The Daily Judge
© 2008 Burton Randall Hanson
      Archives - 02.18.2008 - 02.29.2008
"All the news that gives judges and lawyers fits."
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. At the conclusion of the essay we provide links to some of our other postings relevant to this issue.

 More on the big money behind 'judicial reform.' "Warnings that 'powerful special interests' might bankroll judicial candidates are often just smoke screens designed to keep lawyers in control of the process. And groups now springing up to oppose judicial elections are hardly paragons of nonpartisan virtue. Justice at Stake, one such group, is funded in part by billionaire George Soros' Open Society Institute. Apparently, it's OK for people on the Forbes 400 list to get involved in judicial races. But allowing a role for ordinary citizens, who Justice O'Connor complains don't 'understand what an independent judiciary is,' violates some sacred principle of judicial independence...." More (American Justice Partnership - op/ed by Dan Pero from Washington Times 11.15.2007). Comment. "Justice at Stake" is the well-financed out-of-state advocacy organization that commissioned a public opinion survey that -- surprise! -- indicated Minnesota voters support the proposal of the so-called Quie Commission to amend the state comstitution to deprive voters of a say in judicial selection. Click here and here. Similarly-commissioned surveys have supported Justice-at-Stake-supported "judicial reform" initiatives in other states. As we said in our comments at Who's behind 'Justice at Stake'?, we don't know or particularly care who the people behind "Justice at Stake" -- or, for that matter, the people behind the so-called "nonpartisan" Brennan Center and other organizations and foundations -- are, whether they're hedge fund billionaires, left-wingers, right-wingers, or bar association types (although we'd like it if all, not just some, of these groups had to publicly disclose their contributors). In any event, we oppose the current attempt by "Justice at Stake," the Quie Commission and other groups with nice-sounding names to try deprive MN voters of a role in judicial selection. Further reading. The campaign to deprive MN voters of a role in judicial selection (with links to more information).

 Pew on America's penchant for prisons. "For the first time in history more than one in every 100 adults in America are in jail or prison -- a fact that significantly impacts state budgets without delivering a clear return on public safety.  According to a new report released today by the Pew Center on the States' Public Safety Performance Project, at the start of 2008, 2,319,258 adults were held in American prisons or jails, or one in every 99.1 men and women, according to the study...." Press Release (Pew Center on the States 02.28.2008). Comment. I summarized my long-held contrarian views on incarceration, mandatory minimum terms, sentencing guidelines, long sentences, and capital punishment in an essay not likely to win votes -- Burton Hanson on Crime and Punishment -- that I proudly posted on my campaign website in my failed 2004 primary campaign for Congress as a liberal, anti-war Republican.

 'Judge' and 'Justice' keep mailperson trapped in Jeep for nearly two hours. Mail carrier Robin Barton, not on her usual route, "drove up the long, steep driveway to the Dekelbaum residence to deliver a package. As [Barton] turned around at the top of the hill near the house[ and within the perimeter of an 'invisible dog fence,' 'Judge' and 'Justice,'] a Rottweiler and a pit-bull mix[,] attacked her Jeep Cherokee," going after the tires, eventually flattening three of them. Using her cellphone, she called police from inside the vehicle. Police arrived and tried to locate the dogs' owner. Eventually the owner arrived and the dogs became docile, following her commands. "'They're generally sweethearts,' she said, blaming a recently acquired tire toy for the attack on Barton's vehicle." More (Evening Sun - PA 02.29.2008). Comment. Obviously, there are several potential lessons for all of us in this warm and human and canine story.

 Another court employee charged with theft. From time to time we read of a court employee getting charged with theft. This time it's a person who was working as a "team leader" in the domestic relations division in the office of the clerk of courts in a county in FLA. The woman stands accused of taking $13,472 in bail and child support payments between January 2005 and July 2007. More (The Ledger 02.29.2008). Comment. We enthusiastically assume she's innocent unless and until proven otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt.

 Annals of courthouse description. "The Arthur M. Cromarty Court Complex is set apart from Riverhead, the seat of Suffolk County, on a campus that seems to be mostly parking lots -- a judicial version of Long Island shopping malls...." - From Calvin Trillin, Letter from Long Island - The Color of Blood - Race, memory, and a killing in the suburbs (The New Yorker - Issue dated 03.03.2008).

 After electoral humiliation, he'll compromise on judges he sacked. "In a major climb-down, President Pervez Musharraf has sent a message to Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Zardari that sacked judges of the higher courts could be reinstated provided they don't hear cases against him, an official privy to the developments told IANS on Thursday...." More (Daily Times - Pakistan 02.29.2008). Comment. Before the recent parliamentary elections, Musharraf said the judges he sacked and replaced with loyalists would never get their seats back as long as he had anything to say about it. See, Our ally in Pakistan declares emergency, removes judges not loyal to him; Why'd Musharraf do it?
In my comments to the latter of these postings, I relied on Sinclair Lewis to help explain why Musharraf fired the C.J. and others, and I had this to say about the judges who remained on the bench or were promoted to the bench after the firings:

And what can you say about those who'd remain on the bench and swear fealty to Musharraf after their brethren had been wrongly removed? Oh, I'd say there are lots of judges -- there, here and everywhere -- who value their own position more than they value principle, men who, if the chips were down, would continue to play the old game. But then there are those who wouldn't. Ah, yes -- let us now praise such men by way of a poem 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.

Josiah Gilbert Holland

When judges are tardy. When a judge is the "chambers" or "duty" or "on call" judge, the judge is, as you might expect, expected to be on or within a reasonable distance of court premises during normal hours in order to be able to handle any "emergencies," such as an emergency application for a writ. Judge Frances Millane, a county court judge in Australia who is paid $267,000 a year and enjoys eight weeks' annual leave, volunteered to act as chamber judge during the annual Christmas and New Year break, with the benefit of her volunteering being that she then could later take the equivalent leave at any reasonable time she saw fit. On December 31, 2007, during the break and while serving as chambers judge, her presence was needed at the courthouse in Melbourne to conduct an emergency hearing. Alas, while Melboune was sweltering in "the hottest day of the year," she apparently was "90 kilometres away at a popular seaside town on Western Port Bay." It apparently took some effort to locate her, and meanwhile "lawyers, court staff and police wait[ed] about five hours" before the emergency hearing could start, with the judge "eventually appear[ing] in court late in the afternoon to begin the case and [to sit] for about two hours until after 6pm before adjourning the matter part-heard." More (The Age - Australia 02.28.2008). Comment.  If you're a lawyer who's late to court, you might get a lecture, even if you've got a good excuse -- such as a monumental traffic tie-up caused by a snowstorm. I once appeared in federal district court in St. Paul to move the swearing-in of some new attorneys. A young attorney and his own sponsor, who drove in from outstate, arrived a few minutes late because of just such a storm, entering the courtroom just as the brief admissions part of the morning proceedings ended. The judge not only refused to swear the guy in, she rudely lectured the two on the importance of being on time. What she could have done is tell the two to wait until the next break in the morning proceedings, at which time she'd swear the poor guy in. But no, rules are rules -- unless, of course, it's a judge who's late. Who's late to court more -- lawyers or judges? Some lawyers, who I'm inclined to credit, say it's judges. Lawyers say it's often the judges who are tardy (Newswire.Co.NZ 06.21.2006).

