The Daily Judge
© 2005 Burton Randall Hanson
           Archives - 08.18.2005 - 08.24.2005
"All the news that gives judges and lawyers fits."
BurtLaw's Daily Judge is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, this is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal "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 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.

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About Burton Hanson. Burton Hanson is a graduate of Harvard Law School, admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Minnesota. He worked one year as Hennepin County District Court Special Term (Civil) Law Clerk, two years as law clerk for the late Justice C. Donald Peterson of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and over 26 years as Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Supreme Court. He was a nonpartisan candidate for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election in November 2000 and a liberal anti-war candidate for Congress in the Republican primary in the Minnesota Third District in September 2004. He was one of the first law bloggers (blawgers). He began planning his first blog, BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else in 1999 but delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. His campaign website, the no-longer extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first such use of a weblog or blog. In 2004 he also used the personal blog format in his primary campaign for Congress. That site, BurtonHanson.Com, has morphed into a personal political opinion blog and also contains the archives of his 2004 campaign web pages and blog postings.

    Judge's beau arrested - the perils of judicial vanity plates. "The boozed-up boyfriend of Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Donna Mills tried to snatch a 4-year-old boy -- then used the judge's luxury sedan as his getaway car, police sources said...Witnesses had no problem remembering the license plate of the Volvo sedan the man fled in. The tags read: 'Supreme Court 237' and cops traced the vehicle to Mills, the sources said. Mills, 51, told detectives she had lent Craig her car and said he 'had a drinking problem' and 'was looking for help,' the sources said. Mills is perhaps best known for crashing her Rolls-Royce into two parked cars in Riverdale three years ago...." More (N.Y. Daily-News 08.24.2005). Earlier stories: Judge Mills arrested (N.Y. Daily-News 07.31.2002). Report on trial (N.Y. Daily-News 04.01.2004). Judge acquitted (1010 Wins 04.01.2004). Dan Abrams' comment following acquittal: Judge Mills should be disciplined (MSNBC 04.14.2004).

    Another judge's records sought in 'Operation Wrinkled Robe.' "State Judge Steve Windhorst said he has received a federal grand jury subpoena for records of political donations from Bail Bonds Unlimited, bringing to four the number of Jefferson Parish jurists to acknowledge being called to the investigative panel since ex-Judge Alan Green's mail fraud conviction...." More (New Orleans Times-Picayune 08.24.2005). Related story: Another Operation Wrinkled Robe judge resigns (New Orleans Times-Picayune 08.24.2005). Comment. A smart judge never accepts free tickets to sports or cultural events, free golf outings, free trips, free memberships or reduced-price memberships in private clubs, free meals. A smart judge not only doesn't fudge in his requests for reimbursements for representing the court at functions and on trips but thinks twice about the nature and details of such functions and trips before agreeing to go on them. Like it or not, if you're a judge, you're walking a tight rope high above the crowd without a net. All eyes are upon you. Some are hoping you'll slip and fall. It's very easy to slip and fall. Never walk the tight rope without using a balance pole. Always wear black tights.

    Courthouse dog. "More than 100 people were searched [at the Indian River County Courthouse] throughout the morning. Although Punky [a drug-detecting black lab] signaled on about six people, no illegal drugs were recovered nor was anyone arrested. The new security measure was prompted by people bringing illegal contraband into the courthouse before a proceeding, according to Sgt. Perry Pisani, courthouse security supervisor. He said some people brought drugs to their sentencings in hopes of smuggling them into the jail later...." More (Fort Pierce FLA Tribune 08.24.2005). Comment. We believe a good test of the propriety of something like this is provided by the Golden Rule: it's just barely o.k. only if judges themselves are also subject to being snarfed by Punky when they enter the building.

    Sick courthouse? "Courthouse employees are expected to testify tonight at a City Council committee meeting that working conditions are inadequate and dangerous at the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse and Courthouse East buildings on Calvert Street [in Baltimore], which together house the city's Circuit Court operations...Employees at the aging buildings have long complained about working conditions, from foul smells wafting through the hallways to black soot spewing from vents. Employees said at a rally in June that the buildings have caused skin rashes, eye, ear and sinus infections and asthma." More (Baltimore Sun 08.24.2005).

    'Hollywood' atmosphere at Namibia's High Court. "With a turnout a first-time Hollywood movie producer would envy, hundreds of people pushed and shoved their way into the High Court yesterday, while more than 20 Police officers had their hands full keeping the crowds at bay. Such was the curiosity to finally see Lazarus Kandara, the mastermind behind Avid Investments, the company that struck the N$30-million deal with the Social Security Commission, that Acting Judge Raymond Heathcote threatened to hold the inquiry behind closed doors if the bursting galleries did not simmer down...Shortly before 10h00, Lazarus Kandara sauntered into the courtroom via the private passage entrance not like an alleged fraudster, but a hero coming to save the day. The gallery applauded him and he in return flashed them a broad smile and gave them a big overhead wave...Fans were carried in to keep the Judge cool in a room with no air-conditioning..." More (The Namibian 08.24.2005). Comment. The cult of celebrity appears to be a worldwide phenomenon. And wherever one is, the intersection of celebrity and high-stakes litigation, civil or criminal, is theatrical.

    Moving corpus juris. "A couple of months ago I attended a reburial of Magilbry Findley in Red Level and then told you all about it. Some people might think this an odd way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but if it was odd for me, I was not alone. The event was attended by several hundred people and covered by newspapers and television. I have had an email announcing another [reburial] which will possibly be taking place within the next few months...I will keep you informed as to if and when the reburial takes place." Comment. Please do keep us informed. Ordinarily, we would not be interested in a reburial. But this proposed reburial is of the corpse of Jesse Howard, born in 1826, who was "the first appointed probate judge of Escambia County [AL]. He died in about 1887 or 1889 and was buried in an unnamed cemetery off Hwy. 29 near Brewton...." More (Brewton Standard 08.24.2005). We believe that if the Alabama Supreme Court has a judicial outreach program, it ought to send a delegation of judges to attend the reburial.

    Traffic court judge loses cool, utters ethnic slur, gets reprimanded. "A state judicial ethics commission is recommending Lancaster County [NEB] Judge Jack Lindner receive a public reprimand for courtroom statements he made about a Bosnian defendant last year." The judge became irritated after apparently misunderstanding what the defendant, who needed an interpreter to help him, said when the judge said the case had to be continued. When the defendant turned to leave, the judge in a "harsh and angry tone" ordered the defendant to return and not leave until he told him he could leave. After completing the paperwork and allowing the defendant to leave, the judge was heard saying to a deputy and bailiff, "Son of a b----. F------ Bosnians." More (Lincoln Journal-Star 08.24.2005). Comment. To me, this sort of conduct by a judge -- in the courtroom -- is more reprehensible than many of the extrajudicial and very human foibles by judges that we read about often and that often form the basis of harsher discipline.

