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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.
On Geo. Soros, the 'liberal' hedge fund billionaire who doesn't want voters having their historic liberal/populist role in judicial selection. "I remember attending a small dinner party where George Soros was one of the guests; it made sense to me that he held the floor when he discussed matters he was expert on, but I couldn't figure out why all of his opinions, on whatever subject -- be it interior design or the value of single-sex schools -- were treated as equally valid. And then it occurred to me: he was much wealthier than the other dinner guests, which meant that everything he said was ipso facto of sovereign interest...." From Daphne Merkin's op/ed piece, If Looks Could Steal (NYT 03.22.2009). Comment. Here's what Dan Pero at American Courthouse said about Soros' role in the national campaign to deprive voters of a say in judicial selection:
A campaign is on to strip Minnesota voters of their right to choose state judges -- a right enshrined in Article VI, Section 7 of the Minnesota Constitution. Our friends over at Gavel Grab/Justice at Stake -- the group funded by hedge fund billionaire George Soros that is lobbying to abolish democratic judicial elections across America -- have a thumb-sucker on the attempt to shift the power to select judges away from the people toward a tiny tribunal of lawyers...The Quie Commission proposals -- like all the 'merit' plans being pushed by Justice at Stake and other powerful special interest groups – are based on the elitist notion that the involvement of ordinary people will somehow pollute the judicial selection process. Maybe they'll be led like lemmings to pick the wrong candidate because of 'nasty, politicized' judicial elections. Or they don't have the 'experience and insight and sophistication' to make a decision about judges in the first place. Either way, there needs to be some kind of 'buffer' between voters and their public servants on the bench.
What's liberal, what's not? I proudly call myself a liberal Republican. I may be the only one alive who dares to say so in public. I even said so in my failed anti-Iraq-war primary campaign in 2004 against gung-ho-war-supporter GOP Congressman Jim Ramstad in MN's 3rd District. See, my campaign position paper titled Liberals & Conservatives (campaign archives). As I say there, in this topsy-turvy world, it's not always clear what's liberal and what's conservative. Thus, we have "liberals" like hedge-fund billionaire Geo. Soros supporting the so-called "reform" intitiatives that would take away rank-and-file voters' right to participate in judicial selection -- a right created by Populist Era "liberals" -- and transfer power to a "commission" manned by members of the politico-judicial-bar association elite and replace real judicial elections with fake one-candidate Soviet-style yes-no retention elections. See, When judges and others in government play word games (infra). Less than liberal, the idea strikes this populist Republican as something very British and Tory and aristocratic. So what's liberal, what's not? Well, I got into this several years ago when the so-called SCOTUS "liberals" trumped the SCOTUS "conservatives" in an eminent domain decision and came down on the side of Big Money over the interests of the proverbial Little Guy, a decision that now is the subject of a book titled
Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage, by Jeff Benedict (Grand Central Publishing; $26.99). Here's what I said, in a 06.23.2005 posting at my political opinion journal that I titled "'Liberals' on Court approve taking from the poor to give to the rich":
'Liberals' on Court approve taking from the poor to give to the rich. Some working-class homeowners in New London, Conn., bought modest houses in a pleasant area near a river. Over the years the houses perhaps haven't been thought the most desirable. But times changed & some private developers with access to large sums of money cast covetous eyes on the land on which the homes rest & decided it'd make good sense (& good dollars) if they bought all the cheap little homes, ripped 'em down, & commercially redeveloped the area into, oh, you know, the usual stuff that tax-hungry municipalities love to see developed -- tax-generating office buildings, stores, hotels, condos. But some homeowners aren't as peripatetically inclined as others, or as willing to take some money & run. Some of the owners have done a lot of living in those homes. One woman has lived in the house over 80 years -- she was born there. These people have felt blessed to live there & at times maybe have even entertained the thought that there was something sacred about their homes. Perhaps they were even foolish enough -- no, American enough -- to think of their homes as their castles.
It used to be thought that one of the roles of good government was to respect & protect those tiny castles. But now it seems many governments, with their gargantuan appetites for new revenue from real estate taxation, sorta can't resist making exceptions to the quaint old rules that supposedly protected the little guys & gals & they use their raw power under the laws of eminent domain to force the little folks to accept the judicially-determined fair market value of their house as a house as compensation & kind words of "Best wishes in your future life, wherever, whatever...." It's all, of course, in "the public interest."
