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.
The Daily Judge's policy on New Year's Eve. I have always thought going out and "celebrating" on New Year's Eve is one of the stupidest of ideas. Tonight will be my 65th New Year's Eve. I've yet to follow the pack in going out and whooping it up. It's not likely I'll change my ways in the years ahead, if years there be. If you celebrate New Year's Eve, I feel sorry for you, as I do for all crowd-followers. Might I forgive you for your stupidity? Sure. Hey, I'm a Norwegian Lutheran. There are many types of Norwegian Lutherans. I'm the forgiving type.
Practical-joker of a judge dies at 88. "'He had a great sense of humor. A great practical jokester. A contagious laugh,' Cathryn Wood[, the judge's widow,' said. [Judge Gerald] Fines shared a prank Wood pulled on a then-fellow Justice Department employee whose job it was to interview prospective federal judges. Wood somehow hooked a coat off a light fixture hanging from the high ceiling where the interviews took place. 'The person who came in for the interview kept looking at the coat. It was Robert Bork. We joked about it later, how that must have thrown him a little,' Fines said...." -- From a profile of "Retired U.S. appellate judge and Springfield native Harlington Wood Jr. of Petersburg, who died Monday at the age of 88." More (State Journal-Register - ILL 12.31.2008). Comments. a) To our knowledge, Judge Wood was not related in any way to Tiger Woods, the well-known golfer. b) There are very few practical jokers around anymore. In the judiciary, almost none. It's too risky: someone might sue, claiming harassment, psychic injury, hurt feelings, etc. A sad development.
Judge jails Muslim woman for refusing to remove hijab scarf. "A Douglasville woman was jailed Tuesday after a judge found her in contempt of court for refusing to remove her hijab, the head covering worn by Muslim women. Lisa Valentine, also known by her Islamic name, Miedah, 40, was arrested at the Douglasville Municipal Court for violating a court policy of no headgear, said Chris Womack, deputy chief of operations for the Douglasville police. Judge Keith Rollins ordered her held in jail for 10 days, but she was released Tuesday evening...." Full story (Atlanta Journal Constitution 12.17.2008). Comment. I'm wondering what the court's policy was in the old days when Roman Catholic nuns wore the old-style or traditional "habits." One might argue that the answer to the song "How do you solve a problem like Maryam?" shouldn't be different from the answer to the song "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" Cf., Germany: Ban extended to nuns' habits (NYT 10.12.2004) ("A ban on Muslim teachers wearing head scarves in public schools must also apply to Christian nuns, the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig ruled"); Maryam Rajavi (Wikipedia). For an interesting current piece on nun's traditional habits and the "mystery" that surrounded them, see, this review of the movie Habit: 'Doubt' is cut from the cloth of a nun's austere habit (USA Today 12.11.2008). Of no particular relevance: I grew up in the 1950s as a Norwegian-Lutheran kid in a small town that also had a sizeable Roman Catholic population. The nuns who taught at the parochial school lived in a large house my grandfather once owned that was on the southwest corner of an intersection that was shared by the public high school (northwest corner) and the Catholic Church (southeast corner), to the east of which was the parochial elementary school Catholic kids attended. Someone, maybe my bro (who liked to toy with my mind), told me that the nuns, who wore the traditional habits, were required to wear their habits while showering! Further reading. List of types of sartorial hijab (Wikipedia); Types of sartorial hijab (Wikipedia); How do you make a habit like Maria's (A Nun's Life 03.24.2008). On judicial swimsuits and the Rules of Judicial Conduct (discussing, inter alia, appropriate swimwear for female judges and Muslim women) at BurtLaw's Law and Swimsuits Issue. Update. Court employees, including judges, will get sensitivity training after scarf-wearing Muslim woman's arrest (Google.AP 12.24.2008).
'The Circle' -- From prosecutor to judge to public defender. "Ending 15 years on the bench without a hint of ceremony, Judge Raymond Bigelow finished his tenure at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court on Monday by simply proceeding with his morning's docket and walking out of the building when his work was done...Bigelow[, who chose not to seek re-election,] said he is ready for a career change. He intends to work as a federal public defender and also as a defense attorney on state capital murder cases. 'I want to complete the circle,' said the former prosecutor. 'I've always talked about it.'" More (NOLA 12.30.2008).
Those courthouse-naming politicians got it wrong. "Former Gov. Hugh Carey wasn't dying to get his name on the federal courthouse in downtown Brooklyn. Congress passed legislation last year to name the Cadman Plaza East building after Carey, who was governor from 1975 to 1982. There was a slight problem -- Carey, 89, is still alive. 'Usually the tradition is you name [a courthouse] after someone who has passed away,' Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters Tuesday at a press conference to announce the 14-story building has been named for Theodore Roosevelt, another former New York governor and the 26th President...." More (N.Y. Daily-News 12.31.2008). Comment. a) We don't think courthouses should be named after individuals. b) We don't think courthouses should be called "courthouse buildings" or "judicial centers." A courthouse is a courthouse is a courthouse....
SCOOH finally submits to the realities of the First Amendment. "The Ohio Supreme Court has lifted the gag order prohibiting candidates for judicial offices from mentioning their political party...." More (Columbus Dispatch 12.31.2008).
More election nonsense out of Broward County, FLA. "A candidate who lost a bid for a Broward judgeship has filed a legal claim seeking to force elections chief Brenda Snipes to pay for her failed campaign. Mardi Anne Levey, who won a legal battle just to make the November race, claims Snipes' decision to print ballots without her name confused voters and cost her the election. Instead of seeing Levey's name, voters were supposed to be instructed at the polls that a vote for outgoing Circuit Judge Pedro Dijols was actually a vote for Levey...." More (Miami Herald 12.30.2008). Comment. Can you believe running a general election where the name of Candidate C, one of the two qualified candidates, is not on the ballot and it is thought to be an adequate substitute to post signs telling voters if they want to vote for Candidate C they should vote for Candidate B, whose name was inappropriately placed on the ballot? Presumably, if Candidate C (Levey) had won, Candidate A, who got more votes, would also have a pretty good basis for complaining.
Judge is suspended for two years discriminating against homosexuals. "A Spanish court says a judge[, Judge Fernando Ferrin Calamita,] has been suspended for attempting to thwart a woman's effort to adopt her lesbian partner's child...The court's ruling...says Ferrin ignored Spanish laws allowing same-sex couples to adopt and showed contempt for the woman's sexual orientation while processing her application." More (Dallas Voice 12.30.2008). According to Typically Spanish, "The prosecutor in the case had asked for an 18 year out of office sentence, but the court considered that the lower term was applicable as the judge could have carried out the crime though carelessness rather than maliciously. That despite the judge's comments to the press that children adopted by homosexuals were 'human guinea-pigs.'"
Tests clear judge of suspicion of driving under influence! "A city prosecutor has asked for the dismissal of the misdemeanor driving-under-the-influence case filed against Judge John F. Kelly...." The legal limit in AZ is 0.08, but the test results are in and they show the level of blood-alcohol concentration for the judge was 0.063. Convictions of driving under the influence can result in most states even if the driver's level was below the legal limit if there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that alcohol "impaired" the driver's driving. But, according to the judge's lawyer, there apparently is no evidence the judge was driving improperly. More (AZ Daily Star 12.30.2008). Comment. Now you know why we always caution that allegations and charges brought against judges, as well as other ordinary mortals, are just allegations and charges, not convictions. The presumption of innocence is there for a reason -- no, many reasons.
The 'Judge Browns' of Marion County. Among the six new judges sworn in in Indy is Kimberly Brown, the sister of Judge Linda Brown. More (Indianapolis Star 12.30.2008).
