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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.
Annals of judicial selection: stacking appointment commissions. "Stephen Harper's Conservatives are stacking the committees that select judges with partisans to create an ideologically driven judiciary that will steer Canada's courts to the right, opposition parties charged yesterday...In a raucous Question Period in the House of Commons yesterday, the three opposition parties attacked the Conservatives' appointment of partisans to the committees that vet applicants for judgeships...." More (Globe & Mail 02.13.2007). Comment. One looking in (on Canada, e.g.) from the outside (Minnesota, e.g.) just never knows all the facts. One thing I'm sure of: you can't and shouldn't take politics out of judicial appointments. Politics has always had a big part in judicial selection -- in MN and elsewhere. The issue is who does the selecting and what may people properly do to influence the selection. Governors in MN for generations have appointed people primarily from their own party to the judiciary: traditionally the DFL governors have been more inclined to appoint as judges DFLers who have ties to organized labor and the plaintiffs' bar, while Republican governors have been more inclined to appoint Republicans who are perhaps more sympathetic to business interests, including the insurance industry. Nominating or screening commissions, of course, have their own biases -- often they favor "bar association types." You can attach the word "commission" to a any agglomeration of people but, as the saying goes, you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Call it what you want, a commission merely substitutes one kind of politics for another. Our Populist state constitution says the voters, through elections, have the right to decide who their judges are if challengers come forth, but it's a rare day when a challenger comes forth. While the Minnesota Plan might not work in another state, it's worked well here. Further reading. a) Should MN take away judicial selection from the electorate? b) Those 'blue-ribbon commissions' and 'task forces.' c) Sorry, bar association, but.... d) The 'Citizens Committee on the Preservation of an Independent Judiciary. e) MN's 'establishment' still upset by S. Ct.'s judicial free speech decisions. f) Group-think on judicial selection. g) SCOTUS declines review of USCA's case on judicial campaigns. h) Speaking of the MN judicial system... i) MN's judicial 'power elite'. i) A debate on judicial campaigns. j) Those 'impartial' and 'nonpartisan' judicial selection commissions. k) Judicial independence and its pal, judicial accountability. l) The 'uncritical lovers' of the judiciary.
Annals of life after judging. "Governor Deval L. Patrick yesterday appointed a Superior Court judge with no professional background in insurance as the state's top insurance regulator...." More (Boston Globe 02.13.2007). Comment. We assure our readers that it's purely coincidental that Governor Patrick's choice as best person for the job, Judge Nonnie S. Burnes, 64, turns out to be "a former law partner of Patrick." Stated differently, we were taught to always assume the best about people. You might say we're people who need people....
Annals of judicial families -- a septet of entries.
a) Judge's son sentenced to a year in prison. "The son of an Orleans Parish judge will spend a year in prison in connection with a 2003 automobile crash that was blamed for a female passenger's death...[Pascal] Marullo, the son of Orleans Judge Frank Marullo...[had a blood] alcohol level [that] was above the legal limit when [the] car [he was driving] was involved in a crash that killed passenger Lisa Broussard...As part of the deal, Marullo will serve his sentence in St. Bernard Parish because the defense was concerned that he might be targeted in an Orleans jail where his father may have sentenced some of the inmates...." More (KATC.Com 02.13.2007).
b) Judge's daughter gets six years in prison for robberies. "The daughter of a Victorian judge wiped tears from her eyes as she was jailed over a series of drug-related armed robberies committed on women. Rowena Crossley, 35, a chef, used a kitchen knife in the robberies, which were committed after she and a co-accused allegedly selected the women as 'soft' targets...Crossley...is the daughter of Graeme Crossley, who sits as a reserve County Court judge following his retirement from the bench in 2003...." More (The Age 02.13.2007).
c) Lawyers for judge's daughter charged with intoxication manslaughter seek discovery. "Lawyers for Elizabeth Shelton, the 19-year-old daughter of a Harris County juvenile court judge, were in court Monday to discuss with prosecutors the accident reports of the wreck that killed her boyfriend. Shelton, daughter of state District Judge Pat Shelton, is charged with intoxication manslaughter with a deadly weapon...When arrested, Shelton's blood-alcohol level was 0.28, more than three times the legal limit...." More (Houston Chronicle 02.13.2007).
d) Trial judge is stabbed; judge and his wife may be charged. "Brownsville Municipal Judge Ben Neece[, 51,] was stabbed Monday morning in his left forearm in a domestic disturbance at his home, said Cameron County Chief Deputy Gus Reyna. Both Neece and his wife face potential charges in the case. Immediately and pending further inquiries, his wife, 39-year-old Jaqueline Cooke Neece could face a charge of aggravated assault, a first degree felony offense...Judge Neece could face a charge of assault, a Class A misdemeanor offense...'Neece] admitted that he slapped her on the face and pushed her away from him with his feet and that his wife reacted by stabbing him on the left forearm with a kitchen knife,' Reyna said...." More (Brownsville Herald 02.13.2007).
e) Judge's spouse cuts deal in groping case. "Faced with spending a year in jail if convicted of groping a 14-year-old at his home, former Schenectady County Republican Chairman Armando Tebano pleaded guilty Wednesday to a violation as his accuser and her parents looked on. Under the plea bargain, Tebano pleaded guilty to second-degree harassment, which carries no time in jail...Tebano, 38, was accompanied by his wife, County Judge Karen Drago, and two other women during the proceedings...." More (Albany Times-Union 02.08.2007).
f) Judge's son faces criminal charges. "The son of a district judge, being sought on a misdemeanor forgery warrant, was arrested and charged with drug possession, police said. Austin W. Swandal, 21, the son of District Judge Nels Swandal of Park County, was arrested Thursday and appeared in Gallatin County Justice Court on Friday on the felony cocaine and misdemeanor marijuana possession charges...." More (Billings Gazette 02.04.2007).
g) Judge's son has drunk driving case transferred to dad's court. "State prosecutors and judicial officials are looking into why a judge's son had his drunken driving case moved to his father's courthouse. The case of Joseph Sylvester Jr. of Ansonia was transferred from Bridgeport Superior Court to Derby Superior Court this past week, judicial officials said. Judge Joseph Sylvester has been the presiding judge in Derby for several years...." More (Newsday 02.03.2007).
Roast judge for dinner. "It's a good thing Judge Tony Polumbo isn't known for his thin skin. Polumbo will be subjected to good-natured insults next week at a roast to benefit Bay Area Homeless Services. The fundraiser -- dubbed 'The Mane Event' -- will be held at 6 p.m. on Feb. 22 at Goose Creek Country Club. It is the second such event for the area's only homeless shelter, located at 3406 Wisconsin St. Polumbo has all the essential qualities of a good 'roastee,' shelter executive director Kathryn Higginbotham said, including a self-deprecating wit, a love of community service and a recognizable name...." More (Baytown Sun - TX 02.13.2007).
High court judge is charged with taking 2.54 million in bribes. "A former judge will observe the upcoming Spring Festival in a holding cell for alleged bribery amounting to 2.54 million yuan (US$327,400), reported the China Youth Daily Tuesday. Meng Laigui, a former presiding judge in charge of adjudication supervision in the Shanxi High People's Court was caught in a raid by the provincial procuratorate earlier last year...." More (China Daily 02.13.2007).
Court shake-up is needed to make civil cases easier and cheaper. "A wide-ranging review of Scotland's civil courts to make them more accessible and cheaper for the public will be led by the nation's second most senior judge, it was announced yesterday. The remit for the inquiry, to be headed by Lord Gill, the Lord Justice Clerk, suggests it could lead to root and branch reforms including fast-track procedures and simpler ways of pursuing small claims...." More (The Herald 02.13.2007).