So how did the Court vote? Surely the "liberals" stood up for the little guys & gals, right? Well, let's see, there were five members in the majority and they were Justices John Paul Stevens, Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. Wow, that's good -- the little folks must've won, right? 'Fraid not. These lovers of the little fellow said it was okay for the government to take these houses, rip 'em down & replace them with condos these little fellows can't afford to buy. Too bad, suckers.
But those four remaining hard-nosed, cold-hearted "conservatives" -- O'Connor, Rehnquist, Scalia & Thomas -- what'd they have to say? Did they say the government can not only take the houses but, heck, may do so without paying compensation? No. This is what Justice O'Connor (joined by Rehnquist, Scalia & Thomas) said, in part:
Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result. "[T]hat alone is a just government," wrote James Madison, "which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own." For the National Gazette, Property, (Mar. 29, 1792), reprinted in 14 Papers of James Madison 266 (R. Rutland et al. eds. 1983).
That bad dude we've criticized so often, Justice Thomas, dissenting separately, was equally offended by the majority's decision. He wrote:
So-called "urban renewal" programs provide some compensation for the properties they take, but no compensation is possible for the subjective value of these lands to the individuals displaced and the indignity inflicted by uprooting them from their homes. Allowing the government to take property solely for public purposes is bad enough, but extending the concept of public purpose to encompass any economically beneficial goal guarantees that these losses will fall disproportionately on poor communities. Those communities are not only systematically less likely to put their lands to the highest and best social use, but are also the least politically powerful. If ever there were justification for intrusive judicial review of constitutional provisions that protect "discrete and insular minorities," United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U. S. 144, 152, n. 4 (1938), surely that principle would apply with great force to the powerless groups and individuals the Public Use Clause protects. The deferential standard this Court has adopted for the Public Use Clause is therefore deeply perverse. It encourages "those citizens with dis-proportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms" to victimize the weak. Ante, at 11 (O'Connor, J., dissenting).
As the Billy Joel song goes, "And so it goes."
If you think your home is your castle, you're wrong. If you think the liberals are always for the little guys, you're wrong. If you think the conservatives are always for the big guys, the moneyed folks, the corporations, the developers, you're wrong. There's an almost "Eastern" communitarian strain in much soi-disant (a liberal word) liberal thought that stems from the utilitarian theorists, Bentham & Mills; utilitarianism, at its worst, can be oblivious of the rights of the individual. I don't like it. On the other hand, there's a libertarian strain in much conservative thought that I do like; unfortunately, you won't find many of this kind of conservative in the Bush administration. Barry Goldwater was a libertarian conservative: he believed in rugged individualism, supported abortion rights, would have supported stem cell research, didn't like the religious extremists who are out to impose their ways on everyone. The poet, William Blake, wrote: "General Good [of which we hear so many people in public office speak] is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite and flatterer. He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars." The majority's decision in the condemnation case is classic utilitarian liberalism; the dissent is classic libertarian conservatism.
Ralph Nader's views. Incidentally, this is what Ralph Nader just said about today's decision:
Hundreds of abuses of eminent domain have occurred during the last few decades, with municipalities playing reverse Robin Hood‚ taking from ordinary citizens and giving to powerful individual developers or corporations. In many cases, the alleged public benefit is a transparent cover for what amounts to legalized theft. With today's decision, the Court has abdicated its role as guardian of the Constitution and individual rights. This decision authorizes courts across the country to allow self- defining misuses of "public use" and "public benefit" requirements. State courts, however, remain free to impose more reasonable restraints on government taking of individual property.
Statement of Ralph Nader on Supreme Court Eminent Domain - 6/23/2005 6:53:00 PM.
What will the effect of the Court's decision be in Minnesota? Probably little. Unfortunately, our state supreme court, in my opinion, has been way too deferential to municipalities when they use condemnation laws to take away people's homes and businesses in order to sell them in turn to private developers for their development schemes. It doesn't have to be this way. First, the legislature could come to the protection of the little guy. Second, the Minnesota Supreme Court is free to interpret the Minnesota Constitution as giving greater protection to homeowners and small businesses from this kind of government-sanctioned corporate thievery. But don't look for such a ruling from the court, as currently constituted.