    Dahlia Lithwick asks if anyone believes in 'living Constitution' anymore. "I turn to you, dear readers, smart thinkers, and posters of great wisdom in the Fray, to ask simply: Is the living Constitution dead? Are the critics correct -- was it all just a great drunken binge of Brennan and Thurgood Marshall's? What is left in its place? Is there room for a Brennan-esque defense anymore? Or am I correct in guessing that Scalia is right [that ours is a 'dead Constitution']?" More (Slate 08.23.2005). Comment. I'm not up to the task, but I think Justice Holmes and his disciple Justice Frankfurter are:

 [T]he provisions of the Constitution are not mathematical formulas having their essence in their form; they are organic living institutions transplanted from English soil. Their significance is vital not formal; it is to be gathered not simply by taking the words and a dictionary, but by considering their origin and the line of their growth." [Holmes, J., Gompers v. United States, 233 U.S. 604, 610 (1914)]

A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged, it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used. [Holmes, J., Towne v. Eisner, 245 U.S. 418, 425 (1918)]

[W]hen we are dealing with words that also are a constituent act, like the Constitution of the United States, we must realize that they have called into life a being the development of which could not have been foreseen completely by the most gifted of its begetters. It was enough for them to realize or to hope that they had created an organism; it has taken a century and has cost their successors much sweat and blood to prove that they created a nation. The case before us must be considered in the light of out whole experience and not merely in that of what was said a hundred years ago. [Holmes, J., State of Missouri v. Holland, 252 U.S. 416, 433 (1920)]

[I]t is a well-known saying that men are subdued by the medium in which they work. And men whose daily work is the nice use of language in conveyances and contracts and legal instruments of every variety, where the rules of the game provide that nothing is included in the scope of the document unless expressly mentioned, instinctively forget what the statesmen of 150 years ago at Philadelphia and the statesmen of their own profession did not forget -- that a Constitution is a great instrument of government -- not a conveyance, not a contract, not even a statute. That is why when a great lawyer does triumph over his absorption with words and with the limited outlook of individual interests -- when he adds vision to his technical skill, then he is a statesman indeed...Whether the Constitution is treated primarily as a text for interpretation or as an instrument of government makes all the difference in the world. [Draft of the Constitution Day speech on September 17, 1937 (by Felix Frankfurter, with the assistance of Thomas Corcoran)]

Lithwicks readers' responses: here and here.

    Imagine our Constitution allowing each religion to have its own courts. "All religions will be allowed to establish courts if the new Draft Constitution [in Kenya] is passed in the coming referendum. The current Constitution provides only for kadhis' (Islamic) courts, not for any other religion...The inclusion of courts for all religions will be seen as a compromise between those who wanted the kadhis' courts retained and those pushing for their total removal...." More (The Nation via All Africa 08.24.2005). Comment. I'll take Norwegian Lutheran, please.

    Imagine our courts having their own militias. "Militias of Islamic courts on Tuesday began pulling down stalls suspected of selling wine, marijuana and other drugs in Somalia's capital, a militia leader and an Islamic court official said. Witnesses said the militiamen also confiscated equipment from two video halls during their effort to enforce sharia -- or Islamic law...." More (Newsday 08.23.2005).

    Rattlesnake found in courthouse. "A baby rattlesnake was found in the stairwell between the basement [Fall River County, South Dakota] courthouse coffee lounge and the sheriff's office on Tuesday, Aug. 16...[It was] discovered by a court service officer as it struck at him...[T]he theory is that the snake came into the stairwell through a hole in the foundation following the recent hail/rain storm...." More (Hot Springs Star 08.23.2005).

    More on the guy who backed his pickup truck into courthouse. "Webb says he spent the afternoon drinking 20 cans of Busch Light beer with friends, as well as smoking marijuana before heading out in his truck. He's accused of ransacking the home of Marsha Webb's former husband, where she lives, then accelerating his pickup through the back entrance of the Adair County Courthouse to the applause of several young people in the town square...." More (WKYT 27 08.23.2005). Comment. There are some sorry folks who'd probably applaud a bonfire burning copies of the Constitution.

    Courthouse souvenirs. "[A] Nov. 5 celebration will mark the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Logan County [ILL] Courthouse. The Logan County board has set aside $5,000 for the celebration. To help recoup that cost, the board is offering four official souvenirs for sale...The commemorative items are an enameled lapel pin, priced at $5; an unframed print of a pencil drawing of the courthouse for $15; a four-sided resin courthouse replica for $25; and a print of a watercolor painting of the courthouse, $60 matted or $120 framed...." More (Lincoln Courier 08.23.2005). Comment. Perhaps some of our urban courthouses ought to open courthouse gift shops, similar to museum gift shops, staffed by volunteers (retired judges?), with the profits going to providing free jelly donuts and other pastries to jurors. The image I have in mind as a model: the table full of expertly-arranged donuts snarfed down every day by Sheriff Andy Cooper & other law enforcement personnel on David Lynch's Twin Peaks.

    Slate's regularly-updated list of Judge Roberts resources. Slate has created a John Roberts Roundup, a regularly-updated page of links to some of the better web postings relating to Judge Roberts. Click here.

    Latest courthouse threat - students who want pop. "Chico Junior High School students have been barred from the courthouse across the street from the school. Signs are posted at the Butte County Superior Courthouse, 655 Oleander Ave., on pillars approaching the front door, on both halves of the door itself and on one of the two snack and soda vending machines inside. The school no longer has vending machines on campus because of a movement toward better nutrition and away from childhood obesity...The signs stated clearly 'No Chico Junior High students in courthouse lobby unless accompanied by a parent.'" More (Chico Enterprise-Record 08.23.2005). Comment. More silliness from court administrators. Kids who are well-behaved should always be welcome in any public building.

    FLA judge injured by bomb that killed four in Afghanistan. "The wife of an Okaloosa County, Flordia, judge serving with the U.S. Army Reserves in Afghanistan says he was injured in a roadside bomb attack that killed four soldiers. Brigadier General Patt Maney is a county judge in the First Judicial Circuit in Florida's Panhandle...." More (AL.Com 08.23.2005).

    Those 'infallible' DNA tests. "Laurence Mueller, an evolutionary biology professor at the University of California-Irvine who has been tracking lab errors in DNA cases for years, said DNA labs ''use techniques that have been automated, like Hostess Twinkies on an assembly line. Most of the time, the Twinkies are fine. But once in a while, you see a bad one.' The bad ones, some biologists say, are coming more frequently." More (Boston Globe 08.23.2005). Comment. The take-off case for the story is a Virginia case in which a man spent $200,000 to prove the paternity test by a private company, LabCorp, that said he was the father, was wrong. The judge in the case said the company's performance was "shoddy." According to the story, "LabCorp handles more than 100,000 DNA paternity tests for many public and private clients every year. But evidence at [the] trial showed that the company has only five people reviewing the data and making paternity determinations -- with one supervisor testifying that he issues an average of one paternity report every four minutes during a 10-hour shift."