'Maliciously expelling a large amount of saliva' over judge's lack of Xmas mercy. Last week on Christmas Eve a 59-year-old man was convicted by Judge Justin Julian in Bonner County, Idaho of failing to obey a stop sign, rejecting the fellow's claim of innocence and his suggestion he should show mercy because it was Christmas Eve. Irked at the conviction and the $75 fine, he "glared" back at the judge before, in the judge's words, "'maliciously expelling a large amount of saliva' onto a carpet in the courthouse hallway." The judge then found him in contempt and sent him to jail for two days -- i.e., for Christmas. More (AP.Google 12.29.2008). Comments. a) Judge, judge, that's not the Spirit of Christmas. Didja have to fine him $75 on Christmas Eve? Didja have to send him to jail for Christmas? Couldn't you you overlook a little sputrum? Looked at in the right way, a little sputrum can be seen as a thing of beauty. Read on.... b) Several years ago I jotted off a poetic doodle, not meant in criticism of the Norwegian Lutheran pastor of my confirmation years, Rev. Harold S. Nashiem, but offered rather out of an affection for the whole man, including his expostulations....
'Happy Easter!' Rev. Nasheim should have said.
But the church was filled to the rafters, and
many of the folks hadn't been there since Christmas!
'Twice-a-year Christians!' he bellowed.
The sputrum flying forth from his red mouth
passed through a stream of sunlight and glistened
as it arced downward so gracefully.
'Happy Easter!' said the Sun....
(This great poem is, of course, for better or for worse, copyrighted © by Burton Randall Hanson.) What in heck does this have to do with judges? This: Rev. Nasheim ought to have looked upon the big crowd as an opportunity to "evangelize," not rant and rave and sour people on the church. It was a "teachable moment" and on this particular occasion he taught the wrong lesson. Every time someone steps into a courtroom, as into a church, it is an important moment -- maybe even a "turning point" -- for that person. To paraphrase Justice Brandeis, for better or worse, a judge -- like "government" -- is "the great teacher." c) Every day every judge ought ask herself questions. What lesson are you teaching the people who appear in "your" -- how about "their"? -- courtroom? Are you souring people on the law? Are you making things worse rather than better? d) Judge Julian, did you teach the right lesson on Christmas Eve? I'm not saying you didn't. I'm just asking the question. I hope you ask it of yourself. Further reading. Want more on Rev. Nasheim and Easter? See, "A BurtLaw Good Friday/Easter Sermon" at BurtLaw's Secular Sermons for Lawyers and Judges.
A good little courthouse tree that was too good to be true. "The Bradford pear tree -- the leisure suit of the plant world - is about to be as dead as disco at the Pulaski County Courthouse. Five of the trees, which line the south and west sides of the Pulaski County Courthouse, were cut down Monday, and County Judge Buddy Villines says that's a good start...." More (NW Arkansas News 12.30.2008). Comment. The article quotes "Little Rock lawyer John Baker, founder of the nonprofit Tree Streets," as saying Bradford pear trees are "Everything [that's] wrong with urban trees," "pretty much the biggest scam perpetrated on the tree-growing public." The article quotes "Little Rock architect Tommy Jameson" as saying that "[t]hey're pretty when they flower and when their leaves turn color in the fall, but they grow too big too fast and their limbs get brittle...[and] they split right down the middle." I think I see a metaphor there for a number of different things but I'll leave it to you to find your own metaphors. Further reading. Marc Montefusco, The pros and cons of Bradford Pear.
Nixon: 'I am not a crook'; WVA: 'We are not a judicial hellhole.' "The President of the West Virginia Association for Justice[, f/k/a West Virginia Trial Lawyers Association,] says West Virginia's inclusion on this year's list of judicial hellholes, a list from the American Tort Reform Association, is not fair...." More (WVAMetroNews 12.29.2008).
Moonlighting as a judge for a bit of extra pocket money. "Frank Boutilier, Riverdale's city judge for the past 12 years, often feels like the Maytag repairman. 'It's very, very, very slow,' he said. 'For some strange reason, Riverdale is an awfully quiet town, even in spite of all the tourists that go through here. We have hardly any violations.'" -- From Jill Schramm, Municipal judges deal with traffic, loose dogs (Grand Forks Herald 12.28.2008), an interesting profile of North Dakota's 80 or so mostly non-lawyer judges serving nearly 100 municipal courts in small towns across North Dakota, where (as I understand it) most of the kids grow up dreaming of the occasional trip to "Minn-ah-poe-lis." One of the judges profiled, a lawyer, took his first judgeship in 1988 because he had use for the extra $100 a month the part-time job paid. Now he says he does it because it's a way of making a difference in people's lives.
A judge resigns quietly -- then newspaper speculates why. "Sometimes an accusation of improper behavior by a judge sets off a clamor of publicity, as with the racially charged tirade that Superior Court Judge E. Curtissa Cofield allegedly inflicted on police officers who arrested her on drunken-driving charges in October. Then there's the quiet case of Superior Court Judge Kevin E. Booth of Niantic...." More (Hartford Courant - Jon Lender, Government Watch 12.28.2008). Comment. The reporter says the judge, 66, resigned "partly as a result of a female court employee's unpublicized accusations dating back to 2001 that he made inappropriate comments to her and other women at work." Note that the word used is "accusations." An accusation is just that, an accusation, not proof.
Man gets prison term for stealing from judges association. "A Nashua man who admitted to tapping the accounts of a group that certifies beer judges will pay back $43,139 and serve 12 weeks in federal prison, a judge has ordered.... [The defendant, who was the group's treasurer, will] spend one week a month in federal prison for 12 months, starting in February...[and] will remain on probation for five years, he said." More (Nashua Telegraph - NH 12.28.2008).
Making federal courts in MN accessible and affordable. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has a story today profiling a program to provide legal assistance to unrepresented people who file suits in federal court in MN every year, about 300 or ten per cent of the total caseload. The story profiles the saga of one woman who is seeking the assistance of the court because she believes another woman is "using voodoo to steal her husband and ruin her life." More (Star-Tribune 12.28.2008).
Beloved shoe-shiner, courthouse icon, dies; burial delayed by lack of funds. "Clarence 'Buddy' Crumble, the man who shined shoes inside the Sedgwick County Courthouse [in Wichita, KS] for much of his life, has died...." More (KAKE.Com 12.27.2008). According to KAKE and other news sources, when courthouse officials moved Crumble's stand to the basement when they renovated the main floor lobby area, his business began to deteriorate. In 2005 he complained and a number of lawyers and other courthouse regulars rallied to his cause, with the result that he was able to negotiate a new lease and move his stand back to the lobby. The obituaries for Crumble, who was 78, are all noting his love of jazz. A great-nephew is quoted saying that Crumble, who shined thousands of shoes over his more than 30 years at his courthouse stand, didn't have any life insurance and didn't leave enough money for a proper burial. The family "has already had to delay the funeral once because of short funds" but "[t]hey're hoping to raise enough over the weekend to give Crumble a proper burial on Monday morning." See, in addition to the KAKE story, the excellent one in the Wichita Eagle (12.17.2008), which also provides a gallery or web-site 'slide-show' of ten photos of Crumble featured in the Eagle over the years. Comment. a) My late dad's maternal grandfather, C.J. Myhre, was a Norwegian immigrant shoemaker who ran his business in Austin, MN. I was delighted, not ashamed, when I unearthed a 1916 news story in the Austin paper detailing that Myhre, then 69, was caught running a "blind pig" in his son's barber shop in Austin, but I was saddened when I learned in reading the next issue that the stress of the arrest and the proceedings leading to his pleading guilty triggered a fatal heart attack. b) Shoeshine stands were everywhere present in my small-town MN youth. I still remember the one-seater stand that was moved outside the Paris Hotel Barber Shop on summer Saturday nights in the early 1950s, when the stores were open and the town was filled to the brim with farmers taking a break from work at week's end. And I remember in the mid-1960s regularly walking from Harvard Law School to Harvard Sq. of a Friday or Saturday afternoon to get a pre-date shoeshine in a multi-stand shop a few doors' north of the main entrance to the Harvard Co-op on Mass. Ave. One day the guy in the chair next to the one I was seated in was a Harvard prof with a common touch who later became a Senator from N.Y., Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Alas, Moynihan is dead and shoeshine stands are pretty much a thing of the past, even in courthouses and hotels and barber shops. Further reading. On the place of non-lawyers in making courthouses better places, see, among many other relevant postings, the following ones, posted conveniently, one right after the other, at this location:
a) Clint Stephens, courthouse custodian -- and more. b) Might Mr. Stephens' flowers lead to better government? c) Longtime courthouse janitor saunters into retirement. d) Justice Todd and the janitors of the world.