Paper: judge seeking aid failed to disclose $2 million in real estate holdings. "The presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, while seeking state aid to defend herself against ethics charges, failed to abide by legal requirements that she disclose nearly $2 million in real estate holdings, according to an analysis of public records by The Dallas Morning News...." Details (Dallas Morning-News 03.30.2009).
Judge will stop writing column that raised a racial ruckus. "Dallas' chief municipal judge[, J. Victor Lander,] will stop writing an opinion column for a southern Dallas newspaper after he came under fire for some controversial statements involving race...In a March 4 column about Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, Lander wrote that 'black folks have been cleaning up white folks' messes for hundreds of years, so why should we expect any different now?'" More (Dallas Morning News 03.28.2009).
NYT's in-depth piece on the kickback judges. "One courthouse worker recounted seeing a high school friend appear before Judge Ciavarella on a speeding charge. When the state trooper testified that he had clocked the man going 80 in a 55-mile-per-hour zone, the judge interrupted. 'No, I think he was just going 60. Matter closed,' the worker recalled the judge saying. Shocked, the trooper turned to face the judge. 'You're dismissed,' the judge said. But the juveniles being sentenced in that dim oak-paneled courtroom tended to be less lucky. Parents who arrived with their children typically left without them...." From Ian Urbina, Despite Red Flags About Judges, a Kickback Scheme Flourished (NYT 03.28.2009). Earlier. Judges plead guilty in profiting-from-harsh-juvie-justice scheme (The Daily Judge 02.13.2009).
Judge is charged with kidnapping, sexual assault. "Herman Thomas, while a Mobile County circuit judge, checked male inmates out of Metro Jail to exert control over them and force them into sexual activity, according to indictments released Friday...A special grand jury met for three weeks this month and returned 57 felony charges against Thomas. The indictment lists nine alleged victims, each of them current or former inmates...." More (Mobile Press-Register 03.28.2009).
Big bucks for some unwanted kisses from judge. "A former Seattle Municipal Court employee said a presiding judge[, Ron Mamiya,] insisted on kissing and fondling her after she ended a sexual relationship with him, according to a $135,000 settlement agreement released by the City Attorney's Office on Friday...." More (Seattle Times 03.22.2009). Comment. The judge agreed to the settlement and apologized. Therefore, we take as given that harassment occurred. Speaking generally, we note that there are some who take the position that it is "too easy for women to file false claims against men in the public eye." See, 'Women suing men' at BurtLaw's Law and Women. See, also, 'Crying Wolf' (and the linked-to article of the same name by Christie Blatchford) at BurtLaw's Crime and Punishment. For a suggestion as to how a judge who fears being falsely accused might protect himself or herself, see, Annals of law clerk-judge relations (and insert the word "hug" after the word "kiss" in our Burtlaw Rule-of-Thumb). For a refreshingly different position on this hot-button topic, see, Lisa Zeidner, Seeking Carnal Knowledge - Ban all amorous intimacy between professors and students? - There goes one of the higher forms of education LisaZeidner.Com, reprinted from GQ November 1997). And this caution to any equally eager participant who later seeks to convert what was consensual into a harassment claim against a judge: these days when a co-worker or colleague goes off with a judge to a no-tell, hot-sheets, hourly-rate love motel, she (he) just never knows whether it's all being recorded with a hidden video or audio recorder -- with "the recording" to be held in abeyance to counter any unexpected, unjustified claim of harassment/coercion. And consider this "memo" of a few years back to male judges carrying on an affair with a co-worker in the vineyards of justice: "Always let 'the woman' drive to the hot-sheet motel and have her register in her name & using her car's license plate number."
Ex-judge is held in jail in election-rigging case. "Federal prosecutors want to keep a former Clay County circuit judge[, R. Cletus Maricle,] charged in a vote-buying scheme behind bars until his trial...." More (Kentucky.Com 03.20.2009).