Annals of antiquated interrogation practices: FBI's use of scribble pads instead of recorders. "I. Lewis Libby Jr. is charged with lying to federal agents, but no one knows precisely what he said. The jury hearing his case must rely on an F.B.I. agent's recollection, based on notes taken at the time. Mr. Libby is also charged with lying to a grand jury. That testimony was tape-recorded, and jurors spent eight hours last week assessing every word, inflection, pause and sigh. Why is the Federal Bureau of Investigation still using Sherlock Holmes methods in the YouTube era? More than 500 police departments in all 50 states now make electronic recordings of at least some interrogations, often videotaping them. At the F.B.I., by contrast, an agent cannot turn on a tape recorder without first getting a supervisor's permission...." More (NYT 02.12.2007). Comment. The Minnesota Supreme Court, as well constituted in 1994 -- see, State v. Scales, 518 N.W.2d 587 (1994) -- was a pioneer in requiring the use of electronic recording of police-conducted interrogations, both in the field and at the stationhouse. My detailed analysis of the caselaw continues to receive good play around the world. I urge courts and/or legislatures around the country to follow the Minnesota example, with the modification suggested in my analysis. There is no good excuse for not doing so.
Proposed code revision advises judges against sexual harassment. "A model code of conduct for state and local judges spells out, for the first time, that they are to avoid 'sexual advances, requests for sexual favors' and other such unwelcome behavior...The ABA commission that prepared the revised code said it adopted the language on sexual harassment after hearing from witnesses who 'were emphatic about the need to single out sexual harassment for special mention, given the nature, extent and history of the problem.'" More (Boston Herald 02.12.2007). Comment. We hope that female judges, as well as male judges, will adhere to the revised code.
Chief Justice wants judiciary to be completely independent. "Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry...[s]peaking at the concluding session of a three-day National Judicial Conference[,]...said that an independent judiciary [is] an essential ingredient of democracy, stability in the system, peace and tranquillity...The conference also adopted a six-point declaration, asking for steps for complete independence of the judiciary instead of depending on the executive for its administrative and financial needs." More (Pakistan Dawn 02.12.2007). Comment. Breathes there a judge with heart so full that he does not yearn for "complete independence," as in life tenure, perpetually-guaranteed yearly salary increases, insulation from all criticism, etc.?
Annals of the judge as family potentate. Eugene Volokh, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA and a well-known law blogger, has written an interesting piece on judicial regulation of the content of parental speech under the "best interests of the child" standard. He asks, "Does the First Amendment mean something different when it comes to parent-child speech, especially when the parent is divorced?" More (Newsday 02.12.2007). Comment. We're working on a self-help piece for judges titled "Establishing and Maintaining the 'Rule of Law' at Home."
Opinion: judges who complain about public scrutiny are in wrong job. "It seems to me that the people who complain about public scrutiny and discussion are in the wrong job. By its very nature, the work of a judge is public. That is how their accountability is exercised. Everything they say in court is 'in public': the public is entitled to hear and comment on what is said. Judges write their decisions and these are made public precisely so that they can be held accountable. Otherwise they would be exercising vast powers with no meaningful control." -- Legal commentator Carmel Rickard. More (Legal Brief 02.12.2007).
Annals of judicial selection: when legislators pick judges. "Virginia remains the only state in the nation in which the legislature -- specifically the majority party -- wields all the power in the judicial selection process. That has made appointing judges a perk and an opportunity for patronage...." More (Virginian Pilot 02.12.2007). Comment. Is any system in which "politics" does not play a part? We like the "Minnesota Plan," with ultimate power of judicial selection being where it belongs, with the people through direct elections.
Opinion: don't silence judicial campaigns. "'Something has to be done,' claimed [Illinois] State Sen. Kirk Dillard last week. Dillard...thinks spending millions on ads selling a munchies or light beer is just dandy...Not surprisingly, the 'solution' to this 'problem' is a matter of more tax dollars. Dillard is volunteering taxpayers to relieve lawyers with robe-envy of the expense of running for judge...We already know how this story ends. Shackled by contribution limits since the 1970s, the U.S. Congress has turned into a millionaire's club where average folks cannot run and incumbents almost never lose...[S]itting judges would become unassailable [and] we the people would never, ever [be able to] oust an incompetent [judge] again...It's about time our elected officials started respecting free speech and embracing spirited judicial campaigns as virtues of our democratic system to be cherished, not an annoyances to be squashed...." More (Madison County Record 02.12.2007).
When a judge is called a fool. Does calling a judge a fool scandalise him? This is a poser by Justice Markandey Katju, a democratic-minded Supreme Court judge. He also offers its answer by recalling "the House of Lords' decision in the Spycatcher Case in 1987...[when] The Daily Mirror...ran a banner headline...accompanied by upside down photographs of the majority judges [in the case] and the caption 'You Fools'...[Asked by an Indian visitor why no contempt proceedings were initiated,] Lord Templeman smiled, and said that judges in England did not take notice of personal insults. Though he believed he was not a fool, others were entitled to their opinion...." More (DNA India 02.12.2007).
Sidelined in 2005, judge is still waiting for day in court on felony charges. "Rodolfo Delgado's name remains on the doors as the presiding judge of the 93rd State District Court, but he hasn't walked through them since he was indicted in 2005. Delgado, 53, remains on paid suspension getting $146,418 annually from state and Hidalgo County funds. No trial date is set for the two felony charges against him, evading arrest and misuse of official information, as a tiff about which judge[, a local judge or a nonlocal one,] should oversee the politicized case is bogged down on appeal...." More (Houston Chronicle 02.11.2007). Comment. Boy, it started with the judge being arrested for DWI and evading arrest, followed by a dismissal of the DWI charge and a no-bill on the evading charge, followed by indictment by a new grand jury on the evading charge and the charge of misuse of official info based on the judge's obtaining the supposedly confidential police reports relating to his arrest. The judge argues the charges were filed in retaliation for his filing a still-unresolved federal civil rights action.
The loneliness of the outmoded judge. "Since the 1950s, goal judges have been ingrained with NHL culture. Stone-faced men in black blazers peering for pucks through the glass behind each net empowered to affirm goals and ignite arena celebrations with the flick of a finger. But technology and hierarchy have marginalized the modern goal judge, whose sole duty is to turn on the red light whenever the puck crosses the goal line. His judgment no longer is needed with pivotal rulings delegated to the on-ice officials, the video goal judge in the press box and replay officials scrutinizing broadcasts from the league office in Toronto...." More (St. Paul Pioneer-Press 02.11.2007). Comment. Will as-yet-unimagined technological advances ever make common-law judges similarly "superfluous"?
Profile of a trial judge who's under fire for courtroom management. "Broward Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes..., 48, is unique among local judges for her outspoken, sassy demeanor and unconventional courtroom tactics, such as holding votes on whether a defendant should be furloughed before sentencing and occasional 'blue robe specials,' when she dons a special robe and plants a blue light on her desk, offering defendants plea bargains at the bottom of sentencing guidelines. She's also known for her strict adherence to courtroom rules and the stiff punishments for anyone who breaks them. Some local attorneys say that strictness may be tarnishing her career...'It's like walking on eggshells in that courtroom,' says Frank de la Torre, a chief assistant public defender...." More (Miami Herald 02.11.2007).
Iowa judge lets foster kids attend hearings concerning their fate. "Last spring, [some young people in foster care] told a bar association meeting in Des Moines they felt left out of the court process, where decisions are made about their parents' ability to care for them, and their own future...After listening to the youths, Judge Joe E. Smith said he had a change of heart. Smith now tells lawyers and social workers they need to make arrangements for children...to come to hearings. Not all the lawyers and social workers agree...But Smith is holding firm...." More (Des Moines Register 02.11.2007). Read on...
Push is on for foster kids to talk to judges. "[T]here is a growing movement to get more foster teens to testify on their own behalf. 'It helps you to get the truth,' said Susan Doherty, a referee in Manhattan Family Court who hears foster care cases. 'When they aren't there, everything is vague.' Only 1% of more than 9,500 foster kids between the ages of 12 and 21 attend the court hearings that determine their care, according to estimates by Erik Pitchal of Fordham University's Center for Family and Child Advocacy...." More (N.Y. Daily News 02.11.2007).