Update to 'Clerk of Court Laura Brent's battle with the judges.' In October we posted a piece describing embattled Yellowstone County Clerk of District Court Laura Brent's petitioning the state Supreme Court to throw out a number of orders issued against her by the county's five district court judges directing changes in how Brent runs her office. Brent claimed the judges had threatened her with contempt, which the judges denied. We also noted that Brent, a Republican, was facing a challenge in the general election from Democrat Carol Muessig. In our comment we quoted BurtLaw Rule-of-Thumb No. 2437.45(2): "In a power struggle between a judge and a clerk, the judge will prevail." KXMC in Minot is reporting that SCOMT has dismissed Clerk Brent's petition on mootness grounds because she was defeated in the election and because the judges "assured Brent in sworn affidavits that they would not hold in her contempt during her remaining time in office."
Suspected drunk driver smashes into courthouse. "Early Sunday morning, a suspected drunken driver crashed into the front of the Judicial Center at 45 N. George St. in York, police said...According to police, [the suspect] was northbound on George Street about 5:40 a.m. when he made a right-hand turn. His 1993 Toyota Camry went over the curb, knocked down a lamp post, slipped between two wide brick pillars to the right of the entrance and crashed into the wall outside the county Prothonotary's office...." More (York Daily Record - PA 12.27.2008).
Too old to serve as judges, retired judges are called on during crisis. "The backlog of Riverside County civil cases has inspired six retired judges to dust off their robes and get to work -- for free...[T]he judges will plow through 31,000 pending civil matters, include a backlog of 43 cases 4 1/2 years or older. By law, a case can be dismissed if it hasn't been tried within five years...." More (CBS47.TV 12.27.2008). Comment. Discriminatory, short-sighted provisions across the country mandate retirement of judges, typically at 70. Back in 2000 I wrote, in part, that mandatory retirement "unfairly treats all members of a group as having the same feature that some or even most members of a group are thought to have. In any event, although the stereotypes supporting the arguments advanced by the defenders [of mandatory retirement] wouldn't support the discriminatory mandatory retirement rule for judges even if they were founded on fact, they turn out to be unfounded. Indeed, it turns out that mandatory retirement is forcing the retirement of the wisest, most experienced and, in many cases, most productive, most reliable, even healthiest judges...." BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges. Mandatory retirement is also bad economic policy. As I wrote in 2000, "Not only does mandatory retirement increase the likelihood that more and more of our judges will be relatively young and short on experience, but it results in a system that arguably is costlier in economic terms than a nondiscriminatory system. When a judge retires at 70, because required to do so, the judge rightly begins to draw on his or her pension even if the judge returns to private practice and earns a second income. Not only does 'the state,' through the pension plan, have to pay a large pension to that mandatorily-retired-but-able judge, but it has to pay a full salary to the new judge who replaces the retired judge. And, more importantly, the state loses the accumulated wisdom and services of that judge and gets in exchange, more often than not these days, a very young judge who, as a cynic like Wilde might say, is more than happy to provide the state with the full benefits of his or her inexperience." See, also, BurtLaw's Law and Judicial Economics. Given what I've just said, perhaps you'll understand why I can't help being amused by the sight of a troubled judiciary turning, in a time of economic crisis and suffocating judicial backlogs, to a bunch of volunteer retired judges for rescue. Further reading. On a recent proposal of mine suggesting use of retired judges and lawyers as volunteers to help troubled courts in the current economic crisis, see my recent extended commentary at Retiree's been doing pro bono courthouse duty for 21 years (The Daily Judge 12.06.2008).
Better courts and a better economy through golf? After hitting his shot into a wooded area off the fairway, Pollard walked ahead to retrieve his ball. Trude, his playing partner, took his shot. It, too, headed toward the wooded area, where Pollard was locating his ball. Trude shouted, "Watch out, Errol" or "Watch it, Errol." The ball ricocheted off a tree and struck Pollard, causing partial loss of vision in his right eye. The trial judge dismissed Pollard's claim for damages, saying Pollard knew of the danger of going ahead before Trude shot. Now the court of appeals has upheld the dismissal. Held, Trude didn't breach his duty of care: "Watch out" isn't "Fore," but it was adequate to satisfy Trude's duty. But the court wisely warned golfers all across Australia that failure to shout such a warning after hitting a wayward shot can lead to liability for damages. More (Courier-Mail - Australia 12.26.2008). Comments. a) One afternoon back in the 1950s, I was playing golf on the old local nine-hole course (it's now an 18-holer) in my hometown, Benson, Minnesota, with my buddy, Richard ("Matty") Mattson. After hitting my ball but before Matty hit his, I "did a Pollard," that is, I walked ahead to find my ball in the left rough before Matty hit his shot. Rich then hit a feeble shot (atypical for him, because he was one of the greatest golfers in the history of the Benson summer recreation program) in my direction. I can't remember if he yelled "Fore!" I assume he did. What I do remember is I could have gotten out of the way but I instantly and malevolently chose not to; instead, I let it hit me, then reacted by falling down and feigning unconsciousness. Rich was fooled by my bad acting and came running forward to tend to me. After not moving for a brief period, I "came to" and let him in on the joke. ("Ha, ha, Matty, fooled you!") b) The father of my ex-wife, the late John M. Kitchen, former head of the Indianapolis Bar and former president of his beloved Indianapolis golf club, with whom I played many sober but friendly rounds of golf on the lovely Harbor Point Golf Course overlooking Little Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan in Harbor Springs, Michigan, used to say that one could tell a lot about a man's character & temperament by the way he responded to the ups & downs of golf. Mr. K. also loved to point out that Bobby Jones, the great gentleman of golf who designed Augusta National, where The Masters is played, was a Harvard grad & a first-class lawyer. The nicest thing Mr. K. ever said to me was that he admired the way I conducted myself in the face of regular misfortune on the course. The nicest thing I ever did for him (& for his descendants) was take a series of sequence still shots of his swing and film a 3-minute movie of him demonstrating for his descendants the proper grip, proper form, etc. I also saved a detailed set of handwritten notes he wrote and gave me to accompany the film on the proper technique of "the swing." Mr. K. carried a copy of The Rules of Golf with him on the course the way Justice Hugo Black carried a copy of the U.S. Constitution with him in his suitcoat pocket. Those beloved Rules, he was proud to remind me, were the product of golfers trained in the law. He was justified in his pride in the rules and was right in schooling me in them. c) Given that lawyers & judges have always played such a prominent role in golf (it is, indeed, our game, and don't you ever let anyone forget it), it ought not surprise anyone that judges give advice to golfers or that properly law-trained golfers in turn give advice to judges. Not only were the Rules of Golf written by lawyer types, but they read like statutes -- and, I might add, are interpreted accordingly. Moreover, there is no game that tests one's temperament and trains one's psyche for judging more than golf. If you lose your cool on the golf course and throw your clubs, etc., chances are you won't make a good judge -- unless you learn to change your ways. Can a golfer prone to dumping his bag into the nearest body of water after a bad shot learn to keep his temper in check? I believe that with practice it can be done. But it must be done if one aspires to be an excellent judge. Which is why we at BurtLaw's The Daily Judge are establishing a two-week intensive course for judges and judicial wannabe's titled simply "Golfing Your Way to Judicial Stardom." Cost of tuition? A modest $5,000 (green fees, accomodations, and meals extra). d) Might our BurtLaw Golf-Your-Way-to-Judicial-Stardom Golf Academy aid in economic recovery? Perhaps once states are restored to economic good health, court administrators will reimburse judges for their golf academy tuition costs and expenses. Until then, we're hoping President Obama, a fellow law school alumnus and a lover of the game himself, will include our modestly-priced short course as one of the qualified educational programs in his creative economic stimulus package. Investing in our program is, from a cost-benefit economic stimulus standpoint, a no-brainer "three-fer" in that it i) will stimulate the economy, ii) will give our overworked judges a needed break, and -- and this is the best part -- iii) will improve the quality of our courts, turning all sub-par or mediocre or just-average judges (who can't even play bogie golf, much less control their tempers) into above-average, even great, judges (who also can play par, even sub-par golf). Need I say more?