    Surrogate court scandal. "The immediate scandal is located in Brooklyn, but it takes place throughout the city. It involves a job that should not be making the papers: Surrogate Court judge. It might seem strange that the Surrogate Courts would be considered politically powerful; after all, the surrogate's primary job is to handle guardianships and estate cases. But the judge plays the critical role of assigning attorneys for people who die without a will, and elderly people who need a guardian for their assets. The surrogate is responsible for doling out work worth millions of dollars a year, and abuse is rampant...." Joshua Spivak, Another scandal that's just waiting to be ignored (Newsday 08.23.2005).

    Enforcing Batson 'rules' in Dallas. "Many Dallas judges let lawyers have informal Batson hearings -- where the opposing attorneys compare notes about their strikes -- that are not part of the trial record. But handling a challenge informally eliminates any chance that allegations of biased jury selection can be raised during an appeal. Some legal scholars and appellate attorneys were appalled to learn of the practice...." More (Dallas Morning News 08.23.2005). Comment. This is part three of a multi-part investigation into racial discrimination by prosecutors and defense counsel in jury selection in Dallas courts. I linked to the first part Sunday, 08.21.2005. Part two was yesterday. Worth a read. Defense counsel are as guilty as prosecutors of eliminating jurors on the basis of race. As I said Sunday, the only sensible solution is to eliminate peremptory strikes. That was the view of Justice Thurgood Marshall & it's mine, too. It's time for state supreme courts to cut the high-sounding rhetoric & take action.

    A judge responds to Love. "[Courtney] Love broke down in quiet sobs as Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rand Rubin warned that he was prepared to send her to jail because he felt she needed 'to hit rock bottom' before she was ready to overcome her drug addiction...." More (Globe & Mail 08.22.2005). Comment. After saying that, perhaps hoping it might jar her, the judge ordered her into rehab. The judge's reference to the "need" for some people to hit rock bottom is not without support among the wise people among the many not-so-wise people who populate the various sub-disciplines & schools of psychology, psychiatry, etc. The late, great Erik Erikson (1902-1994) of Harvard said this "need" was often present in cases of troubled but highly-creative young men he had studied during their troubling transition from late adolescence to young adulthood. Going down to the absolute bottom allows the troubled person to know where the bottom is, and it also serves as a solid base from which to propel oneself up to the surface. Any judge who deals with troubled young people ought to read a few of Erikson's books, all readily available (often in used bookstores). I recommend, in order of most helpful: Identity: Youth and Crisis, Young Man Luther, Ghandi's Truth. Love? I don't know about her, but from a distance I'd hazard a guess that she never grieved properly & worked through the guilt that any survivor of a suicide of a loved one experiences. I would think her therapists also ought to encourage her to explore the possibility that her drug abuse is just another form of attempted suicide -- the slow kind. Everyone has a death wish, if Freud is correct, & it's wise for a person who aspires to self-awareness to know in what ways his typically expresses itself. Those who run from the truth about themselves are not healthier than you or I -- just fools.

    Jail overcrowding - might judges be responsible? "[T]wo new studies [of jail crowding in Harris County] conclude that a major reason for the renewed crowding is a trend among the county's criminal court judges to circumvent or ignore [provisions of law] aimed at reducing jail populations. In one study, requested by the judges, the Colorado-based Justice Management Institute concluded that there may be a 'significant' number of low-risk defendants in the county jail simply because they are unable to post bond...The report also states that Harris County judges 'under-utilize' Pretrial Services -- an agency set up as part of the Alberti decision to gather information for the judges...." More (Houston Chronicle 08.22.2005).

    Swearing-in in public? Heavens! "There were wigs and gowns and allegiance sworn to the Queen, her heirs and successors. But there was no pomp when Victoria's newest judges were sworn in last week. In a legal first that broke a venerable tradition, judges Jeanette Morrish, QC, and Julian Leckie, SC, took their County Court oaths in public. Such occasions have previously been private affairs held in a court library or chambers where protocol allowed only select representatives of family, friends or colleagues as witnesses...." More (The Age 08.22.2005).

     Prison inspector blames prisoner suicides on politicization of crime. "Anne Owers, the Chief Inspector of Prisons [in the U.K.], said demands for longer sentences had led to a prisons "crisis" which was boosting the suicide rate. In a stark warning to ministers, the Tory opposition and the right-wing media, the prisons watchdog has urged them to 'be responsible' and not to create climates where the courts feel pressured to recommend prison terms for non-violent offences...." More (The Independent 08.22.2005). Comment. I'm opposed to long prison sentences for non-violent offenders because a) the longer the term, the greater the expense to the taxpayers, and b) shorter terms work just as well. Moreover, we ought to increasingly rely on alternatives to incarceration. But don't expect reason from politicians. Talking tough on crime wins votes -- at least it will continue to do so until enough members of the public get wise. Don't hold your breath. It looks like some of our unimaginative politicians are now calling for long mandatory prison terms for small-timers who are caught making the latest fad drug, Meth, in home "labs." Boy, that'll do the job.

    Judge as leader of the band. "Most days, Louis Schiff wears judge's robes at the satellite courthouse in Deerfield Beach and rules on cases that range from speeding tickets to problems with barking dogs. But the nine-year veteran County Court judge has another, less-known job: He's the leader of the band. Specifically, the Sawgrass Springs Middle School jazz band, and when Schiff has the baton, the band rocks...Schiff's band directorship was recognized by the Broward County School Board, which named him 'Outstanding Adult Volunteer of the Year 2005' last spring. It's an honor that makes him smile. 'I don't really bring being a judge here,' Schiff said during practice in the band room as the school year wound down. 'They don't care that I'm a judge.'" More (Sun-Sentinel 08.21.2005). Comment. When people in the legal profession talk about pro bono publico, they usually seem to be talking about providing free legal services to poor people -- which often translates into creating yet more litigation in what many argue is an overly-litigious society. Pro bono publico means "for the good of the public." On his own time, in his own way, without belaboring the fact he's a judge, Judge Schiff is serving the public every bit as much (maybe more) when he teaches kids to toot their horns as when he bangs his gavel. We remember from our years as an aide at the Minnesota Supreme Court the time Chief Justice Douglas Amdahl was a few minutes late (for him) in arriving at the capitol one day because he'd stopped to change a tire for a woman on the freeway. He didn't tell us; we read about it when the woman tipped off the press. Justice Frankfurter liked to say that the most important office in America was that of citizen. I used to say that Chief Justice Amdahl was really just your next-door neighbor. I meant it as high praise. In "just" being a good citizen, a good neighbor, a good parent, a good mentor, we serve the public good.

    William James on good citizenship. "The deadliest enemies of nations are not their foreign foes; they always dwell within their borders. And from these internal enemies civilization is always in need of being saved. The nation best above all nations is she in whom the civic genius of the people does the saving day by day, by acts without external picturesqueness; by speaking, writing, voting reasonably; by smiting corruption swiftly; by good temper between parties; by the people knowing true men when they see them, and preferring them as leaders to rabid partisans or empty quacks."