In defense of a judge accused of insensitive remark. "The Register demonstrated its legal ignorance in its Jan. 29 editorial in which it took a good, nay, excellent, judge to task ('Speak up About Insensitivity')...In your overzealous rush to find a racist in every corner, you have unfairly smeared one of Iowa's finest district court judges. You should be ashamed, not the judge." - Letter by Alan Fredregill, Sioux City. More (Des Moines Register 02.11.2007).
Attorney gets incarcerated for forging judge's signature. "A bankruptcy attorney was sentenced to six months in prison and two years of probation after he admitted to forging a judge's signature and falsifying other documents. John Peter Eleazarian, 55, apologized in federal court in Fresno Friday, saying he was ashamed and guilty for misleading his clients...'What is more serious than forging the signature of a judge?' U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger asked in handing down the sentence...." More (San Diego Union Tribune 02.11.2007).
Judge who championed sensitivity training is 'caught on tape' making insensitive remarks. "Comedy in the wrong hands can be dangerous. For the latest proof, we turn to Broward County Chief Judge Dale Ross' stint in magistrate court last weekend...Of a black defendant whose charges included a noise ordinance violation [he is heard on tape saying]: 'Don't tell me he was playing that atrocious rap music on a boom box.' To the interpreter of a Mexican charged with drunken driving: 'Tell him we welcome him to our fine country.' Of a Spanish-speaking man charged with stealing a 12-pack of Budweiser: 'I'm going to slip into it again, you know, making a determination based on appearances, but he doesn't look like a NASCAR fan. Ask him if he's a NASCAR fan.'" More (Sun-Sentinel - Opinion 02.11.2007). Memo to self. File this first under "Annals of judges caught on tape" and second under "Do as judge says, not as he says": According to columnist M. Mayo, "Last year, Ross ordered all new employees to undergo sensitivity training after one judge berated litigants for not speaking English and another disparaged the courthouse custodial staff...."
Judges are urged to grin and bear it. "High Court Chief Justice Murray Gleeson has urged judges to keep media criticism in perspective, saying bad news would inevitably be given greater prominence and complaining about it was like complaining about the weather. Even though judges might be concerned about what he referred to as 'occasional clamour' over controversial decisions, the public was sceptical about information and commentary, Justice Gleeson told a Canberra conference yesterday. 'Some of the alarm that is expressed about the effect of bad news stories, vindictive commentary, and ill-informed or malicious criticism, gives the public little credit for discernment,' he said...." More (The Australian 02.10.2007).
Judge resigns after misconduct charges. "[Associate Circuit Judge Donald A. Behle, a] Logan County judge accused of official misconduct[,] submitted his resignation Friday...In a complaint filed in December by the Judicial Inquiry Board, Behle was accused of dating a woman while he presided over her divorce and child custody case in 2003. He also was accused of having personal contact with another woman before she was a witness in his courtroom in her sister's 2005 child custody case...." More (Bloomington Pantagraph 02.10.2007).
Judge's Bible study group at courthouse prompts complaint by lawyer. "A Bible study group at the courthouse led by Associate Judge Matthew Thornhill has prompted a complaint from a lawyer and discussion by county officials. In a letter Jan. 8 to presiding Judge Ted House, St. Charles Attorney Darrell Davis wrote: 'I believe that by allowing this group to meet regularly and free of charge, the court is in fact forcing the taxpayers of the county of St. Charles to support these Christian gentlemen in their avocation and beliefs.'" More (St. Louis Post-Dispatch 02.10.2007). Read on...
Is preaching under the courthouse archway bad? "Doing what she calls God's work has gotten Michaelene Cooney arrested 18 times. Her most recent trespassing charge came Wednesday when Cooney, 67, refused to stop preaching under the archway at the Palm Beach County Courthouse. Each time, she has told the arresting officer she thinks it is her job -- and God's will -- that she preach Christianity in that spot. Cooney wouldn't even move to the sidewalk, according to arrest reports...Sgt. Teresa Aquino, who handles security at the courthouse, said solicitation in the archway is against courthouse policy. 'There's several things you can't do on our property: Take pictures, videotape, solicit or hand out pamphlets,' Aquino said. 'All we do is ask the public, if you want to protest, it's similar to preaching. We just tell them to go to the sidewalk to do it.'" More (Palm Beach Post 02.09.2007). Read on....
Judge and ministers support 'community marriage covenant.' "Circuit Judge Billy Bell and several local ministers met on the steps of the Madison County Courthouse Friday for the official signing of a community marriage covenant. As part of the local Coalition for Healthy Marriages, participating clergy hope to lower the county's steep divorce rate by providing newlyweds and couples with trained mentors...." More (Huntsville Times 02.03.2007).
Judge is ordered to pay $129,000 to old clients. "A newly elected Dallas County judge will have to pay $129,000 to former clients in an asbestos lawsuit who accused him of deliberately lying to them about a lawsuit settlement, a federal jury ruled late Thursday. The jury said that Ken Tapscott, now presiding over County Court at Law No. 4, had told his clients that all the parties had settled, when one company had not, shorting the clients $225,000...Mike Walz, executive director of the Dallas County Republican Party, said the jury's finding is an example of problems the party pointed out about Democratic judicial candidates in the campaign...." More (WFAA 02.10.2007).
Man 'fires judge' in courtroom outburst. "[Jared Jacobson, 30, a] parolee accused of stabbing a couple in Hillcrest for no apparent reason[,] had his case suspended by a judge Friday after he shouted in court and refused to communicate with his court-appointed attorney...Jacobson began ranting as Judge David Szumowski took the bench. Referring to himself in the third person, the defendant said, 'Judge, Jacobson says the district attorney is fired and you are fired. You can talk to the public defender about that, because I fired him yesterday. You are all, as of this moment, fired. Please don't bring me back to this courtroom. Thank you.'" More (10News 02.10.2007). Comment. Who knew a defendant could do that?
Guv: 'A status quo does not want itself revealed.' "[N.Y. Gov.] Spitzer said in an interview on Thursday that his outspoken approach to governing was rooted in his belief that if the facts are on his side, the public will support him in his reform efforts...'A status quo does not want itself revealed, whether it's to investors, shareholders or voters,' he said. 'It pushes back in a strenuous way. My response every time is, let's just get out the facts, what are we trying to do and why. And I have this very simple-minded belief that we will win by presenting those facts.'" More (NYT 02.09.2007).
Chief judge faces open-bottle charge after accident. "A second judge has been charged in a St. Clair County accident that police say resulted from drunken driving. Special Prosecutor Randy Patchett charged Circuit Judge Jan Fiss with illegal transportation of alcohol by a passenger...Fiss now joins Circuit Judge Patrick Young as a defendant...Fiss was a passenger in Young's SUV when it slammed into another vehicle in Belleville after a Rams football game on Dec. 3...Fiss, who temporarily stepped down as chief judge, was seen by a police officer trying to hide a beer can in his coat after the accident...But the officer did not immediately approach Fiss to seize the can, which Fiss later said he disposed of along the road...." More (St. Louis Post-Dispatch 02.09.2007).
Squabbling high court judges are transfered to different courts. "Gujarat High Court Judge P B Majumdar, involved in a public spat with his colleague Justice P B Shethna, has been transfered to the Rajasthan High Court, law ministry sources said today. Majumdar's transfer coincided with an order shifting Shethna to the Sikkim High Court....Shethna told PTI in Ahmedabad that he was 'being crucified for speaking the truth'...." More (The Hindu 02.09.2007). Earlier. Body-builder judge faces colleague's jab. Judge charges colleague with misbehavior -- were blows struck?