Nevada judges are getting $30,000 pay raise as state's budget woes increase. "Even amid the state's budget woes, Nevada judges are set to receive a $30,000 annual pay raise...." More (LegalNewsLine 12.25.2008). Comment. The money going toward the hefty judicial pay hikes, an estimated $2.8 million annually, would fund quite a few additional judgeships at the old pay rate. Meanwhile, a) a panel in MD is recommending a $40,000 judicial pay hike instituted over four years but a prominent legislator says the proposal is unlikely to win support (Washington Post 12.27.2008), and b) at least one state, Utah, is dealing with economic hard times by letting judicial vacancies go unfilled (Salt Lake Tribune 12.22.2008).
Judge with cancer likens liking his diet to dog's liking Purina-brand Dog Chow. "I liken it to that dog and you feed him out of that 50-pound bag of Purina Dog Chow. You think, how can that dog eat that every night. Not only does the dog eat it, but when you put the bowl down at 5:00, he or she can't wait to get to the bowl and to lap it all down. Well, that's pretty much how I feel about my food." -- Federal Judge Tucker Melancon of Lafayette, LA on the raw food diet his wife, sculptor Diana Moore, persuaded him to follow in an attempt to prevent a recurrence of his cancer, first diagnosed in 2003. More (WAFB 12.25.2008). Comment. I feed Jane, my border collie pal and personal trainer, twice a day -- dry dog food on a paper plate. She gobbles it down quickly, obsessively, and sometimes returns to the paper plate and licks it, even starts to chew it. Sometimes I think the typical dry dog food diet is nutritionally superior to that most humans eat.
Judge is charged with menacing her hubby with knife. "A Broome County justice charged with holding a knife to her husband's throat during a domestic dispute can continue acting as a town judge. New York State Police charged Town of Maine Justice Nicole Post with second- degree menacing, a misdemeanor...." Her hubby is charged with second-degree misdemeanor harassment. More (Binghampton Press 12.25.2008). Comment. I remind our readers, a charge is just that, a charge.
Judge-to-be sustains gun shot wound in head; expected to survive. "La Porte County Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Evans sustained a gunshot wound to the head Tuesday. Indications are the 34-year-old Evans, who in November was elected judge of La Porte Superior Court 3, was expected to survive, said La Porte County Prosecutor Rob Beckman. More (Michigan City News-Dispatch - IND 12.24.2008). Her husband is quoted saying she accidentally shot herself while handling the gun, which she didn't know was loaded. More (Michigan City News-Dispatch - IND 12.24.2008).
ACLU says rent-a-judge proposal would create two-tiered system of justice. "The ACLU is opposing a state Supreme Court proposal that would allow litigants in civil cases to hire retired judges to hear cases in secret, charging the process would create a 'two-tiered system of justice' that 'allows for swift resolution of cases only for those wealthy enough to afford it.'" More (Providence Journal 12.24.2008).
A profile of a drunken Mississippi territorial judge. The judge's name was Peter Bryan Bruin. Stanley Nelson's profile, Booze cost Bruin judgeship, but his good name survived, appears in the Christmas Eve edition of The Concordia Sentinel ("Covering Louisiana's Delta since 1876").
Appeals court tosses conviction over trial judge's refusal to provide complete record. "The 11th District Ohio Court of Appeals has thrown out an Aurora man's DUI conviction and strongly criticized the trial judge[, John Plough of Portage County Municipal Court,] for repeatedly refusing to provide a complete trial transcript...The court noted that '[Plough] has a documented history of failing to provide a complete record on appeal'...Court officials confirmed last year that court stenographers are reluctant to transcribe Plough's audio recordings of his proceedings because there are so many apparent gaps that they cannot certify the accuracy of their transcriptions...." More (Cleveland Plain Dealer 12.24.2008). Comment. The Plain Dealer says that Judge Plough "has generated a long list of controversies since he became a judge in 2005...includ[ing] letting his dogs roam freely in the Kent courthouse, jailing a public defender, which drew the anger of criminal defense attorneys across the nation, and using a court computer to access entertainment, sports and betting Web sites." For those who have nothing better to do on Christmas Eve but read about Judge Plough, here is a link to the results of a Google search for 'Judge John Plough.'
Judge resigns over single mistake in long career. "A senior judge has resigned after causing the collapse of a rape trial he was presiding over by phoning the prosecution barrister to pass on advice...." Judge Frank Chapman, tired after a long week presiding over a rape trial, left a voice message for the barrister prosecuting the case, Simon Davis, that he needed a medical witness if he wanted to prove his case. Davis notified defendant's barrister and the two then approached Judge Chapman about his breach of the code. According to The Daily Mail's Christmas Eve report of the matter, "Judge Chapman admitted his mistake before swiftly falling on his sword, bringing a 40-year legal career to an ignominious end." Comment. Really, was resignation necessary?
Images of Springing in the Darkness of December. I suppose it says something about me that I don't care that much for Christmas as a holiday (as either a church or secular holiday -- can one separate the two anymore?). But I love the Lenten season -- all of it, Ash Wednesday, the Wednesday evening church services, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. I recall the wonderful Wednesday evening services of my youth, presided over by Rev. Harold S. Nasheim, and the Lenten songs ("Beneath the Cross of Jesus" and "In the Cross of Christ I Glory"). I recall one year sitting with my friend Paul through the entire 2&1/2-(or was it 3-)hour "Seven Last Words" service at Our Redeemer's Lutheran in Benson, MN. And I recall somehow feeling wonderfully "purified" as I left church on Easter Sunday ("Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Halleleujah!"). I recall, with warmth, attending with my kids all of the Holy Week services at Colonial Church of Edina, MN in 1994, the last year that Dr. Arhur Rouner was that church's pastor. He was, he said, "an Easter-sort of Christian." Aware as I am of all my faults, I hesitate to proclaim myself much of anything. But if I were bold enough to say it, I'd say I, too, am "an Easter-sort of Christian." Perhaps that's why this great carol by Robert Herrick (1591-1674), with its images of Springtime in the darkest time of the year, resonates with me [I thank the poet, Robert Pinsky, for bringing it to my attention in Slate (12.23.2008)]:
A Christmas Carol, Sung To The King In The Presence At White-Hall
What sweeter music can we bring,
Than a carol, for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!
Heart, ear, and eye, and everything.
Awake! the while the active finger
Runs division with the singer.
Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honor to this day,
That sees December turned to May.
If we may ask the reason, say
The why, and wherefore, all things here
Seem like the springtime of the year?
Why does the chilling Winter's morn
Smile, like a field beset with corn?
Or smell, like to a mead new-shorn,
Thus, on the sudden?
Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
'Tis He is born, whose quickening birth
Gives life and luster, public mirth,
To heaven, and the under-earth.
We see Him come, and know Him ours,
Who, with His sunshine, and His showers,
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.
The darling of the world is come,
And fit it is, we find a room
To welcome Him. The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the heart,
Which we will give Him; and bequeath
This holly, and this ivy wreath,
To do Him honor; who's our King,
And Lord of all this reveling.
