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.
Judge challenging campaign finance law is hit with another complaint. "[Judge Bruce Priddy, a] Dallas civil court judge who has vowed to challenge campaign finance laws in Texas was served this week with a second lawsuit from the attorney general's office for failing to file required fundraising reports...." More (Dallas Morning News 11.08.2007).
Judge loses retention election. "Bradford County Judge John Mott Tuesday lost his judgeship in a decisive decision by the voters...Mott lost by an almost two-to-one margin, with 5,801 voters voting for his retention and an overwhelming 10,655 against it...." His opponents waged a "Not Mott" campaign. The governor gets to pick his replacement. More (Sayre Evening Times - PA 11.08.2007). Comment. Mott's case was unique, given his wife's embezzlement conviction. Elsewhere in PA the general anti-retention effort failed, although the margins of "yes" over "no" votes apparently were significantly slimmer than in other years and in some counties the "no" votes for judges facing statewide votes exceeded the "yes" votes. More (York Daily Record 11.08.2007).
Former C.J. says proposed 'reforms' are a step backwards. "Retired Supreme Court President Aharon Barak harshly criticized Wednesday the planned series of reforms the government intends to implement in the legal system. This marked the first time Barak publicly criticized Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, who intends to introduce legislation that is meant to increase the authority of the political system and decrease the power of the Supreme Court...." More (Haaretz - Israel 11.08.2007). Comment. We're with Barak on this. In recent years Israel has had one of the best supreme courts in the world. The word "reform" is often used as a cover for a power grab. An outsider might well be excused for assuming that's the case here.
80-year-old retired judge subdues burglar. "Retired Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Thomas Ward...[an] 80-year-old former Army paratrooper and boxer[,] was walking home when he saw a man climbing a fence. 'I don't know what got into me, but I looked up at him and yelled, 'Come on, baby! You're mine!'...The two fought on the street until Judge Ward was able to subdue the suspect[, who now stands charged with burglary, assault and other crimes]." More (WJZ.Com 11.08.2007). Comment. Not too old to subdue a burglar half his age but too old to remain a judge in states like MN with mandatory retirement of judges at age 70. See, BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges.
Did judge dump construction debris into river behind house? "A Baltimore City judge...allegedly dump[ed] as many as 40 truckloads of construction debris into the Patapsco River behind his Pasadena home. County inspectors found that during one weekend in October last year, landfill rubble including broken sinks and toilets, concrete blocks and rebar was piled along the shoreline where the river meets Stoney Creek on property owned by Baltimore City District Court Judge Askew W. Gatewood Jr...." More (Annapolis Capital 11.08.2007). Comment. An allegation is just that, an allegation, not proof of wrongdoing. Even if the debris was his, perhaps someone else, without his knowledge or authority, dumped it?
Should there be a 'business court'? How should it operate? "Judge Allan van Gestel dismisses the buzz that is making its away around Boston's legal community that he is stepping down from the state's business court that he shaped so effectively over the last seven years because he ruffled the feathers of his fellow judges and his bosses with his concerns about the future of the court. He is not, however, backing down a bit about those concerns...." Good column, Judge vs. the judges, by Steve Bailey (Boston Globe 11.07.2007). Comment. We're not in a position to judge, but we like what a prominent unidentified Boston attorney said to Bailey, "Allan is not their guy because Allan is no one's guy." Of how many judges can one say that?
Judge Charles Moylan on putting some sparkle in his opinions. "'If, without compromising the legal integrity of what you're saying, you're just lucky enough to, with a reference here to history or to literature -- if a paragraph may sparkle -- you're happy if that's the case,' he said. 'And it's also what makes writing fun. You can't do it in every case. If you're really stuck with some zoning case, there's probably nothing someone can do to breathe life into it.'" -- Judge Charles E. Moylan Jr., Ret., MD Special Court of Appeals, quoted in Laura Vozzella, Judge can write up a storm (Baltimore Sun 11.07.2007).
Man accused of killing wife, shooting judge takes mid-trial plea deal. "Wealthy pawnshop owner Darren Mack gave up his 17-month legal battle on Monday, the day his defense team was poised to begin his case, and pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing his estranged wife, Charla, in June 2006. Mack also entered a conditional guilty plea in the sniper-style shooting of their divorce judge, Chuck Weller...." More (Reno Gazette 11.07.2007).
When the 'rule of law' is suspended. "An Anti Terrorism Court (ATC) judge [in Lahore, Pakistan] on Tuesday sent 340 lawyers, who were arrested on Monday, to jail on judicial remand till November 10...." More (Daily Times 11.07.2007). Comment. I heard the editor of the paper on Canadian public radio's As It Happens last night. He's a very bright guy. He said the government of General/President Musharraf, who declared a "state of emergency" and "suspended" the Constitution, is pressuring the paper but the paper (i.e., the reporters, editors and publishers) is not allowing the pressure to affect them.
The thief who had the temerity to steal from a judge. "This thief had the temerity to steal from a former judge's house, but his freedom didn't last long. Crime Branch officials nabbed a history-sheeter Amrat who had several aliases like Teni and Amar Patel. He was finally arrested from a guest house near V S Hospital for stealing goods worth Rs 4.43 lakh from a retired Gujarat High Court judge's bungalow in August this year...." More (India Times 11.07.2007).
Father of victim defends judge against charges he was too lenient. "The father of the young girl whose abuse was captured on the notorious 'Werribee DVD' yesterday defended a judge's decision not to imprison eight youths for their role in his daughter's abuse. The Children's Court ruling...has been widely condemned as being too lenient...." More (The Age - AU 11.07.2007). Comment. The father says that the rehabilitation plan will reduce the likelihood of the boys' reoffending. The father has more sense than the judge's critics.
Judge wants lawyer tried for contempt for out-of-court statements after trial. Recently a Scottish student who is Muslim was convicted of terrorism offenses. After the trial his Muslim lawyer, speaking outside, said that the atmosphere in which the trial was conducted was one of intolerance, that some of the government's evidence was "farcical," and that the student's conviction was a "tragedy for justice and for freedom of speech." Now Lord Carloway, who is a high court judge, wants the lawyer tried for contempt. Many Scottish lawyers are coming to the defense of counsel, a highly-respected civil liberties lawyer. More (UK Guardian 11.07.2007). Comment. By seeking a contempt citation against the lawyer for his remarks about justice and freedom of speech, the judge in effect is displaying -- at least by American standards -- an insensitivity to free speech. But the Brits and the Scots have never been as free in their "free speech" as we Yanks are. Too bad for them. Update. Coalition of politicians, lawyers, writers calling treatment of lawyer an attack on free speech (Scotsman 11.08.2007).
An arraignment court filled with rodeo-goers. "Seven drink-drivers, three street fighters and a streaker were among 19 people in the Ashburton District Court yesterday as a result of their bad behaviour at the Methven rodeo at Labour weekend...." More (Ashburton Guardian - NZ 11.06.2007). Comment. Who says New Zealanders don't know how to have fun?
Ten sheikhs in custody in investigation of kidnapping of judge. "Many security forced were deployed Tuesday in Jihana and Bani Jabr areas in Kholan of Sana'a governorate to look for the Judge Ali al-Mutawakel who disappeared few days ago and said to be kidnapped...." More (News Yemen 11.06.2007).
Sisters will serve as judges together -- is this a first? In a contest held at a Tokyo fashion boutique, sisters Paris and Nicky Hilton "each chose one finalist for the Miss Universe Japan contest. A dozen or so more will be selected next month...." More (Houston Chronicle 11.06.2007). Comment. From being judged to being a judge, Paris has shown that changing a minus into a plus sometimes is as simple as drawing a vertical line through a horizontal one. We wish Paris and her young sis well in their new careers as judges. BTW, did anyone tell them it's a one-way ticket, that once you enter the judicial nunnery, you can't leave? Read on...
Becoming a judge remains a 'one-way ticket' in the UK. "[Rejecting plans by his predecessor, Lord Falconer,] Jack Straw has ditched controversial reforms that would have allowed judges, including former Lord Chancellors, to go back to work as lawyers after a stint on the bench...[The reforms ran] into strong opposition from judges...By convention, becoming a judge [in the UK] is a one-way ticket: lawyers exchange a lucrative but less predictable life at the Bar or in a law firm for a fixed salary, a pension and, on the High Court bench, a knighthood. Lord Falconer was determined to relax the rules...." More (UK Times 11.06.2007). Earlier. Sir Hugh Laddie started a furor when he retired from the high court, which bored him, to become a consultant to a law firm. See, Judge resigns from high court; Musing on judge who quit because he was bored; Ex top judge says judges don't always know what they're doing. Lord Falconer thereafter proposed reforms allowing judges to return to practice after a quarantine period. Judges in UK will now be allowed to return to practice. Now Jack Straw, his successor, has dropped his proposals. According to The Times, "The announcement means that the existing set-up, whereby judicial appointments are made for life, will remain in force, although if a judge decides to abandon his or her career, as Mr Justice Laddie did two years ago to take up a legal consultancy, [he] cannot be stopped.
Comment. So is it a one-way street or isn't it? Can a judge leave the law's priesthood or not?
President tells judges not to base decisions on public opinion. "President Umaru Yar'Adua, yesterday, told judges in the country to shun the temptation of basing their judgments on public sentiments, because, as he said, such verdicts would have far-reaching implications for the nation's jurisprudence and democracy...." More (Vanguard via All Africa - Nigeria 11.06.2007). Comment. And I would add, don't invite the president to speak at your week-long judges' conference next year.
How should a judge tell a woman to settle her differences with her husband? A judge in the Philippines has been found guilty of vulgar conduct and fined P5,000 for telling a woman in open court to "open her arms and legs next time she sees her husband." More (Manila Bulletin 11.06.2007).
The 360-degree judicial feedback program. It's The Judicial College of Victoria's 360-Degree Judicial Feedback Program, and a press release by the program's enthusiasts and advocates says it's drawing attention from neighboring states, the Commonwealth & the UK. "For each survey, 15 to 20 assessors -- lawyers, other judges and court staff -- are given the opportunity to provide feedback on a participating judge using an anonymous online questionnaire. The survey questions focus on things such as timeliness, courtesy, listening skills, and verbal and non-verbal communication – not judgments or sentencing decisions. The process is confidential for everyone involved. Each judicial officer is provided with the collated responses at a lengthy one-on-one debrief...." More (eGov Monitor - press release 11.05.2007).
Head of union says judges are so busy they've no time for nobler pursuits. "Jaromír Jirsa [is] the 41-year-old head of the Czech Union of Judges (SU CR)...With a sort of resigned tone, Jirsa explained in his office at Prague City Court that judges have no time for noble values such as ethics, morality or equity, and that their job has simply become a chore...." Specifically, in an interview, Judge Jirsa referred to the heavy caseloads and said: "The fact that [the work of judges] is a chore tempts one to decide the cases like they were on a conveyor belt, so there is not much time for a judge's deliberation. Judging is not a process of installing screws at a conveyor belt, rather it determines human fates, but when I speak with my colleagues about ethics and mission, these are just philosophical considerations for which in reality there is not much time." More (Czech Business Weekly 11.05.2007).
Polygraph exams for judges? "Fifteen of 16 officials at this year's Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration who took polygraph exams about the fairness of the event came through without a hitch...The polygraphs were part of a plan announced this year before the 69th Celebration that included stricter security, random drug screening and closer inspections of horses and their hooves for any evidence of abuse to enhance their high-stepping performance...." More (The Tennessean 11.05.2007). Comment. I can see it now -- common law judges being put through the polygraph sweat-ringer, the needle jumping all over the place for some, not for others as they sit there, the sweat dripping from their brows. "Judge," asks the examiner, "did you engage in ex parte communications with so-and-so about...?" :-) Further reading. Robin Marantz Henig, Looking for the Lie (NYT Magazine 02.05.2006) ("[I]n general, even professional lie-catchers, like judges...perform, when tested, at a level not much better than chance...[and] most of the devices now available, like the polygraph, detect not the lie but anxiety about the lie.").
Judge is censured for 'perfunctory' and 'cryptic' orders. "The Bombay High Court has passed strictures against an Alibaug sessions judge for repeatedly passing 'cryptic' and 'perfunctory' orders...." The reviewing court can't fathom the judge's reasons from his orders and, presumably, the litigants can't either. More (DNA India 11.04.2007).
Senator vows to block elevation of judges who convicted his dad. "Senator Jose 'Jinggoy' Estrada on Monday vowed to block the appointment to the Supreme Court of the Sandiganbayan Justices that convicted his father -- former President Joseph Estrada -- of plunder. In a privilege speech, the younger Estrada said he will oppose the possible appointment of Sandiganbayan Justices to the High Court, saying such a promotion would seem like a reward in exchange for the guilty verdict against the deposed President...." More (GMA News TV - Philippines 11.05.2007).
A marshal claims that another marshal.... "A female judicial marshal has charged in a civil lawsuit that a male marshal sexually harassed her and tried to get her to have sex with him in a courtroom, but that their boss penalized her for complaining about it...." More (New Haven Register 11.04.2007).
Jails not fit for.... "Various officials...acknowledge that the 50-year-old [Passaic, NJ] jail lack[s] fire sprinklers and that temperatures climb to 100 degrees on hot days... [The] jail was built for 896 inmates. Last week, 1,934 were locked up there. Most spend their days in dorm-style rooms measuring 54 by 40 feet where they sleep, shower, and use toilets that lack ventilation and are only six or seven feet from eating tables...." -- From Mike Kelly's column. More (NorthJersey.Com 11.04.2007). Comment. So-called Christian politicians win votes talking about being tough on crime. If their message were truly inspired by the Gospel, I think they'd be talking, as Jesus talked, about things like man's inhumanity to man, as in mistreatment of people in our jails. Sometimes it helps turn people around if you ask them to imagine that one of their kids were to get caught doing something wrong and that he or she were to get incarcerated. Would they want the kid treated this way? Or it might just help if they would imagine what they say they believe -- that 'God is watching us.' If He is watching us, do you think He is pleased with the way we treat people in the Passaic jail -- or in countless other jails?
New 'Jury Duty' postage stamp. "The new jury duty stamp will be formally released by the U.S. Postal Service with a dedication ceremony Friday[, 11.09,] at the Cascade County Courthouse...." More (Great Falls Tribune 11.04.2007).
Our ally in Pakistan declares emergency, removes judges not loyal to him. "Pakistan's Musharraf Declares Emergency, Suspends Constitution, Removes Supreme Court Judges." -- Headline ( FOX News 11.04.2007). Comment. Sinclair Lewis offered us our own fictional version of this, a chilling vision of an America in which every overstepping of traditional boundaries is justified by reference to national security was prescient. See, S. Lewis, It Can't Happen Here (1935):
During the very first week of his campaign, Senator Windrip clarified his philosophy by issuing his distinguished proclamation: "The Fifteen Points of Victory for the Forgotten Men." The fifteen planks, in his own words (or maybe in Lee Sarason's words, or Dewey Haik's words), were these: (74-75)
* * * * *
(15) Congress shall, immediately upon our inauguration, initiate amendments to the Constitution providing (a), that the President shall have the authority to institute and execute all necessary measures for the conduct of the government during this critical epoch; (b), that Congress shall serve only in an advisory capacity, calling to the attention of the President and his aides and Cabinet any needed legislation, but not acting upon same until authorized by the President so to act; and (c), that the Supreme Court shall immediately have removed from its jurisdiction the power to negate, by ruling them to be unconstitutional or by any other judicial action, any or all acts of the President, his duly appointed aides, or Congress. (78-79)
* * * * *
The Speaker of the House, and the Hon. Mr. Perley Beecroft, Vice-President of the United States and Presiding Officer of the Senate, had the power to declare that quorums were present. (If a lot of members chose to dally in the district jail, enjoying themselves instead of attending Congress, whose fault was that?) Both houses passed a resolution declaring Point Fifteen temporarily in effect, during the "crisis" -- the legality of the passage was doubtful, but just who was to contest it, even though the members of the Supreme Court had not been placed under protective arrest...merely confined each to his own house by a squad of Minute Men! (165)
Why'd Musharraf do it? "It was the near certainty that Pakistan's Supreme Court would rule against General Pervez Musharraf's eligibility to remain President that appeared to propel him to tear up the constitution. The 11-member bench looked set to decide 7-4 against the President in the next few days, according to legal sources. The government is likely to have learned of the position of the court through the four sympathetic judges -- who on Saturday took an oath of allegiance to Gen. Musharraf, after Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry and the remaining judges were fired...." More (Globe & Mail 11.05.2007). Comments. a) Why'd he do it? He did it for the same reasons it's always been done by people like him. Sinclair Lewis knew Musharraf without ever having met him, because Lewis, like James Madison, was a great social psychologist who understood human nature and how men are wont to behave in society and in government, if unchecked. b) And what can you say about those who'd remain on the bench and swear fealty to Musharraf after their brethren had been wrongly removed? Oh, I'd say there are lots of judges -- there, her and everywhere -- who value their own position more than they value principle, men who, if the chips were down, would continue to play the old game. But then there are those who wouldn't. Ah, yes -- let us now praise such men by way of a poem my mom taught me:
God, give us men!
GOD, give us men! A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;
Men whom the lust of office does not kill;
Men whom the spoils of office can not buy;
Men who possess opinions and a will;
Men who have honor; men who will not lie;
Men who can stand before a demagogue
And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!
Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog
In public duty, and in private thinking;
For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,
Their large professions and their little deeds,
Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,
Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps.
Josiah Gilbert Holland
Judge charged with DWI again. "State Court Judge Carlton Vines was charged this morning with driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident near Summerville, according to the Georgia State Patrol. The arrest is the second DUI charge for Vines, who presides over the state court of Chattooga County, said communications equipment officer Joseph Teet with the GSP post in Rome...." More (Rome News-Tribune - GA 11.04.2007). Update. Judge reportedly tells friends he'll enter rehab (WRCB-TV 11.06.2007).
Jurors are moved to different hotel after they complain. Sequestered jurors sitting on a criminal trial have been moved to a different hotel by a high court judge, Ian Brook, after the foreman complained about the cleanliness of the facilities and the service. Details (Trinidad Express 11.03.2007).
Judge is removed for coin-toss custody decision, etc. "A judge who made a woman pull down her pants in court and decided a child-visitation dispute with a coin toss was removed from the bench yesterday. The Virginia Supreme Court, acting on a complaint forwarded from the state Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission, ordered the removal of Judge James Michael Shull of the Wise County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court...." More (Richmond Times-Dispatch 11.03.2007). Comment. Without any reference to this case or judge, one can say that some judges seem to have a knack for getting it wrong. Might those judges do better by the parties if they simply flipped a coin? We merely ask the question.
Conduct Board moves against GA judge. "Last July, we told you about the scrutiny that one of rural Clinch County's most powerful politicians, Superior Court Judge Brooks E. Blitch III, was under. It's gotten worse for him. He's been notified that the state Judicial Qualifications Commission has started proceedings against him to determine whether he is guilty of 'willful misconduct' that "brings your judicial office into disrepute...." More (Atlanta Journal-Constitution 11.03.2007). Comment. The news report summarizes the allegations as including "giving preferential treatment to family and friends, and generally acting like a crabby old man." Here's a link to the 58-count petition filed by the board.
Judge quotes Nietzche in dismissing prosecution of FBI agent. Said Nietzche: "[H]e who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." The judge who quoted Nietzche is Gustin L. Reichbach of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn. He did so in remarks accompanying the dismissal at the request of prosecutors, after jeopardy had attached, of the prosecution of a former FBI agent, Roy Lindley DeVecchio, for allegedly aiding a mob informer kill four people. More (NYT 11.03.2007). Comment. Just days after 09.11 I warned on my blawg, Law and Everything Else, that in fighting terrorists, we had to make sure that we didn't lose our values in the process. My post-09.11 postings, of which I am very proud, are part of the Library of Congress September 11 Web Archive, which preserves the web expressions of individuals, groups, the press and institutions in the United States and from around the world in the aftermath of the events on 09.11.
More and more, a two-tier system, with the rich using 'private judges'? "'I do worry. I see a two-tier system,' [said U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr.,] in which well-heeled litigants opt for private judging rather than waiting for their cases to be heard in federal courts." -- From a report on a symposium at UCLA Law School on the worrying decrease in transparency in the civil litigation system, with "fewer trials being held, more private judges operating outside the normal court system and a proliferation of cases settled with confidentiality agreements." More (L.A. Times 11.03.2007). Comment. I first began calling public attention to the serious problem of lack of judicial accountability and transparency in a campaign essay I wrote in 2000; see, BurtLaw on Judicial Independence and Accountability. For some of my subsequent postings on judicial accountability, see, Judicial independence and its pal, judicial accountability (and links embedded in it) and the accompanying mini-essays ("The 'uncritical lovers' of the judiciary" and "The 'unloving critics' of the judiciary," followed by "A flurry of stories about judicial independence and judicial accountability").
Flying with the judge. "One of my favorite memories of the judge is of my last day in the clerkship. He decided that, as a final treat, he would take each of [his clerks] flying in a little two-seat airplane...I will never forget the experience of flying over the beautiful, wooded, rolling hills of central Connecticut with the man who had been the governor of the state. Though he was not given to poetic pronouncements, I remember the warmth in his voice as he talked about the beauty of the state he so clearly loved...." -- From an appreciation, on his death, of former Connecticut governor, U.S. congressman and appellate court judge Thomas J. Meskill by Melanie B. Abbott, who was a law clerk for Judge in 1984 and 1985. More (Hartford Courant 11.02.2007).
Denied a raise, judges find a way to get more perks. "Stymied so far in efforts to lobby Albany for a judicial pay increase, state court administrators said yesterday they have found funds to give each judge up to $5,000 a year to reimburse them for job-related expenses ranging from uncovered medical costs to judicial robe purchases. The 1,300 state judges also will get more vacation time, reimbursement for a third night of attending annual meetings of their judicial associations and a return to a statewide forum for their summer judicial seminars instead of a regional one...." Details (NYLJ 11.02.2007).
Judge's death is ruled 'most consistent with self-induced.' "The manner of Lawrence Circuit Court Judge Richard D. McIntyre's death is 'most consistent with self-induced,' according to the county coroner. McIntyre, 51, Bedford, who has been Lawrence Circuit Court judge since 1988, was found unresponsive by his wife, Meredith, in the front seat of a 2007 GMC Yukon parked inside a detached garage at his home Tuesday evening...." More (Times-Mail - Indiana 11.02.2007).
Board recommends discipline of two MS judges. "For the second time in seven months, the state's judicial watchdog group is recommending action[, in this instance a 90-day suspension,] be taken against Hinds County Justice Court Judge Nicki Boland for judicial misconduct. The commission on Thursday also recommended Hinds County Justice Court Judge Frank Sutton Sr. be publicly reprimanded for judicial misconduct in a separate matter...." According to the Board, Boland "engaged in judicial misconduct by repeatedly entering unlawful orders in a peace bond case resulting in the unlawful incarceration and court order treatment of a litigant." The Board said that in two landlod-tenant cases Sutton "engag[ed] in ex parte communications, fail[ed] to rule promptly, efficiently, and fairly and fail[ed] to be patient, dignified and courteous to an attorney." More (Jackson Clarion-Ledger 11.02.2007).
Activists march in Taiwan for new law on judges. "To promote a better judiciary, an alliance led by the Judicial Reform Foundation assembled hundreds of lawyers and activists in a demonstration in Taipei Oct. 27, urging the Legislative Yuan to pass the Judge Law by the end of this session. With the slogan of 'Say no to unqualified judges, mismanaged trials, and justice that comes too late,' the alliance said that there is an urgent need for the Judge Law. It proposes to establish an evaluation system for judges in order to remove those who do not qualify or abuse their powers...." More (Taiwan Journal 11.02.2007).
This is NOT an advertisement for vacationing in Mexico. These days Judge Thomas Culver, who presides over court in Fort Bend County Courthouse in Richmond, TX, isn't a walking advertisement for putting on a so-called "destination wedding" in Mexico for one's daughter. Seventy guests flew in for his daughter's wedding, held over the weekend at a resort in a city south of Cancun. The rooms of twenty of the guests were entered by someone using a card while the wedding was in progress and, according to the judge, "Someone with a pass code was able to access all of the locked safety deposit boxes in all of the rooms." The thief or thieves made off with "between $70,000 to $100,000 in jewelry and cash." The hotel management's response was hostile, with the manager allegedly threatening to have the complainants arrested for making false claims. The judge and his party checked out, moving to a hotel in Cancun for a short stay before leaving the country and returning to Texas. More (KHOU - Texas 11.02.2007). Comment. A few years ago a gal I knew was showing some pics of her bargain trip on a flying cattle car to Mexico. I asked her where she'd been. She said slowly and breathlessly, as if she'd been to the Emerald City of Oz, "Mazatlan." For all I know, the judge will visit Mexico again, so I don't want to attribute my disinclinations to him. Me? I wouldn't go to Mexico if you gave me a free round-trip all-expenses-paid luxury vacation, but that's just me. If you go, you at least ought to know what sort of a country you're visiting. Here's a link to WorldWorx Travel's report on the risks of traveling to Mexico, including Oz-like places like Mazatlan.
Judge is called a 'fool' in an e-mail circulated by a fellow judge. "Judge Hilton Fuller, whose handling of the Fulton County courthouse shooting trial has prompted the speaker of the House to threaten him with investigation and possible impeachment, has now incurred the wrath of a fellow judge who calls him a 'fool' and a 'disgrace.' In an Oct. 11 e-mail sent to fellow judges in the Fulton County Superior Court, Judge Craig L. Schwall asked whether there was any way 'to replace the debacle and embarassment Judge Fuller is...Surely he can be replaced. He is a fool...We should investigate if it can be done.'" More (Atlanta Journal-Constitution 11.01.2007). Comment. One might ask, rhetorically, whether as a general matter a judge himself isn't a "fool" who sends around an e-mail like that to colleagues on a multi-judge trial bench. We think it's bad manners to call any judge, particularly a fellow one, a fool. BTW, Anne Emanuel, a professor of law at Georgia State, has written a thoughtful response to what she terms the "scapegoating" of Judge Hilton over his approving of public funding of the defense, which has raised the insanity defense, to the tune of $1 million. She asks why people are focusing on Judge Hilton and aren't asking why the county attorney filed a 54-count indictment, why the state's witness list tops 400 people, why he's assigned five attorneys to the case, and why he's "retain[ed] the best experts in the country on matters from forensics to jury selection." She asks, "Before we decide whether the defense costs are too high, don't we need to know what the state is spending?" And she reminds everyone that complex death penalty cases cost big bucks. More (AJC - Op/Ed 11.01.2007).
NH judge admits she helped 'cook the books.' "Suspended Superior Court Judge Patricia Coffey has agreed that she violated judicial ethics rules by helping shield her husband's assets from creditors as he was being disbarred two years ago. The Judicial Conduct Committee accepted Coffey's agreement and declared on Wednesday that the case against her had been resolved, except for discipline...." More (Boston Herald 11.01.2007).
Appeals court judges 'go modern': they may now file seapate opinions. "Appeal court judges are now freer to disagree with one another...[as a result of] legislation covering the administration of justice in Barbados...." More (The Nation - Barbados 11.01.2007).
Manhandle the chief, go to jail? "Pakistan's Supreme Court today handed suspended jail sentences to Islamabad's former police chief and four other officers for 'manhandling' the country's top judge. The officers were found guilty of mistreating Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as he went to court in March for a legal hearing following his suspension by President Pervez Musharraf...." More (Melbourne Herald Sun 11.01.2007).
Courts routinely shackle teens accused of minor offenses. "Many US juvenile courts routinely shackle teens accused of minor crimes and deny them adequate access to a lawyer, a study released Wednesday has found. Most teens in the study did not get to meet with a lawyer before a hearing to determine whether they should be held in jail prior to trial. They also rarely got to adequately discuss their case with a lawyer prior to the trial date...." More (AFP 11.01.2007).
Comment. I've been a student of our juvenile court system since my high school days, when in 9th grade I won second prize in a statewide essay contest on juvenile delinquency. I know the way the system worked in the early 1960s, when I studied it as an undergrad in sociology at the U. of Minn. I studied it at Harvard Law. And I observed the developments in juvenile law during my nearly 30 years as a trusted aide in criminal and juvenile justice issues in our state court system. Frankly, I think that, on balance, the system has gotten worse rather than better.
Separation of powers comes to Bangladesh. "In a landmark move, Bangladesh's military-backed interim government on Thursday announced formal separation of judiciary from the executive, describing it as a crucial step to ensure rule of law and 'completeness of democracy.'" More (The Hindu 11.01.2007).
Lawyers thrash judge over denial of bail. "Lawyers in India's southern city of Chennai took the law into their hands and allegedly thrashed a judge for refusing to grant bail to their clients, news reports said Thursday...." More (Earth Times 11.01.2007).
'Flying pig tour' seeks 'no' vote on retention of judges in PA. "Gene Stilp said he successfully helped block the retention of state Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro in 2005; however, he was told he'd 'never get another Supreme Court justice out unless pigs fly.' Stilp, director of Taxpayers and Ratepayers United, took it to heart, which is why he could be found yesterday standing beside his winged and pig-likened 1993 Bluebird school bus, encouraging area voters to vote 'no' for the retention of dozens of Pennsylvania judges...." More (Daily Collegian 11.01.2007). Comment. We doubt that the drive will succeed. One loses credibility when one argues that not one of the judges (or none minus one) merits retention.
