BurtLaw's Daily Judge is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, this is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal non-profit pro bono publico First-Amendment protected "web log" or "blog," one with a subjective, idiosyncratic, and eccentric sociological and social-psychological slant that focuses not on the latest judicial decisions of supposed great legal importance but on a) the institution of judge in the United States and in other countries throughout the world, b) the judicial office and role, c) judicial personalities, d) the great common law tradition of judging as practiced here and throughout the world, e) judges as judges, f) judges as ordinary people with the usual mix of virtues and flaws, etc. We link to newspapers and other sources in order to alert you to ideas, articles, stories, speeches, law books, literary works and other things that have interested us and that may interest you. In linking to another site or source, we don't mean either to suggest we necessarily agree with views or ideas expressed there or to attest to the accuracy of facts set forth there. We urge you in every instance to click on the link and read the entire story or other printed source to which we link. We often use the linked piece as a springboard for expressing our opinion, typically clearly labelled "Comment."
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About Burton Hanson. Burton Hanson is a graduate of Harvard Law School, admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Minnesota. He worked one year as Hennepin County District Court Special Term (Civil) Law Clerk, two years as law clerk for the late Justice C. Donald Peterson of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and over 26 years as Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Supreme Court. He was a nonpartisan candidate for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election in November 2000 and a liberal anti-war candidate for Congress in the Republican primary in the Minnesota Third District in September 2004. He was one of the first law bloggers (blawgers). He began planning his first blog, BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else in 1999 but delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. His campaign website, the no-longer extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first such use of a weblog or blog. In 2004 he also used the personal blog format in his primary campaign for Congress. That site, BurtonHanson.Com, has morphed into a personal political opinion blog and also contains the archives of his 2004 campaign web pages and blog postings.
The People's Court. "When Adolf Hitler rose to power, he deemed the current judicial system too lenient -- or perhaps not loyal enough -- and he instituted the 'National Socialist People's Court' -- the Volksgerichtshof (VGH). The VGH dealt solely with cases of treason against Hitler and the Nazis. Roland Freisler, the spirited lawyer and admirer of Hitler, was VGH president from 1942 until his death in 1945. Under Freisler, the VGH convicted thousands [of treason]. The definition of treason was flexible and, in most cases, defense in the courtroom was futile. Guilty verdicts were generally a foregone conclusion and death sentences (which were prevalent in these cases) were carried out within hours of the verdict...." More (White Rose). Comment. "Raving Roland," as he was called, was the judge in the February 22, 1943 "trial" of Sophie Scholl and other members of The White Rose, a tiny resistance movement at Munich University that hoped to convince people that continuing the war was futile. The arrest, trial and execution of Scholl are the subject of Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (German, with English subtitles), one of the nominees for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. It's reviewed in yesterday's (02.17.2006) NYT by Stephen Holden, who refers to Judge Freisler's "fulminations" in the courtroom as having "a tone of desperate, hysterical fury." The depiction and his nickname are justified: "Belittling, impatient, loud, verbose and anything but just, Freisler's outbursts in the courtroom are legendary... recounted and corroborated by eye-witnesses and, more importantly...captured on film." Fittingly, "Raving Roland" was "on the bench 3 February 1945 when air raid sirens sounded. The courtroom emptied as people scurried to nearby bomb shelters. Noticing that he'd left some important files behind, Freisler returned to the courthouse," just as a bomb hit, destroying it and killing him, instantly. More (White Rose).
My Father's Court. "Whenever he conducted a Din Torah [rabbinical arbitration], Father repeated the same speech: that he was opposed to the taking of oaths. Not only did he object to oaths, he objected even to pledges, words of honor, or handshaking guarantees for the fulfillment of a promise. One can never fully trust one's own memory, Father argued; therefore, one must not swear even to what one believes to be the truth. It is written that when God proclaimed, 'Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord...,' heaven and earth trembled." From Isaac Bashevis Singer, "The Oath," In My Father's Court - A Memoir 60 (1966). Comment. I'm like Singer's dad in my general personal objection to pledges, oaths, petitions, etc. See, "Why won't you sign the pledge?" at BurtLaw's War on Terrorism IV (scroll down). See, also, The debate about swearing on the Quran.
Judge suspended following arrest at hotel for drunken behavior. "A B.C. provincial court judge was arrested and jailed Thursday night after staff at one of Vancouver's toniest hotels called police with a complaint about drunken and abusive behaviour. Provincial court judge William Sundhu  was arrested after police arrived at the Four Seasons Hotel in response to a complaint that a man was harassing employees there, including a waitress and patrons of The Terrace bar...[Chief Justice Hugh] Stansfield[, who suspended Sundhu,] said that Mr. Sundhu confessed to him that alcohol played a significant role in his life and he may need therapeutic treatment...." More (Globe & Mail 02.18.2006).
Judge warns those presenting victim impact statements: 'No threats.' "Judge Patrick Grady has taken the unusual step of warning the public to behave next week when Roger Bentley is sentenced for the kidnapping and murder of 10-year-old Jetseta Gage. In a court order filed Friday, Grady issued the warning to those making victim impact statements at Bentley's Feb. 24 sentencing in Johnson County District Court...[The order states] 'that any person presenting a victim impact statement...[is] prohibited from predicting or advocating for or threatening the assault, sexual assault or murder of (Bentley)...Further, any assaultive conduct toward (Bentley) in the courtroom is strictly prohibited.'" The judge said he'll remove anyone from the courtroom who violates the order and hold the offender in contempt of court. More (Iowa City Press-Citizen 02.18.2006).