 The 'Missouri Plan,' is under fire in -- guess what? -- Missouri. The so-called "Missouri Plan" of judicial selection -- which self-styled "reformers" want us to adopt in Minnesota, thereby depriving MN voters of any role in judicial selection -- was instituted in Missouri in a direct response to experiences not shared by Minnesota, specifically, the electoral shenanigans of that notorious political machinist, "Boss Tom" Pendergast. Now as Minnesota's well-financed "reformers" urge adoption of the "Missouri Plan," using the mere possibility that well-financed special interests might someday try to improperly influence the rare-but-sometimes-necessary contested judicial election in Minnesota, various Missouri groups that are dissatisfied with judicial selection under the "Missouri Plan" are springing up there, proposing amendments of varying types to the Missouri Constitution. At last count, three such proposals have been introduced in the Missouri Legislature. Of course, the lawyers, judges, and others who pretty much control the process in Missouri, don't want to hear any of it -- and they'll probably get their way. Further reading. The campaign to deprive MN voters of a role in judicial selection (with links to more information).

 Research Guide to Caribbean Court of Justice. LLRX.Com has posted a Research Guide for the Caribbean Court of Justice, which is located in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, and is the "court of last resort" for the 12 signatory Caribbean states.

 C.J. is proud that 90% of opinions are released within 130 days of hearing. "[Chief Justice Margaret Marshall] said she and her six colleagues on the Supreme Judicial Court [of Massachusetts] make their deadline of issuing written opinions within 130 days of oral arguments about 90 percent of the time...." -- From an article in the Boston Globe titled Judges Praise Court Reforms, in which, basically, the C.J. and other judges praise themselves and the reforms they adopted after a 2003 study said Mass courts were "drowning in managerial confusion." (Boston Globe 02.27.2008). Comment. It's just my experience-based observation, but a well-run appeals court should be able to get most of its decisions out, without any loss in quality, much faster than "within 130 days of oral arguments about 90 percent of the time." Justice Holmes, who always wrote his typically-short opinions right after conference, found that his amazing speed and brevity sometimes worked against him, with other justices thinking less of his opinions on the theory that the worth of an opinion correlates positively with the number of drafts and length of time in writing it and the length of time required to read it. Thus, some similarly speedy justices have found it to their advantage to sit on their completed opinions for a few weeks before circulating them. Too often the mediocre plodders succeed in making their own sorry ways the standard. Further reading. BurtLaw's Legal Writing.

 Big pay boosts for NZ judges. "Judges pocket 9.4pc pay rise. High court judges have set the benchmark for fat pay increases, pocketing an extra $30,000 a year. The rise will take their salaries to $345,000 -- almost seven times the average pay cheque...Heading the judicial pay scale is Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias, who is now paid $412,000 -- up $24,000 from last year...." The wages of the average NZ wage-earner? $49,900. More ( 02.27.2008).

 Mexico adopts some judicial 'reforms.' "After scratching one of its more prickly provisions at the last minute, Mexico's lower house of Congress voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to approve sweeping reforms to the country's often unjust justice system...." More (Houston Chronicle 02.27.2008).

 Special law favoring judge's widow is declared void. Back in 1986 New Haven, CT Superior Court Judge Frank J. Kinney Jr., 54, died at home of a heart attack. His widow sought workers' comp spousal survival benefit, claiming he was a "workaholic judge" and his heart attack was caused by his job as judge. She won initially but the ruling was overturned on the ground that a judge isn't a state "employee" within the meaning of the CT workers' comp law. She then obtained a special law allowing her to file a common law suit for wrongful death outside the period of the statute of limitations, which had run in the interval. Now the state supreme court has ruled that the law was unconstitutional because it benefited her alone. More (Hartford Courant 02.26.2008). Comment. In case you were wondering about her pension survivorship benefits, the article notes that "Since her husband's death, [his widow] has received survivor benefits from the state judges' retirement fund, with the amount increased each time the judges receive a salary increase. She currently receives $4,138 per month, nearly double the amount she received after his death."

 Judge called special Saturday session of court to help pol pal. Last summer McHenry County Judge Michael Chmiel held a special court hearing on a Saturday to keep the brother of a close friend and political ally from having to spend the weekend in jail awaiting the usual Monday bond hearing. Now the Judicial Inquiry Board has filed a complaint asking the Illinois Courts Commission to discipline Judge Chmiel. Chmiel responds by saying that judges have authority to hold special bond hearings on weekends but typically defense attorneys don't request them. More (Chicago Tribune 02.26.2008). Comment. Other judges in other jurisdictions have gotten in trouble for doing this. That said, maybe our courts ought to be open every day, on a limited basis, so no one, connected or unconnected, has to unnecessarily spend the weekend in jail.

 Annals of judicial selection screening committees. "Sen. Chris Buttars has been stripped of his chairmanship of the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee...The abrupt ouster comes amid controversy over a letter Buttars, who chaired the committee since 2002, wrote to a judge supporting a friend and political supporter locked in a legal battle with Mapleton city. Buttars already has been under fire for racially charged comments he made on the Senate floor Feb. 12...." More (Salt Lake Tribune 02.26.2008).

 Are juries biased against judges suing for personal injuries? "Los Angeles County Superior Court jury has ruled against a federal judge[, George P. Schiavelli, 59,] who was seeking $21 million after alleging that he was severely injured when he fell from a malfunctioning escalator at an Encino shopping center...The [judge's] lawyer, Browne Greene, said the jury ruled against Schiavelli not because of the merits of his case, but because of his position on the federal bench. 'The bias against judges in today's world is just palpable,' he said Monday evening...." More (L.A. Times 02.26.2008). Comment. Maybe the jury oncluded no one was negligent. Not every escalator malfunction is the result of negligence in design or maintenance, is it? I dunno; I just ask questions.

