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 has devoted his entire professional career to the public interest. 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 (archived here), contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first campaign blog. In 2004 he also used the personal blog format in his primary campaign for Congress. That site, BurtonHanson.Com, has morphed into a public interest political opinion blog and also contains the archives of his 2004 campaign web pages and blog postings.
Judges get 300% pay hike. "The Union Cabinet on Thursday decided to increase the monthly salaries of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts three-fold...." More (The Hindu - India 11.29.2008). Comment. While reading this at breakfast, Justice Scalia has a sudden change of heart that surprises even his wife, Maureen, the Radcliffe grad, who's used to Nino changing his breakfast preferences on a daily basis. Here's a transcript of the conversation, as caught on our Nino Webcam: "Mo," says Nino, "I think I've been wrong in being so rigid." "You, rigid!? The problem is you're too nino!" "Let me finish! What I was saying was I think I've been wrong in opposing all reliance on foreign precedents. Here's one I like." Further reading. Scalia decries stinking judicial salaries, bureaucratic career judges (The Daily Judge 12.14.2003); Transcript of Breyer/Scalia Debate on Foreign Precedents at American University 01.13.2007 (Free Republic 02.27.2005).
State auditor disapproves of county courthouse's 'mowing arrangement.' "State auditors don't approve of the mowing arrangement for the Mississippi County Courthouse [in Charleston, MO], but it isn't likely to change...." The problem? If compensation exceeds $5,000 per year, as the current mower's did by $200, the county is supposed to solicit bids, which it didn't. Why didn't it? Because it's tried that in the past and other arrangements, none of which worked out. When it tried bidding, the county wasn't satisfied with the work. It tried using prison laborers but their work "'turned out to be nothing but a mess.'" County Clerk Junior DeLay, however, who's been doing it for the aforesaid $5,200, has done a superb job: a) he does more than he gets paid for because he cares about making the grounds look good; b) under his care the grounds have been named "Business Yard of the Month" a number of times. Full story (Southeast Missourian 11.29.2008). Further reading. Clint Stephens, courthouse custodian -- and more (The Daily Judge 07.30.2005); Might Mr. Stephens' flowers lead to better government? (The Daily Judge 07.30.2005).
Car club's car show helps light courthouse at Christmas. "This year marks the 24th year the Newark Rodders Car Club Inc. will donate money to the courthouse lighting committee for the purpose of helping to light the Licking County Courthouse at Christmastime...." The club's "Lite The Nite Car Show" in September helps raise for the lighting of the town square. The amount donated this year: $4,300. More (Newark Advocate - OH 11.28.2008).
A fragrance-free courthouse workplace? U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Zatkoff is allowing a lawsuit to proceed by a City of Detroit employee, Susan McBride, to proceed after deciding she has a potential claim under the ADA. More (Detroit News via Google AP 11.28.2008). Comment. I class all these "courthouse types" together -- secretaries who lather on the perfume, fellow employees who think everyone around them must want to listen to "lite rock" radio, the inconsiderate boss who subjects his or her minions to cigarette smoke, the idiot who buys a plug-in air freshener and plugs it in a receptacle in a common area. Here's an on-point slightly-modified entry on "the courthouse perfume problem" I posted here back in February of 2006:
Perfume-free courthouses? "An ex-country music disc jockey who sued after claiming she was sickened by a fellow radio host's use of French perfume is entitled to $1.2 million plus attorneys' fees -- still far less than a jury initially awarded. U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh, in a 10-page opinion Tuesday, raised former Detroit radio host Erin Weber's award from an earlier reduction to $814,000 in December. Initially, a jury had awarded her $10.6 million...." More (Detroit News 02.09.2006). Comment. I can't stand cigarette smoke and I'm allergic to perfume, so I'm personally biased on issues relating to smoking and the wearing of strong perfumes in the workplace. I could write an interesting anecdotal history of the slow movement toward a smoke-free work environment in courthouses during my nearly thirty years in the MN state judicial system. I'm delighted that public buildings are now smoke-free in MN and I trust that no one connected with the judicial system thinks he or she is above the ban and tries to get around it. Perfume can still be a problem for workers like me who are allergic to it. We know of a fellow with a perfume allergy who maintained a secret consensual relationship with a female co-worker. Because of his perfume allergy, she considerately stopped wearing perfume. A beneficial side effect of her act of restraint was that they didn't risk the "transfer" of her perfume to his clothes during their frequent surreptitious on-the-job hugs, kisses, etc., etc., which might have tipped off perceptive co-workers and others. He knew "it" was "over" when she resumed wearing perfume. :-( Oddly, he confesses he still thinks about the smell of her perfume, which he liked -- even though (perhaps because of) being in its presence made him dizzy. Maybe it was the perfume that first wore down his already-weakened defenses.
'Strip' searches next to get into your courthhouse? "If you visit the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington for jury duty or other matters, be prepared to take off your belt -- and maybe your shoes. For this inconvenience, you can thank two people who smuggled blades into the building earlier this year, including a defendant who slit his wrist inside a courtroom, creating a bloody scene that horrified onlookers and led officials to institute the precautions...." More (New Journal - Delaware 11.28.2008). Comment. Shoes and belt now -- down to your undies soon? Think I'm exaggerating? Read this: Woman 'forced' to remove bra to gain entry to courthouse? (The Daily Judge 07.13.2006). Further reading. Montaigne and courthouse security (The Daily Judge 11.09.2008); New courthouse says goodbye to 'stay away fortress-style' architecture (with links to multiple earlier entries) (The Daily Judge 11.09.2008).
Lawyers will be screened at courthouse (with links to multiple entries about need for screening, extent of screening and who, if anyone, should be exempt from screening) (The Daily Judge 11.17.2006).
Annals of court reporter compensation. "Only a full inspection of court reporter billing can determine why some court reporters are making more money than the judges for whom they work, said Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter...Pamela Lennard, who works in Judge William Ray's courtroom, billed the county last year for $186,457. Mike Ables, who works for Judge Richard T. Winegarden, billed the county for $173,442. That's more than the Superior Court Judges, who are paid a total of $168,463 and the district attorney, who takes home $162,564. Eight other court reporters billed the county anywhere between $41,000 and $85,000...." More (AJC 11.28.2008).
MN county spent $10 million on courthouse renovations; now sound carries everywhere. "Lawyers and judges say the courthouse sound problems involve nearly every part of the courthouse...An unscientific test of the conference rooms on the third and fourth floors found that if someone stood in a closed-off conference room and recited the alphabet, someone standing in the adjacent, equally closed-off conference room could finish without missing a letter...It's the same story for jury rooms...[And s]ound blares from speakers installed in the third-floor courtroom in all directions, including straight through the floor of [Judge Jeff] Thompson's [fourth floor] courtroom...." More (Winona Daily News 11.28.2008).
Norwegian 'thanks prayer.' Here's the Norwegian table prayer so often said before meals in Norwegian-American families in years past and still said on special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas: "I Jesu navn går vi til bords/ Spise og drikke på ditt ord/ Deg Gud til ære oss til gavn /Så får vi mat i Jesu navn." My late father, whose mother died when he was three, learned it as a little boy. Years later, at family gatherings he would recite it, in Norwegian of course, usually after some good-natured prodding. He'd get a sheepish little-boy smile on his face and always sounded to me like a little boy when he recited it. My very loose translation of the underlying meaning of the simple prayer differs somewhat from the traditional translations: "In Jesus' name we go to the board [as in the old expression 'room and board']/ To eat and drink according to the Word;/ To God goes the honor and thanks, and to us, the gain/ As we receive both food and Word [sustenance for body and soul] in Jesus' name." For links to some Norwegian-American cultural resources, click here.