Trusted courthouse aide charged with embezzlement. "[David Anthony Macias, 47, a]n accounting supervisor in El Cajon Superior Court[,] stole court fees and fines that could total hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past 10 to 15 years to support a gambling habit and took or destroyed court files to cover his tracks, prosecutors said yesterday. 'He would take the cash and there was no way to trace it,' prosecutor Mike Still said in San Diego Superior Court yesterday...." Mr. Macias pleaded not guilty. More (San Diego Union Tribune 02.18.2006). Related. Judge vacates sweet plea deal given court embezzler after learning he's ineligible (Cleveland Plain Dealer 02.18.2006) ("Former clerk Steven Doaty cut a sweetheart deal last year after admitting he embezzled more than $31,000 from the cash register at Shaker Heights Municipal Court. Doaty, 31, a four-year court employee with an Ecstasy addiction, persuaded Judge Ann Mannen to place him in a first-offender program that would have spared him from a criminal conviction if he successfully paid back the stolen money and completed a year's probation.").
Mom sues courts over minor son's death in courthouse. "The mother of Kyle Young, who died after falling five floors down an elevator shaft at the Edmonton Law Courts two years ago, has filed an $80,000 lawsuit over his death...On Jan. 22, 2004, [court security officers] were trying to restrain a handcuffed and shackled Young against an elevator door. The door then gave way and Young plunged to his death...." More (Edmonton Journal 02.18.2006).
First female judge in Palm Beach County dies at 102. "Appointed municipal court judge for the town of Lantana in 1956, Anne E'del Deacon became the first female judge in Palm Beach County. Mrs. Deacon died Wednesday. She was 102. One of 11 children, Mrs. Deacon worked nights while enrolled in law school to help her family make ends meet and pay for her education. She interrupted her studies at Temple University's law school to replenish her tuition fund by traveling to South Florida to work at the Boca Raton Hotel and Resort Club as a secretary and general assistant manager. Upon receiving a scholarship, Mrs. Deacon returned to Temple and received a law degree in 1939. She was the only female among the 45 students in her class...." More (Palm Beach Post 02.18.2006).
Judge mistakenly sends e-mail to press. The Trinidad & Tobago Express reports today, 02.18.2006, that "a judge," whom it does not identify, mistakenly forwarded an e-mail to a journalist instead of a fromer judge, an e-mail in which he admitted he'd made in error in a recently-concluded trial. The "frantic" judge called the reporter and asked him not to publish the info contained in the e-mail, and the reporter agreed not to do so.
Court stenographer claims judge raped her for two years. "A Gingoog City trial court judge accused of raping a court stenographer for the last two years vehemently denied the charges Thursday. 'I am the victim in this case,' Gingoog Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 27 presiding judge Rexel Pacuribot told Sun.Star...Pacuribot's wife, Misamis Oriental provincial treasurer Amelita Pacuribot, said Thursday...that the court employee is making 'baseless charges' just to get back at her husband for being 'strict' at work...." More (Sun-Star - Philippines 02.17.2006).
'Lady lawyer' wants judge charged with 'outraging her modesty.' "The Delhi High Court today refrained from passing any immediate order on the plea of a lady lawyer seeking initiation of criminal proceedings against the District and Sessions Judge S N Dhingra on charges of outraging her modesty A Division Bench of Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Rekha Sharma, however, asked the Delhi High Court Bar Association (DHCBA) president A S Chandiok and veteran woman lawyer and activist Indira Jaisingh to hammer out an amicable settlement on the issue...." More (NewKerala.Com - India 02.16.2006).
Judge goes public in denying claim he harassed female law clerk. "Magistrate Judge Ted 'Mac' McCutcheon soon may have to find another line of work. A clerk in his office filed a sexual harassment complaint against the judge for alleged actions in his courtroom nearly a month ago...." McCutcheon has decided to go public with his version of what happened:
"On about Monday three weeks ago, we did video arraignments in my courtroom," McCutcheon said. "I was in the courtroom, when I went in that day, she (Meah Desmare) was helping me... I said, if we can complete the video arraignments by 2:30 I'd love you to death. Well, at 2:30 on the button we finished." So, in an empty courtroom, with the doors open, McCutcheon put his arm on Desmare's shoulder and thanked her for her efforts that day. Desmare apparently didn't like it. "It was a wide open courtroom, the door we were standing in opens to Judge Stokely's office and he was sitting in there. And I do this every time somebody helps me in my courtroom, every clerk. I walked behind her and put my arm on her shoulder and I said, 'Meah, I really appreciate you helping me get out of here in one hour. There's very few clerks that could have gotten the job done in an hour. You're probably one of the fastest clerks here doing our paperwork.' I then walked out of my courtroom and into my office."
Senior Brit judge: U.S.'s definition of torture differs from ours. "The United States' idea of what constitutes torture 'is not the same as ours and doesn't appear to coincide with that of most civilised countries,' a senior British High Court judge has said. Justice Lawrence Collins made the remark before granting three British residents imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay permission to seek a court order requiring the British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, to petition for their release...." More (Sydney Morning Herald 02.17.2006).
Cleaning up a minor backlog. "As many as 800,000 of 1528,000 cases turned over to India's 1,562 Fast Track Courts have been disposed of, the Law and Justice Ministry announced today. A Minister statement said the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, at the initiative of the Justice Department, has approved maintaining the Fast Track Courts for another five years till 2010 at a cost of Rs 509 crore...." More (WebIndia123 02.17.2006). Comment. Someday will we be "outsourcing" cases to our common law brothers and sisters in India?