McCain's deal on judicial filibusters revisited. The NYT has a piece saying that John McCain's role as a member of the "Gang of 14" in averting a GOP-sought ban on filibusters against judicial nominees is "one reason for lingering distrust of him among many conservatives." More (NYT 02.25.2008). Comments. a)  In politics as in life, one's view on a policy or practice sometimes depends on whose ox is being gored by the policy or practice. Back in 2005 I wrote that if the G..O.P. succeeded in banning the judicial filibuster, they would come to rue the day they succeeded. That's because the day would come when the proverbial shoe would be on the other foot and they would want to rely on the judicial filibuster. If the voters elect a Democrat as President and a Democratic Senate, that day may come sooner rather than later and McCain may be seen in retrospect by "conservatives" as having been right in blocking the ban. b) For my part, I think it is a good thing that Madison & Co. were so well-versed in the fallibility of Man & of human institutions & thus created the complex system of multiple checks & balances that is our Constitutional system. Any attempt to do away with any of those checks -- e.g., the filibuster -- ought to be met initially with the greatest of skepticism. The checks and balances protect all of us from the weaknesses of each other. I think Gene Healy, a senior editor at the Cato Institute, was getting at this when he argued in an opinion piece first published in Reason on 04.27.2005 that "There's a chance that the G.O.P.'s nuclear gambit [with respect to Democrats' filibustering judicial nominations] could eventually lead to the death of the filibuster as a whole," something that could prove to be "disastrous" to conservatism because "the filibuster is an essentially conservative instrument." More (Cato Institute 04.30.2005). c) Similarly, I have argued that the limited role played by voters in judicial selection in MN in the rare instances in which contested elections occur is a healthy role and that the opportunity of voters under the state constitution to so participate constitutes a much-needed though rarely-used safety valve as well as a "check and balance" on the "politics" that always have played, always will play and perhaps always should play a role in the appointment of judges. It is one of many reasons why I've forecast that if the proposed constitutional amendment pending in the legislature depriving voters of a role in judicial selection is passed, the judiciary (and the rest of us) eventually will come to rue the day. See, Strib. urges longer terms for judges, no role for voters in their selection.

 Annals of courthouse recycling. There are two Jackson County Courthouses in Missouri; the newer one, dedicated in 1934, is located in Downtown Kansas City, Missouri, and the older one is located on Independence Square at Main & Maple Street in Independence, Missouri. More (Jackson County Courthouse entry at Wikipedia). It was in the old one that Harry Truman served as a so-called "county judge" (a county executive, not a common law judge) back in the 1920's and 1930's. And it was Truman who promoted and oversaw the building of the new one and remodeling of the old one. More (Harry S. Truman entry at Wikipedia). The old one once again has been falling into disrepair as the public tries to figure out what to do with it. One proposed solution? Turn it into a tourism office as well as local headquarters of the U.S. Park Service, which manages the historic Truman House. But now some pols and art lovers think they have a better idea: turn it into a museum housing the collection of paintings by George Caleb Bingham, a famed Missouri painter. More (Kansas City Star 02.26.2008).

 'Silent Cla'? "Two years and 142 cases have passed since Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas last spoke up at oral arguments. It is a period of unbroken silence that contrasts with the rest of the court's unceasing inquiries...." More (AP.Google 02.25.2008). Comment. They used to call Calvin Coolidge "Silent Cal." Perhaps Clarence Thomas should be called "Silent Cla." Actually, I tend to agree with Thomas that "one can do [the] job without asking a single question." I offer two observations: a) the importance of oral argument in appellate decisionmaking is vastly overrated; b) judges who ask a lot of questions often remind me of one of my late mother's sayings, that "Empty railroad boxcars make the most noise." Paul Carrington knew what he was talking about when he wrote:

The primary work of the appellate court is not creative or even particularly intellectual. The personal quality most required for the work is not intellect but care. Care is what is required to read tiresome transcripts and to listen to tedious arguments based on the details of the record in order to ascertain whether a trial judge has strayed from the true path of the law so far as to rest a decision on a clearly erroneous factual determination. Or whether an administrative agency has committed a substantial error 'on the whole record' before it. The importance of this work has been sadly underestimated. It is the essence of the idea of a government of law.

Paul Carrington, "Ceremony and Realism: Demise of Appellate Procedures, 66 A.B.A. Bar J. 860 (1980). Sadly, too many appellate judges in this great country think that appellate judging is basically a) reading briefs and the law clerk's memorandum that summarizes the clerk's reading of the transcript and the caselaw, b) listening to the arguments, c) voting yes or no, and then d) relying on the law clerk to draft the opinion, with e) the judge then doing some editing and fine-tuning. We here at the international headquarters of The Daily Judge prefer appellate judges who are willing to do the drudge work themselves, judges who "tear the covers off of books" (figuratively, not literally), judges who insist on digging in the trial records themselves, and judges who know that actually writing the opinions themselves is an essential part of the process of deciding appeals properly.

 Those discriminating Swedes. "A new report has shown that Sweden's judicial system suffers from discrimination [against]...people with foreign backgrounds...." More (The Local - Sweden's News in English 02.25.2008). Comment. We Norwegians can't help laughing whenever we read about the Swedes doing this-or-that wrong, as is their custom. They're just so -- oh, I don't know -- doggone amusing. They just can't help themselves. Further reading. Or are we Norwegians not as nice as I've made us out to be?

 More on kangaroo courts. "Earlier this month, the Bush administration decided to seek the death penalty against six suspects in the Sept. 11 plot -- and to do so in the kangaroo courts that it calls military tribunals. The tribunals' limits on defendants' access to evidence and other shortcomings make them a mockery of US justice under any circumstances. To use them for death-penalty cases against defendants such as the alleged mastermind of Sept. 11 is to invite international condemnation...." More (Boston Globe - Editorial 02.25.2008). Comment. I think the Globe misses the point. Sure, the tribunals will be perceived as kangaroo courts. But wouldn't it be politically convenient for the GOP if -- as appears more likely if the military is controlling trial scheduling, etc. -- the trials are going on during the election season, as an ongoing reminder of 09.11 to the electorate? Call me a cynical Eisenhower Republican, but I think the Grand Old Party would just love that.

 More judges = more delays? "A day after President Pratibha Patil slammed the judiciary for a huge backlog of cases, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said on Sunday that a recent decision to increase the number of Supreme Court judges would alone not solve the problem until the courts better scrutinised the petitions before admitting them. Speaking on the eve of Budget Session, the Speaker said, 'My humble experience is more the number of judges, more would be the arrears. I would prefer quality and determination, not showmanship. Much greater scrutiny is required at the time of admission of cases.'" More (Hindustan Times 02.25.2008).

 Are judicial delays fostering mob justice? "On a day when a youth in police custody was brutally attacked by a mob in Bihar, President Pratibha Patil linked such incidents to the common man's frustrating experience in courts due to delay...'We talk incessantly about delays but now the time has arrived to launch a crusade against the courage of arrears. Both the Bar and the Bench as equal partners in the administration of justice must address themselves to this problem,' she said...." More (The Hindu 02.24.2008).