    Judge who sentenced people to read books retires. "[Judge Joseph] Dever, 70, retired Thursday as the presiding justice of Lynn [Mass.] District Court, where he introduced 'Changing Lives Through Literature,' a program that allows women convicted of nonviolent crimes to read literature as part of their probation. He brought Changing Lives to Lynn in 1992, modeling it after a similar program for men in New Bedford. It now is offered in 10 state courts to people on probation for nonviolent crimes such as shoplifting or drug possession. Titles often deal with themes of violence, family, and personal responsibility...Dever didn't just mete out the literary sentence. He went to class, too, attending every eight-week session over the last 13 years...." More (Boston Globe 08.21.2005).

    New & improved jury instructions? "The sight of jurors' eyes glazing over as they listen to a judge reading lengthy instructions in murky legalese may become little more than a memory if proposed changes to the legal system are approved. The Judicial Council of California, which makes policy for the state courts, is scheduled to vote Friday on whether to approve new criminal jury instructions to replace the ones judges currently read to jurors before they start their deliberations...." More (North County Times 08.21.2005). Comment. It seems jury instruction guides are always being revised in an attempt to make them clearer to jurors -- and, one would hope, fairer. But even "plain language" instructions don't always make much difference. I served on a civil jury &, realist that I sometimes am, was not surprised that some of the other jurors were willing to proceed on what in fact was a misunderstanding of what the judge instructed. I reminded everybody that the judge had given us a copy of his instructions & suggested we take a few minutes to look at them. That made a difference. I have always believed that the main roadblock to clearer instructions is the reluctance of judges to say anything beyond what the standard instructions say. The reluctance stems from a justified fear that verdicts are more likely to be reversed if the judges say anything extra. It doesn't matter that they know the jurors maybe don't really understand the pattern instructions -- better, it seems, to insulate a verdict from reversal on the ground of defective instructions than to increase the risk of a reversal by expanding upon the recommended language. Sometimes courage is required in little things.

    Study questions prosecutors' claims their peremptories are race-neutral. According to an in-depth statistical analysis in the Dallas Morning News (08.21.2005), "[B]eing black was the most important personal trait affecting which jurors prosecutors rejected...Jurors' attitudes toward criminal justice issues also played an important role, but even when blacks and whites answered key questions the same way, blacks were rejected at higher rates...The News' study showed that blacks served on Dallas juries in proportion to their population -- because prosecutors did not eliminate all blacks and defense attorneys excluded white jurors at three times the rate they rejected blacks...produc[ing] an illusion of equal rights...." Interviews with judges and former prosecutors, among others, seem to support the paper's conclusions that are based on statistical analysis. Comment. I'm personally offended by both the prosecutors' and defense attorneys' use of race in deciding on when to exercise peremptory challenges. The Batson procedures for reviewing peremptories are ineffective. We need to eliminate peremptories altogether.

    Man rams pickup truck into rear of courthouse. "[Kentucky] State [P]olice say 44-year-old Ronald Webb intentionally drove the 1997 Ford Pickup [into] the back of the [Adair County] courthouse yesterday evening...." More (WKYT 27 08.21.2005).

    Judge is a 'devious and deceitful man.' "Controlling events from the bench is Clarke A. Conley, senior justice of the state Superior Court, a devious and deceitful man whose ambition to become Chief Justice of Maine may or may not be twisting his every decision...." That's the reviewer's assessment of the trial judge in a new legal thriller, Flawed Judgment, set in Portland, ME & written by Attorney Grover G. Alexander, using the pseudonym Jim DeFee. Mr. Alexander has practiced law in New England for 50 years, according to the reviewer. More (Maine Today 08.21.2005).

    UNC gets seed money to create judicial college. "UNC's School of Government has received seed money to create a new professional development program for judges, magistrates and other leaders of the state's legal system...." More (Durham Herald-Sun 08.20.2005).

    Profile of Sharia courts in India. "In a tiny first-floor office, off the teeming Bhendi Bazaar's Mughal Masjid lane, sits burqa-clad Shagufta Ansari. Across the table is seated the bearded, bespectacled Qazi Abdul Ahad. This 26-year-old man, in a kurtapyjama and skull cap, may grant Ansari, 30, what the country's judiciary has failed to: it may free her from a marital hell. Or so believes the young woman. The order, expected in a few months, will be swift and according to the Islamic principles of divorce. This is a story from one of hundreds of Darul Qazas (Sharia courts) in the country which the Supreme Court wants to investigate...." More (Times of India 08.20.2005).

    More on Judge Crater. The other day we posted a piece titled Judge Crater's body found? You mean he's dead? Today's NYT has a good recounting of the 75-year-old "cold case," including links to old NYT stories on the case from the 1930s. More (N.Y. Times 08.20.2005).

    Bush's plan to stack the court with his people, run again in 2008. "Mr. Bush is worried about lagging support in the High Court, and is not bracing for some historic salvation, like when the Court gave him the presidency in ’00. 'No,” he said, 'if I’m to take the White House again in 2008, I must fill the nation’s highest court with men and women who have good ideologies...Just send in a copy of your voter registration card, your resume, and a check or money order for $20.08 and you’ll get a ‘Friend of the White House’ sticker and membership certificate,' the President told the nation’s young judges. From those members, eight or more judges will be chosen...." More (The Spoof UK 08.20.2005).

    Firebombs tossed at courthouse in Cavalier, ND, extensive damage. "[T]he blazes at the [Pembina County] courthouse started when cans of gasoline were tossed through glass doors of the two buildings. The courthouse received extensive damage to the first floor and the fire knocked out telephone service to the emergency dispatch center. The law enforcement center suffered minor damage and the prisoners had to be relocated...." Officers tried to serve a protection order on a farmer. He escaped, drove to town & headed for the courthouse, where he apparently started the fires. As many as 30 shots were fired in & around the sheriff's office in the courthouse. The local police chief was injured, as was the farmer. More (Grand Forks Herald 08.20.2005).

    Court reverses court official's drug conviction - magistrate not neutral. "The state Appellate Court has reversed the drug conviction of a former chief judicial marshal in the New Britain Judicial District, saying the judge who signed the search warrant for Eric Edman's home and car could not possibly have been impartial...." The judge who signed the warrant that led to the discovery of the drugs on which the conviction was based had asked the defendant to resign for failing to disclose a prior drug conviction & recently had been told by defendant that defendant was contemplating suing everyone connected with his being asked to resign. More (Hartford Courant 08.19.2005).

