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.
The campaign to deprive MN voters of a role in judicial selection. We recently posted a critical essay on this topic that has received some attention, and we link to it here for the convenience of our MN readers: Strib. urges longer terms for judges, no role for voters in their selection. Some of our earlier relevant postings. a) Annals of judicial selection: stacking appointment commissions. b) Should MN take away judicial selection from the electorate? c) Those 'blue-ribbon commissions' and 'task forces.' d) Sorry, bar association, but.... e) The 'Citizens Committee on the Preservation of an Independent Judiciary. e) MN's 'establishment' still upset by S. Ct.'s judicial free speech decisions. f) Group-think on judicial selection. h) SCOTUS declines review of USCA's case on judicial campaigns. i) Speaking of the MN judicial system... j) MN's judicial 'power elite'. k) A debate on judicial campaigns. l) Those 'impartial' and 'nonpartisan' judicial selection commissions. m) Judicial independence and its pal, judicial accountability. n) The 'uncritical lovers' of the judiciary. o) Judicial campaigns and fresh ideas. p) Former GOP Gov. Quie urges MN voters to give up role in selecting judges. q) Guess who's joined the Quie team? r) My views on advocacy or hired-gun surveys. s) Professor Palmer on campaign contributions to judges. t) Attempt to get more diverse judiciary appointed is failing. u) More on the big money behind 'judicial reform.' v) The 'Missouri Plan,' is under fire in -- guess what? -- Missouri. w) BurtLaw's Law and Judicial Elections. Some of our subsequent relevant postings. a) MN's C.J. will skip election, retire early ('Judicial Keep Away'?). b) David again takes on Goliath over speech regulations. c) Some GOPers oppose Quie plan to deprive voters of right to select judges. d) .SCOMN #5, SCOMO #47 -- so let's adopt the Missouri Plan? e) Pawlenty fulfills Nostraburtus' 2005 prophecy. f) Pawlenty picks pal as new chief. g) Pal of judicial establishment questions motives of opponents of Quie's plan. h) Pawlenty says he's not sure re MO Plan; Quie says 'Tim' will 'come around.' i) WSJ on the 'why' of judicial elections -- with reference to Wisconsin. j) Voters weigh in, and Pakistan's jailed judges finally taste freedom. k) Law prof weighs in against plan to deprive voters of role in judge selection. l) 'Blue Ribbon Commissions' all over the place, saying the same thing. Hmmm. m) 'If you want to become a judge, go to law school with a senator.' n) Elected judges as a check on corruption and guarantor of judicial independence. o) Challenger judge beats SCOWIS justice 51%-49% in contested election. p) Dan Pero: 'Democracy works in Wisconsin.' q) It's a 'tragedy' if voters don't pick your guy? r) SCOWIS' Chief leads the way -- herein of experienced judges, judicial elections and judicial independence. s) The Return of the Ancient Mariner -- or is it the Minnesota Scariner? t) MN's elected justice who was elected governor. u) Law prof: judicial elections are imperfect but they're the best option.
The Dragon courts the Tiger. "The Dragon, it seems, has fallen for the Tiger's legal prowess. Chinese authorities are so impressed with India's mature legal system that they just can't wait to emulate our judicial practices, according to an official who has just returned from the country...[T]he neighbouring country [also] wants law firms from India to set up base there and help develop its legal system...." More (Economic Times 02.17.2008). Comment. I see news stories like this emanating from other countries as well. My opinion? China's campaign to extend its influence around the world includes flattering countries on their judicial system, encouraging judicial cooperation (whatever that means), etc., etc. I think when China says it is open to foreign influence, what it means is it wants to exert its own influence on other nations. That's okay, but to my friends in India I say, "Don't let flattery fool you."
Annals of justice delayed -- 19 judges, 4 dead defense lawyers, 33 years, trial moseys on. "The case has dragged on for 33 years in lower courts and been heard by 19 judges, but the trial for the murder of then railway minister Lalit Narayan Mishra is still on, making it one of the longest running in the country...." More (SIFY - India 02.16.2008).
Judge is suspended for accepting gold ring as gift from lawyers. "The Andhra Pradesh High Court has suspended a senior civil judge for accepting a gold ring as gift from...lawyers in a marriage conducted in his house when he was working as a senior civil judge in Nirmal of Adilabad district." More (Times of India 02.16.2008).
Annals of judicial spouses -- the 'Reverse Hillary Effect'? "The Oakland County Courthouse is buzzing about what at least one judge waggishly calls the 'Hillary Effect.' That's the phenomenon of judges' spouses running for judicial office -- with a 2008 twist. These judicial hope-to-bes are the husbands of sitting judges. So far, at least two Oakland County lawyers, David C. Anderson and Mark Frankel, have collected enough petition signatures to officially file as candidates for the August primary in Oakland. They're married to Oakland County Circuit Court Judges Martha Anderson and Nanci Grant...." More (Detroit News 02.16.2008).