 Why blame lawyers when you can blame TV? "Cleveland County District Court...Judge Candace Blalock[, presiding in a murder trial, has] accused a local TV station of hiring hackers to break into her computer and steal her e-mail...." The judge says she attached a copy of a draft of a decision in an evidentiary matter to an e-mail she sent to her personal account, apparently so she could work on the decision at home over the weekend. Once she finalized the "sealed" decision, she e-mailed it to prosecutors and defense counsel. Within an hour the decision appeared on the TV station's website. According to the Norman Transcript, defense counsel blamed the prosecutors for leaking the story, and vice-versa. But the judge? She doubts any lawyer would leak a sealed document; instead, she suspects that, as the Transcript put it, the TV station "probably got[] it from her computer." More (Norman Transcript 02.24.2008).

 Judge's outburst compared to erupting volcano. "The sniping of the past few months [at the tribunal] had finally hit home, and suddenly there were wigs on the green. 'That was a disgraceful comment to make. And I absolutely reject it,' he snapped. 'You are making an allegation and you've said it before. That we are pursuing some kind of agenda. You are saying in effect that we are corrupt....'...A volcanic Judge [Alan] Mahon had erupted and there was legal lava pouring out of him. 'You are saying we are crooks! And that we ignore our oaths! That we are conducting a witch-hunt!' he thundered. The atmosphere in the courtroom was electric -- the air crackled with eminent judicial displeasure, and every eye was riveted on the apoplectic judge...." -- From A blonde bombshell and an exploding judge - top that! (Irish Independent 02.23.2008). Comment. We love the title of the article, which is worth reading in full.

 Judges give expert testimony that courts ought to beware of 'experts.' "Courts put too much stock in expert witnesses and give them too much free rein, a panel of current and former judges has told a public inquiry. 'Unquestionably, we do cloak the expert, the opinion giver, with an authority that is very often not justified,' Patrick Lesage, former chief justice of the Ontario Superior Court, yesterday told the Inquiry into Pediatric Forensic Pathology in Ontario...." The inquiry follows revelations that 12 parents/caregivers were convicted on expert testimony by a forensic pathologist who in fact was not trained as one. More (Toronto Star 01.23.2008). Comment. Experts can insert seemingly scientific certainty -- as in DNA probability testimony -- into a trial, literally overpowering a jury. But what if the expert ain't an expert? Or what if he's lying?

 Courts as venues for 'evening entertainments.' "The Royal Courts of Justice...on London's Strand -- host to celebrated cases ranging from the Jeffrey Archer libel trial to the Princess Diana inquest -- are doing a flourishing trade in night-time events that are this year expected for the first time to bring in £1m ($2m). The nocturnal functions -- which have included the Lord of the Rings stage show first night party -- have led some observers to question whether the courts are sacrificing their long-established gravitas to try to fund badly needed maintenance work...." More (Financial Times 02.23.2008). Comments. Courts provide daytime entertainment to untold millions. Now the sacred sanctuaries are merely being rented out at night for certain proper functions and bringing in cold hard cash that helps keep taxes down. What, me worry?

 'Judicial assistants' may be furloughed in FLA. "Judicial assistants, who earn an average of about $35,000 a year and are stuck on the undercarriage of an ever-shrinking court budget, face months off without pay, squelching public access to courts...About 185 employees locally, including court reporters and interpreters, potentially are affected...." The county and circuit judges, whom the assistants work, earn $137,000 and $145,000 a year, but the judges are constitutional officers and not subject to furlough or pay cuts. More (Palm Beach Post 02.23.2008). Update. Budget leader says courts failed to heed warnings to cut spending (Florida Times-Union 02.24.2008).

 Judicial politics in Duval County, FLA revisited. "For years, the top administrator at the Duval County Courthouse survived complaints of workplace verbal abuse and harassment, reported to the chief judge...Chief Circuit Judge Donald Moran finally called a meeting Thursday of the 54 judges in the circuit, seeking authority to fire Court Administrator Britt Beasley. They voted overwhelmingly to give him that authority. But some judges say the timing of the meeting may have had more to do with an unprecedented ethics complaint filed with the state Judicial Qualifications Commission against Moran by a fellow judge. The complaint includes an allegation that Beasley felt physically threatened by Moran...." More (Florida Times-Union 02.23.2008).

 When an appellate court affirms by an evenly divided nondecision. Howard Bashman has posted a piece on "divergent approaches on the appropriate way to announce a decision that affirms a lower court's ruling by an equally divided court." (Law.Com 02.23.2008).

 Who's behind 'Justice at Stake'? "Justice at Stake" is the well-financed out-of-state advocacy organization that commissioned a public opinion survey that -- surprise! -- indicated Minnesota voters support the proposal of the so-called Quie Commission to amend the state comstitution to deprive voters of a say in judicial selection. Click here and here. Here's one out-of-stater's op/ed piece on who's behind "Justice at Stake":

The ultra-left-wing Open Society Institute, the political tool of hedge fund billionaire George Soros, finances the National Institute on Money in State Politics, which [Phil] Power cites [in supporting public financing of judicial elections]. The Michigan Campaign Finance Network, also cited by Power, is a 'campaign partner' of another Soros-backed special interest called Justice at Stake. Strip away the nonpartisan pretenses of these organizations, and what's the cause of publicly financed judicial elections really about? The entire campaign is based on a deep distrust of citizen involvement in judicial elections. In Minnesota and elsewhere, similar groups -- also funded by Open Society -- are actually campaigning to abolish the democratic election of judges and have trial lawyers decide who should sit on the bench. Doubtless, this is the next step they have in mind for Michigan, once private fundraising has been abolished.

From an op/ed piece by Dan Pero, who is a former member of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission (Livingston Daily Press and Argus 02.19.2008). Comment. We don't know or particularly care who the people behind "Justice at Stake" -- or, for that matter, the so-called "nonpartisan" Brennan Center and other organizations and foundations -- are, whether they're hedge fund billionaires, left-wingers, right-wingers, or bar association types (although we'd like it if all, not just some, of these groups had to publicly disclose their contributors). In any event, we oppose the current attempt by" Justice at Stake," the Quie Commission and other groups with nice-sounding names to try deprive MN voters of a role in judicial selection. Further reading. The campaign to deprive MN voters of a role in judicial selection (with links to more information).

 Prosecutors drop charges, judge will resign. "State prosecutors dismissed felony charges Thursday against a Panhandle judge, who agreed to resign from the bench and never again hold public office. State District Judge David McCoy, 64, must also pay $20,000 in restitution, forfeit his Texas law license and not pursue reinstatement or licensing in another state...." More (Houston Chronicle 02.22.2008).