    May trial judge & spouse waive benefit to neutralize recusal argument? "One of the defendants in the state's landmark lawsuit against the former makers of lead paint has asked the state Supreme Court to decide whether the judge in the case should recuse himself. Sherwin-Williams Co. wants Superior Court Judge Michael A. Silverstein to step down because he owns a house built before 1978, the year lead paint was banned in the United States. Homes built before that date may contain lead paint, and the company argues that Silverstein could benefit financially if the state wins its lawsuit. Silverstein has declined to step down. On Friday, he and his wife waived any benefit they could receive under the lawsuit for their home in Lincoln...." More (Boston Globe 08.19.2005). Comment. Will the waiver do the trick? I don't know. I suppose one might argue generally that a judge's waiver of a potential personal benefit from the outcome of a class action doesn't clearly neutralize the argument that as a member of the class the judge still may identify with (or in the public's eye be identified with) the class. Then again, if the likely benefit the class members will receive will be a bunch of worthless coupons, which seems to be the norm in class action settlements, then the personal benefit argument seems weak even without reference to any waiver. I have yet to meet a judge who would sell his soul for one of those class action coupons, which typically are worth less than the coupons that occasionally make it worthwhile to buy a Sunday paper.

    Judge Crater's body found? You mean he's dead? "He was last seen 75 years ago [on August 6, 1930], leaving a W.46th St. watering hole after dining with two companions and jumping into a taxi, disappearing into history. Judge Joseph Force Crater -- Tammany Hall stalwart, justice of the New York State Supreme Court and dapper man about town - remains the city's most famous missing person...." See, The most famous "judge mystery" ever for more, including link. Now comes the always-reliable N.Y. Daily News (08.19.2005) with a story with the sub-headline: Dead gal's secret letter may solve 1930 mystery. "Upon her death [in June], family members opened a safe-deposit box, where they found a letter with 'Do Not Open Until My Death' instructions on the envelope. In it, the woman claimed that her father told her on his deathbed where Crater's remains were and that cab driver Frank Burn was his killer. The letter also mentions Burn's brother and a city cop named Charles...." Comment. Where might his body be found? Under the boardwalk, according to the story. Which one? The Coney Island one, of course. And all along, the clues were right there, calling out to us like some St. Paul Winter Carnival "Find the Medallion" clues: "From a park you hear the happy sounds from a carousel." That ought to have meant something to us but we were "just walking along/ not paying attention/ to anything/ be bop de dop/ doodle dum bum" (lyrics copyrighted by "Burton Randall Hanson," from a song I made up years ago to amuse my kids). "You can almost taste the hotdogs and french fries they sell." Listen, you fool! "Under the boardwalk down by the sea...." And there it was -- there he's been, all along, right under our feet, under the boardwalk! We hope, of course, the story's wrong. We'd like to be able to continue thinking of that dapper judge as we did when we were a kid in Benson, Minnesota in the 1950s and we first heard about him -- we'd like to go on thinking of him living a new, free life somewhere, say, South America or Tunisia, a Humphrey Bogart-type character and a little Lauren Bacall-type gal by his side at a table at a seaside cafe, drinking a banana daiquiri in the setting sun, forever young (see, infra, my squib on Dark Passage from BurtLaw's Law & Romantic Flicks I.

    Dark Passage (1947). Dark Passage is not the best known of the Bogart-Bacall movies but may be my favorite. Film noir at its best. Framed man, Bogart, escapes from prison, gets a new face from a back-alley plastic surgeon, gets shelter from Bacall, who believes in his innocence and helps him find the guy who framed him. Bogart eventually meets up with Bacall in Peru, where they live happily ever after (I like to think). Score, by Franz Waxman, makes wonderful use, at just the right times, of the great Johnny Mercer/Richard Whiting song You're just too marvelous, too marvelous for words, performed by Jo Stafford. The movie gives one a great sense of time (the '40's) and place (great b&w scenes of San Francisco). The last time I saw it was on our local PBS station in Mpls.-St. Paul. It's available on DVD.

    D. D. Wozniak, Chief Judge, MN Court of Appeals, dies at 82. Today's Star-Tribune reports that Judge Wozniak died of a stroke. More (Minneapolis Star-Tribune 08.19.2005). And, see, As judge, legislator or activist, Wozniak wasn't afraid to buck system (St. Paul Pioneer-Press 08.19.2005). Comment. Wozniak was DFL Chairman of the House Tax Committee in the MN Legislature. He was close friends with and political allies of Rudy Perpich and Peter Popovich. When the Minnesota Court of Appeals was established, in 1983, Perpich was Governor. Perpich appointed Popovich to be the court's first chief judge, and Perpich gave Popovich the biggest say in the appointments of the eleven other openings on the new court, made in 1983 and 1984 -- along with some more in 1987. As some Republicans had predicted, pretty much "across the board" the governor appointed DFLers. (Listing.) Indeed, for a time during the early years there hung, in a prominent position in a common area of the Court of Appeals, an area that clearly should have been recognized as a nonpartisan area, a prominent large portrait of the idol of Perpich, Popovich & Co., FDR. Chief Judge Popovich's right-hand man on the court was Judge Wozniak. Wozniak was named to succeed Popovich as Chief Judge when Popovich was elevated to the Minnesota Supreme Court, where Popovich served first as an Associate Justice & then as an outstanding Chief Justice. Unfortunately, the judicial careers of both were cut short at age 70 because of the mandatory retirement law, which the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld literally on the eve of Judge Popovich's ascension to that court. See, BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges. There were numerous critics of the new court, but, in my opinion, Popovich shaped it into a first-rate appellate court, and Wozniak was an effective steward of Popovich's creation. Indeed, it is my opinion that, thanks largely to Popovich's and Wozniak's leadership and the early appointments, the court of appeals is actually a better and more-reliable court than the for-the-most-part Republican Minnesota Supreme Court, as currently constituted.

    The courthouse as a stage for life's spectacles. "The judge, a Democrat on a rarefied stage, performed a judicial soliloquy before imposing a $4,000 fine and ordering the [Republican] governor to write an apology to citizens and to send it to media across the state -- so that 'everybody knows about this throughout the state, from the shores of Lake Erie, to the banks of the Ohio River. I want them to know that you are sorry for what you’ve done. Many perhaps will question the wisdom of the sentence that I impose today. The court of public opinion and the court of history have already and will continue in the future to impose a far greater punishment than what I plan to impose on you today. The message is simple and clear. No one is above the law in the state of Ohio, even the governor can be charged and convicted of a criminal offense.'" More (Toledo Blade 08.19.2005).

    Judicial immunity no shield for thuggery -- but was there any thuggery? "'A judge's robe is not a king's crown,' Justice M. Kathleen Butz [yes, that's right, 'Justice M. Kathleen Butz,' not 'Chief Justice Kathleen M. Blatz'], of Sacramento's 3rd District Court of Appeal, wrote. '[Judicial immunity] was never intended to protect acts of thuggery against litigants merely because the assailant happens to be a judge.'...The appeal was based on a demurrer sustained by Placer County Superior Court Judge Joseph O'Flaherty, which required the appellate justices to accept the underlying allegations as true...." More (The Recorder, Law.Com at Yahoo.Com 08.19.2005). Comment. The allegations are pretty wild: that a discovery referee, given a copy of a motion for a protective order an attorney representing one side said he planned to file against him, "tried," in the words of the story, "to keep them from leaving a deposition at his office, eventually slamming a door on [the attorney], injuring his shoulder and neck in an area where he had undergone cancer surgery." The discovery referee says the assault simply never happened. That's what a trial will decide.

