mine who said he had been a part of AG Bobby Kennedy's "Get Hoffa" task force, which had an unlimited budget and the sole purpose of which was to turn up evidence of wrongdoing -- any wrongdoing -- by Hoffa. More (Law.JRank.Org). I recall a study featured in the beginning sociology text used at the U. of Minn. in the early 1960's in which a very, very high per cent of respondents, knowing their identities would be protected, admitted to having done things that, if they'd been caught and prosecuted, could have resulted in their being convicted of felonies. The study supports what I've long thought true: a) If you assembled a "Get Joe Blow Task Force," you'd probably come up with something. b) We ought not get "holier than thou" when a fellow traveler on the journey of life, judge or otherwise, gets nabbed doing something "bad." c) We ought to rethink our excessively punitive "just desserts" and pseudoscientific models of sentencing and return to the rehabilitation and indeterminate sentence models with heavy emphasis on alternatives to incarceration. d) We ought to consider whether we're too ready to remove judges for extrajudicial conduct that is nonfelonious and doesn't otherwise bear directly on their performance of judicial functions.
Judge in trouble for characterizing testimony as 'b--s---.' "Municipal Judge Frank Leanza admits he shouldn't have labeled a landlord's excuses for ignoring summonses 'a lot of bullshit' but says he was just overly frustrated with the man he characterized as a 'slumlord' who for years ignored fines and orders to fix his apartment buildings...." More (NJLJ via Law.Com 09.12.2007). Comment. A judge gets called on the carpet for this?
Judges file suit demanding judges order a pay hike. "Members of four New York state judges' associations will file suit today in Manhattan Supreme Court to force the governor and the Legislature to give judges a pay raise...." More (NYLJ via Law.Com 09.12.2007). Comment. We always feel great sympathy for people who are earning more than 95% of wage earners.
Courthouse shuts down so workers may attend funeral of co-worker. "The Lincoln County Courthouse will be closed from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. today so employees can attend the funeral of a longtime co-worker. Patricia 'Pat' Anderson, 70, died Friday at the Canton hospital. She was employed in what is now called the equalization officer for almost 50 years...." More (Sioux Falls Argus-Leader 09.11.2007). Comment. When I was a teenager in the 1950's in my small hometown of 3,500 people in west-central Minnesota on the eastern edge of the Great American Prairie, if a sufficiently-prominent man (and I emphasize man) died, the businessmen (and I emphasize men) up and down main street would shut up shop for a couple hours in order to attend the funeral. In some states I suspect it would be a violation of state law to shut down a county courthouse so employees could attend the funeral of a co-worker. More typically, offices would remain open, short-staffed by people who didn't know the deceased or didn't wish to attend the funeral.
Judge removed from pre-trial docket addresses rally, claims retaliation. "A Wayne County circuit judge who was stripped of key duties said Monday her authority was reduced in response to her criticism about a lack of blacks on the court's juries. But Chief Judge Mary Beth Kelly said later that her decision in July to remove Judge Deborah Thomas from ruling on pretrial motions was made because Thomas was taking too long to process cases...At a rally of several hundred people Monday...Thomas pleaded with those present to organize and elect judges who represent the community...Thomas supporters...said Kelly is part of an effort by the conservative majority on the Michigan Supreme Court to tilt the judiciary to the Republican right...." More (Detroit Free Press 09.11.2007).
Why's Bush disregarding conservative home state senators in judge picks? "Is it that Bush simply doesn't care about the need for the support of home-state senators in the judicial confirmation process or that he doesn't fully understand that the judiciary committee is no longer under Republican control? Does he hope no one will notice that his judicial picks are as radical today as they were six years ago? The answer, surely, is that Bush is fighting a symbolic war over the courts. Winning is far from everything, because he is fighting this war to mollify groups that don't seem to understand that every seat that remains vacant today may well be a seat filled by a President Hillary Clinton in 2008...." Dahlia Lithwick, Rush [as in Rush Limbaugh] to Judgment - The fight to fill judicial vacancies grows ever weirder (Slate 09.11.2007).
Annals of French Revolutions - French judges threaten revolt. "The embattled Justice Minister of France held crisis talks with senior judges yesterday in an effort to stave off a revolt that threatens to paralyse the judicial system. Rachida Dati, a Muslim of North African origin, was plucked from relative obscurity by President Nicolas Sarkozy with a brief to modernise the legal system. But the 41-year-old has clashed repeatedly with prominent figures of the legal Establishment, who accuse her of undermining the independence of the judiciary...." More (UK Times 09.11.2007).
Judge's ex-secretary admits taking $46K in fine money from his office. "[Barbara S. Shaffer, 52, of Dunbar, t]he former secretary for a Fayette County magisterial district judge has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $46,000 from the office over a year and a half...Shaffer was arrested last year for stealing the money while she was employed by Magisterial District Judge Robert Breakiron between June 2003 and January 2005...." More (Uniontown Herald Standard - PA 09.11.2007). Further reading. BurtLaw's Law & Legal Secretaries.
Judge Not Afraid enjoys the 'thrill' of judicial campaigning. "Leroy Not Afraid is a campaigner. Not Afraid likes working with people and becomes animated as he talks about issues he believes in. Simply put, campaigning is a thrill, he said. He recalled meeting residents in the middle of the night at their homes in Muddy Creek last summer on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation as he campaigned for Big Horn County justice of the peace. 'I'm having the time of my life, because that is what I do,' Not Afraid said. Not Afraid won the race...." More (Billings Gazette 09.10.2007). Comment. No wonder I didn't experience any "thrills" when I stood for statewide judicial office in the general election in 2000. I not only didn't campaign, I didn't campaign in the middle of the night. Who knew that was the trick? Next time I'll know better.
The People speak: Judges should be tested for drugs. "I think the public would feel more secure if law enforcement, safety forces, judges, lawyers and politicians were all drug tested. No one else should be drug tested until all these people have been drug tested, too." -- Anonymous opinion posted on newspaper reader opinion site. More (New Philadelphia Times-Reporter - OH 09.10.2007). Comment. Sound farfetched? Read on...
Supreme Court orders random drug testing of judges, staff. "The Supreme Court has created a special team to test members, officials and employees of the judiciary for illegal-drug use. Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. and two other senior magistrates of the Court issued a three-page memorandum creating the team that will supervise the drug test...." More (The Manila Times 07.31.2005). Comment. In Board of Education v. Earls, 536 U.S. 822 (2002), our Supreme Court confronted the propriety under the Fourth Amendment of mandatory urine testing, i.e., the warrantless, non-probable-cause search, of every kid in middle school and high school participating in any extracurricular activity. By a vote of 5-4, the Court upheld the searches. At the time of the arguments in Earls, Dahlia Lithwick of Slate rhetorically asked, "If you could pick just one Supreme Court justice to spontaneously haul off the bench, say, in the middle of oral argument, and drag into a nearby bathroom, where they'd be forced to hike up their robe and pee into a Dixie cup, whom would you choose?" More (Slate 03.19.2002). She also suggested that the justices might have perceived the reality of such testing differently, might have felt differently about it, if they were subject to being hauled off the bench and forced to give urine samples. But maybe not... Anyhow, as judges are pilots of the vessel known as The Common Law, it follows, as the night follows the day -- doesn't it? -- that their health needs to be monitored. Perhaps daily checkups are in order, including the giving of urine samples for drug testing at the discretion of the Juristic Health Czar.
Another case of a judge's kid getting arrested. "The teenage son of a Pinellas County judge is behind bars facing a home invasion charge...." More (My Fox Tampa Bay 09.10.2007). Comment. We include this without the kid's name or the judge's name. Our aim is not to embarrass either. The kid is presumed innocent, and there's no guilt by mere association or relation. We include it because it happens so often that we run across a story about a judge or one of his family members getting arrested somewhere in these United States. Judges are just folks. And I mean just that.
Top judges promise surprise visits in lower courts. "The National Judicial Committee (NJC) took notice of corruption in subordinate courts and observed that the deviation from law in judgments was responsible for it. The committee, which met here on Saturday with Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry in the chair, also expressed concern over the absence of presiding officers from courts and decided that respective high courts would frequently make surprise visits to ensure punctuality in courts. Zero tolerance was stressed in this regard...." More (Pakistan Daily Times 09.09.2007).
Wanna be a judge? Become a prosecutor first, not a public defender. "Former Republican Gov. Bill Owens appointed more judges in his two terms in office than any other governor in Colorado's history. Owens' 174 appointments, from County Court judge up to Supreme Court justice, outnumbered both governors before him combined: Roy Romer appointed 114 and Dick Lamm named 59. Each served three terms...Almost half of Owens' judges were prosecutors or former prosecutors...[A]t least 72 had served multiple years as prosecutors. In that same period, Owens appointed only four judges with public defender experience...." More (Colorado Springs Gazette 09.09.2007). Comment. This is not just a Colorado phenomenon. As we've remarked before, in this age of politicians winning votes by cheap "tough on crime" posturing, it makes political sense -- and makes for bad government -- to unfairly favor prosecution experience over other experience in judicial appointments. This is yet another reason we prefer the Minnesota Plan of judicial selection: lawyers who are unfairly excluded for this or that reason are free to challenge sitting judges when their terms are up. Not surprisingly, voters, at least in Minnesota, have not proven to be ideologically-driven or anti-incumbent in their picks, proving once again Thomas Jefferson's faith in ordinary voters. TJ said, "If you state a moral case to a plowman and a professor [or a prosecutor or governor or judge], the farmer will decide it as well, and often better, because he has not been led astray by any artificial rules" -- or led astray by a desire for personal aggrandizement.
Judge is Blair Bedford Central Labor Council's 'Person of the Year.' "When members of the Community Services Committee of the Blair Bedford Central Labor Council went looking for their 2007 Person of the Year, they stopped at the Blair County Courthouse. Judge Daniel J. Milliron will be honored Thursday at the 27th Annual Person of The Year Awards Banquet at the Bavarian Hall in Altoona...." More (Altoona Mirror 09.09.2007).
'Court blacklists.' "[Unlike the infamous Hollywood blacklists, c]ourt blacklists have nothing to do with communism...The blacklists are of persons, groups and law firms labeled as 'vexatious litigants.' In other words, they are legal pains in the you-know-what, and the judges are tired of dealing with them...." More (Tracy Press 09.09.2007). Comment. I personally feel courts in general don't do enough to protect ordinary individuals and businesses from vexatious litigation often designed to extort settlements.
They're just like us -- the 'with it' Supremes. "The nine members of this secretive gang make fun of one another, call one another by nicknames, indulge vices like pornography and alcohol, maintain enemies lists, break the law, have odd habits and are prone to crying jags. The Supreme Court Justices. They're just like us!" From a review of Jeffrey Toobin's "peek underneath the robes" of the members of SCOTUS in his new book about them titled The Nine. More (ABC News 09.08.2007).
Gambling, swindling ex-judge gets five years for probation violation. "Former Tempe judge Stephen Mirretti begged for a second chance Friday, but he got five years in the penitentiary instead. Mirretti, who went to prison in 1996 for swindling Tempe and private investors out of nearly $2 million to fund a gambling habit, fumbled for words when he tried to explain to Judge Suzanne Dallimore why he skipped out on probation just two months before it was to end...." More (East Valley Tribune 09.08.2007).
Federal judge pledges $100,000 to law school. "A federal district judge [Scott Wright] has pledged $100,000 to the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law as part of the university's 'For All We Call Mizzou' fundraising campaign...." More (Columbia Tribune 09.08.2007). Comment. If Congress would give our federal judges a pay raise, the judges could give more to their alma maters.
'Lady Justice is sobbing' as two judges, lawyer get prison in bribery case. "Prominent Coast attorney Paul Minor received an 11-year prison sentence and a $2.75 million fine this afternoon, with his two co-defendants -- former state court judges -- receiving lesser sentences in a judicial bribery case initiated four years ago. 'You essentially put justice up for sale,' said U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate. 'Lady Justice is sobbing.' John Whitfield, a former Circuit Court judge, was sentenced to nine years and two months and fined $125,000. Wes Teel, a former Chancery Court judge, was sentenced to five years and 10 months...." More (Biloxi Sun-Herald 09.08.2007). Comment. "Lady Justice" should sob no more than when other ordinary mortals go astray.
Panel urges suspension of prosecutor over in-chambers affair with judge. "A legal-review panel has recommended a 3-year license suspension for a Douglas County prosecutor who admitted to an affair with a judge. The fate of Laurie A. Hurst, formerly Laurie A. Steinman, is now in the hands of state Supreme Court Disciplinary Judge William Lucero, who will decide whether to accept the recommended punishment...Hurst was fired Dec. 22 after she admitted to the affair with former Douglas County Judge Grafton M. Biddle...." He faces possible disbarment. More (Rocky Mountain News 09.08.2007). Further reading. Prosecutor, judge: sex in chambers, showering together at courthouse; Judge resigns and prosecutor is fired over 'romantic relationship.'
Does 'mafia' exist within ranks of supreme court? "There remains a low rate of reform in the Supreme Court and the mafia still exists within its ranks, experts said Thursday. Mahfud MD, a legislator from Commission III with the House of Representatives, said the court's reform process had failed because of judicial corruption and the court's mafia. 'If reform is measured by the process of cleaning out the mafia, then we must say the Supreme Court under Bagir Manan has failed to reform,' he said...." More (Jakarta Post 09.07.2007). Comment. Whew! For a second I thought the story was about another -- yeah, there are lots of 'em -- supreme court.
Defendant to judge: 'I'll take assault victim to dinner to make it up to him.' "A Taupo man who punched a tourist in the face offered to take the victim out for dinner as reparation when he appeared in the Taupo District Court on Wednesday...." The judge declined the generous offer, instead fining defendant $300. More (Taupo Times 09.07.2007). Comment. I think I'll file this under "Annals of creative proposed alternative sentences."
Criminal defense lawyers file grievance against judge. "A group of defense lawyers has filed a complaint with the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, alleging a longtime local judge threatened to arrest a defendant for not having enough money to hire a lawyer. The complaint also accuses state District Judge Woody Densen of jailing a woman who appeared in court without counsel four days after she fired her attorney and of accepting a guilty plea from another defendant whose lawyer was not present...." More (Houston Chronicle 09.07.2007).
Board faults new SCOWIS justice over conflicts but seeks only reprimand. "Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler committed misconduct by presiding over cases in which she had a conflict of interest, the Wisconsin Judicial Commission said in a complaint filed Thursday. But the commission, along with a contrite Ziegler, said the state's newest justice should receive no more than a public reprimand from her colleagues on the Supreme Court...." More (Wis. State J. 09.07.2007).
What's Roy Moore, the 'Ten Commandments Judge,' doing? He's still at it. More (AlterNet 09.07.2007).
Ex-judge gets 60 days for possessing drug paraphernalia. "Charles M. McKeon, Riverside's former municipal judge, pleaded guilty in circuit court Wednesday to possession of drug paraphernalia, the Platte County prosecutor's office reports. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, and his law license will be suspended...." More (Kansas City Star 09.07.2007).
Judge is reprimanded for jailing couple over debt. "A District Court judge who ordered a couple jailed last year over money owed to a landlord has been reprimanded by the N.C. Judicial Standards Commssion. The commission filed its public reprimand of Judge Victoria Roemer on Tuesday, ruling that Roemer had shown 'failure to be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence in it.'" More (Wilmington Morning Star - NC 09.07.2007).
Board charges judge with vindictiveness in jailing defendants. "When a janitor stood before Seminole County Judge Ralph Eriksson last year, unable to hear what was going on and confused about why his attorney hadn't filed some paperwork, the judge ordered him to jail. A year later, when a 22-year-old waiter asked the same judge to recuse himself, Eriksson sent him to jail, too. On Thursday, the state agency that disciplines judges formally charged Eriksson with official misconduct...." More (Orlando Sentinel 09.07.2007).
Annals of judicial parking problems. "Nearly a year after the Daily News revealed judges parking in a public park, the cars are still there -- despite promises that at least some would be moved months ago. It's the second broken vow concerning the cars since Brooklyn's top judge promised in 1999 to move the 50 or so cars out of Columbus Park when a new downtown Brooklyn courthouse opened two years ago...." More (NY Daily News 09.07.2007). Comment. For those "judicial parking fetishists" who are totally obsessed with the topic of judges and their parking (and/or parking lot) problems, we are pleased as punch to offer convenient links to some of our relevant earlier entries. These links may be found in the body of our posting titled Sessions judges ask parking spaces for secretaries.
Board says judge was disCOURTeous. "Kern County Superior Court Judge Clarence Westra Jr. was publicly admonished by the state Commission on Judicial Performance for being discourteous to court staff after numerous private rebukes for similar behavior...." More (Bakersfield Californian 09.07.2007).
Former judge charged with second DWI offense in two years. "Former Judge Maureen A. Cronin faces jail time after being charged with her second driving-under-the-influence charge in two years late Wednesday...." More (Youngstown Vindicator 09.07.2007).
Former client sues judge, says he 'duped' her into signing over real property. "A former client of Philadelphia Judge Willis W. Berry Jr. has filed a lawsuit alleging that he defrauded her in a legal settlement years ago. Denise Jackson says Berry, then her lawyer in a slip-and-fall case, duped her into signing documents that gave him a $50,000 property next to his law office, while she got a relative pittance: just $1,500. Jackson said she knew nothing about the land deal until The Inquirer disclosed it in a story about the judge's real estate portfolio...." More (Philadelphia Inquirer 09.07.2007).