Should judges respond to criticism? David Pannick, QC, offers a British take on this question ("[A]n independent judiciary should not be shy about answering ill-informed and damaging comments") in an essay in the UK Times (11.27.2008). See, also, John Battle, There is evidence of a new judicial openness -- and not before time (UK Times 11.27.2008) (his views are similar to those contemporaneously expressed on the same page by Pannick). Comment. I think generally it's a mistake for judges to respond to criticism of their decisions. Judges a) never should hire or let p.r. people speak for them, and b) generally ought to let their formal written opinions and their public conduct speak for them, without further annotation or explanation, written or oral. Obviously, there are times when any rule of thumb may be broken.
'Summary justice' in the UK is on the rise. "The rise of summary justice at the expense of formal court hearings in courts is worrying both magistrates and judges who fear it is making a mockery of justice...[F]ew crimes in England and Wales are ever detected[,] with figures amounting to just 1.37m of the 4.9m offences reported to the police. Only 49 per cent of offences were dealt with by a person being charged or summonsed to appear in court...The increase in out-of-court punishments has been fuelled by the introduction across the country in 2004 of fixed penalty notices -- on-the-spot fines -- for disorder offences and a continuing rise in offenders being cautioned at police stations...." More (UK Times 11.27.2008).
Two SoDak judges -- wife and hubby -- are hurt in crash. There was a Twin Cities TV weatherman in the 1950s who'd say "Here's the weather for NoDadSoDakMinneWisIowa." Here's the latest judicial news from SoDak: "Circuit Judge Pat Riepel remained hospitalized Wednesday night after the car in which she was riding was struck from behind. Her husband, Magistrate Judge John Schlimgen, was slowing down in a Chrysler LHS because of congested traffic from an I-229 crash when a Dodge pickup...hit the car at 7:20 p.m...The judges and their son, William Schlimgen, 19, had to be extricated from the car...." More (Sioux Falls Argus-Leader 11.27.2008).
A judge's son is charged with statutory rape. "The son of [a] Fallon judge has been charged with statutory rape for allegedly having sex with an intoxicated, underage girl at a party hosted by a former high school softball coach...." More (San Jose Mercury News 11.26.2008). Comment. We don't know anything about the case but we know two things that everyone ought to bear in mind when reading a squib like this: a) it's not always easy being a judge's kid; b) everyone charged with a crime, even a judge or a judge's kid, is presumed innocent unless and until proven otherwise b/r/d.
Were the feds out to 'git Spitz'? "Eight months after a federal investigation into a prostitution ring brought about the downfall of Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the question persists in some circles: Was the federal government out to get Mr. Spitzer?...[A] congressional committee is pursuing what would be the first public examination of the events that prompted the initial inquiry into his bank transactions, which showed he was sending money to a front company for Emperor's Club V.I.P...." More (NYT 11.26.2008). Comment. Is there evidence suggesting not just that the feds under the GOP targeted Spitzer but that in general they have been out to get Dems in state government? See, my comments at Two more state judges are convicted in federal prosecutions (The Daily Judge 06.01.2008). See, also, Report: Allegations of Selective Prosecution in Our Federal Criminal Justice System (United States of House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary Majority Staff 04.17.2008).
State judge admits he yelled 'Tyrant!' at AG during banquet. "Richard Sanders, a justice on the Washington State Supreme Court, has never been one to shy from controversy or blunt language. And last week, as he sat at a Federalist Society dinner and listened to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Sanders reached his tipping point. After listening to Mukasey defend the Bush administration's counterterrorism policies -- its detainment practices at Guantánamo Bay, its interpretation of the Geneva Conventions' reach -- Sanders stood and shouted 'Tyrant! You are a tyrant!'" Full story (Seattle Times 11.26.2008). Further reading. Judge Sanders talks with WSJ law blogger (WSJ Law Blog 11.26.2008). Comment. When he leaves the bench, Judge Sanders might want to take up blogging. Yelling "Tyrant!" is something bloggers regularly do.
GOPer calls for resignation of judge over scandalous e-mails using court computer. "The Harris County Republican Party chairman is calling for a GOP misdemeanor court judge [Judge Larry Standley] to resign because, using the courthouse computer system, he circulated e-mail in 2006 that ridiculed blacks, Hispanics, women and gays and contained a racial slur...Standley, re-elected in 2006 to a four-year term, said his only response to criticism now is that his actions were cleared by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which deliberates in private...." More (Houston Chronicle 11.26.2008).
Court workers irked that judges get 'Black Friday' off but they don't. "Like their colleagues in the executive branch, rank-and-file judiciary workers have to report to work or use a personal day on [the day after Thanksgiving], but the judges who head the courts can have a bonus day off, so long as no emergency matter requires their presence. A week ago, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner penned a memo that added Nov. 28 to the court's list of recess days, meaning Superior Court and Tax Court judges need not report to duty unless there is a legal matter requiring an emergency hearing. He didn't grant the day to the court's workers...." More (Cherry Hill Courier-Post - NJ 11.26.2008). Comment. The reasoning is what, that only those who wear black robes ought to get Black Friday off?
Judge Einfeld is stripped of his silk. "The disgraced former Federal Court judge Marcus Einfeld has been stripped of his Queen's Counsel title [and his silks] after pleading guilty to making a false statement under oath and perverting the course of justice...." More (Sydney Morning Herald 11.27.2008). Earlier. Links to earlier postings may be found at Judge Einfeld finally admits he lied to beat speed-cam speeding ticket (The Daily Judge 10.31.2008). Comment. One of my favorite movies is Across the Pacific (1942), a romance/adventure/war/spy movie directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, and Sydney Greenstreet that takes place, much of it aboard a Japanese freighter bound for the Panama Canal and beyond, in the months preceding Pearl Harbor. In it there is a scene in which a supposedly-disgraced Rick Leland, played by Bogart, is "court-martialed" and expelled from the army, with his ribbons, etc., being ceremoniously ripped off of his uniform. Given the pomp and circumstance surrounding the awarding of the title Queen's Counsel and the wearing of the silk Queen's Counsel gown, I'm wondering if some sort of ceremony ought to attend the "stripping of the silk." I am not aware of any formal disrobing ceremony anywhere in this wide world when a judge is removed or when a QC is stripped of his or her silk gown (although ordinary, modest people who haven't done anything wrong are increasingly being asked to strip down by courthouse security screeners). I'm not arguing that there is a need for such a ceremony when disgraced judges or QCs are stripped of their titles, but if there were to be one, presumably the ribbon-ripping ceremony in Across the Pacific would be an appropriate model: with a steady, martial drumbeat in the background, one by one the judge's or QC's colleagues would come forward and, with appropriate pomp and circumstance, ceremoniously rip-off a part of the disgraced judge's robe or QC's silk gown until it's all in tatters. Think of the scare that would put into all would-be scalawag judges and Queen's counsel.
Annals of specialized judges. "Joy Dirks has been appointed as a citizenship judge in Calgary, Alberta, for a three-year full-time term...Citizenship judges are responsible for making decisions with regard to citizenship applications, presiding over citizenship ceremonies and administering the oath of citizenship to new citizens...." More (Market Watch 11.25.2008).
Traffic court judge is found guilty of serious traffic offenses. "A Killington lawyer and part-time traffic judge has been found guilty of criminal charges. A jury convicted Melvin Neisner on four counts stemming from a traffic accident last spring...." Because he felt some motorcyclists were following his car closely, Neisner, who had been drinking, "slammed on his brakes" and one of the motorcyclists was injured as a result. Neisner fled the scene; later, when questioned, his wife and he said she'd been driving. Neisner apparently later admitted that was a lie. He faces possible imprisonment. More (WCAX-TV VT 11.25.2008).