Pakistan follows U.S. lead in military commission trials of civilians. "The Pakistan government will soon issue an ordinance that will allow military courts to try civilians for offences like terrorism and give sweeping powers to security and intelligence agencies...." More (Zee News 11.01.2007). Comment. And here I thought we were descending to their level. Now it turns out we've been setting an example they and others will follow. I've said it before: Sinclair Lewis laid it all out in 1935 in his prescient novel, It Can't Happen Here. In fact, I said it on 09.15.2001, just four days after 09.11. See, my mini-essay titled It can't happen here? at BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else. See, also, my comments at Bill establishing U.S. judicial branch inspector general. Further reading. U.S. District Court Judge John C. Coughenour, How to Try a Terrorist (NYT - Op/Ed 11.01.2007) ("Our courts ensure an independent process; they do not enforce the prerogatives of law enforcement. Any proposal that would blur this distinction would compromise a bedrock principle of government that has defined this country from its inception. This is a price too high to pay.").
Woman charged with felony for taping judge at public beach accepts plea deal. "Julie Ann Domotor, who spent 83 days in jail after being charged with illegally videotaping a circuit judge[, Richard Wennett, commenting on women's breasts at a public beach,] ended the ordeal on Wednesday. Domotor originally faced a trio of felony charges for videotaping her former fling...[She] pleaded no contest to a lesser misdemeanor of unlawful interception of communications in exchange for the felony charges' being dropped, and was sentenced to time served...." More (Palm Beach Post 11.01.2007). Comment. In our opinion, the FLA taping law is unconstitutional when applied to statements uttered in a public place. Moreover, the prosecution was a foolish prosecution. Ms. Domotor comes out of all this looking good, and we can't blame her for accepting a deal, given the alternative of spending more time in jail. We think Judge Wennett and the criminal justice system in FLA come out of it looking bad. Also, we note that the news report says Judge Wennett was informed of and approved the deal. That tends to indirectly confirm what defense counsel is quoted as opining: specifically, that Domotor's arrest "would not have happened if the victim were not a judge" and that "[a]ny ordinary person would have been 'laughed out of the police department' if they tried to raise the same complaint."
'Tex' is in minor trouble again over things he said in court. "Tex," as Justice Eugene Ewaschuk of the Ontario Superior Court is known, "is in hot water again." While upholding the judge's order extraditing Adolf Horvath, a so-called Roma, to Hungary for prosecution on fraud charges against a claim that he'll be persecuted there because he is a Roma, the Ontario Court of Appeals scolded the judge for: a) saying Horvath doesn't look like "a typical Gypsy," b) expressing skepticism about the term "Roma," saying that its "primary dictionary definition is an 'Italian tomato,'" c) referring to a judge of the British Columbia Supreme Court as "a pretty arrogant judge," d) referring to a judge of the Ontario Superior Court as "the Hungarian judge from Hamilton," e) describing another judge of the Ontario Superior Court as "sputtering all over the place" during a hearing on a particular case, and f) saying that a decision by yet another judge of the Ontario Superior Court was "not the strongest authority." More (Globe & Mail 10.31.2007).
Court reprimands lawyers who lent money to judge. "The Missouri Supreme Court issued public reprimands Tuesday to four area lawyers who lent money to a Kansas City judge and handled cases in her court...." More (Kansas City Star 10.31.2007).
Rwanda genocide trials -- who's to be sure a judge is free of guilt? "The Genocide trial of former Nyarutarama Gacaca court president, Thrones Mulihano, gets underway today. Nyarutarama is a Kigali city's posh suburb. Mulihano, who was sacked from Nyarutarama Gacaca court in September after serving for four months as Gacaca head in the area, is accused of burying one Innocent Nkubana alive during the 1994 Genocide...." More (New Times via All Africa 10.31.2007).
Obama speaks at historic courthouse, former SCOSC justice endorses him. "Ernest Finney, a former state Supreme Court chief justice endorsed [Barack] Obama Friday, saying the Illinois senator's views on education helped him make up his mind. Speaking at the Clarendon County Courthouse in Manning, S.C., where families first sued the state over unequal education opportunities for blacks and whites in South Carolina in the 1940s, Obama spoke confidently about his presidential candidacy...." More (Fox News 11.03.2007).
Zimbabwe's magistrates, judges go on strike. "Zimbabwe's judicial system has ground to a halt following a nationwide strike by magistrates, judges and prosecutors for higher wages, according to state radio Saturday...." More (Digital Journal 11.03.2007).
Ex-judge is found guilty of biting son during altercation. "A former Cook County judge was convicted Tuesday of biting his teenage son on the hand during an argument in July. Lambros Kutrubis, 66, of the 300 block of North State Street was found guilty of misdemeanor domestic battery during a bench trial...[Kutrubis] was tried and acquitted of criminal damage to property [in 2004], after being accused of breaking a man's cell phone during a 2004 bar quarrel...He left the bench in Cook County in 2004." More (Chicago Tribune 10.31.2007).
Protests at home of judge who refused to stay open to accept death case appeal. "A group of activists...rallied outside Judge Sharon Keller's home...Tuesday night. Keller presides over the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and refused to accept a late death penalty appeal on Sept. 25, which resulted in Michael Richard's execution...Keller told attorneys filing Richard's appeal that the office closes at 5 p.m. and would not grant them the 20 extra minutes they requested...[A group spokesperson] said the protest occurred at Keller's house because most members of his organization work until 5 p.m. when the Court of Criminal Appeals office would be closed...." More (The Daily Texan 10.31.2007). Comment. I don't think people should protest or picket outside a judge's home or, for that matter, outside anyone's home. But I have to admit the reasoning given by the group's spokesperson appeals to one's sense of poetic justice.
Divorce courts in shambles. "Ireland's divorce courts are overloaded and need a complete overhaul to make breaking up fairer and less of a bank-breaking ordeal, an expert report on the secrecy-shrouded system concluded Tuesday...." More (IHT 10.31.2007). Comment. If you just read the headline, you might have assumed the article was about divorce courts in your jurisdiction. Having gone through a painful, costly divorce in Hennepin County MN District Court that took nearly five years, I literally have nothing good to say about the divorce courts and its processes in "my" jurisdiction. If anything has been done to significantly improve matters there in the last few years, I haven't heard about it.
Was Moscow judge involved in some way in U.S. fake passport scheme? "A Moscow judge who ruled against the families of Dubrovka theater hostages has been implicated in a U.S. investigation into false passports, a case the FBI says is 'inextricably intertwined' with the disappearance of an American businessman. Marina Gorbachyova, a judge in Moscow's Tverskoi District Court until January, was drawn into the investigation by her brother, Egor Chernov, who is awaiting trial in Utah on charges of producing and transferring fake passports, according to an FBI affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City...." More (Moscow Times 10.31.2007).
Judge who was shot immediately suspected the guy who's now on trial. "After describing the terror of being shot in the chest and the fear of 'bleeding out' on the floor of his chambers, Washoe District Judge Chuck Weller testified Tuesday that he knew who likely was responsible. 'That man right there,' Weller said, pointing to Darren Mack beside his two lawyers...." The judge was standing near his third-floor office window and the shot was fired from a block or two away, as I recall from a contemporaneous reports to which I linked. More (Reno Gazette Journal 10.31.2007). Earlier. Dahlia Lithwick on the shooting of the Reno family court judge.
Judge tells subordinate judges to submit legible orders on 'fine quality paper.' "Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry of the Lahore High Court on Tuesday directed the subordinate court judges to write orders on fine quality paper so that the documents were legible...." More (Daily Times - Pakistan 10.31.2007).
Pathologist says judge didn't kill self but was murdered by strangulation. "The Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) here has submitted the autopsy report of Additional Sessions Judge Ajay Neelkanthrao Chavan (42) to police stating that he was murdered by strangulation...." More (The Hindu 10.30.2007).
Easier to confirm prosecutor as judge than a defense lawyer? -- oi veh! "'When most appointees come from prosecutorial ranks, the judges continue to think like prosecutors,' said criminal lawyer Sasi Gez. 'When you finally have some defender they want to appoint to the bench, then they say he consorts with criminals. There is no defender who doesn't have ties to criminals. Who else would he have contact with?'" This interesting story from today's (10.30.2007) Haaretz makes the point that it's relatively easy for a prosecutor, as compared to a criminal defense lawyer, to get confirmed as judge.
Judge tells female lawyer to 'sit down, shut up, let the man talk.' "In a U.S. District court hearing in Charlotte last week, things got a little testy between Judge Graham Mullen and a lawyer for the Securities and Exchange Commission. During an exchange about a type of short-selling stock transaction, Mullen told SEC lawyer Catherine Pappas to 'sit down, shut up, let the man talk, referring to opposing attorney George Covington, according to the transcript...." More (Charlotte Observer 10.30.2007). Comment. Probably not grounds for impeachment.
'Judging the halters.' "In many [exhibition] classes Alice had more than one animal and the judges would invariably assume that Alice would be showing...her best one...But Alice liked to mess with people so she would alternate showing the good and not-so-good animals. Funny thing, the animal Alice showed always won. Life is very subjective like that and, much like the gymnastics or pairs skating in the Olympics, the winner is sometimes decided even before the contest begins. It's why winning dog breeders and steer jocks pay certain handlers to show their animals. It's also why halter horse exhibitors dress their horses in fine English bridle leather and silver conchas with the horse's name engraved in gold...." -- From It's the Pitts: Judging the Halter (CattleNetwork 10.29.2007). Comment. Fascinating piece, worth reading in full. The author describes the practice of judges at halter horse exhibitions as "judging the halter," adding, "I have yet to see a winning horse, or a beef animal for that matter, win a blue ribbon that was shown in a crummy rope halter." To what extent, we can't help asking, are common law cases won or lost in our much-lauded courtrooms because the judge didn't like the cut of defense counsel's jib or the jury did not like the rape-complainant's halter top?
Ex-king grieves over judiciary's loss of the public's trust. "Malaysia's government faced mounting pressure Monday to pursue judicial reforms, as the country's former king voiced distress that judges are losing their case in the court of public opinion. Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah, addressing a conference of lawyers, said there have been recent 'disturbing events relating to the judiciary' -- an apparent reference to a scandal involving a video tape that allegedly provides proof of judicial corruption...." More (IHT 10.29.2007).
Tarisai blasts judges. "Australian Idol wannabe diva Tarisai Vushe has blasted judges Ian Dickson and Mark Holden in a backstage spray that accused them of sabotaging her chance to win the contest. Screaming at the pair after last night's show and slamming a door in Dicko's face, Tarisai said their critique that she was acting 'fake' during performances would cost her the prized recording contract offered to the winner...." More (News.Com.Au 10.29.2007). Comment. We think it's sad when unelected judges interfere with some 20-year-old gal's right to become "Australian Idol."
Long obit of pioneering female lawyer, judge. "Lisa Aversa Richette, [79,] a brilliant but controversial jurist who cared for battered women, the homeless, children at risk, the mentally ill and long-term prisoners, died of lung cancer on Friday...'She was flamboyant, outspoken, people respected her judicial acumen,' said retired Common Pleas judge and longtime friend David N. Savitt. 'She was her own person [and] was separate from the mold'...Michael Wallace, an attorney and onetime colleague on the Common Pleas bench, said, 'She had more guts than 90 percent of the male judges. She didn't care who was mad at her either. I loved her.'" More (Philadelphia Daily News 10.29.2007). Comment. This obit is worth a read, with colorful revealing details like these: "A tap dancer in her youth, she read widely, loved theater and attended the opera regularly with Common Pleas Judges John Chiovero and Savitt and their wives...Two of her dearest friends, Bill Brodsky and Fred Van Dyk, would chuckle when she'd show up at the Lombard Swim Club wearing her black judicial robe over her bikini. And she wore a bikini well into her 70s." Mayor Frank Rizzo did battle with her, referring to her as "Let 'em loose Lisa." She taught at Yale at one point and was author of a book titled Throwaway Children. We like the detail about her showing up at the swim club wearing her judicial robe as a swimsuit cover-up. Further reading. See, "On judicial swimsuits and the Rules of Judicial Conduct" (scroll down) at BurtLaw's Law & Swimsuits.
Spooky history comes to life at historic courthouse. The ghosts made a pre-Halloween appearance last week at the Lampasas County Courthouse "for a night of storytelling put on the by Lampasas County Historical Commission in observance of Texas Archaeology Month." More than 300 people attended.
"'I think this is the biggest crowd to be in this courthouse since the Horrell-Higgins trial in 1877,' joked Pat Millican, who played [a ghost]...Lampasas County Judge Wayne Boultinghouse, dressed somberly in black as an undertaker, was the master of ceremonies...." More (Killeen Daily News 10.29.2007). Comment. Texas has by far the best program of any state for preserving, restoring and creatively using its wonderful, historic county courthouses.
Hanging judge was just like you and me, descendant believes. "We look back today on the Salem witchcraft trials with a mixture of horror and fascination -- those awful Puritans! But how would you feel toward the judges who sent innocent people to the gallows in 1692 if one of them was a relative? Brookline writer Eve LaPlante faced that question when she set about writing Salem Witch Judge, the new biography of her ancestor, Judge Samuel Sewall of Boston. What she found surprised her...." More (Boston Globe 10.29.2007). Comment. She found that "He was very much the way I think of myself and my friends. He was very human and understandable, in a certain way ordinary...." Not surprising to me. Underneath the robes, each judge is generally just an ordinary Jack or Jill who happened to go to law school and who more likely than not was a friend of the governor or a friend of a friend of someone on a screening commission. Even the extraordinary Holmes, who towers over all those who've come after him, played Solitaire to while away the hours of an evening. BTW, unlike the other judges, Sewell later apologized for his role in the Witch Trials, calling for a public day of prayer, fasting, and reparations.
Why not some real chiefs as judges? "Some chiefs of the Greater Accra Region are advocating the inclusion of chiefs in the judicial system in order to make the delivery of justice accessible to local communities throughout the country. Nene Klangbojo Animle, Paramount Chief of Osu Doku, argued that the erosion of traditional judicial powers of the chieftaincy institution from the modern judicial administration has denied rural people speedy justice; hence increasing cases of instant justice and voodoo justice...." More (ModernGhana.Com 10.29.2007).
Why a history of SCOTUS? Peter Hoffer answers the question, in an essay titled Is the History of the U.S. Supreme Court Essential? Hoffer, who teaches history at the University of Georgia, is co-author, with William James Hoffer, of Seton Hall University, and N.E.H. Hull, of Rutgers Law School-Camden, of The Supreme Court: An Essential History (2007). (HistoryNewsNetwork 10.29.2007).
Few black lawyers are arguing cases at SCOTUS. "Several factors account for the dearth of minorities at the court: continuing problems in recruiting and retaining blacks and other minorities at the top law firms; the rise of a small group of lawyers who focus on Supreme Court cases; the decline in civil rights cases that make it to the high court; and the court's dwindling caseload...." More (IHT 10.29.2007).
Grad students as judges? "We are a nation of grad students, or that's what people in the book business seem to be hoping as they race to sell us not only the finished work of famous authors but also the rough drafts...." Charles McGrath, Whose Words -- I, Editor Author (NYT 10.28.2007). Comment. One could write an essay on the opinion-writing and opinion-editing habits of judges on federal and state appellate courts. If I were to write such an essay, one of my lines of inquiry would be whether those judges (that is, those judges who write their own opinions, a dwindling number) who follow what I'd call the obsessive-compulsive approach, with the approach's multiple drafts and extensive edits, produce a significantly better opinion than those who "whip them out" quickly, as, say, Justice Holmes did. I suspect the "grunters" generally do not write a better opinion, but that doesn't mean "their way" isn't right for them: perhaps they're just not as good writers and they somehow recognize this and recognize that they need to obsess over every word and phrase and sentence and paragraph, something better writers don't need or want to do. What's always amusing is when one of these "grunter"-types convinces himself he's God's gift to the judiciary and to the literary world and takes upon himself the role of Editor in Chief of the Court, driving colleagues crazy with his "suggestions," "tips," etc. As wildly imagined in a work of sheer fiction, such a judge -- perhaps a novice named Gradgrind -- would obsessively save all the various drafts, in numbered and dated versions, with each microscopic
modification change being visible in each version draft, much as a statute's revisions are set forth, and would fool himself into thinking the various drafts would be of interest someday to judicial historians.
SCOPHIL dismisses judge over 'public immorality.' "In its decision [dismissing Judge Manuel de Castro], the [Supreme] Court stated that [his] acts of teasing a waitress in a videoke bar about her 'scant dress,' kissing her on the cheek and another waitress behind the ear, and attempting to enter the bathroom while one of the waitresses was inside, with his companions egging him on and in full view of the other drinking individuals in the bar 'translate into a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct as they reflect upon respondent judge's utter disregard of public opinion of the reputation of the judiciary which he represents.'" More (Bohol Chronicle - Philippines 10.28.2007). Comment. He had been accused of rape but the woman claiming that retracted the allegation. One wonders if the supreme court shut that allegation out of its mind in deciding to dismiss the judge.
Cracks in Lady Justice. "Lady Justice and her friends are taking a vacation from their post in front of the Minnehaha County Courthouse. Cracks in the sculpture mean work is needed on the 10-foot-tall bronze, which was dedicated less than a year ago. And it's in the way of the courthouse remodeling project, so it will have to be temporarily moved...." More (Sioux Falls Argus-Leader 10.28.2007).
Some criticize judge over decision in garden design competition. "Controversy surrounds a rhododendron festival event after the visiting French garden design judge awarded first prize to what organisers and other entrants say is a sculpture that failed to win last year. Bruno Marmiroli gave the trophy to Richard Bain's corrugated iron cube decorated with plastic poppies purchased from The $2 Shop...." More (Stuff.Co.NZ 10.28.2007). Comment. When my mom, Beatrice (1913-1990), was a little girl, her older sister, Adeline, who I remember from my youth as a great cook, prepared several entries in various food preparation & preservation categories for county fair competition. Mom was allowed to use Ad's scraps & leftovers, which she submitted under her own name. Alas, some of Mom's entries beat out Ad's. That didn't please Ad! Alas #2: judging is always partly subjective. Some judges fooled themselves into thinking Beaty's pie was significantly better than Adeline's seemingly identical pie. Further reading. BurtLaw's Dog Judging, Jam&Jelly Judging, Etc.
Agin is late again. "The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance has recommended to the state Supreme Court that Madison County Judge William Agin be publicly reprimanded for failing to rule on a civil case in a timely matter. Agin previously had been cautioned by the judicial watchdog group for similar conduct More (Clarion-Ledger 10.28.2007).
Judges are better than mere lawyers? "Judges are known to have tough nerves. So when it was the turn of the judges of Bombay High Court to bowl the final over at the MC Chagla Cup T20 cricket match against the Lawyers' XI at Wankhede Stadium on Saturday, the team got into an officious huddle. The lawyers needed only seven runs off the last six balls to beat the modest 122-run target set by the judges. Finally, the unanimous decision to have Justice DB Bhosale bowl the final deliveries paid off and the judges lifted the match trophy, defeating the lawyers by a mere two runs...." More (DNA India 10.28.2007).
'Monkeys' outside judge's house. "There was lots of monkey business in Seend, near Devizes, on Saturday afternoon as members of the campaign group Fathers4Justice lobbied the home of High Court Judge, Sir Mathew Thorpe. Ten uniformed police officers, including a dog team, protected Sir Mathew's home, Beech House, from 15 protesters, many of them dressed in monkey suits, carrying placards saying 'Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.'" More (This Is Wiltshire - UK 10.28.2007). Comment. As we've said before, we don't approve of people -- whatever the relative merits of their cause -- picketing outside the residence of a judge, other public figure, or anyone else. The only sort of house-picketing we'd except from our general ban would be, say, picketing outside The White House.
Shades of FDR's lil' ol' court-packing plan? "Two of five justices on Bolivia's highest court resigned Friday, a victory for President Evo Morales in a nearly yearlong struggle for control of the Andean country's judicial branch. But the departure of two judges named by past conservative governments does not guarantee Morales can tilt the Constitutional Tribunal in his favor before it is expected to hear challenges to several of the populist president's key reforms next year...." He still needs to get his replacement appointees confirmed. More (IHT 10.27.2007). Further reading. Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., A Personalized View of the Court-Packing Episode (Supreme Court Historical Society 1990 Yearbook).
Annals of sadistic judging. "The Supreme Court on Friday stayed a Delhi High Court's direction asking a sessions judge to undergo a refresher course in criminal law for not following the correct judicial procedure in a bail case. [At the same time, t]he court expressed its displeasure that judges were issuing non-bailable warrants irresponsibly and using their powers for drawing 'sadistic pleasure.'" More (Economic Times - India 10.27.2007).
Not all judges are equally bright? "The early years of the Charter of Rights were marked by erratic decisions rendered by judges with uneven intellectual abilities, the Ontario Court of Appeal's most senior judge said yesterday. 'The Charter had given constitutional jurisdiction to every mutt in the country,' Mr. Justice David Doherty told the Criminal Lawyers Association annual conference...." More (Globe and Mail - Canada 10.27.2007). Compare and contrast. "An outspoken Ontario Court of Appeal judge, Mr. Justice Michael Moldaver, was accused yesterday of using poisonous terminology in a personal campaign to 'prune the Charter with an axe.' Prominent Toronto defence lawyer William Trudell levelled the accusation during a speech to about 200 criminal lawyers who have been quietly stewing since Judge Moldaver publicly disparaged the defence bar...." More (Globe and Mail 10.27.2007).
Judges accountable only to Allah? "Mr Justice Javed Iqbal, who heads an 11-member bench of the Supreme Court hearing petitions challenging the acceptance of Gen Pervez Musharraf's nomination papers for the presidential election, said on Friday that the decision on the petitions would be in accordance with the Constitution...He said: 'The judiciary was independent, is independent and will remain independent. We as judges are answerable only to Allah Almighty; and after that to our conscience, rather than to a particular group of people.'" More (Pakistan Dawn 10.27.2007).
A court clerk is charged with fixing her own parking tickets -- 75 of them. "[Dawn Michelle] Nyberg, who used to be a clerk in Hennepin County's traffic court, was charged Thursday with dismissing, expunging or fobbing off on other unsuspecting motorists more than $5,000 worth of [her own parking] ticket fines and late fees between August 2005 and June, when the alleged scheme was discovered by police...." More (St. Paul Pioneer-Press 10.27.2007).
Courts and fires. "Courts will be extra busy next week as a result of the unprecedented weeklong closure because of wildfires. Each business day, more than 14,000 people enter the 10 Superior Court facilities in San Diego County. Michael Roddy, the court's executive director, expects the workload to return to normal in about a month...." More (San Diego Union-Tribune 10.27.2007).
Secret rulemaking by judges -- what else is new? "The panel of judges overseeing the federal judiciary's revision of its rules against judicial misconduct is refusing to disclose the public comments that could help shape the overhaul. After requesting public comments about the proposed rules, the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability refuses to say how many responses it received, who commented or what was said...." More (Kansas City Star 10.26.2007). Comment. Yet another example of judicial rejection of accountability and transparency.
Judge says he took 'shortcuts' to avoid getting reprimanded for being slow. "[Toledo City Judge Guadioso Villarin] told investigators he just wanted to avoid getting reprimanded by the Supreme Court for delaying action on cases. So he admitted making 'shortcuts' in handling petitions for the annulment of marriage...Rullyn Garcia, judicial supervisor of the Office of the Court Administrator...[is conducting an] investigation into alleged irregularities in the Branch 59 of the Regional Trial Court of Toledo City...." More (Cebu Daily News 10.26.2007).
One judge allegedly 'looked on' while another judge molested female intern. "[A] senior judge allegedly made inappropriate advances towards a young law graduate in his own cabin on the premises of district and sessions court in Nagpur on Wednesday. The complainant was an intern under former additional and sessions judge Prakash Thombre... [According to a named source,] 'The [complainant] said Thombre took her to fifth additional and sessions judge Shivaji Patil on the pretext of giving her some work. When they got there, Patil allegedly tried to outrage her modesty while Thombre looked on and did nothing to save her....'" More (Times of India 10.26.2007). Comment. Judges, like other people, ought to be presumed innocent of allegations of criminal wrongdoing until proven guilty.
Courthouse roof hit by metal thieves. "When the roof started leaking at the main Magistrate's Court in the English town of West Bromwich, lawyer Andy Chowdhury couldn't help but laugh. The court's roof, it seemed, had been targeted by metal thieves, losing enough bits of lead flashing -- the metal that stops water from draining through roof tiles -- that one day during this particularly rainy summer whole areas of the courthouse had to be closed off to the public. 'The court of justice got hit by the criminals,' said a grinning Mr. Chowdhury, who's also a partner at the local law firm Challinors...." More (Globe and Mail 10.26.2007). Comment. There's a big worldwide demand for metals, resulting in a huge increase in the price paid for scrap metal, making metal in buildings an increased target of thieves.
A retirement colony for judges in Delhi? "For the first time, the Government has mooted a proposal for providing permanent residential accommodation in the capital for retired judges of the Supreme Court. Described as a pet project of Law Minister H R Bharadwaj, early this month, the Department of Justice formalized it and sought 'in-principle' clearance and suggestions from the Ministries of Finance, Urban Development Ministry as well as the Prime Minister's Office. Several judges had complained to the Law Ministry about the exorbitant cost of suitable accommodation in the capital post their retirement...." More (Indian Express 10.26.2007). Comment. In a posting titled Should we televise judicial awards show? we asked whether an "American Judicial Walk of Fame" might be a great tourist attraction for some court, drawing judicial groupies from all around the globe. In making that proposal, we made another one, for a rent-subsidized retirement court called The Big Court:
It could be a money-making proposition, sort of like a museum gift shop, with friends who want to "immortalize" a favorite judge there being required to pay a modest fee, say, $5,000. The Judicial Walk of Fame Gift Shop could sell judicial bobble-head dolls, autographed copies of opinions by judges, etc., etc. The profits could be used to supplement the shockingly-low poverty-level salaries of judges and help fund a dream project, The Big Court, a rent-subsidized retirement court where the individual units would look like courtrooms by day but that could easily be converted to bedrooms at night through the use of Murphy beds, etc. During the day the judges would occupy themselves hearing moot court cases from local law schools. They would be allowed to play hooky and head for the golf course each afternoon without reporting their time off "the bench." Nurses would be required to address them as "Your Honor" -- or "Your Lordship."
Ohio judge is suspended for a year; he's on ballot for another term. "He's off the bench -- but still on the ballot. The Ohio Supreme Court suspended Mason Municipal Judge George Parker for a year Thursday, removing him immediately from judicial duty without pay. The decision, based on Parker's 31 violations of conduct rules for lawyers and judges, follows controversies that have dogged Parker since he took office in 2002...." More (Cincinnati Enquirer 10.26.2007).
Annals of the Majesty of the Law -- The Courts at Sam's Club Place. "St. Lucie County's courtroom shuffle could be under way again, this time moving some courts from downtown and northern Fort Pierce to the former Sam's Club warehouse on South U.S. 1. All family court cases will be heard in modular buildings placed in the Sam's Club parking lot starting early next year, Chief Circuit Judge William Roby said Thursday...." More (Palm Beach Post 10.26.2007).
Annals of judging -- Princess Katarina judges bra-design contest. "Trish Smith deserved the winner's cup for her 'Nesting Birds' -- two leaf covered nests with an artificial bird of paradise in one and a pigeon in the other. She was awarded first prize by Her Royal Highness Princess Katarina of Yugoslavia who...enjoyed judging the eye-catching display...." More (Mid-Sussex Times - UK 10.26.2007). Comment. Is there such a thing as an unbiased judge of a bra-design contest? Everyone has his preferences -- in size, style, design. "That black polka dot over there in size 34b is clearly -- and objectively -- the best," says Judge Armond Pouissaint, whereas his co-judge, F. Lavoris Pusso, wonders what is wrong with Armond's taste. Further reading. Brassiere (Wikipedia); Brassiere Measurements (Wikipedia); History of Brassieres (Wikipedia); The brassiere celebrates 100 (IHT 10.08.2007); Polka dot bras; Celebrity bra sizes; David Emery, The story of Otto Titzling, unsung inventor of the brassiere (About.Com); Obituary: Selma Koch, 95, Famed Brassiere Maven (NYT 06.14.2003).
Judge is admonished for using 'inappropriate' language in court. "[Mark Chow, a] King County [district court] judge was admonished Wednesday for trading lewd taunts with a defendant in his courtroom and making unusual references to the ethnicity of two others...." The judge agreed he did wrong, agreed to the admonishment, and agreed to participate in "training" to help prevent further like incidents. "Chow was presiding in a King County Jail courtroom Jan. 23, when a male defendant snapped at him with a vulgar sexual demand. Chow replied, 'I would if you pulled it out, but you can't find it.'" He also asked an Asian-American what "flavor" of Asian-American she was. More (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 10.25.2007). Comment. The day will come when the only people we'll get to be trial judges will be colorless types with robotic personalities who have programmed themselves to say either nothing or that which is bland and boring. That will not necessarily be a better day.