Ex-judge gets prison term for lying to escape traffic ticket. "The former Federal Court judge Marcus Einfeld has been sentenced to at least two years in jail for lying to evade a speeding fine three years ago. In a packed hearing room at the NSW Supreme Court, Justice Bruce James imposed a maximum three-year sentence on the 70-year-old for offences that struck 'at the heart of the administration of justice.'" Details (Canberra Times - AU 03.20.2009). 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). See, also, Judge Einfeld is stripped of his silk (The Daily Judge 10.31.2008).
Retired judge will seek to overturn notorious defendant's 25-year-old rape conviction. "Since Benjamin LaGuer was convicted 25 years ago of committing a horrific rape, many luminaries have questioned whether it was a miscarriage of justice, including Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, former Boston University president John Silber, and Governor Deval Patrick. Now the 45-year-old prison inmate has a new lawyer taking up his cause, one who says he knows all too well the fallibility of the criminal justice system: retired Superior Court Judge Isaac Borenstein...." More (Boston Globe 03.20.2009).
Wrongly-ousted chief justice is finally reinstated. "The Pakistani government agreed early on Monday to reinstate the independent-minded former chief justice of the Supreme Court, a stunning concession to the opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, who had been heading toward the capital in a convoy threatening to stage a mass protest over the issue after he broke free from house arrest at his residence near here...." Details (NYT 03.16.2009). Comment. Here's a link to our posting at the time of the unconstitutional ouster back in 2007: Why'd Musharraf do it? (The Daily Judge 11.05.2007).
Court dismisses prosecution of judge for allegedly slapping wife. "A case in which a Manhattan bankruptcy judge[, James Peck,] was accused of slapping his wife has been dismissed and sealed...." The dismissal was on the state's motion. More (Newsday 03.16.2009). Earlier. Judge charged with slapping wife told cops wife slapped him first (The Daily Judge 02.03.2009). Comment. I'm not surprised at the dismissal.
Annals of TWFF -- Twittering while fact-finding. "Former State Sen. Vincent Fumo was convicted of all 137 counts against him today as his marathon federal corruption trial ended in a stunning victory for prosecutors...One issue that seems certain to be part of any appeal was this morning's news that one juror had posted updates about deliberations on Facebook.com and Twitter.com...." More (Philadelphia Inquirer 03.16.2009). Comment. Only "twits" Twitter.
Annals of GWFF -- Googling while fact-finding. "Last week, a juror in a big federal drug trial in Florida admitted to the judge that he had been doing research on the case on the Internet, directly violating the judge's instructions and centuries of legal rules. But when the judge questioned the rest of the jury, he got an even bigger shock. Eight other jurors had been doing the same thing...." Apparently it's a pretty big problem. More (NYT 03.18.2009).
There ain't no 'honour' in 'honour killings.' "A senior judge[, Lord Justice Wall,] has called for an end to the use of the phrase 'honour killings' to describe what is 'in reality sordid, criminal behaviour'...The judge, sitting with Lord Justices Laws and Lawrence Collins, said that it was one thing to mock the concept of honour, as Shakespeare did through Falstaff in Henry IV, and 'quite another matter to distort the word honour to describe what is, in reality, sordid criminal behaviour.'" Details (UK Times 03.16.2009). Further reading. Honour killings (Wikipedia).
When judges and others in government play word games. Tennessee's state constitution requires that its supreme court justices "shall be elected by the qualified voters." Notwithstanding that, the legislature awhile ago statutorily created a Missouri-type "merit" selection plan with retention "elections," which the state's supreme court justices -- not exactly uninterested parties? -- held satisfied the state constitution's "election" requirement. Fortunately, the statute was governed by a sunset provision, which means that, absent re-enactment, the sort of real elections envisioned by the Tennessee constitution will once again occur. David Fowler, a former legislator in Tennessee, has an interesting op/ed piece in today's (03.15.2009) Commercial Appeal, in which he opines, in relevant part:
[W]hat kind of "election" is it when there is no means by which citizens can have a choice of candidates for Supreme Court justice on the ballot? Today no one can run for the position of judge on the state's Supreme Court. Citizens never have a choice of candidates. Only lawyers and politicians misled by lawyers who want control of the judiciary would consider this appointment and retention referendum process an "elect(ion) by the qualified voters of the State." Those most interested in not having a real election are the judges, who have been coming to the Capitol this year to lobby legislators to keep the current appointment-retention process.