'Big time' judicial waste. "Britain wastes 173 million pounds a year on trials and hearings in magistrates courts that failed to go ahead as planned, with the prosecution service responsible for 24 million pounds of it, a report on Wednesday said. Insufficient evidence, lost files, and a lack of preparation were amongst the reasons for 71,000 ineffective pre-trial court hearings blamed on the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), according to the report by spending watchdog the National Audit Office...." More (Reuters UK 02.15.2006).
Dog did not bite mail man, judge did not act unethically. Yes, given our frequent linking to reports of allegations of misconduct by judges, we believe it is news when a court finds a judge did not act unethically or improperly: "The Oregon Supreme Court has cleared Yamhill County Circuit Judge Cal Tichenor of an ethics complaint, stemming from a case he prosecuted in 2000, before becoming a judge. In 2004, a trial panel of the Oregon State Bar's disciplinary board reprimanded Tichenor for violating the bar's ethics code, finding that he was negligent during questioning of a character witness testifying for the defendant in a sex abuse case...." The court unanimously vacated the board's finding. More (The Oregonian 02.17.2006).
Another judge's son in trouble - a trend? The other day we linked to a news report about an Arkansas judge's son who was placed on probation in a shooting incident. Today we read: "A Henrico County judge yesterday set an April 5 trial date for [18-year-old] Leroy R. Hassell Jr., son of the Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice, on burglary and embezzlement charges." More (Richmond Times-Dispatch 02.17.2006). Comment. We're always astonished when people unscientifically generalize from a few discrete instances and see a trend when there is none. Thus, last night we watched one of those February TV "sweeps" I-Team-type reports suggesting that the practice among some teens of having "friends with benefits" is rampant. We're not persuaded. And, no -- we don't see any evidence of a trend among children of judges toward lawlessness. But don't be surprised if you see an I-Team-type report some day suggesting there is such a trend. As for the ARK son-of-a-judge and the VA son-of-a-judge, we wish them both well, whether guilty or not guilty. Hey, it's tough growing up -- I'm still doing it at age 62 -- and I understand. See, BurtLaw's Law and Kids. For more on what we think of local TV "news" businesses and their sweeps "journalism," see, More on the judge caught playing hooky and Annals of TV 'sweeps' and judges 'caught on camera.'
Former traffic-ticket judge used 'inside knowledge' to try beat system. "[Attorney Glenn Caldwell, a] former judge at the city's Parking Violations Bureau ...got his law license suspended yesterday for trying to evade $12,000 in parking tickets...Caldwell, who presided over thousands of cases as an administrative law judge between 1991 to 1995, amassed 167 of his own parking tickets after he left. Often, he parked illegally near courthouses -- where he was representing other scofflaws as a ticket broker...[He] kept his expired administrative law judge identification card on the dashboard, 'ostensibly to discourage a traffic agent from issuing a summons to the vehicle,' the court found. He also slyly ordered vanity license plates for two family cars, 'intentionally requesting a combination of letters and numbers that he knew would provide him with a technical defense to any summons issued to those cars.'" More (N.Y. Daily News 02.17.2006). Comment. The plate numbers he chose were 4GZ-Z50 and Y50-V26. Apparently those numbers and letters often confuse meter monitors and police, making it easier to convince a ticket judge they made a mistake in writing out the ticket. BTW, it appears that a current ad law judge played detective and helped build the case against Caldwell.
The Silvertooth Judicial Center. "[Sarasota County] Circuit Judge Lynn N. Silvertooth had just finished sentencing 30 inmates and was about to end the hearing when he realized his security detail was already gone. So the former Marine jumped down from the bench, waved his arm and demanded, 'Let's go, men.' Then he alone led the inmates to the jail...." The former judge is 82. His colleagues unanimously recommended the judicial center be named after him, and the "county commission" agreed. Profile (Herald Tribune 02.17.2006). Comment. I've been called a "curmudgeon" and a "misanthrope," but I nonetheless plough fearlessly ahead, like the Benson, MN Ploughboy football players of old, breaking through the crust of accepted opinions and vacuous thinking to reveal well-wrought Lake Hazel-ian arrowheads of penetrating truth: a) We don't think "judicial centers" should be named after individuals. b) We don't think courthouses should be called "judicial centers." Sorry, Lynn. :-)
Ought judges be 'rich'? "Rashi, the 11th Century exegete...suggested that judges must be men of means: 'rich men who have no need to flatter or show recognition.'" - From Mark L. Goodman, A Brief Note on Judges - Shabbat, Parshat Yitro (InfoIsrael.Net - Israel Hasbara Committee NY 02.18.2006).
Final exam question - jurisprudence. The poet, William Blake, wrote: "General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite and flatterer. He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars." With the above text in mind, compare and contrast the function of legislators in enacting laws with the function of a judge in deciding an individual case.
Bar associations as a check on bad judges. "Bombay City Civil and Sessions court Bar Association has passed a resolution demanding to relieve four of its sitting judges here, based on complaints against them...There are instances of 'humilitation, rudeness, refusal to record any evidence and even threats to arrests of lawyers,' he said." More (WebIndia123 02.16.2006). Comment. It is a BurtLaw Rule-of-Thumb that the more job security a judge -- or anyone else, for that matter -- has, the greater the likelihood the judge will be rude to litigants, lawyers, the public, etc. The rudest trial judge I ever saw was a federal judge who reveled in her untouchability.