Judge gets restraining order against attorney. "A state appeals court has upheld an order requiring a Concord attorney[, James Disney,] to keep away from [Judge Peter Spinetta,] the judge who presided over his divorce case in 1994 and became the target of the lawyer's hostile letters, shouts and courtroom glares over the next 12 years...The First District Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday that the order did not violate the attorney's freedom of speech or his right to practice law, saying he remained free to criticize Spinetta in public as long as he left the judge alone...." More (San Francisco Chronicle 10.25.2007).
Judge gets cramps in both hands, adjourns court. "The Altantuya Shaariibuu trial was adjourned earlier than usual yesterday after the presiding judge started experiencing cramps on both his hands. Justice Mohd Zaki Md Yasin, known to be ambidextrous, first made his discomfort known to the court around 4pm when he asked witness Supt Soo Me Tong to stop his testimony for a while...." More (Malaysia Star 10.25.2007). Comment. In law school in the fall of 1964, my prop prof, the famed W. Barton "Bart" Leach, advised us to take as close to verbatim notes as possible, then read them, understand them and condense them after class. I found my right (writing) hand would cramp up. Then I discovered "felt tip pens." Judge, I advise you to get your pen people to buy you lots of felt tip pens. It's BurtLaw Rule-of-Thumb #551: If you want to avoid cramping of the judicial hand, use felt tip pens.
OMG! Judge in mascot case belonged to student group with mascot in '60s!!! "[Judge Lawrence Jahnke, t]he judge in the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux nickname lawsuit...was a member in the early 1960s of UND's Golden Feather pep club, a group limited to 30 male members each year...The group, founded in 1956, is credited with creating 'Sammy the Sioux,' a cartoonish mascot that was discontinued in the early 1970s...UND is suing the NCAA over a 2005 mandate that bars the school from displaying its nickname and logo in postseason play...." More (In-Forum - ND 10.25.2007). Comment. If judges were covered on an Entertainment Tonight-style TV version of The Daily Judge, tonight's headline teaser, repeated over and over on station breaks leading up to the show, would scream out the words of our headline, above.
Church and state in Israel. "If the 'Consensual Constitution' that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised to pass this year, along with the compromise that prevents the High Court of Justice from intervening in matters of religion, are both accepted, then the courts will be unable to save the country from examples of blatant religious coercion, as it did yesterday...." More (Haaretz - Editorial 10.25.2007). Related. "The High Court of Justice yesterday ruled in favor of farmers and against the Chief Rabbinate on the issue of kashrut certification for produce grown during the shmita, or sabbatical, year." More (Haaretz 10.25.2007).
Judge threatens journalists with contempt for misspelling his name, etc. "On 22 October 2007, [Liberia's] Chief Justice Johnnie Lewis threatened to imprison journalists for committing such 'infractions' as 'misspelling his name,' 'giving him wrong and inappropriate titles' and 'attaching his photos to stories that have nothing to do with him in their papers.' Lewis made the threats in open court, with the heads of several newspapers in attendance by invitation. The session was also attended by other members of the Supreme Court...." More (Center for Media Studies via AllAfrica - Press release 10.25.2007).
Judging candidates. "[R]apid judgments of competence based solely on the facial appearance of candidates predicted the outcomes of gubernatorial elections...Asking participants to deliberate and make a good judgment...reduced the predictive accuracy of judgments...[C]ompetence judgments collected before the elections in 2006 predicted 68.6% of the gubernatorial races and 72.4% of the Senate races...." -- From Abstract, Charles C. Ballew, II, and Alexander Todorov, Predicting political elections from rapid and unreflective face judgments (PNAC.Org 10.24.2007).
ABA criticizes slow judges. "The Athens Bar Association (ABA) issued an unprecedented statement criticizing some judges for the 'laxness with which they fulfill their duties, with regard to the quality and timing of the decisions they issue.' Sources said that the ABA was referring to some 20 judges that it believes 'systematically delay issuing even the simplest decisions, keeping case files in their drawers for as long as 10 or 20 months.'" More (Kathimerini - Greece 10.25.2007). Comment. It wouldn't hurt if slow judges here in MN and elsewhere were called to account.
The judge who warned gay lawyer about 'flamboyance.' "A Bronx judge who admonished an openly gay lawyer for dancing 'in a flamboyant nature' in the courtroom lashed out at the co-counsel yesterday for allegedly making facial gestures. Judge Richard Lee Price warned defense lawyer Thomas Giuffra not to show so much emotion...." More (N.Y. Post 10.25.2007). Earlier. "A boisterously eccentric defense attorney yesterday accused a Bronx Supreme Court judge of being 'homophobic' after the jurist told him to stop 'dancing' around 'in a flamboyant nature' in his courtroom...." More (N.Y. Post 10.24.2007). Comment. It's wrong for an attorney to "dance around" in court? Who knew? Is there any caselaw supporting that? Isn't "the dance" protected expression under the First Amendment?
Courthouse Pub. "Courthouse Pub, located where F. Willinger's Beer Hall, Court Cafe and Pekel's Colonial Inn once stood, is one of Manitowoc's top destinations for fine dining in a warm and inviting atmosphere. The menu offers unique items with clever court-themed names...The 'Pre-Trial Motions' -- or salads and soups -- include Southwest chicken salad, Judge's Cobb salad, chicken salad...." More (Manitowoc Times Herald Reporter - WI 10.25.2007). Comment. I'll waive pre-trial motions. I'm tempted by the "Executioner's Last Meal Special" and the "County Jail Creamed Dried Beef on Toast," but give me a "Judge Hugo Black Frankfurter," without the "William O. Douglas Relish," and the pretty little lady will have an "Earl Warren Burger" with the "Sandra Day O'Connor Pickle." She'll also have a "Clarence Thomas Cola," and I'll have an "Oliver Wendell Holmes Boston Brahmin Pale Ale."
Quote-of-the-Day. "It is a fact that, by and large, judges in our country spring from the same milieu as the other rulers of the country." -- Tariq Ali, "writer-activist," interviewed in Newsline, October 2007. (Newsline - Pakistan 10.25.2007).
Did candidate for judge mislead voters into thinking she was incumbent? "The Judicial Qualifications Commission filed formal misconduct charges against Broward County Judge Terri-Ann Miller on Wednesday accusing her of misleading voters to think that she was an incumbent judge when she successfully ran for election last year...Her campaign material included a photo of her wearing a judicial robe and using words that implied she was the incumbent, the commission charged...." More (South Florida Sun-Sentinel 10.25.2007). Comment. What's deceptive, what's not? How many judges around the country post old photos of themselves, taken when they were younger, on court websites? Or put them in campaign brochures? Or provide such photos to the press? But, you say, surely it is improper for a nonjudge running for a judgeship to show herself wearing a robe? It depends. If the candidate attached a disclaimer saying, "This is what I'll look like wearing a robe if you elect me," we presume she'd be ok. Or it'd be ok if the disclaimer said, "Photo of me wearing a choir robe" or "Photo of me masquerading as judge on Halloween."
A 91-year-old convicted sex offender is accused of playing games with court. "A 91-year-old convicted sex offender who police said pretends to be incoherent when he gets into trouble will receive a psychiatric exam in connection with recent allegations that he threatened to rape a nurse at the nursing home where he lives...." More (Grand Junction Sentinel - CO 10.25.2007). Comment. For the edification of our readers, we herewith reprint an entry we posted in August of 2005 relating to another aged sex offender, whose opprobrious conduct was memorialized in vivid detail in the notorious opinion in Lason v. State, 12 So.2d 305, 152 Fla. 440 (1943). BTW, the opinion has been deemed of sufficient historical importance to merit its own entry in Wikipedia. Without further ado, our historic 2005 posting:
The notorious opinion in Lason v. State, 12 So.2d 305, 152 Fla. 440 (1943). As a student at Harvard Law School from the fall of 1964 through graduation in 1967, the 150th anniversary of the school's founding, I can verify that the most-notorious & most-diificult-to-find judicial opinion during that three-year period was that of Chief Justice Rivers Buford in Lason v. State, 12 So.2d 305, 152 Fla. 440 (1943). We typically referred to it as simply "12 So.2d 305." I first read it as a framed opinion on the wall of some buddies at the start of second year. It was difficult to obtain a copy. Fellow students regularly ripped it out of Langdell Hall Library's multiple copies of the West volume containing the 12 So.2d opinion in question. Librarians would make a xerographic copy of it & tape it back in, but within a few days it would be gone. The prosecution in Lason was one containing two counts alleging that 76-year-old defendant, John Lason, had "commit[ed] the abominable and detestable crime against nature per so" against two young women, ages 11 & 13." The facts were not in dispute: fellatio and cunnilingus had occured. But were those acts a crime within the comprehension of the particular statute he was convicted of violating? The opinion is notorious because of C. J. Buford's decision to quote verbatim the defense's statement of the question on appeal, a statement that put a pretty extraordinary spin on the facts. Purely as a historical curiosity, we reproduce that quote here, with the rhetorical query, "What was Chief Justice Rivers Buford thinking?":
'Does the one specific crime definitely defined and limited by Section 7567, C.G.L.-1927; 3534 G.S. (1906) 5424 R.G.S.-1920; Ch. 1637, Sub. Ch. 8, Acts 1868, Sec. 17, comprehend or include the action of a 76 year old, aged Indian War Veteran, feeble physically and mentally, in, after having met the two girls of 11 and 13 years of age who solicited him, went to his residence and there they both get on the bed, pull up their dresses and drop down their panties, when he in turn on his back in the same bed allowed them to diddle with his raglike penis, unerectable, lifeless and useless except to connect the bladder with the outside world for more than six years since the death of his wife, utterly incapable of either penetration or emission, and wad it like a rag into their mouths, and then, in his feeble and aged condition impelled by the irresistable impulse, in turn he would kiss and put his tongue in their little though potentially influential and powerful vaginas?'
Judge holds news conference, accuses prosecutor of "playing dirty pool." "Circuit Judge Glenn Hess said Wednesday that State Attorney Steve Meadows is playing 'dirty pool' by sending baseless complaints against him to the governor's office for investigation. 'This has been nothing more than a smear campaign, plain and simple. It has to stop,' Hess said at his first news conference in 13 years as a judge...." More (News Herald - FLA 10.25.2007).
SCONH allows press to record, broadcast judicial conduct commission hearing. "Quietly last week, New Hampshire citizens won a significant victory in the ongoing battle to make the workings of government and the judiciary more transparent. After a request from the Monitor, NHPR and WMUR-TV, the state Supreme Court agreed to allow a disciplinary hearing in the case of Superior Court Judge Patricia Coffey[, who is accused of helping to hide her husband's assets from creditors,] to be photographed, recorded and broadcast. This is contrary to the standing rules and a big step in the right direction...." More (Concord Monitor - Editorial 10.24.2007).
Quote-of-the-Day. "It is an awfully tough thing being a judge. If a case is under consideration, we can't talk about it. And once it's decided, it speaks for itself, so we can't talk about it. So we don't have much to talk about." -- C. J. John Roberts, speaking at BYU. More (Deseret News 10.24.2007).
Did Judge Higgs have a 'Higgs-y' fit? "What started as a lawsuit about rich people behaving badly at the Wayzata Country Club has turned into a judicial snit fit and become the talk of Twin Cities legal bigwigs. The case has the elements of a prime time soap: name-calling, money, extramarital sex, public betrayal and humiliation. Now comes the new twist: judicial fury...." More (Star-Tribune 10.24.2007). Comment. The case is Dunham v. Opperman. MN's Court of Appeals recently ruled, while affirming in part, that the Ramsey County District Court Judge David C. Higgs abused his discretion in dismissing the Dunhams' case "with prejudice" as a sanction for discovery violations and "inappropriate conduct." Decision (MN Lawyer). Now, according to the Strib, Higgs "has issued an angry four-page order upbraiding a higher court and taking himself off the case...[sending] the case to the Supreme Court, asking that it be assigned to a new judge." We still haven't seen Higgs' "four-page order." If it's true that his statements/actions constitute, in the Strib's words, a "judicial snit fit," then it may be appropriate to coin a new term, "Higgs-y fit." But we'll withhold opinion on that until we read the order.
'Stacking the courts' in Victoria? "A prominent human rights activist and a former union boss have been made judges, reigniting controversy that Victoria's courts are being stacked. Attorney-General Rob Hulls has appointed Lex Lasry, QC, to the Supreme Court and former ACTU assistant secretary Iain Ross to the County Court...." More (Herald-Sun - AU 10.24.2007). Comments. a) An AG appointing judges? b) If he'd appointed prosecutors, which American governors are prone to do, would that not have been "stacking the courts"?
Annals of wine judging. "The maker of a wine that won the top prize at the Hawke's Bay Wine Awards last week has withdrawn the wine and returned the trophy. It followed allegations of a potential conflict of interest after the prize went to a company owned by chief wine judge Tony Bish...It is a year since Brent Marris, the chief judge at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, New Zealand's top wine competition, was forced to resign after his Wither Hills competition wines were found to be different to those sold to the public...." More (Stuff - NZ 10.24.2007).
Court okays disability retirement for judge who paid to get appointed. "[Brooklyn Judge Howard] Ruditzky, 67, took medical leave last June for an undisclosed ailment just before the Commission on Judicial Conduct ordered him to appear on charges he told a grand jury under immunity that he forked over at least $70,000 in 2001 to get the coveted Democratic nomination...On Oct. 2, he asked the state Appellate Division for a 'special disability retirement allowance' so he could get two-thirds of his $136,700 annual pay in exchange for his 'unconditional resignation.'" According to the Daily News, the court has approved the request. More (NY Daily News 10.24.2007).
Judge is accused of improperly running a business on the side. "[Judge Michael Livingstone, a] Plymouth County probate and family court judge has been accused of collecting attorney fees and operating a real estate business over four years in violation of judicial conduct rules that require judges to steer clear of commercial enterprises...." More (Boston Globe 10.23.2007).
AG charges four Jersey City judges with ticket-fixing. "The State attorney general, Anne Milgram, on Monday accused 4 of Jersey City's 10 Municipal Court judges of fixing parking tickets for friends, relatives and two of the judges themselves. The four judges -- Wanda Molina, the former chief judge; Pauline Sica; Victor Sison; and Irwin Rosen -- face charges of official misconduct...." More (NYT 10.23.2007).
Judge dismisses suit by campaign aide alleging another judge 'stiffed him.' "A lawsuit accusing a Detroit district judge of stiffing his former campaign manager has been dismissed. Yet Ron Giles, who was elected as a 36th District Court judge last year, said Monday he was still unhappy he had to waste time and money defending himself. 'I'm sorry we had to go through all this,' he said. 'Everybody kind of goes away unhappy.' No one was more unhappy than Rick Jones, the campaign operative who claimed Giles still owes him $5,000 for work he did on Giles' primary election campaign...." More (Detroit Free Press 10.23.2007). Comment. "Everybody kind of goes away unhappy." Doesn't that describe the outcome of most litigated divorces and many lawsuits? Some judges think that that proves they've been fair. But that's an obvious logical fallacy.
The judge and the middleman -- the tapes. "The interception of a middleman's phone calls four years ago led to the resignation of a judge of the Delhi high court and his 12-day detention. Although it is two years since the CBI filed its chargesheet, it has not been made public as chargesheets usually are. The TOI has now obtained copies of the 70-page chargesheet and the annexed transcripts of 100 phone calls running into 255 pages. The documents graphically bring out, among other things...." More (Times of India 10.23.2007).
Judge who sued 'big time' over lost pants may lose job. "Roy L. Pearson Jr., whose $54 million lawsuit against a Northeast Washington dry-cleaning shop was rejected in court, is about to lose his job as an administrative law judge, sources said last night. A city commission voted yesterday against reappointing Pearson to the bench of the Office of Administrative Hearings, which hears cases involving various D.C. boards and agencies. Pearson, who was up for a 10-year term, had tried to hold on to the job...." More (Washington Post 10.23.2007). Update. Judge loses job (Washington Post 10.31.2007).
Notice to judicial applicants: Yes, your politics matter. "Besides the judicial calibre, political affiliations are a factor in the appointment of Supreme Court and High Court judges, the government has said in response to an RTI application. The reply came in respect to a Right to Information application of Delhi resident Subhash Chandra Agrawal who had sought from the President's Secretariat details on eligibility requirement of judges of the apex court and the high courts...." More (The Hindu 10.23.2007).
Man arrested for threatening judge -- the wrong judge. "An Indiana man is accused of making a threat -- against the wrong judge. John R. Titus, 42, apparently was upset that Warren County Judge Don Oda recently refused to release him from probation stemming from a previous aggravated menacing conviction, said Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel. So Titus made threats against the court's other judge, Joseph W. Kirby, apparently mistaking him for Oda, Hutzel said...." More (Cincinnati Enquirer 10.23.2007).
Judge candidate's 'record' is revealed. "Jack Felgenhauer, Crawford County assistant prosecutor and a candidate for Crawford County Municipal Court Judge on Nov. 6, has a previous arrest record from his home county. Felgenhauer's record from the 1990s in his native Tuscarawas County includes driving under the influence, physical harm because of breaking a residence window and underage consumption in 1990. No record of what happened to the underage consumption, physical harm and the first DUI was available. He also had a charge of driving under the influence in 1997...." More (Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum 10.23.2007). Comment. Mr. Felgenhauer is quoted as saying, "I think we are all entitled to youthful mistakes. I think it gives me a better perspective and may make me more impartial, knowing that people do make mistakes." You know what? I agree. That doesn't mean I'd necessarily vote for him. It simply means what it means.
Judge Nottingham revisited. "An attorney[, Jeanne Elliott, who was paralyzed in a 1986,] has complained to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals about the chief judge of federal courts in Colorado[, Edward Nottingham,] parking in a space reserved for the disabled...." More (Vail Daily 10.23.2007).
She told hubby she was a 'virgin, a qualified doctor, and daughter to Justice....' "For long, Asha Dhingra 'played' several roles with elan: an IAS officer, a girls' hostel director, gynaecologist, Central School teacher, and college lecturer among others. But it was her 'role' as daughter of former Sikkim High Court Chief Justice S N Bhargava that did her in. Dhingra used her [feigned] status as the former chief justice's daughter to 'extort' Rs 2 lakh from her husband Rajesh Dhingra, a Doordarshan employee, the Delhi High Court observed today...." More (Express India 10.23.2007).
Judges begin review of convictions based on problematic crime lab evidence. "Harris County judges Monday began re-examining 180 criminal convictions involving problematic Houston crime lab evidence, asking inmates via video hearings if they wanted their cases included in the review process. Of the 19 inmates questioned Monday, 18 said yes. Because of a question of competency of the inmate who declined, it was decided to include his case, said Bob Wicoff, one of three defense attorneys who will be reviewing the convictions...." More (Houston Chronicle 10.23.2007).
The 'bulldozer boys' move forward. "Yesterday, the second business day after Gov. Ted Strickland politely asked [Seneca] county to hold off on tearing down the courthouse so that renovation funding could be explored, commissioners David Sauber and Ben Nutter hurried through a $60,000 contract for demolition plans...." More (Toledo Blade - Editorial 10.23.2007). Update. Poll suggests majority wants to save courthouse (Toledo Blade 10.28.2007).
Who's activist? Who's not? Who's partisan? Who's not? Thomas J. Miles and Cass R. Sunstein have examined SCOTUS decisions in appeals invoving agency decisions to determine who among The Supremes is a) most partisan vs. most neutral and b) most activist vs. most passive. The winners (losers?)? Justice Anthony Kennedy's "voting pattern" suggests no "political tilt." Souter comes in second. Thomas is "most partisan," followed by Stevens. Most restrained is Breyer. Most aggressive is Scalia. Want details? Click here (L.A. Times 10.22.2007).
Child judges. "A police station opening in Preston will also be home to the city's new child 'judges.' The building on Langcliffe Road, Brookfield will be the base for the peer panels, which allow children as young as 10 to act as judges...." More (BBC News 10.22.2007). Comment. There used to be a "Children's Barber Shop" in a retail mall in my city. I never went there because I didn't want a kid to cut my hair. I think I'll avoid the "child judges," too. Holmes says that "experience" is "the great teacher," the "life of the law." Kids are just too damn inexperienced to handle class actions. They should be in class instead. Update. "A concept which might seem to many to be beyond satire is being backed in all seriousness by the police and the Ministry of Justice and funded by the taxpayer to the tune of £500,000. Apparently, the idea is that young delinquents will take more notice of their peer group than they do of adults. What an admission of total defeat by those in charge of our failing criminal justice system...." -- Melanie Phillips in UK Daily Mail. More (Daily Mail - Op/ed 10.24.2007).
Jack Straw's cameras. "Cameras will be allowed to broadcast hearings before Britain's highest court when the new supreme court opens for business, The Times has learnt. Judges say that Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, is keen to permit cameras into the court as part of the aim to make it more transparent...." But not in the trial courts. More (UK Times 10.22.2007).
'Judicial rot.' "The rot in Malaysia's judicial system is pervasive and extends to the highest offices of power, both past and present. And now there is a videotape that many Malaysians -- including many in the local bar -- believe to be proof...." -- Anwar Ibrahim, Judicial Rot (WSJ 10.22.2007). Earlier. Here's a sweet deal: new identity offered in judicial corruption probe. Comment. "Judicial rot" -- a new phrase? If so, it's just giving an old problem a new name. It is a problem as old as human nature.
'Girls Court'? "First Circuit Family Court Judge Karen Radius has been named the 2007 'Jurist of the Year.' Radius helped establish the First Circuit Girls Court in 2004[, which] addresses the needs of at-risk and delinquent girls by providing more gender-specific programs and services...." More (Honolulu Advertiser 10.22.2007). Comments. a) The article doesn't say which group or person conferred the award. Any guesses? I ran a "Google" search and found it was Chief Justice Ronald Moon, who reviewed nominations from judges and attorneys. The court's press release, on which the Advertiser story was based, says: "As the presiding judge of Girls Court, Judge Radius goes beyond the role of a judge to provide hands-on help to the girls and their families, often doing so on her own time. She takes part in many community service projects with the girls and their families to provide opportunities to give back to the community and meet positive role models. Among her many activities this year, Judge Radius accompanied eight girls to surfing lessons designed to teach life skills and, on Mother's Day, involved mothers and daughters in craft projects as a means of strengthening their relationships." More (Hawaii State Judiciary). b) As readers of The Daily Judge know, I'm not a big fan of the specialized-court fad. See, e.g., MN Supreme Court Justice gushes with praise for drug court; Annals of specialized courts - rape courts?; 'Protest Court' and 'Equality Court.'
It could be a money-making proposition, sort of like a museum gift shop, with friends who want to "immortalize" a favorite judge there being required to pay a modest fee, say, $5,000. The Judicial Walk of Fame Gift Shop could sell judicial bobble-head dolls, autographed copies of opinions by judges, etc., etc. The profits could be used to supplement the shockingly-low salaries of judges and help fund a dream project, The Big Court, a retirement court where the individual units would look like courtrooms by day but that could easily be converted to bedrooms at night through the use of Murphy beds, etc. During the day the judges would occupy themselves hearing moot court cases from local law schools. They would be allowed to play hooky and head for the golf course each afternoon without reporting their time off "the bench." Nurses would be required to address them as "Your Honor" -- or "Your Lordship." [Note brilliant Robertsian use of dash.]
Manchester's new civil justice center. "It is altogether a remarkable building. The sources of inspiration were eclectic: bridge designers helped analyse floor loadings while the cantilevered boxes are coloured to suggest Mondrian. The result is dramatic, lucid and subtle. Remarkable that the conservative legal profession and a high government official should have acquired a building so radical, certainly Manchester's best...." -- From What a perfect place to get divorced, a critic's tour of Britain's first major court complex for more than a century (UK Guardian 10.21.2007).
Judicial suicide. "A local [ad hoc] sessions judge, Ajay Nilkanth Chavan, [45, from Nagpur,] allegedly hanged himself [using a dupatta at] his official residence in Snehnagar near the district court on Saturday around 10.30 am...." The judge returned home after attending a court-sponsored computer training class from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. His wife found him shortly afterwards. More (Times of India 10.21.2007) and more (Press Trust of India 10.21.2007).
A Nobel Prize in Judging? The Nobel Prize in Economics is a Johnny-come-lately, created in 1968 by the Bank of Sweden. The NYT has an interesting piece on the ongoing controversy over whether there should even be a Nobel Prize in this field and over what constitutes "significant contributions" to the field. Some say the judges, in determining what contributions are significant, have been "too ideological"; others say "too preoccupied with theory and mathematics," and yet others say "too narrowly focused on problems facing Wall Street instead of on pressing global issues like inequality, poverty and the environment." The Prize That Even Some Laureates Question (NYT 10.20.2007). Comment. The article quotes Jeff Madrick, of the New School in New York, as saying that the notion that Economics is a science is "highly exaggerated" and that research that is theoretical and mathematic is not as unbiased as many claim. In his view, the prize "has become quite a political animal in the disguise of being scientifically pure." We'd offer the same general criticism of interpretive methods -- for example, "originalism" and "textualism" -- that attempt to pass for objectivity in judging. Here's something I posted at BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else on 11.09.2001 that's relevant:
Some of those who weigh in with great confidence in debates in our country over the proper role of a member of the USSCt seem "cock sure" that there is only one right way, their way. But I'm not always sure they really know what they're saying or that they are doing anything more than uttering an agreed-upon set of "code words" and "code phrases." Does what "Judge A" says in a speech at a law school in Milwaukee really provide more than a "screen of words" to justify his going one way or another in a body of cases? Does what a judicial nominee says at a hearing on his nomination help much in predicting how he'll decide cases in the future? Mr. Dooley said once that "jidges" follow the election returns. (And we also know that election returns sometimes follow the judges.) I think Mr. Dooley was right: judges (even "originalists") after all are politicians, albeit judicial politicians, and have sensitive antennae and pick up on those things; they do follow (or pay attention to or are in some way indirectly influenced by) the election returns. And, just as political parties experience being in and out of favor, so, according to Robert Frost, are truths "in and out of favor." If I were President or a governor appointing judges, I wouldn't put too much stock in what the potential nominee says about his judicial philosophy or the method he thinks a judge should use in reaching a result. Here's what C.G. Jung says about this: "An ancient adept has said: 'If the wrong man uses the right means, the right means work in the wrong way.' This Chinese saying, unfortunately only too true, stands in sharp contrast to our belief in the 'right' method irrepective of the man who applies it. In reality, everything depends on the man and little or nothing on the method." I think there's more truth than we might like to admit to what Jung says.
Impressing Italian courts. "Under pressure from Mr. [Barry I.] Slotnick, who contended that some paintings had been spirited to Italy, Justice [Richard B.] Lowe [III of State Supreme Court] reluctantly extended his order to cover Mr. Salander's holdings, and his gallery's, anywhere in the world. When the judge expressed some doubt that he had foreign jurisdiction, Mr. Slotnick urged him not to be so modest: 'An Italian court will be, I think, impressed, Your Honor,' he said...." -- From Art Gallery Is Target as Dozens Go to Court, by Anemona Hartocollis (NYT 10.20.2007). Comment. W. Barton Leach, a renowned Harvard Law School prof of mine who was a general in the U.S. military and taught a joint seminar at Harvard with Henry Kissinger, recounted the equipping of a friend during the War with elaborate impressive traveling "papers" designed to get him past any bureaucrat, border guard, police officer, etc.; the papers were plastered with impressive-looking official seals, stamps, etc.
The 'Bill Cosby of Judges.' "Courtroom 409 [in Belleville, ILL.] is an intersection of race, society and law. It's where [Judge Milton] Wharton[, 61,] begs society to better itself. Where the judge, a black man, uses reason and passion and history to plead with the defendants -- many of them young, black men from his hometown -- to steer away from crime. This day was no different...." -- From an interesting profile by Nicholas J.C. Pistor titled Judge on morality mission (St. Louis Post-Dispatch 10.21.2007). Comment. The judge is quoted saying to a defendant: "What you're fighting against...is becoming a fifth-class citizen...That is not only behind whites, but behind Asians, behind Hispanics increasingly, behind Africans, and behind Caribbeans...and one of these days you're going to have children, and they're going to sit back and look at you and they're going to wonder how did you put us in this position."
Judge sues chief judge for defamation over timesheets memo. The chief municipal court judge in Trenton, Louis Sancinito, sent the other judges a memo saying they were going to be paid on an hourly basis, not a salary basis, they had to work 20 hours a week, and had to turn in weekly time sheets. The memo also allegedly included this statement:
Former city Finance Director Chris Stankiewicz was indicted because she could not substantiate employee time. Senator Wayne Bryant was indicted and forced out of the Senate because he either could not substantiate his time or submitted false time sheets. I can substantiate each and every employee time sheets except for three judges. I like all the judges here but I am not in a position to be indicted and go to jail because you think you are above filing out a time sheet.
Now one of the part-time judges, Paul McLemore, is suing the chief and the court administrator, Eunice Lewis, for defamation and, in the words of a news report, for "conspir[ing] to deprive him of the salary to which he believes he is entitled." More (Trenton Times 10.20.2007).