I commend the entire piece to readers of The Daily Judge. It sheds light on the penchant of politicians, including judicial politicians, to use words to cloak and mislead. That, I suggest, is what self-labeled "reformers" are doing in Minnesota in their well-financed effort (a topic some journalists might find worthy of shining some light on) to persuade Minnesota's voters to give up their historic role in judicial selection. Justice Holmes famously urged us to "Think things, not words" -- e.g., to not allow ourselves to be fooled by labels like "reform" and "merit" or by the attempt by the "reformers" to equate judicial retention elections with real judicial elections. Instead, we need to look at the fine print and at what the "reformers" are really selling. Last year I posted an in-depth piece on all this, and I link to it for the convenience of not only Minnesota readers but also of voters in other states who are being "courted" to give up this great right from the Populist movement: Strib. urges longer terms for judges, no role for voters in their selection. Following my essay you will find updated links to many of my earlier as well as later postings relevant to this important public policy question. Two postings in particular that I urge you to read are: Why Eric Magnuson, SCOMN's novice chief justice, should listen to SCOWIS's more experienced chief, and SCOWIS' Chief leads the way -- herein of experienced judges, judicial elections and judicial independence.
Judge Tony Reynolds on why he likes judging. Why does he like judging? ""I get to meet a lot of people. I'm kind of an oddball anyway, and so are they, so we hang out together." "Judge" Reynolds is one of eight "sanctioned" goldfish judges in the country. He's profiled here (Dallas Morning News 03.15.2009).
Annals of sunshine in Minnesota. Judges and other political officeholders in Minnesota who are afraid of letting the sun shine in on them as they conduct the people's business and therefore do what they can to keep cameras out of the courtrooms, make life difficult for bloggers, hide their real detailed budgets from the public, etc., would do well to read a terrific op/ed piece by Jane Kitley titled More people are knocking at the door -- Let them in in today's (03.15.2009) St. Paul Pioneer-Press. Further reading. SCOMN's timidity about letting the sun shine in on courts.
Judge is suspended over mishandled criminal case. "A Marion County judge[, Grant Hawkins,] who faced removal from the bench after his office mishandled an order setting aside a man's rape conviction, instead will serve a 60-day suspension without pay...." More (Indianapolis Star 03.12.2009). Mishandling of the case on remand resulted in an exonerated man's spending an extra two years in prison. See, Panel recommends removal of judge over two years' delay releasing inmate (The Daily Judge 11.08.2008).
Book review. Menachem Mautner, Law and Culture in Israel at the Start of the 21st Century. Interesting review by Moshe Negbi, which I recommend reading. He states, in part: "[Israel's] liberal forces have lost their longstanding hegemony over the political scene.[leaving] them with no alternative other than relocating their final battle over values to the judicial arena." The result? Israel's Supreme Court, as our readers know, is now "the main -- perhaps last -- line of defense for these values, and it is its judges who man the turrets, exposed to the battle." More (Haaretz 03.12.2009).
Judicial speech -- Russia vs. FLA. Back in 2008 I posted an item from the Moscow Times reporting that Yelena Valyavina, first deputy chairwoman of the Supreme Arbitration Court, had testified as a defense witness in a libel lawsuit filed against a radio news show host who said on the radio that there were "no independent courts in Russia." Today's UK Times reports that by a 4-3 vote the European Court of Human Rights has concluded that the right of freedom of expression of a Moscow judge, Olga Kudeshkina, under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights were violated when she was dismissed as a judge for publicly saying that her personal experiences as judge had "led [her] to doubt the existence of independent courts" in Moscow, that it wasn't unusual for the judges to pressured to decide cases a certain way. For details, see, the excellent column by David Pannick, QC (Times 03.10.2009). Comment. Think that sort of thing happens only in Russia? See, Annals of free speech: SCOFLA disciplines another judge for criticizing colleagues (The Daily Judge 01.30.2009); Held, SCOWIS' overbroad judicial conduct rules violate First Amendment (The Daily Judge 02.18.2009); Free speech is a 'bad idea'? (Sometimes Left, Always Right - BurtonHanson.Com 08.08.2005).