Arkansas judicial notes. a) "The son of a circuit judge has been sentenced to five years probation and fined $7,500 on a first-degree battery conviction in the shooting of another man." More (Today's THV 02.16.2006). b) "The Arkansas Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a felony tax evasion conviction of former Jefferson County Circuit Judge Fred Davis III." More (Arkansas News 02.16.2006).
Judge is 'immortalized.' "The world famous actors and singers
immortalised on Hollywood's Walk of Fame got an unusual addition to their ranks last Tuesday when television's Judge Judy Sheindlin was awarded her own star. The straight-shooting New York judge-turned-TV-adjudicator saw her name
unveiled as the 2,304th star on the pavement of Hollywood Boulevard to mark the 10th anniversary of her show, Judge Judy." More (Antara 02.16.2006). Comment. We rank her high on the list of immortals, right up there with Spencer and Kate. Query: Might an "American Judicial Walk of Fame" be a great tourist attraction for some city, drawing judicial groupies from all around the globe?
Judge resigns, citing health, investigation. "Montgomery County District Judge Rawley Judd Dent resigned the position he held for 11 years, citing health reasons but also acknowledging an investigation by the state commission that oversees judicial conduct...In [a] stipulation [filed with the commission] he acknowledged unspecified violations of the state Code of Judicial Conduct and agreed to repay any law library funds the Montgomery County Commission finds he owes...Dent's attorney, William Kelly, of Independence, said his client in recent months had added material to the law library's computer after the local contractor doing the work left. He said Dent did the work after hours and billed the library trustees for his time. 'It created an appearance of impropriety because the trustees weren't looking at each individual statement he would submit,' Kelly said...." More (Wichita Eagle 02.16.2006).
Prospective supreme court justice urges end to mandatory retirement. "There should be no retirement age for Supreme Court justices, President[ Arroyo's] Chief Legal Counsel Antonio Nachura said. During his panel interview before members of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), Nachura said if the Constitution would be amended, the 70 year-old mandatory retirement age should be removed...." More (INQ7.Net - Philippines 02.16.2006). Comment. We believe more and more jurisdictions eventually will abandon mandatory retirement of judges. See, BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges.
Judges as 'whistle-blowers.' "Four Egyptian judges have been stripped of their immunity and face questioning by a state security prosecutor after accusing fellow jurists of vote-rigging in a recent parliamentary poll...." More (ISN Security Watch 02.16.2006).
Obituary: Michael Gilbert, 93; solicitor, novelist. "Smallbone Deceased, published in the United States by Harper & Brothers, as was much of his other writing, is most often cited by critics as Mr. Gilbert's most intricate and rewarding novel. Set in a firm of London solicitors who work under the shingle of Horniman, Birley and Graine, the novel ingeniously cross-fertilizes the arcane workings of British law with the elaborate red herrings and blind clues of the traditional whodunit. Many of Mr. Gilbert's stories begin in law offices and turn on technical legal matters that sometimes make their way into trial scenes. He himself wrote much of his work on his one-hour trip between home and office...." More (N.Y. Times 02.15.2006). Further reading. Obituary (Guardian Unlimited 02.10.2006).
As the Judicial World Turns. a) "South Africa's former deputy president Jacob Zuma fathered a son with the sister of a judge who could preside over his rape trial, further clouding the politically-charged case, a newspaper reported today...." More (News.Com.AU 02.15.2006). b) "The government today denied tapping of a mobile phone of Supreme Court [J]udge S. N. Variava...." More (ChennaiOnline - India 02.15.2006). c) "Hussein says he won't eat; judge shrugs." More (L.A. Times 02.15.2006). d) Young lovers join hands in free courthouse V-Day wedding ceremonies (Brownsville Herald 02.15.2006). e) Judge caught smoking in the boys' room (Wisconsin State Journal 02.15.2006).
Annals of law clerk-judge relations. "A Passaic County judge has agreed to settle a sexual harassment complaint with a former law clerk who sued, claiming the justice's actions [in groping her and trying to kiss her] caused her to be shunned by co-workers and damaged her reputation. Jennifer Breaton, 40, of Riverdale, N.Y., will receive $300,000 from the state, according to the agreement signed last week and made public Tuesday. The settlement said neither the state nor Superior Court Judge Randolph Subryan admitted liability or wrongdoing. He denies the allegations...." More (Philly.Com 02.15.2006). Comment. Speaking generally and without specific reference to the facts of this case, it may be said that the generic judicial law clerk may engage in daily, uninvited sycophantic metaphorical kissing of the generic judge's butt without fear of being sued for civil damages but that the judge ought not kiss a clerk in any way, metaphorically or otherwise, even in response to an invitation by -- even begging by -- the law clerk. This BurtLaw Rule-of-Thumb may be a day late for some of our judicial readers, coming as it does the day after Valentine's Day.
Want another post-Valentine's Day downer? "A Florida judicial panel has recommended a public reprimand for a Lee County judge who had a love tryst with a lawyer routinely handling cases in his courtroom. Lee County Judge James R. Adams, 50, has admitted to state investigators that for two months in 2004 he had a romantic relationship with lawyer Kennetha Lynn Donahue, and that he granted 'a considerable number' of continuances in five cases Donahue had in his court...." More (News-Press 02.15.2006).
Coincidence? "An arson trial [in Pontiac, MI] was interrupted when sparks from an electrical fire showered the judge and his clerk. It happened yesterday while a fire chief was on the witness stand...." More (WOOD-TV 02.15.2006).