If you watch the show, you can be a 'judge.' "For the first time ever, Rose Parade-watchers will have a chance to do more than just cheer for their favorite floats in 2009. The world-wide audience will be on-line judges for a new 'Viewer's Choice Award.'" More (Pasadena Star News 12.23.2008). Comment. As I've long entertained Walter Mitty dreams of judicial greatness, this clinches it -- I'll be watching...no, I'll be judging!
The judicial ripeness doctrine. "An eight-year old Saudi Arabian girl who was married off by her father to a 58-year-old man has been told [by a Saudi judge] she cannot divorce her husband until she reaches puberty...." More (UK Guardian 12.23.2008). Comment. Ripe enough to get married off but not ripe enough to seek a divorce. Further reading. Ripeness (Wikipedia).
How hospitals use courts to pursue people who can't pay their bills. "The court processes can overwhelm debtors, who rarely have lawyers to assist them and often don't even try to defend themselves. At the 'rocket docket' and other settlement forums, patients negotiating against hospital lawyers 'have no comprehension of the potential defenses that they may have,' said [University of Maryland law professor and former Legal Aid lawyer Michael] Millemann, also a former chief of the civil division of the Maryland attorney general's office...." -- From the first (12.22.2008) in a series of reports in the Baltimore Sun examining debt collection practices by Maryland hospitals.
Not even an 'eviction court' marshal-like creature is stirring. "It may be one of the longest-running, least-known and most mysterious acts of gift-giving in New York City. On Monday, adhering to a tradition they have honored for decades, the people who evict New Yorkers from their apartments begin a two-week holiday. An eviction moratorium is 'one of those myths that take on the force of law,' said Judge Jaya K. Madhavan of Housing Court. The marshals, as they are known, have been taking the year-end break for so long that no one knows precisely when, or why, the custom began...." More (NYT 12.22.2008). Comment. May I suggest that the spirit or "secret" of Christmas is, oh, I don't know quite how to put it but I'll give it a shot -- let me just say it's not the t'ings, ya know, that ya do at Christmas, but, but, the Christmassy t'ings ya do all yer t'roo. Further reading. Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, The Secret of Christmas (Performed by Bing Crosby in the movie Say One for Me 1959).
Court upholds election ousting incumbent judge, suspends law license of winner. "Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Richard Wennet won't get a second chance to persuade voters he deserves a fifth term. Without comment, the First District Court of Appeals today upheld a lower court decision that found the results of a recount-plagued August primary were valid...However, it is still unclear whether [the winner, William] Abramson will assume the bench next month as planned. In an unprecedented move, the high court on Wednesday stripped Abramson of his license to practice law for 91 days and gave him 10 days to close his practice...." More (Palm Beach Post 12.19.2008). Further reading. Links to my earlier postings regarding the close election and the controversy that undoubtedly played a role in Judge Wennet's loss may be found at Judge Wennet appeals ruling in disputed recount (The Daily Judge 11.18.2008). Updates. A judge-elect in N.Y. state, Nora S. Anderson, is facing a problem similar to that faced by Judge-elect Abramson. Specifically, she is facing charges she violated campaign finance laws. See, Suspension ordered for judge-elect (NYT 12.30.2008). And Wisconsin faced a not dissimilar issue in re a newly-elected SCOTWI justice, Annette Ziegler. See, this report in the ABA Journal (05.19.2008).
Annals of so-called merit-based judicial selection panels -- a descent into mediocrity? "Rocked by scandals over big-money politicking in elections for seats on the state's highest bench, New York established merit selection for Court of Appeals judges three decades ago. The power to fill vacancies on the [state's highest] court was removed from voters and given to the governor, with the promise that the chief executive would name the best and the brightest. To ensure the promise was kept, the Legislature gave a 12-member commission responsibility for recruiting top talent, screening applicants and forwarding the cream of the crop to the governor, who is limited to choosing from among nominees. It was a great idea. It used to work. Now it's a mess...." Giants no more: New York's once-august judge-picking panel has descended beneath mediocrity (N.Y. Daily News - Editorial 12.21.2008). Comment. Not sure why, but some lines from Robert Frost come to me: "What begins in felicity...ends in publicity." Interview with Randall Jarrell (Library of Congress 1959). The line, I think, was a "play" on words on his earlier line in his great essay The Figure a Poem Makes: "A poem begins in felicity and ends in wisdom." The New York State experiment with judicial selection commissions is typical of that of other states that have adopted the Missouri Plan, a/k/a "Ozark State Plan," or a variant thereof. "Merit" selection is enthusiastically promoted by breathless self-styled "good government types." Its adoption invariably is accompanied by the elimination of a role for voters ("Those rubes!") in judicial selection, with the possibility of real elections being replaced by the certainty of fake one-candidate retention elections. What typically begins in felicity and promise of a new millenium for the judiciary rather typically ends with the realization by voters that they've been "taken" and that the new system isn't better but arguably worse. But no one wants to accept this "wisdom." No one wants to admit the whole experiment was a mistake and that the resulting judiciary ain't as good. No one wants to go back to the old way -- even if the old way produced a better judiciary -- case in point: New York, which once had Giants like Cardozo on its top court. No, the problem must be one that can be fixed by tinkering with the makeup and procedures of the commission. And so, with this faux "wisdom," the tinkering begins, something that's happening in state after state with the Ozark State Plan. Maybe, just maybe, voters in states like Minnesota, with its top notch judiciary, ought to be a tad skeptical when the gushing reformers come a-blabbing about the threats judicial elections pose and about the need for "reform." Or, to rely on another bit of aphoristic wisdom: they ought to be careful what they wish for, because they just might get it but not in the way they thought they'd get it. Further reading. Since I don't have any big bucks from the likes of George Soros supporting my opposition to the so-called Quie Plan to follow the Ozark State Plan, I link to my essay as often as I can for the convenience of not only Minnesota readers but also of voters in other states who are being similarly "courted" to give up their role in judicial selection: Strib. urges longer terms for judges, no role for voters in their selection. Following my essay you will find updated links to many but not all of my earlier as well as later postings relevant to this important public policy question.
Your high-profile trial fashion reporter. "The one constant source of information on the [retrial of Phil Spector] has been the redoubtable Betsy Ross, who blogs under the name of Sprocket. In between running her own business designing and manufacturing purses and handbags, Ross has managed to attend virtually every day of the proceedings so far, filing exhaustively detailed reports, not only of the legal arguments but of the fashion statements being made in the courtroom. It was Ross who astutely noted that one juror has been coming to court wearing a Sun records t-shirt and, on one occasion, an Easy Rider t-shirt. The Sun sound was an early influence on Spector as a producer, and, of course, he appeared in Easy Rider. Is there is message here?" -- Mike Brown, blogging in the UK Telegraph (12.19.2008). Ross' blog is titled 'Trials & Tribulations -- Daily life of a true crime junkie.' She also runs a sewing blog. She describes herself as "Seamstress extraordinaire, bodyworker, true crime junkie and trial watcher."
Spector's wife also maintains a website and has posted unflattering pictures of "Sprocket." Comment. Links to some of my many postings on "courthouse fashion" and related subjects, including "judicial fashion," may be found at Bluegrass courts nix short shorts (The Daily Judge 08.22.2008).