All you ever wanted to know about judicial review -- from Newt Gingrich. "Former House speaker Newt Gingrich will become a regular -- but temporary -- lecturer at the University of Georgia School of law this spring. He'll be teaching a course on judicial review...." More (AJC 11.25.2008).
Judge receives 50 cellphone death threats. "'You will die before you pass sentence' was one of 50 death threats left on Judge Ronald Hendricks' cellphone last week before he sentenced self-confessed racist killer Johan Nel to 176 years in jail...." More (Independent - South Africa 11.24.2008).
Judicial politics: assigning criminal cases in a multi-judge MS trial court. "A rule change under consideration by the Mississippi Supreme Court could ease judicial tensions in Hinds County by changing the way criminal cases are assigned. If approved, the rule would stipulate that cases be randomly assigned by a computer with no discernable pattern. In Hinds County, criminal cases now are categorized by their severity and assigned by a senior judge, a practice criticized by African-American judges who say they have been given less-severe cases...." More (Jackson Clarion-Ledger 11.25.2008).
'Scientific' evidence and the money that bought it. "[M]oney seems to exert a gravitational pull on the results of scientific studies. 'The odds are 5.3 times greater that commercially funded studies will conclude that the sponsor's drug is the treatment of choice compared to noncommercially funded studies of exactly the same drug,' Judge Jack B. Weinstein of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn wrote in September, summarizing an expert witness's report in a drug class-action case...." From Adam Liptak, From One Footnote, a Debate Over the Tangles of Law, Science and Money (NYT 11.25.2008). Related. My views on advocacy or hired-gun sureveys (The Daily Judge 01.31.2008).
'Judge Waki' is back in town, causing 'quite a stir.' "Appellate Judge Phillip Waki caused a stir at the Kisumu Law Courts when he arrived to preside over cases. Justice Waki, whose report on post-election violence has roused fear among politicians, arrived at the chambers in the morning yesterday. Residents and court employees jostled to catch a glimpse of him...." More (The Standard - Kenya 11.25.2008). Comment. My headline ("'Judge Waki' is back in town") sorta rhymes with the line "Now that Macky's back in town" in the Bobby Darin version of this song. And by a little tweaking, one maybe can change the phrase "Miss Lotte Lenya" to "Something Something Kenya" to suit one's purposes. (I can't prevent you from singing it if you choose to do so; nor can I authorize it.)
Dallas municipal court judges don't like their digs. "It's been exactly 45 years since Lee Harvey Oswald was shot down in the basement garage of the old City Hall building and police headquarters at Harwood and Main streets. In that time, the two-building complex that now houses Dallas' municipal courts has decayed, with constant patchwork needed just to keep it functioning...The lists of repairs tell a story no building owner would ever want to hear. Bad boilers, faulty wiring, broken commodes, moldy walls, mystery odors, mystery leaks, rats, mice, spiders, ants and gnats...." More (Dallas Morning News 11.24.2008). Comment. I'm a little surprised. I have an affection for Dallas, based on living there during the 1961-62 school year. Of the three post-secondary schools I attended (one year at S.M.U., two years at the University of Minnesota, and three years at Harvard Law School), S.M.U. was the "hardest" -- and yet, paradoxically, I did my best there. I did so by studying like a fiend and sleeping six hours a night. I think it was something about the spirit of enterprise that was in the air there then that brought out the competitor in me. It looks like those with the "Dallas Spirit" need to direct a little more attention to city hall.
Fugitives line up to turn themselves in -- what? "A church served as the police station house, and central booking was set up in a community center. An apartment building for the elderly doubled as the courthouse. And though many of the hundreds of people who lined up in the cold last Thursday were fugitives from the law, the authorities said most of them would not be sent to prison...Last week, Camden became the 12th city in the country to hold a federal program that encourages primarily nonviolent fugitives to surrender, promising them at best a clean slate, and usually a favorable hearing by a judge...." More (NYT 11.24.2008). Comment. One of the beauties of the "old way," back in the day when punishment often consisted of an order "to get out of town," back before the establishment and maintenance of good records and centralized databases, back before coordination among municipalities and states, etc., a fellow who'd done "something wrong but not too wrong" could move on to the next town on the railroad line and get a fresh start. We need to think of new ways of giving wrongdoers the modern equivalent of the old "fresh starts" because the "fresh start" is a great old American tradition that really works, sort of in the same way that believing that ones sins have been washed away "works" for a lot of people. Call me naïve -- I don't care. Further reading. Crime and Punishment (BurtonHanson.Com 2004 campaign position paper).
Quote of the Day. "There is a certain skill that a lawyer should have, to run fast. In the handling of some cases, lawyers have to constantly look over their shoulders to make sure they are not under attack. The judges have people to protect them, but the lawyers and prosecutors have nobody." -- Lawyer Budi Setiawan, quoted in Jakarta Post (11.24.2008) on security problems in the courthouses of Jakarta.
Judge with 50 years experience in court system will get married, retire. "On Feb. 1, Bennington County Probate Judge Doris Buchanan will retire, bringing to end a half-century of service to the judicial system in Bennington County...Buchanan, who said she is proud of her age, will be 75 two days after she retires. But on Dec. 27, she will be getting married and plans to spend her winters in Georgia...." Judge Buchanan started out as a municipal court reporter, having been recommended by her high school shorthand teacher. When the court became a district court ten years later, she became court clerk. In 1990 the probate judge retired and she ran for the job, there being no requirement that the probate judge be a lawyer. She defeated the other candidates and has been re-elected four times since then. More (Rutland Herald 11.24.2008). Comment. The juvenile court judge/probate court judge of my small-town youth, C. A. Larson, father of nationally-prominent Minneapolis C.P.A., Rholan Larson, husband of Ruth Hanson Larson, my late dad's late half-sister, wasn't a lawyer either but was a terrific judge. See, "My 'felonious' past" (scroll down) at Burtlaw's Law and Kids at BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else.
Judge Curtissa Cofield's reported drunken tirade. "Superior Court Judge E. Curtissa R. Cofield's arrest on suspicion of drunken driving saddened the legal community...[S]urprise has soured into shock as the carefully guarded story of the racist tirade Judge Cofield unleashed at police during her arrest has become known to a handful of insiders...The police have declined to release the recording...But,] according to people familiar with that harrowing night in Glastonbury...Judge Cofield, an African American, repeatedly taunted a decorated state police sergeant, calling him 'nigger' and 'Negro Washington'...[and] attempted to intimidate, demean and humiliate others in the room...." Kevin Rennie, No Excusing Judge's Racist Tirade (Hartford Courant - Opinion 11.23.2008). Earlier. Is judge's legacy at stake as result of DWI arrest? (The Daily Judge 10.29.2008).
SCOGA sponsors pro-marriage billboards. "A dozen billboards around the state that urge Georgians to 'Get Married, Stay Married' are sponsored not by a church or family-values group but by the Supreme Court of Georgia through its Commission on Children, Marriage and Family Law...." More (Fulton County Daily Report via Law.Com 11.24.2008). Comment. Of course, just as "marriage" in GA used to exclude the union of a white person and a black person, "marriage" in GA now excludes the union of two people of different gender. For my views, see, my 2004 position paper, Burton Hanson on Marriage and the Law.