 No-crucifix judge will appeal conviction. "An Italian judge was sentenced today to a year in prison for refusing to sit in a courtroom with a crucifix on the wall, his lawyer said. 'I am disappointed by this decision,' lawyer Dario Visconti said, adding that Judge Luigi Tosti would appeal the ruling, which also bars Tosti from serving for a year...." More ( 02.22.2008). "Crucifixes are not mandatory but are customary in Italy's public buildings.  Though Catholicism is not Italy's state religion, local bodies decide whether crosses should be placed in the courthouse and other public buildings, such as schools...." More (Catholic News Agency 02.22.2008). Comments. After WWII my Norwegian-Lutheran dad's wedding suit was among clothes my mom sent to Italy to aid the post-war relief effort. Mom put dad's name and address in one of the suitpockets. Dad later got a thank you note from an Italian man who wore the suit in his Roman Catholic wedding. Judge Tosti, who's apparently Jewish, has been bravely waging this battle for religious neutrality in the courtroom for several years. Perhaps he ought to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights. We're disappointed in Italy and won't be traveling there if they don't shape up to our personal, idiosyncratic satisfaction. Nor will we be sending them any of our traditionally-styled suits, which will fit men of all religious beliefs or no religious beliefs. That'll teach 'em.

 Activist judges of conservative D.C. Circuit don't like whistleblower law. "In real life, the federal judges charged with interpreting [the whistleblower] law don't seem to like it much. Ever since it began taking these cases, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington has weakened protections for whistleblowers while making it easier for managers to retaliate...according to the Government Accountability Project, a Washington-based nonprofit watchdog...The lopsided record suggests 'obsessively hostile judicial activism' by a court intent on defeating the law's purpose, Tom Devine, legal director of the group, has told Congress...." More (Bloomberg - Opinion by Ann Woolner 02.22.2008).

 Deputy is disciplined over accidental firing of gun in courthouse. "A Cass County Sheriff's deputy who accidentally discharged his weapon in a courthouse bathroom is being suspended for eight days without pay because of the incident...." More (The Forum 02.22.2008).

 Federal courthouse woes in FLA -- your federal tax dollars at work. "A brand new 14-story courthouse sits sparkling in the sunshine, surrounded by a chain-link fence, unoccupied three years after it was supposed to open. Cost to U.S. taxpayers: $163 million so far, way beyond the original $100 million budget. Across the street, mold has taken root in a historic limestone courthouse opened in 1933, raising questions about whether the fungus contributed to a magistrate judge's death in September 2006 from a respiratory illness...." More (AP 02.22.2008).

 Courthouse expansion to open after year's delay -- your VA tax dollars at work. "The long-awaited expansion of the Fairfax County courthouse, almost a year behind schedule, opens to the public Monday...But even as courts and court agencies move in gradually, the project is far from finished...." More (Washington Post 02.21.2008). Comment. Judges are described as "thrilled" over the expanded courthouse.

 Racehorse-owning judge recuses in case involving jockey. "Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias has stood down from hearing a Supreme Court case involving top jockey Lisa Cropp who has been engaged to ride one of the judge's horses...." More ( 02.21.2008).

 SCOTUS reverses SCOMN on federalism issue. Announcing a "new rule" for evaluating the reliability of testimonial statements in criminal cases, SCOTUS in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U. S. 36 (2004), held that when testimonial extrajudicial statements are in issue, "the only indicium of reliability sufficient to satisfy constitutional demands is the one the Constitution actually prescribes: confrontation." In Whorton v. Bockting, 549 U. S.    (2007), SCOTUS ruled that federal law does not require retroactive application by state courts of the holding in Crawford to cases that were final when Crawford was decided. In Danforth v. State, 718 N. W. 2d 451 (2006), SCOMN ruled it was not free to apply the new rule of Crawford in Mr. Danforth's case because his conviction was final before Crawford was decided. As we expected, SCOTUS corrected SCOMN on this, reversing and remanding for further proceedings. Specifically, it ruled that state courts indeed are free to, although not required to, apply Crawford retroactively. Danforth v. Minnesota (No. 06-8273 - 02.20.2008).

 Are bar association 'campaign integrity committees' neutral and unbiased? One candidate for SCOWIS thinks not. See, Bias claim made against watchdog (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 02.20.2008). The chairman of the committee has responded with a sort-of apology (WisPolitics 02.21.2008). Comment. On 01.18.2008 we posted an extended comment explaining why we have opposed attempts by bar associations, whether in Wisconsin or Minnesota or elsewhere, to gain control of what judicial candidates say. See, Comments at Lawyers say no to bar association's attempt to regulate judicial campaign speech.

 SCOLA justices pledge to adopt income-diclosure requirement. "Gov. Bobby Jindal achieved one of his major goals for the legislative session on ethics when state Supreme Court Chief Justice Pascal Calogero pledged Tuesday to implement an income disclosure process for judges similar to Jindal's proposal for executive and legislative branch officials. Jindal had said he would try to pass a sweeping income disclosure bill that included judges unless the courts agreed to act on their own to establish comparable rules...." More (NOLA Times-Picayune - LA 02.21.2008).

 Two-thirds of new judges are women. "A record number of 67 women were appointed as judges yesterday, more than two-thirds of the total, a Supreme Court official said...A total of 96 judges were [appointed]...The reason for so many women? They simply scored better on their exams. Out of the 1,000 students in the institute, the graduates with the top scores are named judges...." More (JoongAngDaily - South Korea 02.22.2008).

 Advocacy group showers judges with flowers. "Wearing red shirts, members of the Mamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (Maas)[, which seeks a ban on aerial spraying,] delivered more than a hundred flowers to associate justices of the Court of Appeals Branch 22 in Cagayan de Oro City on Valentines Day. The flowers, Maas said, symbolized their appeal for the associate justices to 'show their love,' by giving more importance to the health of the people and the environment rather to the corporate interest of Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) members...." More (Davao Today - Philippines 02.21.2008).

 Annals of private judicial toilets:

Private toilets -- entitlement or privilege? "Taxpayers are set to fork out up to $30,000 for a temporary toilet for [Ipswich judge Gregory Koppenol, a] judge notorious for wanting his own bathroom...The costly refit comes as work continues two blocks away on a new $111 million Ipswich courthouse precinct that is scheduled for completion early next year. The Courier-Mail revealed in 2003 that Judge Koppenol and fellow judicial officers Fleur Kingham and Paul Smith demanded ensuite bathrooms, large car parks and huge offices...Since the issue of private toilets for judiciary first erupted in 2003, no government agency or legal authority has been able to confirm or give informed comment on whether they are an entitlement or a privilege." More (Courier-Mail - AU 02.19.2008).

b) Chief: no request, no plans for $30,000 toilet. "Chief District Court Judge Patsy Wolfe has described as 'scuttlebutt' a report that taxpayers would be billed $30,000 for a temporary toilet for Ipswich judge Gregory Koppenol. There were no plans and never any request for a temporary toilet for the judge, she claimed yesterday. Judge Wolfe described judges' facilities at Ipswich, administered by the Magistrate's Court, as meagre and dilapidated." More (Courier-Mail - AU 02.20.2008).