Chief judge says judges are exempt furloughs for other court employees. "Maryland's highest-ranking judge has exempted other judges from taking the furloughs -- or pay cuts --- he ordered for all other state-funded court employees. Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert Bell wrote in a Thursday order that state law does not allow him to order his fellow judges to take the pay cut...." More (Baltimore Examiner 12.21.2008). Comments. a) Most states have constitutional provisions saying a judge's pay may not be diminished during his term of office. In an effort to save the jobs of some folks who are "lower" on the court system status pole, people who earn perhaps one-fifth or one-sixth of what judges with their job security make, a plan was proposed in Massachusetts back during the 2002 budget crisis that included judges, those Brahmins of the system, voluntarily sharing in the pain of temporary pay cuts. Alas, a large percentage of them refused to cooperate. See, How one state's judiciary is dealing with funding cut (BurtLaw on Politics at Law And Everything Else 03.20.2002). Surprised? b) Apart from whether judges should share in the pain, should courts in general share in the pain -- or are they, too, "special"? See, my extended comments at Retiree's been doing pro bono courthouse duty for 21 years (The Daily Judge 12.06.2008). Update. Chief Judge Robert Bell now is proposing a way around the "no pay cut" hurdle: he's proposing "taking away five of the 27 days that state judges receive for leave in 2009." More (Baltimore Examiner 12.24.2008).
Annals of judges' kids. A number of stories:
a) "The son of Duval County's chief judge was in critical condition after being in a single-vehicle wreck early Friday morning...." The judge is Donald Moran, Jr., and his injured son is Donald Moran III. More (MSNBC 12.20.2008).
b) "A mother and her two children were found shot to death in their North Dallas home Friday morning, leading police into a winding investigation with suspects ranging from possible marauding home invaders to the mother herself...." The mother, Jeanmarie Geis, 52, was the daughter of the late District Judge Mark Tolle. More (Dallas Morning News 12.20.2008). Update. Death of judge's daughter and kids is ruled a double murder/suicide (Fort Worth Star-Telegram 12.31.2008).
d) "Convicted last year of intoxication manslaughter for the death of her boyfriend, [Elizabeth Shelton,] the 21-year-old daughter of a state district judge[, Pat Shelton,] is suing the truck driver she ran into during a drunken driving crash...." More (Houston Chronicle 12.19.2008).
Annals of tough, resilient -- even heroic -- judges:
a) A Florida judge who was hit by car is already out of hospital. "Circuit Judge Rochelle Curley was on her way to work Thursday morning in the crosswalk near the Sarasota County Courthouse when she was hit by a car. She was briefly hospitalized. Doctors took X-rays and found no broken bones..." A family friend, Bob Stone, is quoted as saying "She is tough." More (Sarasota Herald-Tribune 12.19.2008).
b) A PA judge who was a victim of road rage incident says he was scared. "'I was scared to death.' Berks County Judge Stephen B. Lieberman said he thought an enraged motorist who had run him down in the 400 block of Penn Avenue in West Reading was coming back to finish the job. 'I was trying to crawl under the front of my car,' the 56-year-old Lieberman said Thursday from Reading Hospital, where he was in fair condition with back, leg and foot injuries. 'I thought he was going to come back and run me over.'" More (Reading Eagle 12.19.2008).
c) Judge is shot in mall robbery but he's back on bench already. "Jefferson County Surrogate Court Judge Peter A. Schwerzmann was the victim of the armed robbery attempt Thursday evening at Salmon Run Mall...Judge Schwerzmann and his wife, Amy, had left a mall entrance between Best Buy and Gander Mountain when they were approached by a...man [who] displayed what appeared to be a handgun and demanded Judge Schwerzmann's wallet. Police said the judge was shot in the face, head and hand, but suffered no serious injury. He was treated at the scene. It is believed the gun may have been a pellet or BB gun...." More (Watertown Daily Times 12.20.2008). Comment. He was back on the bench the next day. Like a Gary Cooper hero of old, he declined comment. Cf., Teddy Roosevelt, shot in chest by anarchist, finishes speech (NYT 10.15.1912). For more on TR-tough judges who are refuse to be laid low by two-bit criminals and street thugs, read on....
d) Super-hero judge chases, tackles alleged thief. "The judge had just signed a narcotics search warrant for Chicago cops when he spotted the crooks Thursday night. They were rummaging through his wife's car in their North Center neighborhood. So Cook County Judge Nicholas Ford gave chase...When the chase finally ended, it was in the front yard of Ford's barber of 10 years...." Judge Chase's wife is also a judge, Cook County Judge Callie Baird. More (Chicago Sun-Times 12.20.2008). Comment. Stories like this remind me of the story of the overweight law school dean as superhero. As a student at Harvard Law School in the 1960's, I became fond of the school's great tunnel system, connecting all the class & office & library buildings. Although it was before my time, I have it on reliable hearsay that the legendary, and legendarily-large and therefore aptly-named (he was Nebraska-bred and corn-fed), Roscoe Pound (1870-1964), who was Dean from 1916-1936, once hid out in the tunnels at night & "tackled" a thief who'd been taking things from student lockers. For those of our readers who still like "coloring" with crayons, I suggest clicking on the thumbnail image of Pound for a printable "coloring book" image of Pound provided by the nice folks of the Nebraska State Historical Society.
e) Latest on Judge Dredd. "[The British sci-fi magazine,] 2000 AD...has announced a new [Judge] Dredd movie [will] start production in 2009...[Judge] Dredd is a law enforcement officer in a violent city of the future where uniformed Judges combine the powers of police, judge, jury and executioner. Dredd and his fellow Judges are empowered to arrest, sentence and even execute criminals on the spot...." More (San Francisco Luxury News 12.19.2008).
Annals of merit-based judicial appointment commissions. "A Cuban-American lawyer from Miami with strong Republican political connections has been added to the pool of nominees for a Florida Supreme Court vacancy after Gov. Charlie Crist asked for more diversity. A sharply divided Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission on Thursday announced it voted to include Frank Jimenez, now the Navy's general counsel. Dissenting commissioners argued the governor's request had politicized the process...." More (Miami Herald 12.19.2008). Comment. Mr. Jiminez is a former lawyer for Gov. Jeb Bush.
BurtLaw compares his prognostications with those of world-class economists. "The revelation that Bernard Madoff -- brilliant investor (or so almost everyone thought), philanthropist, pillar of the community -- was a phony has shocked the world, and understandably so. The scale of his alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme is hard to comprehend. Yet surely I'm not the only person to ask the obvious question: How different, really, is Mr. Madoff's tale from the story of the investment industry as a whole?...[H]ow different is what Wall Street in general did from the Madoff affair?...Think of the way almost everyone important missed the warning signs of an impending crisis. How was that possible?" -- From Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman's column on 'America's Ponzi Era' (a/k/a 'The Madoff Economy') (NYT 12.19.2008). Comment. I never took a course in economics in college. But I've posted a number of right-on pieces over the years in which I, inter alia, foresaw the bursting of both the Dot.Com Bubble and the bursting of the more recent Real Estate Bubble. Re our economy being a "Ponzi economy," here's what I wrote last February:
Sometimes I think our entire economy is a giant Ponzi scheme that explodes every five or ten years, with the biggest victims being those who buy in too late and the biggest winners being those who get out early enough and with enough to start another Ponzi cycle all over again. Those who practice the old-fashioned "middle-class virtues" of saving, postponing gratification, paying in cash, being prudent in investments, saving for the kids' college, paying in full for the kids' college, planning for old age, etc., are finding that these virtues aren't worth as much as they used to be.
If on any weekday you drive up and down the streets of the suburb in which I live, you'll see truck after truck belonging to this or that home remodeling company. Thanks to President Bush's tax cuts, which favored people with high incomes, these people have money to remodel their already more-than-adequate homes. Contractors are buying and tearing down upper-bracket houses and replacing them with tasteless (in my opinion) "McMansions" to sell for McMillions of dollars. In 1999 Princeton University Press published a book titled Luxury Fever: Money and Happiness in an Era of Excess, in which the author, R.H. Frank, coined the expression "luxury fever" to apply to the resurgence in the 1990's of what Thorstein Veblen, the great Norwegian-American economist/sociologist termed "conspicuous consumption." It's all about the desire of small people to convince themselves and others of their own bigness -- bigness in cars (they're called SUV's), bigness in boats, bigness in breasts (they're fake), bigness in houses, bigness in this, that and everything. And it's continuing. But every bubble eventually bursts. And every luxury comes with a price that eventually must be paid. All of which is why that wise Spartan moralist, Justice Brandeis, said that "the worst" was not the Crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression of the 1930's but the sad excesses that preceded and led to the Crash....
c) Here's an excerpt from an e-mail message dated 12.02.1999 that I sent to the CEO of a Massachusetts-based software corporation whose technical advice I appreciated: "Reading re bankruptcy of [a Boston company] today..., I couldn't help think we'll be reading re lots of such bankruptcies sooner rather than later of many of the big-ad-spending 'dot.com' companies. Bubbles just waiting to burst...The only question in my mind is whose 'ox will be gored' when the inevitable crash in these stocks comes...."