Indiana judge gets 3-day suspension for disrupting another judge's hearing. "On November 30, 2007, Judge [Kenneth R.] Scheibenberger suspended his court session and proceeded to the courtroom of Judge Frances C. Gull, Allen Superior Court, for the purpose of observing a sentencing hearing of a defendant in Judge Gull's court. Judge Scheibenberger sat in the gallery wearing his judicial robe while the man was sentenced for a weapons violation. As the sentencing hearing concluded, Judge Scheibenberger moved to the front of the courtroom, approached the deputy prosecutor, and created a disturbance during which he told the deputy prosecutor that the defendant was a drug dealer and declared, 'Upstanding citizen, my ass!' in reference to a comment he heard during the sentencing. Judge Scheibenberger then turned to the man's parents, who were seated in the front row. He said to them, 'Are you related to that piece of shit? Upstanding citizen, my ass! He'll get his!' or words to that effect...." -- From Complaint filed against the judge by the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications. Now a three-judge panel has ruled Judge Scheibenberger's outburst violated "the Code" and has announced the judge has agreed to serve a three-day suspension and to pay court costs. More (Indianapolis Star 11.21.2008).
Defeated prosecutor gets grand jury to indict two judges...and Cheney and Gonzales. "The longtime district attorney in Willacy County, Tex., [Juan Angel Guerra,] is not retiring from public office quietly after a defeat at the polls this year. Instead he has issued a flurry of indictments against his local political enemies, [including two district court judges,] and then for good measure filed charges against Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales...." More (NYT 11.20.2008).
Annals of independent jurors. "The trial of three men accused of helping to organize the murder of one of Russia's most prominent investigative reporters, Anna Politkovskaya, took a surprise turn Thursday as a juror publicly challenged the court's decision to hold the proceedings behind closed doors. The judge, Yevgeny Zubov, had ordered the trial closed a day earlier, saying members of the jury had refused to participate if reporters were allowed in the courtroom. But a man who identified himself as one of the jurors stepped forward Thursday and disputed the judge's explanation...." Full story (Washington Post 11.20.2008). To paraphrase the great Wm. James, who is one of my favorite Americans, civic courage is every bit as worthy of praise as military heroism. The name of the brave juror who spoke out is Yevgeny Kolesov. We declare him winner of The Daily Judge's Juror-of-the-Day Award. Update. "Russian prosecutors requested a new judge Tuesday in an increasingly confused trial of three suspects accused in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent investigative journalist, after the judge flip-flopped twice on whether to allow press coverage...In a hearing on Tuesday, the judge once again decided to open the trial to the media, a second reversal on the issue, after 19 of the 20 jurors signed a statement saying they had made no official complaints about the presence of journalists in the courtroom, in opposition to the judge's previous statements...." More (NYT 11.26.2008). Comment. Today it's not "The Juror of the Day Award" but "The Jurors of the Day Award." We're giving it to the 19 of 20 who signed the statement.
Staff gives outgoing chief at NY's top appellate court a standing ovation. "After hearing cases about cracked sidewalks, divorce and sentencing violent felons, Chief Judge Judith Kaye is retiring. But it comes only after she received a standing ovation from staff at New York's highest court, the other six judges, attorneys and others who filled the large courtroom...." More (WNYT 11.21.2008).
Comment. When I was a student at Harvard Law School in the mid-1960s it was standard practice on the last day of class in a course for everyone in the lecture room (Socratic-give-and-take room?) to "give" the guy (hey, they were all guys) a standing ovation as he departed via the door behind the lecturer's area. One could call it an obligatory standing ovation, the kind every orchestra performance, even a mediocre one, gets from nice people in cities like Minneapolis. A professor could measure the depth of the students' feelings only by the loudness and length of the applause. I recall one prof, who was a terrible teacher (not all Harvard Law profs were or are "above average"), peeking over his shoulder and looking back through the almost-closed closing door as he departed. It was kind of sad. He wasn't a very nice guy and he neither deserved or got a "real" or "genuine" standing ovation. No, his was obligatory. But really, who cares what the crowd thinks? The crowd is so often wrong. Further reading. BurtLaw's Harvard Law School.
Harvard Law gives highest honor to deposed-but-reinstated Pakistani chief justice. "Pakistan's Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry -- once deposed but later reinstated -- was conferred with Harvard Law School's 'Medal of Freedom' for his struggle for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary on Wednesday in Boston, Massachusetts...." More (Wikinews 11.21.2008). Comment. It was Chaudhry I had in mind in my recitation of the poem "God, give us men!" at Why'd Musharraf do it? (The Daily Judge 11.05.2007).
News: Dog didn't bite mailman. Some people say that good news like that never gets reported. But it does: The New Bern Sun-Journal in NC is reporting that "The state Judicial Standards Commission has cleared Chief District Court Judge Jerry Waddell of misconduct."
Who is Ralph 'Ted' Winkler? Why, he's "Judge of the Year," as the lead in this story in the Cincinnati Inquirer today (11.20.2008) makes clear: "The Hamilton County Trial Lawyers Association has named Common Pleas Court Judge Ralph 'Ted' Winkler the judge of the year...."
Jury in federal court finds former state court judge guilty of insurance fraud. "After deliberating for two days, a jury yesterday agreed with the federal government that former state Superior Court Judge Michael T. Joyce committed insurance fraud...The jury found that Mr. Joyce, 59, of Erie, did not deserve $440,000 in insurance payouts stemming from an August 2001 slow-speed car crash...." More (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11.20.2008). Earlier. Judges testify in support of a fellow judge charged with insurance fraud (The Daily Judge 11.11.2008). For some of my views on the dramatic increase in federal prosecution of state judges and other state officials during the Bush presidency, see, Ex-judge is charged with mail fraud as judge (The Daily Judge 12.13.2006).
What should defense attorney do if he's heard rumors about judge and prosecutor? "[The judge and the prosecutor] had absolute...ethical obligations to disclose their romance and they knew it...So now the court is saying: One of our judges screwed up badly, never disclosed this, so let's blame the victim. What were [defense counsel] supposed to do? Go into court and say we've heard a rumor?" Lawrence Fox, former chairman of the American Bar Association's ethics and professional responsibility committee, responding to an order by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals saying that it wouldn't order a review of the conviction of death-row-inmate Charles Dean Hood without first receiving an adequate explanation from defense counsel why they waited so long to get proof of the affair between the trial judge and the prosecutor in Hood's case. More (Houston Chronicle 11.20.2008). Earlier. Latest on death row inmate who claims prosecutor, judge affair (includes links to earlier postings, including to our many postings on the varieties and perils of judicial romance) (The Daily Judge 09.04.2008).
Circuit judge ends misconduct inquiry into federal judge who gave bucks to Obama. "Utah's chief federal judge, Tena Campbell, will not face punishment for breaking the rules by donating to Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Because she admitted the error, promised to stop donating to candidates and publicly apologized, she will not face any serious sanction, according to Robert H. Henry, chief justice of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals...." More (Salt Lake Tribune 11.20.2008). Earlier. Oops! Judge didn't know she shouldn't contribute to candidates (with comments and links) (The Daily Judge 10.24.2008).
Quote-of-the-Day. "I guess I start with the proposition that you have a whole different world view from a seated position than a standing position." -- U.S. District Court Judge Reginald C. Lindsay, who "uses a wheelchair because of a tumor on his spine that robbed him of the ability to walk in 1983." According to this report in today's (11.20.2008) Boston Globe, Judge Lindsay "has been out sick for more than seven months, and it is uncertain when he will return to the bench," although he is "looking forward to coming back." Comment. It is also said that where one stands on an issue depends on where one sits. I'm not sure who said it first, but the first time I read it was in a Harvard publication that I saved but mislaid; it was said by a Harvard Law prof whose name escapes me. I don't think the Harvard Law prof was the guy who said that judges shouldn't sit so much but should get outside the courthouse, take their dog'n'pony show on the road, cut ribbons, read to school kids, and otherwise engage in, ah, "community outreach." That, I think, was -- sigh -- some Minnesotan. I have no idea of the difficulties of being confined to a wheelchair. But I can say that I'm not sure the judicial view of the world that a wildly peripatetic judge has is better than the view Judge Lindsay has from his seated position. Further reading. Some of my dissenting views on "judicial outreach" are set forth in If you cry out for justice, a judge will appear: bus as mobile courtroom (The Daily Judge 10.13.2006).