The new $148 million county courthouse. "It took 10 years to plan and three years to build Mecklenburg County's $148 million courthouse. When the nine-story courthouse...opened for business last month, it marked the first time since 1970 that all the county's courts were housed in a single building...The new courthouse has been designed to last 100 years. It has six more courtrooms than the old courthouses. Its seventh floor is unfinished and can be turned into at least eight courtrooms if the need arises. The building also was built so that a walkway can connect it to the old civil courts building if more expansion is ever required...There's a free drop-in child-care facility for parents, including jurors, who have court business. And the jury room features lounge seating, large-screen TVs and a business center equipped with computers, printers and copiers...." More (Charlotte Observer 02.09.2007). Comment. There's a big "but" in the article that I like: "But the new courthouse, along with its additional courtrooms, isn't expected to dramatically speed up the pace of justice."
DA blames judicial mismanagement for delay, congestion. "Judicial mismanagement has added to the congestion in Riverside County's overloaded courts, Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco said Thursday. 'The court system, quite candidly, has failed to adapt,' Pacheco told a gathering of the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce at the Mission Inn. 'The management practices of the court system and the manner in which they handle cases is the same as when I started in 1984.'...Pacheco said after the presentation that the court has responded too slowly to adopt recommendations made in an audit conducted last year. The audit was requested by the court and made 12 suggestions for court-management improvement...." More (Press-Enterprise 02.09.2007).
Annals of judicial blogging. "Since well before her election to the bench in 1998, 212th State District Court Judge Susan Criss has never been one to keep her opinions to herself...Now, people can read what is on her mind [at] Judge Criss' blog, www.astheislandfloats.com, launched last month...." More (Galveston Daily News 02.09.2007).
Multilingual judge fires two freelance court interpreters. "Beware the judge who can speak three languages. That was the warning going around the Port Elizabeth High Court yesterday morning after Judge Nambita Dambuza 'fired' two court interpreters in less than two days from her courtroom because she was just not impressed enough with their interpreting...." More (The Herald 02.09.2007).
Annals of judges held in contempt. "A probate court judge was held in contempt for violating a court order directing that proceeds from a personal injury case involving her ex-husband be placed in a trust for their children...." Instead of doing that, the judge put the money into tax-free college tuition accounts that she set up through a bank. More (Boston Globe 02.09.2007).
Annals of star-struck judges. "British music impresario Sir Tim Rice was left shocked at the end of a court hearing yesterday when the judge [Wendy Lovell] requested his autograph just moments after fining him for speeding...." More (PR-Inside 02.08.2007).
The Half-Norwegian (on the Mother's Side) American Bar Association. "The Half-Norwegian (on the Mother's Side) American Bar Association, founded in 1989, meets annually in Los Angeles on or about the 17th of May (Syttende Mai), in a fun-filled commemoration of the adoption of the Norwegian Constitution in 1814...Our festivities provide a venue for lawyers and judges of Norwegian heritage to assemble in celebration of this special day. And, we're joined by colleagues of other ethnic backgrounds who -- in addition to learning, through sampling, what lefse, gravalax, and aquavit are -- gain knowledge of Norway's history and culture through the brief talks...[I]f you want to join our jolly band of annual celebrants, fill out an online membership application." More.
Opinion: weed out bad judges. "Gov. Spitzer's crusade to clean up government corruption won't be complete until he dedicates more funding -- a lot more -- for the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, the agency that monitors and disciplines New York's 3,400 state judges. The commission is being starved of resources at a time when complaints about judicial misconduct are running at an all-time high -- more than 1,500 complaints a year, charging judges with everything from biased comments during trials to accusations of favoritism or even bribery. But in a typical year, only about 30 judges get any kind of punishment, ranging from official admonition to a recommendation of removal from the bench...." More (N.Y. Daily News - Errol Lewis opinion 02.08.2007).
Alito says future Supreme Court will have more women. "The U.S. Supreme Court will eventually have at least as many female justices as it does male, Justice Samuel Alito told...an introductory politics class at the University of Virginia Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2007, in Charlottesville, Va...." More (Boston Herald 02.08.2007). Comment. The guy's not afraid to go out on a limb.
Opinion: private punishment of judges fails to protect public. "A feud between Michigan Supreme Court justices over the confidentiality of their deliberations has begun to throw much needed sunlight on a state judiciary that has operated behind closed doors for far too long. Justice Elizabeth Weaver's recent call for transparency should extend to the state's secretive system for disciplining and removing judges who have abused their power on the bench...Without naming names, the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission found 35 major ethical transgressions by state judges in 2005 -- not merely alleged violations, but proven offenses. Only two of those cases resulted in formal, public discipline. In the other 33 instances, the Commission elected to issue confidential sanctions and to purposefully seal all information from the public record...But simply publicizing sanctions is not enough to protect Michigan's litigants...." More (Detroit News - Op/ed by Suzanne M. Blonder 02.08.2007).
Annals of judicial selection. "State Sen. Nick Rerras is a kingmaker when it comes to appointing judges in Norfolk, but his crown is askew following his interview of a judicial candidate last week...The Norfolk Republican told longtime attorney Mary G. Commander that he's leery of domestic violence laws that force police to make arrests in certain circumstances, and he used the term 'FemiNazi' to refer to women who disagree with him on the issue. The pro-life senator also inquired about Commander's positions on abortion...." More (Virginian Pilot - Opinion 02.08.20070.
Annals of Swedish justice. "People with criminal pasts have been appointed as judges in Swedish courts by the far-right Sweden Democrat Party. The party won 2.9 percent of the national vote in September's general election, and gained representatives on many of Sweden's local authorities. This gives party officials the right to appoint lay judges to sit in local courts. According to TV4, the party has appointed people with criminal records in a number of areas...." More (The Local 02.07.2007). Comment. Uff Da! Earlier. Annals of Clintonian constructionism -- held, Swede judge didn't pay for 'sex.' Those "randy" Swede (not Norwegian) judges.
Judge decries 'culture of delay.' "In formal remarks to a recent justice summit, [Ontario] Justice Michael Moldaver was clear. He's had a gut full of the shenanigans that have seen judges' roles and influence diminished while the country's courtrooms are hijacked, often by defence lawyers with their own agendas...Not surprisingly, Moldaver has his critics. A member of Ontario's Criminal Lawyers Association told him, 'Judge, you only have a problem with long criminal trials because you are on a fixed salary.' That comment says much about the argument from the bar that says money is the clog's solution. Increased cash for more legal aid, more judges, more courtrooms -- a tired, simple argument that would only serve to exacerbate charter abuses...The answer, says Moldaver, lies in a judge's authority and strength. Limit the common -- and unnecessary -- long-windedness of oral arguments. Stop giving adjournments on demand. Put an end to the entrenched culture of delay that's used to subvert justice...." More (Winnipeg Sun - Columnist Robert Marshall 02.07.2007). Comment. Excellent column by Mr. Marshall, worth reading in full. I'm one who has long said that real judicial reform does not necessarily require increased spending to hire more judges and law clerks, build more courtrooms, etc.
Of judges who sue legislators, and legislators who are lawyers. "Now that some New York State judges have sued the Legislature for pay raises, a handful of them are refusing to hear cases in which clients are represented by lawyers who are legislators or their law firms...." More (NYT 02.07.2007).
Judge sentences man to read book, Every Man's Battle. "According to the Express Times in New Jersey today, a Northampton County New Jersey Judge, Anthony S. Beltrami, sentenced Bret T. Lepore to one to two years for arranging sexual encounters with the two 14-year-olds he met on MySpace.com in December 2005. Beltrami also ordered Lepore to serve five years of probation, maintain full-time employment, perform 70 hours of community service and read the book Every Man's Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory At a Time. Every Man's Battle is co-authored by Stephen Arterburn, founder of New Life Ministries, the nation's largest, faith-based counseling ministry...." More (Religious News Service - press release 02.07.2007). Express Times article.