Coroner's jury opines: judge leapt to his death. "[Judge Rodney McKinnon, 64, of Pimlico, Central London,] killed himself by jumping 50ft from his third-floor apartment because he was suffering from depression and anxiety -- induced partly by drugs that were prescribed for his high blood pressure, an inquest was told yesterday...His GP, Jonathan Hunt, [said] that anxieties about his health and his work, coupled with the side-effects of medication, had made Mr McKinnon depressed...The judge's brother, Warwick McKinnon, [who is also a judge,] said he did not believe that his brother had intended to kill himself, and nor did any members of the family...." More (Times UK 09.06.2007). Comment. Dealing as many judges do with human quarrels, depravity, and failure on a daily basis, without sufficient compensatory breaks, contacts, etc., can cause what William James called a 'sick soul,' what others used to call melancholia, what many now call "depression." The insights of James Hillman, the brilliant contemporary Jungian-therapist and philosopher of the soul, are more helpful for many people than pills, which indeed sometimes make matters worse. Related. Griefs vs. grievances - of poetry, politics, law, life. Recommended reading. J. Hillman, Suicide and Soul (1984); J. Hillman, Revisioning Psychology (1978).
Deaf judge writes mass for Pope Benedict XVI. "Justice George Palmer was for years a Supreme Court judge with bad hearing and stacks of unheard musical compositions. Today he is the composer of a Catholic Mass that will be heard by millions when it is performed for Pope Benedict XVI at Randwick Racecourse during the closing ceremony of World Youth Day 2008...." More (SMH - AU 09.06.2007).
Interview with TV's newest judge -- a/k/a 'the gay judge.' "Judge David Young doesn't mind being known as 'the gay judge,' but he really is much more than that. He hopes his new court room show will allow him to showcase the same humanity in daytime television that he brought to his criminal courtroom in Florida...He believes his courtroom show will be different because he's going to run it with heart, humor and the occasional show tune, if that's what it takes to get his point across...." More (AfterElton 09.06.2007).
Contributions to judges an issue. "Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mikal Watts of San Antonio once tried to pressure a legal opponent into a $60 million personal injury lawsuit settlement by claiming he would have an advantage on appeal because of his firm's 'heavy' campaign financial support to an appellate court's justices, 'all of whom are good Democrats.' There is no evidence that his firm's support of justices of the 13th Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi ever gained him any undue influence...." More (Houston Chronicle 09.05.2007). Comment. When I ran for statewide judicial office in the general election in 2000, I refused not only all contributions, from lawyers and nonlawyers, but all endorsements. Easy to do. Just said no. Of course, none would have been forthcoming anyhow...and I lost, "big time," as V.P. Cheney would say. :-)
Rash of judicial assassinations -- more guns the answer? "Alarmed by the growing number of magistrates killed in the country, the Supreme Court has requested additional funding from Congress to purchase firearms for their protection. Court administrator Christopher Lock told the House appropriations committee on Wednesday that there has been a clamor to arm magistrates so they can protect themselves from any threats. This year, Lock said there are 14 unresolved killings of judges...." More (Inquirer - Philippines 09.05.2007).
Another judge in trouble for using contempt power? "Several lawyers with the D.C. Public Defender Service wore red armbands to the courthouse yesterday to show support for a colleague who was handcuffed and briefly locked up last week in a flare-up with a judge. The action was to show solidarity with lawyer Liyah Brown, who spent 45 minutes in a holding cell last Wednesday after drawing the ire of D.C. Superior Court Judge John H. Bayly Jr...." More (Washington Post 09.05.2007). Comment. Someone oughta teach new judges and remind old ones that one of the best ways for a judge to get in trouble -- with the public, with the press, with lawyers and/or with the discipline folks -- is to use the contempt power to jail someone for something like this.
Israeli High Court again shows independence. "In its latest decision overruling Israel's influential security establishment, the High Court of Justice here on Tuesday ordered the government to reroute a section of its separation barrier that had split a West Bank village from much of its farmland...The Defense Ministry, which oversees the planning and construction of the barrier, said it would 'study the ruling and respect it.'" More (NYT 09.05.2007). Comment. I've said it before: I admire the gutsy judges on Israel's top court.
Did suspended judge paddle prisoners on their bottoms? "Authorities are investigating allegations that now-suspended Mobile County Circuit Judge Herman Thomas periodically removed prisoners from Mobile County Metro Jail and spanked them in a room at the courthouse, according to courthouse sources involved in the inquiry. Once inside the room, according to the sources, the judge would ask the young men to drop their pants and prepare to be spanked with what they described as a wooden or fraternity-like paddle...." More (Press-Register - AL 09.05.2007). Comment. If true -- and I emphasize the "if" -- pretty sad.
Some fighting words from a judge. "A drunken man from Poland who crashed a wedding party in Troy -- grabbing a woman's breasts and then exposing himself to police -- will spend the next two months in the Oakland County Jail. 'If that had been my wife, I'd have beaten the hell out of you,' Oakland County Circuit Judge Steven N. Andrews said...." More (Oakland Press - MI 09.05.2007). Comment. I guess that's the tone the experts say Mike Dukakis should have used in responding to the ludicrous Presidential debate question about what he'd do if someone raped his wife.
Federal judge says court rule regulating attorney speech is unconstitutional. "Embattled Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger scored a victory Tuesday when a federal judge in Detroit declared unconstitutional Michigan court rules that were used to discipline him...The Supreme Court used the rules to discipline Fieger after he gave a radio interview in 1999 in which he referred to specific state appeals court judges as jackasses and compared them to Adolph Hitler and his associates...." More (Detroit News 09.05.2007). Comment. We posted extensive comments on this at Calling a judge a jackass. Once again, we were right. :-)
Annals of outrageous, Orwellian proposals by judges. "The police DNA database debate exploded today when a senior judge called for every person in the UK -- and all visitors -- to be added to the list. Lord Justice Sedley, one of Britain's most experienced appeal court judges, said the current database of crime suspects was 'indefensible.'" More (The Mirror - UK 09.05.2007). Comment. No, it's not, as the judge said, the "only option," One option is for the judge to use the analytical powers he presumably has and see if he can't come up with some other, more reasonable, options. I can. Surely he can. Update. Well-reasoned response to Justice Sedley's proposal (Daily Mail - UK 09.06.2007).
Jesus is joined by Moses and his fellow law-giver, Bill Blackstone. "Under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), officials in Slidell, La., have added portraits of 15 notable lawgivers to the courthouse walls to accompany a painting of Jesus. The new works include Moses, Charlemagne and Sir William Blackstone...." More (Citizen Link 09.07.2007). Update. Federal judge says these additions remedy error of Jesus' hanging in courthouse by himself (NOLA 09.08.2007).
Former judge gets prison for money-laundering. "Former federal prosecutor and state judge Sam Currin was sentenced to 70 months in prison Tuesday for his role in a securities fraud scheme. Currin, 58, of Raleigh, pleaded guilty last November to money laundering and obstruction of justice. He also must serve three years on probation...." More (WRAL - NC 09.05.2007).
Six judges resign from appeals court in protest over chief's behavior. "Six judges from Australia and New Zealand have resigned from Fiji's Court of Appeal because of concerns over how the court is run. New Zealand judge Sir Thomas Eichelbaum says the expatriate judges had been excluded from court sittings last week by the military-appointed Acting Chief Justice Anthony Gates...Justice Gates was appointed acting chief justice in January after military coup leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama ordered the sitting chief justice and chief magistrate to step aside...." More (ABC Australia 09.04.2007). Comment. Good for the judges. Sometimes, but not always, resignation is the best of several choices as to how to respond to bad leadership in government. Me? I wouldn't want to serve on a court if any of its members were appointed by a military coup leader.
From legal secretary to high court judge. "Susan Kiefel is only the third woman to have been appointed a judge of Australia's highest court...The 53-year-old former Federal Court and Queensland Supreme Court judge was today sworn in as a justice of the High Court of Australia...At a swearing in this afternoon, Justice Kiefel, who left school at 15, seemed bemused by the interest in her rise from a legal secretary to a judge of the country's highest court...." More (LawFuel 09.04.2007). Comment. As a former part-time summer janitor at a local Montgomery-Ward mail order catalog store who rose to the judicial heights to become a long-time supreme court lackey, I'm bemused by my decision to link to this story.
Judging by kissing. ""It turns out that males tend to kiss as a means to an end, males tend to kiss as a way of trying to gain sexual favours, and also to attempt reconciliation...Females, on the other hand, not only use kissing to assess prospective mates, but females that are in committed relationships use kissing to update the status of their relationship with their committed partner." -- Gordon Gallup, a psych prof at State University of New York at Albany, on the results of his study of a thousand students concerning attitudes toward kissing. More (ABC Australia 09.04.2007). Further reading. BurtLaw on Law & Kissing.
The appellate judge who likes to go down to the trial bench occasionally. "[U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Richard] Posner, one of the nation's most influential jurists and one of its most unconventional, likes to occasionally take on a trial because he says it makes him a better judge. Unlike some of his colleagues at the 7th Circuit he never served as a trial judge, having been appointed to the appellate court in 1981 directly from the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School. 'It's important for appellate judges to know how trials unfold,' Posner said. 'Issues of evidence look quite different when in a trial. I think I've learned a lot.'" More (Chicago Tribune 09.04.2007). Comment. In one civil case he discharged a jury and declared a mistrial after determining a juror had disregarded instructions and tainted the other jurors. Some are speculating whether that experience will weigh in former Gov. George Ryan's favor since Posner is one of the judges being asked to rehear, en banc, Ryan's appeal of his conviction, which a panel upheld in a 2-1 vote. The trial judge, Rebecca Pallmeyer (a former MN Supreme Court law clerk), removed two jurors in the middle of deliberations, replaced them with alternates, and directed the newly-constituted jury to start deliberations anew. I think the case cries out for en banc consideration.
A courthouse suicide? "A high-speed chase turned deadly during the early morning hours Monday as the driver of a white Jeep Cherokee drove his car into the front of Bardstown's Old Courthouse Building in the town square. Police said the driver...pushed down on the gas as he got within a half block of the building and headed straight for the glass front doors...The driver was pronounced dead at the scene a short while later...The driver drove straight into the courthouse, never swerving or braking, in what is termed a suicide, police said." More (Elizabethtown News-Enterprise - KY 09.04.2007).
Details of judge's alleged behavior following DWI arrest revealed. "Judge Nkola Motata was 'at least' four times over the legal alcohol limit when he was nabbed for drunk driving and he spelt the name of his legal division 'Transval Provinicial Divisionn.' In addition, the state claims, the Pretoria High Court judge told the female police officers who tried to arrest him, 'F*** you stupid female officers, you can't arrest me,' 'females can't arrest me,' 'you stupid ladies can't arrest me' and 'a female can't arrest, it must be a male.'" More (IOL 09.03.2007).
Annals of judicial hobbies. "Putnam County Family Court Judge William Watkins spends his days with a constant flow of people plagued by tense domestic conflicts. But by evening, the former Marine spends his time with some lovely ladies named Countess Celeste, Rio Samba and Miss All-American Beauty...'They don't talk back,' said Watkins, 54, of the contrast the rose garden provides to his position as the county's only family court judge...." More (Charleston Daily Mail - WV 09.03.2007).
Are judges above criticism? "One of the great unspoken truths of Irish society is the virtual immunity from criticism enjoyed by our judges. Lawyers tremble at the thought of upsetting them, and journalists are routinely muzzled from having a go at judges the way we'd have a go at say, politicians, consultants or the Church. It does a disservice to all of us to allow these people to make appalling judgements without any criticism coming their way...." More (Irish Independent - Editorial 09.03.2007).
'Capture theory' and our justice system. "In standard 'capture theory,' government regulators become 'captured" by the private monopolies that they are supposed to regulate...[Murray] Rothbard went a step further, however. Monopolies themselves...become 'captured' by their employees. To take point to its next level, we see that government courts have a monopoly on 'dispensing justice' (if we can call it that), so if Rothbard is correct, one would expect to see the employees of the justice system itself capturing not only the apparatus of 'justice,' but also protecting each other when someone is engaged in wrongdoing...." -- From William L. Anderson, Capture and Corruption: Nifong's Cronies and Cabal (LewRockwell.Com 09.03.2007).
Our friends in India. "Farmers rarely file complaints before the consumer courts...But when they do, such complaints invariably pertain to their very source of livelihood...So whenever they file a complaint...the least that the consumer courts can do is to take up such cases on a priority basis...This urgency is heightened by the increasing number of suicides by farmers...But look at the reality -- a bunch of class action suits filed by around 130 farmers from Maharashtra, seeking compensation for the loss of yield caused by the poor quality of hybrid cotton seeds sold to them, took 14 long years...." More (Telegraph 09.03.2007).
Annals of judicial antics. "[B]y the mid-'50s, [U.S. District Court Judge] Ritter underwent a transformation, becoming 'almost unbearable for those required to appear before him.' Ritter also had open affairs, even bringing a girlfriend to the family retreat in Idaho while his wife Rita was there. The couple separated in August 1958 but never divorced...Ritter was observed having sex in the federal courthouse, urinated in public and once played a strip game (which he lost) after hours at the Manhattan Club...." -- From a book review of Parker M. Nielson and Patricia F. Cowley, Thunder Over Zion -- The Life of Chief Judge Willis W. Ritter (2007). More (Salt Lake City Tribune 09.02.2007).
Annals of women and the law: first veiled female 'judge.' "The first Iranian veiled female football referee, Nadereh Doroudian, will judge the second West Asian women football games in Jordan, it was reported on Sunday...." More (Islamic Republic News Agency 09.02.2007).
Will nursing background make him a good court clerk? "Veteran politicians and political newcomers alike are courting voters for the job of Cuyahoga Falls Municipal Court clerk in this month's Republican and Democratic primaries. In the Democratic primary, incumbent Lisa Zeno Carano, 44, of Tallmadge, is taking on challenger Christopher Hamad II[, a] 23-year-old University of Akron nursing student and restaurant manager...Hamad...said his training in the nursing program at the University of Akron has helped him develop the organizational skills needed for the job...." More (Akron Beacon Journal 09.02.2007).
Annals of courthouses in need of repair. "Disgust and frustration are barely contained as Judge Maurice Gallipoli discusses the desperate conditions at Hudson County's primary hall of justice. In the corridors of the nine-story building in Jersey City, every fire alarm box is covered with masking tape bearing the writing: Not in service. Some rooms in the building are so hot they can't be used in the summertime, despite 140 window air conditioners installed to augment the central air. Inmates are escorted through public hallways to get to courtrooms. And during a recent storm, the building flooded so badly that water shot like geysers from the toilets on the ground floor...." More (Star-Ledger - NJ 09.02.2007). Comment. "Water shooting like geysers from courthouse toilets" -- sounds like a line from a modern-English version of The Book of Revelations.
Courthouse employee shoots self in courthouse restroom. "Law enforcement is considering tightening security in at least one courthouse after a suicide Tuesday at the Platte County Courthouse...But in Platte County -- where a 50-year-old court recorder entered the courthouse unchecked Tuesday with a gun that he used to kill himself in a restroom -- officials don't plan to change their policy." The policy in question allows people in certain categories -- e.g., courthouse employees -- to bypass screening, including screening by metal detectors. More (Kansas City Star 09.01.2007). Comment. The small-d "democrat" in my liberal Republican soul says that if ordinary citizens must be subject to a randomized strip-search policy, then judges should be, too.
ACLU sues judge over his no-turban policy. "A justice of the peace was sued Friday for allegedly ordering a man from his courtroom for refusing to remove his turban while defending himself in a traffic citation case. The lawsuit [filed by the ACLU] charges that Judge Albert B. Cercone violated Amardeep Singh's religious rights because the turban is a religious article for Sikh men...." More (Houston Chronicle 09.01.2007).
Some federal judges up in arms over proposed limits on career law clerks. "A confidential salary cost-containment report currently making the rounds among federal judges would limit judges to a single career law clerk, curtail clerk vacation pay and cap career clerk salaries...Traditionally, federal judges have hired term law clerks...to work one or two years. Increasingly, more experienced lawyers have been hired as career clerks...Current rules allow appellate judges five staff members in any combination of secretaries, term law clerks and career clerks. District judges may have three staff members." More (NLJ via Law.Com 09.01.2007). Comment. Career clerks get paid more, so a chambers with, say, three career clerks and one term law clerk, is going to cost the government far more than one with only one career clerk. Even greater disparities among chambers result from the fact that some judges choose to hire only one or two staff members while other equally-situated judges the maximum allowed. Thus, "one district judge spen[t] $69,000 to run chambers, while another judge in the same district spent nearly five times as much, or $336,000 annually." If I were an appellate judge, I'd be the one hiring one term clerk and maybe a secretary.
Judge is acquitted. "A...Highland County judge has been acquitted on all counts after his second trial on charges including theft and attempted money laundering...Hoskins was disqualified last year from serving as Highland County Common Pleas Court judge after multiple felony indictments were filed against him. He was acquitted in December on eight charges but was retried this month on charges which the jury had deadlocked...." More (Chillicothe Gazette - OH 09.01.2007). Comment. The judge, whom we always presumed was innocent (based on the presumption of innocence), hopes to return to duty soon.