Cop claims he paid judge for a search warrant. "A crooked former Chicago cop...Richard Doroniuk, who has pleaded guilty to robbing drug dealers, is a government witness at his former partner's trial in federal court...While discussing the search warrants that the officers obtained, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christina Egan asked Doroniuk if he ever gave money to a judge. 'He asked for it,' Doroniuk said, adding that he paid the judge...Doroniuk said a[n unnamed] judge approved a search warrant even though the judge knew there really was no 'John Doe' informant...." More (Chicago Sun-Times 11.19.2008). Comment. I caution lay readers: that a cop testifies something is true, doesn't mean it necessarily is true, particularly if the cop who is testifying for the Government is a crooked cop hoping for a more lenient sentence.
Why 'weak characters ought not to be judges.' "Reporting from San Francisco -- Six months ago, California's highest court discarded its reputation for caution and ended the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Now the moderately conservative state Supreme Court is being asked to take an even riskier step -- to overturn the November voter initiative that reinstated the gay-marriage ban and possibly provoke a voter revolt that could eject one or more of the justices from the bench...." Maura Dolan, Recall specter hangs over high court as it considers Prop. 8 challenges (San Francisco Chronicle 11.19.2008). Comment. The quote in my "headline" is from Justice Felix Frankfurter. Judges in states with retention elections (and recall provisions) may think they have greater job security than judges in states like Minnesota with real two-candidate judicial elections. But sometimes they have less. In Minnesota a judge has nothing to worry about come election time unless some brave attorney goes to the trouble of running against him (a rarity). Moreover, an actual contested judicial election in Minnesota involves one-on-one combat, with the incumbent having many advantages. But if the judges in California deciding a highly-controversial matter alienate one side or the other (but particularly the not-so-nice so-called "religious" right), they may face a single but well-financed target-multiple-judges or tar-everyone-with-a-single-expensive-expansive-brush "Vote No in Retention Elections" campaign -- or, possibly worse, targeted recall elections. If the judges in CA were any good to begin with, as I think most of them were, they'll try decide the same-sex marriage case without regard to the likelihood of such a campaign being waged against them. But if they're "weak characters," they may give in to the clamours of one side or the other (most likely the Prop. 8 supporters). Consciously or unconsciously, perhaps they'll be able to do so by rationalizing the selling of their judicial souls. This is not to be unsympathetic to their plight. Ms. Dolan recounts the comment of "the late California Supreme Court Justice Otto Kaus, a Democrat who served on the court with Chief Justice Rose Bird before voters removed her and two justices over their opposition to the death penalty." According to Dolan, "Kaus later said that as hard as he tried to decide cases impartially, he was never sure whether the threat of a recall election was influencing his votes. 'It was like finding a crocodile in your bathtub when you go to shave in the morning,' Kaus said. 'You know it's there, and you try not to think about it, but it's hard to think about much else while you're shaving.'"
Judge's mum is suing her for defamation over I-was-abused-child memoir. "Constance Briscoe's memoir, called Ugly, said she was punched, kicked and beaten with a stick by her mother. Ms Briscoe, 51, who is also a part-time London judge, is being sued for libel by her mother, [Carmen Briscoe-Mitchell, 74,] who claims the work is 'a piece of fiction.'" Full story (BBC News 11.19.2008). Earlier. Previous postings regarding Judge Briscoe: Black female judge wins racial abuse case (The Daily Judge 10.13.2006); Annals of judges' families - judge's mom sues her for libel (The Daily Judge 09.17.2006). Comment. Defamation is an art form among some Norwegian-Americans, of which I am one. I, myself, have been defamed a number of times by relatives and/or friends (hey, the target always finds out about it and always learns its source). You probably have been, too. I never let it bother me. Anyhow, over the years I've slowly come to the conclusion that the cause of action for defamation ought to be abolished. Links to some of my many postings urging the abolition of the cause of action for defamation in the U.S. may be found at Singapore jails U.S. lawyer for criticizing Singapore judge on blog (The Daily Judge 09.18.2008). Update. Judge Briscoe testifies her mother physically abused her and called her a 'dirty little whore,' a 'potato-head' and 'miss piss-a-bed' (UK Guardian 11.25.2008).
Judges caught on tape! -- revisited. A few days ago I linked to a TV station's web report mirroring the first of a series of on-air I-Team Reports showing judges and judicial employees "caught on tape" not working, etc. See, It's 'Sweeps Month' for local TV 'news' shows -- judges are targets (The Daily Judge 11.10.2008). I said I'd check back and link to subsequent reports in the explosive series. I keep my promises:
a) More on judges and judicial employees caught on tape! "A 'NewsChannel 5 Investigates' hidden-camera investigation raises the question: What were some court employees doing when they didn't know anyone was watching? Our exclusive investigation first caught some Nashville judges off doing other things -- when they were supposed to be in court. It turns out, some court employees seem to have the same attitudes about working for taxpayers. And get this: it may have been going on for a long time...." More (News Channel 5 - Nashville 11.13.2008).
b) Judge Gloria Dumas is caught on tape being late! "[W]hile she leaves everyday working folks waiting, we discovered [Judge Gloria] Dumas often doesn't leave her elegant Oak Hill home until well after she's supposed to be in court. Usually, she arrives at the courthouse at least 30 minutes late, taking another 30 minutes or more to get on the bench. 'Am I saying that's my big old flaw? Yeah,' she added. 'If you're looking for perfect, you need to throw me out because I am not perfect.'" More (News Channel 5 - Nashville 11.11.2008). Comment. Taxpayers don't expect judges to be "perfect," just "on time."
c) Court of Judiciary opens investigation based on caught-on-tape stories. "There's a new development in our NewsChannel 5 investigation of some Nashville judges -- judges who keep people waiting while they're off doing other things. The court that oversees judges in Tennessee has now opened its own investigation. That court, called the Court of the Judiciary, has now requested copies of our stories for its own investigation...." More (News Channel 5 - Nashville 11.13.2008).
'Church court' or senate confirmation hearing (in Mormon Utah)? "Sit long enough in a Capitol Hill committee room and somebody will say something loopy. Members of the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee didn't disappoint last week. They speculated about 3rd District Judge Robert Hilder's divorce. Did he or didn't he cheat? (No.) Was his first wife's illness the cause of the divorce? (No.) Did he have a bit of 'male menopause?' (Huh?) Is he pro or anti-Mormon? Is he defensive? Some of the questions were unconstitutional. Many had nothing to do with the issue at hand: Should Hilder be appointed to the Utah Court of Appeals?" -- From Rebecca Walsh, Church court or Senate hearing? (Salt Lake Tribune 11.17.2008). Update. "State senators voted down 3rd District Judge Robert Hilder's bid for a seat on the Utah Court of Appeals on Wednesday, some citing concerns about his demeanor and a ruling unpopular with Utah's strong gun rights lobby...." The vote was 16-12 against confirmation. Hilder, described by some as one of the state's best judges, is quoted as saying he doesn't feel he was treated fairly by the senate. More (Salt Lake Tribune 11.200.2008).