Dahlia Lithwick on 'Justice Girls.' "It's not news that the Supreme Court justices are speaking to the press openly and often. But what's become truly fascinating this week is what the women there have to say: First we heard sitting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently telling USA Today's Joan Biskupic that she's 'lonely' on the court without Sandra Day O'Connor. Then this week, former Justice O'Connor told Newsweek that she chose to retire rather than resign because had she lost her office at the High Court and her judicial duties, 'maybe then she would be a nobody.' 'I'd be on my own,' as she put it. Wait just a minute here. The most powerful woman on the federal bench is lonely, and her retired colleague is sticking around at the court because it's better than being alone? Since when do the most empowered women in America see themselves as a Patsy Cline song? No wonder the jokesters and parodists are hooting...." Dahlia Lithwick, Justice Girls. The female justices begin to reflect on feminism (Slate 02.06.2007).
Judge who was repeatedly drunk at work is allowed to decide cases again. "Judge Jana Sladkova, who had been put off duty over repeated drunkeness at work, can decide on court cases again...Moreover, the state will pay her out one half of her wages of which she was deprived during the disciplinary proceedings...." More (Ceskenoviny 02.07.2007).
Annals of judicial farsightedness: new courthouse is cramped. "It's apparent almost everywhere you look. Population growth in Sioux Falls and Minnehaha County continues to add to residents of the state's most populated county. It's still commonly referred to as the new courthouse. But it was built in 1996, and Tuesday county commissioners learned just how overcrowded Minnehaha County's courtrooms will soon become...To prevent future problems, the county is looking at the expanding the courthouse. The project is expected to cost more than eleven million dollars...." More (KELOLand 02.06.2007).
Lawyer claims Israeli rabbinical court rulings favour men. "Reluctance on the part of the rabbinical courts to modernize Israeli divorce law is not just a religious issue. It affects every Jewish citizen who gets married in Israel, Yaffa Epstein said...During [an] Israeli divorce-law lecture, which was held at Osgoode Hall Law School on Jan. 25, she said that according to Halachah, a married couple is able to divorce only when the husband willingly grants his wife a divorce, or a get, and his wife accepts it from him. This puts all the power in the hands of the men, who can use the get as a bargaining chip to negotiate custody, property division and other issues...." More (Canadian Jewish News 02.07.2007).
Magistrate's 'outburst' costs her N$35,000. "A claimed angry and strong-worded verbal outburst against a suspect in court is set to cost a Windhoek Magistrate N$35 000. For a judicial officer, Magistrate Leah Shaanika apparently resorted to a rather injudicious selection of words when she directed a barrage of verbal accusations at a man who appeared before her in a maintenance case in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court in Katutura on October 4 2004, it was alleged in a defamation claim the Magistrate has been facing in the High Court..." More (Namibian 02.07.2007).
Chief Justice and three Associate justices resign in protest!!! "Gregory Sagstetter, former Chief Justice of the Undergraduate Honor System, resigned his position on Jan. 23...The controversial appointment of the new Chief Justice, Amanda Beringer, prompted three other associate justices to quit and three others to threaten resignation if the decision was not overturned...." More (Virginia Tech Collegiate Times 02.06.2007).
Judge resigns over fixed tiicket. "Judge Steven deLaroche, 43, submitted his resignation letter to Gov. Charlie Crist this week. He was charged in July by the state Judicial Qualifications Commission with violating state rules by dismissing traffic citations assigned to other judges...." More (Pensacola News Journal 02.07.2007).
Commission calls judge's courtroom behavior 'arrogant, discourteous.' "Calling her courtroom behavior 'arrogant' and 'discourteous,' the state commission that polices judges filed ethics charges Tuesday with the Florida Supreme Court against Broward Circuit Judge Cheryl Alemán...Aleman is the latest judge to come under fire in Broward. Over the past two years, complaints have been filed -- or rumored to have been filed -- against at least three other judges...Appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2001, Alemán first generated controversy after discussing her religious views at her swearing-in." More (Miami Herald 02.07.2007).
Court orders retrial of cleaning woman convicted of blackmailing judge. "A cleaner who was jailed for blackmailing a female judge, and stealing sexy videos from a male judge who was her lover, won her appeal against conviction today...." The ground? New evidence. More (This is London 02.07.2007). Further reading. Annals of judicial internet dating (which includes links to earlier postings about the scandal as well as to other postings on judicial romance, judicial dating, and judicial cyber-dating).
A.B.A. panel recommends modifying code governing judges' conduct. "A commission of the American Bar Association has recommended that the group...chang[e], from a mandatory rule to nonbinding advice, an instruction to judges to 'avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.' Supporters of the change say disciplining judges for violating a concept as vague as 'the appearance of impropriety' is unfair. Opponents denounce any retreat from the longstanding and widely embraced standard...." More (NYT 02.06.2007). Comment. The NYT story doesn't present the case for the change. For that, we recommend you read Ronald D. Rotunda, Judicial Ethics, The Appearance of Impropriety, and the Proposed New ABA Judicial Code, 20 Hofstra Law Review (2007). Abstract; Full text in html. For an article on the appearance of impropriety standard, published in Judicature, click here. See, also: AJS links to report, amendments, etc.
Judges to decide on case-by-case basis if veil may be worn in court. "Senior judges have decided not to prevent advocates or witnesses from addressing the court while veiled, fearing that an inflexible policy would run into criticism from either women's groups or Muslims. Instead, the decision will be made by an individual judge in the interests of justice. This approach will allow a Muslim advocate to address the court provided she can be clearly heard by everyone present. On the other hand, a judge would be able to order a witness to remove her veil so that a defendant could identify her...." More (UK Telegraph 02.06.2007). Comment. If women may wear a veil, may men? Fair is fair.
Treason defendant threatens to exterminate judge. "Federal High Court Abuja was turned to a near theatre of the absurd in the treason trial of the detained leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF) Mujaheed Asari-Dokubo as proceedings ended in confusion when the accused went into an orgy of verbal assaults on the judge, with a threat to exterminate him and his family...Pointing directly at to the judge, he said, 'When next they count graves, your own will not be spared. The pain I will inflict on you, your family will weep: you are a stupid judge....'" More (AllAfrica 02.06.2007).
Retiring judge recalled as witty, cranky but fair. "Oakland County Judge Gene Schnelz, known for his quick wit and sharp temper, has announced he will retire in July. 'People always said it would be a cold day in hell when I retired and my God, it is,' Schnelz quipped Monday, as temperatures hovered near zero. 'I'm honored that they closed all the schools to mark the occasion.'...He told colleagues the news in a written statement, saying he was leaving sooner to get a leg up on three other judges set to retire then. 'There is a rumor circulating that the reason I have decided to depart now is just so I can guarantee my own personal retirement party. The rumor is correct,' he wrote...." More (Detroit Free Press 02.06.2007).
Electricity minister asks judges 'not to exceed their limits.' "The DMK government in Tamil Nadu appears set for a confrontation with the judiciary, with [DMK treasurer and state electricity minister Arcot N Veerasamy] asking the judges of the Madras High Court 'not to exceed their limits...Some judges are under the impression they have descended from the sky...,' Veerasamy said...." More (Times of India 02.06.2007). Further reading. "AIADMK Supremo Jayalalithaa today...said that the minister's remarks, made in the light of the observations of the Madras High Court Chief Justice on the functioning of the DMK government, amounted to 'insulting' the judiciary." More (The Hindu 02.06.2007). Further reading. "Heckling of judges, assault on a police officer, burning of effigy and disruption of court proceedings marked advocates' agitation against the reported remarks of Electricity Minister Arcot N. Veerasamy on the judiciary...." More (The Hindu 02.09.2007).
N.Y. justices group opposes judges playing role in screening candidates. "In a controversial move, the association representing New York Supreme Court justices has passed a resolution calling upon the judiciary to refrain from any involvement in the screening of candidates for elective judgeships...The resolution puts the 325-member association on a collision course with Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye and the four presiding justices of the Appellate Division who are in the process of implementing a court rule adopted last February deeply involving the judiciary in the screening of all candidates for elected judgeships...." More (NYLJ via Law.Com 02.06.2007).