Judge confesses he took bribe. "A Gacaca court judge has confessed taking a bribe from MP Elise Bisengimana to clear him of his alleged involvement in the 1994 Genocide. Faustin Mbonigaba, the president of Gihundwe Gacaca court in Rusizi District, Western Province, admitted last week that he took a bribe of Frw 2.5 million from Bisengimana...." More (New Times via All Africa 08.31.2007).
The funny 9th Circuit Court judge from the Bronx. "Hanging on Judge Barry Silverman's wall beside the door to his office, in the federal courthouse in downtown Phoenix, is a humor column he once wrote for Arizona Attorney Magazine. It begins with a letter he received in the late 1980s from a defendant: 'My Dear Judge Silverman: I do solemnly swear that you are undoubtedly the biggest unmitigated a------ a merciful god ever put upon the face of the earth. Where the hell did you come from out of the slime? How did someone so stupid as you get to be a judge? I swear you are dumber than even a bankruptcy judge. You are vile, contemptible trash, a mockery to justice ... I wish you had never been born,' began the letter. 'Then the letter went on to become insulting,' Silverman wrote." -- From a long profile of Judge Silverman, a Phoenix resident who commutes to California for 9th Circuit hearings. More (East Valley Tribune - AZ 08.31.2007).
There are bridges that collapse -- and courthouse floors that could collapse. "Court files stuffed into the fifth floor of the Tippecanoe County Courthouse became such a weighty problem that maintenance crews finally issued a warning: Put much more up there and the fifth floor could collapse. Pat Harrington, county prosecutor, said that warning hit home. Something had to be done to reduce the amount of documents his office stored. In 2006, the prosecutor's office used 1,128,610 sheets of paper, more than any other county department...Harrington said he hopes the solution lies in [scanning and] storing old files on computers. The county has hired interns to undertake that work...." More (Lafayette Journal and Courier 08.31.2007).
Justice has a flight to catch. "'A complete travesty' is how Robert 'Jake' Jacobson -- raconteur, trainer of salespeople for the home-remodeling industry and engaged citizen -- billed his experience this month as a member of a criminal jury in Baltimore Circuit Court. Intrigued, I listened to his story and came to a conclusion: Jake Jacobson should have stood on principle when everyone else rushed for the door. A juror's looming vacation to the Pacific Northwest is no reason to let a felon off...." From an interesting piece by Dan Rodricks on the way one jury reportedly decided one serious case. More (Baltimore Sun 08.30.2007). Comment. It would make an interesting book -- or series of in-depth newspaper reports -- if a good investigative journalist with more-than-average knowledge of the judicial process were to interview jurors and otherwise study behavior of juries in "important" and "run-of-the-mill" criminal and civil cases and report on what really can happen in cases during deliberations.
Judge crashes car into litigant in a case in his court. "Former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo certainly did not need any introductions to the man who ran a stop sign and crashed into his car Wednesday morning -- it was [Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Paul Siegel,] the judge handing his divorce case...." More (CBS4 - 08.29.2007).
Judges in Iraq are now virtual prisoners. "At a new fortified complex here, Iraqi judges have become virtual prisoners, living side by side with the inmates they try. The judges rely on Western guards who patrol the compound, ensuring that criminal elements stay either in the complex's massive detention center, or outside the walls. In SUVs mounted with machine guns, the judges ride from their living quarters in a former police barracks past the detention center housing 5,000 detainees to a makeshift courtroom five minutes away...." More (Houston Chronicle 08.30.2007).
On trying to keep politics out of politics -- the Missouri Plan under fire. "For the latest proof that you can't get politics out of politics, see the battle in Missouri over how the state selects its judges. All three branches of that state's government are arguing over a system that was designed to protect judicial independence from the rowdier environs of democratic elections. What it now has is worse. Launched in 1940, the so-called 'Missouri Plan' was once considered state of the art and imitated by many other states. An ostensibly non-partisan seven-member commission chooses a slate of three nominees and the Governor chooses among them. The idea was to produce candidates based...." More (Wall Street Journal 08.30.2007).
Headline-of-the-day. The headline is: "Astronauts are sober as judges, says NASA." More (UK Register 08.30.2007). Comment. Hmm.
What happened to blood samples taken from judge in DWI investigation? "The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has decided not to take action against the former New South Wales Supreme Court judge Jeff Shaw, over his drink-driving accident in 2004. The PIC set up an inquiry to investigate allegations Mr Shaw took home two blood samples showing he was over the limit when he crashed his car in Sydney in 2004...The DPP has advised the PIC there is no basis for prosecuting Mr Shaw because there is no proof he deliberately took the samples from the hospital...." More (ABC News - Australia 08.30.2007).
Annals of judicial secrecy. "News that U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent won't hear any cases through the end of the year has Galveston County legal circles abuzz with rumors that he might have been disciplined. Chief Judge Hayden Head refused this week to say why he ordered Kent relieved of his duties between September and January. Repeated attempts to contact Kent also have been unsuccessful. So it's unclear whether Kent, a controversial judge, is being disciplined at all. It could stay that way forever. That's because disciplining federal judges is a secretive affair...." More (Galveston Daily News 08.30.2007). Comment. Let the sun shine in....
Judge may face discipline for referring to woman's ehnicity as a 'flavor.' "[King County] District Court Judge Mark Chow, a 16-year veteran of the bench...could face discipline if the commission [on judicial conduct] finds he violated the state ethics code. According to charges filed with the judicial commission this week, a defendant in Chow's Mental Health courtroom on Jan. 23 made a lewd comment to Chow, who responded in kind. On that same day, the judge asked an Asian female defendant 'what flavor' she was, and when the defendant responded that she was half Japanese, the judge, who is Chinese said, 'No Chinese? See I'm Chinese...That's OK. My wife's Japanese, you've got some good.'" More (Seattle Times 08.30.2007). Comment. Boy, it's getting so a judge can't open his mouth without someone claiming he violated some speech code. Do we want programmed automatons with no hearts who speak like AT&T operators as judges or do we want live, flawed men and women with hearts of flesh who make a good faith effort to do the right thing, knowing they'll stumble, as we all do, on occasion? Where is the perfect man and what kind of a judge would he be?
Judge is suspicious of the real motivation of flower sellers. "A District Court Judge has questioned the motives of two Romanian women caught selling roses on a city street in the early hours of the morning without casual trading licences. Despite assurances from their solicitor, Valerie Corcoran, that the practice of Romanian women selling roses late at night to couples leaving restaurants and discos was going on all over the country, Judge Conal Gibbons said he was suspicious of the women's motives for being out on the streets at that hour of the morning...Judge Gibbons said he had never heard of casual traders being out late at night, but then again, he said, he was never out late himself and if he were he was sure nobody would try and sell him a rose...." More (Galway Advertiser 08.30.2007). Comment. I'm never out late at night either, but even I know that it's not uncommon for people to sell roses outside -- or even inside -- restaurants at night.
When is a 'citizen's' commission on the courts a 'sham'? "Dear Chief Justice Broderick: I just received the letter you sent to members of the 'citizens' commission. Forgive the use of quotation marks, but you and I know that that wasn't a citizens' commission, but rather a group hug by friends of the court. Some 70-plus percent of its members had direct or close ties to the court. The reports you provided for their initial perusal were all prepared by previous court commissions. Other reports, prepared independently of the courts, were ignored, even though they had direct relevance to the mission of this commission. As expected and predicted, this commission was all about enlarging the court's budget and gaining more appropriations from the Legislature. In that, it was moderately successful...[The commission] was, in fact, a 'citizens' commission that turned a deaf ear to the citizens...." -- From an excellent analysis of a New Hampshire "citizen's commission" on the courts by Paul M. Clements of Concord. More (Concord Monitor 08.30.2007). Further reading. See, my comments and many embedded links at Annals of judicial selection: stacking appointment commissions.
Judge doesn't like being called 'dirty Jew.' "A man who angrily called a district judge 'a dirty Jew' in a Cheltenham Court was jailed for contempt -- and ordered to clean out his cell. Judge Shlomo Kreiman also treated Edward Crowe to a lecture about Jewish history and culture before sentencing him to 14 days for contempt...Judge Kreiman, who was wearing a kippah, was setting terms for bail when Crowe launched into his offensive rant...[In lecturing Crowe, Judge Kreiman said] it was a Jew who was responsible for washing facilities being installed in the London Underground, adding: 'While my ancestors had a civilisation, yours were still waiting around in caves.'" More (The Jewish Chronicle 08.31.2007). Comment. A litigant shouldn't refer to a Jewish judge as a "dirty Jew," and a judge, Jewish or not, ought not suggest that a defendant's ancestors were inferior to his ancestors.
Judge gets prosecuted for battery for allegedly slapping B. Hanson. "A jury was selected Tuesday in Preston for a case involving a Franklin County Magistrate Judge who is accused of slapping a defendant. Judge Eric Hunn is facing a misdemeanor battery charge for allegedly slapping 19-year-old Benjamin Hanson last February while trying to calm him down in judge's chambers...." More (KPVI - Idaho 08.29.2007). Comment. Let the word go forth, no one may slap "B. Hanson" under any circumstances without having to face the consequences -- so saith Burton Hanson. Update. Judge is acquitted (Montana's News Station 08.31.2007).
Death of judge as a cold case that won't go away? "A second inquest into the death of a judge who died in a fire at his Westcountry home is to take place in October, it has emerged. Judge Andrew Chubb, 58, died at his home at Leigh, near Chard, Somerset, in July 2001, less than an hour after an argument in which he asked his wife, Jennifer, for a divorce to end their 34-year marriage...." More (This Is Cornwall 08.28.2007). Earlier. Dead millionaire judge's lover gets AG to review his death. Background. Nick Davies, How a judge's death in country garden exposed fatal flaws in system - part one and part two (Guardian Unlimited 12.13.2003).
Paternity battle between judge and female lawyer is 'on' again. "The battle between two legal eagles about the paternity of a 13-year-old boy is set to be heard afresh. She is a high ranking legal advisor and he is a judge who says a 99.9 percent likelihood that he is the father is not good enough. Now it is back to square one for a Pretoria high court judge Ntsikelelo Poswa and the woman who was his lover for seven years[, Yolisa Maya, an advocate and special legal adviser to Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosaza Dlamini-Zuma] The court record pertaining to their legal clash five years ago has gone missing and the Pretoria high court yesterday ruled that the matter had to go back to the maintenance court to prove paternity for once and for all...." More (IOL - South Africa 08.28.2007). Update. He wants the "other man" with whom mother was involved to be tested also (IOL 09.07.2007).
Judge is found not guilty of DWI. "A State Supreme Court justice was acquitted Monday of driving while impaired by drugs. Amy Jo Fricano, 52, was found guilty of failure to keep right and moving from a lane unsafely. A charge of leaving the scene of an accident was dropped. Fricano was accused of driving into a power pole in April, causing a brief blackout in Lockport, Niagara County Sheriff's deputies said. Fricano failed field sobriety tests and later refused to take a blood test...." More (Newsday 08.28.2007).
Press/public's right to know salaries of individual court employees, cops, etc. "The salaries of government employees in California, including police officers, are a public record and must be available upon request to 'ensure transparency in government,' the state Supreme Court ruled in a decision released Monday morning...." More (San Jose Mercury News 08.28.2007). Comment. This is elementary. Nonetheless, in many cases around the country it's taken law suits by the press to get at the info. The info ought to be accessible on government websites. Failing that, some newspapers have made it available on their websites, something we've noted before.
Two years after Katrina, some courts are still in trailers. "From a cramped trailer, Hancock County Chancery Court officials are processing marriage licenses and divorce filings, along with dealing with an escalating number of mental-commitment cases. Two years after Hurricane Katrina, the courts system in the Mississippi Gulf Coast county is not back to normal. Hancock County was the hardest-hit area of the storm...In Hancock, only the Youth Court is back in its original location. Other courts meet in makeshift buildings, mostly 24-by-36-foot trailers...." More (Jackson Clarion-Ledger - MS 08.28.2007). Comment. And it's the 21st century.
Ex-judge is now prison guard. "A former district judge who was removed from office for inappropriate conduct has a new job in another corner of the criminal justice system, as a state prison guard. Allan C. Berkhimer, who presided over the Salix court in Cambria County from 1988 until the state Court of Judicial Discipline ousted him in June 2005, is an entry-level corrections officer at the State Correctional Institution in Somerset, a Corrections Department spokeswoman confirmed Monday...." More (Philadelphia Inquirer 08.28.2007).
Man fleeing police runs into courthouse. "A Manchester man sprinted from Concord police officers Friday...right into the Merrimack County Superior Court. Word is Benjamin Carter didn't know it was a courthouse until he ran into a half-dozen sheriff deputies, the police said...." More (Concord Monitor 08.28.2007). Comment. This is an example of the truism that one often decides to run away from something without knowing the something else toward which one is therefore running.
SCOTUS Coloring Book. "Have fun and learn about the Supreme Court! It's a coloring book with a surprising educational twist. This 32-page coloring book features expertly rendered illustrations depicting significant Supreme Court Justices of the United States to color in -- including all current sitting Justices. The U.S. Supreme Court Coloring and Activity Book is perfect for the children of lawyers and judges, or for teachers looking for a new resource for Law Day or Constitution Day." More (ABANet). Comment. We're told that No. 43's memoirs will be in either this format or in the pop-up-book format.
'Herbie the love judge.' "Denver County Judge Herbert Galchinsky is one of the highest-paid judges in the state -- and that's before you count his second job. Galchinsky, known around the courthouse as 'Herby the Love Judge,' made $62,945 over the past three years conducting weddings on top of his $141,156 annual salary...[H]e charges only for weddings on weekends but does dozens for free each year in his chambers...." More (Denver Post 08.27.2007). Comment. Think what kind of money Justice Scalia and the other SCOTUS justices, who we've heard are barely surviving on their "paltry" pay, could make in their spare time, of which they have lots, if they allowed big-time wedding planners to direct some of the celebrity weddings in their direction.
A review of the courthouse toilet. "Well, it's nice to see a minor improvement in the men's public rest room at the courthouse with the addition of an exhaust fan. It is thoroughly appreciated...." -- From a letter to the editor. More (Zanesville Times-Recorder 08.27.2007). Comment. In our experience, people generally do appreciate exhaust fans in courthouse toilets. (Someone might reasonably argue that there also may be a need for exhaust fans elsewhere in many courthouses.) The writer/reviewer appreciates the addition of the exhaust fan in the toilet, but.... Alas, in our experience there's always a "but" when it comes to toilets. The writer/reviewer also would like a) a clean shelf or counter on which to set a briefcase, b) a place to hang a coat other than in the confining stall, and c) a wider and higher stall. He also wonders why the toilet isn't handicapped accessible. And then comes the zinger: "Of course, this could be alleviated by making the rest room upstairs a public rest room again and not just for a privileged few." Further reading. The letter/review is a followup to an earlier letter/review complaining of the smell in the toilet. See, Ought judges be required to use the public toilets in the courthouse now and then?
Attorney says limiting special entrance to members of county bar isn't fair. "Attorneys who wish to use [the special lawyers'] entrance [to the Will County Courthouse] must not only be licensed to practice law in Illinois, but they must be members of the Will County Bar Association, paying dues of between $145 and $195 a year. To [Peter] Ferracuti, who runs a six-attorney firm and is a member of the LaSalle County Bar Association, this smacks of discrimination against out-of-county lawyers...For Ferracuti, a spry 82, the practice is a throwback to the way things used to be in Joliet. Forty years ago, out-of-county lawyers had to hire a local attorney to file a lawsuit in Will County, he said...." More (Chicago Tribune 08.27.2007). Comments. a) The rule reminds me of the restrictive rules that some elite eastern beach towns have used to exclude non-residents from using public beaches. Those rules are increasingly being struck down. b) For our views on exempting judges and attorneys from courthouse screening, see comments and links at Lawyers will be screened at courthouse.
Moving up from federal court to state court. "U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins, whose current docket includes major cases on sex discrimination and global warming, said Friday that he has applied to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for a vacant position on the state appeals court in San Francisco...It is unusual for a judge to give up a lifetime appointment on a federal court for a seat on a state court, where justices periodically need approval from the voters. One current state Supreme Court justice, Carlos Moreno, is a former federal judge, and former Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas also left the federal bench for the state's high court...." More (San Francisco Chronicle 08.26.2007). Comment. Almost everyone in the "legal community" thinks of a federal judgeship (or federal anything) as a step up from a state judgeship (or state anything). I've never seen it that way. I probably wouldn't have run in the GOP primary for the MN Third District's seat in Congress (as a "liberal Republican" on an anti-war platform) in 2004 if I'd had even a remote chance of winning. My slogan could well have been, "If elected, I won't go." Who in his right mind would live in that political cesspool, D.C., if he could live in MN instead?
Do Marquis of Queensbury rules apply in your courtroom? "Some people have asked, 'Can a judge who calls someone a 'pig' be fair? Doesn't everyone, even a wife-beater, have the right to be treated civilly?' I agree, of course -- except when the batterer is already subject to a protective order and is trying to use my courtroom to show his terrified wife that the court can't help her. Is the commission telling the public that a judge must follow the Marquis of Queensbury rules, but the batterer is free to threaten, glare and use body language to make the woman understand he's still the boss? Not on my watch he isn't...." -- Judge Marian Shelton in an op/ed piece defending herself against charges filed by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct charging her with being "habitually intemperate." More (N.Y. Daily News 08.26.2007).