Judge with problems caused by prescription drugs is removed in Louisiana. The judge removed is Laleshia Walker Alford. "Her medical history includes nine surgeries and diagnoses of pneumonia, asthma and fibromyalgia -- chronic, widespread muscle, tendon and ligament pain." She apparently innocently developed a dependency on prescription pain medication, which adversely affected her performance as a judge. Problems identified by the LA Supreme Court included: absenteeism, abusing her authority in detaining in an adult holding room a juvenile allegedly battered by his mother, personally using court staff, engaging in impermissible ex parte communication and bias, speaking "gibberish" in court. More (Shreveport Times 02.16.2008). Opinion. Comment. Sad case. The opinion gives the judge a chance to become a judge again down the road if she overcomes her problem. We sympathize with her and wish her the best.
Should county buy replacement for judge's 10-year-old robe? "In January, after moving into the newly expanded courthouse, the Clay judiciary requested $10,863 worth of additional items, such as furniture for a storage area that was being converted into a meeting room, glass tops for desks, a replacement for County Judge Richard Townsend's 10-year-old robe and an icemaker. County Manager Fritz Behring had refused to sign off on some of the requests, saying they were not the county's responsibility because they were not for public areas of the courthouse. Some court expenses are paid by the state, others by the county. So Circuit Judge William Wilkes, administrative judge, sent County Judge Tim Collins to make the judiciary's case with the folks who paid the courthouse construction bill...." Want to know the result? Click here and read the full story (Florida Times-Union 02.16.2008). Comment. Who owns the robe if the county, or the state, buys it? Does the judge get to keep it on retiring? I would hope not. BTW, if I were a judge, I think I'd buy my own -- and keep it, guilt free, when I retired. But that's just me.
Delay in filling historic Scots judicial post will cause problems. "One of the most prestigious and historic judicial posts in Scotland has been empty for months...The position of Lord Lyon, King of Arms, the authority on heraldry, has been vacant since Robin Orr Blair stepped down in December. It means there will be a backlog of cases, some of which could have major commercial significance...." More (The Scotsman 02.16.2008). Court of the Lord Lyon (Wikipedia). Lord Lyon (Wikipedia). Comment. Lord Burton Hanson, HLS '67, has paperback copy of Scotland Heraldry in a Nutshell, will travel.
Proposal in Hawaii to abolish mandatory retirement of judges at age 70. Story (Honolulu Star-Bulletin 02.16.2008). Comment. The measure, if approved by voters, would raise the retirement age from 70 to 80. It'd be like saying, "We're against invidious discrimination but we don't want to outlaw it altogether." Hawaii ought to "go all the way" and abolish discriminatory mandatory retirement outright. See, BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges.
Obituary: Judge Joseph T. Sneed III, daughter Carly Fiorina's 'true north.' "Carly Fiorina once said of her father, Judge Joseph T. Sneed III, that he was her 'true north,' the one person who had instilled in her a strong internal compass' that led her to career success. Fiorina, former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, described her father, a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, as a 'totally authentic' person who believed there was no substitute for hard work. Judge Sneed, 87...died Feb. 9 at his San Francisco home. His health had been failing in recent months...." More (San Jose Mercury-News 02.16.2008). Comment. A good man value's his daughter's or son's high opinion of him higher than the good opinion of the highest of the high. See, BurtLaw on Fathers and Kids.
Judge is accused of 'sham residence' within district plus an inappropriate remark and drawing. The MI Judicial Tenure Commission has filed a complaint against Rockford District Judge Steven Servaas. His seat is in District 63-1, the northern half of the district. He has a permanent residence in the southern half and says he also maintains a house within the northern half. The complaint says Servaas didn't tell the commission about his new address in the southern half and that the residence in the north is a "sham residence." Servaas says the commission is misreading the law, that all that the law requires is he live within District 63. The complaint also alleges that Servaas "created a doodle while on the bench resembling male genitalia and told a female court employee she didn't have a bust large enough to fill out the University of Michigan sweatshirt she was wearing." Servaas denies any connection with or knowledge of the drawing. He admits "he was at an after-work party with female court employees, one of whom was wearing a University of Michigan sweatshirt [and] says she teased him with the words 'Go Blue,' knowing Servaas is a fan of Michigan." He says he "responded on the order of 'You either gotta get a bigger chest or go to Alma (College),'" which he describes as a "weak attempt at humor," for which he apologized after learning the woman was offended. More (Grand Rapids Press 02.16.2008). Comment. The judge is said to run one of the best courtrooms in the state but he's somewhat of a maverick who is not beloved by court administrators. Profile of Judge Servaas (Grand Rapids Press 02.16.2008). It also appears that a number of local residents agree with Judge Servaas' contention that the complaint may be motivated in part by his opposition to plans to close and consolidate his courthouse with another one. More (Grand Rapids Press 02.17.2008). We, of course, have no knowledge of the facts. Update. Past bar presidents back judge against tenure commission's attacks (Grand Rapids Press 02.29.2008). Servaas has moved residence in order to remedy alleged problem (Grand Rapids Press 02.29.2008).