Opinion: The 'system' is 'inherently biased' against the accused. "But this brings up Clive's great central concept -- which is that, in a sense, no one is guilty. Or, rather, that the question of their guilt is not what is interesting; what is interesting is why they did what they did, if they did it. Clive disliked Tony Blair's suggestion that the legal system needed to be 'rebalanced' in favour of the victim. He sees the system as being inherently biased against the accused, and as pursuing vindictiveness at the expense of comprehension. The prosecutors, he argues, should be consumed with doubt about the guilt of those they prosecute. Those with the defending mentality should prosecute instead -- a fascinating suggestion which he then undercuts. 'I would never be a prosecutor,' he says emphatically. 'I just don't want to be. That just reflects my bias.'" -- From a fascinating profile of Clive Stafford Smith (UK Times 03.10.2009). Comment. And I don't think I could ever be a prosecutor, either, for much the same reason I doubt I could ever sue anyone for, say, defamation. I just wouldn't be comfortable doing it.
Another judge is off to the clinker. "A former state Superior Court judge was sentenced this afternoon to nearly four years in prison. Michael T. Joyce, who was convicted in November on eight counts involving insurance fraud, will be allowed to self-report to federal prison....." More (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 03.10.2009). Comment. Why is it I have some doubts about this conviction?
When a judge turns investigator. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has granted a new suppression hearing in a DWI case because the trial judge, James Habeck, engaged in a judicial no-no, investigating the case himself and then making witness credibility determinations based on his own investigation. Opinion in State v. Hoffman (03.10.2009).
A judge operating on the edge? "State Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders often operates on the edge of acceptability. There he is again, this time creating a wholly unnecessary shadow over the important cause of public access to official documents. We have long appreciated Sanders' advocacy for individual liberties. But his flamboyant, controversy-prone career suggests state voters should ask themselves whether someone with a more judicious temperament could serve as well or better when Sanders' post comes up for election next year...." Editorial (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 03.10.2009). Background. "Justice Richard Sanders, who sued the state to get documents about himself, could be awarded much more money because of a ruling he wrote recently for the state Supreme Court...." More (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 03.10.2009). Comment. Judge Sanders is the judge who yelled "Tyrant!" at Attorney General Mukasey during a public dinner. See, State judge admits he yelled 'Tyrant!' at AG during banquet (The Daily Judge 11.26.2008).
Panel recommends 6-months suspension of MN judge. "A three-member panel of the state Board on Judicial Standards today recommended censure and a six-month unpaid suspension for Goodhue and Dakota County District Judge Timothy Blakely...." More (Star-Tribune 03.11.2009). Backgpound. MN judge defends self before conduct board (The Daily Judge 11.18.2008).
Why the Missouri Plan has failed in Tennessee. "Tennessee's 'merit' selection system has failed because an unelected, unaccountable commission dominated by a single special interest group gets to decide who will control 1/3rd of the state government. The best reform of all would be to shut down the secret commissions and revert to the wisdom of Tennessee's founders, who believed judges, like other public servants, should be chosen by the people...." Dan Pero at American Courthouse (03.09.2009). Comment. Absent action by the legislature, the legislatively-adopted plan (which, by the way, contravenes the state constitution mandate of judicial elections) will expire. We hope the legislators -- some of whom are trying to "reform" the failed "reform" plan -- will let it expire.
Judge leaves $600K to pet-neutering group. The judge, Judge Earl Morgan, died last year at 89. His estate exceeded $3M. His family, apparently alleging undue influence and lack of mental capacity, contested the revised will, which left the bulk of the estate to a pet-neutering group. Now a settlement has been reached, with the result that a pet-neutering group will received $600K. More (Neb. State Paper 03.06.2009).
Courtroom drama: murder suspect is shot and killed after stabbing judge. Jailers were warned that David Paradiso had a weapon. Wednesday he was on the witness stand during his murder trial. As bailiffs were distracted, Patradiso got up and using a 6-inch shank attacked Judge Cinda Fox from behind. A police officer then approached the bench and shot Paradiso at close range, killing him. More (LAT 03.06.2009).