'I, sir, am a certified barbeque judge, and if you don't shut up I'll hold you in contempt of sauce!' "After four hours of intense study, the 60 [Poughkeepsie, N.Y.] students stood, raised their right hands, faced West and recited a pledge to uphold truth, justice and the American way. 'I do solemnly swear to objectively and subjectively evaluate each barbecue meat that is presented to my eyes, my nose, my hands and my palate,' the students chanted with their instructor as they looked in the direction of Kansas City, Mo. And thus were minted another batch of Kansas City Barbecue Society certified judges, part of the growing army of backyard connoisseurs needed to administer justice in the hugely popular world of competitive barbecue...." More (Barre Montpelier Times-Argus 08.26.2007). Comment. Why go to college and law school and then work in the legal vineyards to maybe become a judge? Why waste seven years to become an orchid judge or two years of tasting wine to become a wine judge? Instead, why not take one of the four-hour weekend courses put on by the KCBS when it's in your town? Or, if your thing is presiding at weddings, why become a judge (or go to seminary) when you can get ordained online, instantly? We're serious. Why indeed? I know when I like good Norwegian-American barbecue and if I like it it's good. But the four hour course might help me improve as a Norsk b'becue judge and make me better at seeming fair and judicial in my b'becue judging, so I may take it.
Are black female judges unfairly under attack in Michigan? "[T]hree of Michigan's Black women judges have...faced investigations and charges from mostly white chief judges and the all-white state Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC), as well as the threat of removal from the bench by the State Supreme Court. The three are Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Deborah Thomas, Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Beverley Nettles-Nickerson, and Detroit's 36th District Court Judge Jeannette O'Banner-Owens. O'Banner-Owens, 62, died July 27 after a long fight against lung disease...." An op/ed piece by Diane Bukowski asks whether they're unfairly under attack. More (Michigan Citizen 08.26.2007).
'Heckuva job, Brownie,' says Brownie? "Asking judges whether the branch of government for which they are responsible is out-of-control, tainted by frivolity and injustice, is like asking umpires whether their own blown calls are ruining major league baseball. The answers you get will, predictably, ring defensive...." From an editorial on a survey of Texas District Court judges "who, when asked, were quick to respond that their courts were doing quite a fine job" -- or so the editorial characterizes the survey. More (Southeast Texas Record 08.26.2007).
People are harsher judges than God is. "We sometimes tend to think of our religion as some kind of dispensary where God's love is kept under a lock, only to be dispensed through the right combination of confessions or creeds. Yet God's love isn't that way...In the end, you don't have to be a church-going soul to find your rhythm in Fredrick Lehman's 1917 hymn 'The Love of God.' Purportedly based on the Jewish poem 'Haddamut' of 1050, Lehman wrote: 'Could we with ink the ocean fill,/ And were the skies of parchment made,/ Were every stalk on earth a quill,/ And every man a scribe by trade,/ To write the love of God above,/ Would drain the ocean dry./ Nor could the scroll contain the whole,/ Though stretched from sky to sky." From a column by Norris Burkes, a civilian hospital chaplain and an Air Force Guard chaplain, distributed by Gannett News Service. More (Asbury Park Press 08.26.2007). Comment. Check this guy Norris Burkes out. I like his kind of religion. And check out Fredrick Lehman.
Are the Welsh 'welshing' out on court fines? "Criminals are getting away with not paying court fines -- with a massive £27m owed in Wales alone. Information from the Ministry of Justice shows that the total amount owed in Wales for the financial year ending March 31 is a huge £27,228,630. The news follows research earlier this summer which showed only one in 20 criminals pay their fine on the day of sentencing, according to the Public Accounts Committee...." More (ICWales 08.26.2007). Comment. If you're tempted to say that the Welsh are "welshing" out on their debt, consider this:
Recent efforts by Welsh societies in England and the USA to eliminate the use of "to Welsh" in the disparaging sense of denying one's obligations or refusing to pay a bet, has resulted in politically correct declarations to outlaw its use. The author, though, attributes the designation to the misdemeanours of a certain Bob Welch, an English bookie at Epsom who reneged on paying his dues. His similar sounding name, in oral tradition at least, confused the issue and the offence was associated with the Welsh people!
From a review in Folklore (Oct. 2001) by Tecwyn Vaughan Jones of T. B. Edwards, Welsh Nots, Welsh Notes and Welsh Nuts: A Dictionary of Phrases with the Word 'Welsh' (1998). More (FindArticles).
Are federal SS disability courts themselves disabled? Nearly all American workers pay the federal government for insurance in case they get too sick to keep a job. But thousands of disabled workers wait longer for help in the Charlotte region than almost anywhere else in the nation. Many lose their homes, fall into bankruptcy or go without needed medicine awaiting Social Security disability payments. Some die before their cases are heard...." From a 5-part series of articles on the troubled federal disability courts system. More (Charlotte Observer 08.26.2007).
Did judge wrongfully help disbarred hubby shield assets from creditors? "The judge who weathered accusations of sleeping in court is now accused of fraudulently shielding her husband's assets from creditors. Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Patricia Coffey has allegedly compromised the integrity of the judiciary by creating a trust to put the assets of her husband...out of reach of creditors...." More (Union-Leader - NH 08.25.2007).
Tulsa County Court courthouse fashions. "Wearing suits when money is at stake is still the norm, but wearing them for appearance's sake is less so, and the concept of dressing up for court seems to be old hat. 'People have gotten much more lax in their dress,' said [Tulsa County] Court Clerk Sally Howe Smith. According to District Judge Tom Gillert, this 'is a reflection of not only changes in the way we dress in society but how widespread it is to have no respect for institutions.'" More (Tulsa World 08.26.2007). Comment. When I was in law school (Harvard 1964-1967) most of the men and women (how few women there were back then) dressed up for class as they would for court. I always wore a button-down oxford cloth shirt, tie and wool sportcoat. These days, I hear, it's not unheard of for law students to wear shower clogs (flip-flops) to class. When I attend CLE courses, I'm typically one of the few men who's wearing shirt, tie, and sportcoat. But I'd never try impose my way on others. Nor should judges try to tell witnesses, parties, jurors how to dress. Further reading. More on judges as fashion police (with comments and links to some of our most fashionable postings).
Court protestors urge picketing homes of targeted judges. "Campaign group Fathers 4 Justice has controversially posted the personal details of two judges from the Bath area on its website.Family court judges Andrew Rutherford and Paul Barclay are among 45 judges nationwide to be targeted by the high-profile campaigners. The group is encouraging its supporters to protest outside their homes as part of its Judgebuster Campaign...." More (This is Bath - UK 08.25.2007). Comment. Employing rudeness and incivility -- as in picketing a judge's home -- strikes me as a misguided strategy for winning sympathizers and achieving change.
'The Singing Bailiff.' "A very special birthday party was held for a McLennan County Courthouse bailiff who turned 84 Friday. Clarence Cobbs is best known as the singing bailiff, and serenades people in the courthouse with his song 'Butterbeans.'" More (KCEN-TV - TX 08.24.2007). Comment. Reminds a friend of ours of "The Tapdancing Swede," a petite, perky judicial secretary at a courthouse in Sweden who he says used to tapdance down the tile-floored courthouse corridor every morning at 8:30, dropping off home-baked cookies, brownies and other goodies at judge's chambers. Unlike Mr. Cobb, "The Singing Bailiff," she apparently couldn't sing. Nor, for that matter, could she type or tapdance worth a darn. But she was sweet, he says.
Quote-of-the-day. "Japan's courts are less a place to work out the facts of the case than a venue for people to mete out punishment." So says Sakae Menda, 81, "who spent 34 years on death row after police coerced him into confessing to a double murder he didn't commit...Released in 1983, he now campaigns against a justice system he calls vindictive and riddled with abuse. Menda isn't alone. The United Nations, Council of Europe and human rights groups criticize Japan's legal system for presuming guilt, relying on confessions obtained during weeks of police interrogation and treating death-row inmates inhumanely. Japan has a 99.9 percent conviction rate, Amnesty International says." More (Bloomberg 08.24.2007). Comment. Japan is one of the few "advanced" countries to still rely on the death penalty. The U.S. is another. Most of the countries that rely on it -- think China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc. -- are pretty sorry countries. To the extent we rely on it, we are sorry, too. Further reading. BurtLaw's Law and Capital Punishment.
The risks to a judicial career of saying too much. "Judge John R. Downey of State Superior Court, Gov. M. Jodi Rell's nominee for the State Appellate Court, withdrew his name from consideration on Wednesday after court transcripts showed that he had mistakenly claimed that only legal residents could use the court system. The withdrawal took place a day after Judge Downey was questioned by lawmakers about that remark and comments he made during a court proceeding praising former Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, a longtime segregationist...." More (N.Y. Times 08.23.2007).
Annals of misconduct: using court resources to send congratulatory notes, etc. "The Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously upheld a decision to throw a Cambria County district judge out of office for making inappropriate comments to his staff. District Judge Allan Berkhimer was removed from office in June 2005 after the state's Court of Judicial Discipline found he routinely used offensive language...." More (Philadelphia Inquirer 08.23.2007). Comment. Of special interest: "Berkhimer also improperly used his staff to mail and write congratulatory notes to those whose accomplishments were recorded in local papers. The notes were sent while Berkhimer was running for re-election." Does this ring a bell with anyone? Ever use court secretaries, government postage, etc., to send little Christmas cards or notes to friends, congratulatory "quickie notes" to people in the news, words of sympathy, etc? Maybe you oughtta think twice about doing it. Oh, the temptations and stumbling stones in a judge's path!
Judge hospitalized after being bitten by own cat. "Judge Ralph Strother remains hospitalized after he was bitten by his 9-year-old cat Saturday and his arm became infected. Strother, Waco's 19th State District Court judge, said he ran to retrieve the orange cat Saturday afternoon after the cat jumped over the fence. Strother apparently spooked the cat, Lion Kitty, when he picked him up, and the frightened feline turned more lion than kitty...." More (Waco Tribune 08.23.2007).
Son charged in attack on judge. "The [48-year-old] son of veteran Common Pleas Judge Lisa A. Richette has been charged with beating the 79-year-old jurist in an incident Tuesday at her Center City home...." More (Philadelphia Inquirer 08.23.2007). Comment. It appears the judge, who is still working as a senior judge, can "take it": "She [has] surviv[ed] several robbery attempts, the most recent three years ago when she was 76. The attack took place at 20th and Rittenhouse Streets. She was punched, knocked into the snow and lost her purse containing $180 in cash." Id.
Did judge let length and cost of re-trial figure in mistrial rulings? "My colleagues in the majority concede that the trial of this case may not have been 'picture-perfect' -- a whopping understatement by any measure...This case was inexorably driven to a defective conclusion by the natural human desire to bring an end to the massive expenditure of time and resources occasioned by this trial -- to the detriment of the defendants...I have no doubt that if this case had been a six-day trial, rather than a six-month trial, a mistrial would have been swiftly declared. It should have been here." -- From dissent of Judge Michael Kanne in the 2-1 ruling of a panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals denying a new trial to former Illinois Governor, George Ryan. More (Chicago Sun-Times 08.22.2007). Comment. We agree with the dissent. Ryan should receive a new trial.
The unbearable 'lite'-ness of TV 'journalists.' "Circuit Judge Manuel Lopez arrived home Monday evening to find a crew from Fox's The O'Reilly Factor parked in his driveway. The crew wanted to interview Lopez about his decision to grant bail to a man who later killed a sheriff's sergeant. The judge wanted them off his property -- and summoned law enforcement to help. A Hillsborough sheriff's deputy issued trespass warnings to Brian Lyle, Jesse Watters and Colin Kelly. The men face penalties only if they return to the judge's home...." More (St. Petersburg Times 08.22.2007). Comment. I think it's rude and uncivil to picket the home of a judge or any other public (or private) figure, and also rude and uncivil for reporters to camp out outside a person's home. Picketing outside a courthouse ought generally to be permitted -- see, my comments at Limiting speech outside courthouse -- but picketing outside a judge's home ought not generally be permitted.
Sleightness of hand, of mind. Three brief excerpts from George Johnson, Sleights of Mind, a fascinating piece worth reading in its entirety in the NYT's Science Tuesday for 08.21.2007 -- on the ways master magicians use deception, distraction, speed, words and other tools to trick you into believing you're seeing or not seeing something:
a) "Apollo, with the pull of his eyes and the arc of his hand, swung around my attention like a gooseneck lamp, so that it always pointed in the wrong direction. When he appeared to be reaching for my left pocket he was swiping something from the right. At the end of the act the audience applauded as he handed me my pen, some crumpled receipts and dollar bills, and my digital audio recorder, which had been running all the while. I hadn't noticed that my watch was gone until he unstrapped it from his own wrist."
b) "Sounding more like a professor than a comedian and magician, Teller described how a good conjuror exploits the human compulsion to find patterns, and to impose them when they aren't really there...He left us with his definition of magic: 'The theatrical linking of a cause with an effect that has no basis in physical reality, but that -- in our hearts -- ought to.'"
c) "Retreating to a bar at the Imperial Palace, [Dr. Dennett and I] talked about a different mystery he had been pondering: the role words play inside the brain. Learn a bit of wine speak -- 'ripe black plums with an accent of earthy leather' -- and you are suddenly equipped with anchors to pin down your fleeting gustatory impressions. Words, he suggested, are 'like sheepdogs herding ideas.'"
More (NYT 08.21.2007). Comment. The tendency of people to rely uncritically on their own sense impressions and those of others in determining what "actually" happened (and the tendency of jurors to rely on "absolutely certain" first-person, "eyewitness" accounts); the tendency of people to look for and "find" patterns that may or may not objectively exist and to impose those patterns on an agglomeration of events when the patterns aren't there; and the sometimes fatal tendency to assign words to events, allowing words to act as sheepdogs herding ideas and observations together (the latter in violation of Justice Holmes' caution to "Think things, not words") -- these are psychological tendencies that are shared by all people -- including lawyers, judges and jurors -- and used by all people to fool others and themselves.
Sec. 1983 suit against judge alleges abuse of process. "When Judge George R. Korpita emerged from a Rockaway Borough, N.J., restaurant and saw scratches on his Maserati and Warren Hartzman leaning on it, he did not respond in a judicial manner, according to a U.S. District Court suit. Hartzman ended up being criminally charged with scratching the car, and while the case was pending on Korpita's docket, the judge pressured Hartzman to pay for the damage, the complaint says...." More (NJLJ via Law.Com 08.22.2007).
Would a judge invest in a 'get rich quick scheme'? "Kevin Boyle, the con-man being held at the Remand Center on 'contempt of court' charges because he won't say where missing investor's money is ... tells 630 CHED News, that a senior city judge was a key investor. The 41-year-old Boyle says Judge **** ***** invested a 'significant' amount of money in his 'get rich quick' scheme...." More (630Ched.Com - Edmonton 08.21.2007).
What did the judge mean by 'normal fashion'? "Yesterday David Manning thought he would be in jail soon, but has a big smile today, and a mysterious future. He was cited for an illegal late night U-turn and couldn't afford the fine, in more ways than one. Manning points out, 'It's extortion, like what the mafia does, they say 'give us some money for protection, or something bad will happen to you.' Appearing before Justice Burke, Manning said he would not pay the fine, 'I think it's immoral to pay extortion,' Burke replied, 'Then we will handle this in the normal fashion. You are free to go.'" More (Keene Free Press - NH 08.21.2007).
Comment. What did that masked -- er, robed -- man mean when he said, oh so mysteriously and provocatively, "Then we will handle this in the normal fashion"?
Scottish judge tells lawyer he's a disgrace to the 'Asian community.' "A lawyer who gave a false alibi to a 'significant' criminal was jailed for more than five years yesterday. During sentencing, judge Lord Hardie branded solicitor Shahid Pervez a disgrace to his profession, his family and the Asian community. Pervez admitted attempting to pervert justice by providing the man, who was accused of abduction and extortion, with a false alibi in 2005. He told police the man was discussing an insurance claim at his office on Glasgow's Victoria Road at the time...." More (Daily Record - Scotland 08.21.2007). Comment. Was it 'inappropriate' for the judge to "brand" the lawyer a disgrace to the "Asian community"? It's debatable. I would not be offended, for example, if a judge said to me that because of similar misconduct I was a disgrace to "Minnesota's justly-revered Norwegian-American community." I would, however, be offended if he called me a "credit to the Swedes."