Fed bankruptcy judge quits after being arrested for DWI while dressed in drag. "A 63-year-old Massachusetts federal bankruptcy judge [Robert Somma] has resigned a week after he was arrested for driving under the influence in New Hampshire while reportedly wearing a woman's dress, heels and stockings, and carrying a purse...." More (Boston Herald 02.16.2008). Comment. Would the press reports have seemed less shocking to the ordinary reader if they'd said that the judge was arrested wearing a long flowing black gown, i.e., judicial robe? See, How can men in long flowing gowns uphold ban on gay marriage?
Court reporters are being investigated for alleged 'creative billing.' "Two Gwinnett County court reporters are making more money than the judges for whom they work...Pamela Lennard, who works in Judge William Ray's courtroom, billed the county last year for $186,457, [and] Mike Ables, who works for Judge Richard Winegarden, billed the county for $173,442...Lennard and Ables said they did nothing wrong and were following long-established procedure...[They] were transcribing everything said during court hearings that could involve multiple defendants, such as arraignments or trial calendar calls, then attaching that full transcript to each case file. That meant hundreds of extra copies for which they could bill the county, [Gwinnett District Attorney Danny] Porter said...." More (Atlanta Journal-Constitution 02.15.2008).
Judges go on strike over independence. "Judges and magistrates Friday went on strike in the Democratic Republic of Congo to protest at recent court appointments by the government they find an unconstitutional threat to judicial independence...President Joseph Kabila and Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga early this week appointed 26 senior magistrates to the Supreme Court of Justice, to the prosecutor general's office and to the Court of Appeal in Kinshasa...." Magistrates union president Nsambayi Mutenda argues that the appointments were wrongly made on recommendation of the justice minister rather than on recommendation of the higher council of magistrates. More (AFPGoogle 02.15.2008).
SCOAL's C.J. says there's 'no fat to cut.' "Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb told legislators Tuesday that the state court system will have to lay off employees without a budget increase. 'With the court system, there is no fat to cut,' she said in a 'State of the Judiciary' speech to a joint session of the House and Senate...." More (Houston Chronicle 02.14.2008). Comment. It's just an opinion based on some experience working at a high level in one state's judiciary for over a quarter of a century, but I think I could find "fat" in any court system's budget. This is not to say Judge Cobb's request for a budget increase ought to be denied. It's just to say that when one makes such a claim, one has to be willing to open the judicial system's books and the efficiency of its judges and other employees to the most intense public cost-benefit scrutiny, something I've found most judges generally never come close to doing.
Jury acquits disabled man of charges of threatening judge. "Westmoreland County jurors deliberated for only a half-hour Wednesday before acquitting a wheelchair-bound Hempfield man accused of threatening the life of a family court judge because of a contentious 2006 hearing. Samuel H. Shoemaker's defense attorneys argued during the two-day trial that his threats to kill Judge John Driscoll were 'coarse and crude,' but uttered because of his frustration with the judge's reluctance to grant a paternity test in an emotional divorce case...." The defense also argued Shoemaker wasn't physically able to carry out the threats. More (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 02.14.2008). Comment. If all the dissatisfied litigants who've foolishly muttered such stuff in the heat of the moment were charged, convicted and imprisoned, we'd have to build a lot more prisons.
Re Wisconsin's 'Judicial Integrity Committee.' "My quest here is to inform voters about a group called the Wisconsin Judicial Integrity Committee (WJCIC), which...has established itself as the arbiter of fairness in the Supreme Court race. But there is a catch. Seven of the eight committee members are former Democratic political leaders or appointees and/or donors of Governor Doyle... The Committee meets in secret as needed. All deliberations are confidential, and the Chairman is the only member allowed to address the media... The Committee may claim to be 'fair and impartial,' but the concepts of 'open and above-board' obviously elude them...." - From a commentary by David Hayford, Judicial integrity panel leans left (Oshkosh Northwestern 02.14.2008).
Court roof 'leaking like a basket,' toilets 'spurting.' "In several of Guyana's Magistrate's courts, the state of the buildings leave no choice but for proceedings to be adjourned during the rainy weather as the leaking roof and flapping zinc sheets make it all but impossible to be heard...." At one of the courts, two public toilets, built at a reported cost of $1.7M in 2006, have never worked and are unused by the public: when one is flushed, water comes "spurting" out through the one next door with "quite a force," "emitting a nauseating smell." More (Stabroek News 02.14.2008). Comment. Happy Valentine's Day to courthouse workers everywhere! (And if your courthouse toilets are working, take a look at the pic of the $1.7M toilets, thank God yours work, and think twice about complaining about the taste of the bottled water provided at no cost to you.)