When the courthouse sidewalk is dangerous. "The slope from the sidewalk to the curb in Minnesota Highway 68 in front of the Lyon County courthouse is too steep, county and Minnesota Department of Transportation officials said. MnDOT will lower the sidewalk and reduce the steep...'If it's wet, if it's icy, people could slip and fall,' county engineer Anita Benson said...." More (Marshall Independent 10.20.2007). Comment. The picture accompanying the story reveals an absurdly steep slope. I've never seen a sloped sidewalk quite like it. As anyone who lives in MN and walks a lot, as I do, knows, any slope in a sidewalk increases the risk of pedestrians slipping and falling, especially in winter when sidewalks are often slippery. The texture of the surface of the cement also makes a difference, with the smooth-surface sidewalk being much more slippery. Moreover, at intersections the white overlays marking the pedestrian lane, apparently intended to aid pedestrians, often are terribly slippery when wet, much more so than the plain asphalt.
Maybe she liked getting beat up? "In the messy world of domestic violence cases, often complicated by a lover's willingness to forgive, this one had a promising twist for prosecutors: Though the woman refused to testify against her boyfriend, a police officer said she had witnessed the attack in a Laurel gas station parking lot. But Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Paul Harris, in a decision that has victims' rights advocates crying foul, acquitted the man...[saying] that without the woman's testimony, he could not be sure that she hadn't consented to the attack...." More (Baltimore Sun 10.23.2007). Comment. The judge said, specifically: "I have to decide the case based on what I have, and I think a crucial element[, consent,] is missing...You have very rare cases: sadomasochists sometimes like to get beat up." The judge's statement, more than the acquittal itself, has enraged some feminists. He may have been alluding to BDSM "contracts" or agreements whereby the submissive partner "consents" to a certain level of abuse as part of a sexual relationship. See, these two Wikipedia entries: Contract (BDSM) and Consent (BDSM). I recall following news accounts of a prosecution of a man in Ohio for sexually assaulting his girl friend, who he said had voluntarily signed a BDSM contract and agreed to the activities on which the prosecution was based. If memory is correct, he was acquitted by a jury.
Judge is reprimanded for again engaging in ex parte communications with litigants. "The [Mississippi] Supreme Court has reprimanded Monroe County Justice Court Judge Robert Earl Fowlkes for improperly encouraging a woman to file charges in his court against two men accused of trespassing and malicious mischief...." The court said that in 2003 the judge was privately admonished for "ex parte communications regarding a pending matter and using his influence as a judge to advance the private interest of others." The current disciplinary action stems from 2004, when the judge encouraged a woman to file trespass charges against two men, then sat on the cases, finding one man guilty and the other not guilty. More (Commercial Dispatch 10.19.2007). Comment. Whereas the 2003 admonishment was "private," this time the judge must appear in Monroe County Circuit Court to hear the public reading of the reprimand. One of my favorite movies is Across the Pacific (1942), a romance/adventure/war/spy movie directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, and Sydney Greenstreet that takes place, much of it aboard a Japanese freighter bound for the Panama Canal and beyond, in the months preceding Pearl Harbor. In it there is a scene in which a supposedly-disgraced Rick Leland, played by Bogart, is "court-martialed" and expelled from the army, with his ribbons, etc., being ceremoniously ripped off of his uniform. We think that, assuming a public reprimand is justified, the brief ceremonial reading of the reprimand is appropriate. But what if removal had been justified? We are not aware of any formal disrobing ceremony anywhere in this wide world when a judge is removed. I'm not arguing that there is a need for such a ceremony when disgraced judges are expelled, but if there were to be one, presumably the ribbon-ripping ceremony in Across the Pacific would be an appropriate model: with a steady, martial drumbeat in the background, one by one the judge's former colleagues would come forward and ceremoniously rip-off a part of the disgraced judge's robe until it's all in tatters. Think of the scare that would put into all would-be scalawag judges.
Window-peeping judges. "Judges will take to the streets today to award the winner in the 'Painting the Town Pink' window contest, part of the Kickin' Cancer program this month. Businesses with painted windows that will be judged include Children's Boutique, Casper Journal, Margaret K's, Tobie's Fine Jewelry, Shear Images, Farmers Insurance, Mossholders, Knick Knack Shack, Don Juan's Mexican Restaurant, Comfort Zone, Wyoming Brain and Spine and Community Health...." More (Casper Star-Tribune - Wyoming 10.20.2007). Comment. Let this brief posting serve as a lesson: next time you hear a person accused of window-peeping, don't be so quick to judge. She (I say "she" because we all know most window-peepers are women) may have a perfectly good excuse.
Judge is being 'evicted' from 'Sesame Street' courtroom he's 'not proud of.' "Judge Waymond Brown is not proud of his courtroom, a former children's theater located on the ground floor of the Pine Bluff-Jefferson County Public Library System's main library at the Civic Center. The district court judge, one of two city judges who rules on misdemeanor charges, preliminary felony cases and civil complaints filed in Pine Bluff, has his desk on a stage...[T]he walls of the theater are painted a brilliant yellow and the ceiling is painted -- alternately -- red, blue and green. 'It looks like Sesame Street,' Brown said as he walked through the room one day earlier this week...." More (Pine Bluff Commercial 10.20.2007). Comment. Turns out the library, which has leased the space to the city for $1 a year, gave notice of cancellation of the lease last winter and the eviction date is approaching. Members of the library board said that a) they were, as the press report paraphrased it, "uncomfortable with children being near a courtroom with 'shackled jail inmates' coming in and out," b) "circulation numbers have declined, particularly in the use of the Children's Library," and c) they were "receiving complaints from senior citizens." Despite having had months to figure out a solution, the city appears to have done nothing. An alderwoman is quoted as saying, "I guess we need to be working on something." Judge Brown said he's been told to "calm down," they'd deal with it. Why is it that the immortal words of the Hon. Alfred E. Neuman come to mind? Those words, in case you've forgotten them, are, "What, me worry?" Perhaps the judge's next "courtroom" will be, not "Late Sesame Street Style," but "Early MAD Magazine Style."
Judging literature -- collegially. "The comparative principles, out of which it might be hoped measures of objectivity could be drawn, were not very sophisticated. It was just a simple taxonomy including the following: plot and structure; theme; language, tone and style; characterisation; impact and readability. But even these basic foundations to judging a novel could not be adequately established. It looked like we were in for a rough day at the judging table. But when we finally came to it, between three and six last Tuesday, that was not how things turned out. We sat down in 'Chairman's Room 1' in London's Guildhall and one by one said what we each thought about each novel...." -- From Giles Foden's piece on the process that led to the awarding of the coveted Man Booker Prize to Anne Enright's The Gathering. More (UK Guardian 10.20.2007).
Annals of contempt of court, free press. "A state judge in Utah told a local TV news reporter to produce a public service story as a consequence for unknowingly violating his order not to speak with potential jurors in the rape trial of a leader of a polygamist sect. Katie Baker, a reporter with KUTV in Salt Lake City, said she was unaware of the judge's order when she interviewed potential juror Mo Webb. Nonetheless, Fifth District Judge James Shumate held Baker in contempt of court. Shumate said he would drop the contempt order if Baker agreed to perform his requested community service...." More (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press 10.20.2007). Comments. a) One might argue that the judge's ruling shows, if not contempt for, a certain lack of understanding of the First Amendment. b) As readers of this opinion blawg know, I'm not a big fan of the contempt power. And we always caution judges about the dangers of misusing or abusing the power. Many a judge has found himself disciplined for abusing it. Indeed, it's BurtLaw Rule-of-Thumb #139 for avoiding discipline: Avoid using the contempt power altogether. The rule is a corollary of another rule, one we like to call, in our clever way, The Golden Rule, an obscure little rule that prompted us to oppose from the very outset the Bush Administration's ill-advised little plan to allow the use of torture in interrogating and summary justice in trying "enemy military detainees" in its amorphous "War on Terror."
Judge as a sort of super-hero. "While he's hearing the case against the producers of the exploitative reality TV show, he's also engaged in his own quest to expose a suspected case of government corruption. Some of his colleagues aren't too thrilled by his persistence and it places his life, and that of his beloved, Jo Mills QC (Jenny Seagrove), in danger...." The "he" is Judge John Deed, played by Martin Shaw, in "Popular Appeal," an episode of Judge John Deed airing tonight -- in Australia. More (SMH - AU 10.20.2007). Comment. I haven't seen the episode but I'm guessing that one moral of the story is if you're a judge you better be careful exposing any extensive network of corruption among your judicial colleagues. Another moral: If you're a part of that network, don't for one minute think you can outwit or prevail over that lone eagle judge who's out to expose your nefarious ways.
One right-winger's sonogram test for federal judge wannabe's. "If a judicial candidate can look at a sonogram of a human child and not see a valuable human life, I will not appoint that candidate to the federal bench." -- GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA), speaking to the religious right wingers at a "Value Voters' Summit" in D.C. More (Baltimore Sun 10.19.2007). Comment. And there's not a chance on earth that the Senate, as presently constituted, would confirm any person nominated to a judgeship by Hunter. Update. GOP Rep. Ron Paul also spoke. His clever idea? Remove federal courts' jurisdiction over the issue of abortion. More (Baltimore Sun 10.19.2007). Comment. For some of my thoughts on the various decidely-unconservative proposals by right-wingers to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over certain types of cases, see, e.g., the extended critical entry in my political opinion blog, Sometimes Left, Always Right, on Monday, 09.27.2004 (scroll down).
Annals of specialized groups: Chief Justices of Portugese Speaking Countries, Territories. "An Angolan delegation led by chief justice, Cristiano André, left the country this Friday for Maputo, Mozambique, to attend the 7th Forum of Chief Justices of the Portuguese Speaking Countries and Territories...." The event is held once every two years. More (Angola Press Agency via AllAfrica 10.19.2007). Comment. I take it the "club" is somewhat like the International Association of Norwegian Speaking Judges, which holds a get-together, typically in Minnesota, annually, not biennially. Note. The IANSJ is not to be confused with the HNOTMSABA, Half-Norwegian (on the Mother's Side) American Bar Association. See, entry titled The Half-Norwegian (on the Mother's Side) American Bar Association.
Courthouse sticker shock. "Franklin County commissioners were reeling from sticker shock yesterday, after learning their dazzling, $105 million glass courthouse could run 10 percent over budget unless they make hard choices. 'It looks like $11 million in compromises,' Commissioner Paula Brooks said after meeting with architects...." More (Columbus Dispatch - OH 10.19.2007). Comment. Isn't this the way these things always go? Without reference to this instance, about which I know nothing, I think it might make sense if some people outside the architectural profession and construction business -- but with experience in both -- were to conduct a deeply researched and skeptical broad-based inquiry into the whole process, with an eye to coming up with better standards for making sure the public gets "good weight" when it "buys" or "orders" courthouses, arenas, stadia, etc.
Disciplinary agency wants judge disbarred for affair with prosecutor. "The state disciplinary agency for attorneys requested Thursday that a judge who had an affair with a prosecutor be disbarred because he 'deceitfully tainted the bench' with his behavior. 'Judges should be held to the highest standard,' Prosecutor Kim E. Ikeler said during the disciplinary hearing for former Douglas County Judge Grafton Minot Biddle. Biddle, 57, resigned in December before his affair with Deputy District Attorney Laurie A. Hurst was made public. Hurst, 29, who used the last name of Steinman at the time, is now divorced...." More (Rocky Mountain News 10.19.2007). Earlier. Panel urges suspension of prosecutor over in-chambers affair with judge; Prosecutor, judge: sex in chambers, showering together at courthouse; Judge resigns and prosecutor is fired over 'romantic relationship.' Comment. Without criticizing Ikeler or any other individual connected with the state, I guess it isn't enough for the state that the lovelorn judge is no longer a judge. No, he so stained the previously pure and spotless bench and bar that he must be made to pay "big time," as V.P. Cheney might say. Some evangelical Christians like to say ours is a Christian country. But -- and it's just my lonely opinion -- the lust for blood and revenge and punishment of wrongdoers in this so-called Christian country is so strong that Jesus Christ himself would not feel the least bit at home here. I dissent. Cf., Clarence Darrow, A Plea for Mercy (Loeb-Leopold Trial 1924).
Administrator bans church bake sale from county courthouse. "Cookies and pies baked by church members can't be sold at the Chippewa County Courthouse. A bake sale planned by the Zion United Methodist Church had to be moved from the courthouse over concerns about separation of church and state. County Administrator Bill Reynolds says he saw a flyer for the bake sale posted at the courthouse, consulted with his legal team and canceled the sale...." More (WBAY-TV - WI 10.19.2007). Comment. What are they afraid of -- that some Muslim group will ask to hold a bake sale there, too? I have a different vision -- of the courthouse as a center of community, owned by the people, used by the people (by all sorts of people), revered by the people. Here's a relevant comment I posted in connection with a 05.05.2006 entry titled "Prayer Day at the county courthouse":
Nothing wrong with such a gathering, as long as other peaceful assemblages of others for other lawful purposes are permitted. We sorta like the idea of county courthouse as multi-purpose center, fortified not by barriers and metal-detectors and searches and sheriff's deputies but by the presence and activities of those who own the courthouse -- i.e., "the people" (or, as Henry Fonda, channeling Abe Lincoln, pronounced the word, "pee-pull"). Back in the 1930s in my hometown, huge crowds turned out for political rallies on the courthouse steps, to hear, for example, a speech by the mesmerizing Gov. Floyd B. Olson or one by Rev. O.J. Kvale, the Farmer-Laborite Norwegian-Lutheran minister who defeated Andrew Valstad, the Rep. whose name was given to the national prohibition law. Our vision: art shows, community band concerts, ice-cream socials, elaborate flower gardens maintained by local garden clubs, political rallies, Chautauqua-style speeches, Apple-Blossom Festivals, weddings, etc. -- all on the courthouse lawn, on the courthouse steps, or inside the courthouse. Sadly, more & more courthouses are becoming fortresses & their owners, the people, are being made to feel less & less welcome. See, Building courthouses with security in mind, BurtLaw and Montaigne on Court Security, and How about a courthouse surrounded by & filled with flowers?
Were judicial appointment procedures manipulated? "Secular women's rights groups Thursday joined forces with progressive Orthodox rabbis and religious women's organizations to petition the High Court to overturn the appointment of 19 new rabbinic judges last month. Kolech, rabbis of the religious kibbutz yeshiva on Ma'aleh Gilboa, the Na'amat women's organization, The Women's Lobby, Ne'emanei Torah Ve'avoda, Mavoi Satum, and other groups argued in their petition that the appointments of the judges, who will deal almost exclusively with divorce law, were tainted with nepotism, political pressures and procedural flaws...." More (Jerusalem Post 10.19.2007). Comment. We know nothing about the truth of the allegations. But we do know that you can't take politics out of judicial appointments. The question is always "Whose politics will prevail?" Here in MN we like the voters to have the ultimate power over not just retention but selection, which is why we oppose the proposal of MN's Quie Commission (not exactly a broadly representative commission without a "political" agenda). That proposal is to abandon the MN Plan and thereby take away from voters their right to select judges, replacing it with the plan favored by political science professors and many lawyers and sitting judges, the Missouri Plan, which leaves voters with the scraps, in the form of a right only to vote "no" on sitting judges every now and then. One-candidate retention elections with the voters being allowed to vote only "yes" or "no" remind us of "elections" in totalitarian countries, where the voters are expected to do their job by voting "yes" to authority.
Judicial politics in Canada. "The recent appointment of a former Conservative Member of Parliament to Nova Scotia's Supreme Court is another example of the Harper government forcing its right-wing ideology onto Canada's justice system, Liberal Justice Critic Marlene Jennings said today...Despite promises to reform the process for judicial appointments, the Conservative government has only lowered the quality standards that had previously been in place and changed the membership of the provincial judicial selection committees in order to facilitate the appointment of its own party supporters to fill vacancies across Canada...." More (Liberal.CA - Press Release 10.19.2007). Comment. Controlling the membership of a "merit"-based selection commission is a standard way to get the kind of "merit" you want. Update. "What do the Conservative party's former chief Alberta fundraiser, Quebec wing president, and chair of the prime minister's leadership campaign in New Brunswick all have in common? Answer: they're all federal judges now...." More (The Canadian Press 10.20.2007).
Are Dutch judges too soft? "The council for the judiciary has denied accusations that judges in the Netherlands are too lenient. 'We take exception to the image of being unworldly, soft-option judges,' said a spokesman on Friday. 'There is no question of judges being out of touch with society'...International research shows the Dutch penal system is among the most lenient in Europe...." More (Dutch News 10.19.2007). Comment. If the Dutch are the softest, then good for the Dutch, I say. I, too, am "soft on crime" but I'm not ashamed to admit it. See, BurtLaw on Crime and Punishment.
Judges colluding with looters? "Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, yesterday alleged that some judges in the country collude with looters in the sharing of proceeds of financial crimes and resort to granting indiscriminate ex-parte injunctions against the anti-graft agency...." More (This Day via AllAfrica - Nigeria 10.19.2007).
Rwandan judge killed; seven are held. "Police have arrested seven suspects in connection with the murder of a Gacaca court president in Huye District, Southern Province. Paul Rutayisire, 47, who was killed Monday night by unknown assailants, was the president of Kabulemura Gacaca court in Karama Sector in the district...." More (New Times via AllAfrica 10.19.2007).
Brit's only black high court judge wants ethnic quotas for judgeships. "Britain's only black High Court judge last night condemned the 'woefully slow' rate of progress over opening up the judiciary to non-white candidates. Mrs Justice Dobbs also raised the idea of quotas to increase the numbers of women and non-white judges...[T]he Judicial Appointments Commission...believes that quotas would undermine the principle that judges are appointed on merit...." More (Times UK 10.18.2007).
Was French judge's killing linked to pedophile ring he was investigating? "Djibouti has uncovered a paedophile ring involving former French officials that may be linked to the death of a French judge in 1995, the country's public prosecutor said. Djama Souleiman Ali told reporters late on Wednesday that judge Bernard Borrel, whose charred body was found 12 years ago in the Red Sea state, was investigating a paedophile network at the time of his death...." More (Reuter's - Africa 10.18.2007).
Britney, on shopping spree, disses her judge. "Britney Spears' scorn for the judge[, Commissioner Scott Gordon,] in her bitter custody battle is as thick as Louisiana gumbo. 'I hate my judge,' the pop singer declared during a Neiman Marcus shopping spree, a spy for Us Weekly reports. 'He is so mean. Just an old fart. He told me I was being catty with him, but he was being catty with me and paid me no respect at all,' Spears, 25, allegedly said. 'His job is to sit there and tell people what to do,' she added. 'And that's just so sad, because he gets off on it.'" More (N.Y. Daily News 10.18.2007). Comment. Judge Gordon ought to get a professional framer to frame side-by-side pics of him in court and Britney in court, with professional matting, etc. Under his name and pic, he should put the phrase he uttered when he said she is a "habitual, frequent and continuous" user of drugs and alcohol. Under Britney's name & pic, he should put what she allegedly said about him. Then, once the case is over, he ought to hang the pics in chambers.
Judge completes continuing judicial education coursework requirement. "Magisterial District Judge Samuel R. Goldstrohm was again certified for service as a member of Pennsylvania's Unified Judicial System after successful completion of continuing legal education course work. Conducted by the Minor Judiciary Education Board and the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania, the educational facility for magisterial district judges is held in Harrisburg...." More (Leader-Times 10.18.2007). Comment. All of us here at the International Headquarters of BurtLaw's The Daily Judge extend our congratulations to Judge Goldstrohm and all the other judges who do what needs to be done to stay certified.
Did editors squelch story relating to courthouse teardown plans. "The publisher of the Tiffin Advertiser-Tribune tried yesterday to distance the newspaper from one of its former reporters, who says her former paper would not let her write about Seneca County commissioners' possible violation of Ohio's open-meeting law...." More (Toledo Blade 10.18.2007).
Courthouses as fortresses -- impenetrable, inconvenient, forbidding. "[W]hile the new Calgary Courts Centre is about as impenetrable as Mikka Kiprusoff in top form, it's a massive inconvenience for many users...[F]or lawyers, media, or members of the public who wander from courtroom to courtroom to observe justice at work, the complex is a massive headache. While there are escalators shuttling people to the first five floors, most of the courtrooms in the centre are above those levels. And for security reasons, stairs can only be accessed in emergencies and are designed to get people out of the building, not from floor to floor...[It's] not just lawyers who are inconvenienced...Gone are the days when court watchers could just wander from floor to floor until they stumbled onto something interesting...Those who designed the court facility...seemed to not only consider security above all other interests, but made it their only concern...." -- From a terrific opinion piece by Kevin Martin. More (Calgary Sun 10.18.2007). Comment. As readers of The Daily Judge know, I'm not a fan of fortress-style courthouse architecture and excessive courthouse security procedures that seem to say to people: "Stay away!" Need I remind everyone that courthouses belong to the people, not just to judges, lawyers and cops. Courthouses ought to welcome people. Further reading. See, Building courthouses with security in mind, BurtLaw and Montaigne on Court Security, and How about a courthouse surrounded by & filled with flowers?
Pink Caribbean courthouse destroyed by fire. "Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands: The nation's capital awoke to an early morning fire at the Grand Turk Courthouse. According to fire officials, an emergency call came in at about six a.m...." More (Caribbean Net News 10.18.2007).
Annals of courthouse evacuations. "The Vista [CA] Courthouse was evacuated for about 45 minutes Wednesday after a small non-injury fire broke out from an overcooked Hot Pocket sandwich in a microwave, sheriff's deputies said...." More (10News 10.18.2007). Comment. I'm sort of like the canary in the coal mine. I often can tell when something's bad before others do. For instance, 10-15 years ago I realized that whenever I walked down the hall during the lunch hour past the kitchen on the fourth floor on the Minnesota Judicial Center I'd experience an allergic-reaction-type coughing spell if anyone had recently used the microwave to make popcorn coated with artificial butter flavoring. I kept the stuff out of my home. Later I read that workers at the microwave popcorn plants were saying they were experiencing lung problems linked to the artficial flavoring. It's only recently that public health officials have begun to take seriously those claims and to say the fumes also could be dangerous to the ultimate consumers themselves after they pop popcorn in the microwave. More (WTNH 09.04.2007).
Annals of file tossing, slipper throwing. "Raising questions over the security in Bombay high court, a 'mentally unsound' man on Tuesday threw a file folder at a senior judge of the court. The folder containing a book and newspapers narrowly missed Justice AP Deshpande, who ducked just in time. Omkarnath alias Krishnakumar Pandey, a resident of Powai, was not a litigant and said to have come to the court 'to spread the message of Lord Krishna'...'I was trying to catch the judge's attention but he didn't even notice,' Pandey told the police later. He said the folder had slipped from his hand and 'flew towards the judge on its own.'" More (Times of India 10.17.2007). Further reading. Throwing slippers (chappals) at judges in India; Defendant gets 75 years -- plus extra six months for throwing file at judge.
Can trial judges be 'conned'? "Banks are playing a 'con trick' on judges around the country in a bid to avoid refunding consumers thousands of pounds in credit card charges, a financial campaigner has warned. Founder of MoneySavingExpert.com Martin Lewis accused banks of 'outrageously' trying to apply the current postponement of court cases on reclaiming bank charges to cases on reclaiming credit card penalty charges...." More (UK Press Association 10.17.2007). Comment. Don't know anything about the merits of the allegation, but we're interested in the abstract question of whether one can play a "con trick" on judges. Our opinion? We think judges are human and not only "can 'con' but can be 'conned.'" :-)
A game of inches? "A Baltimore County Circuit Court judge faces drunken-driving charges after his arrest this week in Harford County...[A stationhouse] breath test measured his blood-alcohol level at 0.09 percent, above the legal limit of 0.08 percent, according to a police report...." More (Baltimore Sun 10.17.2007).
Comments. a) Boy, that's close, proving that driving after drinking anything is not unlike playing football. In the end, the outcome can turn on inches or one-one-hundredths of a per cent. b) Don't judge the judge. Judges deserve the presumption of innocence as much as ordinary people -- because in fact they are usually pretty ordinary. It's a good thing they're usually pretty ordinary. c) BurtLaw's Rule-of-Thumb #617: Judges shouldn't drive if they've drunk any amount of alcohol; neither should other ordinary people. Corollary: People like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Kiefer Sutherland, and Mel Gibson would be wise to hire people to drive for them anytime they go out on the town. They can afford it, can't they? Our impoverished judges can't, but they can take a cab or let their spouses drive (and let the spouses get ticketed).
How about judicial accountability? "Accountability. That's what Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and the gang down at the Supreme Court tackled as they bounced us a baby step closer to the justice system's elusive goal. About two weeks ago the high court ruled that police may be sued if they're negligent -- sloppy -- in the investigation of crime, if it leads to a wrongful conviction...The Supreme Court is not likely to ever hold judges to similar account because unlike the police, who the court says shouldn't be concerned by the threat of a civil suit, the judiciary's independence would surely somehow be compromised by the same standard. And that will ensure full accountability remains that elusive goal of justice." -- From a provocative column by Robert Marshall (Winnepeg Sun 10.17.2007). Comment. Setting aside the questions of "who should pay" and "how much" when an innocent person is convicted and serves time, I'm attracted to the argument put forth by Marshall that we need full inquiries anytime things go wrong (and need to ask similar questions even when they don't):
One innocent man in jail is one too many -- regardless of who is responsible. To take wrongful conviction inquiries beyond cheap, legal theatre the input of investigators, all counsel, the accused and the judge is needed. Maybe even the jury. And at the conclusion of an agenda-free inquiry there should be clear guidance as to where the negligence lies. An innocent man seeking justice needs to know everyone who's at fault for facilitating the circumstances that allowed him to rot in jail for something he didn't do.
It's not just the innocent man who deserves to know what went wrong, who's at fault, etc. We all need to know that.
Judge gets promoted; defendant must wait, again. "One of Canada's highest profile murder trials has been delayed because the presiding judge was suddenly promoted to the court of appeal and is no longer available. Justice David Watt, formally of the Superior Court on University Ave., had already ruled on some half dozen motions in the trial of Robert Baltovich before he was named to Ontario Court of Appeal on Friday. Yesterday morning some 300 prospective jurors assembled for this case, and 60 witnesses, were sent home. Jury selection was to have begun tomorrow, but now might not start until the new year...." More (Toronto Star 10.16.2007). Comment. In 1992 the defendant, then 26, now 42, was tried and convicted of the 1990 murder of his 22-year-old girl friend, whose body was never found. He was given bail pending appeal in 2000, after eight years in prison, and was awarded a new trial in 2004. We don't know who's responsible for the slow course of justice but it's taken 'til now to proceed to retrial. And now he, and everyone else, must wait some more. Oh, well, Life-postponing Court Time runs by a strange clock, as so many people who've been through contested divorces know.
Wearing 'fashion handcuffs' near courthouse results in stop, questioning. "A man wearing a pair of handcuffs on one wrist [while walking near the Tulsa County Courthouse] drew the attention of passersby Friday, who contacted law officers...The man...was wearing 'goth' clothing, with one end of the handcuffs on his wrist and the other end dangling, making it appear as if he had escaped custody...." It turns out the handcuffs were 'fashion handcuffs.' After questioning the man and checking for warrants, officers let him go on his way. More (CNN 10.16.2007). Comment. Am I surprised that someone might think handcuffs fashionable? Nothing surprises me anymore. Who in my generation of cool cats who came of age in the Rockin' Fifties and who'd read about the Nazis' use of tattoos to identify Jewish prisoners in horrific places like Dachau would have thought that someday -- say, in the early years of the 21st Century -- seemingly-nice women voluntarily would be wearing "fashion" tattoos, ones visible to the public and ones in the most private and intimate of body areas? (As Thomas Wolfe said, "She who is whored by fashion will be whored by time." Someday, after the fad has died, orderlies in nursing homes will be seeing those old tattoos on seemingly-nice old women in their care and wondering to themselves, "Who are these women and what were they thinking?").
Should 'lady judge' recuse from suit challenging 'ladies' nights' at clubs? "A Manhattan lawyer who claims ladies' nights at Big Apple hot spots discriminate against men is demanding the judge hearing the case step aside on the grounds she's sexually biased. It appears unlikely that attorney Roy Den Hollander will win, because Manhattan federal Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum denied the request when he made it orally at a hearing Oct. 3...." More (N.Y. Post 10.16.2007). Comments. a) Just because the judge is a woman doesn't mean she's biased on this issue. b) It strikes me, offhand and without thinking about it, that these promotions are offensive and possibly illegal. But one who has a judicious mind and temperament and judicial training and experience can easily put aside such initial offhand impressions and decide a case like this according to law. c) A hypothetical attorney may file such a motion, knowing it'll fail and knowing it should fail, because he believes filing it will put the judge on the defensive and cause her to "bend over backwards" to avoid the appearance not of awkwardness but of bias.
Man wearing gown, wig, scarf decries 'namby-pamby' political correctness. "'One day we will all wake up to the namby-pamby, politically-correct approach that for economic reasons seems to be adopted to save the police paperwork -- instead of letting them get on with their jobs. The issue of a penalty notice ticket for the criminal offence of shoplifting as a device is stupidity in practice. It means, not infrequently, that people don't have their difficulties addressed by a court, which is better able to deal with shoplifters than anybody issuing what is in effect a parking ticket.'" -- Judge Timothy Nash, attacking the British Government's fixed-penalty on-the-spot ticketing program while jailing a 46-year-old female pickpocket/purse snatcher for stealing a pensioner's purse. More (Daily Mail 10.16.2007).