    Feds' 'Operation Wrinkled Robe' continues with more subpoenas. "New Orleans Federal investigators have issued grand jury subpoenas to state District Judge Kernan 'Skip' Hand and Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard for records of political donations to Hand's campaigns from a bond company involved with corruption at the parish courthouse. The subpoenas are indications that authorities are pushing ahead with their Operation Wrinkled Robe investigation, which has already netted two judges -- Alan Green and Ronald Bodenheimer -- and Louis and Lori Marcotte, the owners of Bail Bonds Unlimited. Both Marcottes have pleaded guilty to charges in the probe and are awaiting sentencing...." More (KLFY-TV 08.18.2005). Comment. Boy, the feds are pursuing state judges in a number of states. I guess I'm more of a states'-righter than I thought because I think the feds' claims of jurisdiction to prosecute state judges are a little contrived. It all seems so un-Republican. But wait! I think the states where all or most of these investigations have occurred are historically Democratic, on the local level, at least. Hmm.

    Did judge 'knowingly' misrepresent facts in campaign? "Circuit Judge John Renke III's attorney attacked much of the ethics case against his client Monday, saying the Judicial Qualifications Commission could not prove the judge knowingly misled voters during his 2002 campaign...'To be narrowly tailored,' judges stated in Weaver vs. Bonner , an 11th Circuit ruling, 'restrictions on candidate speech during political campaigns must be limited to false statements that are made with knowledge of falsity or with reckless disregard as to whether the statement is false.'" More (St. Petersburgh Times 08.18.2005). Examples given of the things they're diddling over, with his attorney's argument, include:

--Distributed a political mailer that read "John Renke, a judge with our values." What he meant was he would be "a judge with our values," with references to his legal practice making clear that he still was an attorney and not a sitting judge.

--Asserted he was "supported by our area's bravest" under a picture with some Clearwater firefighters. Renke meant he had the support of the particular firefighters in the photo, not any endorsement from a group representing all Clearwater firefighters.

Comment. These are the sort of exaggerations many, many people now sitting in judicial & other offices around the country have made in getting appointed or elected. I think it's generally best to trust the appointing authority, in this case the voters, to see through campaign hyperbole. Most voters have gotten good at it -- they've had an awful lot of experience at it.

    Federal judge rules on judicial free speech issue. "A rule barring state judges from expressing opinions on controversial issues outside the courtroom is unconstitutional, according to a ruling issued by a federal judge in Anchorage...." More (Anchorage Daily News 08.18.2005). My views? See, Free speech is a 'bad idea'?

    FLA judge agrees to proposed reprimand for seven 'violations.' "A state agency charges that County Judge W. Wayne Woodard has repeatedly been rude in court, put incorrect information in campaign literature and improperly tried to persuade a political opponent not to run against him last year, among other transgressions. Woodard's attorney, Scott Tozian, said the judge has signed an[ing] for Woodard to attend anger management counseling. He will also be reprimanded by the Florida Supreme Court...." More (Sarasota Herald Tribune 08.18.2005). Comment. Among the allegations summarized in the paper, we couldn't help chuckling at this one:

In April 2004 Woodard phoned the house of attorney Carolyn Garber, who had recently declared she would run for his seat. Woodard told Garber's husband, Kenneth, that she might want to reconsider her plans to run. Woodard said he already had a lot of campaign money and many locations lined up for political signs. According to the records, the judge said that his campaign was for his "retirement and grandchildren," and that losing the election would affect his retirement, and thus his grandchildren.

    Judge gets two-week suspension for anonymous e-mails. "Broward County Judge Robert Diaz will serve a two-week unpaid suspension starting Aug. 26 for sending anonymous e-mails to a fellow judge and the Broward County Hispanic Bar Association. The messages, sent last year from the e-mail address, implied that County Judge Lee Seidman was reporting illegal immigrants to federal authorities. Diaz has admitted it was 'entirely inappropriate' for him to send such e-mails...." More (Sun-Sentinel 08.18.2005). Comment. Judges just wanna have fun. See our proposal for a "Judicial Mardi Gras" in "On judicial swimsuits and the Rules of Judicial Conduct -- part II" (scroll down) at BurtLaw's Law & Swimsuits. Why do so many judges get caught doing crazy things? I suggest it's cuz we expect them to be better than the rest of us & that "being better" all the time ain't fun & leads to harmful repression of the fun instinct. All that repressed fun builds up & eventually erupts, with horrible societal or at least judicial consequences. Thus, day after day we read of this-or-that judge being punished for doing crazy or outrageous or "inappropriate" things, all unbecoming of a perfect person, things like raising his or her voice with the kids at home or tripping over the dog. The "Judicial Mardi Gras" is the answer.

    'Lee' appointed top court chief in Korea. "President Roh Moo-hyun appointed Lee Yong-hun, chairman of the Public Servants' Ethics Committee, to be the new chief justice of the Supreme Court, Chong Wa Dae said Thursday. Lee, 63, will replace Choi Jong-young, the incumbent chief justice of the nation's top court whose 6-year tenure expires on Sept. 23, contingent upon the endorsement of the National Assembly at a confirmation hearing...." More (Korea Times 08.18.2005). Comment. In Minnesota, "Land of 10,000 Andersons," whenever the governor appoints yet another "Anderson" to the state supreme court, people just say, "Oh, another Swede named 'Anderson.' Swedes make good judges. Not too smart but not too dumb." (I'm kidding -- but it is a fact that 42.856% of the judges currently on the Minnesota Supreme Court are 'Andersons.') In Korea, "Land of 100,000,000 Lees," people are saying, "Oh, another Lee in charge; that's not news." Results of Google search for "Lee" & "Korea."

    Judge upset simply because shopworker wrecked his MG? "The Western Cape judge president is claiming more than R140 000 from a luxury car dealer in Green Point for the repairs of damage to his car after one of the dealer's employees crashed it...." More (News24 - South Africa 08.18.2005). Comment. Aw, judge, so what if some guy dented your MG? As Judge Judy would say, "Live with it!" (That's one of her all-purpose ways of disposing of cases.)

    If we don't give judges pay raise, they'll turn to craps? "Around Athens, people know William A. Lavelle in many roles. He's the patriarch of one of the town's most prominent families; an attorney who has practiced for more than five decades; a former judge; and an old-school Democrat who's still active in the county party. Now, at age 80 and planning soon to retire, Lavelle is revealing to the world another of his many identities: Hot hand with the bones...'By god, my system's better than any of the systems I've read about in books,' he enthused. Lavelle has put his findings into a small book, Be a Wise Dice Player...." More (Athens OH News 08.18.2005). Comment. Our guess is it will sell more copies than Justice Cardozo's "small book," The Nature of the Judicial Process.