Kansan complains that Bar has stranglehold of judicial appointments. "[J]udicial hopefuls stand little to no chance of ever being appointed to the bench unless they curry favor with the Bar. A special interest group with this kind of power should cause concern. To be blunt, the current system does not prevent the politicization of the appointment process; rather, it prevents Kansans from participating in the political process...." - From an opinion piece by an attorney, Sam MacRoberts, who thinks appointments in KS should require senate confirmation. More (Wichita Eagle 02.14.2008). Comment. Or, Kansas could adopt the MN Plan, which, unlike all the others, which all deprive voters of any role in judicial selection.
Annals of random judicial case assignments -- and those troubling exceptions. "Defense attorneys in the giant Gambino mob case are considering challenging the way the case was assigned to a federal court judge in Brooklyn outside the usual random selection method. The 62-defendant indictment...was assigned to Judge Nicholas Garaufis after prosecutors argued to him that he already had some other cases that were related to last week's big roundup. Under a local rule in the Brooklyn courthouse, cases can be taken out of the random assignment system if the facts or legal issues of a new case are similar to those in an existing case...." More (Newsday 02.14.2008). Comment. I might conduct a study and write an article some day about the myth and reality of so-called random assignment of cases in various American federal and state jurisdictions. Some of the revelations such a study would uncover might be, to use a couple of cliches, eye-opening and mind-boggling.
What if a party won't 'play the judicial game' if the 'ref' is a woman? "Kansas activities officials are investigating a school's refusal to let a female referee call a boys' high school basketball game...Michelle Campbell was preparing to officiate at St. Mary's Academy near Topeka on Feb. 2 when a school official insisted that Campbell could not call the game [because] Campbell, as a woman, could not be put in a position of authority over boys because of the academy's beliefs. Campbell then walked off the court along with Darin Putthoff, the referee who was to work the game with her...." More (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 02.14.2008). Comment. The school is run by a Catholic sect that "follows older Roman Catholic laws." According to the PI, the sect's leader was excommunicated in the 1980s. Even if the school were run by a mainline Norwegian-Lutheran church, our initial position, absent some persuasive counter-argument, would be that the school should forfeit the game and should be "excommunicated" from competing with any school governed by the state high school athletic league.
Michigan judges under scrutiny.
a) "The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission on Wednesday filed a complaint against an Upper Peninsula judge, [Judge Mary Brouillette Barglind,] accusing her of taking too long to issue legal decisions and failing to respond to administrative inquiries." More (MichLive 02.14.2008).
b) The tenure commission separately but contemporaneously announced the findings by a retired judge that Ingham County Circuit Judge Beverley Nettles-Nickerson fabricated evidence and lied under oath. The Lansing State Journal has provided a helpful posting summarizing, count by count, the allegations and findings in the 35-page report. Update. Costs in Nettles-Nickerson discipline case keep piling up (WLNS 02.15.2008).
Judge who likes assignment to dependency court. "Santa Clara County supervising Judge Katherine Lucero...took over the county's juvenile dependency court in 2006. Most judges dread a dependency assignment. But at 46, the daughter of farmworkers says she can't think of a better job...Lucero was raised in a family ravaged by alcoholism and domestic abuse, surviving on rice three times a day. Yet her parents overcame their problems...'Most of the types of abuse I see, I have had a personal experience with,' Lucero said. 'If they had taken me from that family, it would have devastated me.'" More (San Jose Mercury News 02.13.2008). Further reading. Multi-part series of investigative reports titled Dependency Courts: Broken Families, Broken Courts (San Jose Mercury News).
Judge who gave birth to twins didn't like being interrogated. "Not long after delivering her twins, Judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was interrogated by a nurse on whether she drank during her pregnancy and whether her husband beat her. The nurse explained, 'I need to interview you because you had a low birth-weight baby and you're a status Indian.' 'I just felt so upset about that because here I am at my biggest moment of vulnerability of my life,' Turpel-Lafond [recounted]...While interventions have the potential to be positive, some really miss the mark, Turpel-Lafond said...." More (BCLocalNews - Canada 02.13.2008).
'Career divorcée' fails to win share of fourth hubby's wealth. "Husbands one, two and three have already netted her £18 million but Susan Crossley's efforts to secure a slice of her fourth husband's £45 million fortune hit the buffers last night. On the eve of a keenly awaited court hearing, Mrs Crossley, 50, abandoned her claim on the fortune of her estranged husband, the property developer Stuart Crossley, 62...The decision is a boost to the status of prenuptial agreements, which lawyers had predicted would be certain to be upheld by the courts in her case...." Mr Crossley is quoted saying, "'I am upset that our marriage failed. Sadly, my wife is a career divorcée.'" More (UK Times 02.13.2008). Comment. I was familiar with the term "gay divorcée" but "career divorcée" is a new one to me.
Judges take on custody cases in which religion is the 'flashpoint.' "Across the country, child-custody disputes in which religion is the flash point are increasing...Judges do not want to take on custody disputes rooted in religion, said lawyers like Gaetano Ferro, who until recently served as president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Mr. Ferro said, 'How will a judge say in any rational fashion that Islam is better than Buddhism, Catholicism better than Judaism, or Methodism better than Pentecostalism?'" More (NYT 02.13.2008).