MN judge defends self before conduct board. "Judge Timothy Blakely said he was eager to see difficult divorces settled out of court. So, he assigned case after case to a St. Paul mediator Blakely swore he could trust. There were two problems: The attorney was his own. He owed her six figures. The Goodhue County district judge stands accused of funneling 19 divorce cases to the law firm that handled his divorce in exchange for a steep reduction in his legal debt. He appeared Monday before a judicial fact-finding panel to fight allegations of misconduct...." Full story (St. Paul Pioneer-Press 11.18.2008). Comment. Maybe stories like this wouldn't pop up from time to time if our judicial gyros a) would set aside for the moment their obsessive campaign to better ensure their own tenure, through their campaign to amend the constitution to deprive voters of a say in judicial selection, and b) would instead focus their attention on, say, i) the need for reform of the procedures that make divorce such an unjustifiably expensive and life-damaging experience and ii) the need to end invidious age discrimination in the judiciary. On i), see, my mini-essay titled Lawyers and judges working together to drain your wallet? (The Daily Judge 10.05.2008). On ii), see, the second part of my comments at Gail Chang Bohr wins election to open seat on district court in MN (The Daily Judge 11.05.2008).
Release of e-mails shows politicization of judicial selection in Missouri. "Gov. Matt Blunt's former chief of staff used his state e-mail account to rally conservative legal and activist groups in an unsuccessful attempt to derail his boss' September 2007 appointment of a Missouri Supreme Court judge...The e-mails also reveal politicization in the selection of judicial nominees for lower appeals court spots." Full story (Jefferson City News-Tribune 11.18.2008).
Hoover Institution releases some of Rehnquist's papers from first three years on SCOTUS. "The papers released Monday are a small part of a collection of documents donated to the Hoover Institution at Stanford University after Chief Justice Rehnquist's death in 2005. The Rehnquist family will release court materials covering only the years from which no justices remain alive. Justice Stevens, the court's longest-serving member, joined the court in 1975. Additional materials, including personal correspondence and other writings, will be released next year...." Full story (NYT 11.18.2008). Comment. The papers released thus far don't appear to be very, shall we say, "juicy." Too bad. juicy is good. :-)
Judge bars press coverage of trial. "An Egyptian judge has barred media coverage in the trial of Hisham Talaat Mustafa, a politically connected businessman and member of Parliament charged with ordering the killing of the Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim in a case that has riveted public attention across the Arab world...." Full story (NYT 11.18.2008).
Ye olde courthouse sting. "Wilbert Ballard, 50, was ordered by a judge Monday not to drive because his license was suspended. Then he left traffic court in Oakland and got into his green Chrysler, only to be tracked out of the building by undercover officers. Traffic Officer Robert Sayaphupha rumbled after Ballard on a Harley-Davidson and pulled him over near Seventh and Webster streets in Chinatown. Ballard was caught dead to rights, and he knew it. But he complained, 'The judge just told me I can't drive. How else was I supposed to get home?'...On Monday undercover Oakland officers sat in court and waited for 18 people who were expected to be told that they couldn't drive. Ballard was one of six who were spotted afterward in their cars...." Full story (San Francisco Chronicle 11.18.2008). Comment. I have mixed feelings about this.
Commission votes to remove Judge Halverson and bar her from judging again. "The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline issued an order today that permanently removes Judge Elizabeth Halverson from the bench...The commission found her guilty on counts of sleeping during hearings, making improper contact with jurors; mistreating her staff, improperly hiring two bodyguards and making improper and misleading statements to the press...Halverson...was cleared on eight counts...." More (Las Vegas Sun 11.18.2008). Earlier. Links to our prior postings on the events leading to her removal. Comment. Not sure if the decision of the commission is final in Nevada or if it's appealable, as it is in most states. In any event, it's hard not to have some sympathy for Judge Halverson. She's had a hard year. Most recently, her husband was sentenced to a period of incarceration after being convicted of physically assaulting her.
Quote-of-the-Day. "Eating or chatting with a deliberating jury and answering their law-related and case-related questions...is so fundamentally wrong that even a first-year law clerk should know better." -- Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline, in its decision in the Halverson case. Id. Comment. It is pretty basic hornbook law: Absent exigent circumstances or other justification, a judge should not "privately" communicate with the jury after it has started its deliberations. Any communication by the judge with the jury should be in open court and on the record, with the parties and their attorneys present, unless, of course, they've knowingly and voluntarily waived their presence. But, since some new judges a) have such misplaced confidence in their own goodness that they assume anything they do in the spirit of goodness must be good or b) have great difficulty applying the admittedly overly-general rules in the typical codes of judicial conduct, I offer BurtLaw Rule of Thumb #68.4: Don't have breakfast, coffee, lunch or dinner ("supper" in Minnesota) with deliberating jurors.
More judicial news out of Las Vegas. "Metro Police have filed a misdemeanor domestic violence charge today against Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Tony Abbatangelo after an early morning fight on Wednesday with his wife, Sue, who is the sister of District Judge Michelle Leavitt...." More (Las Vegas Sun 11.18.2008).
SCOTUS won't review decision barring litigious man from suing without permission. "Whether Jarek Molski is a crusader for the disabled or an extortionist who abused the law for personal gain, the vexatious litigant has filed his last lawsuit...." Molski "filed more than 400 suits under the Americans With Disabilities Act before a federal judge [in 2004] barred him from future litigation...brand[ing] Molski a 'hit-and-run plaintiff,' [and] accusing him of systematic extortion of businesses across California...Fear of adverse judgments compelled many to settle out of court, earning the Polish-born plaintiff hundreds of thousands of dollars in less than two years..." Now SCOTUS has declined to review the 9th Circuit's 19-9 decision upholding the district judg'es decision. More (LAT 11.18.2008).
Amy Winehouse, of all people, launches outrageous attack on judges! "Singer Amy Winehouse has launched an outrageous attack on the X-Factor judges except Cheryl Cole. The singer's main targets were Simon Cowell and Louis Walsh. Winehouse said Cowell was the reason hairdressers haven't changed advertising snaps in their windows since the 1960s...." More (OneIndia 11.17.2008). Comment. Now may be the time for all good people to come to the aid of the Reality TV judiciary. The increasingly vituperative attacks on The People's Judiciary threatens the independence of our entire Reality TV judicial system. Without a free and independent Reality TV judiciary, Reality TV soon would lose its appeal and TV networks would have to resume presenting more expensive, mind-numbing one-hour dramas and one-half-hour situation comedies. Where would "We the Viewers" -- which, I take it, is what the phrase "We the People" means -- be then? While I agree that reasonable "reform" of the Reality TV judiciary may be needed -- for example, the adoption of a system of direct telephonic election of Reality TV judges -- I can't help believing that the constant harping on and attacking of Reality TV judges by the likes of Amy Winehouse, by threatening the independence of the Reality TV judiciary, threatens the very existence of the institution itself.
And the attacks on judges don't end -- critic attacks Scottish Political Award judges! "Last week, much of Scotland's political elite, lobbyists and journalists got together for what might be their last free drink of the recession. And as the champagne flowed, the question asked at the Scottish Political Awards was what had the judges been drinking? Whatever it was, most people wanted to avoid having any, or at least so much, of it. But instead of beer goggles, it seemed the judges must have been wearing tartan specs that apparently blurred recent political history. Take the main prize -- Scottish Politician of the Year...." David Maddox, Inside Holyrood -- Tartan-tinted specs of political award judges blur recent history (The Scotsman 11.17.2008). Comment. I rise to defend Scot judges. The Scots are so darn good at judging that the acronym for Supreme Court of the United States is SCOTUS. It is not a coincidence.