    Judge in ILL's 'judicial hellhole' resigns. "Circuit Judge Phil Kardis is resigning effective Sept. 2, opening the door for Madison County to get its first Republican circuit judge in 25 years...[Supreme Court Justice Lloyd] Karmeier, a Republican who was elected in November and whose district covers the 3rd Judicial Circuit, will recommend a replacement for Kardis to the full Supreme Court. Traditionally, the full court approves the recommendation made by the justice whose district covers the circuit where the vacancy lies...The appointee would serve until the election in November 2006. If the appointee chose to run, he or she would have the advantage of being an incumbent. Madison County has only a handful of lawyers who are known Republicans...." More (Belleville News-Democrat 08.18.2005). Comment. I wonder what Judge Kardis will tell people in retirement in Arizona -- "Well, I was a judge in Madison County, Illinois, which has been called a 'judicial hellhole'"?

    Hearing inquiry: did judge kill self? "State District Judge Ed Aparicio had talked of killing himself, drank heavily and withdrew from his family in the two years after FBI officials raided his home and chambers, his widow testified Wednesday during a hearing to determine whether he committed suicide. 'From when the raid began back in January (2003), I knew my husband's health had been declining due to all the betrayal of all his friends,' Celeste Aparicio told Hidalgo County Justice of the Peace Jesus 'Jessie' Morales. 'He would come home sometimes crying...He kept learning of friends who had betrayed him.'" More (Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram 08.17.2005). Comment. With all the TV dramas featuring high-tech forensic pathologists, it won't be long before we'll see one titled, CSI Judges, focusing on judges participating in autopsies, judges being autopsied, judges being asked to give DNA, etc.

    High Court judge says woman should replace him. "The High Court judge Michael McHugh has challenged the Federal Government to replace him with a woman when he steps down in November, and says there are at least 10 who are qualified for the job...'There are at least 10 women judges serving on supreme courts of the states and the Federal Court who would make first class High Court judges,' he said...." More (Sydney Morning Herald 08.18.2005).

    Removal urged for judge's conduct in trying to rescue daughter. "An Elkhart County judge should be stripped of office for his role in an armed confrontation at a Simonton Lake house in 2003, according to the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications. The commission, an arm of the Indiana Supreme Court, also recommended unspecified legal sanctions against Superior Court 1 Judge L. Benjamin Pfaff. Pfaff faces no criminal charges from the incident, which involved his search for his runaway teen daughter, who was then 15. More (South Bend Tribune 08.17.2005). Comment. We typically urge less-harsh treatment of everyone from Minnesota kids who bring plastic Nintendo guns with them to school to judges who veer slightly off the boring straight-and-narrow path they are expected to follow. See, e.g., my comments on this judge's conduct at Judge charged with reprising Michael Douglas' role in 'Traffic'? As to the boy with the plastic Nintendo gun & our schools' stupid zero-tolerance policies, see entry dated 04.27.2002 titled "Zero-tolerance nonsense" (scroll down) at BurtLaw's Law & Kids. We even urged probation with home-confinement rather than prison for former Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge Roland Amundson when he was convicted of a property offense -- see entry dated 06.08.2002 titled "Wish list" (scroll down) at BurtLaw on Crime & Punishment, an opinion that subjected us to national ridicule (a slight exaggeration) by an extremely popular conservative blogger (whom we nonetheless like). We can take it -- & we can dish it out.

    Does the Brit's outgoing top gun -- er, top judge -- agree with BurtMan? "The retiring lord chief justice, Lord Woolf, today makes a passionate plea for a new approach to law and order which would see a major shift away from punishment towards the solution of problems which generate crime. Writing in today's Guardian, Lord Woolf suggests a shortlist of four strictly limited categories of offenders who might be imprisoned and -- in sharp contrast to the rhetoric of government ministers -- he adds: 'We need wider understanding and acceptance that the principles of sentencing are not just founded on punishing offenders.'" More (Guardian 08.17.2005). Lord Woolf's written comments & those of other experts are in response to a series of reports by Guardian reporter Nick Davies based on a two-year investigation of Britain's criminal justice system. Before reprinting the expert's responses, Davies summarizes his conclusions as follows:

The criminal justice system doesn't work. It's a mess. It's a waste of money. It's a badly managed attempt to implement policies which would not work even if they were well managed. It's been hijacked by politicians for their own populist ends. It doesn't catch many criminals, it doesn't dispense much justice and it's no kind of system at all.

    Judge Samuel Sewell's remarkable admission of guilt. From Hilary Spurling's review in the UK Telegraph (issue of Arts:Telegraph dated 08.21.2005) of Richard Francis' Judge Sewall's Apology: the Salem Witch Trials and the Forming of a Conscience:

By the spring of 1693, the crisis had passed. Public opinion had shifted, and no more witches were hanged in Salem. People who had for months refused to believe the evidence of their eyes and ears tacitly acknowledged their own gullibility and hysteria. The discredited accusers retreated into a kind of ignominious limbo. But the only one of the judges who openly confronted what had happened was Sewall. In January 1697, he confessed his guilt before the congregation of Salem, claiming full responsibility for "the Blame and Shame of it", and asking forgiveness from God and men.

Francis sees this as a turning point, one of those historical hinges when a new order takes over from the old. Sewall's public statement marked the moment at which medieval collectivism gave way to an individualistic, egalitarian, essentially modern view of human conduct. Evil, no longer externalised at random in the shape of a small girl or an aged farmer, could now be seen as a public projection of internal anxiety and fear.

    Your obedient servant. It used to be a tradition of writers of letters to the editors of The Times of London to sign them, "Your obedient servant." Several years ago I read a volume collecting many of the better or more famous or quirkier ones. Here's a link to the results page of a Google search uncovering many of them. This all comes to mind today because there are several good letters to the editor of the Times on the subject of "Interpreting laws on terror: judges, politics and human rights," including an excellent one by Lord Donaldson of Lymington, all in response to some of the outrageous attacks on the judiciary by the likes of our President's chum, P.M. Tony Blair. We also like the conclusion to the letter by Lawrence West, Q.C.: "Robert Mugabe has a Minister of Justice who regularly puts the Zimbabwean judiciary in its place. Is that what Mr. Everest [one of the participants in the debate] really wants?" And we like that Mr. Blair's wife, herself a lawyer, recently publicly threw a cherry pie in his face over this very issue: Tony Blair's wife slaps him in face, publicly, over judge comments.