 Has this judge read the First Amendment? "In a move that legal experts said could present a major test of First Amendment rights in the Internet era, a federal judge in San Francisco on Friday ordered the disabling of a Web site devoted to disclosing confidential information...On Friday, Judge Jeffrey S. White of the Federal District Court in San Francisco granted a permanent injunction ordering Dynadot of San Mateo, Calif., the site's domain name registrar, to disable the domain name...." More (NYT 02.20.2008). Comments. a) We assume he's read the First Amendment, but his understanding of it differs from ours. b) Does he really think he can keep this stuff offline? Consider this: "Although the main Wikileaks site -- is offline, at least two mirror sites, hosted outside the United States, are still accessible -- including Wikileaks in Belgium, and Wikileaks in India." More (UK Telegraph 02.19.2008).

 Ex-judge testifies against former lawyer for attempting to obstruct justice. "Provincial court judge Terry Bekolay, who resigned last year before an inquiry was able to delve into a complaint about his conduct, claims a fellow member of a Prince Albert gay and lesbian group asked him for a favour in a court case. But Bekolay testified Tuesday he refused the request, even after James Michael Bomek[, who is on trial for attempted obstruction of justice,] tried to give him a naked photo of the young man in the case while they talked over coffee at a Tim Hortons in December 2003...." More (Saskatoon Star-Phoenix 02.20.2008).

 Board seeks removal of judge over contempt rulings. "The state Commission on Judicial Conduct on Tuesday ordered the removal of the Fulton County judge for violating the rights of five people he sent to jail in 2005, labeling his actions as 'serious misconduct.' The commission's ruling was sharply critical of Judge David F. Jung's decisions to send people to jail for contempt when they were not present, or not represented by an attorney, or both...." Three of the victims of the judge's illegal rulings spent several months in jail. Details (Schenectady Daily Gazette 02.20.2008).

 Courts are not -- I repeat, not -- 'opera houses.' "The courts should not be allowed to sink to the level of theatrical operas or turned into an arena for individuals to gain political mileage, said Perak Regent Raja Dr Nazrin Shah. 'We must, at all costs, never allow the courts to degenerate to a level where society regards them as a theatre performing an opera scripted by certain directors.' 'Control must also be exercised to prevent anyone from turning the courts into an arena to garner political mileage,' he said at the 13th convocation of the Certificate in Legal Practice Year 2007 examination at the Putra World Trade Centre [in Kuala Lumpur] yesterday...." More (Malaysia Star 02.20.2008). Comment. We, too, are against the performance of theatrical operas -- even light Victor Herbert-style "operettas" -- in courthouses. Courthouses as venues for Broadway-type shows, Boston Pops-style music, etc.? Maybe. Courthouses as cool gathering places for LITE-FM-style "soft rock," popular music, rock, rap, jazz, or Grand Ol' Opry-style country music? Definitely. Dance performances? Read on...

Dancing in the courthouse. "Dancers and choreographers tend to walk through the world wondering what each empty space they see would look like filled with dance. Arthur Mitchell, the artistic director of the Dance Theater of Harlem, is not immune. Called to jury duty three years ago at State Supreme Court in Manhattan, Mr. Mitchell gazed at the elegant rotunda of the courthouse at 60 Centre Street and saw his dancers performing there...He found his way to the county clerk's office. Had anyone ever danced in the rotunda? he asked Pearl Hampton, deputy county clerk. What about a lecture-demonstration there? Soon after, a date was set. A wooden stage was erected for a free lunchtime concert. And an annual tradition was born...." More (NYT 02.20.2008). Comment.  Sitting at breakfast, Carol Kennicott gazes out on Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, reading the New York Times Arts Section and pondering her next civic improvement project, when lightning strikes -- Why not take it to the next level, the state level, and create a new ballet with the help of hubby Will's friend, Judge Cass Timberlane of  Grand Republic, perhaps calling it, Entrance of the Justices -- Variations on a Theme? And why not a sequel, Ascension of the Just, portraying the Justices leaving the bench after oral argument by ascending, Christ-like, into the Judicial Upperchamber?

 Judge's remarks about 'lazy' court services staff spark war of words. Earlier this month District Judge John Neilan got upset after court staff "stopped working between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. to take care of domestic commitments." He said "he could not understand why his courts finished early, saying that there were so many cases before him, he could have continued for two days. 'Is there anybody in the Court Services with any modicum of intelligence?'...He described the court system as a 'shambles' and said those involved 'are totally incompetent as far as I am concerned.' 'I am sick and tired and fed up with them from the Chief Executive Officer down,' he said." More (Independent - Ireland 02.20.2008). Now "Court Services" has responded, saying, "'Judge Neilan's references to these hard working staff as lazy etc is simply unacceptable, denigrating, gratuitous and very demoralising for staff who at every turn seek to assist him,'" adding that "courts nationwide normally finish between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. and even though staff  'like everybody else in the country, have domestic commitments' they have consistently demonstrated a 'flexibility and willingness to accommodate late sittings, where such late sittings are unavoidable.'" More (Irish Times 02.20.1008). Comments. a) The "Judge John Neilan" who is the subject of the following obituary is a different Judge John Neilan:

Yesterday afternoon he was in good spirits and among his callers was the Rev. Father J.H Hyland. While they were chatting together Judge Neilan's daughter entered and asked her father if he felt like eating anything. He said he believed he would like a little Irish moss. It was prepared and served and Father Hyland laughingly asked Judge Neilan how near he supposed the moss had ever been to Ireland. The Judge smiled and said he presumed it had never been any nearer than the rocky coasts of Massachusetts. And thus they chatted on until Father Hyland took his departure. Judge Neilan ate lightly at supper: but when he was seated in the library something he had partaken of failed to agree with him and his food was ejected. It was this paroxism that affected the heart action and death came finally very quietly while Judge Neilan was still sitting with his hands folded on his lap in his chair.

More (Hamilton Republican News - Ohio 10.09.1907). b) Our Judge Neilan is a member of a politically-prominent family from County Roscommon, Ireland. He is not a stranger to controversy: i) Judge Neilan to boycott opening of new courthouse ("I wouldn't share the platform with him [Justice Minster Michael McDowell] if he was opening the gates of Heaven for me") (Longford Leader 06.21.2006). ii) On 01.14.2003 two women from Africa were before him for shoplifting offenses when he made the following remarks, for which he later apologized:

There are people in this State who have worked all of their lives and they don't, in their old-age pension, have the benefits these ladies have. The majority of shopping centres in this District Court area will be putting a ban of access to coloured people if this type of behaviour does not stop. We give them dignity and respect, and the first thing they do is engage in criminal activity. All you are asked to do is conduct yourselves as any other citizen in this State. You have let your countrymen and women down, and it's just a pity that a few like you can malign so many.