Judge struck by light-rail car, taken to hospital. "U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte was injured today when he was struck by a light-rail car while walking near the San Jose federal courthouse, forcing him to be taken to a hospital to be treated for leg injuries. The 64-year-old judge was injured along the rail line on Second Street near San Fernando Street around the lunch hour, according to accounts from court officials and lawyers briefed on the accident. Whyte's injuries were not life-threatening, but he was unable to walk after the accident...." More (San Jose Mercury News 02.05.2007).
Judge Mashburn suffers stroke. "Circuit Judge Michael Mashburn suffered a stroke late Sunday evening. The 58-year-old judge who hears cases in Washington and Madison counties was in critical condition Monday in the critical care unit at Washington Regional Hospital in Fayetteville, according to his wife Circuit Judge Mary Ann Gunn. Both are judges for the 4th Judicial Circuit. 'It's better than we could have hoped for and his recovery period is just beginning. He's doing very, very well,' Gunn said...." More (Northwest Arkansas Morning News 02.06.2007).
Cultivating the demise of judicial independence. "A central problem of justice in Zimbabwe, writes International Bar Association lawyer Gugulethu Moyo in a Zimbabwe Independent report, came about when some members of the judiciary were co-opted into a legally murky land redistribution scheme. The independence of the judiciary was lost. Judges who stood their ground and ruled the executive had violated constitutionally protected property rights were hounded out of office. Many who stayed on accepted offers of farms whose legal ownership was subject to litigation in their courts...." More (Legal Brief 01.05.2007).
Annals of retiring judges. "The first things to be packed up in the sixth-floor chambers of now-retired Superior Court Judge M. Allan Vogelson were the cars, accurate scale models that had filled bookcases and tabletops. There were 62 of them and it took Vogelson's former secretary Diana Paglia quite a time to pack each in its appropriate cardboard box for transfer to Vogelson's Cherry Hill home...." More (Camden Courier-Post 02.05.2007).
Who will judge the would-be judges? "It was not an auspicious start to the most important change in history in the way our judges are appointed. The very first time the brand new judicial appointments commission sifted through applications for the posts of circuit judges, there followed a host of complaints from rejected applicants, the intervention of the lord chief justice, and the entire process having to be done again, in a different way. What happened was that commission panels (a judge and two lay members) had rejected more than 200 applicants after studying their application forms, which included a self-assessment section. But the panels had not looked at the references from senior judges, which accompanied the applications...." More (Guardian UK 02.05.2007).
OMG, there's a judge shortage! "Thousands of charges are being withdrawn or dropped across the GTA because of a chronic shortage of justices of the peace. The lack of JPs is triggering a crisis in confidence in the way justice is handed out across the region and playing havoc with the court system...Meanwhile, thousands of motorists charged with traffic offences such as speeding and failing to stop walk away, charges dismissed. The numbers quickly add up, and the lost fines run into the millions...." More (Toronto Star 02.05.2007).
Man calls in anonymous threat to judge from home phone. "The next time, call 1-800-IDIOT. An angry Queens man who threatened to kill a Manhattan federal judge was quickly arrested -- because his home phone number appeared [on] the judge's caller ID, prosecutors said...." More (N.Y. Daily News 02.05.2007).
U.S. mistakes top judge for wanted criminal, denies him a visa. "Cape High Court Judge Dennis Davis says he was [initially] denied a visa to enter the United States after being mistaken for a wanted criminal. Judge Davis is on long leave - a privilege offered to judges every four years. He is teaching competition law and labour at New York University...." More (Independent Online 02.05.2007).
Sprinkler douses fire in courthouse. "A fire in the elevator control room at the Deschutes County Courthouse caused only about $10,000 damage Sunday evening, thanks to sprinklers that confined and put out the blaze, said fire officials, noting it could have been a whole lot worse...." More (KTVZ 02.05.2007).
Rudy G. says he'd appoint more Scalito's. Says Rudy G.: "President Bush [is] the great model because I think as the President he...appointed some really good ones...Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. Justice Scalia is a former colleague of mine...I think those are the kinds of justices I would appoint -- Scalia, Alito and Roberts. If you can find anybody as good as that, you are very, very fortunate." More (CBN - Brody Report 02.04.2007).
Top judge denies making racial remark during closed-door meeting. "The judges at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court don't want you to know a thing about what went on this week in closed-door meetings, prompted by an allegation that their chief judge, Raymond Bigelow, made a racially insensitive remark...But three courthouse sources, each requesting anonymity, confirmed these basics...." More (New Orleans Times-Picayune 02.04.2007).
Good news: 'Only a handful of judges' face corruption charges! "The new Chief Justice of India (CJI) K.G. Balakrishnan says that 'only a handful of judges' face corruption charges and he disapproves of the inclusion of a non-judiciary person in a monitoring panel for judges, although he supports a move to make judges accountable...Former chief justice S.P. Bharucha had said that perhaps 20 percent of judges were corrupt and surveys by Transparency International indicated that 63 percent of India perceives the judiciary as corrupt...." More (Teluga Portal 02.04.2007).
Chinese official warns against judicial independence. "'Enemy forces' are seeking to use China's legal system to Westernize and divide the country, and the Communist Party must fend them off by maintaining its dominance over lawyers, judges and prosecutors, China's top law and order official said...The official, Luo Gan...said...that China is now part of the global community and that it must consider 'international factors' when making judicial decisions. But he drew a sharp line between such interests and allowing greater leeway for lawyers, judges and prosecutors to make decisions independently as they do in the West...." More (NYT 02.03.2007). Comment. He sounds like an "Eastern" version of a hard-line originalist.
Courts closed by staff walkout. "Civil servants across Hounslow staged a 24-hour walkout on Wednesday in a dispute over proposed Government job cuts. Half the staff working at Feltham and Brentford Magistrates' Courts took part in the strike...Their protest was part of nationwide action involving around 200,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union which represents workers from more than 200 government departments...." More (Richmond and Twickenham Times 02.03.2007).
Judge gives paedophile probation, urges him to buy bike to cheer up victim. "A judge refused to jail a convicted paedophile for another offence and ordered him to pay his latest victim, a six-year-old girl, enough money to buy a new bicycle to cheer herself up...The judge told [Eric] Cole[, 71,] to pay the girl £250 compensation, saying: 'If it buys her a nice new bicycle, that's the sort of thing that might cheer her up.' He added: 'In criminal terms, what you did was quite mild but the effects were serious.'...A legal expert who knows Judge Hall defended his record and his sentencing of Cole...." More (UK Times 02.03.2007).
Ex-aide says party boss pressured judge to hire vendor for campaign flyers. "Clarence Norman Jr.'s former second-in-command in the Brooklyn Democratic Party testified yesterday that he saw his boss angrily threaten to withhold support for a judge on his ticket in 2002 if she refused to pay for fliers designed by the party's favored vendor...Mr. Norman, in the fourth corruption trial against him in two years, is accused of strong-arming two judicial candidates into paying his cronies thousands of dollars...." More (NYT 02.03.2007).
Judge as victim/witness. "Circuit Judge Peter Lopez...is the victim and the defendant is the defense counsel. Bryant Williams, who is representing himself, is charged with getting a pipe bomb from an undercover federal agent and trying to blow up Judge Lopez in 2001. Williams was in jail at the time, but he recruited a woman to pick up two bombs for him. He wanted the second one to blow up another woman who had testified against him. 'It was a scary time,' Lopez testified Friday. 'I had SWAT in my house 24/7 for the first week.'" More (Miami Herald 02.03.2007).
Lebanese-American judges are honored by C of C. "Eight Detroit-area judges of Lebanese descent were honored this week by the Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce...." More (Arab American News 02.03.2007).