'Golden parachute' for judges? "Up to 16 district court judges in three New Orleans-area parishes would qualify for a 'golden parachute' retirement plan under a bill moving through the Legislature...Backers tout the measure as a way to trim the ranks of judges from Orleans, Saint Bernard and Plaquemines parishes after Hurricane Katrina devastated all three, and left the judiciary with radically reduced workloads. The current benefit formula is based on three-and-a-half percent of average pay and years of service. The bill increases that benefit to four percent...." More (KATC-TV 02.15.2006).
Stricken judge says 'no updates.' "Jefferson County Family Court Judge remains at St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse after suffering a massive heart attack Tuesday morning. Wednesday morning, a St. Joseph's official told NewsWatch50 the judge had instructed that no updates on his condition be released...." More (NewsWatch50 02.15.2006). Comment. It's not as if the public needs or has a right to be updated on all the details of the condition of a family court judge who suffers a heart attack.
The Role of the Judge in the 21st Century. "Through panel discussions and debates, judges, lawyers and legal academics will address fundamental questions about the role of judges and the judicial decision-making process in the twenty-first century. Speakers include the Honorable Richard A. Posner, Guido Calabresi, Michael Boudin, Alex Kozinski, Sandra L. Lynch and Stephen Reinhardt. Friday, April 21 & Saturday, April 22, 2006. Boston University School of Law. Email: email@example.com Phone: 617-358-4176." The mailing I received also lists Justice Sam Alito as a speaker, along with many more of the poohbahs who regularly spout forth on this topic and related topics. More info.
More on the judge caught playing hooky. Two days ago we linked to a story about a rising star in the Michigan judiciary who was "caught on tape" by a so-called "investigative journalist" for a local Michigan TV "news" business. What was the judge, Deborah Tyner doing? Allegedly playing hooky. See, Annals of TV 'sweeps' and judges 'caught on camera.' Today a local columnist, Brian Dickerson, weighs in: "Deborah Tyner isn't the laziest trial judge in Michigan by a long shot, but she might be one of the richest. In 1990, when she was just 34 years old, her family's wealth propelled Tyner to an open seat on the Oakland County Circuit Court after a six-way contest that still stands as one of the most expensive such races in state history. In 2006, her 15 years of trial court experience combined with her real-estate magnate father's stature as a Democratic Party donor made Tyner the odds-on favorite to win Gov. Jennifer Granholm's appointment to the seat vacated by retiring Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Hilda Gage...." More (Detroit Free Press 02.13.2006). Comment. One may speculate from the above that someone, possibly a court insider, who was resentful of the manner in which Tyler won the 1990 race and upset by the manner in which she reportedly treated people in court ("Tyner's reputation for berating lawyers and litigants had earned her the nickname Judge Tylenol"), tipped off the reporter. For all we know, the tipster in this case isn't half as good at what she does as Judge Tyler, who, for all we know, may be a better-than-average judge in terms of multiple objective criteria. But that doesn't matter. Once set in motion by such a tip, the typical I-Team-type reporter on a local TV station is not after any broad truths or any fair overview of the daily work habits of judges. That is to say, the typical I-Team reporter doesn't go about his investigation in a case like this scientifically, as by parking a van with a hidden video-cam outside a judicial center parking garage to monitor the comings and goings of all judicial personnel over an extended period and seeing what develops. Rather, the reporter is after a "story" based on a specific juicy tip that will help the station win the ratings sweep, and a story like this one that seems to corroborate public prejudices about this or that often is a "winner." Dickerson concludes his column, "[E]ven those who delight in Tyner's discomfort must wonder when the hidden cameras will catch up with them." Because those who live by tipping and leaking can die by them.
Lawyers to boycott courts on February 14. "Federation of District and Subordinate Courts Bar Associations of TN and Pondicherry, an apex body among the lawyers, has decided to boycott courts all over the State on February 14, demanding action against Madurai Anna Nagar police Inspector Marimuthu for foisting several false cases against advocates of Madurai Bench of Madras High Court...." More (NewIndia 02.13.2006). Comment. A Valentine's Day boycott? One might guess that Valentine's Day is not celebrated in India. That used to be the case but no more: "With almost half its population below the age of 25, the new global face of India has shed off old inhibitions and embraced like never before the essentially Western festival of Valentine's Day despite opposition from conservative voices." More (NewKerala 02.13.2006).
Judge by day, undercover crime fighter by night? "Posing as an al-Qaida operative with cash and a desire to destroy America, a former cheerleader who grew up on a Montana wheat farm helped orchestrate a sting that nabbed an alleged terrorist. Shannen Rossmiller, a 36-year-old municipal judge from Conrad, Mont., manipulated Michael Curtis Reynolds of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., into thinking she was a radical Islamist eager to underwrite his plan to blow up American oil and gas pipelines...Since [09.11.2001], Rossmiller said, she has assumed the identities of more than two dozen male personae on the Internet and has been involved in "a large number" of cases hunting terrorists...." More (Bradenton Herald 02.12.2006). Earlier. a) "Conrad City Judge Shannen Rossmiller said she and her husband have tickets to hear [President Bush] speak on Thursday. 'I think it's such an honor that he is coming,' said Rossmiller, who is a member of 7-Seas Global Intelligence, an organization that tracks terrorist activity and forwards leads to authorities. 'I'm a big supporter.'" Great Falls eagerly awaiting president (Great Falls Tribune 02.03.2005). b) Interview (MTPolitics.Net 06.12.2004). c) Listing of 9th Judicial District Judges (MontanaCourts.Org). Comment. I guess I'm a fuddy-duddy because I still believe in the quaint old notion that a judge is not a "junior G-Man" or a part of "the law enforcement team" or "the war on crime" or "the war on terror." Here is what another fuddy-duddy, Judge Learned Hand, said on receiving an honorary degree from Harvard:
I am thinking of what the scholar imposes upon himself; better, perhaps, of what he may fail to impose upon himself; of those abnegations which are the condition of his preserving the serenity in which alone he can work; I am thinking of an aloofness from burning issues, which is hard for generous and passionate natures, but without which they almost inevitably become advocates, agitators, crusaders, and propagandists. You may take Martin Luther or Erasmus for your model, but you cannot play both roles at once; you may not carry a sword beneath a scholarís gown,...Luther cannot be domesticated in a university.