Court Services later issued on his behalf what passes for an apology these days: "Judge Neilan is appalled to think that anything he said could cause such offence to so many people, and if it did offend, he would want to apologise -- and he does so unreservedly." More (Breaking News - Ireland 02.21.2003).

 Have gavel, will travel -- mobile courts to the rescue. "Bell rings. A bailiff yells out the name of the accused. It's another day in the mobile courtroom of Judge Sandeep Singh. His courtroom is a desk plopped down in the middle of a dusty schoolyard in the northern Indian village of Haryana. 'It works like any other regular court,' Singh said. 'The only difference is that instead of people going to the court, the court comes to the village.'" More (CNN 02.20.2008). Comment. I've said it before, India needs to start "outsourcing" its court cases via the Internet to private judges in the U.S. Globalization is not supposed to be a one-way street.

 That damn courthouse dome. "What to do with the courthouse dome -- plastic or fiberglass, tin or copper, or skip the whole thing and just paint it. Those were the questions asked when the Madison County Board of Supervisors' Building and Grounds Committee met on Tuesday...Kevin Loveless, Building and Grounds supervisor, said the dome has been painted four times since 1982. Loveless said that painting was a temporary answer and they should look at something more permanent. Loveless added that the last time the dome was painted, it began to peel and chip right after the two-year warranty expired. Committee Chair Richard Williams mentioned other options available: Fiberglass, plastic or metal...." But, it appears, there are problems with those, too.... More (Oneida Daily Dispatch - NY 02.20.2008). Comment. To paraphrase Jefferson, "Eternal, vigilant upkeep is the price of Liberty's Dome."

 Judge, under fire, seeks another term from legislators. "Tuesday night in the Statehouse, Judge Katherine Hayes got a chance to respond to critics of her performance on the bench...Hayes told the...Joint Committee on Judicial Review that she isn't angry at [her critics]. Instead, she has made changes in how she manages her courtroom, and if lawmakers keep her on the bench, will continue to improve, Hayes said...Every six years Vermont judges come before the joint committee and ask to keep their jobs. After the committee members make a decision among themselves, the full Legislature votes on whether to keep or toss out the judges. But even for a process that is sometimes a brutal one, Hayes has faced unusually caustic criticism...." More (Rutland Herald - VT 02.20.2008).

 Judges' claims for 'expenses' up a whopping 15%. "The country's 145 judges last year claimed 2.3 million in expenses -- a 15pc increase on the previous year's bill. According to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act, one district court judge last year received 82,240 in expenses on top of his salary of 158,000. The 15pc increases in expenses comes after judges were awarded pay increases averaging the same amount...The Courts Service FOI unit refused to reveal the identity of the judges due to security concerns, and the 'possibility that disclosure [might] result in inappropriate comment based on unreliable conclusions.'" More (Independent - Ireland 02.20.2008).

 'Groupies' line up to hear Judge Mathis. "Hundreds of people faced Judge Greg Mathis, the most popular courtroom judge in syndicated television, who made an appearance Tuesday as the guest of [Gary's] Black History Program. Mathis, a retired Michigan judge, spoke to a standing room only audience on an invitation from Mayor Rudy Clay...." More (Gary Post-Tribune 02.20.2008). Comment. We don't know if the judge is "on tour" or if this was just a one-time appearance.

 Norwegians, not Swedes, hailed for assistance on judicial reform. "A leading Vietnamese legislator on February 19 spoke highly of the Norwegian Parliament's assistance to Vietnam in the area of judicial reform. National Assembly Vice Chairman Uong Chu Luu made the remark while receiving a delegation from the Norwegian Parliament's Justice Standing Committee (NJSC), led by Chairperson Anne Marit Bjornflaten...." More (VietNamNet 02.20.2008). Further reading. Are we Norwegians not as nice as I've made us out to be; Those 'randy' Swede (not Norwegian) judges; Annals of Clintonian constructionism -- held, Swede judge didn't pay for 'sex'; BurtLaw's Law & Norwegians; The scandalous Swedish past of Bill Rehnquist!

 A MN federal judge is proud of 'scary' work on spy court during Y2K crisis. "A federal judge said it was one of his proudest moments to see how well agencies worked together to ensure the nation was safe following potential overseas threats as the year 2000 approached. Federal Judge Michael Davis [of MN] described the work as 'heart-throbbing, stressful, scary.' Davis said he was working with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in Washington, D.C., in 1999 during the millenium 'scare.' He said officials learned about a high amount of chatter about a possible threat from overseas and moved his operations to the Justice Department. 'Everything worked,' he said. 'The warrants were issued.'" The judge was speaking at Tiffin U. at a Black History Month event. More (Tiffin Advertiser-Tribune - OH 02.20.2008). Comment. What is this, a scene from a script for a bad episode of 24?

 Lawyers file amici briefs supporting judge's appeal of removal. Back in March of 2005 Robert Restaino, who is now 48 and has been a Niagara Falls City Court judge since 1996 without any other disciplinary problems, was presiding in domestic violence court when someone's cell phone or wrist-watch alarm went off. He retaliated by setting a higher bail amount for defendants who appeared before him because they didn't cooperate with him in identifying who was responsible. About 20 people spent an hour or more in lockup before Restaino released them. Last fall the state commission on judicial conduct voted 9-1 to remove him. "Raoul L. Felder, the commission chairman...was the lone dissenter on the 10-member commission. He voted to censure the judge, though he excoriated his behavior in the report, calling it, among other things, 'two hours of viral lunacy.'... 'If we had the power to suspend, I would have voted to suspend him, but we don't...But to destroy a man's life because he snapped doesn't make any sense. This guy was 11 years a judge, 10 years a public defender, and seemed to have an exemplary record before this.'" Commission votes to remove judge for tantrum over cellphone ringing. I commented:

I, of course, agree with Felder and hope that the N.Y. Court of Appeals (its final appellate court) imposes a lesser sanction. With respect to the judge's behavior, we remind all trial judges of BurtLaw Rule-of-Thumb #139 for avoiding discipline: Avoid using the contempt power altogether. The rule is a corollary of another rule, one we like to call, in our clever way, The Golden Rule, an obscure little rule that prompted us to oppose from the very outset the Bush Administration's nice little plan to allow the use of torture in interrogating and summary justice in trying "enemy military detainees" in its "War on Terror."

Now comes word that the court of appeals "last week accepted 10 amicus curiae briefs filed by legal, judicial and civic groups," all asking the court not to remove Restaino -- in effect, all agreeing with our recommendation last fall. More (NYLJ via Law.Com 02.20.2008).