Is a court without a case a song without a tune, a year without a June, a boy without a girl? "A town too small to support a funeral parlor or gas station has had its own probate court since before the Civil War. Although Hampton residents must venture miles to attend a funeral or fill up their tank with gas, estate papers may be filed conveniently at town hall. But, as the court struggles to meet a new mandate for extended hours, its days may be numbered. On a recent afternoon, Judge Stuart Case waited for someone to show up at his closet-sized office. A blank legal pad rested on his desk and a single window looked out on a deserted, rain-covered Main Street. No one came...." More (Hartford Courant 02.13.2008). Comment. The CT legislature, seeking to force towns to close their probate courts, passed a law making them more expensive to operate -- as in requiring them to be open for business 20 hours a week. Judge Case-Without-A-Case "has stuck defiantly to his posted hours of six" because there's no need to be there longer. As a result, following the weird logic of government, the inconvenience of having to "venture miles" to visit a remote probate court will replace the inconvenience of having access to the handy local one only during its posted hours.
About torture, Scalia adopts a Neumanesque "What, Me Worry?" pose. "The most outspoken judge on the U.S. Supreme Court has defended the use of some physical interrogation techniques. Justice Antonin Scalia told the BBC that 'smacking someone in the face' could be justified if there was an imminent threat. 'You can't come in smugly and with great self satisfaction and say 'Oh it's torture, and therefore it's no good',' he said in a rare interview. He also accused Europe of being self-righteous over the death penalty...." More (BBC News 02.12.2008). Comments. a) I'll adopt by reference the "fierce" criticism by Professor Conor Gearty of the London School of Economics, a "leading expert" on human rights law, who is quoted saying: "'Antonin Scalia works hard to protect himself from having to think seriously about torture...His devices are quite obvious, the idea of a smack on the face -- rather than sensory deprivation, or waterboarding or any of the Abu Ghraib images -- and the comment about 'so-called torture'....[Scalia has created a] nightmare scenario of mass destruction that all defenders of torture so need, to hide the fact that the reality of torture will be quite different...." Id. b) If, as Scalia says, Europeans are "self-righteous" about their abolition of the death penalty, perhaps they have a right to be. "We" should be ashamed about our continued use of it. See, BurtLaw on Crime and Punishment. c) BTW, the "Neuman" I refer to in the adjective "Neumanesque" is Hon. Alfred E. Neuman, immortal ever-young mascot of MAD magazine, Presidential candidate in 1960, founder of the "Don't Worry, Be Happy" School of Constitutional Interpretation, and one of the fathers of my spirit.
Could Justice Holmes be excluded from jury because of his skepticism? "A state appeals court upheld a Richmond man's assault conviction and prison sentence of 40 years to life Monday, rejecting defense attorneys' argument that prosecutors were racially biased in dismissing black jurors who were skeptical about the criminal justice system. In challenging Gary Calvin's conviction for clubbing a man at the Berkeley Marina, his lawyer argued that the prosecutor used jurors' attitudes about the justice system as a smoke screen for removing four African Americans from the jury panel for racial reasons...." More (San Francisco Chronicle 02.12.2008).
Sir Gordon Langley on how to be a judge. The long-time judge suggests, among other things, to remain in control of one's temper: "Being short-tempered, I've found out to my cost, only achieves a couple of pages of rather rude transcript." He tells new judges they should be willing to "put the hours in" reading the submissions, etc., on the cases over which they preside -- he didn't mind that, indeed found it "fun," but did mind the many committee meetings ("Less enjoyable are all the committee meetings that judges are increasingly required to attend these days"). He says when he found his mind wandering, "I'd lean forward and very deliberately highlight the instant transcript on my laptop, then quietly watch as half the court sprang into life and started furiously making notes speculating what it could possibly be that had so excited the judge." More (UK Times 02.12.2008).
SCOSC publicly reprimands three judges. "The state Supreme Court says three South Carolina judges have been issued public reprimands...." One current judge was reprimanded for having had an affair with an "administrative assistant" in 2006; another current judge, for not complying with financial requirements; and a former judge, now serving a suspended criminal sentence, for breach of trust in taking funds from a law firm at which she had worked. More (Myrtle Beach Sun News 02.11.2008).
Disgruntled small-claims litigant gets 25 years for firing gun in court. "Just minutes before he was sentenced on Monday to 25 years in prison for firing a rifle in a small-town courtroom, a 60-year-old defendant blamed the judge that he had nearly killed for his predicament. Turning around to address the judge, William Newman of Sloatsburg Village court, who was seated with other spectators in Rockland County Court, the defendant, Leo Lewis, said, 'This never would have happened' if the judge had done what he was supposed to do...." More (NYT 02.12.2008). Comment. Actually, he didn't "just" fire the gun, a sawed-off shotgun -- he attempted murder. Although no one was hit, "the bullet [fired by Lewis] slammed into Judge Newman's bench, ricocheted past his head and stuck in the wall behind him. When the judge testified at the trial, he estimated he was less than six inches from being hit."