Substitute "judge" for "scholar" and you have something of the quaint notions I have about the role of a common law judge.
Iowans take to streets to protest firing of 'Judge Parker.' Well, almost: "Yes, America's bosses are under a lot of stress and scrutiny these days. There's one in particular I wouldn't trade places with for a million bucks. That's the person at The Des Moines Register who laid off 'Judge Parker.' In case you hadn't heard, the judge was jettisoned from the newspaper's comics page in favor of another smart-alecky talking-animal strip. 'Judge Parker' was created in 1952 by psychiatrist Nicholas Dallis. It stars Judge Alan Parker, Sam Driver and Abbey Spencer, and according to its creators is stuffed with 'true-to-life story lines, drama and suspense.' 'Judge Parker' appears in 175 newspapers every day...." Larry Ballard, Woe to the boss who fired 'Judge Parker' (Des Moines Register 02.13.2006). Comment. "Judge Parker" was one of the many newspaper comics I read as a kid, and I've included him in my BurtLaw's Law and Comics. "Judge Parker" first appeared in 1952. I was only nine then, but I'd already been reading the two Minneapolis papers (the morning Tribune and the afternoon Star) -- or parts of them -- for years. What drew me to becoming a lifelong newspaper reader? A number of things, including: a) The fact my parents subscribed. Dad took the Tribune at work and brought it home for noon lunch. We got the Star delivered at home after school. b) The fact my parents were active in the community and in politics and talked about things in the paper. Indeed, the Mpls. papers occasionally had stories about my mom, copies of which I have in my personal archives. c) The sports pages, which were better than the ones in the Strib (the combined Star-Tribune) today. d) The comics pages, which were better and more readable than the ones in the Strib (the combined Star-Tribune) today. Kids like me started out reading sports and comics and got hooked. By 1952, when "Judge Parker" started, I was reading the hard news in the paper. I still remember reading the long lists naming all the returning POW's after Ike was elected & "went to Korea" and ended that war. I fear that papers like the Strib, whose most recent makeover has made the paper even less appealing to me, and St. Paul's Pioneer-Press are on a downward slide, and I fear the owners and editors don't have the smarts to save them. When they've lost life-long readers like me (I get home delivery of and read the N.Y. Times every day and buy the Sunday Strib at the grocery on Saturday for the weekly TV insert & the coupons) and when they're not hooking the young kids as readers the way they used to (there are ways they could do so), how can they survive as anything but ghosts of what they once were?
Annals (anals?) of notable judicial achievements. "[Judge] Steinkruger thinks her most notable achievement [as presiding judge of the district] is having a toilet installed at the courthouse in St. Mary's, a community of 570 people in western Alaska and one of eight rural court sites in the Fourth Judicial District. 'I'm not kidding,' the judge said. 'In the 21st century in America, an employee should be able to wash their hands at work and get a drink of water...They are very happy.'" From a profile of Judge Niesje Steinkruger, Presiding Judge of the Fourth Judicial District of the Alaska Court System. More (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner 02.13.2006). Want more about Judge Steinkruger? "Dolls, books and plastic zoo animals dot her office in the Rabinowitz Courthouse. Steinkruger eagerly shows off her newest find, a wooden birthday cake with wooden candles that attach using Velcro. 'My dream job would be to have a toy store,' the 54-year-old said. 'I just love Buzz and Woody (of the animated film Toy Story).'"
Chief judge apologizes for 51 judges' acceptance of free lunch. "Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe on Friday issued an unconditional apology for the controversial attendance by Cape judges of a Christmas lunch hosted by Old Mutual. Earlier in the week fellow judge James Yekiso had described the public outcry about the incident as 'mischievous.'" More (Independent Online - SA 02.12.2006). Earlier. See, initial report and our comments at Free lunch for judges - literally.
Judge charged in diversion program kickback scheme. "It sounded like a win-win situation. Allow otherwise law-abiding citizens caught pressing the pedal to the metal a chance to avoid a fine and get a few driving tips along the way. Set up a driving school and charge these wayward speeders $50 a head. Yes, a fine idea - until the judge who proposed the venture came calling for his slice of the pie...[A federal search warrant] affidavit filed by the FBI in U.S. District Court details an alleged plan by Roane County General Sessions Court Judge Thomas Alva Austin to get kickbacks from driving-school instructors as far back as 1995. Austin is charged in an eight-count federal indictment...." More (Knoxville News Sentinel 02.12.2006).