Suspended judge is told to clean up messy yard. "Suspended Clark County Judge Elizabeth Halverson has another messy situation on her hands. In December, Clark County declared Halverson's home a public nuisance and told her to clean it up. Junk covered her yard and her pool was filled with stagnant water...Under [a] deal [she signed], Halverson must clean up her property by Oct. 15, or the county will hire contractors to do it and send her the bill. It requires her to remove inoperable automobiles, bicycles, tarps, furniture, tools, automotive batteries, broken hoses, palm tree trimmings, overgrown vegetation, broken wheelchairs, oxygen tanks and other debris...." More (Las Vegas Sun 08.20.2007). Comment. There's an old Latin legal maxim that, roughly translated into modern vernacular English, says, "Show me a judge with a messy desk or chambers or yard and I'll show you a crackerjack judge." :-)
Annals of San Bernardino legal history. "During one noteworthy case, a man belonging to a gang of toughs stabbed to death a member of another clan in Holcomb Valley in 1861. The man was promptly indicted and placed on trial in San Bernardino. Soon after the case opened, 15 men entered the courtroom heavily armed. Without removing their hats, they seated themselves near the jury. And knowing full well that these characters were friends of the accused, Judge Boren could tell that they were up to no good...During court recess, the unnerving visitors broke out some liquid refreshment...[R]ealizing that conviction of the prisoner would lead to bloodshed, the jury nervously had to come up with a prudent decision. The obvious verdict was unanimous...." -- From Nicholas R. Cataldo, In the old days of crime, Judge Boren stepped up (San Bernardino Sun 08.21.2007). Comment. "I 'member back in Ought Eight, me grandpaw sez he was on a jury and this Swede he...."
Fruit and vegetable judging standards. "Roy [Hoffman] said judging the fruits and vegetables tends to be the most difficult aspect of fair judging because there is such a variety of produce available to plant and harvest. The Hoffmans must look at each piece of produce because they are judged by quality, uniformity, freshness and freedom from insects and disease...." More (Chronicle-Telegram - Ohio 08.21.2007). Comment. This brief excerpt is from a profile of Roy and Carol Hoffman, long-time fruit and vegetable judges at the Lorain County Fair. It may stun many people to know that taste is often not a factor in judging certain categories at various fairs that one would think would be all about taste. See, for example, my entries at Dog Judging, Jam&Jelly Judging, Etc. Here's an excerpt from a 2001 posting:
A web publication that gives advice to entrants in the Evergreen County Fair in Washington State seems to say that at that particular fair almost everything but taste matters. But at other fairs apparently taste does matter. As in common-law judging, there seem to be different schools of thought as to the proper role of the judge, the information to be considered in reaching decisions, etc. Those who don't think a jam&jelly judge should taste the jams&jellies are "strict constructionists" (the term in law for those who believe in excluding the personal tastes of the individual judge as much as possible from the decision-making process). Those who want the jam&jelly judge to actually taste the jams&jellies want not only to preserve some degree of freedom for the individual judge but to encourage creativity on the parts of entrants. (08.27.2001)
If I were called upon to judge a fruit competition, I'd insist on being able to taste the competing peaches, cherries, plums, pears and apricots, or I'd refuse to participate. The juices would squirt all over my judicial bib, made of black vinyl and embossed with a representation of the scales of justice overladen with fruit, and I'd talk with fruit in my mouth and juice dripping out. "Mmmm, this plum is tasty," I'd say, "but this one is not just tasty but also sexy to look at and bite into. This one wins."
South Korean judges now can get 'expert' help during trials. "Judges can now seek the professional opinions of experts during trials with the implementation of an expert commissioners system, the Supreme Court said. Launched on Aug. 19, the system allows committee members consisting of experts from different fields to give an explanation or advice on a certain matter related to a civil trial to assist a judge...." More (Korea Times 08.20.2007). Comment. What sounds good to ordinary ears on first hearing and might work in Korea doesn't necessarily sound good to my ears and conceivably, if done wrong, could raise more problems in our system than it'd solve. At a minimum, you'd want to involve the parties from the get-go and make the details of the consultations with the experts a matter of record. An appellate judge, for example, shouldn't call up the head of a sentencing guidelines commission and run the facts of a pending appeal by the head.
What, no court during hurricane? "With Hurricane Dean battering the island on Sunday, several persons who turned up yesterday to hear their cases in the various courts sitting in St. Catherine, were told to return later this week as none of the courts were in session. Persons who travelled to the Linstead and Spanish Town courthouses were met with the news that no court would be in session because of the hurricane. 'I can't believe it; I am travelling all the way from Lluidasvale (in St. Catherine) and is charter mi charter vehicle and mi affi go dweet again an is not my fault,' remarked an angry-looking lady...." More (Jamaica Gleaner 08.21.2007). Comment. Reading the Jamaica Gleaner is sort of like taking a vacation in Jamaica. We recommend it.
Judge wonders what a 'website' is. "'The trouble is, I don't understand the language,' the judge[, Peter Openshaw, Woolwich Crown Court, on the outskirts of London,] said. 'Can I help?' [Prosecutor Mark] Ellison offered. Answered Openshaw, 'I do not really understand what a Web site is.' With those 10 words, the judge entered the annals of British legal history, joining his predecessors who reportedly inquired 'What are the Beatles?' and 'What is a McDonald's?' And another who asked, understandably, 'What is Linford's lunch box?' to which Linford Christie, an Olympic runner suing a journalist for libel, replied from across the courtroom, 'They are making reference to my genitals, Your Honor.'" More (Wired.Com 08.21.2007). Comment. We linked to this incident when it occurred, but do it again because of the amusing references to 'duh questions' by other judges.
Retired judges show some moxie. "Retired judges...were in combative mood and argued strongly against provisions of the proposed new law that would see them restricted from undertaking paid work without the consent of the Minister of Justice and Chief Justice. Furious and visibly unhappy retired judges Johan Kriegler, Joos Hefer and Gerald Friedman told parliament's portfolio committee on justice and constitutional development that they should not have to get the nod from the minister for them to do paid work as they were no longer in the judiciary...." More (IOL 08.20.2007).
Sitting on jury, playing a video game? "Welsh academics are working on a 3D walk-through virtual world, which they believe could revolutionise the justice system by allowing juries to 'visit' crime scenes, the Western Mail can reveal today. Experts based at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, are developing software which would enable the jury to control their own movements and direction in a similar way to a Cluedo PC game...." More (ICWales 08.20.2007). Comment. We've developed an alternative, cheaper way for jurors to "virtually" visit crime scenes. We're thinking of calling it "still photography" with hard-copy "prints" that each juror can hold in his hands and view for as long as he wishes.
The behind-closed-doors, lawyer-dominated Missouri Plan. "[T]he Missouri Bar has something of a lock on the whole process...[The plan has] been in operation since 1940. It's supposed to be non-partisan. Bottom line is that lawyers are in control...Like all governments, Missouri's judicial selection commission shows a marked tendency to do as much business as possible behind closed doors. Supreme Chief Court Justice Laura Stith (and member of the Missouri bar), who runs the commission, believes that the state's Sunshine (open meetings) Law doesn't apply to her little group. Is it worth noting that not one member is elected by the people?" - From Paul Jacob, Behind closed doors -- how Missouri makes judges (Town Hall 08.19.2007).
Judge sings 'Chapel of Love' and conducts ceremony in choice of languages. "'The Chapel of Love is open for business. If you have your marriage license, you can get married. If you want to renew your vows, come on down.' Then she warned, in judicial tones: 'But if you're not legit, I can't make you legit.' A couple stood near the chapel. They fingered their wedding rings. They could not make up their minds if they wanted to renew their vows. Allen tried to entice them. She started singing 'Chapel of Love,' the 1964 Dixie Cups classic hit. 'Goin' to the chapel and we're gonna get ma-a-aried,' she sang in a strong, clear soprano. Then she switched to a classical classic, 'Ave Maria.' That did the trick...." More (Cincinnati Enquirer 08.19.2007). Comment. "Allen" is Municipal Court Judge Nadine Allen. She's performed over 1,000 marriages in 21 years, and she was at it again Saturday, running her "Chapel of Love under Tent 93 during the 19th Annual Midwest Regional Black Family Reunion Celebration" in Cincinnati. She can hook you up in English, Spanish, French, Italian and Swahili. But, and this is deeply troubling to me, not Norwegian.
On the circuit in a mobile air-conditioned courthouse. "The legal system has now changed dramatically for [Abdul] Kareem and hundreds of thousands of villagers in the rural Mewat district of the northern Indian state of Haryana. Earlier this month, India launched its first mobile court -- an air-conditioned bus that travels to far-flung villages. A judge follows the bus in an air-conditioned sport-utility vehicle...." More (Seattle Times 08.19.2007). Comment. We've posted pieces on this before. This one has a great attention-grabbing opening, starting out by alluding to an 11-year-long legal battle between Abdul Kareem and his cousin over a wall dividing their homes, followed by: "[F]or Kareem and his cousin, there was something far worse than all the abusive words and physical blows that were exchanged. It was the ordeal of actually getting to the court -- an arduous and expensive 30-mile journey involving a long walk, a jeep ride, a bus journey and days of endless waiting...." Kareem is quoted saying that the case has "eaten [his] life away." This may ring a bell with litigants in courtrooms in America, those in MN, for example, who've had to endure long, drawn-out divorce cases in which the only issue is property division, cases that might be processed in say, six months, at relatively low cost in attorney fees and personal pain in a jurisdiction like Olmstead County but that might take four or five years at great expense to the litigants (and profit to the attorneys) in Hennepin County.
Threat by judge to sue over 'fabrication' brings apology from police chief. "Four days after a Kalamazoo County judge alleged Kalamazoo Public Safety officials were using 'grotesque fabrication' to implicate him in the 'cover-up' of a 2003 prostitution investigation, Chief Dan Weston has apologized, calling it a 'misunderstanding.' Kalamazoo County Chief District Judge Richard A. Santoni says he's satisfied...." More (Kalamazoo Gazette 08.19.2007).
She brought 'religion' to a 'judicial hellhole.' "Ann Callis had every reason to be nervous as she headed for the podium. This wasn't one of those perfunctory banquets, where people in suits gather to congratulate each other, talk about the past year and hear a few dry reports or half-funny jokes. No, this was the chief judge of Madison County -- a renowned 'judicial hellhole' -- addressing more than 200 heads of industry...Callis wasn't just giving a speech, she was walking into the lion's den...." An update on Judge Callis' remarkable job of reforming civil justice in the notorious Madison County, Illinois (no, not Iowa) courthouse. More (St. Louis Post-Dispatch 08.19.2007).
Annals of judicial envy -- or why D.A.'s furniture is better than that of judges. "The new $54 million Collin County Courthouse has been open only two weeks, and already some employees are complaining. They're jealous because District Attorney John Roach and his top assistants have snazzy office furniture -- a cut or two above what everyone else got. Judges, in particular, have griped. County commissioners have heard the uproar and checked out the furniture. 'It's very nice furniture -- I'll leave it at that,' said County Judge Keith Self, who heads the Commissioners Court...." More (Dallas Morning News 08.19.2007). Comment. For my own views on furniture envy and on why the judges ought to be happy no one is saying the judges have better furniture, see, my 2001 mini-essay at BurtLaw's Law and Judicial Economics that's titled "Reining in those wild-spending judges" (scroll down).
Judge sues eBay car dealer over luxury van, says 'leather seats' are plastic. "A judge and his wife are suing a car dealer after they discovered that their van's leather seats were actually made of plastic. Judge Raymond Ewers of Lorain County [Ohio] Common Pleas Court and his wife filed a lawsuit Friday to get their money back...." More (WDTN 08.19.2007).
A visit to the county courthouse. "A lady...said she was scared when she made her first trip to the courthouse. Her apprehension was caused by her unfamiliarity with her surroundings. Once you make your first trip it becomes easier, however, each courthouse is set up differently and the availability of the records are subject to their policies...." - From a good piece by Darlene Shawn on what one needs to know and do when visiting a county courthouse to search genealogical records. More (Norman Transcript - OK 08.19.2007). Comment. It's always amazed me how intimidated many people are when they first visit a courthouse. When I worked for the state supreme court I had an office on the top floor, east wing of the capitol in St. Paul. I used to regularly come upon apprehensive, intimidated people in the corridors. I sometimes stopped and asked them if they knew about the free tours and always told them to enjoy the building and feel free to roam around because "it's your building." Sadly, partly as a result of widespread overreaction to the events of 09.11, courts are more and more becoming forbidding fortresses in which ordinary people do not feel welcome. The day will come, sooner rather than later, in which we'll all see the error of this overreaction and recognize the need to make our public courts fully open and truly public.
Murder on a Sunday Morning. Last night my son and I watched a Netflix DVD of Murder on a Sunday Morning, the 2001 documentary film by French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade that won the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2001. If I were teaching criminal process, I'd start the year off by showing it to my class, then go back and discuss the numerous failures of the system that nearly led to an innocent 15-year-old Florida boy's conviction of first-degree murder and the numerous much-needed changes in procedures and practices (like videotaping of all interrogations, from start to finish) that would greatly minimize the chances of something like that happening again. This is a movie every judge in Florida -- no, every person working in or interested in criminal justice -- needs to see. The movie, by the way, would be a good exhibit in the campaign to bring cameras (and the sunshine they provide) to the courts here in MN.
Headline-of-the-day: 'With suspension, judge has more time for golf.' "Pennsylvania's highest court yesterday suspended Superior Court Judge Michael T. Joyce, who was indicted earlier this week on federal charges of cheating two insurance companies out of $440,000...Joyce, 58, told insurers that an August 2001 traffic accident left him in such pain that he was unable to exercise or play golf for more than a year. The indictment announced Wednesday says he actually was playing 18-hole rounds on courses as far away as Jamaica, going scuba diving and inline skating, and working out at a local gym...." More (Philadelphia Daily News 08.18.2007). Comment. A charge is not a conviction. The judge is presumably innocent.
Blawger war at Phil Spector trial? "Thursday defense attorney Roger Rosen took the extraordinary step of complaining to Judge Fidler that a member of the media had made rude comments about Rachelle Spector in court. Earlier, Fidler had admonished one of the trial bloggers for discussing evidence loudly enough for jurors to hear -- the same person accused of ridiculing Mrs. Spector. The blogger, known as Sprocket, denies the charges, claiming to have been set up by a courtroom rival. These incidents were further evidence of an ugly guerrilla war that has erupted among certain factions of bloggers and people who post to Court TV's Spector trial message board...." More (L.A. Weekly 08.18.2007).
Those judges in northeastern Wisconsin. "A review by Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers examined whether any of northeastern Wisconsin's 32 circuit court judges have heard cases involving their financial interests since 2003...Nine judges have heard more than 50 cases involving listed interests, including personal investments and family employers...." More (Appleton Post-Crescent 08.17.2007).
Judge to lawyer: 'Loan me $2,000 now or I'll kill myself.' "Two area lawyers violated ethics rules by making loans to a Kansas City judge in whose court they practiced, a legal disciplinary counsel has decided. The counsel sent letters that admonished lawyers Robert Welch and Willis Toney and also provided details on how then-Judge Deborah Neal[, now in federal prison for mail fraud,] persuaded Welch and Toney to lend her money. In one case, after calling Toney into her chambers, she told him to give her $2,000 immediately or she would kill herself...." More (Kansas City Star 08.17.2007).
Judges say gowns give them 'gravitas.' "Family Court judges and lawyers are currently forbidden by law from wearing either gowns or wigs 'to prevent unnecessary formality.' However, a bill introduced to Parliament yesterday will allow judges to wear gowns. Principal Judge Peter Boshier said he asked for a return of the gowns to raise the gravitas of the court in the public's eye...." More (New Zealand Herald 08.17.2007). Comments. a) It reminds me of a study of a mental hospital described in a class in medical sociology at the U. of Minn. circa 1963-64. It turned out that many nurses didn't like the abolition of nurses uniforms because the general visiting public and the patients could no longer tell the difference between the nurses and the psychiatric inmates. What was left to help them distinguish themselves? One thing was the large number of keys they carried, which they could prominently display hanging from a large key ring attached to a belt. b) Not allowed to wear a gown but still want to project gravitas? Try a Saturday Judicial Makeover with some BurtLaw Gravi-Tox Injections and BurtLaw Judicial Hair Extensions.
Judge blogs about conference room doings. Excerpt: "The atmosphere in the judging room was somewhere between a book club and a maternity ward. What could be more agreeable than a freeform discussion of 110 novels, when you know that everyone else in the room has read them all and -- even better -- is obliged to display at least a polite interest in your exciting views?" The judges, you may have guessed, are judges whose task is to pick a literary prize, in this case the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction. The blogging judge is Howard Davies, Chair of the judges. More (Booktrade - Press Release 08.16.2007). Links to Man Booker Prize's website and Chair's blog.
Have you ever filed an inaccurate expense reimbursement request? "A three-judge panel will be appointed to review allegations that an Orange County judge filed an inaccurate expense report after attending a professional seminar in San Diego. A panel assembled by the Judicial Performance Commission will examine expenses that Superior Court Judge Kelly MacEachern filed after attending the 2006 Continuing Judicial Studies Program last summer at the Hyatt Regency Islandia Hotel, said Victoria Henley, the commission's director and chief counsel...." More (San Jose Mercury News 08.16.2007). Comments. a) We have no idea whether the judge did anything unethical. We all ought to assume she didn't unless and until someone proves she didn't. b) We wonder how many judges have submitted inaccurate expense reimbursement requests and, of those who have, how many did so intentionally. c) If we were to prepare a "top ten" or "top twenty" list of ways judges get in trouble with the ethics folks or the public, we'd likely include attendance at seminars and conventions in other cities, issues relating to expense reimbursement, DWI, using court computer to view porn, holding or threatening to hold people in contempt, being rude to people in court or otherwise acting in an imperious manner, being too friendly or not friendly enough with court employees, not maintaining accurate records of vacation time and sick leave (playing hookey), not getting work done in a timely manner, doing court business orally or over the phone rather than in written submissions with notice to all parties, etc.