Lawyers go berserk, storm court. "Lawyers on Monday went berserk at the Lahore High Court (LHC) on the first working day of the newly appointed judges...Following the Pakistan Bar Council's call to boycott the court proceedings till February 18, the lawyers...stormed various courtrooms and shouted slogans against the government. Lawyers after finding the door to one of the court's closed, broke it. They also shouted slogans against the judges who took oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO)...." More (Daily Times - Pakistan 02.12.2008).
'King of Shareholder Suits' is sent to prison. "The soaring and incendiary career of San Diego class-action lawyer Bill Lerach came to an ignominious end yesterday, as a judge sentenced the onetime 'King of the Shareholder Suit' to two years in federal prison...." Lerach pleaded guilty to participating in a kickback scheme, "which sought clients with large stock portfolios and asked them to serve as ready plaintiffs when negative information surfaced about a company. In return, [his firm,] Milberg Weiss[,] paid these clients a percentage of the firm's legal fees." More (San Diego Union-Tribune 02.12.2008). Comment. Do our fine courts indirectly share in the blame in some wee way? I merely ask the question.
Judge Naomi Watts. "Actress Naomi Watts will be the celebrity judge at the Tropfest short film festival this year. The actress, who is turning 40 this year, will be accompanying five other judges in the panel, when the 16 finalists will be screened at The Domain next Sunday...." More (Thaindia 02.11.2008). Comment. We didn't know the high-wattage Naomi will soon be 40. Before you know it she'll be 70 and ineligible, at least in MN, to hold the office of judge. Sigh. Further reading. BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges.
The mystery of the moving courthouse facade. "Vermilion County officials are still investigating what's causing the facade on the courthouse annex to pull away from the building...." More (Urbana/Champaign News-Gazette 02.11.2008).
Schools of constitutional interpretation -- In re Afghanistan's Constitution. Afghanistan's Constitution says that no law may contravene "the sacred religion of Islam." The question is, is punishment of blasphemy a part of "the sacred religion of Islam"? The issue arises in connection with a local judge's sentencing a fellow to death for the allegedly blasphemous act of distributing online an article merely asking why Muslim men may have more than one spouse while women may not. Comes now Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl, who teaches Islamic law at UCLA. He says there's a difference between "the sacred religion of Islam," which the Constitution says no law may contravene, and "the sacred laws of Islam." He interprets the clause to mean, as a newspaper paraphrases it, "that no law may violate the fundamentals of the faith by, for instance, interfering with the right to pray five times a day or to fast during Ramadan." He says that the punishment of blasphemy or apostasy isn't among the fundamentals or universally-agreed-upon tenets of the Islamic faith. More (CNS 02.11.2008).
40 years as judge, he's the best, and he's still reduced to checking testicles. I offer in support of this headline the Q&A titled J. Donald Jones, dog show judge - 'I've been judging for more than 40 years' in the 02.10.2008 Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Judge Jones" will be judging "Best in Show" on Tuesday, 02.12.2008 at the 132d Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in NYC. What does he look for? "I look at their face, speak to the dog, then walk up and ask the handler to show me their teeth. The teeth are very important in many dog jobs, from retrieving a duck to biting and holding a suspect. Then I run my hand down the dog's back and examine the shoulders, the soundness of the legs. In a male, you have to check the testicles. We're talking about breeding stock, so the dog has to be complete to compete. Then I'll have them move up and back to check their movement, their soundness. And when they go around the ring, I'm checking to be sure they move correctly, that the shoulder opens properly, the rear drives properly." Comment. I had a dream early this morning. My late friend, Mathilda, a beautiful tri-color Australian Shepherd, who died last March 25, appeared in the dream. In the dream, we were in a movie theater, trying to avoid detection by an usher, who might throw us out because dogs ain't people. We crouched low and I put my arm around her and reassured her. She knew the game we were playing and kept still. Ah, I never needed any judge to tell me she was Best in Show. And when I cross that Great Divide, I know she'll be my Great Shepherd.
Judges' board alleges sexual misconduct, abuse of office by Vegas judge. "A complaint filed Friday against a Las Vegas family court judge accuses him of various judicial canon offenses, including a demand that his ex-wife's daughter have sex with him to keep her job as his judicial assistant...." The judge denies wrongdoing. More (Reno Journal-Gazette 02.09.2008).