Latest on the J.A.I.L. initiative. a) "State legislators and Democratic and Republican Party officials are lining up to fight the Judicial Accountability Initiative Law (J.A.I.L.) that will be on the November ballot. A concurrent resolution opposing the measure has passed the House. And Randy Frederick, state Republican chairman, and Judy Olson Duhamel, state Democratic chairwoman, condemned the measure in a joint press conference...." More (Sioux Falls Argus-Leader 02.12.2006). b) "For a decade, [Ronald] Branson, a prolific pro per, and Gary Zerman, a Valencia, Calif., attorney similarly disillusioned with the courts, have sought a way around the immunity that shields judges from suits over their actions on the bench...Zerman and Branson hope a win in South Dakota will create enough momentum to propel them into other states...Branson boasts of a national JAIL organization with military-esque ranks and titles. He calls himself the National JAIL Commander-in-Chief -- similar, he says, to a five-star general...." If you're in charge of an individual state you're called a "jailer-in-chief" or "two-star general." More (The Recorder via Law.Com via Yahoo.Biz 02.10.2006). Earlier. For an earlier, more-detailed entry, with our comments, see, Maker of livestock-feed grinders wants J.A.I.L. for judges.
Should former judges be barred from appearing in court as lawyers? "An article which appeared in the latest edition of Relevan, the Kuala Lumpur Barís newsletter, ruffled the feathers of the legal fraternity recently. Retired Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mahadev Shankar, in an interview about his judicial career, told the publication that retired judges 'should not be allowed back into the courts as practitioners under any circumstances.' Mahadev, now a consultant with a legal firm, held that allowing a retired judge to argue cases on the other side of the Bench, what more in the presence of more junior judges, would put the opposing litigant at a disadvantage...." More (New Straits Times 02.12.2006). Comment. The piece, which summarizes arguments for and against in Commonwealth countries, says that in many of those countries there is an unwritten canon of conduct prohibiting returning to practice but that nonetheless some judges do it. Obviously, it is common in the U.S. for judges, even ones who have life tenure, to quit judging and return to practice. The advent of mandatory retirement laws in many states, which we oppose, has helped make the practice more common. However, many retired judges who return to practice have a self-imposed policy against appearing in court, especially in the court in which they served and before former colleagues. I have never seen any evidence that sitting judges are prone to favor the causes of former judges or law clerks who appear before them, although some of the former judges' clients may think they do. Some sitting judges go out of their way to appear not to favor the causes of former judges, etc.
Annals of courthouse pigeons. "As the final cleanup of the Lackawanna County Courthouse progresses, a second courthouse employee has filed a workersí compensation claim allegedly related to the pigeon dung problem.
Annals of judges and popular culture. "[Will Young] has a great new music video, for 'All Time Love.' The veteran director known as W.I.Z. cast Mr. Young as a subversive in a fascist state; the video unfolds at the world's most elegant show trial, with our hero gazing, brave but despondent, at the woman who betrayed him...The courtroom proceedings and resistance meetings are beautifully shot, but even better is an odd, inspired scene near the end: the stern, corrupt judges lead a procession down the hallway. They're protected by armed guards, and they're devouring ice cream cones." Kelefa Sanneh, Video Sweets: Judges With Ice Cream Cones and Kids With Candy (N. Y. Sunday Times - Arts 02.12.2006).
Annals of judicial colleageality. Back in early January we linked to a story about a judicial inquiry against Judge Marvin Morten, a black trial judge in Ontario, based in significant part on complaints by fellow judges that he is not a "team player" and that he has been "rude, insulting and disrespectful" toward them. Then yesterday, in a piece titled Annals of judicial secrecy, we linked to and commented on a story about an attempt by the lawyer prosecuting the case "to impose a publication ban on [the fellow judges'] testimony or close the hearing to the public when the judges and court staff take the witness stand, starting in May." Today, we are happy to link to a report in The Globe and Mail that the Ontario Judicial Council has denied the motion and unsealed documents filed thus far. The G&M's story, which we urge you to read, summarizes what is contained in those documents, which, it should be added, don't fully reveal what Judge Morten will say in his defense. Comment. In Austin Hall back in the fall of 1964 Dean Erwin ("The Grizzer") Griswold (he's the guy in the funny hat shaking my hand on graduation day three years later) welcomed me & the other members of the Harvard Law School Class of 1967 by introducing himself as "Le maître díhôtel of this ménage of prima donnas." We know from reading books that have taken us behind the red velour (or is it "velvet"?) curtains that judges on multi-member trial benches and appellate courts, like law school professors, sometimes have behaved like Dean Griswold's ménage of prima donnas -- or, to use the memorable phrase used by Justice Holmes in reference to the members of the U.S. Supreme Court, like "nine scorpions in a bottle." But we live in a time when judges on these multi-member trial courts and appellate courts love to publicly proclaim the importance of a virtue they like to refer to as "colleageality." "Colleageality," is a word that, like most clichés, is often used as a substitute for thought. Some judicial lightweights seem to think an appellate court should be a "mutual admiration society" and they put a premium on reaching unanimity. Our Founding Fathers were wiser. They knew that diversity of opinion and respectful arm's-length disagreement, even among colleagues, are the lifeblood of a creative, free, democratic society. A few years ago I heard a well-known, highly-thoughtful appellate advocate bemoan a particular appellate court's then relatively-recent overemphasis on suppressing ideological differences in its opinions in the interest of presenting a harmonious, united front to the bar and the public. The unsettling result, according to this advocate, was that even experienced students of the court's opinions were unable to discern any rational pattern to the court's "jurisprudence." Another student of that court described its opinions as "bland." We prefer terms like "civility" and "mutual respect" to the more amorphous term "colleageality." In any event, unless Judge Morten and his complaining colleagues can work this all out before May, it looks like we're going to be treated to a good old-fashioned public airing of dirty laundry.