Daughter of judge goes missing while on train trip with husband. "The daughter of a judge in Bihar has gone missing from a running train in mysterious circumstances sending the State's police establishment into a tizzy. Rani Archana Singh, the married daughter of Subhash Chandra, Additional District and Sessions Judge of Banka, went missing from Capital Express train on way to Patna from New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal in the early hours yesterday, Superintendent of Railway Police, Ajitabh Kumar, told PTI...." Her husband, who reported her missing, says that the last time he saw her was when she went to bed in the berth above his. When he woke at 5 a.m., she was gone. More (The Hindu 08.16.2007).
Feds charge another state judge with crime. "A Pennsylvania Superior Court judge collected insurance money after claiming a car accident made him unable to exercise or play golf, but then played golf, went inline skating and received his pilot's license, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. Judge Michael Thomas Joyce, 58, of Erie, was charged [in federal court] with mail fraud and money laundering in connection with $440,000 he received after his car was rear-ended in Millcreek Township in 2001...." More (Philadelphia Inquirer 08.16.2007). Comment. As anyone who regularly reads our postings over the last two years, the feds under Bush/Gonzales seem to feel they have a "roving commission," to use Justice Cardozo's phrase, to clean up state and local government. With respect to the feds' pursuit of state judges around the country, I guess I'm more of a states'-righter than I thought I was, because I think the feds' claims of jurisdiction to prosecute some of these cases are a little contrived. It all seems so un-Republican, even to this liberal Eisenhower/Rockefeller Republican (there are only a couple of us left). Update. Suspended judge pleads not guilty, will retire rather than seek reelection (Washington Post 08.21.2007).
Substitute judge gets sack over comment on his MySpace profile. "A substitute judge in the North Las Vegas Justice Court got sacked last week because of some nasty stuff he said on his social-networking profile about prosecutors. The 34-year-old criminal defense attorney, Jonathan MacArthur, had been appointed as a judge pro tempore in anticipation of a full judicial post that would be available in 2009. Unfortunately, MacArthur wrote on his MySpace profile that his interests included 'Breaking my foot off in a prosecutor's a**...and improving my ability to break my foot off in a prosecutor's a**.'" More (CNET.News 08.15.2007). Comment. BurtLaw Rule-of-Thumb #52 for judges wishing to stay out of trouble: "Don't ever tell jokes. Not anywhere. Not ever. Your role model should be a stereotypical somber undertaker. In accepting your robe and gavel, you undertook to emulate all stereotypically-somber undertakers everywhere."
A rewards plan for good judges? "Supreme Court Justice Bagir Manan blew-off Monday plans by the Judicial Commission to reward judges with noted accomplishments -- he said only the Court and the President could do such a thing. 'Receiving rewards is against the code of ethics and it could create conflicts of interest,' Bagir [said]...." More (Jakarta Post - Indonesia 08.14.2007). Comment. Frequent flier miles based on lengths of sentences imposed? Not quite what the commission had in mind, but we agree with the judge that having in mind the possibility of a reward as an incentive for being a "good judge" is a bad idea.
Judge is fined 20,000 smackeroos for undue delay in deciding cases. "The Supreme Court 3rd Division found a retired Bago City Regional Trial Court judge liable for undue delay of judgment in two criminal cases. The high court said it would have suspended Judge Henry Trocino for six months if he had not retired. Instead, they decided to fine him P20,000, which would be taken from his retirement benefits. Trocino retired on July 15, 2006...." More (Inquirer - Philippines 08.14.2007). Comment. That's 20,000 pesos, I think, not dollars. I wanted the headline to suggest American dollars. Why? To scare judges who take too long to write opinions and otherwise decide cases into snapping to it.
Dry cleaners wrongly sued by judge over lost pants make conciliatory offer. "In a surprise turn yesterday, the small-business owners sued by D.C. Administrative Law Judge Roy Pearson withdrew their demand that he pay nearly $83,000 for their legal bills, saying that enough money had been raised from supporters to cover the expenses and that they want to end the fighting. Jin Chung and Soo Chung say they no longer need Judge Roy Pearson to pay their legal bills. The cleaners want Pearson, who could soon be out of a job, to do the same [and drop any plans he has to appeal]...." More (Washington Post 08.14.2007). Comment. We love it when people are magnanimous in victory. Someone ought to give these fine citizens a public spirit award of some kind, for resisting the odious American impulse to "make people pay -- big time." Update. Judge files appeal (Washington Post 08.15.2007).
Talking tough in Bronx Family Court. "If you think Judge Judy has a big mouth, you ain't seen nothing yet. Bronx Family Court Judge Marian Shelton allegedly yelled at a lawyer to 'shut up,' tossed a woman from court for wearing 'inappropriate' clothing, told a Caribbean man to 'take those stupid things out of your hair' and said a lawyer had 'mental health issues'...[Shelton] isn't backing down from a bruising confrontation with the state Commission on Judicial Conduct. [Instead, she] is going public...[Her] husband, wealthy former Proskauer Rose lawyer Saul Cohen, took out a full-page ad in The New York Times to bash the commission...." More (N.Y. Daily News 08.14.2007). Comment. As a sample of the judge's manner of going public and taking the offensive, here's the opening sentence of a statement the judge released attacking the proceedings: "Last year Dennis Quirk, the head of the New York State Court Officers Union, who has been chastised for bullying judges, used eight bogus complaints allegedly made by court officers to instigate the ethically challenged New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct to investigate my nine years on the bench...." More (Press Release 08.13.2007). Update. Hollywood talent scouts are showing interest in Judge Shelton as the next Judge Judy (N.Y. Daily News 08.16.2007).
Clerk admits making off-the-books payments at C.J.'s alleged direction. "The court clerk of Clinch County pleaded guilty in federal court to making $73,286 in illegal payments to himself and other county employees as ordered by the chief judge of Georgia's Alapaha Judicial Circuit. Daniel Leccese, who resigned as court clerk Friday, is the first person to be prosecuted in a federal investigation of secret payments ordered by Superior Court Judge Brooks E. Blitch III that were kept off the county books and never reported to tax authorities...." More (Augusta Chronicle 08.14.2007).
The war crimes judge from India who is revered by some Japanese. "Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Tuesday [that next week] he would meet the son of an Indian judge who opposed punishing Japanese war criminals convicted by an Allied tribunal...'Judge Pal has ties to Japan. I am looking forward to hearing stories about his father,' Abe told reporters, referring to the meeting with the son of Radhabinod Pal, who was on the 11-judge panel of the Allied tribunal and the only one to voice dissent. Pal said the tribunal was judgment of the vanquished by the victors -- a point shared by some historians and jurists...." More (Reuters India 08.14.2007). Comment. The judge didn't doubt that war crimes were commited. He simply agreed with our own Chief Justice, Stone, who said that the war crimes tribunals after WWII were a "high grade lynching party." See, my extensive comments at Annals of judicial independence - Iraq government sacks Saddam judge.
Death Penalty Capital of America. "Texas will almost certainly hit the grim total of 400 executions this month, far ahead of any other state, testament to the influence of the state's conservative evangelical Christians and its cultural mix of Old South and Wild West. 'In Texas you have all the elements lined up. Public support, a governor that supports it and supportive courts,' said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center...." More (Reuters 08.13.2007). Comment. As a Norwegian Lutheran, I am always amazed that so many people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, who was judicially tried, convicted, and executed according to the laws of the realm, support the death penalty. In his plea to the court for Leopold and Loeb, Darrow said, "This is a Christian community, so-called, at least it boasts of it, and yet they would hang these boys in a Christian community. Let me ask this court, is there any doubt about whether these boys would be safe in the hands of the founder of the Christian religion? It would be blasphemy to say they would not." Further reading. BurtLaw's Law and Capital Punishment.
Judicial corruption in its varied forms. "Transparency International, the global anti-corruption non-government organization (NGO)...[in its] latest report -- Global Corruption Report 2007: Corruption in Judicial Systems -- says that despite international efforts, different forms of judicial corruption continue to afflict many parts of the world. 'We are talking not just about outright bribery, but political bias or interference, the influence of money, which can have a profound impact on all of us, undermining our trust in public institutions and their capacity to deliver fair and impartial outcomes,' said Nancy Boswell, the president of Transparency International-USA...." More (CalTrade Report 08.13.2007).
When is a courthouse skylight not a skylight? "When he was elevated to the position of president judge in Fayette County, Conrad Capuzzi said he knew he wanted to work toward restoring and beautifying the courthouse...His latest project, opening the long-closed skylight outside of his second-floor courtroom, was completed last month... Capuzzi said he's heard nothing but positive comments about the skylight. 'It's pure splendor,' he said of the skylight. Although a natural skylight formerly lighted the glass, the panels are now electronically illuminated...." More (Uniontown Herald-Standard - PA 08.13.2007). Comment. We're impressed by the judge's one-step-at-a-time relatively-low-cost approach to the courthouse's restoration. Not every restoration requires an outlay of $50 million. We don't mean to ridicule the revelation and restoration of the skylight, but we're slightly puzzled how it's still a skylight if the light coming through it is artificial.
Quote-of-the-day. "The [Jefferson County District C]ourt's web site resembles something built by a moonlighting teen Web designer in the mid-1990s." -- From an editorial titled "Crack open the courthouse." More (Southeast Texas Record 08.12.2007).
Moses is moving to new courthouse. "Ending months of speculation among members of the local bar, [officials have announced that] the statue of Moses that has graced the second-floor rotunda of the Worcester County Courthouse at the north end of Main Street for the last 97 years will have a home in the new $180 million regional justice center scheduled to open next month several blocks away...[The statue is a] larger-than-life replica of Michaelangelo's famed marble sculpture of Moses, which is in the Church of St. Peter in Chains in Rome...." More (Worcester Telegram 08.13.2007). Comment. The retention of the statue is appropriate under the two relevant SCOTUS decisions -- McCreary County, Kentucky v. ACLU of Kentucky, 125 S. Ct. 2722 (2005) and Van Orden v. Perry, 125 S. Ct. 2854 (2005) -- and under the externally-praised approach I recommended in a mini-essay early on, which is reprinted in my extended posting titled Court o.k.'s Bush's '10 Commandments' & their own, but not all.
Are you master of your own domain? "To some, having prosecutors running the court system is the precarious legal equivalent of leaving a fox in charge of a chicken coop. Yet in many provinces, including Ontario, that's reality, with attorneys general not just prosecuting people for crimes, but operating the court themselves. But [the Canadian Bar Association,] Canada's largest legal organization[,] wants to cut those bureaucratic strings and turn control of court operations over to the judiciary...." More (Toronto Star 08.13.2007).
Where's your sense of humor? "Retired Pol Col Charnchai Netirattakarn admitted he visited Constitution Tribunal judge ML Krairerk Kasemsan but he was 'just kidding' when he offered a Bt30 million bribe to Krairerk...." More (The Nation - Thailand 08.13.2007). Comment. Gosh, it's getting so a practical joker can't even offer a bribe to a judge.
No more special terrorist courts in Northern Ireland. "The Diplock Courts in Northern Ireland slipped largely unremarked into history at midnight on 31 July. Established on the recommendation of Lord Kenneth Diplock in 1973, at the height of the Northern Ireland Troubles, the courts allowed a judge sitting alone to preside over the conduct of serious criminal cases in which a terrorist connection was suspected...Supporters of the Diplock Courts regarded them as an important demonstration that the prosecution of crime could continue despite intimidation of jurors and witnesses and the reluctance of some jurors to convict members of their own community regardless of the evidence presented before them...." More (Scotsman 08.13.2007). Comment. According to Professor John Jackson of Queens University, Belfast, Diplock Courts acquitted a whopping 40-45 per cent of defendants, but "That...is actually a lower percentage than is generally found in jury trials here. Northern Irish juries do tend to acquit!" There are some basic sociological principles that underlie both the high rates of jury acquittals in Northern Ireland, especially during the Northern Ireland Troubles, and the high rates of jury acquittals in the teeth of the evidence of those prosecuted for alcohol offenses during the Prohibition era in largely-German (beer-drinking) Stearns County, MN. See, as background, Lewis Coser, The Functions of Social Conflict (1956) (summarized here).
Annals of alternative dispute resolution -- those securities arbitration panels. Getchen Morgenson, the terrific business page reporter at the NYT, has another revealing piece, this about the problem of conflicts of interest on the part of members of the two supposedly independent "public" members of those three-member arbitration panels that ordinary investors "agree" to when they sign account forms Wall Street brokerages require them to sign. More (NYT 08.12.2007).
The Torah on judges. "This week's Torah Portion, Shoftim, is always read on the first Shabbat of the month of Elul. As nothing is accidental, this Parshah must contain important lessons for us to implement during this auspicious month. 'Shoftim' means judges. The Torah commands us to appoint a hierarchy of righteous judges in every city and province. On a literal level, this commandment refers to judges who adjudicate civil, criminal and religious issues. On a deeper level, however, this commandment, as well as its details, has great meaning for every one of us in our personal lives...." From an excellent piece titled "An Impartial Judge," by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg, a scholar "renowned for his sharp wit and vast Talmudic knowledge." We encourage our readers to visit Chadbad and read his relevant postings in their entirety. More (Chabad.org).
Judging 'The Great Scot of 2007.' "Our panel [of judges] are kept in line by their chairman, Scotland's top judge Lord McCluskey." From a piece describing the selection of The Sunday Mail's "Great Scot of 2007" along with four "unsung heroes," all of whom will be announced on 09.15. More (Sunday Mail 08.12.2007). Comment. If an overseas Scot were eligible and I had standing to nominate anyone, I'd nominate Alexander M. ("Sandy") Keith, former MN Supreme Court Chief Justice and well-known DFL politician and public leader, who I was honored to work with closely during his tenure at the court.
Did Elvis do as much for race relations as judges enforcing the Constitution? If you read Peter Guralnick's fascinating op/ed piece in the NYT, you may understand that my suggestive little teaser question is not without support in the historical record. More (NYT 08.11.2007).
'Go east (to India?), young man.' "After 60 years since the British had left, India is now witnessing a different and welcome kind of influx from the UK, with British law students thronging for internship opportunities here. Students from globally acclaimed law institutions such as London School of Economics, Queen's Marry College, and Cambridge Law Faculty are making a beeline to gain first-hand experience in India...." More (Times of India 08.12.2007). Comment. For those unfamiliar with the book, my teaser headline is a play on the title of Justice William O. Douglas' autobiography, Go East, Young Man, which in turn was a play on Horace Greeley's admonition, "Go West, young man!"
Annals of collegiality -- judge accuses chief of favoritism, animosity, vengeance. a) Allegation. "Complaining against his being passed over for heading a judicial committee, Justice R S Garg of the Gujarat High Court has written to Governor Naval Kishore Sharma, accusing Chief Justice Y R Meena of 'bearing animosity' and 'acting with vengeance' against him. He has also charged Justice Meena with 'generating false complaints against me' and sought a transfer from Gujarat High Court...." More (Indian Express 08.10.2007). b) Response. "Reacting sharply to The Indian Express report...Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court Y R Meena refuted the allegations, saying: 'Keeping in mind Justice R S Garg's conduct, I acted in the interest of the High Court and public.' Talking exclusively to Newsline, he said: 'Senior lawyers of the High Court had submitted a detailed presentation against Garg, which I have forwarded to the Chief Justice of India.'" More (Express India 08.12.2007).
Family courts -- 'a culture of consequentialism.' "A culture of consequentialism has developed in public family law. The idea is that because everyone has the objective of protecting children, it doesn't much matter what they do; the end justifies the means. The problem with this approach is that if the truth is misrepresented in the family courts, then the courts are likely to take the wrong decision...." -- From an op/ed piece by John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley and chairman of Justice for Families, titled Bullying, secrecy and legal babysnatchers (Telegraph UK 08.12.2007). Comment. Hemming rightly blames the secrecy of family courts for many of their troubles. I say, secret justice inevitably becomes secret injustice.
Wanna know what some people think of judges? Here's what Waco-based musician Ted Nugent has to say in a diatribe against judges titled "Punks in black robes, courts of corruption": "America's court system, in all too many instances, has about as much to do with justice as Charles Manson has to do with babysitting." More (Waco Tribune 08.12.2007). Comment. The piece is somewhat representative of emotional outbursts that are more and more being directed angrily at courts in general by people of divergent political and social views. We who love the ideal of independent and accountable courts err in refusing to recognize some of the truths that may underly emotional outrage directed at courts in general. And we err in failing to publicly recognize our flaws. Here's a relevant piece, Judicium Interruptus, that I posted shortly after 09.11 that represents some of my thinking:
Our courts, generally speaking, are pretty good, not great. There are some bad judges who rarely get it right. And there are some good ones who sometimes get out of line and themselves perpetrate injustice. This is why we have appeals. And since appellate courts sometimes get it wrong, more often than is commonly believed, they too do not always have the final word. The case can be made that our courts offer at best a crude and cumbersome method of ensuring "justice." The fact is, they don't "ensure" it at all. Indeed, Clarence Darrow, who knew a thing or two about judges and courts, said, "There is no Justice in or out of court." More often than I like to admit, I find myself thinking he was right. But we owe it to ourselves and our children and friends and neighbors to do our damdest to at least try ensure that our Constitution is not just "a screen of words." Yesterday, I listened to our Attorney General testify before a Senate committee. It was a sad performance. He was trying to taint the jury, the American people, by suggesting that those of us who disagree with him on the President's attempts to limit civil liberties are in some way giving aid and comfort to the enemy. It is an old, tired cynical tactic, worthy only of an A. Mitchell Palmer or a Joe McCarthy or a J.A.A. Burnquist, [a Minnesotan,] all of whom have been discredited by history. When Ashcroft says the words "civil liberties" his tone reeks of contempt. I believe he, too, will be discredited by history. (12.07.2001)
As an example of why we need to be ever vigilant, read on....