One of MN's contributions to liberal (not conservative) judicial activism. "Oct. 16, 1898 -- William Orville Douglas...is born in the town of Maine in Minnesota." -- Entry for 10.16.2007 in the National Review blog titled This Week in Liberal Judicial Activism. Comment. The blog links to an amusing entry quoting from Judge Posner's bio of Justice Douglas. Click here.
Ukraine ponders direct election of judges. "Many people in Ukraine would change a key feature of their justice system, according to a poll by the Kiev Gorshenin Institute of Management Issues. 41.4 per cent of respondents think judges should be elected for a definite term by people. Conversely, 19.8 per cent of respondents want judges to be appointed by higher authorities, while 24.5 per cent see no substantial difference between either option, and 14.2 per cent are undecided...." More (AngusReid 10.15.2007). Comment. According to the report, "[J]udges [in the Ukraine] are appointed by presidential decree for a period of five years, after which the Supreme Council confirms them for life." If you were a resident in an Eastern Bloc country -- cognizant of history, cognizant of the worthy goal of judicial independence, and cognizant that there's no removing politics from judicial selection (just figuring out which kind of politics you're most confortable with) -- might the notion of direct election of judges appeal to you?
Gazebo dedicated on courthouse lawn. "It was warm and breezy Friday afternoon during the Gene Lehmann Pavilion dedication on the Kerr County Courthouse lawn...The new 12-foot Amish Country Gazebo was completed in August and was a gift from Gene Lehmann and his second wife, Ruth, in honor of his late wife, Frances Higdon Lehmann...'The commitment of the Lehmann family runs deep in this community,' said Kerr County Judge Pat Tinley during the short dedication ceremony. 'This gazebo is another example of that commitment...' The gazebo, which seats 12 to 15 people, is equipped with lights inside, and also has been the site for small wedding ceremonies since its construction...." More (Kerrville Daily Times - TX 10.15.2007). Comment. No other state has made the commitment to preservation and proper restoration of its county courthouses that Texas has made. County courthouses are the center of community life in county seats all across Texas. Indeed, you might feel like you're in a "fairy-land tale" and "get lost in [its] charms" if you 'Waltz Across Texas' (with Ernest Tubb) in December, when the courthouses, especially those in the Hill Country, are all lit for Christmas. Further reading. Texas Hill Country twinkles for Christmas.
Former judge and bailiff wife open gun store. "Bob Huffstetler was a local circuit court judge for 20 years and has been a member of the Florida Bar Association since 1965. Soon after he left the bench and began his own law practice, he 'got bored' and decided to revisit an idea he had prior to law school -- sell guns for a living. His penchant for buying and collecting guns never went away. His wife, a former bailiff, was the best shot in her police academy class, so their shared enthusiasm for guns made the new store a possibility. A month ago, they opened Fort Huffstetler Adventures...." More (Hernando Today - FLA 10.15.2007). Comment. What's the old saying? I think it's, "The husband and wife who shoot together (at others, rather than at each other), stay together," or something like that. Will the business succeed? Says the sharpshooter wife, "When Bob wanted to open a store, I wasn't so sure. But women came up to me at church and said, 'Oh, wow. Let me know when you open.'" Id.
Justice of Peace in South Dallas is again under investigation. "The amount of cases and money coming through here make Justice of the Peace Thomas Jones' court by far the busiest JP precinct in the state. But it also has led to an investigation by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Judge Jones said he is the subject of about six complaints motivated by frustration over long lines and spite over his rulings. But two county commissioners who have seen a list of the complaints said the allegations are more serious...." Long story (Dallas Morning News 10.15.2007). Comment. According to the DMN, "[I]n 1995...Laura Miller, the future mayor who was at the time a Dallas Observer columnist...called him 'a judge who pretty much screws up everything he touches' and said he ran his court 'like a Little Rascals clubhouse.'" If you remember watching The Little Rascals, you'll think that a funny image.
Head of rabbinical courts in Israel is in U.S. to try resolve disagreement. "Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar is meeting this week with representatives from the Rabbinic Council of America (RCA) in an attempt to reach an agreement over Israeli Rabbinate recognition of conversions performed in the US and Canada...Any conversion performed by a court not on [Amar's] approved list is automatically rejected...RCA members have been sharply critical of Amar's policy...." More (Jerusalem Post 10.15.2007).
Judge Lewis Morris. Today is the birthdate, in 1671, of Lewis Morris, "[a] lord, judge, governor and poet" who was prominent in early NJ history. More (NJ.Com 10.15.2007). Here's a poem he wrote circa 1708:
The Just the Righteous Man
The Just the righteous man is brave
Nor to himselfe nor none a Slave
The giddy mob his Soull disdaines
The frownes of tyrants he contemns
Firme to his purpose bravely Stands
Unmovd by their unjust commands
When Angry Auster mows the main
An unmov'd Courage he'll retaine
And in those Stormes that rouze the Deep
A firme unshaken mind he'll keep
Nor is't in natures power to make
His Just his righteous Soull to Shake
Nay Jove himselfe Should he discend
In thunder cannot make him bend
From his Just purpose no let all
Thats made to Instant ruine fall
He'd Sing at natures funerall.
Saying whatever comes to mind -- in open court? "Not long after taking the bench for the afternoon docket, Baltimore County District Judge Bruce S. Lamdin noticed a woman leaving the courtroom with a crying baby. 'If she only knew how much I hate kids,' the judge said, 'she would not have brought that kid in here today.' He later asked a Pennsylvania man caught speeding why every resident of that state 'drives like a fool...What's the big rush to get back to Pennsylvania? It's an ugly state.'" Want more? "More" includes: "[D]isparaging remarks about drug treatment programs and the Baltimore City criminal justice system, a joke that the county's Circuit Court judges spend their afternoons sipping cocktails rather than working, and profanity not normally heard from the bench." More (Baltimore Sun 10.15.2007). Comment. Who among lawyers hasn't sat in a trial courtroom and heard such patter by the judge? Was the judge trying to ease the tension for the people in court? Did the approach work? Or did you say to yourself that it's just a way judges use to remind themselves and you that they've got the authority and you don't? Anyhow, as a result of his saying such things, for the right reasons or wrong ones, Judge Lamdin is -- you guessed it -- up on misconduct charges. Wisely, he's said he's seeking more mentoring from older, more experienced judges. H.L. Mencken, who enjoyed saying what he thought, would be amused.
Some advice from India. "The Supreme Court has come out strongly against over-speaking trial court judges and said their loose talk and sweeping generalisation while evaluating evidence of a witness could harm judicial dignity...It quoted a 1964 judgment and...the words of then apex court judge, Justice S K Das..., 'In expressing their opinion, judges and magistrates must be guided by the consideration of justice, fairplay and restraint. It is not infrequent that sweeping generalisations defeat the very purpose for which they are made...[J]udicial pronouncements must be judicial in nature, and should not normally depart from sobriety, moderation and reserve.'" More (Times of India 10.15.2007). Comment. Where's the line between sounding like a soul-less judicial robot and a wise-cracking law student presiding over Fraternity Court? Judges are human and we can't expect them to completely rid themselves of their natural personalities.
Judge: testator who left fortune to Thatcher's conservatives was delusional. "A businessman who admired Margaret Thatcher so much he left his millions to her Conservative Party was not of sound mind when he made the bequest, a judge ruled Monday. High Court judge Launcelot Henderson ruled that Branislav Kostic was mentally ill when he left the party more than 8 million pounds (US$16.3 million; 11.5 million) -- one of the largest individual political donations in British history...He ruled that an earlier will leaving Kostic's fortune to his son Zoran should stand...." More (IHT 10.15.2007). Comment. There are so many things that come to mind, but I think I'll be robotically judicious and say nothing.
Judge as fundamentalist. "Scalia's 'fundamentalist' judicial persona fuses the confrontational, revivalist and transformative. Outspoken and often combative, he is a lightning rod, at once admired and reviled for deriding 'modern' forms of interpretation; for his fidelity to the Constitution's unchanging text and America's oldest traditions; for his distinctive public advocacy of his point of view, his derision of legal culture's prevailing norms, and the embattled tone that permeates his opinions...." More (Chicago Tribune 10.15.2007). Comment. This is from an interesting op/ed piece by Tom Levinson, who is "a Chicago attorney and author of All That's Holy: A Young Guy, an Old Car, and the Search for God in America." Levinson focuses on two instances of Justice Scalia excoriating C.J. Roberts for using a superficial "minimalist pose" that seemingly respects precedent while camouflaging the overturning of precedent, in the process "subverting 'the rule of law.'"
Visiting Scots lawyer says fictional portrayal of U.S. trials is close to reality. "American court cases in films always portray a world of high drama, with prosecuting and defence lawyers camping up the action as they sneer and hiss at each other. It couldn't be more different to the atmosphere of British courts, with gravity and dignity leading the proceedings, so it's tempting to imagine that what we see in the movies is very far from the reality. Fresh from three months in the United States as an intern in capital defence work, Laura Greer, 24, would be the first to testify that fact is actually very close to fiction when it comes to courts in the States...." More (The Scotsman 10.15.2007).
Should a judge engage in Q&As with jurors after trials? "Controversial and highly regarded Judge Jack Weinstein has begun holding post-trial Q&As with jurors -- in front of the defendant, the prosecutors and the press -- to find out if understanding the mandatory sentences that charges carried would have changed their verdicts. Legal experts say there's nothing technically wrong with the Brooklyn federal jurist's judge-and-jury show, just that it's a little on the unorthodox side...Earlier this month, the 87-year-old judge created a stir when he interviewed jurors who'd convicted a man of possessing thousands of images of child pornography. 'Had you known that the penalty was five to 20 years . . . would that have affected the verdict of any of you?'...Yes, was the answer...." More (N.Y. Post 10.15.2007). Comment. Interesting to know that actual jurors aren't as harsh in their hearts as many politicians think voters, which jurors are, to be. That said, I'm uncomfortable with the post-trial Q&As. On that note, after I sat on a civil jury, I received a not-offensive questionnaire from the trial court about my experience that could have led to some respondents opening up about what occurred during deliberations. Similarly, I received a message on the answering machine from one of the attorneys asking if I'd talk about the case. I responded to neither. I'd have been uncomfortable doing so.
Scarlet Buckland Ratcliffe is retiring as clerk. "Some joke that the contenders in the race for Giles County clerk of court come in more flavors than Baskin-Robbins has ice cream. But the outgoing clerk, a woman who has served the office for a notable 42 years, surely is the flavor of the Old South. Pralines 'n' Cream perhaps? Or Perfectly Peachy? With her neatly coiffed hair and polished nails, the retiring constitutional officer looks every bit the belle of the Giles judiciary in a breezy floral dress. She even has a perfectly Southern name -- Scarlet...." She went a-courtin' for 42 years (Roanoke Times 10.14.2007). Comment. I always like profiles of the people who really make a courthouse work. Typically they're not judges -- not even lawyers. This is a good, long profile of a good public servant, worth the read. Want to read more about courthouse clerks in VA? Read on...
Courthouse clerks in VA -- their role in VA political history. "Historically...the clerk's office was as much about power as money. The 'machine' created by conservative Democrat Harry F. Byrd for much of the 20th century controlled Virginia politics through a network of 'courthouse cliques' of local constitutional officers: sheriff, commonwealth's attorney, treasurer, commissioner of the revenue and clerk of the court. Clerks had the greatest power in most counties within Byrd's organization. Byrd consulted with clerks, who often made political recommendations based on loyalty to the senator's philosophies...Although the clerk of court is no longer the prime patronage position of Byrd's era, it remains what some call the 'sweet deal' of local government with high pay, good benefits and at least eight years of job security...." More (Roanoke Times 10.14.2007). Comment. Two terrific stories in a row about court clerks in VA, both by Donna Alvis-Banks.
Fixing a bad crime lab. "After 14 years in prison due to the incompetence of the Houston Police Department's crime lab, Ronald Gene Taylor promptly did the right thing. He traveled to City Hall straight from prison and called for other flawed cases to be re-examined. After victimizing Taylor so unforgivably, the criminal justice system must show the same urgency and immediately re-examine the lab's hundreds of outstanding cases of malfeasance. Reviewing 419 of the lab's worst failures -- in which bodily fluids were analyzed incorrectly or simply not tested -- is the moral equivalent of Taylor's righteous beeline to City Hall. So far, though, city and county officials have been outrageously lax...." More (Houston Chronicle - Editorial 10.14.2007). Comment. Probability testimony by an expert can make it seem certain that the defendant did what he's charged with doing. DNA probability testimony can seem so elegant and clean. But what if the lab's procedures are flawed? What if a lab technician is careless -- or, worse, venal? Sadly, in their gung-ho embrace of every new scientific criminal identification procedure that comes down the pike, many judges have left their Holmsean skepticism at the door. Fix the labs, yes. But judges need to look in the mirror every now and then and not just to admire their coifs.
The role of courts in dowry death cases. "Cautioning courts against letting off accused in dowry death cases on flimsy grounds, the Law Commission has said such acquittals would only encourage the perpetrators of the crime. In its 202nd report submitted to the government, the Commission said 'courts are expected to be sensitive in the cases involving crime against women....'" More (Times of India 10.14.2007).
Portable courthouses. "[I]n the five-year effort to prosecute detainees at Guantánamo, little has gone according to plan. So, to be ready for all eventualities, the Pentagon's new judicial complex is portable -- a prefabricated but high-technology court building surrounded by trailers, movable cells, concertina wire and a tent city -- all of which has been shipped in pieces that could be unplugged, disassembled and put back together somewhere else...." More (San Jose Mercury-News 10.14.2007). Comment. Detailed story, worth reading in full. It's Defense Secretary Gates' $12 million substitute for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's plan for a $100 million permanent courthouse. The encampment is called "Camp Justice." Hey, I know courthouses in the U.S., already built and paid for, that would serve the purposes of justice. But, despite the name, is it all about Justice? Further reading. For an extended entry dealing with our revolutionary new, inflatable BurtLaw's Porta-Courthouse and with mobile courthouses, portable playgrounds, portable churches, etc., see, comment at If you cry out for justice, a judge will appear: bus as mobile courtroom.
DWI defendant arrested for drinking 12-pack of beer on courthouse lawn. "Bail was set at $100,000 Monday for a 22-year-old Gardnerville man who reportedly drank a 12-pack of beer on the courthouse lawn while he was out of custody for drunk driving. [The man] was jailed Oct. 10 after officials found him drinking beer at 9 p.m. on the courthouse lawn. He told deputies he was despondent because his girlfriend broke up with him and planned to turn himself in...." More (Record-Courier - NV 10.16.2007). Comment. $100,000?
Water court judge believes water courts are doing just fine. "Pueblo's water judge sees no crunch of cases and little need to tinker with a system of solving water disputes that he sees as working well. 'I'm not of the opinion that there's a lot to be fixed,' Chief District Judge Dennis Maes[, who also sits as the Division 2 water judge] said in an interview last week...The [Legislature's] Water Resources committee is evaluating whether there is a need to appoint a legislative panel, perhaps in cooperation with Gov. Bill Ritter and the Colorado Supreme Court, to look at ways to streamline water court...." More (Pueblo Chieftain 10.14.2007). Comment. Don't focus just on the specialized water courts. Ask also whether the sewer courts, the cable TV courts, the street cleaning courts, etc., are working well.
Annals of judicial assistance -- justice's secretary. It's possible the position of judicial secretary will change significantly in the years to come. As a way of preserving history (and enhancing memory), here's the text of an ad placed by the Maine Courts for a judicial secretary for an associate justice of the Maine Supreme Court:
State of Maine Judicial Branch - JUDICIAL SECRETARY
This position is located in Portland with occasional day travel to other locations. The position provides secretarial and organizational support for an Associate Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Work involves transcribing correspondence, decisions, orders and other documents, maintaining confidential files, receiving, screening and routing of incoming calls and personal callers, scheduling appointments and distributing mail. The position also provides organizational and clerical support for various projects and involves working closely with judges, secretaries and other court staff.
Candidates must have demonstrated a strong work ethic and excellent interpersonal skills. An applicant must have at least two years experience as a legal secretary, executive secretary or administrative assistant; be highly conversant with word processing, database and spreadsheet management, and other computer skills; have excellent typing/keyboarding skills (minimum 60 wpm), and machine transcription skills; possess excellent knowledge of the English language and legal terminology, punctuation and spelling; and be familiar with legal research methods.
Seven step salary scale begins at $15.43 per hour for a 37.5 hour week, plus generous state benefit package. (Value of State's bi-weekly contribution for employee benefits is: Health Insurance $310.22, Dental Insurance $12.75, and Retirement is 18.46% of salary.) EOE/AA
More (MaineJobs.Com 10.14.2007).
Holidaying judge 'holds up' urgent horse flu inquiry, says newspaper. "Retired High Court Judge Ian Callinan has jetted off for a private holiday in Europe, just a week after beginning an urgent inquiry into the horse flu outbreak [in Australia]. The Federal Government appointed Mr Callinan to conduct a wide-ranging inquiry into the equine influenza crisis last month. But The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that after one day of hearings, Mr Callinan left on a trip to Europe with his wife, claiming there was nothing for him to do regarding the inquiry in Australia...." Not everyone agrees that there's no need to be on the scene. More (Sunday Telegraph 10.14.2007). Comment. One of the "rules of the game" in government is that you've got to "appear" to be working feverishly, even if there's no work, at that precise moment, to be done. Judge Callinan told the pleaders who wanted him to take on the task that he had the European vacation all planned and paid for. "They" agreed he could take it. He's an honorable man who's proved himself and he says that the work that's needed to be done at this point is being done. But he violated "the rule" I referred to, even though presumably he's in instant contact via telephone and internet with "the ground troops" and can act at any moment if real meaningful action is needed.
Still going strong at 88, federal judge blasts sentencing guidelines. "When guidelines were imposed in the 1980s, they were a reaction to sentences some felt were too lenient or inconsistent, [Judge Myron] Bright said. What the country got, according to Bright, was a system bled of compassion that leans toward severe sentences as the norm. 'We have our prisons filled, in my judgment, with many people who do not need those long sentences,' he said. 'To put somebody in jail for life who has never had a violent crime on a drug situation...to me is not a good system.'" -- From a profile of the 8th Circuit judge, who, though on senior status, still handles a 60% workload. More (In-Forum - Fargo 10.13.2007). Comment. Without attributing my views to him on the issue, Judge Bright could serve as a living exhibit in my increasingly-popular campaign against MN's foolish system of mandatory retirement of judges, which requires retirement of all judges at age 70. See, BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges. Our views on sentencing harshness seem to be in synch. See, the archived position paper on Crime & Punishment (which, by the way, I wrote) from my 2004 anti-war campaign for Congress.
The Judge Anne Simonett Award. Anne Simonett was a rising star in the Minnesota judiciary. A Harvard Law grad, she was named a Hennepin County District Court Judge, then Chief Judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Undoubtedly, she would have been Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court if she had lived, and she would have been a great one. Unfortunately, she died of brain cancer at age 42. Hennepin County District Court established the Anne Simonett Excellence in Service Award in her memory. This year's winner, beating out nine other nominees, "including a judge, administrators and clerks," is Mary Kay Long, 66, who is the face of the court, sitting at the info desk on the court's public service level. Why did Ms. Long win? Read the story here (Minneapolis Star Tribune 10.12.2007).
Disbarred ex-judge is reported arrested for practicing law without license. "A disbarred judge was booked into jail Thursday amid allegations he has been practicing law without a license. Louis Frazier Tidwell, 69, lost his law license after he was sentenced to prison in 1991 for having sex with a 14-year-old girl and smoking crack cocaine...." More (St. Petersburgh Times 10.12.2007).
Judges for sale? "Supreme Court Judges. Browse a huge selection today. Find out exactly what you want." -- A Google-placed ad accompanying a news story about judges in a former Soviet bloc country. I clicked on the ad and reached a page for "Supreme, supreme tee and supreme hat items on e-Bay.Com"
Two LA judges charged in federal indictment. "Two [Louisiana] judges face charges that they took bribes from a bail bondsman in exchange for getting suspects out of jail quickly, officials said Thursday. State District Judge Michael Walker, Caddo Parish Juvenile Court Judge Vernon Claville and bail bondsman Larry N. Williams were named in the federal racketeering indictment made public Thursday...." More (AP 10.12.2007).
Are judges about to retire more prone to accepting bribes? "Ask any practicing lawyer and that's an advice he may give you. He will tell you that some (not all, but only some) judges who are about to retire can sometimes be more deadly than your opponents and the facts of the case. And that you can win or lose a case not on the merits but on who you know and other things. But why single out those about to retire? Because they are providing for their future; after retirement, they will have no other income except their retirement pay. So like squirrels burying food for the winter, they fatten their bank accounts for the lean days ahead...." Neal Cruz. More (Manila Inquirer - Philippines - Op/Ed 10.12.2007). Comment. I oppose mandatory retirement but I never thought of this as an argument in support of my increasingly-popular position. See, BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges.
Outrage in Italy over German judge's remark about Sardinians. "Italy reacted with outrage today to a German judge who gave a Sardinian rapist a lighter sentence on account of his 'ethnic and cultural' background...The judge in the case, Baron Burries von Hammerstein, wrote in the court's judgement: 'One must take into account the cultural and ethnic characteristics of the accused. He is a Sardinian....'" More (Times - SA 10.12.2007).
Judge says trial was a 'perjurers' paradise.' "When a trial judge is faced with a parade of witnesses who all lie in court, how is she to find the truth? That's the problem that confronted a Supreme Court of British Columbia judge in a three-year legal battle over how owners operated a group of companies that centred on an Abbotsford-based taxi business....'The lengthy trial of this proceeding...was a perjurers' paradise. I cannot say that I found any of the parties to be truthful witnesses in respect of their allegations of the opposite parties' greed and chicanery or their denials of their own,' Madam Justice Marion Allan said in her written decision...." More (Globe & Mail 10.12.2007). Comment. The judge said it; I didn't.
Would you believe? "Sir Howard Davies, the director of the London School of Economics, says that he has been forced to read at 80 pages an hour -- a feat he can manage due to his speed reading prowess -- in order to fulfill his task as chairman of the judges for this year's Man Booker Prize...'This year we find ourselves with 110 entries covering just over 35,000 pages. Even at a brisk 80 pages an hour, that represents 437 hours at the typeface,' he says...." He insists his fellow judges and he read 'em all. More (Telegraph - UK 10.12.2007). Comment. Do appellate judges read the briefs, the cases cited and the transcripts of trials in appeals in which they sit? We've always felt it's their obligation, undertaken as part of their oath of office, to do so and not to delegate the task to law clerks. But we're old-fashioned.
Parties reach settlement in IL C.J.'s defamation suit. "A settlement was announced Thursday in the four-year-old libel suit that Bob Thomas, the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, brought against the tiny Kane County Chronicle and its former columnist Bill Page. 'The Chronicle and Mr. Page apologize to Mr. Thomas,' says a joint statement from the two sides...Page[, who now lives in FLA,] immediately repudiated the apology...In the long run, said Page, 'it was just too damned expensive' to keep fighting. 'There's a lot of disappointment...But it's done.'" More (Chicago Reader - Michael Miner on the Media10.12.2007). Comment. As I've said before, I believe the cause of action of defamation ought to be eliminated as inconsistent with First Amendment values. I express my views on that issue in greater detail in a posting on a different case, Court upholds dismissal of judge's libel suit against TV station. I wish the defendants had litigated the matter further.
Another Aussie judge speaks out. "[R]etiring ACT Supreme Court justice Ken Crispin, in a farewell speech...said, in effect, [that] the Howard Government had panicked in response to the threat and hysteria of terrorism. There was a serious threat requiring serious responses, but the changes which had occurred had seriously jeopardised rights and freedoms. The judge also spoke soberly and sensibly about how criminal law was increasingly buffeted by fear and knee-jerk responses, seemingly based on the theory that every problem can be solved by locking people away...." More (Canberra Times - Op/Ed 10.12.2007). Comment. Commenting on Justice Crispin's remarks and those of Justice Kirby, noted here yesterday, the authors state:
What the judges [are] saying, in different ways, is that old conservative balances of the law are changing, and that, without further checks and balances, a new world has been created in which personal freedoms are being lost. It is the loss of the status quo they are lamenting. And not necessarily the status quo of a recent, supposedly more politically correct, era, but that once maintained by a strong, independent and fundamentally conservative judiciary.
My point, exactly. It is "conservative" in the best ways for judges to stand firm in defense of the ancient rights whenever legislatures, executives, Homeland Security czars, or any others raise the tired old flag of "necessity" in their attempts to peel those rights away. See, my relevant entry, with excerpts from Sinclair Lewis' prescient 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here, at Bill establishing U.S. judicial branch inspector general. BTW, we were among the first commentators following 09.11 who warned against the possibility that the government would "use" 09.11 to try peel away our rights. See, my post-09.11 postings at BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else, which are part of the Library of Congress September 11 Web Archive, which preserves the web expressions of individuals, groups, the press and institutions in the United States and from around the world in the aftermath of the events on 09.11.
A 100-year-old courthouse's story. Just published: This American Courthouse: One Hundred Years of Service to the People of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, edited by Michael Cary, a professor of political science and history at Seton Hill University, and Tim Kelly, chairman of the history department at St. Vincent College. Greensburg. Remarked one Seton Hill senior in a student news story on the book's publication, "It's very picturesque. I like that you can see it at night, even from far away." Well said. I also like what Cary is quoted saying: "Points the way to the center of town. In the Middle Ages, people knew where the town was because they could see the steeple of the town cathedral. If you're coming in from the east or the west, it's the first thing you see. It's a beacon on the hill." More (Setonian Online 10.11.2007).
Workplace dating is now 'in.' "That some people believe they can openly date co-workers without endangering their job reflects what those who study the workplace and several surveys suggest: the conventional wisdom about dating the heart-stirrer in the next cubicle is going the way of Wite-Out. Despite years of stern warnings about the pitfalls of seeking love in the shadow of the water cooler -- touched off by the heightened consciousness of sexual harassment in the 1990s -- more workers think dating a colleague is not only acceptable, but logical...." Stephanie Rosenbloom, Boss's Memo: Go Ahead, Date (With My Blessing) (NYT 10.11.2007). Comment. Once again, we've been ahead of the curve. Our view all along has been: It runs against human nature to bar on-the-job romantic relationships and it is elitist to say that a judge may not "date down" or "marry down." With respect to the latter, why do we assume that all relationships of judges with "subordinate" employees are coercive rather than voluntary? To paraphrase Justice Holmes, even a dog can tell the difference between being kicked and being tripped over -- or the difference, say, between being loved and being used. Sometimes, it seems to me, we expect judges -- and everyone else, for that matter, especially kids -- to be other than human. What kind of lawyers, judges and ordinary people does such an expectation produce? We went into this whole topic in trend-setting detail in our extensive comment at Commission says judges can't socialize with courthouse hoi polloi. Emergency update titled 'What can happen.' "As so many couples do, [Legal Executive Kerry] Sparrow and [Judge Andrew] Chubb met at work. She took notes for him when he appeared as a barrister at court in Exeter. They had a drink after work and exchanged telephone numbers. That was in 1996 but it was not until three years later that he telephoned her Hampshire home with the news that he had been appointed a judge at Portsmouth crown court and would be spending weekdays at a flat in the city. Would she care to meet him for a drink? 'Within our week our relationship was a sexual relationship,' she said...." -- From a summary of the inconclusive second inquest, requested by Sparrow, of the suspicious death by fire of Judge Chubb moments after asking his wife for a divorce: The curious incident of the judge, his shed, the wife and her washing (Times UK 10.14.2007). Earlier. Inquest summary.
Doris Lessing, Nobel prize-winner, on the perils of ignoring our boys. This morning, while rising awake, I was listening to NPR's Morning Edition, which had a piece about the Nobel Prize for Literature, to be announced shortly thereafter. Many names were listed among the probable/possible winners. I don't recall Doris Lessing being named. But she won. More (Times UK 10.12.2007). So much for trying to predict what judges will do. Readers of my blogs may recall this 2002 post, still timely, from BurtLaw's Law & Kids at BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else:
The perils of ignoring our boys. Last week the novelist, Doris Lessing, delivered a "give 'em hell" speech that attacked the vitriolic, hot-air brand of feminists who seem to think something is gained by dissing men in general. She warned about the effects of this nonsense on the psyches of both men and boys, as well as the effects on society. Richard Morrison, writing in The Times of London, does a good job of expanding on Lessing's comments. He says, in part: "Preoccupied with the task of creating a 'level playing-field' for girls, we have fatally ignored the problem boys. And 'fatal' is not too dramatic a word in this context. In the 15-to-24 age group, males are five times more likely to attempt suicide than females, four times more likely to be addicted to drugs or alcohol, and nine times more likely to be sleeping rough on the streets. If they also happen to be black, badly educated and from poor homes, the scales of life are weighed even more cruelly against them." It seems to me that the situation in the UK parallels that in our country in many ways. At one point Morrison says, "It's as if the very qualities that differentiate boys from girls are being suppressed by offical diktat." Doesn't that ring a bell? See, also, Lay off men, Lessing tells feminists (Guardian UK 08.14.2001). I always say, the best thing that can happen to a feminist is that when she has her one kid, it's a boy.