Hiking-boots-wearing court administrator retiring after 45 years at court. "For almost half a century, Weld County's courthouse had one constant: The friendly, unassuming, hiking-boots-wearing personage of Mary Bohlender. Her last day was Wednesday, two days shy of beginning her 46th year in the courthouse...When Bohlender started work as a deputy clerk on Feb. 2, 1962, good penmanship was a job requirement. Clerks kept track of cases in huge leather-bound docket books...." More (Greeley Tribune 02.03.2007).
Ex-justice is sentenced for stealing power. "Former Town of Esperance Justice Charles P. Myles, [65,] convicted of stealing electricity by tampering with a meter, was sentenced in Schoharie County Court on Wednesday. He received five years of probation and was ordered to do community service, make restitution and pay a fine...." More (Oneonta Daily Star 02.03.2007).
Court acquits former judge on bribery charges. "A Seoul court on Friday acquitted a former judge on charges that he received money from a middleman in return for peddling influence for a suspect facing a criminal trial...." More (Yonhap News 02.02.2007).
Diva tells judges to call her 'Dame.' "New Zealand opera star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has reprimanded an Australian judge for failing to address her correctly. The singer chastised Justice Patricia Bergin for calling her by her first name, and instead insisted Bergin referred to her by her title, Dame Kiri...." More (PR-Inside 02.02.2007).
Judge made 'flagrant' errors, appeal court says in devastating critique. "A veteran judge engaged in a running battle with the defence, ruining a year-long murder trial and shaming the justice system, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled yesterday. In one of the most devastating critiques of a judicial performance in years, the appellate judges said that Tien Dung Duong must be retried for a gangland shooting because of numerous inexcusable errors made at his 1999 trial by Mr. Justice John O'Driscoll of the Superior Court...." More (Globe and Mail 02.02.2007).
Judge links binge-drinking to serious cases. "Carlisle's most senior judge has revealed the impact of alcohol abuse on Cumbria's justice system, saying that most of his serious criminal cases are linked to drink. Judge Paul Batty QC also cast doubt over the wisdom of 24-hour-licensing, adding that binge-drinking was a cultural problem society had to deal with. The city's resident judge, who sits at Carlisle Crown Court, was speaking after spending a night on Botchergate with the police who patrol the city's 'Golden Mile' of pubs and clubs at weekends...." More (Cumberland News 02.02.2007). Comment. Who knew?
Moving a judge away from a problem. "As criticism of Nantucket District Court Judge W. James O'Neill reached a climax this week in the form of multiple petitions calling for his removal from the bench, the situation was diffused Tuesday when he was appointed first justice of the Barnstable District Court...[T]wo petitions began circulating this week calling for O'Neill's removal, apparently in response to several controversial decisions he's made...." More (Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror 02.02.2007).
Annals of judicial platitudes and cliches. "Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on Thursday told students and faculty at the Northwestern University School of Law that he believes the high court functions best when justices focus narrowly on the case at hand...'Judges should act like judges, not like statesmen,' Roberts said...." More (Belleville News-Democrat 02.01.2007). Comment. There's a quaint old phrase that still has meaning in our little lexicon: "Judicial statesmanship."
Annals of judicial fashion: C.J. Roberts' notions on salary and independence. "The government's failure to appoint a commission in accordance with the law to review the salaries of judges 'is egregious and a potentially serious threat to the health of judicial independence in the Bahamas,' Senior Justice Anita Allen said..on Thursday...." More (Bahama Journal 02.02.2007).
Judge as no-show. "The defendants were available, their attorneys were in court, the chief assistant district attorney was there. Harris County Sheriff Mike Jolley and several sheriff's deputies were present for the 1 p.m. arraignment in the capital murder case. One member of the victim's family had traveled from North Carolina for the hearing. The only person missing was the judge. Superior Court Judge Robert G. 'Bob' Johnston III never made it to Thursday's arraignment for three men in Harris County Superior Court...'It was my mistake. I apologize,' Johnston said, after he was called at his home in Columbus...." More (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer 02.02.2007). Comment. The judge explained: "'My secretary of 30 years has been out for surgery and I made a scheduling error. She's been out for five weeks. She writes that stuff down and reminds me of it every evening.'" I once witnessed a federal district judge nastily refusing to swear in some new attorneys who traveled in from outstate MN during a blizzard because they were a few minutes late. The rule seems to be if the judge is late, it's okay, no matter how feeble the reason; but if an attorney is late, it's never okay, regardless the reason. If you've ever sat as a juror, you know that many judges are contemptuous of the time of lowly jurors.
Court says judge's ad violated ethics code. "The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has concluded that York County Probate Judge Robert Nadeau violated the Maine Code of Judicial Conduct with an advertisement he placed a week before the 2004 primary...Nadeau won the Democratic primary and went on to win re-election against his Republican challenger by 13,000 votes...The Committee on Judicial Responsibility and Disability received complaints from Nadeau's four primary opponents and said he knowingly made misrepresentations about two of them...The advertisements in question included allegations surrounding attorney Donna Bailey's professional conduct involving a child visitation issue and about the number of cases that Edward Caron had handled in the Probate Court...." More (Portland Press-Herald 02.02.2007). Comment. Back in 2006 Bill Maurer, executive director of the Washington State chapter of a libertarian law organization was quoted as saying, "The idea that the government must shield the people from falsehoods in political campaigns is both patronizing and paternalistic. Link. It assumes that the people are too ignorant or disinterested to determine the facts and that the government must enforce its vision of the truth through prosecution." We agree. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., said that "experience" is "the great teacher." In 2000 I stood for the position of Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election. In my non-campaign I accepted no contributions or endorsements and spent less than $100, confining my efforts to a self-produced website. The campaign website, the no-longer extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first such use of a weblog or blog. In writing the weblog and in writing several position papers, I came to have first-hand Holmsean experience with the Minnesota Supreme Court's experiment in restricting speech in judicial campaigns. I spoke to what that experience taught me in a 10.07.2000 entry in the weblog:
I grow less impressed with the court's effort [in restricting speech in judicial campaigns] and more wary of the whole business. I worked for the court for more than 28 years, 26 and a half of them as deputy commissioner, and learned a thing or two about speaking and writing in a judicial manner or judicious way. And yet, even I find it difficult to fathom the operational meaning of some of the court's restrictions -- that is, how the restrictions apply in practice. Perhaps there is something to be said for the attempt, and I don't doubt the judges who approved the restrictions, including my opponent, acted in good faith. But each of us has feet of clay and each of us has blind spots. I submit that in this instance the court somehow got itself involved in the business of trying to rein in democracy.
It really ought not to have surprised anyone that the U.S. Supreme Court, in the so-called "Judicial Free-Speech Case," struck down those restrictions. See, Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002). By the same token, I guess we shouldn't have been surprised by the legal community's reluctance to comply with that decision. On this, see, inter alia, SCOTUS declines review of USCA's case on judicial campaigns - MN. Supreme Court reversed again on free speech - Free speech is a 'bad idea'? As I like to say, Emerson knew what he was talking about when he wrote in his great journal, "[L]awyers...are a prudent race though not very fond of liberty." Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journal 04.1850).
Truth-in-campaigning laws, like the kind under advisement in Washington, like rules restricting judicial campaign speech, undoubtedly have noble purposes, such as keeping campaigns clean, preventing voter fraud, etc., etc. But, at root they are anti-democratic. As Mr. Maurer points out, these paternalistic, patronizing laws show a profound distrust of voters. Ultimately, they say that voters need protection by prosecutors and judges. I have always had a different view -- a perhaps naïve belief in the ability of ordinary people to distinguish the real from the fraudulent. I take comfort in the fact that this "naïve belief" was shared by Thomas Jefferson, who said, "If you state a moral case to a plowman and a professor [or a prosecutor or judge], the farmer will decide it as well, and often better, because he has not been led astray by any artificial rules." Jeffersonian farmers and other voters can see through campaign rhetoric, lies and distortions without Big Brother serving as Authoritative Voter Guide. All such attempts to rein in and purify democratic elections in the hope of protecting voters from making "mistakes" will and ought to fail.