A little over a year ago I received e-mail correspondence from a 35-year-old Harvard graduate I have known since 1997, a part-time actress who makes her living as an independent contractor doing computer programming. Last winter she was into "day trading" using her computer and was all giddy over the money she was making on tech stocks. I suggested, in a fatherly way, that she was just helping to blow up a big speculative bubble, driving up the prices of tech stocks that already were highly overvalued, and that if she didn't get hurt, she'd at best be profiting from the gullibility of others who did get hurt once the bubble burst. I didn't hear from her again until recently, when she wrote and said she hadn't responded because my warning had irked her. She said she wished she had listened because she wound up losing her...well, a fair amount of money, putting her in debt...Many of those who invested heavily in dot.com companies and the likes of Enron, people who were shocked when the speculative bubble burst, must not have read their 11th grade American History text carefully.
MPs accuse Brit courts of allowing Soviet-style libel actions to stifle free speech. "Lawyers and judges were accused by MPs yesterday of using 'Soviet-style' English libel laws to help the rich and powerful to hide their secrets. The Saudi financier Khalid bin Mahfouz was condemned as a 'libel tourist' for persuading a London judge to fine an American author over a book never sold in Britain. The British-Iraqi businessman Nadhmi Auchi, who has a conviction for corruption in France and is linked to a fundraiser for Barack Obama, was accused of using the law to stifle debate...." More (UK Times 12.19.2008). Further reading on British libel tourism. Graydon Carter, Roman Holiday -- How I spent my summer vacation in London being sued by Roman Polanski -- and what I learned about 'solicitors,' pub food, and the British chattering class (Vanity Fair 09.19.2005). Wikipedia summary of the Polanski lawsuit. 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've 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).
Judge who won libel case against newspaper is reprimanded. "[MA's] highest court publicly reprimanded Superior Court Judge Ernest B. Murphy yesterday for writing threatening letters [on court stationery] to the publisher of the Boston Herald after winning a $2 million libel verdict against the newspaper...." More (Boston Globe 12.19.2008). Earlier. Links to my earlier postings regarding this saga may be found at Controversial Boston judge agrees to step down (The Daily Judge 08.21.2008).
SCOFLA will publicly reprimand appeals judge for content of written judicial opinion. "For the first time, the Florida Supreme Court will discipline a judge for something he wrote in a court opinion. The high court on Thursday ordered a public reprimand for Judge Michael E. Allen of the 1st District Court of Appeal, because he questioned the ethics of a fellow judge in a written opinion. Five members of the state's high court, in an unsigned opinion, ordered Allen to appear before them for a reprimand...." More (St. Petersburg Times 12.19.2008). Earlier. Annals of judicial colleageality (The Daily Judge 02.09.2008); Judge is charged with misconduct for criticizing colleague in written opinion (The Daily Judge 05.04.2007). Comment. I think SCOFLA got it way wrong. Allen, as judge of a multi-judge appeals court, may have breached one's notion of colleageal ettiquette in criticizing in an opinion a fellow judge's failure to recuse, but I don't believe what he did constitutes judicial "misconduct." See, U.S. Const., Amend. I.
Some courts aren't cooperating fully in swearing in new citizens. Federal district courts in some many districts, including busier districts like Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and New York, have exclusive jurisdiction over naturalization ceremonies. Most of the courts with exclusive jurisdiction are flexible in scheduling more ceremonies if needed to accommodate a glut of people who have otherwise completed the naturalization process and are ready for swearing-in, and if they can't meet the demand they allow the immigration agency to assist them by swearing in some of the applicants at district offices. But not all district courts are cooperative. According to an ombudsman's report:
In one of USCIS' largest districts where the court retains exclusive oath ceremony jurisdiction, the court refused to schedule sufficient additional ceremonies to accommodate the large number of naturalization applicants who had completed processing in Fall 2008, and refused to allow USCIS to administratively naturalize these applicants. As a result, 1,951 individuals did not receive the oath in time to register to vote in the 2008 elections, despite USCIS having completed processing and communicated its willingness to quickly plan additional ceremonies with the court. The District Director approached the court repeatedly requesting additional ceremonies and was told the court had already "done more than its share." When the District Director suggested USCIS be permitted to hold administrative ceremonies the court "vehemently refused," noting that these persons were not 45 days out from approval; these persons were instead scheduled for court ceremonies in November 2008 [i.e., after the election].
Comments. a) Some cynics believe some judges have refused to accept the agency's assistance because they don't want to lose the swearing-in fee of $14.09 their district receives for each individual who is sworn in. I'm not a cynic but I am a Holmesean skeptic. Might it be that some judges are just being dinks? I'm not saying that's the case, but one should never exclude the possibility that when a judge with life tenure who never has to worry about facing the voters is acting like some autocratic bureaucrat, maybe it's because he knows he can get away with it without being held accountable. Further reading. BurtLaw on Judicial Independence and Accountability. b) BTW, the immigration bureau provides a manual governing naturalization ceremonies. It states that those conducting the ceremony should observe the "solemnity and dignity of the occasion," and it "cautions that public remarks should not include partisan political statements or religious content." Despite that, the ombudsman's report states that "[i]n one judicial ceremony, an official participant of the ceremony made explicit sectarian religious remarks when discussing the origins of freedom; in another, the judge utilized his welcoming remarks to make pointed and partisan political comments. Specifically, the judge stated that persons should 'get off their dead [posteriors] and oppose the war.'"
Changing court rules to attract automakers to Detroit's bankruptcy court. "The federal bankruptcy court in Detroit, intending to make the venue more attractive for GM Corp., Chrysler Corp. or Ford Motor Co. if they seek to reorganize, has changed some of its rules. Detroit judges hope efforts to make their jurisdiction more business-friendly will prompt the automakers to seek court protection in their Michigan home, rather than in the traditional, big-business venues of New York and Delaware. Among the changes the court is making is the ability for the chief judge to choose which bankruptcy judge handles the main case, according to an administrative order signed Dec. 10...." More (Bloomberg 12.17.2008).
Judge is reprimanded for injudicious comments. "The state's judicial disciplinary agency reprimanded an Alameda County judge [Superior Court Judge Christine Moruza] Tuesday for improper courtroom comments, including remarks that belittled public defenders and domestic violence prosecutions and insulted a spectator...[In one incident, w]hen [a] defendant complained of a delay in the case, Moruza replied, 'You get what you pay for,' and said someone who wants 'really good service' would have to come up with $10,000 for a lawyer...." More (San Francisco Chronicle 12.17.2008).
'Brawl' erupts in courtroom between two rival class-action lawyers. "Two attorneys competing for clients, prestige and a bounty of legal fees opened a hearing at Orleans Parish Civil District Court on Monday with a schoolyard brawl that shocked the buttoned-up crowd and ended with one led away in handcuffs on charges of contempt...." More (NOLA 12.16.2008). Further reading. Justice John E. Simonett, Civility and 'Generalized Reciprocity' (Bench & Bar Feb. 2003).