Pol's ex-wife gets 'uncontested' decree awarding 'everything' to him reversed. "She lost her son, her home and her job -- but a Manhattan woman has fought and finally won an appeal to overturn the uncontested divorce that gave her politically connected husband everything. After a three-year battle, Susan Gass, 50, won a ruling last month in which the appeals court blasted deputy chief matrimonial judge Jacqueline Silbermann for giving the [politically-prominent] husband everything without the wife even knowing she was being sued for divorce. Gass, who was repeatedly told she couldn't fight the 2004 divorce, claims politics drove the judges' rulings...." More (N.Y. Post 08.12.2007). Comment. We know nothing about the case or the reliability of the Post's reporting of the facts/decision. But it is stories like this one that prompt many reasonable ordinary people to get emotional and arguably overly general in their criticisms of our judicial system. We can respond by always raising the flag of judicial independence or we can acknowledge that the system is far from perfect and that we all need to be ever vigilant in trying to improve it.
Chief Justice defends court's work; denies justices are slackers. "The court typically renders about 85 written judgments each year. Last year it released only about 60, but [Canadian Supreme Court] Chief Justice [Beverly] McLachlin said that provides an inadequate 'snapshot' of its year-to-year output...'We are as busy or busier than we have ever been. When you think about it, it's an awful lot of work, considering we have the most difficult questions that the legal system throws up. If you take off a few weeks for holidays, 85 (decisions) would be like two cases a week to decide.'" She described all that goes into deciding a case (the reading and writing and thinking), mentioned all the petitions for leave to appeal, and also pointed to each justice's occasional speaking engagements, concluding, "'When you fill all that in, we are really, really working hard[,' so hard that we] cannot rush any faster and still arrive at sage decisions on matters of national importance." More (Globe and Mail 08.12.2007). Comment. Speaking generally, I'm not sure it's true either that a) supreme court justices in Canada or in our state and federal system are working all that hard on deciding cases or b) lower supreme court caseloads = better decisions. SCOTUS is taking on fewer cases than it has historically decided, its decisions are arguably worse than when the annual caseloads were much higher, it employs more law clerks than ever, and its justices (with a few exceptions, Souter being the main one) seem to be running around giving bad speeches on the judicial equivalent of the old Chautauqua circuit all the time. Here in MN, when I was a personal law clerk during the 1970-1971 term, each justice had one law clerk and each justice was responsible for writing the opinion in 70 or so general full-fledged appeals, whereas in more recent years the court has had the benefit of the output of the specialists in the offices of the commissioners (a/k/a staff attorneys) in nonoral cases, each justice at least has had (or has had the option of) two clerks, and each justice in point of fact has had dramatically fewer cases to actually hear and many, many fewer opinions to personally (or with the aid of personal clerks) write. Yet, at least in my opinion, the quality of the court's output is not as good in recent years as it was "back in the day." I don't claim that the justices aren't working hard, but so much of their efforts may be going not into carrying out the core appellate function but into "judicial outreach" -- for example, taking the court "on the road," talking with legislators and thereby risking misunderstandings that possibly hurt the court's credibility as an institution, giving speeches that aren't memorable, reading to kids at school, attending court committee meetings and bar functions, etc., etc. Moreover, to the extent a particular justice on a supreme court -- in Canada and in our country -- devotes time to the core function, there's such a thing as dwelling on a single matter too much. Writes MN's Justice Paul H. Anderson, in a piece at LawSchool.WestLaw.Com titled Judges and law clerks: what the judge seeks, what the clerk can expect: "I recall one clerk who, after we had just gone over about the 25th draft of an opinion, said 'I am not accustomed to writing in this manner. In the past, I found that one or two drafts would do.' That is not how it is on an appellate court and, through a clerkship experience, new lawyers will understand and appreciate that a high standard of excellence in legal writing takes a lot of hard work." Hmm, Justice Holmes typically sat down right after being assigned an opinion at conference and immediately wrote the opinion. All of his opinions are short and to the point, many of them are memorable, and a few of them are considered among the greatest judicial opinions ever written. True, Justice Holmes was a literary genius of the first magnitude, one of the great prose stylists in the English language, and true, as the saying goes, we can't all be Holmeses and, indeed, we can't all write opinions as quickly or as well. I admire Justice Anderson -- whose squib biography accompanying his entry at LawSchool.WestLaw.Com describes him as "a nationally renowned jurist" -- for his earnest, sincere, energetic approach to the task of opinion writing. But last time I checked, I noted nothing in his opinions to suggest that the time spent in those 25 (or 10 or 15, as the individual case may have been) drafts was time especially well spent. Might it be that if, in general, state appellate justices had no law clerks and more cases and fairly tight self-imposed deadlines for writing their opinions (say, a couple weeks), they'd be able to decide more cases better and write better opinions? I personally think so, but my answer assumes a general basic competence in the justices, sufficient appellate judicial experience (the more, the better), and above-average facility in written expression, which may be expecting too much given the inevitably-political ways in which so many state appellate judges are appointed, whether through use of supposedly-independent commissions or wholly at the discretion of the governor.
Judge used alias to register at convention hotel because of threats over ruling. "[F]our current or former judges...appeared in a 90-minute seminar [at the convention] in San Francisco's Moscone Center West to describe how their lives were affected by their rulings in high-profile cases involving hot-button issues...." One, George Greer, the Florida judge who ordered Terri Schiavo's feeding tube removed two years ago and thereby became the target of wrath of some right-wingers, revealed he still is fearful and "used an alias when he registered at his San Francisco hotel on this trip." More (The Recorder via Law.Com 08.11.2007).
Bomb explodes in Turkish courthouse. "A makeshift bomb went off on Friday in a courthouse in the Turkish capital, bringing down some of its windows but causing no casualties, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported...There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Bomb attacks are common in Turkey, where militant leftists and Islamist groups are active." More (IOL 08.10.2007).
Chief federal district judge admits he's human, ran up big tab at strip club. "U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham[, 59,] issued a statement Friday saying his visits to a Denver strip club, made public late Thursday, are 'private and personal matters involving human frailties and foibles.' He said he will not discuss those matters publicly. 9News reported on its 10 p.m. telecast Thursday that Nottingham spent $3,000 at the Diamond Cabaret, a topless club. The information is contained in transcripts of the divorce proceedings of Nottingham and Marcie Jaeger in Eagle County...9News also reported that Nottingham admitted spending $150 on what he called an 'Internet dating site,' which the station identified as Ipayfriendfinder.com...." More (Rocky Mountain News 08.11.2007). Comment. As I've done before in commenting on stories like this, I quote Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd: "Fill the seats of justice with good [people], not so absolute in goodness as to forget what human frailty is...." In my opinion, based on nearly 30 years of working with judges and many more observing them, I've never seen any significant positive correlation between a judge's performance as judge and a judge's level of perfection in his personal life. In fact, I think a case can be made that "perfect" people don't make very good judges, that the better judges are those who have lived a little and learned from their mistakes. If every judge in America were to be put through a divorce proceeding next year, God only knows how many of our best and brightest would be similarly embarrassed by spousal disclosures and/or accusations. Update. The Denver Post reports that it was his ex-wife who revealed the embarrassing story, that FBI agents contacted her Thursday, and that they were investigating possible improper use of his federal computer. More (Denver Post 08.11.2007). Comment. On judges caught using a court computer to view porn, see, my comments at a) Judge apologizes, gets reprimand for viewing porn on court computer and and b) My eccentric views on putting a scarlet letter on judges who view porn. Update. "The judge, who is fond of making literary allusions in his courtroom, is now learning that Shakespeare was right about scorned women and the intensity of their fury...What is he surfing with that laptop computer on his bench as lawyers argue before him? And what's up with the purple suits? Or that sky blue robe and pink tie he wore during [Qwest CEO Joe] Nacchio's sentencing?" -- From a column by Al Lewis (Denver Post 08.12.2007). Comment. No matter what a person does or says, it seems that after he has been "caught" doing something "wrong," he will have everything he has done or said opened to scrutiny with an eye to "proving" what a bad dude he is. The great thing about the basic Norwegian-Lutheran outlook on human nature is that a) it is democratic, b) it says all flesh is grass and we all -- ALL -- constantly fall short of the Glory of God, c) it affirms that love is the only law and that forgiveness is one of the greatest illustrations of that love; d) it insists that none of us is worthy of forgiveness; e) it maintains that we receive forgiveness solely by God's Grace; and f) it knows that God grants that Grace to each of us, even if we don't want it or are not open to receive it. Folks, if the report is true, the judge's angry wife appears to have "outed" him as a human being. In other words, we now know he's not perfect. So what else is new? Neither are you.
Prisoner is charged with trying to hire judge to kill prosecutor. "Bryan Connelly, convicted of forgery charges, is accused of making an unusual choice in seeking a hit man to kill the prosecutor: the judge who sentenced him. Galveston County District Court Judge David Garner said Connelly, 34, of Santa Fe, was among those defendants who 'think outside the box' for allegedly writing a letter offering [the judge] $5,000 to kill former prosecutor Donnie Quintanilla, now in private practice in Galveston. Connelly wrote a second letter to his defense attorney, Houston lawyer Jonathan Cox, offering him $5,000 to kill Garner, special prison prosecutor Alice Gregg said...." More (Houston Chronicle 08.10.2007). Comment. Sounds like the start of a plot for bad film noir.
Annals of life after judging. "Gov. Mike Easley announced today that former Chief Superior Court Judge William 'Bill' Gore Jr. of Whiteville has agreed to become commissioner of the state Division of Motor Vehicles...." More (Fayettville Observer - NC 08.09.2007).
Legislator will seek impeachment of any judge who doesn't vote right way. "A conservative Maryland legislator has told supporters he's ready to impeach any members of the state's highest court who rule in favor of same-sex marriage. Del. Don Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel County) recently told Defend Maryland Marriage Chair Rick Bowers and others that he would try to impeach any Maryland Court of Appeals judge who redefines marriage in a pending case, Bowers said...." More (Washington Blade 08.10.2007).
Annals of judicial recusals -- Jewish judge won't hear antisemitic assault case. "A Jewish judge stepped down from an antisemitic assault case after asking whether the defendant objected to him hearing it. Waeil Hammed, 38, was convicted on Tuesday of racial abuse and racially aggravated assault at St Albans Crown Court. But before the jury was sworn in, the original judge, David Altaras, revealed that his parents were of Jewish origin and asked if there were any objection to him sitting. After consultation with his barrister, Hammed asked for a different judge and the case was transferred...." More (Jewish Chronicle 08.10.2007).
Hundreds of judges and judicial officers pledge to donate their eyes. "In a unique gesture, 623 judges and judicial officers of the State, including Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Cyriac Joseph on Wednesday pledged to donate their eyes in the presence of Governor T.N. Chaturvedi. At a function organised at the High Court, the judges, judicial officials, lawyers and other staff members of the High Court and other subordinate courts handed over the forms pledging their eyes to Narayana Nethralaya's Dr. Rajkumar Eye Bank and the Lions International Eye Bank...." More (The Hindu 08.10.2007). Comment. The public display of the judges' pledge to donate is part of an effort to counter public misconceptions about eye donations unintentionally created by a Malayalam-language Hindi film, Karutha Pakshikal (2006), in which a poor blind girl gets a cornea transplant and then starts seeing dead people. An India Opthalmological Society filed suit trying to get the film banned but the courts declined. Query. Might such a display of charitable intent by judges violate traditional rules governing ethical judicial conduct in the U.S.?
Judge is crushed over killing of defendant she sentenced, befriended. "Damien Perry was a 20-year-old member of the Castlegate Road gang, a group of about 30 young men who had terrorized Grove Hall in Roxbury in the 1990s...Nancy Gertner was the Yale-educated federal court judge presiding over his case. But Perry was smart, polite, and eloquent, and Gertner instantly liked him. In 2000, she sentenced him to federal prison, but she would see him again and again after his release two years later -- sometimes for regular court appointments and other times because he just felt like dropping into her chambers for a visit...." Perry, 28, was gunned down in Roxbury last Saturday and Gertner is said to be, understandably, "crushed." More (Boston Globe 08.10.2007).
Annals of judicial injuries not covered by workers' compensation. "He" was "in the stable," standing atop seven feet of baled hay looking at horses when one of his feet went down in between the hay, causing him to lose balance and fall backwards, possibly (according to a ranchhand) falling on top of baling hooks he'd been holding. The "he" is District Judge Edwin Alford who now is in hospital with nine broken ribs, one rib having pierced his lung, a broken collar bone, and some fractured vertebrae. More (Nashville News 08.10.2007).
Annals of interpretations said to be designed to accomplish act's purpose. "We maintain a list of egregious Arkansas Supreme Court opinions...There was a famous one-sentence opinion -- 'Too hot to handle,' roughly -- by which the Court more or less upheld a controversial state law forbidding the teaching of evolution...A few years later, [a] majority determined to keep a populist constitutional amendment off the ballot found that the amendment was both 'too long' and 'too short.' The Court's latest opinion[, a 4-3 decision,] on the state Freedom of Information Act now joins the list. [The] majority made a soothing announcement [of its intent to liberally interpret the statute to accomplish its 'broad and laudable purpose'] and...proceeded to construe the Act narrowly, supporting secrecy...." More (Arkansas Times 08.09.2007). Comment. Actually, the "one-sentence opinion" referred to is a two-sentence opinion. SCOTUS' opinion in the case in question, Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97 (1968), quotes the opinion in a footnote:
"Per Curiam. Upon the principal issue, that of constitutionality, the court holds that Initiated Measure No. 1 of 1928, Ark. Stat. Ann. 80-1627 and 80-1628 (Repl. 1960), is a valid exercise of the state's power to specify the curriculum in its public schools. The court expresses no opinion on the question whether the Act prohibits any explanation of the theory of evolution or merely prohibits teaching that the theory is true; the answer not being necessary to a decision in the case, and the issue not having been raised."
Should award-winning Courthouse Gardens be replaced by partly-paved plaza? "In less than a year, two different teams of consultants have concluded that the award-winning Courthouse Gardens should be altered to give downtown Towson the gathering space it needs. It's an idea that might not take root...After working with various factions of the community, [a design] team envisioned removing the high,138-year-old wrought iron fence on the Washington Avenue side of the gardens and creating a plaza by replacing much of that section of the gardens with paving...." More (Baltimore Messenger 08.08.2007). Comment. It's none of my business, but I say, "Leave things as they are." I like the idea of encouraging activity in and around courthouses, but I don't like the idea of replacing an award-winning historic courthouse garden with a paved area for public gatherings, concerts, etc. Cf., Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi (you know, the song about replacing paradise with a parking lot, a pink hotel, a boutique and a swingin' hot spot?).
Guard is charged with using court's security cameras to 'peep' into nearby condos. "A former guard at the U.S. Courthouse in Spokane has been accused of using security cameras to peep into bedrooms...He's accused of training high-powered security cameras on top of the courthouse on bedroom windows at the West 809 condominium and the Davenport Hotel...." More (Seattle Times 08.09.2007). Comment. The guard was provided by a private security firm with whom the feds have a contract. He's been fired. Without suggesting that the contracting firm isn't doing a good job, I generally think it's sad that state and federal governments, which should set an example, have been leaders in "contracting out" or "outsourcing" building maintenance and other functions, an indirect way of getting people to perform such tasks without having to provide them with government salaries, job protections, insurance, pension benefits, etc. For an interesting article on how far the federal government's "contracting out" mania has gone, see, In Washington, Contractors Take on Biggest Role Ever (NYT 02.04.2007). How do you feel about private contract workers entering your chambers, cleaning the area around your desk, emptying your wastebasket, etc?
Judge recuses because of polo ties to plaintiff. "A High Court judicial commissioner yesterday discharged himself from hearing a civil suit involving well-known psychiatrist Tan Sri Dr M. Mahadevan. John Louis O'Hara, who was presiding in High Court 1, disqualified himself on the grounds that he knew the plaintiff personally through their involvement in polo...." More (New Strait Times 08.09.2007). Comment. We propose a caveat to the implied "rule" that the judge's recusal might be said to establish: a judge who merely wears a polo shirt on weekends need not offer to recuse in a case in which one of the parties is "involved" in the sport of polo.
Tree-cutting judge is under scrutiny for deciding divorce case after abruptly cutting trial short. "Near the end of the [divorce] trial, as [Ulf] Carlsson's attorney was cross-examining a witness, [Sacramento Superior Court Judge Peter J.] McBrien left the bench to answer a phone call, abruptly ending the trial. He never returned to the bench and later rendered a decision that weighed heavily against Carlsson, even though the judge hadn't heard all the evidence in the case...." And that was just the beginning. McBrien then "went beyond the boundaries of the divorce case and took action that would eventually cost Carlsson his job with the state Department of General Services, where he had worked since earning his degree...." More (Sacramento News and Review 08.09.2007). Comment. The News and Review article says McBrien was once publicly admonished for cutting down without permission trees on public land that obscured the view from his home.