Annals of TV 'sweeps' and judges 'caught on camera.' "An Oakland County judge, on the fast track for an appointment to the Michigan Court of Appeals, may have blown that opportunity after a television camera crew caught her spending her afternoons shopping, getting facials, dining and working out. All the while, attorneys and their clients waited for Judge Deborah Tyner in her courtroom and outside in the hallway...." The judge denies she's a slacker, says she always works more than 40 hours a week, and says the work-day spottings of her away from the court were during "scheduled time off." More (Detroit Free Press 02.21.2006). Comment. It's February "sweeps" time for local TV "news" businesses around the country:
Sweeps is the time when local television news directors must...climb into the skins of their viewers and try to find out what will compel them to stick with a news story. Programmers must also determine what audience demographic they most need to ensnare. Stories that may be sensational (or even, we might suggest, generally important) will not be over-covered if the leading actors in the story are not significant to a particular demographic. Advertisers are interested in viewers with disposable income. No one else really figures into the equation.
"Grade the News took advantage of the May 'sweeps' to see which, if any, Bay Area stations doffed their press hats in favor of the carnival barker's straw pork pie... We saw sweat-beaded close-ups of men locked in a cage beating and kicking each other senseless. Explored the 'love loophole' (which turned out to be a pre-nuptual agreement; our guide was a woman who didnít use one). Learned from the fictional Dr. Mark Greene of E.R. that the showsí actors 'arenít really doctors!' Attended one Survivor party after another, (probably not coincidentally) on the station owned by Survivor's owner. Uncovered Bay Area residents getting 'free power' (but who were actually paying for electricity as part of their rent). Caught up with Eddie D. in Tampa. (He still isnít in charge of the 49ers.) Interviewed 'jail babes.' Gaped at nasty sores on two womenís calves, apparently inflicted by a bacteria-infested pedicure bath in Watsonville. And were astonished to hear of 'a dramatic new way' one could get a face lift 'without going under the knife' (only to find they cut with a laser rather than a scalpel). (Checking out the story with an experienced cosmetic surgeon also revealed that the procedure was far from new.) Call it gimmick journalism.
We have no way of knowing whether the report in this instance was fair, but we do know that many, many courts throughout the country are scandals "waiting to happen." They're scandals waiting to happen because the courts don't have policies in place designed to prevent them from happening. The simple preventative for this type of scandal? Require all judges to fill out timesheets in the same way as other court employees and report as "vacation time" or "sick leave," to be subtracted from allotted vacation and sick leave, all unofficial time away from the court during their regular work hours. Judges who properly think of themselves as "professionals" and who regularly take work home at night and otherwise give the public good weight -- and they are in the majority -- don't like the idea of such a requirement. But they're foolish not to insist on such a requirement. This kind of exposé is nothing new. To take just one of many examples, back in 1998 a San Jose Mercury News investigation "revealed a group of jurists routinely took off Fridays to hit the links -- with little evidence they were doing so on vacation time...." More (San Jose Mercury News 07.24.2005). The key words there are "evidence" and "vacation time." It's all right for a judge to go shopping or play golf during normal working hours so long as she does it in the right way, reporting it on a timesheet and subtracting it from allotted vacation time. A judge who does it in the wrong way is playing Russian roulette with her own career. Related reading. Since 2000 I've been publicly advocating that courts ought to post judges' trips, their expense account reimbursement requests, their timesheets, etc., on court websites. See, my 2000 essay Judicial Independence and Accountability.
Internet-dating judge resigns. "Madison County Circuit Judge George Moran Jr. submitted his resignation on Friday, effective Tuesday. Moran, 57, of Pontoon Beach, had not reported to work at the courthouse in downtown Edwardsville since the publication of a story in Sunday's Post-Dispatch that raised questions about his behavior [taking a Spanish course on court time and taking a woman he met on the internet to watch a pro sports contest in a luxury box paid for by a prominent trial lawyer who appeared before him]." More (St. Louis Post-Dispatch 02.11.2006). Earlier. See, our 02.05.2006 entry titled Annals of Judicial Romance and embedded link to earlier story about his internet dating and to detailed commentary.
Judge caught on tape demeaning man with service dog. "A North Charleston judge who is accused of berating a man for bringing his medical service dog to court could be reprimanded himself. The city of North Charleston is forwarding a copy of the tape of the incident to the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, and the Hanahan man involved in the incident also said he will file a formal complaint against Judge George Epps...[After being told the dog, a golden retriever, was a service dog, the judge said,] 'What does that dog do besides not supposed to be in this building?...You ought to know better than to bring a dog into a courtroom. That just really upsets me.'" More (Charleston Post-Courier - SC 02.11.2006).
Prosecutor drops child molestation charges against ex-judge. "Child molestation charges against a former Citrus County judge have been dropped because one of the alleged victims recanted her accusation and there was no physical evidence to support the [second girl's] claims, prosecutors said Friday.
Gary Graham, 58, pleaded not guilty in November 2004 to charges that he molested two 10-year-old girls. Authorities had alleged he abused the girls during a sleepover at his house in December 2003...." More (Bradenton Herald 02.10.2006). Earlier. Benched judge charged with child sex abuse.
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