Judge who granted bail is arrested. "A Zimbabwe judge[, Magistrate Livingstone Chipadze,] has been arrested for granting bail to one of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's top aides, whose case cast doubt on the country's new unity government, officials said Friday...." More (Google.AFP 03.06.2009). Comment. When Bob Mugabe took charge of Zimbabwe, f/k/a Rhodesia, it was the breadbasket of Africa. Then, in an example of reverse racism, he stole the farms from the highly-productive white farmers and gave them to incompetent cronies. The farms stopped being productive. People are starving as a result. The economy is in shambles and inflation is out of control. Civil liberties are nonexistent. We've been railing against Mugabe on our blogs since 2000. If our congressmen hadn't allowed themselves to be suckered into an unjustified invasion of Iraq, which we publicly opposed from the outset, our country might have had the moral authority to influence events in Zimbabwe and in many other places. Sadly and not unexpectedly, the world -- including our own economy -- has gone to pot as a result of our country's losing its way. And our moral authority in the world ain't what it used to be (think Eisenhower).
Judge loses his cool, shouts down defendant -- and it's caught on tape. The judge is Judge John Wulle of Clark County, WA. He called a recess after losing his cool and telling the defendant to "shut your damn mouth," then returned and apologized to those present. More (MSNBC 03.06.2009). Comment. It was -- as it should have been -- caught on tape. Yet another reason for cameras in the court: they a) serve as an eye on our judges, reminding judges constantly to be judicial, and b) they provide a record for all to see. The judge was wise indeed to apologize quickly. Further reading. See, my extended essay, reprinted at SCOMN's timidity about letting the sun shine in on courts. Earlier. Judge Wulle's not-so-good weekend with colleagues (The Daily Judge 12.18.2007); Judge is censured for 'shocking' behavior at conference (The Daily Judge 12.08.2007).
Trial date set for OK judge charged with exposing self. No, this is not another story about the OK judge who was convicted and served time for masturbating in court while wearing his robe. This story is about a judge who stands charged with allegedly indecently exposing himself in a parking lot to his ex-girlfriend and her friend. See, More charges of excessive judicial 'transparency' in OK (The Daily Judge 04.20.2008). We post the news that a trial date has been set only a) so we can report that our source of this tidbit is an OK radio station whose call letters are KOKC and whose website URL is www.kokcradio.com, and b) so we have an excuse to link to a few of our prior postings about the judge convicted of MWP (masturbating while presiding). See, Oklahoma justice: pumping a small thing into a big thing (The Daily Judge 09.24.2008); Annals of MWP (Masturbating While Presiding) (The Daily Judge 12.06.2006).
The Great Missouri Judicial Merit-Selection Plan. "The 'Missouri Plan' was supposed to end politics in judicial selection, but 20 of the last 21 nominees to the state's Supreme Courts have been Democrats or Democratic supporters and many have been members of the Missouri trial lawyers association." -- Dan Pero, American Courthouse (02.26.2009).
TV vehicle is ticketed at judge's request after station's reporter files complaint against judge. "Two days after a reporter from WSAZ-TV filed a complaint against Kanawha County Magistrate Tim Halloran for locking his courtroom during a hearing, a WSAZ vehicle was ticketed twice outside the Kanawha County Courthouse Annex at Halloran's request...." Full story (WVGazette 03.02.2009).
Recent developments in invidious discrimination against judges on the basis of age. Two stories of interest to those of us who have long thought that mandatory retirement of judges in MN and elsewhere is discriminatory and unwise:
a) "Two judges this week have launched a discrimination claim against the Ministry of Justice over being forced to retire at 70. Judge Jeremy Varcoe and Judge Stuart Southgate told an employment tribunal in Berkshire that they had been discriminated against on the ground of age by being put out to grass when they reached their 70th birthdays...." Frances Gibb, Judges take on Ministry of Justice over age discrimination (UK Times 03.03.2009).
b) "Britain's compulsory retirement age of 65 will break European law if the Government cannot prove that there are social reasons for it, judges ruled today. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) said that ministers would have to prove to the High Court in London that there was a 'legitimate aim' behind the retirement age – rather than the regulations purely being a way of businesses making money. The verdict was the latest stage of the legal battle by the charity Age Concern to banish the threshold, which it says is discriminatory. European judges order ministers to justify retirement age of 65...." David Byers, Age Concern says the case is crucial for the plight of Britain's older workers (UK Times 03.05.2009).
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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