Annals of specialized judges -- conversion judges. "A committee headed by Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar appointed 10 new conversion court judges during a meeting on Sunday in the chief rabbi's office. The appointees await the approval of the attorney general, who will decide whether civil service appointments can be made ahead of national elections...." More (Jerusalem Post 11.17.2008). Comment. Awhile ago I read a piece suggesting that while there wasn't enough "business" for the conversion judges and that adding more was unnecessary in any numbers sense, adding more would serve the purpose of putting pressure on existing conversion court judges to be more lenient and thereby allow more conversions. (I don't know it that's true, but if it is it reminds one of FDR's court-packing plan.*) I would never tell the Israelis how to handle a matter like this, but I note that in Minnesota, which is all about Norwegian ethnic politics, everyone ultimately converts to Norwegianism. Thus I was able to write back in 2002 that "it is no puzzling paradox to us that the only well-known Scandinavian restaurant in the Twin Cities is the culinary brain child of a black man who also is Scandinavian or that all the other ethnic restaurants, including the Chinese ones, in Minnesota in fact serve what amounts to Norwegian versions of their own ethnic food." And Minnesota's Coen Brothers gave credence to this Burt-Truth in the movie Fargo (1996) in giving the Korean-American Mike Yanagita character (played by Steve Park) a Norwegian-American accent. Vivian de St. Vrain, What's the Deal with Mike Yanagita? (Dr. Metablog 05.02.2006).
*Note: FDR's court-packing plan is an example of proposing an increase in the membership in an institution in order to dilute the power of those ensconced in power in the institution. FDR's plan also is illustrative of the phenomenon of the young using the law to get rid of the old. For a recent example of this from Europe, see, Wiktor Osiatynski, Poland Makes Witch Hunting Easier (NYT 01.22.2007). An older, American example of this "perverting" of institutions or procedures to bump out the old is what occurred half a century ago at Harvard when young members of a "new school" of sociological thought, functionalism, neutralized the powerful "old school" chair (and founder) of the sociology department, the great Pitirim Sorokin, by creating a new department with a slightly-different name and a new chairman, Talcott Parsons, leaving the powerful old department head, Sorokin, as an isolated researcher consigned to an out-of-the-way office, later to head what in effect was a sometimes-maligned center on research in creative altruism. (Sorokin later got the last laugh in 1963 when his allies in American sociology conducted a phenomenal write-in campaign and got him elected president of the American Sociological Association.) To come closer to home, one of the (primarily-hidden but sometimes-ackowledged) goals of some of the prime movers for adopting mandatory retirement of judges in certain jurisdictions was to get rid of "old white men" so as to free up positions for women and members of previously-under-represented minorities. For my 2000 essay opposing mandatory retirement of judges, click here. Using age discrimination to cure the problem was unnecessary and was a mistake, as we're now seeing. See, comments at Gail Chang Bohr wins election to open seat on district court in MN (The Daily Judge 11.05.2008).
Judge's son is in custody in connection with street racing fatality. "On the heels of a street racing crash Friday night that killed 15-year-old Coronado High School student Olivia Hyten, Eyewitness News has confirmed the son of District Court Judge Donald Mosley was driving one of the trucks involved. Michael Mosley was involved in the street racing crash, but he wasn't driving the truck that flipped over killing [passenger] Olivia Hyten...." More (KLAS-TV 11.17.2008). Comment. Without regard to the specifics of this matter, anyone who reads this blog knows that kids of judges are just as prone as other kids to make mistakes that carry tragic consequences. I understand from the above TV report that young Mosley is in custody, feels terrible, and is on suicide watch. Update. Judge and ex-wife point fingers at each other; son's bad driving record is revealed; court keeps son in custody (Las Vegas Review-Journal 11.18.2008).
Tattooed lawyer with history of cocaine addiction says he's ready to be criminal court judge. "The devil tattooed on Kevin Fine's upper arm holds a razor blade, a mirror and an eight ball symbolizing cocaine. His forearm sports a tattoo of Jesus holding up a man who has collapsed amid the waves of a massive storm. Elected by Harris County voters as a state district judge this month, Fine said he'll draw from his experiences as a cocaine addict who has been clean and sober for 10 years when presiding over felony cases...." More (Houston Chronicle 11.17.2008).
SCOTUS upholds Bill of Rights in 5-4 decision. Justice Kennedy cast the tie-breaker, concluding that the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights "remain important for the time being, and should not be overturned" until it is proven the rights are no longer needed. Note: "The Supreme Court's latest decision comes on the heels of last month's 6-3 ruling to abolish the pursuit of happiness from the three inalienable rights guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence." More (The Onion 11.14.2008).
Father and son, judging in same courthouse on same day. "Judge Stuart Albright [was] instructing a Forsyth County jury that may soon decide whether accused killer James Ray Little III lives or dies...One floor up from where the younger Albright was presiding Friday sat [his father, the retired Judge Douglas Albright of Guilford Superior Court,] who was serving as a substitute for the week...Having father and son judges in the same building on the same day created a slight ripple in the tight courthouse community and started a few discussions about how times change...The Albrights are about as close to a dynasty as you're going to find these days...[The appointment of III to replace II] caused some low-level grumbling about political favoritism and nepotism, but for the most part it died away after [III] won election in his own right in 2006...." More (Winston-Salem Journal 11.16.2008). Here's my posting from 2006 that made reference to the naming of young Albright to replace his dad as judge:
Department of coincidences: Bush nominates judge's son to replace judge. "The nomination of William Osteen Jr. to the federal judiciary marks the second time in the past year that an area judge's son has been picked to replace him on the bench. In this case, President Bush nominated Osteen to replace his father, William Osteen, as a judge for the Middle District of North Carolina. Late last year, Gov. Mike Easley appointed then-district attorney Stuart Albright to the state Superior Court judgeship being vacated by his father, W. Douglas Albright...." In the article, Elizabeth Gibson, a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill's law school, is quoted saying, "How anybody gets nominated for these positions depends on who you know." (Greensboro News Record 10.03.2006). Comment. It is sheer coincidence, isn't it, that all across the country those who make it through the screening processes and eventually get picked by the governor as "the best people for the job" of judge so often turn out to have been friends, allies, former law partners, administrative aides, etc., of the governor. And everybody knows, I guess, that "the W" was the best person for the job and would be President even if his dad had been manager of a Target store, and everybody knows, you know, that Harriet Miers was the best person, etc., etc. I jest, of course -- but only partly. Bricklayers' kids tend to learn the craft early on, and lawyers' kids grow up thinking like lawyers. Hey, the father who won the Nobel prize in medicine some years ago didn't do the work for his son, who just won the Nobel in chemistry in his own right. For more on primogeniture, including that involving office, and other types of inheritance, click here.
Quote-of-the-Day. "Things have changed. I tell the newer judges not to cackle in the nest. In this day and age, it's probably wise to just do what's required and leave it at that." -- Retired Judge Douglas Albright of Guilford Superior Court, who still presides now and then as a substitute judge (see, Father and son, judging in same courthouse on same day). In his time, Judge Albright was "quick to dress down a convicted criminal with fire-and-brimstone oratory." More (Winston-Salem Journal 11.16.2008). As this quote indicates, he now advises against it, as I do. See, my secular sermon on this very point at Judge tells defendant he's 'beyond redemption' (The Daily Judge 10.18.2008).