Judge lashes out at the 'backwardness' of his fellow judges. "The High Court's most vocal dissenter, Michael Kirby, has lashed out at the backwardness of his fellow judges, identifying freedoms that he says would never have been won under the chief judge, Murray Gleeson. [Specifically], he spoke out yesterday on behalf of 'stirrers and troublemakers' and criticised a tendency by the Australian public to only recognise heroes after they died...'The surprising feature of the decisions of the present High Court is...that there are not more differing voices than mine amongst the other justices given the major questions and inherent disputability of the issues commonly presented for the court's decision." More (SMH 10.11.2007). Comment. Hear, hear!
Judge is censured for joking about female attorney's 'nice butt.' "The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has released its determination that LaGrange Town Justice...should be censured for gratuitously reiterating and repeatedly joking about a defendant's inappropriate comments about his [female] attorney's physical appearance [her being 'cute' and having a 'nice butt']." More (MidHudsonNews 10.11.2007).
The cream of the crop meet in Seoul. "[T]he Fifth Conference of Asian Constitutional Court Judges...opened in Seoul, Tuesday. The annual event began with a welcoming dinner and continues through Thursday at the Lotte Hotel in downtown Seoul...[T]he event invited a total of 28 guests, including 18 court judges from 11 countries and five representatives from the [co-sponsoring] German foundation...[T]his year's theme [is] 'Standards for Constitutional Review in Safeguarding Civil, Political and Socio-Economic Rights.'" More (Korea Times 10.10.2007). Comment. In an interview given to the newspaper in connection with the opening of the conference, Justice Lee Dong-heub, of Korea's Constitutional Court, is quoted as saying that he "believes the more democratic society becomes, the more significance the court will gain in its role. 'More and more people want their rights to be protected. And it is natural to see so many conflicts between the public and individual interests. So we need to balance them'...He also pointed out that the same issues that they have already ruled on can be dealt over and over again as society and values keep changing with time." Id. In other words, he seems to be saying that Korea's constitution is a living thing, not as Justice Scalia says of ours, a "dead" one. Further reading. Dahlia Lithwick asks if anyone believes ours is a 'living constitution'; Holmes and Frankfurter answer. See, also, my "treatment" of the issue in a proposed time-travel "feel-good" horror movie in which John Roberts travels backward and forward in time. In one scene he comes upon Justice Holmes, who says, "As a judge, I tap dance my way through the legal thicket and make history from history. Where lesser minds see a 'Dead Constitution,' and ask 'why,' I just do a soft-shoe, sprinkle a little magic wuffel dust on the dead words, & bring them to life. I ask, 'Why not?'" See, my extended fantasy at Horror in the Courtroom.
Warrant is issued for non-appearing judge's arrest. "A warrant of arrest has been issued against Industrial Court Judge James Rika, for failing to appear at the tribunal investigating the conduct of suspended Judge Justice Vitalis Juma. The tribunal, headed by retired Chief Justice Majid Cockar, ordered police officers to arrest the judge and produce him on Friday...'The judge has made serious allegations before the tribunal and we feel it is important that he comes and explain them,' Cockar ordered...." More (Standard - Kenya 10.10.2007).
Observations of an openly-gay judge. "Judge Lawrence Mooney of the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District spoke about his personal experiences being a closeted gay man and then an openly gay one to a crowd of about 60 on Monday. The lecture was titled 'Observations of an Openly Gay Judge.'" More (The Maneater 10.10.2007).
Department of mixed messages. "A thief who stole a Bible was given his own copy of the Christian scriptures by [Judge Bala Reddy,] a Singapore district judge, who then sentenced the man to four months in prison, news reports said Wednesday...." The judge told him that while he was incarcerated he should look in the Old Testament at p. 65, where it says, "Thou shalt not steal." More (Monsters and Critics 10.10.2007). Comment. But at pp. , ,and of my copy of the New Testament, it says....
County's executive, county's chief judge battle over budget cuts. "Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's proposed 2008 budget underfunds courts by more than $2 million, the county's chief judge said Tuesday. Circuit Judge Kitty Brennan said she was dismayed by Walker's trims to court operations and charged that he put political considerations ahead of a legal obligation to fund the courts adequately...." She also reportedly said the proposed cuts, including nine law clerk positions, show "disrespect" for the courts. Walker has a different take on the matter, saying the chief's "math exaggerates the extent of the cuts" and that "the true figure" is $634,000, not $2 million plus. The chief called Walker's accounting "goofball accounting," and said if the county board didn't fix the cuts she'd consider using her "ultimate club," a lawsuit to force adequate funding. More (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 10.10.2007).
Latest on controversy over historic Seneca County, Ohio courthouse. "Disingenuous from the get-go, the [two] commissioners [who voted to tear down the courthouse] told the public that renovating the courthouse would cost $13 million while a new building could be put up for $6 million, including demolition expenses. What they didn't say was that a 2006 report they ordered from a Cleveland consultant estimated that the actual renovation cost would range from $6.6 million to $7.3 million. But the commissioners lumped in several other projects to inflate the publicized total to $13 million. And they failed to point out at the time that, if the courthouse were torn down and replaced, along with the other projects, the cost of building new would jump to $10.6 million...." More (Toledo Blade - Opinion 10.10.2007). Comment. The Toledo Blade, which deserves commendation for its role in the battle to save this courthouse, has filed a brief in the matter, now before the Ohio Supreme Court. We've made numerous posts relating to this battle. We're with the preservationists. We would be even if the courthouse in question, built in 1884 and described here in detail, wasn't one of the "gems" of one of the leading "rock star" courthouse architects of his day, Elijah J. Myers and even if the courthouse weren't a "$30 million to $50 million asset that [is] 'better than [the Ohio] state Capitol building, [with] higher-quality woodwork.'" Link to prior posts. Update. Preservationists are experiencing vandalism, harassment (Tiffin Advertiser-Tribune 10.12.2007). Update. "Gov. Ted Strickland yesterday weighed in on the dispute over the Seneca County Courthouse for the first time, urging the commissioners not to demolish the historic structure before the state has a chance to brainstorm on alternatives...." More (Toledo Blade 10.19.2007).
Former judge gets prison for meth crime. "A former west Alabama judge who pleaded guilty to methamphetamine charges was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment Wednesday after describing how his addictions spiraled out of control. Ira D. Colvin, who was arrested last year in Mississippi, was immediately taken into custody...." He still faces charges in AL. More (Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette 10.12.2007).
Former cabinet minister speaks in praise of a judge who jailed him. ""He is a no nonsense man who gets to the heart of the details. He was an impeccably fair judge. I think he conducted my case in the most fair way. Justice could not have been better served than the way he dealt with the whole thing. If it is possible for a criminal defendant, who was jailed, to say he admired the judge, then I do. He was tough, but fair. He cut through swathes of rubbish that was written about me. He will do the business in this inquest and not take any nonsense." -- Comment by Jonathan Aitken, a former Tory Cabinet minister, who in 1999 was sentenced by Lord Baker to 18 months in prison for perjury (and served seven months). The judge he's referring to is Lord Scott Baker. It's from a profile of the judge in connection with his leading the official inquiry into the death of Princess Diana. More (Telegraph - UK 10.12.2007).
Mobile court rendered inoperative in first week. "The first mobile court in Punjab, which was launched with much fanfare in Talwara on October 2 this year, has run into rough weather in the first week itself. The Dasuya Bar Association (DBA) has gone on a three-day strike starting today, citing the inconvenience faced by lawyers in going to places where mobile courts have been established and that 'mobile justice' has become expensive for the general public...." More (Express India 10.12.2007).
Judge visits 'Love Stuff.' "A circuit judge[, Robert Vance Jr., who was joined by lawyers and court personnel,] toured the Love Stuff store in Hoover on Thursday to get an up-close look at evidence in a non-jury trial over whether the store, which sells adult material, is violating a state law...that prohibits an 'adult-only' business within 1,000 feet of houses, churches and day-care centers or 'any other place frequented by minors.'" More (AL.Com 10.12.2007).
Japanese courts face scrutiny in film. "The film I Just Didn't Do It tells the story of a young Japanese man wrongly convicted of groping a woman on the subway. Director Misayaki Suo says the idea for the movie came from a newspaper story about a man who went through that ordeal. 'In theory, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty, but in Japan the defendant has to earn his innocence by proving that he is not guilty. It appears to be that way to me,' says Suo through a translator...." -- From part four of a five-part series, "Tokyo Justice," by NY1 criminal justice reporter Solana Pyne. More (NY1 10.11.2007).
Judge allegedly conducted unauthorized community service program. "A former district judge was charged with misconduct Thursday for allegedly operating an unauthorized community-service program and failing to supervise a constable. The state Judicial Conduct Board charged Daniel S. Davis with one count of failing to diligently discharge his administrative responsibilities...." More (PhillyBurbs.Com 10.11.2007).
SCOOH's C. J. calls trial judge 'a bit of a tyrant' when wearing robe. "'Regardless of whether he has a personality disorder or whatever, it's his conduct that I find to be very offensive. When this person puts on a black robe he tends to be a bit of a tyrant.' Thus proclaimed Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Moyer during the oral argument Tuesday morning in the disciplinary case against Mason Municipal Court Judge George Parker...." More (Middletown Journal 10.10.2007).
When the court takes its 'dog'n'pony show' on the road. "A few minutes after hearing oral arguments on a first degree murder case Tuesday morning, Minnesota Supreme Court Judge Lorie Skjerven Gildea wanted to deliver a message to some members of the audience at Marshall High School. 'I want to give a shout out to the Lakeview mock trial team,' said Gildea, who had met the team the night before at a community dinner...." More (Marshall Independent 10.10.2007). Comment. And how about a "Woo Hoo" for the basketball team? One very wise and intelligent judge told me after retiring that "taking the court on the road" in this way makes the court a kind of "traveling dog'n'pony show." I can't say it better. For my extended dissenting take on this very popular example of judicial outreach/judicial touring, pioneered by SCOMN, see, my comments at Holding court in the great hall at Heidelberg College.
Lawyers, judges boycott traditional ceremonies for new legal year. "The angst over the re-appointment of Justice Isaiah Olakanmi as the Chief Judge of Oyo State was Monday carried into the new legal year, as half of the judges in the state bench and lawyers shunned the traditional ceremonies ushering in the new legal year. Twelve of the 24 judges in the state...boycotted the ceremony in demonstration of displeasure over[the] reinstatement [of Olakanmi,] who was removed in 2004 over misappropriation of funds and maladministration. Many of the lawyers from the Ibadan branch of the NBA also shunned the ceremonial parade...." More (This Day - Nigeria 10.10.2007).
Annals of voting behavior: the 'informational cascade' phenomenon. "We like to think that people improve their judgment by putting their minds together, and sometimes they do. The studio audience at 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' usually votes for the right answer. But suppose, instead of the audience members voting silently in unison, they voted out loud one after another. And suppose the first person gets it wrong. If the second person isn't sure of the answer, he's liable to go along with the first person's guess. By then, even if the third person suspects another answer is right, she's more liable to go along just because she assumes the first two together know more than she does. Thus begins an 'informational cascade' as one person after another assumes that the rest can't all be wrong...." -- From John Tierney, Diet and Fat: A Severe Case of Mistaken Consensus (Science Tuesday - NYT 10.10.2007). Read on...
Might the Chief Justice start an 'informational cascade'? At a case conference at SCOTUS, the judges express their opinions in order of seniority, with the C.J. starting off the discussion. Barry Augenbraun of St. Petersburg, FLA, in a letter following Jeffrey Rosen's 09.23.2007 Sunday NYT Magazine piece on Justice Stevens, opines that the better way is the reverse-seniority system: "Over 2,000 years ago, the judges of the Sanhedrin followed the opposite system: in criminal cases, judges expressed their opinions in reverse order, with the youngest speaking first." More (Sunday Magazine - NYT 10.07.2007).
Testimony at second inquest into Judge Chubb's mysterious death. "A judge's wife calmly gathered in the washing as her husband burnt to death in the garden shed, an inquest was told yesterday...Within 24 hours the remains of the shed had been bulldozed. Mr Chubb was cremated before a pathologist could determine whether he was dead when the fire started. And his widow, Jennifer, started a new life in Australia having inherited his £1 million estate. That might have been the end of the story but for Kerry Sparrow, Mr Chubb's mistress. Ms Sparrow refused to accept the verdict and spent six years gathering evidence on her lover's death. What she found was sufficiently compelling to persuade the Lord Chief Justice to order a fresh inquest...." Details (Times UK 10.09.2007). Earlier. Judge's widow won't attend second inquest (with links to other entries).
President accuses high court judge of bribing witness to testify against him. "President Alvaro Uribe publicly accused a Supreme Court judge[, Ivan Velasquez,] of bribing a jailed warlord into testifying that Uribe plotted to murder another paramilitary chief...Supreme Court president Cesar Julio Valencia promptly rejected the accusations, calling them an obstruction of justice in the high court's ongoing investigation into links between the paramilitaries and the government's congressional allies...." More (IHT 10.09.2007).
Merit pay for judges? "Starting early next year, judges, prosecutors, generals and provincial police chiefs will be paid based on their performance...Affected government agencies will devise standards to evaluate performance by year's end...." "Senior judges" in the "high courts" will be exempt. More (Chosun - Korea 10.09.2007). Comments. It'll be interesting to see what the standards are. I have my doubts that government bureaucrats can judge judicial merit fairly, unless merit is defined by simple, quantifiable things that really don't define merit.
Woman sues T.V. judge. "A woman who appeared as a litigant on TV's Judge Mathis court show is suing Greg Mathis, Warner Bros and Telepictures claiming she was not informed about his current judicial status and was disparaged when Mathis referred to her as a hillbilly...." More (EURWeb 10.09.2007).
Judge wears a zebra shirt on weekends. "After making rulings during the week, Casey Moreland spends his weekends, well, making rulings...He's a General Sessions court judge who spends his Saturdays officiating college football games...He is in his 11th year as an official in the Ohio Valley Conference and is an applicant for the Southeastern Conference. He is an umpire, which puts him in the line of fire each play since he is positioned behind the defensive line and linebackers... Moreland says there are similarities in his two jobs and he relies on the same instincts whether he's wearing his judge's robe or official's stripes...." More (The Tennessean 10.09.2007).
Chief justice recuses after allegations of bias. "[Union Secretary Michael] Goldman's counsel, Senator for the Charles River Apartments Rachel Graham Kagan '09, accused [Chief Justice James] Ansorge ['09] of bias against Goldman before the trial because he publicly announced his disapproval of Goldman's actions to several Union officials. 'The Chief Justice's comments have gone so far beyond the standard of impartial conduct as to render his sitting on this case a perversion of the course of justice,' her motion for recusal, released last Wednesday, said...." -- From a report in The Justice, Brandeis U's student newspaper, of the withdrawal of two "justices" from the panel judging Goldman on charges of "violating his post as elections commissioner and making the unconstitutional appointment of a technology assistant to his office." More (The Justice 10.09.2007). Comment. From the perspective of someone who always laughed at student politicians in college, this is funny stuff. The "Justice" alluded to in the newspaper's title is, of course, Justice Brandeis, for whom the U is named. If memory serves me well, even the school's sports teams are called "The Justices."
'Wives of lawyers and judges.' "Wives of lawyers and judges from Colorado took time off to visit Nevis on Friday. The nine wives had accompanied their husbands to a conference held at the Marriott, St. Kitts dubbed Lawyers Public Information Forum...." -- Item, with accompanying picture, in SKNVibes, St. Kitts and Nevin. More (SKN Vibes 10.09.2007). Further reading. "Most revolutionary of the changes in the current issue of the Yearbook is the inclusion of two pages on the Harvard Law Wives. This group, comparable to he Harvard Dames, consists of the wives of the law instructors and students. This is the first time a page has ever been devoted to women in the history of the book." -- From a report in the Harvard Crimson on 12.14.1940 on the "reorganized" Harvard Law School Yearbook. Comment. When I was a student at HLS (1964-1967), fewer than 5% of the members of my class of 500+ were women, and the Harvard Law Wives, for the wives of the male students who were married (and many were) was still active. I believe the group's name was later changed to Harvard Law Community Ass'n. BTW, the Harvard Law School Coop, as of 2006, was selling a "Harvard Law Wife" shirt, as this excerpt from Peanut Butter Burrito, a female HLS student's blog, reveals: "I walked by the Coop today (the little store in the law school student union). The usual display of mildly funny shirts were in the window: 'Tort Happens,' a litigator (with picture of an alligator), and a lame one that said 'Harvard Law girls rock.' Then I saw a rack of new ones: gray baby tees with 'Harvard Law Wife' in pink (they weren't very attractive.) DING DING DING. My Feminist Radar went off...." More (Peanut Butter Burrito 05.12.2006). For a picture of the 1971 Harvard Law Wives, much depleted in numbers from when I was a student, click here ("Harvard Then and Now" - Green Bag). Before you make fun of the idea of "Harvard Law Wives," consider this, from former Duke Law School Dean Paul Carrington (HLS 1952-1955): "We made many lifelong friends among my classmates and especially among those whose wives Bessie met at the Law Wives gatherings."
A 'fake' court e-mail? "An e-mail from Judge Beverley Nettles-Nickerson's former secretary about a day the judge did not show up for a hearing was likely a fake, a computer expert testified Monday. The message, dated Sept. 6, 2005, notifies court officials that the Ingham County circuit judge would be on vacation Oct. 31, 2005 -- the same day Nettles-Nickerson did not show up at the courthouse for a hearing about a temporary restraining order. But there is no computer record of the e-mail, said Jeff VanderSchaaf, senior network engineer for the county. 'I feel pretty confident it was never sent,' VanderSchaaf testified, as the judge's misconduct trial began its fourth week...." More (Lansing State Journal - MI 10.09.2007).
Extreme courthouse adventure-touring -- newest form of adventure vacation? "A visit to Delaware in 2006 ended Johnny and Margaret Barton's quest to visit all 50 states in their lifetime. With that accomplished, the Bartons discussed their next challenge in learning more about their country. 'We decided since it was the Oklahoma centennial we'd visit all the counties and take a picture of everybody's courthouse,' Margaret said. 'Everybody thought that was a great idea.'" And so they did it, in a quest that took a total of 14 days covering a total of 4,194 miles. More (Alva Review-Courier 10.08.2007). Comment. Is this a trend or something? See, Annals of fathers and kids -- a Quixotic courthouse quest.
Judge's time sheets become issue in judicial contest. "[Judge Amy Salerno] was appointed to the bench in January 2005 by then-Gov. Bob Taft after serving eight years as a state representative and losing her 2004 election bid for county clerk of court. Including vacation time, she has been away from work more than 32 workweeks -- 23 days in 2005, 80 in 2006 and 60 so far this year, court time sheets show...Time sheets reviewed by The Dispatch include all time off the bench, including for sickness, vacation and continuing legal education. Municipal Court judges are the only elected officials in Ohio who, by law, are permitted 30 days of paid vacation each year, according to the Ohio Supreme Court. There is no sick-leave policy for judges...." More (Columbus Dispatch 10.08.2007). Comments. A lawyer named Joseph Mas is challenging Judge Salerno, accusing her of having a courthouse reputation of "arriving late and leaving early." Emphasizing his Latino background and work ethic, he declaims, "I won't be using the bench as a form of retirement. I will be available every day until the work is done." Sadly, the time Judge Salerno has taken off has been a result of back surgery and then breast cancer, discovered last October. We've argued before that each individual judge's work calendars and timesheets and travel-and-expense reimbursement request forms are public documents readily obtainable by any citizen using the "sunshine" or openness-in-government law and that these and similar documents can be made more easily accessible to ordinary citizens by placing them on the court's internet web site. See, Letting the sun shine in. Thus, we have no problem with The Dispatch's obtaining and reviewing Judge Salerno's timesheets. And, in general, we have no problem with the use of a judge's time sheets by the opponent in a judicial campaign. But, while Mr. Mas has every right to run against Judge Salerno and raise her absence from court as an issue, we'd never do it, given the apparent circumstances underlying her absences. If you've watched PBS at all, you've probably watched one of those documentaries depicting a pack of hyenas ruthlessly attacking a pack of zebras, singling out the weakest one -- a young one or an old one or a sick one -- for the kill. Because of this, hynenas are said to lack sportsmanship. It's fine for hyenas to do that, I guess. It's all a part of the natural order. But, speaking for myself only and not implying anything about anyone else, I've never been an admirer in the abstract of the fairly-common hyena-like political strategy of picking and running against the weakest of incumbents. Just talk, you say? Not so. I've run twice, both times against people in the prime of their careers, both deemed virtually unbeatable. Each time I lost big. But there's no shame in that. Curiously, in each instance, the unbeatable candidate I ran against sort of shocked everyone a few years after the election by retiring while still young and seemingly virtually-unbeatable. "Hmm," Walter Mitty thought to himself as he was falling asleep, "did I do that?"
When a judge silences the press. "No one came out of this looking worse than Superior Court Judge Merita Hopkins, who last week did to the Constitution what Mitt Romney's dog Seamus did to the family station wagon roof. As details about the toxicology tests performed as part of Cahill's and Payne's autopsies were leaking out, Hopkins issued an order barring WHDH-TV (Channel 7) from disclosing any of those details. Hopkins should have stood up and heartily congratulated Channel 7 for diverging, if only briefly, from its usual diet of car crashes, Floridian mayhem, and Britney updates to engage in some real journalism. Instead, she created a Kafkaesque situation in which the only news outlet prevented from reporting this information was the one that was poised to break the story in the first place...." -- From a column by Kevin Cullen criticizing a judge's barring of Channel 7 from reporting on the results of the autopsies of two firefighters who died fighting a fire in Boston. More (Boston Globe 10.08.2007).
A tussle in Nigeria. "Anyone reading the newspapers in recent times would think there is a case between Chibuike Amaechi, former speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, and the Nigerian Justices. This is going by the violent accusations and insults emanating from the Amaechi camp on the Justices as a result of the case between the former speaker and his kinsman, Celestine Omehia, governor of the state...." -- From an op/ed piece title Rivers guber tussle: The pain of judges, by Frank Horsfall in the Nigerian Tribune (10.08.2007).
SCOTUS' math of death. "Let us consider the arithmetic of death. There are nine justices on the Supreme Court. It takes four votes for the court to agree to hear a case. But it takes five votes to stay an execution. It is possible, then, for a death row inmate to persuade the court that his case is so important that it deserves a place on the court's tiny docket of roughly 80 cases a year -- but not so important that he should be allowed to stay alive in the meantime...." More (NYT - Adam Liptak 10.08.2007).
Those nonpartisan nominating commissions and minority applicants. "Gov. Phil Bredesen continued to express his disappointment with the state's Judicial Selection Commission today for not sending him minority candidates for judicial openings. Bredesen said today at an event to honor the renaming of a Nashville street for the famous civil rights leader, Rosa L. Parks,...'I want to take this occasion to express my disappointment that our Judicial Selection Commission has elected to send me a list for an appeals court vacancy with no African Americans on the list...I don't know how I can make it any clearer to them that having 12 members of our appeals court all white is not appropriate in the state of Tennessee.'" More (Nashville City Paper 10.08.2007). Comment. As our readers know, Gov. Bredesen has had an ongoing battle with the nominating commission. The notion that these so-called nonpartisan commissions take the politics out of judicial selection is, in our opinion, absurd. You can't take politics out of judicial selection. The issue is, "Whose politics?" We like the voters to have the ultimate power over not just retention but selection, which is why we oppose the proposals of the Quie Commission to abandon the MN Plan (thereby taking away from voters their right to select judges) and to replace it with the plan favored by political science professors and many lawyers and sitting judges, the Missouri Plan (which leaves voters with the scraps, in the form of a right only to vote "no" on sitting judges every now and then).
The Terminator names legendary actor Gary Coleman a judge. "Former Differenet Strokes star Gary Coleman has been made a Judge. The diminutive actor admits he has no experience whatsoever but is delighted with his new position of authority...'Arnold and I are long time pals,' said Coleman, bedecked in his Judges robes, 'He always looks out for his friends and when a vacancy showed up his local courthouse he knew where to turn.'" More (The Spoof - Satire 10.08.2007).
Should a judge wear a flag pin? "Senator Barack Obama's comments about the absence of an American flag pin on his lapel created dustup on the campaign trail yesterday. When asked why he wasn't wearing a flag pin in a television interview on Wednesday he said he had stopped wearing one because he felt that the pin 'had become a substitute for...true patriotism.' So what are the other candidates wearing on their lapels these days? Lets take a look at a few photos from the most recent debates...." Farhana Hossain, writing for The Caucus, a political blog site maintained by the NYT, shows that not very many of the candidates are wearing the old pin. Comment. We expressed our views on such matters in a mini-essay titled Isaac Bashevis Singer's dad's view of pledges, which we reproduce here:
Isaac Bashevis Singer's dad's view of pledges. The late and prolific Yiddish writer, Isaac Bashevis Singer, who won a Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote a book I like about his father, a Rabbi, titled In My Father's Court - A Memoir 60 (1966). In a chapter titled "The Oath," he wrote:
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.
As I said, I'm like Singer's dad in my general personal objection to pledges, oaths, petitions, promises, loaded questionnaires, etc. I don't let people or groups put words in my mouth. It comes from my parents. Two Mom-isms from my youth: "Dare to be different" and "Don't be afraid to say no." I'm with Cosmo Kramer, who, in the episode titled "The Sponge" (Season 7 of Seinfeld), is "against" AIDS but unwilling to wear "the ribbon" that everyone insists he wear. "You know what?" -- he says to one of them -- "You're a ribbon bully." Groups are free to submit questionnaires to and otherwise try to pressure candidates for public office, including judicial office, to "wear their ribbons," the ribbons everybody is wearing; but candidates who allow themselves to be bullied or who try curry favor with this or that group signify to me that by doing so they are not the kinds of candidates I think worthy to represent me. Thomas Jefferson said it all better than I can:
I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to Heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.
If I couldn't get elected except by submitting "the whole system of my opinions" to the creed of this or that group or this or that newspaper, I'd rather lose -- which of course is what I do. But what do you win when you win by selling your soul?
Here's a sweet deal: new identity offered in judicial corruption probe. "The government plans to offer witness protection, including plastic surgery and a new identity, to lure a mysterious whistle-blower to come forward to verify claims of judicial corruption, Malaysia's law minister said Monday. In a video released last month by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, a prominent lawyer is allegedly taped brokering the appointment of top judges in 2002. Anwar last week said the man who secretly took the video at the lawyer's house with his mobile phone has refused to reveal his identity because he feared for his safety...." More (IHT 10.08.2007).
Will the Brits outlaw abortion? Will the Supremes? "In their long, black cloaks, the eight men and one woman look like crows on a telegraph wire. In reality they are the most powerful judges in America and, on 18 April 2007, they made a decision which opponents fear brings the end of legal abortion in the United States one step closer. The legal wrangling in the case known as Gonzales v Carhart had gone on for four years...." More (UK Guardian 10.08.2007). Comment. Let's just say that the Roman Catholic majority on the Court looked to some people not so much like crows on a telegraph wire but Roman Catholic clergy as they recently signaled the start of the Court's fall term by attending the annual Red Mass, at which they sort of were, ah, reminded of their duty as Catholics. See, SCOTUS' Roman Catholic majority attends annual pre-term 'Red Mass.' Were those Roman Catholic men in their black robes to overturn or further limit Roe v. Wade, then the Court would lose all credibility -- in the same way, say, that it would if five Republican justices were to comprise a 5-4 majority, with four Democrat justices in the minority, giving a contested Presidential election to a Republican candidate. That, of course, wouldn't happen, but it illustrates my point.
Don't county's judges want to save their historic courthouse? "Seneca County's judges have not been willing to take a stand on the fate of their county's historic 1884 courthouse, but judges outside the county have raised their voices to defend the country's 'temples of justice.'" More (Toledo Blade 10.07.2007). Comment. While the county's judges have been silent, many of the lawyers, it appears, want the great old building demolished rather than restored and modernized. They apparently want a new functional building built to replace it. Shortsighted. But what do you expect from lawyers?
Comparing size of judges' chambers in new courthouse with size of jail cells. "Each of the 18 regular judges will have a 300-square-foot office and 50-square-foot private, Americans-with-Disabilities-Act-compliant bathroom. Each senior judge will have a 260-square-foot office with private ADA-compliant bathroom. Their secretaries and law assistants will each have 120-square-foot offices. Now just how big is a 300-square-foot office? Big enough to house four Law Enforcement Center jail cells, eight inmates and four toilets. The total space allocated for judges' offices, not counting bathroom space, could house 158 inmates, which could accommodate half of those now sleeping on the floor." From a column by Sylvia Cooper on the proposed new Augusta, GA courthouse. More (Augusta Chronicle 10.07.2007). Comment. And your point is?