Does your courthouse have a twin? "A contractor's chance discovery that the Bandera County Courthouse had a twin -- in [Boone County] Kentucky, of all places -- has shed new light on its origins... The Boone County Courthouse was built in 1889, two years before the Bandera County Courthouse was finished. Nolan Bees of Stoddard Construction spotted the matching courthouse in Boone County, Ky., on the Internet last year while doing research on B.F. Trester, the purported architect of the Bandera structure, built in 1891." Not clear is whether Trester was really a trained architect or "just" a contractor. The Boone version is brick, the Bandera version, limestone. More (San Antonio Express-News 08.09.2007). Comment. If I'm not mistaken, Cass Gilbert's WI State Capitol in Madison is a twin of his MN State Capitol in St. Paul.
Turf wars -- did two judges threaten to arrest each other over courtroom mixup? "[Wednesday morning, 08.08] Searcy County District Judge Jerry Patterson...and 20th Circuit Court Judge Rhonda K. Wood [discovered they] were scheduled to have the [same] courtroom in Marshall[, ARK]. Patterson was set to hear small claims lawsuits, while Wood had criminal cases set to be heard. Witnesses who declined to be identified [say] the two judges threatened each other with contempt citations -- even arrest and possible jail time -- over the scheduling dispute...." Troopers were called to courthouse over the dispute between the two judges, then called off. More (FOX News 08.11.2007). Comment. Just "threats"? If the incident happened as reported, and we don't know that, so what? Judges are human. For two of a number of stories we've featured in which judges went beyond mere hotheaded threats, see, Tea-time brawl erupts in judges' common room and High Court upholds dismissal of judge over drunken revelry.
Vindication finally for ARK judge over his free-speech claims? "Three members of an Arkansas commission that disciplines judges said Wednesday that an Appeals Court judge it initially sought to punish for his outspokenness had a constitutional right to speak out and shouldn't face sanctions from the state. The panel will recommend to the nine-member Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disciplinary Commission that Judge Wendell Griffen be cleared after a years-long fight over remarks he has made about President Bush, the minimum wage and immigration...." More (Pine Bluff Commercial 08.09.2007). Comment. Since Day One, in earlier postings, we've said the judge's remarks were protected judicial free speech.
Are Americans an especially punitive people? It would seem so.... "According to a 2005 report of the International Centre for Prison Studies in London, the United States -- with five percent of the world's population -- houses 25 percent of the world's inmates. Our incarceration rate (714 per 100,000 residents) is almost 40 percent greater than those of our nearest...Other industrial democracies...are much less punitive: our incarceration rate is 6.2 times that of Canada, 7.8 times that of France, and 12.3 times that of Japan...Never before has a supposedly free country denied basic liberty to so many of its citizens. In December 2006, some 2.25 million persons were being held in the nearly 5,000 prisons and jails that are scattered across America's urban and rural landscapes...." From Glenn C. Loury, Why Are So Many Americans in Prison? (Boston Review - July/August 2007).
Further reading. Read the article, then see, the essay titled Crime and Punishment, which (unlike most candidates) I wrote myself and posted myself on my personally-created and personally-maintained website in my failed 2004 anti-war campaign for Congress in the GOP primary against MN Third District Congressman Jim Ramstad.
Minnesota's arrest-the-hubby-regardless law -- does it make things worse? "Two decades ago, in an effort to curb domestic violence, states began passing 'mandatory arrest' laws. Police officers responding to a call for help would no longer need to determine whether one person was truly violent or out of control; every time someone reported abuse, the police would simply be required to make an arrest." The idea was that "[a]rrests would immediately stop the violence and might discourage abusers from further acts of abuse...." The idea began, not surprisingly, here in Minnesota, the state that thinks every social problem has a legislative or rule-based solution. Alas, despite our many virtues -- we love to sing our own praises and wish others would do so more -- the Minnesota-based laws are having "an unintended, deadly side effect" in the 20+ states that have adopted them, specifically, "[t]he number of murders committed by intimate partners is now significantly higher in states with mandatory arrest laws than it is in other states." According to an interesting Op/Ed piece by Radha Iyengar, a research fellow at Harvard, the realization that police would arrest their spouse/partner has led many an abused person to forego calling the police. More (NYT 08.07.2007). Comments. a) Perhaps, also, being arrested enrages some abusers to the point of homicidal revenge, revenge that might not have been triggered otherwise. b) It's also possible some people are less inclined to call police in view of the "frequency" of incidents in which the arrival of the police causes the situation to escalate and the police wind up shooting and killing the alleged abuser. BTW, can anyone tell me why police so often seem to shoot to kill in these situations, rather than shoot to disarm? c) I'd like to see a similar study done on the effect of easy issuance of temporary orders for protection, orders that in many a case seem to worsen matters and increase the risk that the complainant will be seriously injured or killed. Further reading on this last topic. Cathy Young, Hitting below the belt - Easy to get, hellish to deal with, restraining orders have become the ultimate weapon in domestic disputes (Salon 10.25.1999).
Judicial bungalows revisited. "It's not just farmhouses and hospitals in the firing line. Even the Judges Bungalows, the cluster of bungalows occupied by the chief justice and the judges of the Gujarat High Court, is on the list of...Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC)...of 42 properties with illegal construction over pipelines...Although ONGC has issued notices to 41 properties, it has not done so in case of Judges Bungalows." More (Times of India 08.08.2007).
Latest on Guv's disappointment with work of 'Missouri Plan' commission. "Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt's office said Tuesday that it asked Missouri's Appellate Judicial Commission to provide the law school transcripts of the three Missouri Supreme Court candidates. The commission met in secret to select the three-member panel, according to a release, and it is unknown whether the law school transcripts of the three were provided by the candidates or what role the documents may have played in their selection...." More (BizJournals 08.08.2007). Comment. I don't know the facts and wouldn't accuse individual commissions in various "Missouri Plan" states of any bad faith, but we're seeing more and more complaints by governors around the country (e.g., TN, MO, NM) that the commissions aren't delivering the sort of candidates that the governors feel comfortable appointing. Update. The politics of supposedly 'nonpartisan' SCOMO appointments under 'MO Plan' (Kansas City Star 08.09.2007). Update. Former chief justices who were beneficiaries of the 'Missouri Plan' nomination process defend secrecy, say the system is working just fine (News-Leader 08.13.2007). Comment. They cite the fact that former Attorney General John Ashcroft, a former governor in MO, liked the plan. Boy, that sure convinces me.
Courthouse 'hero,' 'jester,' 'teacher,' dies. "Defense attorney Sy Gaer[, 75], a beloved fixture in the Miami criminal courthouse who cheered judges with his cantankerous irreverence, exasperated young prosecutors and charmed juries, died Tuesday. Part court jester, part legal sage, Gaer always had a funny and exaggerated line to break up the boredom of a routine hearing. Yet he was a shrewd litigator...Several judges held a moment of silence in their courtrooms Tuesday after Circuit Judge Stanford Blake sent out a message that Gaer had died. 'There are very few times you get to meet a hero,' said Circuit Judge Bertila Soto, who said she cried on the bench Tuesday morning. 'You only get to read about your heroes, but Sy was a hero in this building. He was such a strong advocate for his clients.'" More (Miami Herald 08.08.2007).
Judge steps down so son-in-law may serve. "A long-time federal judge has stepped down from his position to allow his son-in-law to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Since federal law bars close relatives from serving at the same time on the same federal court, Judge Ralph G. Thompson resigned Monday, clearing the way for Timothy D. DeGiusti to become an Oklahoma City based judge...." More (Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise 08.08.2007). Comment. Silly law, probably unconstitutional.
Raiding house of judge by cops is said to be 'normal routine operation.' "Police, accompanied by officials from the country's graft-busting agency, late on Monday raided the home of a high court judge in Malawi hours after he ruled against the government, an official said. The acting director of the anti-corruption bureau, Tumalishe Ndovi, confirmed that police and his officials had raided the Blantyre home of Joseph Mwanyungwa, saying it was 'a normal routine operation.'" More (Independent Online - South Africa 08.07.2008). Comment. A police raid on anyone's house, including a judge's, ought never be thought of as routine. That this raid was on a judge's house ought to prompt all judges a) to think long and hard over the seriousness of home raids every time they review the legality of one and b) to insist that the prerequisites for such raids not become mere formalities to be satisfied by paint-by-the-numbers, fill-in-the-blank affidavits, vague statements of cause, purpose and justification, etc.
Governor says judicial selection commission blocks diversity. "Gov. Phil Bredesen on Monday said his efforts to promote diversity on the state's appellate courts are being thwarted by the state Judicial Selection Commission. Speaking at a ceremony to name a Nashville road after civil rights icon Rosa Parks, Bredesen complained that the latest panel of candidates sent to him contains no black applicants. 'In a situation like this it reminds you that these issues are not over, there's still a lot of wrongs to be righted,' Bredesen said. There are no ethnic minorities on either the Court of Appeals or the state Supreme...." More (WKRN Nashville 08.07.2007). Comment. One of the beauties of the "Minnesota Plan," as opposed to the "Missouri Plan," the professor-favored plan that is now under vigorous attack even in Missouri, is that if any lawyer in Minnesota feels he or she is being wrongfully excluded from consideration by the governor in making a judicial appointment to fill a vacancy, he or she may challenge the appointee or some other judge whose term is expiring by filing for the office and taking it to the ultimate appointers, the people. This constitutes a needed direct check on governors and their screening commissions, something retention elections do not accomplish. One might think Minnesota voters would be all white bread and Scandinavian Lutheran bland/blond. But they're not. True, they seem to be suckers for anyone named Anderson, but they've elected three Jewish Senators (Boschwitz, Wellstone, Coleman, none of them native-born Minnesotans) in recent years, directly elected a black man (Alan Page) over a man with a Scandinavian surname (Johnson) in a contest for an open seat on the state supreme court, elected a woman named Klobuchar over a nice fellow with roots in small-town Minnesota farm country, etc., etc. As Carl Sandburg said, "The people, yes." They're sometimes wrong, but not more so than politicians who rely too much on polls that do not provide as accurate a representation of what the people are thinking as direct elections.
Commissioners, ignoring outcry, vote again to destroy historic courthouse. "Ignoring a flurry of public outcry and a survey that showed nearly 78 percent of Seneca County residents think they should decide if the county's 1884 courthouse should be razed, commissioners yesterday voted 2-1 to move ahead with a plan that calls for the building to come down this fall...." More (Toledo Blade 08.07.2007). Comments. a) What I've said about the benefits of trusting the will of the people in judicial selection over that of appointed members of judicial appointments commissions, etc., gets indirect corroboration in this story. Sad stuff. b) One of the commissioners said he believed "a new building, possibly built with a historic-looking façade, would be a catalyst for downtown revitalization." Don't you just love the wood-like plastic veneer on your TV stand and new construction with "historic-looking" fronts?
Board urges 'eviction' of judge who told tenant to 'Stop jewing landlords.' "New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has determined that Jerome Ellis, a Justice of the Leon Town Court, Cattaraugus County, should be removed from office...[T]he Commission found that Judge Ellis mishandled an eviction proceeding, presided notwithstanding that he was biased, and used a religious and ethnic slur." According to the commission, the judge's niece was girlfriend of one of the sellers; the judge issued a summons and warrant of eviction based on private communications with sellers; the judge told the defendants to 'stop jewing...landlords.'" More (Empire State News 08.07.2007).
The right and honorable calling of fishing judge. "My first impulse when an organizer of Sunday's Interclub Bluefish tournament handed me a powder blue T-shirt with the word JUDGE printed in large capital letters over the left breast was to put it on and issue a hefty fine. There's just something about being officially labeled a judge that gets in your blood and goes straight to your ego. Before you know it, you're having visions of sitting behind a tall mahogany desk in a black robe...Looking imperious, you order two frightened lawyers to approach the bench...." -- From Charles Walsh's amusing column on his experience as one of about 25 "under judges" at a fishing tournament. More (CT Post 08.07.2007). Further reading. Dog Judging, Jam&Jelly Judging, Etc.
Finally, a good reason for opposing same-sex unions -- lesbian bigamy. "A woman who entered into a civil partnership with her lesbian partner while she was still married [to a man] has been ordered to carry out community service. Suzanne Mitchell, of Wingfield Gardens, Shrewsbury, pleaded guilty to breaching the 2004 Civil Partnerships Act. The 30-year-old admitted making a false statement at her union with Caroline Beddows before her marriage to Charles Mitchell had been annulled...." More (BBC News 08.07.2007). Comment. Now we've finally got a good reason for opposing same-sex unions: allowing them will turn our country into a nation of lesbian bigamists, with married women running off in droves to form bigamous unions with other women. It's what every man fears deep down, fears even more than that allowing same-sex marriage will lead to allowing polygamous marriages and marriage with pets. (Lest anyone fail to detect my mild sarcasm, I favor allowing same-sex marriage. See, the position paper titled Marriage and the Law that I wrote in my failed 2004 anti-war primary campaign against entrenched GOP Congressman Jim Ramstad in MN's Third District.
Annals of judicial outreach: Common law judge wins pie-eating contest. "Green County Circuit Court Judge James Beer readied himself, a line of miniature pudding pies on deck in front of him -- waiting...Beer ditched his black robes and the bench for a T-shirt and a plastic folding chair, joining other local 'celebrities' for the challenge...." Judge Beer ate nine and came in first. The other celebrities ate eight, seven, six, three and three respectively. More (Monroe Times - WI 08.07.2007). Comment. Of all the various instances of "judicial outreach" we've witnessed in recent years, this one is the best because it required the judge to publicly put not his money but someone else's pies where his mouth is; in a mere 90 seconds this courageous judge single-handedly put the judicial system not into disrepute but back into repute (assuming he kept them all down).
Law libraries don't matter, do they? "Law librarian Teresa Cassella knows the woes of fighting a child custody battle all too well. One recent afternoon, a divorcing father told her a story of heartache and pain in his struggle to keep his children, and he hoped one of the Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Justice Center's A. Max Brewer Memorial Law Library's books held the answer to his dilemma. He asked Cassella to guide him. She was able to do so, but legal proponents worry the library and its riches may be on the chopping block in the face of budget cut talks surrounding property tax reform and space needs for courthouse expansion...." The library has "31,233 books, worth at least an estimated $4.5 million" and lawyers and ordinary citizens say those books are an invaluable community resource. More (Florida Today 08.06.2007). Comments. A court system without adequate law libraries, open to and freely usable by judges, lawyers and ordinary people, is a necessity in a society in which a) people are presumed to know the law and therefore need a place where they can "find" it and b) lawyers have priced themselves too high even for people of average means. Sadly, too many people in the system -- and judges, many of whom don't know what it is to do legal research, are among the worst offenders -- don't fully appreciate the value and necessity of court-attached public law libraries.
Quote of the Day. "It is unprecedented that a practising member of the profession should publicly criticise a sitting judge and her judge-president, for good measure, about what he believes to be a wrong judgment." -- From a letter-to-the-editor by Advocate Vuyani Ngalwana critcizing Eric van den Berg's 07.29.2007 opinion piece titled "Rookie judge should not have heard SABC motion." Where, you ask, is it that it is unprecedented for a lawyer to publicly criticize a judge? South Africa. Ngalwana writes further: "Under normal circumstances, fellow attorneys, in the form of the Law Society of South Africa, would haul him in for bringing the profession into disrepute." More (Sunday Times - South Africa 08.05.2007). Comment. We don't know if what Ngalwana says is true, but if so, we think it's a sorrier comment on South Africa than anything Mr. Van Den Berg may have said about a judge.
Chief Justice Barbara Walters. "The View, owned and co-executive produced by Barbara Walters for the last ten years, is the Supreme Court of daytime television. The regulars on the panel are like the justices of the court, handing down opinions on the day's news, large and small. A disconcerting number of [people] get their opinions from the show. They could be tuned to C-SPAN...But they prefer watching Chief Justice Walters and her panel of associate justices meting out their...opinions every morning...." More (Marvin Kitman - Huffington Post 08.06.2007).
Judge got fame, autograph requests, best seats, etc. for heading inquiry. "With sunset looming on a long legal career, Justice John Gomery understands most Canadians might remember him only as the head of the sponsorship inquiry that rocked the political world a few years ago. But he'd be disappointed if that's all Quebecers take away from his 50 years as a lawyer and a judge. He will officially retire as a Quebec Superior Court justice on Thursday, when he turns 75. 'The commission came as the cherry on the top of the cake, and it was an enormous cherry,' Gomery said in an interview on his farm south of Montreal. Gomery jokes he usually ends up with the best table at restaurants. He even gets autograph requests...." More (Toronto Star 08.06.2007). Earlier. See, Judge named newsmagazine's Person of the Year? Update. "John Gomery is the latest well-placed observer of Canada's legal system to warn that the law is becoming a recourse only for the wealthy or the extremely poor. The biggest problems, Gomery said...are that the system is too slow and most Canadians can't afford it...Gomery put the blame for the law's unaffordability squarely on the excessive fees charged by lawyers." More (Toronto Star 08.11.2007). Comment. We've been saying the same things in our law and political opinion blogs since 2000. The price of admission to our blogs? Nada.
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