Annals of judicial colleageality. "Judge Brad Thomas...went to discuss a judgment with someone. 'Get out of my f***ing office,' he was told, before being ejected. The outburst might have been less startling if the person shouting the abuse wasn't Judge Charles J. Kahn Jr. of the 1st District Court of Appeal in Florida. In testimony at a recent preliminary hearing of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, Judge Kahn (formerly Chief Judge until deposed by his brethren) explained his loss of temper. Thomas had gone to see him to disagree with a judgment he'd given and this riled Kahn because, he said, 'I had been on the court for 14 or 15 years and he had been on the court for a week or two.' The hearing has involved a jaw-dropping sequence of testimony in which senior judges have accused each other of being 'volatile' and 'schizoid,' of lying, having hotel sex with court employees, and of threatening behaviour...." And it's not Kahn whose conduct is "on trial." Gary Slapper, Judges at war - Guns, sex, corruption: a hearing in the US exposes a raft of jaw-dropping tales of judicial misbehaviour (UK Times 02.09.2008). Comment. More raw material about FLA judges for novelist Carl Hiaasen? The judge whose conduct is the subject of the proceeding is 1st District Court of Appeal Judge Michael E. Allen, whose "offense" was that he complained in an opinion about ("blew the whistle on") the conduct of his colleague, Judge Kahn, in not recusing in the case. "[Allen] who blew the whistle on a jarring conflict of judicial interest is now being punished by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, and its selective prosecution is indefensible... Rather than pursue Kahn for a clear ethical violation and for [other] well-founded charges..., the commission has instead set its sights on Allen." More (St. Petersburg Times - Editorial 02.12.2008).
SCOMICH disciplines judge for harshness, rudeness. "The Michigan Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Eastpointe District Judge Norene Redmond on Thursday for mistreating people in court. The high court cited Redmond for demonstrating a 'severe attitude' toward witnesses and litigants, setting 'grossly excessive' bail for defendants and a 'persistent failure to treat persons fairly and courteously.'" More (Detroit Free Press 02.08.2008).
The $1.254 billion 'Supercourt' that's in the works. "By the middle of this year, the government will likely put to tender a $1.254-billion super courthouse in Spur Tree, Manchester...." More (Jamaica Observer 02.08.2008).
Annals of courthouse security - courthouse guard admits to checkpoint thefts. "Former security guard Derek Kearns on Wednesday admitted stealing money from people entering Burlington's state courthouse and was ordered jailed for five days...Prosecutors charged Kearns in November, two months after his co-workers began noticing suspicious behavior and launched an investigation. A security camera captured the thefts...." More (Burlington Free Press - VT 02.08.2008).
Public defender admits 'single intimate encounter' with judge who resigned. "A public defender has acknowledged that he had a 'single intimate encounter' with former Federal Way Municipal Court Judge Colleen Hartl, who, after resigning her post, denied having an affair with the lawyer. Sean Cecil says he met with the married judge on three occasions at her invitation -- first for drinks on Dec. 4, then lunch Dec. 12 and dinner at her house Dec. 13, where the encounter occurred...." More (Tacoma News Tribune 02.08.2008). Comment. I think I hear a voice saying, "In the spirit of the Valentine season, can't we all just forgive and forget? Can't we all just get along?"
Annals of judicial independence -- the Pakistan example. "Pakistan's youngest political prisoner lives in a house on a hill just a few hundred metres from President Pervez Musharraf's soaring presidential palace in Islamabad. Little about him is typical. He is physically disabled, spends his days watching cartoons on TV, and is eight years old. Bilaj Chaudhry is the son of Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Pakistan's former chief justice. Since he was fired by Musharraf three months ago, the judge, his wife and four children have been locked in their house. Barbed wire barricades block the street, armed police and intelligence agents swarm outside, and visitors are forbidden. The phones have been cut, the water supply disrupted, and an employee who delivers food is carefully searched. Even stepping on to the front lawn is forbidden...." More (UK Guardian 02.08.2008). Comment. Chief Justice Roberts complained awhile ago about the failure of Congress to give federal judges the sort of pay raise they wanted as a threat to the independence of the federal judiciary. Judges in the U.S. are too prone to complain about perceived threats to their independence. The greatest threat to the independence of the federal judiciary in the U.S. may well be "smart political ideologues" ("smart" and "ideologue" sort of contradict each other, don't they?) who gain control of the judicial appointments process and give us party-line judges. Read on...
Annals of the politics of judicial appointments. Dahlia Lithwick of Slate has posted a column ("John McCain Gets Taken to School on His Judicial Picks") about the sense on the part of Rush Limbaugh and his wannabes that John McCain "hasn't expressed the obligatory conservative horror about so-called 'liberal activist judges' drunkenly 'legislating from the bench.'" She says that the right-wingers need not fear because McCain has added Federalist Society titan Ted Olsen to his team and otherwise "fallen in line" and that "the practical upshot is that when McCain constructs his legal team, he will have just one institutional framework from which to pick -- the same movement conservatives that produced Roberts and Alito." She describes that framework as "a multifaceted organizational and institutional structure that has become the only game in town." She commends to us as a "terrific new book" Steven M. Teles' The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement. More (Slate 02.08.2008).