Misdemeanor arraignment day with 'The O.C. Judge.' "Inside a wire cage in the back of an Orange County courtroom, a middle-aged woman barely a smidgen taller than 4 feet stands up to answer charges of petty theft. 'She's a little thing,' says Superior Court Judge James M. Brooks. 'Is she on her knees?' Without warning, he rises from the bench and puts his hands on his hips as he addresses her, pretending he doesn't believe she can really be so small. 'Are you trying to fool me?' he says, unable to keep a straight face. She smiles back at him. The slapstick plays well with the crowd. And minutes later, Brooks is at it again, poking good-natured fun at a bailiff who enters the courtroom...Brooks is just getting warmed up as he works his way through a heavy calendar of misdemeanor arraignments...." More (L.A. Times 10.07.2007). Comment. In his 21 years on the bench, Judge Brooks (is he related to Mel?) "has been loved, loathed and repeatedly scolded for his courtroom behavior." Might he have a future on T.V.? There are at least ten "T.V. 'judges'" on the air in syndication this season and, it seems, there's always room for one more. And T.V. judges never seem to moan and groan about their paltry pay. Maybe that's because an associate justice of the Supreme Court makes gets paid a measly $194,000 a year, whereas, as an example, "Judge Judy makes about twice that for just one show." More (White Plains Journal News 10.06.2007). And the T.V. judges not only never get reversed, they never get called before the judicial conduct board.
Chief Justice will lead a 'prayer rally' for the judicial system. "Chief Justice Reynato Puno will lead Sandiganbayan justices and Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) members in praying for the country's judicial system in the biggest prayer gathering of the year in Rizal Park on Sunday...The prayer gathering will also be led by Catholic and evangelical bishops...[It] marks the 29th anniversary celebration of the Jesus Is Lord (JIL) Worldwide Ministry, founded by evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva...." More (ABS CBN News - Philippines 10.07.2007).
County insures courthouse's artwork for $34.8 million. "The artwork inside the Allen County courthouse has been insured for nearly $35 million. Officials say the artwork previously was included in a blanket policy [but] commissioners have voted to take out a separate policy on the fine art costing about $20,000 a year...." More (Indianapolis Star 10.07.2007). Comment. Smart move. The county got the artworks appraised by a specialist. The art includes "bronze, cast bas-reliefs that form a decorative part of the courtroom walls, murals on ceilings and portrait paintings." Every body responsible for insuring a historic state or county or city building containing artwork should follow the Allen County Board's lead.
Illegal burning of paddy stubble at judge's four-acre estate. "Burning of stubble is a punishable crime...On Friday, the norm was violated at the residence of [Virender Kumar,] Faridkot district and sessions judge. Staff at the judge's house, which is spread across four acres, set paddy stubble on fire. The poisonous smoke made life miserable for many patients in Preet Nursing Home, a maternity and orthopaedic centre, situated nearby...." The judge, who lives alone, says he wasn't home at the time and is investigating. More (Times of India 10.06.2007). Comment. If one may be strictly and vicariously liable for intentional paddy stubble burning by one's servant and a judge is "convicted" on that basis, might the conviction form the basis for imposing discipline against the judge? We hope not. But to merely consider the question suggests how perilous is the path that we ask judges to walk these days.
Poor record keeping results in alive judge being declared dead. "[A]t the 28th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the AMJG in Accra [Justice Joseph Bawah] Akamba mentioned the name of Mr. Kwame Gyamfi Osei, a magistrate at Tarkwa...among members of the association who died in the course of the year. He therefore called for a minute's silence to be observed in their memory. Apparently shocked by the pronouncement, colleagues who were sitting by the virile and healthy-looking magistrate shouted, 'He is here. He is here,' while he himself rose energetically declaring, 'I am here, I am alive,' amidst rib-bursting laughter from all present, including Chief Justice Mrs. Georgina Theodora Wood...." More (Modern Ghana 10.06.2007).
Honoring Judge Barefoot Sanders in Big D for doing the right thing. "Some of the city's best and brightest Hispanic lawyers were at the Belo Mansion on Wednesday to honor U.S. District Judge Barefoot Sanders for his 60 years of public service. Judge Sanders, who received a standing ovation, has had an impact on the lives of thousands of Dallas schoolchildren who've been the beneficiaries of his desegregation rulings since 1981. Many of them, in fact, may have been sitting in the room that night. Most of the 400-plus attending the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association's second annual scholarship banquet raised their hands when asked how many had been sworn in to practice in federal court by the legendary jurist...." More (Dallas Morning News 10.06.2007). Comment. When one does the right thing, such as returning something one finds to its rightful owner, one doesn't expect praise. One is just doing what one has a right to assume and expect everyone else to do in the same situation. But it's okay to praise someone's doing the right thing, if only to remind those who might be inclined to stray from the Golden Rule, that there is honor in doing the right thing and that sometimes the simplest decent act benefits countless people, as each beneficiary "plays it forward" to other beneficiaries.
Top court hold state's campaign content law violates free speech. "Government has no business trying to stop political candidates from deliberately lying about each other in campaign ads, a divided state Supreme Court ruled Thursday. In the 5-4 decision upholding a lower-court ruling, the high court said a state law aimed at punishing political candidates for false advertising is an unconstitutional infringement on free speech...." More (Seattle Times 10.05.2007). Comment. We addressed this issue on 07.02.2006 on our political opinion blog in an essay titled Are 'campaign lies' free speech protected from government regulation? I concluded that essay by saying: "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." Update. My esteemed HLS classmate, Harvey Silverglate, the prominent Boston civil liberties lawyer, maintains a terrific blog, Free for All, with Wendy Kaminer, the First Amendment scholar. I tipped Harvey off about this case, and Wendy just posted an extended piece on it. Government Truth Squads (Free for All - Kaminer post 10.06.2007).
Annals of fathers and kids -- a Quixotic courthouse quest. "If you don't know Daryl Cleveland, you may think he has too much time to kill. Cleveland has taken a photograph of son Brad standing in front of every county courthouse in Iowa. The photo sessions started in 2000 in front of the Adams County courthouse in Corning and ended at the Buena Vista County courthouse in Storm Lake on Labor Day of this year. Neither is an enthusiast of law, photography or the architectural history of Iowa public buildings. The father-son duo from Odebolt simply wanted to say they did it...." More (Des Moines Register 10.05.2007). Comment. Ah, the things a boy remembers -- and the things son Brad will remember. Further reading. BurtLaw's Law and Kids; BurtLaw's Fathers and Kids; BurtLaw's Secular Sermons for Lawyers and Judges.
1) "Nobody on his deathbed ever said, 'I wish I had spent more time at the office.'" Paul Tsongas (1941-1997).
2) "Has she ever had to leave the courtroom because of a kid emergency? 'No, and I wouldn't do it,' she says....She continues, 'I think there are some jobs where you have to put the job first.'" Minnesota Federal District Court Judge Joan Erickson, quoted in "Judges named Joan," by Joan Oliver Goldsmith, Minnesota Law & Politics 58 (August-September 2002).
When the press goes easy on the courts. "The first piece of advice that the news editor I worked with gave me was: 'Never criticise the judge or suggest in any way that he, his judgment or his court is influenced by non-judicial considerations; otherwise, we will be had up for contempt'...The advice was drilled into me. Although sometimes, I heard whispers that the munsif would delay a hearing for Rs 5, or lose the case file for a higher sum, such evidence of corruption never appeared in my reports. The whispers were not limited to the munsif; the magistrate was rumoured to take much more for a favourable decision...." -- Intro to a piece, which I recommend reading, titled "Cast a cold eye on the courts," by Ajit Bhattacharjea, who is former Director, Press Institute of India. More (Hindustan Times - India 10.05.2007). Comment. One of William Butler Yeats' last poems, Under Ben Bulben, ends with the epitaph he wrote for his tombstone in the churchyard of the village of Drumcliff, which lies under Ben Bulben "mountain" in County Sligo: "Cast a cold eye/ On life, on death./ Horseman, pass by!" We're not sure if Mr. Bhattacharjea's choice of headline is an allusion to Yeats' famous epitaph. We doubt it. But we take this opportunity to quote it. We think it would be good if judges were familiar with both the poem and its concluding epitaph. If you're a judge and you have to ask what the poem means or what possible relevance it might have to judging, you're probably one of those lost souls (we don't really believe anyone is a lost soul) who has to ask, "What is 'Jazz'?" To paraphrase the famous response to the jazz question attributed to Louis Armstrong: If you have to ask, you'll probably never know.
A glimpse of a good judge in action. "When U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young told lawyers Sept. 27 that he had serious concerns about the proposed TJX settlement, he also took issue with the part that would allow for consumers to turn the vouchers into cash by selling them...." More (EWeek 10.05.2007). Comment. This is the intro to a brief profile of a smart, experienced judge in action, and I'd commend it to you even if the judge were not a law school classmate/dormmate of mine at Harvard. Further reading. BurtLaw's classmate/dormmate attacks Congress.
Former PA governor opposes campaign to vote no in retention elections. "Former Gov. Tom Ridge, in an appearance here to stump for Republican judicial candidates, came out swinging hard against the grassroots group seeking to oust virtually all incumbent judges in this year's election. Ridge...said he is concerned that qualified judges are being unfairly attacked by PACleanSweep, a group formed following the ill-fated pay raise of 2005. The group wants to unseat all but one of 68 sitting judges on the ballot because they took the pay raise approved by the legislature for all three branches of government...." More (Philly Inquirer 10.05.2007). Comment. We, of course, don't think any more highly of PACleanSweep than we did of the 2006 "J.A.I.L. for Judges" initiative in South Dakota, which failed "big time." That said, while judicial independence is a necessity, you can't expect to have it or to have public support for it without significantly greater judicial accountability. I am a friend of the judiciary. The judiciary ignores the criticisms and suggestions of responsible people like me at its own peril. If anything good comes from PACleanSweep, it's that it might open the eyes of sitting judges in MN who long for the presumed security provided them by adoption of the so-called Missouri Plan, with its retention elections. True, the MN Plan, which has worked well for so many years here in MN, means that every six years a sitting judge has to face the possibility of some lawyer running against him. But if that happens, voters who have a vague, generalized anger at the courts won't necessarily vote for the challenger. They may conclude the real live challenger is a relatively unknown quantity when matched against the specific known judge running for another term and conclude they're better off sticking with the known quantity. Stated differently, it's a lot easier to "just say no" to a judge up for retention than it is to vote against him when it means voting for someone who maybe isn't better but worse. Remember, BurtLaw told you so....
Judge escapes uninjured when taxi hits his official vehicle. "Supreme Court judge Arijit Pasayat on Thursday escaped unhurt when a taxi hit his official vehicle [in New Delhi] while he was returning home from the court...." More (The Hindu 10.05.2007). Comment. Be careful not to run into a judge: the taxi driver was reportedly arrested and charged with "rash and negligent driving."
Annals of judicial free speech -- or the lack thereof. "It is a regrettable state of affairs when a judge in B.C. cannot express an opinion on an issue of vital public interest without running the risk of being disciplined by judicial colleagues. This is precisely what happened to an unnamed judge on Vancouver Island who dared to voice frustration over conditional sentence orders, commonly known as house arrest...." More (The Province - Editorial 10.05.2007).
High court tells lower court judge to go back to law school. "A lower court judge has been told to go back to law school to make sure he has refreshed his knowledge of law. The Delhi High Court on Friday reprimanded a lower court judge saying he lacks basic knowledge of criminal law...." More (CNN-IBN - India 10.05.2007).
Whatever happened to the Hlophe investigation? "The Judicial Service Commission has rapped controversial Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe on the knuckles for 'inappropriate' behaviour in the Oasis row...The commission said its members had been divided, but 'the majority view was that there was not sufficient evidence to proceed with a public inquiry as a first step to possible impeachment. However, the commission unanimously agreed that the explanations received [from Hlophe] were unsatisfactory in certain respects.'" More (The Times - South Africa 10.05.2007). Background reading. Judge Hlophe speaks out on courtroom dress & decorum; Saving the truth (and embedded links); South Africa: judges and race; Free lunch for judges - literally; Chief judge apologizes for 51 judges' acceptance of free lunch; Tea-time brawl erupts in judges' common room; Two judges slug it out in public in South Africa (with commentary and links to earlier postings about the two judges); Judge may be in hot water again. Update. "Although the judge can consider himself lucky to have gained some kind of not-proven verdict, he was certainly not exonerated. Far from it: the man's reputation is in tatters, his name has become synonymous with scandal in high places, his public utterances and conduct are an ongoing delight to journalists and an embarrassment to his colleagues." -- From an op/ed piece by Johann Kriegler, a former Appeal Court and Constitutional Court judge. More (Times - South Africa 10.07.2007). Update. Black Lawyers Association lashes out at Kriegler for op/ed piece (IOL 10.09.2007), while eight [non-black] senior advocates, some of them former judges, call on Hlophe to resign (Times - SA 10.09.2007). Update. "[S]ources say it is unlikely [Judge Hlophe, appointed in 1995,] will retire, as he is due for a R2-million tax-free gratuity in just over two years...the big payout due to him under the law that governs judges who have served at least 15 years on the bench." More (IOL 10.10.2007). Comment. This is one of those "perks" judges don't complain about when they claim their pay is paltry and demand a raise. Update. "Armed with a Cambridge PhD, he has been a resource. He defended the judiciary when attacked by former Justice Minister Penuell Maduna, who accused judges of being 'lazy'; transformed the Cape Bench; developed our constitutional jurisprudence; trained judges; led a discourse -- infamously -- on judicial racism. He was hailed a champion. Not any more. He is, in the eyes of many, a self-made villain...." The judge who fell to the earth (Times - SA - Editorial 10.14.2007). Update. The judge whose middle name is controversy (Times - SA 10.28.2007).
Annals of sentencing alternatives - home confinement for couple. "A onetime Morgan Stanley rules-compliance officer and her husband were each sentenced to serve six months' home confinement after they pleaded guilty earlier this year to criminal charges in an insider-trading case. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero also ordered Randi E. Collotta, 30 years old, to serve four years' probation and her husband, Christopher Collotta, 34, to serve three years' probation. The couple are both lawyers...." More (WSJ 10.05.2007). Comment. Generally -- i.e., without reference to the couple in this case -- sentencing a married couple to six months' of home confinement could be punishment or bliss, or anything in between, depending on the state of their relationship. A novelist of domestic life could do worse than use this as the starting premise of a novel. Perhaps I'll write a "movie treatment" based upon it....
Annals of 'The Rule of Law.' "When the Justice Department publicly declared torture 'abhorrent' in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations. But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales's arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency...." More (NYT 10.04.2007). Comment. This is a disturbing but not surprising revelation. There's a rule that we like to call, in our clever way, The Golden Rule, an obscure little rule that prompted us to oppose from the very outset the Bush Administration's nice little "end justifies the means" plan to allow the use of torture in interrogating and summary justice in trying "enemy military detainees" in its "War on Terror." One virtue of following The Golden Rule is that it doesn't require a law degree or even much intelligence to follow. Of course, it only helped us in forming our opinion that we knew in our bones that turture just doesn't work. People will say anything to stop being tortured, and therefore what they say is unreliable. Moreover, a corollary of the Golden Rule is that those who do wrong to others inevitably hurt themselves. A former Navy lawyer is quoted in the NYT piece making this very point: "The problem is, once you've got a legal opinion that says such a technique is O.K., what happens when one of our people is captured and they do it to him? How do we protest then?" Further reading. My post-09.11 postings at BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else are part of the Library of Congress September 11 Web Archive, which preserves the web expressions of individuals, groups, the press and institutions in the United States and from around the world in the aftermath of the events on 09.11. Click here to gain access to my postings that are in the LOC 09.11 Web Archive.
Quote-of-the-Day. "It takes far more than a sharp legal mind to say 'no' when it matters most. It takes moral character. It takes an understanding that in the long run, intelligence under law is the only sustainable intelligence in this country." - James B. Comey, at a Law Day Speech at the N.S.A.'s Fort Meade campus in 2004. More (NYT 10.04.2007). Comment. Comey emerges as one of the few voices of courage and reason and wisdom within the inner circle of right-wing legal whiz kids who provided legal cover for the use of torture in interrogation. Further reading. "I made straight A's and flunked ordinary living." From Walker Percy's The Second Coming 93 (1999).
Should women who aren't petite have to remove bras to enter courthouse?! "A Bonners Ferry woman says she was humiliated when security guards at the federal courthouse in Coeur d'Alene[, Idaho,] told her she'd have to remove her underwire bra to get inside. Lori Plato said she was going into the courthouse for a court hearing Sept. 20 when the metal detector went off as she passed through security. 'When I walked through, the gentleman said, 'Do you have an underwire bra on?' Plato said. 'I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'You have to remove it.' But there was nowhere private to remove her bra, she said. The guards suggested she go out to her car to do it...." More (Spokesman-Review - Washington 10.04.2007). Earlier. See, my extended comments at Woman 'forced' to remove bra to gain entry to courthouse? Comments. a) Plato removed her bra while her husband shielded her from the view of others, then had to put it on a conveyor belt going through an x-ray machine. She said that while she waited for it to appear, a guard said to her, "That's a girl." Not surprisingly, the marshals service, which apparently is concerned that not-so-petite women are a potential threat to our way of life, is not apologetic. Frankly, I think they're no more dangerous than 115-pound, 5'2" women who wear size 34b bras. b) As readers of The Daily Judge know, I'm not a fan of fortress-style courthouse architecture and excessive courthouse security procedures that seem to say to people: "Stay away!" Need I remind everyone that courthouses belong to the people -- all kinds, including but not limited to petite women, pot-bellied men, full-figured women, and tall handsome blue-eyed Norwegians (like me) -- not just to judges, lawyers and cops. Courthouses ought to welcome people. Further reading. See, Building courthouses with security in mind, BurtLaw and Montaigne on Court Security, and How about a courthouse surrounded by & filled with flowers? Update. Head marshal installs changing room so women may remove their dangerous bras in private (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 10.06.2007).
Should jurors in Wales be required to speak Welsh? "We should have Welsh- speaking juries in Wales, says barrister and Plaid Cymru's Parliamentary leader, Elfyn Llwyd MP...." More (ICWales 10.04.2007). Comment. C'mon, Elfyn Llwyd, get with the program -- English is the universal language. Welsh in Wales? Are you kidding?
SCONM says reprimand agreed to by commission isn't enough. "The New Mexico Supreme Court has rejected a proposed formal reprimand of an Albuquerque judge, saying it isn't sufficient punishment. Instead, the justices said Bernalillo County Metropolitan Judge Theresa Gomez should be suspended without pay for two weeks. Last month, Gomez -- who lived rent-free for nearly two years in a home owned by a government affordable housing agency -- agreed to a reprimand and to pay $17,000 in back rent...." More (Las Cruces Sun-News 10.04.2007).
Judge allegedly asked attorney to run off to spring break with him. "Chancellor Mitch Lundy has now recused himself from 32 cases before him, they're cases involving a Southaven attorney who has filed a sexual harassment complaint against the judge. Court Decorum got a real test with Lundy presiding... exposing what seemed to be some pretty strong feelings. The complaint reads like a soap opera, with charges Judge Mitch Lundy asked attorney Anne Jackson to run off to spring break with him, saying 'I love you' and insisting on a hug when a handshake sufficed with other lawyers...." More (WREG-TV - Memphis 10.04.2007). Comment. In a case like this, one needs to remember that allegations in a complaint are allegations, not proven facts.
Fourth judge takes leave of absence in ticket-fixing probe. "A fourth Jersey City Municipal Court judge has left the bench as part of the ever-widening ticket fixing scandal that has rocked the 10-judge court...." More (NJ.Com 10.04.2007).
Update. "[One judge] is suspected of trying to have numerous tickets dismissed that had been issued to a companion while she was chief judge. [Another] is suspected of using her influence to seek the dismissal of a ticket issued to a judicial colleague. [A third] is suspected of dismissing a ticket that had been issued to himself." The NYT's take on the scandal (NYT 10.10.2007).
Justices, who owe jobs to politics, seem to approve of NY's crony-based system. "[For example,] Justice David H. Souter observed that the system for choosing federal district judges 'entrenches United States senators.' He was not sure, Justice Souter continued, whether a system 'in which the party bosses select the nominee is for constitutional purposes significantly different from the federal system for picking district judges.' When Mr. Schwarz said that Judge López Torres could not get an audience with party leaders, Justice Souter replied, 'There are a lot of people who go to United States senators, and the United States senators say, 'Scram, we don't like you, your politics aren't good enough for us.''" More (NYT 10.04.2007).
Paying up for false claims of judicial bribery. "Embattled UN employee Winnie Byanyima and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) treasurer Jack Sabiti have apologised to two judges [Deputy Chief Justice, Laeticia Kikonyogo, and Judge Remmy Kasule] for alleging that they took a bribe from State House in the run-up to the 2006 presidential elections. In a consent judgment signed yesterday, they also also agreed to pay sh35m to the judges as damages and compensation and to bear the cost of the suit...." More (New Vision via All Africa - Uganda 10.04.2007).
Court coordinator, shot by husband before he killed himself, clings to life. "Shock waves spread through the halls of the Dallas County family courts Wednesday, as a court coordinator clung to life after being shot in the head by her husband who killed himself. Kathleen Norton, 42, underwent surgery Wednesday at a Dallas hospital, authorities said. Mrs. Norton is the court coordinator for Family Court District Judge Lynn Cherry...." More (Dallas Morning News 10.04.2007).
Was hockey player 'sober as a judge'? "Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain and London Knight Rob Ramage should be acquitted of impaired driving causing the death of a retired NHLer because eyewitness accounts depict him 'as sober as a judge,' a jury was told yesterday...[Ramage's lawyer' attacked the heart of the prosecution's case, the 'astonishingly high readings, which were between 2 1/2 and four times the legal limit of alcohol'... claiming blood samples taken at hospital were contaminated by alcohol swabs applied to Ramage's arm before blood was drawn...." More (London Free Press - Ontario 10.04.2007).
Not-so sober judges probably will escape removal from bench. "Two St. Clair County judges facing discipline following a drunken driving accident likely won't be removed from the bench, according to two law professors who specialize in legal ethics. St. Clair County Circuit Judges Jan V. Fiss and Patrick Young likely will face a reprimand or censure...'The difference is a reprimand is a proverbial slap on the hand, and a censure is a proverbial slap in the face,' said James J. Alfini, president and dean of South Texas College of Law and author of 'Judicial Conduct and Ethics.'" More (Belleville News-Democrat 10.04.2007). Timeline of the accident and subsequent events (Belleville News Democrat). Board's complaint. Arrest report.
Headline-of-the-Day: "Keeping the arteries clear and the courts clogged." -- Headline for an article in the NYT Business Section on how stent makers are "mired" in litigation over patents. More (NYT 10.04.2007). Comment. Without regard to the parties named in this article, I find myself compelled to ask rhetorically, without having thought it through carefully, whether there ought to be a use tax on corporations over their excessive use of courts? Update. "Chief Justice [Murray] Gleeson says court cases are taking too long and the time has come for change. Speaking at the Judicial Conference of Australia today, he pointed the finger at big business litigants, who draw out trials to drain their opponent's coffers. 'Some parties and their lawyers adopt a habit of thought which discounts the economic value of judicial services and court time,' he said...." More (ABC News - Australia 10.05.2007).
Brit judges want to take bitterness, excessive costs out of divorce process. "Britain's top family judges and lawyers began a campaign yesterday to take divorce out of the courts and make couples resolve their issues without bitter and costly legal battles. Lawyers from the 'magic circle' of divorce firms, as well as senior family judges, have backed a scheme being used in the United States and Canada that encourages couples not to litigate when they separate. Under the so-called 'collaborative law,' they must commit themselves instead to resolving all the issues arising from the breakdown of a marriage through cooperative negotiation...." More (UK Times 10.04.2007). Comment. Judges and legislators and lawyers in the U.S. often "say" they want to reform the divorce process but nothing much seems to ever come from it. Those who have the greatest insight into the god-awfulness of the process -- i.e., those lawyers who've been through it as the process's victims -- are typically so burned out from it after it's over that they just want to forget about it. And when occasionally a "citizen's commission" is formed to recommend changes, the commission is filled with divorce lawyers, divorce judges, etc., when it should consist "only" of lawyers, judges and others who've actually been through a contested divorce.
Business as usual in Texas? "Judge Cheryl Johnson said she was dismayed when she first learned from a newspaper report that a colleague closed the doors of Texas' highest criminal court at 5 p.m. as attorneys for a death row inmate rushed to file an appeal. Presiding Judge Sharon Keller closed the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals offices at the regular time Sept. 25, preventing attorneys for inmate Michael Richard from filing an appeal seeking to halt Richard's execution hours after the U.S. Supreme Court said it would consider a Kentucky case questioning the constitionality of lethal injection. Richard was executed that night after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant him a reprieve...." More (Houston Chronicle 10.04.2007). Comment. Texas, home of the President, who never saw a death warrant he wasn't eager to sign, has the dubious distinction of being the death-penalty capital of the U.S. More at BurtLaw's Law & Capital Punishment. And see, the archived position paper on Crime & Punishment from my 2004 campaign for Congress. Update. Rick Casey of the Houston Chronicle has a good column on this titled "Keller shames Texas again": "Sharon Keller, Texas' top judge on criminal matters, may have shocked much of the nation last week when she ordered a clerk not to stay open an extra 20 minutes to accept a last-minute appeal for a man on death row. But she didn't shock those who know her...." Who is Keller? Casey describes her as a judge who "has shown herself capable of extraordinary mental gymnastics to avoid overturning a conviction." More (Houston Chronicle 10.07.2007). Update. Lawyers file formal judicial conduct complaint against Keller (Houston Chronicle 10.11.2007). Update. International Herald Tribune profile says critics call her 'Killer Keller' (IHT 10.24.2007). Update. Texas court says it will allow emergency last-minute appeals by e-mail (Houston Chronicle 11.07.2007).
Magistrates re-enact cases from a hundred years ago. "Bradford magistrates gathered in the old City Hall law courts to rehearse the re-enactment of four cases from 100 years ago. The Victorian cases cover actual crimes which took place a century ago and are part of the celebrations of Bradford's first appointment of a Lord Mayor...." More (Bradford Telegraph and Argus - UK 10.07.2007). Comment. The cases: "a doorstep con artist who tried to swindle five shillings from a family after telling them a relative was accused of a crime at work and in custody," "a shopkeeper who was accused of selling 'butter' which was actually margarine," "a husband...accused of arriving home drunk and attacking both his wife and his mother-in-law," and "a drunk and disorderly case of a man found rolling on the grass naked, except for his boots, but still accompanied by his faithful dog." The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Second inquest into judge's death 90 minutes after asking wife for divorce. "Relaxed and smiling, and keeping close to her male companion as she strolls around a country fair, Jennifer Chubb seems to be without a care in the world. It is hard to imagine [from her demeanor] that Mrs Chubb is at the centre of a macabre inquiry into the death of her late husband, Crown Court judge Andrew Chubb, who died in a fireball in his garden shed just 90 minutes after asking for a divorce. Or that she is wanted back in Britain for a second inquest which opens tomorrow in Glastonbury...Mrs Chubb, 60, has no intention of attending, even though it is understood that the district coroner, Sheriff Payne, has asked her to give evidence. The UK courts are powerless to force her to return...." More (Daily Mail - UK 10.07.2007). Background. See, my earlier posting, with embedded links, titled A real life British mystery: new inquest is ordered in judge's death. Update. Dead judge's mistress says truth will come out at second inquest (Times UK 10.08.2007).
Boston judge pleads guilty to reckless driving in NC after press disclosure. "A day after the Herald disclosed that Judge Ernest B. Murphy failed to appear at a scheduled North Carolina trial [on 08.15.2007] to face motor vehicle charges, the judge pleaded guilty to reckless driving, a court official told the Herald. Murphy, 64, paid a fine and court costs amounting to about $220, said Michael E. Mone, the judge's Massachusetts lawyer, adding that a speeding charge against his client was dismissed. The Herald disclosed last month that on Nov. 2, 2006, Murphy was clocked barreling at 103 mph in a 70 mph zone in Hope Mills, N.C. He was cited for speeding and reckless driving...." More (Boston Herald 10.07.2007). Comment. Judge Murphy is the judge who won a big defamation award from the Herald. As I've stated elsewhere, I know nothing about the merits of Judge Murphy's defamation case under existing law, but I believe the cause of action of defamation ought to be eliminated as inconsistent with First Amendment values. I express my views on that issue in greater detail in a posting on a different case, Court upholds dismissal of judge's libel suit against TV station. Judge Murphy is facing a disciplinary hearing in mid-October stemming from his inappropriate use of court stationery following the defamation verdict. See, my posting, with embedded links, titled Newspaper attacks $2 million libel verdict awarded trial judge. Earlier. "Off the bench with full pay and having claimed stress-related disabilities...Murphy spent two days last month on a gambling getaway at the toney Saratoga Springs, N.Y., racetrack...Over his two days at the Saratoga track, Murphy was observed placing bets at the $50 minimum window, studying the racing form, brandishing thick wads of cash and hobnobbing with other spectators...." More (Boston Herald 09.27.2007). Comment. I guess one message the paper is sending Murphy is that it's watching him. Update. Judge testifies in disciplinary hearing, defending content of letters but not use of court's letterhead (Boston Herald 10.16.2007).