Moreover, a much, much more significant problem, as I see it, is not fraudulent campaigning but bland, even gutless, campaigning, both in legislative elections and in judicial elections. This last winter I witnessed a very sad debate among some Republican candidates for Congress in one of Minnesota's districts in which not one of them mentioned the War in Iraq. See, my entry dated 02.19.2006 titled Who's the most narrow-minded? at BurtonHanson.Com. I'd rather participate as voter in a contest between two professional political mudslingers who address the important issues, albeit in a messy, dirty way, than as a voter in the sort of contest in which those nice candidates likely will engage.
Annals of judicial uses and abuses of poetry. "Judge Einhorn began his ruling with a quotation from the poet William Knox's 'Songs of Israel,' a paean to mortality that begins, 'On why the spirit of mortal be proud?' 'Since time began to tick,' he continued, 'human beings have contemplated their mortality with the certainty that they face a worldly end. Such certainty must come to cases as well.'" -- Immigration Judge Bruce J. Einhorn, "end[ing] 20-year-old deportation proceedings against two of eight men who had been accused of ties to a Palestinian organization classified as a terrorist group...[and] fault[ing] the government for repeated delays in producing evidence that the two, who with the others became known as the L.A. Eight, should be deported as a threat to the United States." More (NYT 01.31.2007).
62,000 for wigs and gowns in judges' 2m expenses payments. "The judiciary ran up an expense bill of 2m last year, including more than 62,000 spent on purchasing wigs and gowns. In figures supplied to the Irish Independent in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the Courts Service confirmed that 129 judges spent 2m on travel, subsistence, judicial attire and incidental expenses in 2006. The judge who claimed the highest amount in expenses last year is a district court judge who received 74,627 -- the amount is 52pc higher than the district judge who received the next highest amount at 49,037...The figures show that one district court judge spent 10,839 on "judicial attire and incidental expenses" last year, while two colleagues in the High Court spent in excess of 4,000 on wigs and gowns...." (Note: 62,000 = 80,250.17 -- 74,627.00 = 96,576.13.) More (Unison.IE 01.31.2007).
Annals of judges responding to criticism. "Several years after he sentenced Steven Truscott to death in 1959, an Ontario judge lobbied then justice minister Pierre Trudeau to prosecute author Isabel LeBourdais, who dared to claim that Mr. Truscott was innocent, a series of aging letters obtained by The Globe and Mail reveal. The letters from Mr. Justice Ronald Ferguson of the Supreme Court of Ontario include several sent to Ontario Attorney-General A.A. Wishart, exhorting him to have Ms. LeBourdais charged for her audacity in whipping up a worldwide furor...The letters provide a fascinating window into the institutional forces that have weighed against Mr. Truscott in his 48-year battle to reopen his case and have his conviction overturned...." More (Globe and Mail 01.31.2007).
'If I change my name to Anderson, will the MN governor name me a judge?' "Hoping to stop [Illinois] lawyers from adopting Irish names to run for judge, Gov. Blagojevich has signed a bill requiring candidates who have changed their names within three years before running to have a 'formerly known as' under their name. The law excuses candidates who changed their names due to marriage, divorce or adoption...Though the census shows the Irish or part-Irish amount to less than 20 percent of the Cook County electorate, candidates with Irish names -- especially female candidates -- tend to sweep judicial elections." More (Chicago Sun-Times 01.31.2007). Comment. According to the story, the bill was prompted by a news report that an attorney had changed his name to "Patrick O'Brien" with the intent of running for judge, the most recent "in a long line of attorneys who adopted their mothers' maiden names or just adopted an Irish name such as 'Fitzgerald' to run even though they had not a drop of Irish blood." In MN the magic name is not O'Brien or Fitzgerald but Anderson. In my comment to a posting titled MN Governor names yet another Anderson to bench (01.19.06), I asked "Is there something about being named 'Anderson' that makes one more qualified to be a judge?" I asked the question in the naive belief that perhaps there is:
Is there something about being named "Anderson" that makes one more qualified to be a judge? We ask the question in the naive belief that perhaps there is. Just as a boy named "Jack" perhaps tries to fulfill the qualities of "Jackness" thought to be embodied in the great "Jack's" of history, perhaps a young boy or girl named "Anderson," at least in Minnesota, somehow senses that judging is part of his or her manifest destiny, something "expected" of an Anderson. Perhaps in the future, the only way non-Andersons can be assured of equal consideration by the governor is for all judge applicants to be interviewed behind a screen (a la The Dating Game), with all identifying information on their applications being blacked-out. Or perhaps any lawyer who wishes ought to be able to change his or her professional name to Anderson. If women are allowed to use one name as a professional name and another at the P.T.A. and in signing checks, maybe all lawyers ought to be able to use professional names different from their domestic names. (Consider, in this regard, the distinction Yale Law School Professor Charles Reich makes in his 1976 autobiography, The Sorcerer of Bolinas Reef, between a lawyer's "professional" or "public" self and his "real" self.)
Perhaps we will have achieved real equality in MN only when "Every man is not a King but an Anderson." Cf., Every Man a King (Wikipedia).
Annals of judges as supplicants: commissioners cool to judge's plea for 'Taj Mahal.' "Chief Circuit Judge William Roby usually has order in the court when he speaks, but he didn't have it when he spoke Tuesday to St. Lucie County commissioners. County Commission Chairman Chris Craft reprimanded him for the way he presented his plan for a new criminal justice complex, while Commissioner Doug Coward questioned the plan's effect on downtown Fort Pierce...Craft and Coward said the county does not have the money to build as Roby suggests. They said the county will have to expand court facilities a little at a time. 'You may as well be showing us the Taj Mahal,' Craft said...." More (Palm Beach Post 01.31.2007).
When courts 'outsource.' "Confronted by inadequate space to store voluminous records in the context of mounting arrears of cases, the High Courts and subordinate courts have decided to outsource the management of court documents...Another drastic decision empowered the High Courts to consider outsourcing various services relating to maintenance of court buildings so as to minimise the expenditure and bring efficiency...." More (The Hindu 01.31.2007).
The 'Not Guilty Judge.' "A number of former and incumbent high-ranking judges who handed down guilty verdicts to those who violated then-dictator Park Chung-hee's so-called Emergency Measures in the 1970s said that they were merely 'following the law.' However, it was confirmed that other judges during that period took a different approach to the draconian measures, finding defendants not guilty and subesquently resigning from office or facing disadvantage regarding job promotion...." More (Hankyoreh 01.31.2007). Comment. This is a good article. One of the "good guys" was "Lee Yeong-gu, 74, [who] was the chief presiding judge in charge of criminal cases at the Yeongdeungpo Branch of the Seoul District Court in 1976." Another was "Yang Yeong-tae, 67, a former judge at the Gwangju High Court." Yang is quoted as saying, "I gave so many 'not guilty' rulings that people gave me the nickname of the 'not guilty judge.'"
Courts start working the night shift. "For years, families mired in custody battles, divorces and child-support disputes have yearned for evening and weekend court sessions, [Maricopa County] court officials said. On Tuesday, they got their wish: The county kicked off its first permanent night and weekend court for family and juvenile cases. The added hours will allow the court to hear as a many as 5,000 additional family court cases annually and will allow the court to squeeze more use out of court buildings that normally are dark after 5 p.m., court officials say...." More (Arizona Republic 01.31.2007). Comment. Our resident experts, Armond Poussaint and Dr. F. Lavoris Pusso, SuperNintendent of Schools, believe that in order to fully serve our litigious citizenry, trial courts and appellate courts should be open all the time, 24/7/52/365. How would this work at, say, a seven-member state supreme court? Simple. At least one judge would be on duty (and on the premises) at night and one, overnight. Judges would take turns on the night and overnight shifts. Indeed, given the allure of free pizza and a good excuse for being away from home at night, our experts believe many judges will volunteer for night or overnight duty.
Our Motto - "Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat" (Horace). Loose translation: Does anything prevent telling the truth with a smile?
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