How would 'Go Bama!' pick judges? "If Barack Obama gets to be president, he's not going to outsource the law. As a former constitutional law professor, he hasn't got it in him to wave off this aspect of his potential administration. Obama knows too much for that. And he would care too much about striking the balance he wants on liberty and security, continuing to straighten out the Justice Department, and nominating his idea of good judges to delegate these activities...." Emily Bazelon, Obama the Lawyer President - How would he choose judges? (Slate 02.07.2008). Further reading. Akhil Reed Amar, The Constitution and the Candidates - What would the framers say? (Slate 02.04.2008).
Shariah law for the UK? "The archbishop of Canterbury called Thursday for Britain to adopt aspects of Islamic Shariah law alongside the existing legal system. His speech set off a storm of opposition among politicians, lawyers and others, including some Muslims...The archbishop compared allowing Muslims to take carefully defined issues to their own religious courts to the established practice among Orthodox Jews here of referring religious disputes to rabbinical courts...." More (NYT 02.08.2008). Further reading. a) How the "Jewish courts" work in the UK: "Jewish courts are in daily use in Britain, and have been for centuries. British Jews, particularly the orthodox, will frequently turn to their own religious courts, the Beth Din, to resolve civil disputes, covering issues as diverse as business and divorce. 'There's no compulsion,' the registrar of the London Beth Din, David Frei, said. 'We can't drag people in off the streets.' Both sides in a dispute must be Jewish, obviously, and must have agreed to have their case heard by the Beth Din. Once that has happened, its eventual decision is binding." More (BBC 02.08.2008). b) Isaac Bashevis Singer, In My Father's Court - A Memoir (1966). c) The UK's secret Islamic courts. "Muslim communities are being ruled with a rod of iron in clear defiance of the British legal system. Panels of Islamic scholars sit in mosques, converted living rooms and even a former pub to issue fatwas, or rulings...." According to this article in the 02.09.2008 Daily Express, these "courts" have decided thousands of cases over the last 25 years. d) Is beth din the model for sharia courts? Pro and con responses to the question (Jewish Cronicle 02.16.2008). Comment. If UK Muslims are being coerced into submitting to the "jurisdiction" of these courts, then the government need not recognize their judgments and ought to do what is necessary to remedy the abuses. But if both parties to a civil dispute are UK Muslims and freely and voluntarily submit their case to what in effect is a religious form of third-party dispute resolution, then the government's interest would appear to be in regulating the process, as it does arbitration and mediation, rather than banning it.
SCOMASS disbars attorneys over scheme to force Judge Maria to recuse. SCOMASS has disbarred two Beantown attorneys, Gary C. Crossen and Kevin P. Curry, for their conduct in trying to force the recusal of Judge Maria Lopez (now a TV judge) in a case in which they believed Judge Lopez was biased against their clients. As part of their scheme, a P.I., Ernest Reid, "set up a sham 'job interview' with Lopez's law clerk," which they secretly taped and "during which the law clerk repeatedly was questioned about the judge's personal and professional character and her decision-making process in the ongoing matter involving [the] clients. Crossen then used a tape recording of the interview to coax and then threaten the law clerk into providing sworn statements damaging to the judge, which the law clerk otherwise would not have made." More (Mass Lawyers Weekly 02.07.2008). See, also, Law Blog (WSJ 02.08.2008).
Quote-of-the-Day. "We all had a bit of a laugh when we saw the thing." Christian Kropp, presiding judge in Sondershausen, Germany, on the courtroom response to seeing a cellphone photo that a 21-year-old man took of his penis and sent to an unknown woman, who called police. The judge fined the fellow $220 (U.S.) More (The Province 02.07.2008).
Annals of recusal: judge recuses from stripclub 'pole tax' case. "A court hearing on Texas' new $5 strip club fee halted abruptly Tuesday when the presiding judge said she may have been present during discussions with legislators about the surcharge. 'I can't hear this case,' State District Judge Lora Livingston said. 'I don't go to the Legislature often, and when I do I tend to remember, particularly when it has a nickname like the 'pole tax.'" More (AP 02.06.2008).
Female 'judge' is charged with punching another female 'judge' in face. "An election judge was charged with battery Tuesday morning after punching another judge at a 42nd Ward West Loop polling place, according to Chicago police. The female judges, whose party affiliations were not immediately known, were quarreling over 'procedures' when one punched the other in the face, said Central District Capt. Joseph Vaclavik...." More (Chicago Tribune 02.06.2008). Comment. Where are puglistic judges when you need them? The MN GOP and DFL parties held their caucuses last night. Long delays, with angry would-be voters stranded in traffic for over an hour to get within parking distance of caucus sites in Edina, quite possibly had the effect of disenfranchising many, who simply gave up. And, of course, many people who work at night, older people without cars who live far from the central caucus site, people who were out of town, etc., were disenfranchised. Those who got in learned that no precautions were taken to ensure that caucus goers voting in the Presidential preference poll were registered voters. It's time for MN to abandon the current method and reinstate 1950's-style Presidential primaries, which, incidentally, would bring increased revenue to MN.
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Slate's list of Judge Roberts resources. Slate has created a John Roberts Roundup, a regularly-updated page of links to some of the better web postings relating to Judge Roberts. Click here.