Those judges who accept campaign contributions from lawyers. Mike Engelhart, one of the newly-elected Democrat judges in Harris County, TX collected $56,000 from more than a hundred people to run for judge but spent a little more than that. Now, though, he has many more "friends," according to columnist Rick Casey, who writes entertainingly and perceptively about the judiciary for the Houston Chronicle. "Now that he has ridden the Obama wave to victory as a civil district judge in Harris County, where he will rule on questions that have millions of dollars attached to them, he has so many more friends. Friday all these new friends are invited to 'Come out to the Ballpark to celebrate!' And, incidentally to help Judge-elect Engelhart retire his campaign debt...I guarantee Engelhart won't be the only judge to be feted at a 'retire the debt' fundraiser over the next few months. (And, as one lawyer says, 'no actual debt required.')" With tongue in cheek, Casey suggests pledging a monthly contribution because "Not only is it easier on the budget, but it keeps your generosity fresh in the judge's mind." More (Houston Chronicle 11.16.2008). Further reading. a) Why a few GOP judges in one TX county survived Democratic tornado that swept most from office (The Daily Judge 11.06.2008) (on why the tried-and-true Minnesota Way is better than the Missouri Plan, a/k/a "Ozark State Plan," and the Texas Plan). b) Campaign contributions and judicial recusals at SCOWVA (The Daily Judge 10.12.2008) (containing a mini-essay in which I expound on the issue of campaign contributions and judicial elections; Note: SCOTUS has granted review of the issue out of WVA on whether judges must recuse in cases involving top contributors). c) ABA Chief, a 'Bamian, decries AL's judicial elections, seeks 'summit' (The Daily Judge 11.09.2008) (containing mini-essay on why the ABA Chief is wrong in generalizing from the specific, why "the sky has not fallen" in MN, why we have not experienced the nasty "big buck" judicial elections that some states, like Alabama, the Chief's state, have experienced). d) Endorsements and Contributions (my 2000 judicial campaign essay explaining my refusal to accept contributions or endorsements).
When a judge gives a character reference. "The Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC) has launched an investigation after it emerged that one of the country's most senior judges wrote a character reference on official stationery for a barrister accused of perverting the course of justice. While judges can give character references, official guidelines warn them that they must take all steps possible 'not to tarnish the perception of the judiciary's impartiality.' Sir Mark Potter, head of the Family Division, wrote the reference for his friend, Bruce Hyman, before his trial last year. The reference, which Potter had intended to be given to the judge sentencing Hyman, was on his official stationery and bore his name and title...." Full story (UK Guardian 11.16.2008). Earlier. Judge is admonished for vouching for character of defendant in another court (The Daily Judge 08.04.2007); Panel recommends suspension of judge over use of court stationery, etc. (The Daily Judge 04.02.2008); Sitting judges to testify in support of Alito -- is that okay? (The Daily Judge 01.07.2006) (in mini-essay, I muse on the issue); Justice is admonished for publicly backing nomination of Harriet Miers (The Daily Judge 05.24.2006) (see, comment predicting the admonishment wouldn't withstand First Amendment scrutiny); Appeal panel vacates reprimand of judge-pal for supporting Miers (The Daily Judge 10.21.2006) (vindicating my earlier-expressed opinion). Related. Kansas Judge Daniel Mitchell is admonished for voluntarily testifying as a character witness at sentencing hearing of friend convicted of accidentally killing hunter (Topeka Capital-Journal 11.22.2008).
Judge vindicated in fake e-mail scandal gets nabbed for speeding, possible DWI (and she refused testing). "When state District Judge Elizabeth Berry was accused of writing a racist e-mail this year, lawyers and friends offered support as the allegations made their way through court...She was vindicated after all sides conceded that the e-mail was a fake. But now the popular criminal judge has found herself awash in another public relations debacle, this one with possible career-threatening consequences." The "p.r. debacle"? Police in Alvarado say they clocked her going 92- in a 65-mph zone and "detected the odor of alcohol on her breath and saw beer cans -- some of them empty -- in her car." She allegedly refused to cooperate in field sobriety tests and, when arrested, refused to take a Breathalyzer test. Police got a warrant to take a blood sample. Results aren't in. More (Dallas Morning News 11.15.2008). Comments. a) Last March I posted a link to, and commented on, a news report about the fake e-mail. See, Judge denies sending e-mail -- did someone try to 'set her up'? (The Daily Judge 03.06.2008). See, also, Further readings on priestly -- and judicial -- fakery (The Daily Judge 07.05.2008), and Annals of the Pope's Judiciary and the Case of the Fake Priest (The Daily Judge 07.05.2008). b) Generally speaking, ought a judge's arrest and conviction of DWI be "career-threatening"? I don't think so. I explain why at Is judge's legacy at stake as result of DWI arrest? (The Daily Judge 10.29.2008). Update. Judge Berry is charged with speeding, DWI (Dallas Morning News 11.18.2008).
Ghostbusters at old haunted courthouse? "Cathy Vogel gets a creepy feeling when she approaches the door to a rarely used marble staircase at the Old Courthouse on the Square in Decatur[, GA]...On Saturday night, a local ghost-hunter group will check out the claims of Vogel and others that something otherworldly lives in that four-story stairwell. A metro area all-volunteer group called GRASP -- Georgia Research of Apparitional Sightings and the Paranormal -- will unleash its infrared cameras, electromagnetic field detectors, audiorecorders and laser thermometers on the 1898 building that has not been used as a courthouse since the 1960s...." More (AJC 11.15.2008). Comment. a) Did you know that a ghost wrote all of the opinions of the most famous of all Swedish jurists, Per Curiam? b) We hold as true that the older the courthouse, the more likely it is haunted. c) Southern courthouses seem to be more haunted than Northern ones. d) Courthouses in states with the death penalty are more haunted than courts in states without it. e) Every courthouse seems haunted at times & every courthouse is haunted at all times by a "ghost," the "dead hand of the past" that is sometimes called "tradition," sometimes "precedent," etc., etc. f) If you work in one of our many haunted courthouses and you think you hear secretaries chattering in the next room about the latest sale at some department store or how "neat" that outfit is on p. 29 of the catalog they both have or what happened to Paris Hilton or who said what to whom, you're probably not hearing ghosts of judicial secretaries past talking, although their styles of conversing never seem to change (see, Mad Men) -- no, you're hearing an authentic early-21st Century American courthouse conversation. Further reading. A Classic BurtLaw It'll-Warm-Your-Heart Christmas Story for All Americans (Judge Myron B. Fleshbacher and his pal, the Holy Ghost, at X-Mas). Ghost of Bruno Hauptman haunts courthouse (The Daily Judge 05.01.2006). Ghostbusters scan Indiana courthouse (The Daily Judge 06.08.2005). Tabloid: Mendocino Courthouse scene of #1 paranormal event of 2004 (The Daily Judge 07.30.2005). Spooky history comes to life at historic courthouse (The Daily Judge 10.19.2007). Iron County Courthouse stands the test of time (The Daily Judge 04.04.2007).
History of political campaign blogging. Some credit the Howard Dean presidential campaign in 2004 with maintaining the first campaign blog. Others cite as the first campaign blog one maintained by a congressional candidate in 2002. Actually, one has to go back earlier, to 2000. I was a nonpartisan candidate for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election in November 2000. I began planning my first law blog, BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else, one of the pioneering law blogs, in 1999, but I delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. My 2000 campaign website, the no-longer-extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign blog (weblog or web journal), i.e., a blog actually written and maintained by the candidate, not by some staffer. I like to think it was the first campaign blog (a/k/a weblog or web journal), although it's quite possible someone else independently came up with the idea and executed it contemporaneously in 2000 also. Because most "web archivers" were not in business in 2000, there has been no web record of my campaign website and campaign blog. For archival purposes and in the public interest, I have reproduced and reposted as near as I can, given software changes, the backed-up contents of what was VoteHans.Com as it appeared in 2000. Here are the links: Campaign Home Page; Campaign Journal; Earlier Journal Entries; Even Earlier Journal Entries; Earliest Journal Entries; Endorsements and Contributions; Mandatory Retirement of Judges; Judicial Independence and Accountability; Questions and Answers; BRH Speech; Emerson for Judges; Quotations for Judges; MN Const. Art. VI; About BRH.
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