    Honorable Janet Pueschel, GOP Clerk of Court -- what's she like?  Wake County NC's website, which calls her "Honorable Janet I. Pueschel," says, "Ms. Pueschel was elected in the November 2002 general election to a four year term. She took office on December 2, 2002, the first Republican and the first woman ever elected to serve as the Wake County Clerk of Superior Court." The "course of true love" between Ms. Pueschel (depicted left in an "official" photo on the website) & the large staff she inherited has not "run smooth," to use words Lysander speaks to Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream. On 11.24.2003 WRAL-TV reported that "Roughly one-third [38] of the people who worked in the Wake County Clerk's Office one year ago are no longer there. Many of those gone blame a hostile working environment. Jan Pueschel is the first woman and first Republican to be elected Superior Court clerk in Wake County, but the former prison warden is now known less for making history than making enemies in the office she runs." The report, based on interviews with more than a dozen employees, said they all told a similar story: "'She intends to humiliate everyone there. She tries to belittle you,' former employee Rose Massengill said. 'She curses at you. She screams,' former employee Nelly Nelson said." Click here for more. A 05.20.2004 WRAL report said that since taking office "[S]ome of [Pueschel's] relationships with employees, lawyers, judges and the media have been rocky. Now, a district court judge has reprimanded her for her conduct...[for] 'not timely perform[ing] the duties of her office with regards to the Worthless Check Court.' Click here for more. A few weeks ago, on 07.26.2005, WRAL reported that Pueschel had "called authorities, alleging that a disgruntled employee assaulted her." WRAL reported: "Shawnta Wilder-White said that her boss, Pueschel, told her last Friday that her fingernails were too long. Wilder-White cut them on Saturday and said that on Monday, Pueschel handed her a termination letter. Wilder-White admits she tossed the letter on Pueschel's desk. Pueschel claims the envelope hit her in the face." Because Pueschel is a government official, Wilder-White faced a felony assault charge for what otherwise would have been a misdemeanor charge. Click here for more. Today, 08.17.2005, WRAL announced (click here) that a district court judge has dismissed the assault charges. Comments. a) The photos of "Honorable Janet Pueschel" that accompany the news stories we link to are not as flattering as the one we gallantly used from the clerk's office's web page. b) We don't have the slightest idea of who's in the right and who's in the wrong in the ongoing problems described. Maybe, as often happens, each one of the many parties involved needs to do a bit of reassessing. Heck, we all need to "reassess." c) Without suggesting that Ms. Pueschel is a so-called "bully broad," we can't help thinking some watching or reading the TV news reports might guess she is. For our views on "bully broads" & on men who are bullies (we don't like any of them -- well, we like this one -- & have been known to stand up to them), see our 2001 entry titled Are you a 'bully broad'? Wanna get ahead? (scroll down) at BurtLaw's Law & Women.

    Profile of Eddie Howard, San Angelo, ME justice of peace. "Howard's work, and his opinion, carry much respect in the county. As a justice of the peace, Howard handles a variety of duties, from presiding over criminal court -- Class C misdemeanors and infractions only -- to handling death certificates and marriages, mental competency hearings, small claims court and other civil disputes. 'He's got impeccable credibility and integrity and works hard to do what is right in the eyes of the public and in every aspect of his life,' said Fred Buck, a justice of the peace in a district that adjoins Howard's. 'Unless he felt the need to recuse himself, he would not let any relationship be any influence to discredit what he was doing with his position.' Howard has been a Church of Christ minister, a real estate agent and a dog trainer who specializes in canines that find lost people, said Buck, who has known Howard for about seven years...." More (Bangor News 08.17.2005).

    Pitt & Aniston's 'private divorce judge.' "They will negotiate their split in front of temporary judge Jill Robbins in their lawyers' offices thanks to concessions which only exist in California -- and will be spared having the details of their split printed in public court papers. Celebrity divorce lawyer Raoul Felder says, 'This is a rent-a-judge situation. It's something that can only be done in the state of California.'" More (ContactMusic.Com 08.17.2005). British Glamour Daily reports The Star as saying the judge will be paid £550-an-hour. More. Comment. I'd be willing to do it pro bono publico.

    Profile of Canadian Supreme Court law clerks. "In Canada, popular lore has it some clerks are enlisted by overworked judges to compose not only research briefs but also unofficial first drafts of actual judgments, a rumour confirmed for this article by former chief justice Antonio Lamer, now with Stikeman Elliott in Ottawa...." More (The Globe & Mail 08.17.2005). Comment. We've always wondered about those rumours. The ones about judges being "overworked," we mean. :-) We're looking for some people, other than the justices themselves, people with personal knowledge of the facts who will confirm the rumours -- under oath. See, our entry dated 11.27.2002 titled "Those hard-working (wink, wink) Justices -- will one of 'em retire?" (scroll down) at BurtLaw's Court Gazing V.

    Roberts heard terrorism case during interviewing stage. "[Judge John] Roberts recently released details of the months-long interviewing process showing that he met with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and other administration officials about the Supreme Court job while sitting on the three-judge panel that eventually allowed Bush to resume the use of military officers to conduct trials of terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The 'military commissions' are central to Bush's anti-terrorism strategy...." More (Washington Post 08.17.2005). Comment. We don't question Judge Roberts' integrity, but it is a well-recognized aspect of human nature that we all are prone during the courtship period to behave with an eye to how our behavior will be perceived by the person who is the object of our pursuit. Therefore, & bearing in mind that judges need to be careful to try if reasonable to avoid the appearance of bias, etc., -- although not necessarily to let that be the sole governing standard -- we believe Judge Roberts, as potential judicial-bride-elect of St. George the Dragon-fighting Judicial Lothario, ought to have recused.

    When is a judge guilty of wrongful appropriation of government property? "The mystery arose last month as Tarrant County officials were preparing to move the family courts from the Civil Courts Building to the new Family Law Center. In six courtrooms, stately seals that typically hang above the judges' benches had gone missing...At least three judges have confessed to county officials they took the seals for their new offices -- and they are holding tight to their courtroom mementos...Two types of seals were missing: county seals and judicial seals. Both are large metal disks featuring a lone star emblem, and each cost as much as $800..." More (Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram 08.17.2005). Comment. Some members of the county board have talked of deducting $1,500 from the pay checks of the offending judges if they don't return the seals -- a sign they don't believe the judges acted with any criminal intent but a sign they believe the judges in some way should be deemed to have bought government property. Not "You break it, it's yours," but "You move it from the courtroom into chambers, it's yours & you pay big time, sucker."

    Chief judge throws party to thank others. "The people entrusted with making the justice system work in Hampden County had their day in court yesterday as Barbara J. Rouse, state Superior Court chief justice, threw them a party. At a reception in a Hampden Superior Court courtroom, Rouse said that Hampden County has had amazing productivity in Superior Court cases. She cited judges, prosecutors and other staff of the district attorney's office, bar advocates, public defenders, court officers, court reporters, interpreters, clerk's office staff and probation workers as contributing to the success. Rouse said that the challenges are particularly great in Hampden County given the need for more court resources. In the first six months of the year, the court disposed of far more cases than it took in, Rouse said...." More (Springfield MA Republican 08.16.2005). Comment. If the court "needs" more "resouces," how was it that the court was able to dispose of "far more cases than it took in"? I merely ask the question. I don't mean to imply there's no logical answer.

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

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