 Annals of judicial pensions -- mass retirement in the offing if rules changed? "Rhode Island faces a mass retirement of judges if Gov. Donald Carcieri's retirement proposal is approved. Carcieri has proposed to cut judicial pensions by the amount of Social Security benefits they're eligible for...." More (Providence Journal via Boston Globe 02.19.2008). Comment. We're talking up to a third retiring all at once. People might say it's wrong to let judges "double dip." But if a person draws on a pension in the private sector, he's not barred from receiving social security benefits at the same time, and the result shouldn't be different for public employees, who "pay into" both systems and have a reasonable expectation based on that of receiving benefits from both.

 Legendary judge, John Phillips, Jr. -- known as 'Kung Fu Judge' -- dead at 83. Here's what Phillips, a black man, said when he supported Guiliani for Mayor: "I'm 6 feet 1. I can kill you with my hands faster than you can believe, and I carry a gun. But I'm scared to walk the streets at night. How do you think black women feel?" More (NYT 02.19.2008). In recent years Phillips was under a controversial guardianship of his person and his considerable assets. Allegations of mismanagement by the guardian have been much in the news, and we've linked to a number of such stories. Among the more recent ones, see, Lawyer is suspended as conduct is criticized (NYT 01.05.2008).

 In re the judge arrested for DDUI (drag driving under influence). Recently, we posted an item titled Fed bankruptcy judge quits after being arrested for DWI while dressed in drag. Here's a newspaper publisher's take on the incident: "In the old days, we might have received a letter or two or a phone call [in response to such a story]. Now, reaction comes instantaneously [on the Internet], and people are eager to give their opinions. In the case of the wayward judge, most who gave an opinion directed it at the New Hampshire Union Leader. How dare we pick on the judge for his dress, purse and footwear? was the consensus. This is not a story, they said...." -- From Joe McQuaid, Flaming comments about wayward judge kept things warm in a topsy-turvy week (Union-Leader - Publisher's column 02.18.2008). Comment. Orbane B'Jaulois, a fictional fellow from down the block and up the creek, says, "Women judges have it so good: they can cross-dress on weekends, putting on the old baggy jeans and sweatshirt, and drive all over creation, with no one suggesting there's anything wrong with that. But Judge Oliver Wendell Walleye gets stopped while driving in drag and BOOM! -- his career's over. As JFK said, 'Life ain't fair.'"

 Village justice, flooded with hate-mail over decision, wants extra security. "A Westbury Village justice[, Thomas Liotti,] wants courtroom security beefed up because of the hate mail and 'crazy' e-mails he has received since he dismissed a driving without a license charge against an undocumented immigrant. One note -- posted at -- suggests, 'Let's hire an AIDS-infected hooker...male for [the judge's] daughter...female for his son...and let he/she/them be infected with AIDS, so he can rule in hopes of opening up another dialogue on the suffering in Africa.'" More (N.Y. Daily News 02.18.2008).

 Annual Report of Judicial Disappointments Board for Scotland. "Most of the complaints could be categorised as 'sour grapes.' We found some substance in a series of complaints that a High Court judge grinned broadly while sentencing, the longer the sentence, the broader the grin. His Lordship informed us that at moments of stress he suffered from trapped wind and the perceived grin was really a grimace. We dismissed the complaints against him, with a recommendation that he should take a couple of antacid pills before sentencing. Great challenges lie ahead. Next year we hope to start investigating judges of the past. Lord Braxfield is reputed to have told one accused: 'Y'er a very clever chiel, man, but ye wad be nane the waur o' a hanging.' A suitable case for us, I feel sure." -- From Ian C. Simpson, Proposed judicial complaints body prompts lighter look at possibilities (Scotsman - Humor 02.18.2008).

 Courthouse cleaning, inhouse or outhouse? -- that is the question. "For the fourth time in less than two years, cleaning services at the Vermilion County Courthouse and annex will change. 'We're looking at everything we can, from rebidding to going inhouse,' said County Board Chairman Jim McMahon ...McMahon has gotten complaints from courthouse officials about the cleaning work of all three businesses [with which the county has contracted]. In 2003, the city of Danville...created a new custodial position [for the municipal building]...Doug Ahrens, the city's public works director, said it has been cost effective and advantageous in other ways to have an inhouse custodian who can clean and have other responsibilities, including helping with building security, light maintenance and more." More (Urbana-Champaign News-Gazette 02.18.2008). Comment. Speaking generally and without reference to the situation in Vermilion County, I would suspect that most judges around the country would prefer that the person who cleans their chambers be a full-time government employee who has been vetted and trained, not an ongoing series of different people about whom one knows little. The latter sometimes (but not always) is what one gets when a governmental entity "contracts out" the cleaning to an independent contractor. To paraphrase Brandeis, Government, for good or ill, is a Great Teacher, often by the example she sets. In my opinion, "She" doesn't set a good example when, in order to avoid providing insurance and pension benefits to workers, she "contracts out" the performance of some needed function like maintenance to some independent contractor.

 Passing note to judge with $100 bill enclosed -- bribe or inappropriate gesture? "Warren Robinson[, 60,] arrived at a hearing on a domestic violence charge before Judge Charles Cofer and handed the judge's assistant an envelope containing the cash and a note that said: 'Please accept this little token of gratitude and appreciation towards me. P.S. Take your wife out to dinner on me on Valentine's Day.'...In [a] three-page letter, Robinson [also] ask[ed] Cofer to dismiss the case." Mr. Robinson was arrested on a charge of bribery and spent the night in jail. At the first appearance, before the same judge, the judge asked, apparently rhetorically, "Was this more an inappropriate gesture than bribery?" More (Local6 - Jacksonville, FLA 02.18.2008). Comments. a) Is it okay that Judge Cofer presided at the first appearance? b) A lot of people, believe it or not, don't know what's appropriate and what's not in judicial matters. Call me a "softee" but if I were sitting on a jury, absent more evidence than I'm aware of, I probably wouldn't vote to convict this guy Robinson of bribery.

Our Motto - "Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat" (Horace). Loose translation: Does anything prevent telling the truth with a smile?

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   U. Mich. L. Library's Alito links. The University of Michigan Law Library has compiled a webpage devoted to links to information about and writings by Samuel A. Alito, Jr. They are categorized and are arranged in reverse chronological order within each category.

   U. Mich. L. Library's Roberts links. The University of Michigan Law Library has compiled a webpage devoted to links to information about and writings by John Glover Roberts, Jr.  They are categorized and are arranged in reverse chronological order within each category.

   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.

   U. Mich. L. Library's Miers links. The University of Michigan Law Library has compiled a webpage devoted to links to information about and writings by Harriet Ellan Miers.  They are categorized and are arranged in reverse chronological order within each category.

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