What is 'the single biggest variable in increasing human life span'? "Harvard University geneticist Gary Ruvkun believes the toilet is the single biggest variable in increasing human life span. Modern sanitation has added twenty years to the average human life." Rose George, The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters 3 (2008). The book received a favorable review recently by Dwight Garner in the NYT (12.12.2008) ("Ms. George's book covers nearly every aspect -- political, social, biological, moral -- of how the world thinks about and copes with human excreta"). Comments. a) Might this be a good book to give to that special judge in your life? (I'm not kidding.) b) It's easy to coast along, taking our "modern" toilets for granted. Then -- suddenly! -- a toilet "cracks," as it did in a courthouse in an Ohio two years ago this last August, flooding the courthouse and literally bringing Lady Justice to her knees (not the most unpleasant image, when I think of it). If a cracked courthouse toilet or a broken water main can send Judge Horatio Poseidon surfing down a basement corridor on his way to an afternoon golf outing, then perhaps, one starts to think, our system of water delivery and waste removal might, just might, have something to do with the establishment and maintenance of the Rule of Law. Might, one asks, the toilet be the "single biggest variable" in establishing and maintaining the Rule of Law? And the answer that one hears careening doing the corridors of Time is a loud, echoing "Yes!" Further reading. Fifteen jurors waitng in line for one toilet -- is that doo process? (The Daily Judge 05.11.2008); Courthouse feud erupts over bathroom key -- DA launches grand jury, police investigation (Boston Globe 05.09.2008);
ATRA's new 'judicial hellholes' list is out. I haven't read it yet. Click here for the PDF version (HTML not yet available via Google).
Anti-defamation resolution or anti-free-speech resolution -- or both? "For the fourth year in a row, the United Nations will rubber stamp a resolution pushed by Islamic countries that combats what they consider defamation of religion. Critics, including the U.S., say the resolution clamps down on free speech and religious expression...." More (NPR 12.16.2008). See, also, UN Bans 'Defamation of Religion' in Islamic Bid to Curb Free Speech (EuropeNews 11.25.2008), and Editorial (WSJ 12.03.2008). 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).
Judge's son won't be charged with manslaughter. "The son of District Judge Donald Mosley won't face manslaughter charges in connection with a fatal Henderson crash in November that claimed the life of a 15-year-old girl...." More (Las Vegas Review-Journal 12.15.2008). Earlier. Judge's son is in custody in connection with street racing fatality (The Daily Judge 11.17.2008).
Taliban militants as judges -- an oxymoron? "There is little Afghans fear more than the Taliban. The Islamist insurgents have killed and wounded thousands of innocent people across Afghanistan. Yet many Afghans, especially in rural areas, turn to Taliban judges to settle grievances. They say the militants -- unlike the country's official court system -- get things done quickly and without asking for bribes...." A good report today (12.16.2008) by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson of NPR. One of the judges interviewed, "Mullah Nasrat Ramani," often holds court in people's homes "when he's not fighting American soldiers." He calls himself a "mobile judge": "Sometimes we go to the people, and sometimes they come to us. We don't have a courtroom, and we're not official. But we are sanctioned by the Taliban leadership to carry out justice using Islamic law." Comment. I guess I'm a fuddy-duddy because I believe in the quaint old notion that a judge is not a "junior G-Man" or a part of "the law enforcement team" or "the war on crime" or "the war on terror" -- or a "fighter for Islam" or, for that matter, a "fighter for Christianity." Here is what another fuddy-duddy, Judge Learned Hand, said on receiving an honorary degree from Harvard in 1939:
I am thinking of what the scholar imposes upon himself; better, perhaps, of what he may fail to impose upon himself; of those abnegations which are the condition of his preserving the serenity in which alone he can work; I am thinking of an aloofness from burning issues, which is hard for generous and passionate natures, but without which they almost inevitably become advocates, agitators, crusaders, and propagandists. You may take Martin Luther or Erasmus for your model, but you cannot play both roles at once; you may not carry a sword beneath a scholar's gown,...Luther cannot be domesticated in a university.
Substitute "judge" for "scholar" and you have some idea of the quaint notions I have about the proper role of a common law judge.
A judge's widow relives her marriage while attending the killer's trial. "A romantic to the core, [the late Judge] Rowland [Barnes] fell hard for Claudia when they started dating in 1993. They did everything together and especially liked spending time in Panama City, Fla., where they'd ride bikes and hunt for change around fast-food drive-in windows and in beachfront parking lots. Rowland had done that for years, and he challenged her to rack up more than he did. He liked to put his found money in old Coke cans; she preferred pretty Victorian tins. Most often they'd find pennies, but he promised her he'd propose the day she found a dime. They were married in 1996...." From a long, interesting, and sad profile of the widow of Judge Barnes, who along with others was murdered by Brian Nichols in the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta in 2005. More (AJC 12.15.2008).
South Africa: ANC official calls two black judges 'apartheid apologists.' Since the demise of apartheid, the ANC has ruled South Africa. Now a breakaway party has formed, COPE (Congress of the People). The ANC sued to prevent the new party from using the name. But a three-judge high court panel, consisting of one white judge and two black judges, dismissed the suit. Now ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe is reported to have said that "he could forgive Du Plessis -- [the] white judge -- for not knowing the 'historical facts,' but described the two other judges -- [the two] who are black -- as 'apartheid apologists.'" The two judges in question, btw, were appointed by Presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. More (IOL 12.14.2008).
Former 'TV barrel girl' will become high court judge. "Justice Virginia Margaret Bell has worn many hats in her life as an activist, television barrel girl and former ABC journalist. Soon she will don a judge's wig in the country's highest court as a replacement for the equally colourful and outspoken Justice Michael Kirby...." More (SMH 12.15.2008). Comment. Who was it among the Ancients who said, "Television barrel girls, like beauty pageant winners and cheerleaders, make good judges"?
Nigeria: Will sanitation courts help restore capital's 'lost glory'? "Following the re-introduction of monthly sanitation in Sokoto by the state government, sanitation mobile courts are to be established to try violators of sanitation laws...." The state commissioner for local government affairs is quoted as saying that the government is determined to restore "the lost glory of the state capital as one of the cleanest cities in the country." More (Daily Trust via All Africa 12.15.2008).
TX newspaper opposes board's new security plans for county courthouse. The editors of The Texas Examiner have posted a terrific editorial encouraging readers to contact leaders expressing their opposition to what they refer to as "the county's tactics of intimidation that hinder your right of access to the courthouse paid for with your tax dollars." The cause of their ire is the county board's new security plan, including a requirement that civic and nonprofit groups who hold meetings in the courthouse at night either a) pay a security fee of $200-$350 per event to cover the cost of hiring security personnel for the event or b) find alternate locations to hold their meetings/events. One trial judge, Bob Wortham, is quoted saying he's upset by the board's decision and believes it's wrong to restrict citizens access to what is "the people's courthouse." He points out further that "we've never had any real sense of danger here.." The editors are also "critical of...how project manager Brent Weaver and the all-male security staff are restricting the public's access to the courthouse [during regular hours] -- forcing the elderly to bring items deemed as 'prohibited' back to their cars, rifling through women's purses and even 'searching' open drinks being brought into the courthouse." After the intitial outcry of a week ago, Weaver had to remove tiny pocketknives or penknives from a list of banned "dangerous weapons." As the editors put it, not only do "many Southeast Texans -- especially elderly men -- carry pocketknives," but "if someone [doesn't] have a pocketknife when they [go] into the courthouse, they [can] always pick one up from County Court at Law Judge Al Gersen, who gives them as gifts to his friends." Says Gersen, "I have never been in favor of all this security. I think they just went hog wild. This courthouse has been here for 80-something years and nothing has ever happened inside. I know times change but statistics have not. I believe in the numbers and the numbers don't support the need to spend all that money and have all this security." More (The Examiner 12.15.2008). Comment. A most refreshing piece of independent thinking. Further reading. Does courthouse hot dog stand present grave security risk? (The Daily Judge 12.11.2008).
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.
Our Motto - "Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat" (Horace). Loose translation: Does anything prevent telling the truth with a smile?
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