Anonymous divorce judge says he's seeing more use of 'electronic spying.' "A New York judge who has heard more than his fair share of divorces involving Bajans and other West Indians answered the question with a smile. 'Yes, you bet electronic spying is making it easier to settle divorces,' said the State Supreme Court justice who requested anonymity. 'West Indians are taking advantage of it and the evidence is often irrefutable.'" More (The Nation - Barbados 10.07.2007). Comment. A senior Bajan attorney and referee on Long Island says that the use of evidence gathered from "computers, Ipods, cellphones and automobile tracking devices" is a "logical extension of what we had before, tapping the telephone and using private detectives," but that now it's "spouses, not paid professionals, [who] are doing it."
The gownies and the townies: it's arraignment time in the county courthouse. "[T]he courtroom [in Oxford, Butler County, Ohio] is small and informal. There are no benches, just armless public-meeting chairs, lined up facing Judge Robert Lyons. The front row is reserved for defendants. Most are county prisoners in orange or mustard jumpsuits and plastic shower shoes...But handcuffed among them are young men in khakis and blue, button-down shirts. Students at Miami University [in Ohio]... It takes no stretch to imagine how the college boys got here. A Friday night. Too many beers at a rowdy campus party. A prank gone wrong. An argument. The cops show up...." More (Cincinnati Enquirer 10.07.2007).
Vows - 09.11 widow and bankruptcy judge, a widower, get hitched. "Virginia S. Bauer[, 51,] and Judge Donald H. Steckroth[, 60,] were married yesterday in the chapel of the George Jay Gould Mansion at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, N.J. The Rev. Kevin Keelen, a Roman Catholic priest, performed the ceremony...." More (NYT 10.07.2007).
Annals of women in the law -- she grew up watching her dad in court. "Lauren McFadden has childhood memories of watching real-life courtroom drama with her father, a lawyer. She attended hearings and was allowed to sit in while her father visited the chambers of now-retired Judge Fred Weber. 'I kind of grew up in the law,' she recently recalled. So when a college biology C forced her from her original path of medicine, she turned to legal studies. McFadden, now a personal injury attorney with Laddey, Clark, & Ryan in Sparta, is a primary player in a generation of female attorneys on the rise...." More (N.J. Herald 10.07.2007). Comment. A lawyer who teams with her in court says she possesses "an in-born ability to stay calm under pressure." Not sure it's "in-born." It may be the sort of thing a kid develops hanging around a courthouse or watching a dad or mom in court. We encourage kids -- those whose parents are lawyers and those whose parents aren't -- to "hang around" courthouses. See, Latest courthouse threat? Students who want pop; Is this America; No, Cook County; How about a courthouse surrounded by and filled with flowers? Shooter targets judge leaving courthouse.
Do judge's scribbled notes shed light on his 1972 concurrence? "A document recently discovered among Justice Powell's papers at Washington and Lee University by Eric M. Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra, may shed light on what it was Justice Powell was trying to say [in his concurrence in the 5-4 decision in Branzburg v. Hayes]. A few days after the argument in Branzburg, Justice Powell prepared notes of the court's private conference on a form that looks a little like a miniature-golf scorecard. In contrast to his meandering concurrence, the few crisp sentences of notes were relatively clear. 'We should not establish a constitutional privilege....'" -- From Adam Liptak, "A Justice's scribbles on journalists' rights." More (NYT 10.07.2007). Comment. It's not what he meant that matters, but what he said in the concurrence and what the words he used in the concurrence would mean to a normal speaker of English using them in the circumstances in which they were used. O.W. Holmes, Jr., Collected Legal Papers, 204 (1920). The same goes for legislation: How absurd is it when one hears a former legislator who is an appellate judge with the task of interpreting a statute say to her colleagues that she was "on the committee" that drafted the bill and "I know what we meant."
Charges dropped against judge stabbed by wife; reinstatement to follow? "Two misdemeanor charges against suspended Brownsville Presiding Municipal Judge Ben Neece have been dismissed, however, the city manager will not reinstate him pending the go ahead from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Neece, 51, was arrested in February on misdemeanor charges of possession of marijuana and assault stemming from an argument with his wife, Jacqueline Cooke Neece, 39. She was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after she allegedly stabbed her husband with a kitchen knife...." More (Brownsville Herald 10.04.2007).
Commission orders removal of judge for untimeliness, other code violations. The judge in question is Judge Robert Spitzer of Riverside County, CA. According to a news report based on the commission's findings, "The disorganization of Spitzer's courtroom, where files were stacked on windowsills and even in his private bathroom, was so severe that even his clerk refused to hunt for missing orders, according to testimony from his presiding judge and court personnel. Those initial complaints triggered a broad review of Spitzer's conduct, from his controversial comments on the bench to complaints that he had contacted potential witnesses in cases before him without knowledge of the trial attorneys...." Spitzer is free to seek review of the order by SCOCA. More (L.A. Times 10.03.2007). Comment. Some observers believe that in some states the ethics commissions are more likely to target solo practitioners than lawyers with top firms. Similarly, one might at least ask whether in some states untimeliness by trial judges is more likely to attract attention than untimeliness by appellate judges.
Another 'Judge Hanson' in the news; proposes 1-day 'Stay Out of Jail' card. "The latest tally is 4,400 outstanding warrants [in Green Bay Municipal Court] totaling more than one million dollars in fines that people owe the city...[Judge Jerry Hanson's] solution to this problem may end with no one being arrested and the city getting back all its money. Judge Hanson is preparing to offer a one-day only 'Stay Out of Jail' card, like you get in Monopoly, except it's not quite free. 'Advertise that people can come in and, basically, a free pass to talk to the judge and...try to solve the issue.'" More (WBAY-TV 10.03.2007). Comment. My headline "Another 'Judge Hanson' in the news" suggests Judge Jerry Hanson is not the only Judge Hanson. In fact, there are many, all above average (we hope). Another "Judge Hanson" in the news is Judge Robert Hanson, the Polk County, Iowa judge who set off a corn-field version of a firestorm by ruling that Iowa's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. More (Iowa Independent 10.03.2007). For my views on same-sex marriage, see, my 2004 campaign essay/position paper titled Marriage and the Law.
Free-speaking judge, vindicated, pursues federal suit against commission. "The final order in the discipline case against Arkansas Court of Appeals Judge Wendell Griffen made the point he's been making all along: That the state's judicial conduct rules don't prohibit him from talking politics. Griffen said Tuesday that he'll use the report as a 'big exhibit in my toolbox' in his federal lawsuit against the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, which he accuses of harassing him in an effort at censorship...." More (Northwest Arkansas News 10.03.2007). Comment. On several occasions, in linking to reports relating to the commission's action against Griffen, we said we wondered if the members of the commission had read Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002), and its progeny. For one of my many postings on the issue of judicial free speech, see, Free speech is a 'bad idea'? in my political opinion blog, Sometimes Left, But Always Right. Further reading. "Like other people, even aliens, who dwell on American soil, judges can say what is on their mind as long as it does not complicate their decisions on cases before them." -- From editorial praising exoneration of Judge Griffen (Arkansas Leader 10.03.2007).
Aussie judge reinstated after domestic assault charge is dropped. "South Australian District Court Judge Sydney Tilmouth QC has been reinstated to full judicial duties after police yesterday dropped a domestic violence charge against him in relation to an incident in August. The charge was laid on the night of Saturday, August 4, after several police cars were called to the home shared by Judge Tilmouth and his partner Kate Ilkiw, an Adelaide Magistrates Court clerk...." More (The Australian 10.03.2007).
Former top judge who served time in prison gets law license reinstated. "A onetime chief judge of the state's highest court has regained his law license 14 years after pleading guilty to threatening and harassing his former lover. 'I'm delighted,' Sol Wachtler said after his license was reinstated Tuesday. The former judge had told a state panel he hoped to do legal work for poor and mentally ill clients. He currently teaches at Touro College's Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in Central Islip, on Long Island...." More (Newsday 10.03.2007). Comment. There was no need to imprison him. Want to know why I say that? See, extended comments and links at Former judge to serve year under house arrest.
Judicial reform in Saudi Arabia. "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has approved new regulations allowing establishment of a supreme court and specialized labor and commercial tribunals. He also allocated SR7 billion to upgrade judicial facilities. King Abdullah endorsed the new Judiciary Law and the Court of Grievances Law as well as their executive bylaws on Monday. The new laws emphasized the authority of judges in taking independent decisions without being influenced by others...." More (Arab News 10.03.2007).
Judge as anachronism? "Goal judges, whose sole time-honored duty was to flip on the red light behind every NHL net when they saw the puck get across the goal line, won't be seeing the action from as close up this season. Their premium spot, behind the glass and directly in line with the net, is not theirs anymore...[T]ruth be told, goal judges are now an anachronism. The two-referee system (phased in during the 1998-99 season and fully implemented by 2000-01) and video replay judges have made it so. In addition, league executives monitoring each game from their Toronto offices have the authority to make final decisions on controversial goals...." More (L.A. Times 10.03.2007). Comment. Will as-yet-unimagined technological advances ever make common-law judges similarly superfluous and anachronistic?
Daughter of judge is on trial for intoxication manslaughter. "The daughter of a Harris County juvenile court judge cursed a police officer, made an obscene gesture and was uncooperative in a hospital emergency room after her boyfriend died in a crash in which she was accused of driving drunk, jurors learned Tuesday. Elizabeth Shelton, 20, who is standing trial on a charge of intoxication manslaughter, also mentioned her father's judicial position when a Ben Taub General Hospital nurse tried to draw blood to determine her blood-alcohol concentration, prosecutor Paul Doyle told the jury...." More (Houston Chronicle 10.03.2007). Comment. We'll presume her innocent unless and until she's properly convicted. If she is convicted, we hope she's properly held accountable but at the same time we hope the punishment is not excessive. We're too big on punishment and not big enough on rehabilitation in this country. See, my 2004 campaign essay/position paper on Crime and Punishment. Update. Daughter is convicted, gets four months sentence (Houston Chronicle 10.10.2007).
Legal year begins with reading of the 'Letters Patent.' "Winchester Crown Court marked the beginning of the new legal year with a centuries-old traditional ceremony today (October 2). The court's judges, barristers, clerks and ushers attended the reading of the Letters Patent, an annual event...At the conclusion of the reading, the clerk proclaimed 'God Save the Queen' to end the ceremony. The judges then retired. The legal year is made up of four terms; Michaelmas runs from October to December, Hilary from January to April, Easter from April to May and Trinity from June to July." More (This is Hampshire - UK 10.02.2007).
Outgoing CJ says interference by pols 'tormented him beyond description.' "Weng Yueh-sheng waited for seven long years to give vent to his pent-up emotions against what he terms repeated political interference in the administration of justice. In a farewell speech, the outgoing president of the Judicial Yuan charged 'some people' yesterday with 'trampling on justice,' that made his heart bleed and tormented him beyond description, while he was in office. Lai In-jaw, a holder of a Harvard S.J.D., succeeded Weng. The presiden[cy] of the Judicial Yuan is...equivalent to the Chief Justice[ship] of the U.S. Supreme Court...." More (China Post - Opinion 10.02.2007). Comment. Joe Hung, in an op/ed piece, says that "[f]or a long time, Weng has been criticized as a judicial marshmallow." He argues that Weng "failed to defend the independence of the power of judiciary" while chief and asks rhetorically why Weng waited until he was no longer chief to call the problem to the public's attention.
Judge slams top Philly law firms, lawyers for 'dragging their feet.' "Delivering a blistering rebuke, a federal judge slammed some of the region's top law firms and lawyers, saying they deliberately dragged their feet in producing evidence in a class-action lawsuit...." More (Philadelphia Inquirer 10.02.2007). Comment. Two of my Grandpa Otto (NMN) Herfindahl's favorite expressions were "Philadelphia lawyer" and "That's one for Boston" (the latter uttered often when playing Norwegian whist in our house on Christmas Eve's in the late1940's and 1950's). Who knows but what Otto, who only had an eighth-grade rural school education, subliminally influenced me to go to HLS in Boston (well, Cambridge) and become a Philadelphia (well, Minneapolis) lawyer.
Judge vows to put an end to gang violence. "Judge Mary Fahy has vowed to put an end to the gang culture and growing level of street violence occurring in Oranmore village. The Judge has warned she will deal severely with those found guilty of assaults and public order offences there from now on. Judge Fahy said from now on she would deal personally with all such charges and would not allow Oranmore cases to be heard by visiting judges at special court sittings...." More (Galway News - Ireland 10.02.2007). Comment. A judge's job is to keep her cool, to "keep [her] head while all about...are losing theirs," to be an impartial referee or neutral judicial arbiter, to 'strike the balance true,' not to be an active part of either a war on crime (or, for that matter, a war on terror).
The collected text messages of Judge Khan? "You are a lovely sh*g" (or was it "U r a luvly sh*g"?), "delicious sex," "chocolate lover," "real hot chilli stuff" -- these are among the "saucy texts" Judge Mohammed Ilyas Khan, 61, sent to "sexy" Roselane Driza, the cleaning woman, "from his chambers before delivering verdicts on immigration trials." -- From a long update on Driza, with pics, in the British tabloid, The Sun. More (The Sun 10.02.2007). Further reading. For links to many of our earlier postings on the judicial "love triangle" scandal involving Driza, Khan, and a female judge, see, my entry titled Annals of judicial internet dating.
Repentant judge gets clemency. "The Supreme Court has granted judicial clemency to a Quezon City judge earlier fined for malfeasance, paving the way for him to seek promotion. In an eight-page en banc resolution penned by Associate Justice Renato Corona, the high tribunal decided to extend compassion to Judge Augustus Diaz, presiding judge of Branch 37 of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City, after noting that he has 'expressed sincere repentance for his past malfeasance.'" More (Manila Standard - Philippines 10.02.2007).
Remembering the swearing-in of Thurgood Marshall 40 years ago. "Forty years ago today, when African-Americans were referred to as 'Negro' in newsprint and 'black' or 'colored' in conversation, a civil-rights champion from Baltimore was sworn in as the first nonwhite justice on the highest court in the land...." Excellent piece worth reading in full. Click here (Baltimore Sun 10.02.2007).
Irish citizen is arraigned in U.S. court by satellite link-up. "Legal history was made in an Irish court today when an Irish businessman was arraigned by a US Federal judge via international satellite video link in relation to a corporate accounting scandal which wiped more than $1bn from the share price of communications giant Enterasys. It was the first time an Irish citizen has been arraigned in Ireland by a judge sitting in a foreign court...." More (Evening Echo - Ireland 10.02.2007).
The problem with N.Y.'s judicial elections. "[T]he whole process is a sham. It has the trappings of democracy, but it is not democratic at all. Candidates who want to be elected to a New York State Supreme Court judgeship have no way, short of being given the nod by the bosses, to compete for the voters' favor. The voters have no real hope of having their votes make a difference in the election. The New York-based United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rightly ruled that this system of non-elections...denied candidates and voters 'a realistic opportunity to participate in the nominating process'...." More (NYT - Editorial 10.02.2007). Comment. SCOTUS hears arguments on the law this week. New York's elections differ from Minnesota's, which are as open and free as the sky above us. One problem with the MN Plan is that retiring judges subvert the framers' intent by retiring before their terms are up, thereby giving the governor the right to make an interim appointment of a lawyer who serves until the next election, at which time any attorney may run against the appointee, if he/she chooses to run. The problem is, not many attorneys who would make good judges have the guts to run. Many fear that by running they will upset the apple cart, offending the people who control the appointment process -- primarily the bar association and the politicians. Still, the MN Plan is better than the Missouri Plan that the self-styled good-government folks want to foist on us. That would take away the voters' right to select judges and replace it with a retention system. In terms of giving the voters no real voice, the Missouri Plan is akin to the archaic and pathetic New York Plan, which leaves the voters with at best the chance to, as the NYT editorial puts it, rubber-stamp decisions made by the insiders. The Missouri Plan gives the voters every now and then a chance to say no to judges picked by the insiders, but no direct voice or choice, ever, in selection of judges. The MN Plan, which has served us well, says, in effect, "The people, yes!" And that is what democracy is all about.
What's the matter with Justice? "Brooke Astor, the aristocrat who spent her long life giving away millions of dollars, carefully arranged to continue her philanthropy after she died. But her favorite charities fear that the nasty family fight over her estate could bleed millions more from the bequest she left. The judge overseeing the estate battle has warned -- perhaps in jest, perhaps not -- that if the case is left to the lawyers, it will be litigated until the entire $198 million is gone -- much like the fictional Jarndyce and Jarndyce case that cast its gloom over Charles Dickens' Bleak House." More (AP.Google 10.02.2007). Comment. Is it any wonder that many ordinary people think that in some ways and in some areas ours is a government of lawyers, by lawyers, and for lawyers. Given the fact that our legislators and our courts have not figured out a way to prevent lawyers from "milking a divorce case," "bleeding a testator's estate," and "fleecing a 'guarded' ward's estate," what else would ordinary people think?
Deputies delay court by 'doing everything by the book' work slowdown. "A work slowdown by deputies Monday morning caused delays in courtrooms throughout Orange County as defendants appeared almost 1½ hours late for some hearings. Contract negotiations between sheriff's deputies and the county have been stalled for nearly a year...[A union leader] said deputies were merely 'following policies and procedures,' such as searching every prisoner getting on and off vehicles transporting them to court...[P]olice unions[, which are not allowed to strike,] often engage in work slowdowns during contract disputes, said...[an expert on labor law]...." More (L.A. Times 10.02.2007).
Lawyers in 'twin cities' boycott courts. "Hundreds of lawyers in the twin cities [of Islamabad and Rawalpindi] boycotted the courts as rallies were staged across the country to protest the brutal...actions of the law enforcement agencies against lawyers and journalists on Saturday, in which many advocates and media personnel were seriously injured...[by] baton charge and teargas attack on [them] when they were protesting in front of the Election Commission against the filing of General Musharraf's nomination papers." More (Daily Times - Pakistan 10.02.2007).
Ex-FBI agent on trial for murder, waives jury, lets 'radical' judge decide fate. "Can a one-time campus radical who was surveilled by the FBI be a fair judge for an ex-FBI agent on trial for murder? Former FBI supervisory agent Roy Lindley DeVecchio -- facing four murder counts for allegedly helping his Mafia informant -- is betting his life on it. DeVecchio, 67, got the fall jurisprudence season off to a bang this morning by announcing that he wants Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Gustin Reichbach -- rather than a jury of his peers -- to decide if he's guilty as charged of helping his top mob informant murder four rivals...." More (Village Voice 10.02.2007). Comment. The FBI "targeted" Reichbach for surveillance as a "dangerous radical" in the late 1960's when Reichbach was a student at Columbia Law School. Now he's a judge. The "change" doesn't prove much one way or the other. Student radicals do change as they grow up, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Norman Coleman, our Republican U.S. Senator here in MN, was -- if the long entry on him in Wikipedia is to be believed -- a long-haired pot-smoking anti-war radical Democrat on the campus of Hofstra University as an undergrad; but of late he's been a gung-ho chicken-hawk supporter of the invasion of Iraq and tough-on-crime pol who opposes liberalizing drug laws, etc. As former Vice-President Walter Mondale put it cogently during a debate with Coleman in 2002, "We've seen you shift around, Norman." DeVecchio perhaps is betting that, given Reichbach's experience as a target of the FBI, Reichbach will go out of his way to avoid the appearance of bias against a former FBI agent. It may be a good strategy. We don't know. We doubt it'd be a good strategy if the former radical judging him were not Gustin Reichbach but Norm Coleman.
Judge Thomas resigns! No, not Clarence -- Herman: "Beleaguered Mobile County Circuit Judge Herman Y. Thomas -- already suspended from the bench for alleged ethical violations -- made his removal permanent Monday afternoon by resigning from office...." More (Press-Register - AL 10.02.2007). Update. "Presiding Circuit Judge Charles Graddick [has] remove[d] any sign of Thomas from the courthouse...'There is no evidence that I know of that he ever existed in this building,' Graddick said, 'and if I find something else, that will be gone, too.' As presiding judge, Graddick has been particularly forceful over the last year in expressing disappointment in his one-time colleague as allegations followed allegations about Thomas' behavior in and out of the courthouse...." More (Press-Register 10.03.2007).
Did hostile advocates turn confident judge into 'weeping, devastated woman'? "Hostile Free State advocates ha[ve] turned a once-confident judge into a weeping, devastated woman, the Judicial Service Commission [was told]. Judge Shamin Ebrahim, of the Free State High Court, [who] wants to be transferred out of the province...told the JSC panel interviewing judge candidates in Cape Town yesterday that hostile and acrimonious advocates made life miserable for her...'They were simply not ready to accept a female judge,' she said...." More (South African Star - 10.02.2007).
Courthouse is 'too dusty' for judges. "Judges assigned to the Nakawa High Court Central Circuit are increasingly keeping away from the premises, largely to avoid the dusty environment...The court is located along a stretch of the murram road between Mbuya Hill and Nakawa near the Uganda Revenue Authority headquarters. The stretch is dusty during the dry season and turns muddy when it rains. The once sparkling court buildings that were refurbished a few years ago have turned dirty brown. The source said the court files and furniture are filled with dust...." More (The Monitor via All Africa - Uganda 10.01.2007). Comment. How can a judge dust off an old precedent if it isn't dusty?
Judging wine -- or why we have multi-judge appellate courts. "Tasting is not an exact science. It's possible for a wine to win a gold medal at one competition and zilch at the other. I disagree with the idea that such competitions are lotteries, however. Good and especially great wines have a habit of floating to the top...I've selected a handful of wines that did well in [two top] competitions. If that many judges rate a wine, then you can be confident it's worth buying...." -- Tim Atkin on "Judge cred." More (UK Guardian 10.01.2007). Comment. You can't be confident that a seven- or nine-member appellate court will "get it right," but the multiplicity of members arguably -- although not always in reality -- increases the chances your case will be carefully considered. When I say "your case," I refer to your legal case, not to your case of wine. If you give the judges a case of wine, then you can be sure your case (of wine) will be carefully considered. (Just joking.)
Retired probate judge writes, publishes novel. "Adultery, cocaine, corruption and the mob -- all in a day's work in the Corner Office of the State House, as cooked up in Old City Hall, the salty debut novel by retired Probate and Family Court Judge Gerald D. McLellan...'There are things in (the book) I could never say as a judge, things about the process of divorce in Massachusetts that, at the very least, are disconcerting,' McLellan said... If at the end of Old City Hall you think McLellan only left himself the kitchen sink on which to base his next work, you'd be wrong. McLellan's second book, he announced with glee, is about a cross-dressing lawyer." More (Boston Herald 10.01.2007). Comment. Speaking of cross-dressing in the legal profession, what's the deal with the long, flowing gowns judges wear? See, How can men in long, flowing gowns uphold ban on gay marriage?
Left-wing zealots in flowing gowns? "[Thomas] reserves particular scorn for the Democratic senators who tried to prevent his confirmation. One made him think of a 'slave owner,' while he says his worst fears about white people came to pass 'not in Georgia, but in Washington, DC, where I was being pursued not by bigots in white robes but by left-wing zealots draped in flowing sanctimony.'" -- From a newspaper piece about Justice Clarence Thomas's book, My Grandfather's Son. More (UK Times 10.01.2007).
When Clarence Thomas holds a book party. "On the book party invitation list for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas: actor Will Smith, Barbara Walters, CBS Sports' James Brown, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, Charles Barkley, Bob Jones of the university, the Rev. Al Sharpton and NAACP president Julian Bond." More (Kansas City Star 10.01.2007). Comment. You should see who's on the invite list for the party for my new book. The thing is, I can put anyone I want on the invite list. Getting them to come -- now that's another matter.
The influence of 'Calvin and Hobbes' on judicial decisionmaking. "On weekday mornings, Circuit Judge Ernest Jones dons his judicial robes and strides into what is arguably one of the most stressful courtrooms in the 10th Judicial Circuit: dependency court, where the judge hears cases concerning children who have been abused or neglected by a parent. How does he handle it? Well, one of his secret weapons may be Calvin and Hobbes. In his judicial chambers, Jones has a huge book of cartoons about the antics of the rascally grade-schooler and his stuffed tiger. 'I read that every morning. That way I always start my day with a smile,' Jones said...." More (The Ledger - FLA 10.01.2007). Comment. Back in 1995, when I was serving as deputy commissioner of the state supreme court, a woman I was close to gave me, among other things, a collection of Calvin and Hobbes strips. Did reading the strips improve my performance in the office? What can I say? I'm a modest man. Humble as can be. The most modest, humble guy you ever saw. (I'm saying that I'm modest with tongue in cheek, alluding to my previous pronouncements that I'm wary of judges who toss about terms like "modesty" and "humility." My fellow Norwegians are good at faux modesty and it has always irritated the hell out of me. They want you to think they're modest and humble, when deep down they really think they're pretty hot stuff. One wants to say to some of them, as Golda Meier, the late Prime Minister of Israel, said to a member of her cabinet, "Don't be so humble, you're not that great.")
SCOTUS' Roman Catholic majority attends annual pre-term 'Red Mass.' "Before beginning their term on the first Monday in October, six of the nine Supreme Court justices have attended the Roman Catholic church's annual Red Mass in Washington. The court's Catholic majority, consisting of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito, were joined by Justice Stephen Breyer, who's Jewish...." More (KXMC 10.01.2007). Note. Souter is self-described as "Episcopalian" and Stevens is "Protestant." Source. Justice Breyer, who like Justice Ginsburg is Jewish, is married to a member of the British aristocracy, who presumably is a member of the Church of England (Episcopal). Their daughter Chloe is an Episcopal priest. Source. Comment. If I were a judge, I wouldn't attend a "Red Mass" even if my nomination to SCOTUS depended on it. But that's just me. Further reading. Greek judges dodge holy blessing at start of term (spokesperson says that many of the justices believed their attendance might compromise their neutrality). Update. Marci Hamilton, a teacher at Princeton U. and author of God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law (Cambridge University Press 2005), thinks as I do on this issue. See, Did the Six Supreme Court Justices Who Chose to Attend the 54th Annual 'Red Mass' Exercise Bad Judgment? (FindLaw 10.03.2007).
Black wife of white judge claims discrimination. "If Joyce Davies were a stereotypical judge's wife -- in a twin-set and pearls -- she believes police would not have asked her to get out of her car when they pulled her over to administer a breath test in May last year. And the 63-year-old businesswoman is certain she would not have been dragged from the car, pushed to the ground, blasted with capsicum spray and charged with resisting arrest and assault. 'It happened, even though people don't want to confront it, because I am black,' Ms Davies said yesterday. Now Ms Davies, the wife of a retired NSW District Court judge, Joe Gibson, is contemplating a civil lawsuit against police for racial discrimination and the excessive use of force...." More (SMH - AU 10.01.2007).
Waiting for justice. "In countries such as Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, and Uganda, speedy resolution of disputes is becoming increasingly elusive. Although these countries have constitutional provisions against delay, and have identified congestion, excessive adjournments, local legal culture and corruption as some of the major causes of delay, nevertheless, the problem continues to be a feature in courts. In Nigeria, the average period to commence and complete litigation is six to ten years, but there situation where cases drag for as long as 20 years...." More (This Day 10.01.2007).
Judge on trial for DWI is 'model of prim sobriety.' "Judge Nkola Motata is almost prim as he sits in the dock in court 35. With a bottle of mineral water next to him, the judge carefully underlines photocopied court documents with his silver pen and occasionally expresses surprise with the raising of an eyebrow.
He could be presiding over the trial of an accused murderer or deciding a difficult custody dispute, but he is not. Motata, so dignified and austere in his dark suits and expensive ties, is on trial for a thoroughly undignified crime: driving under the influence of alcohol...." More (IOL - South Africa 09.30.2007). Comment. That's a great attention-grabbing paragraph that could be used in Journalism 101.
Federal judge is reprimanded over sexual harassment. "A judicial council has reprimanded federal Judge Samuel B. Kent of Galveston after a four-month secret investigation into serious allegations of a pattern of sexual impropriety and abuse of power. In the most recent incident, Kent is accused of harassing and inappropriately touching his 49-year-old case manager in his chambers in March...Court rules keep investigations into judicial misconduct secret. The rules prohibit court employees from speaking about investigations into the conduct of judges...." More (Houston Chronicle 09.29.2007). Comment. As we noted earlier, the judge has been serving a four-month paid leave of absence. An ex-employee said the expanded investigation was based on additional allegations that the "specific McBroom incident was part of a larger pattern of sexual harassment by the judge against McBroom and other employees," that the judge "sometimes appeared inebriated on the job," and that he "inappropriately favored former colleagues and other[s]...in his decisions and in overseeing settlement negotiations." Update. "In Texas the word 'reprimand' carries all the force of a dandelion in a breeze. This is a state where we not only execute murderers, we charge 10-year-olds with felonies for mistakenly setting off fire alarms. A reprimand, in the mind of a Texan, falls somewhere between a raised eyebrow and a slap on the wrist. But when federal judges reprimand each other, it's a big deal. And it's not a big deal...." Rick Casey addresses the rarity of reprimands in the federal system: they're a big deal because of their rarity, but they're not a big deal in their impact on the judge in question. More (Houston Chronicle 10.03.2007). Update. "The order [reprimanding Judge Kent] is not exactly a model of clarity. Is it possible former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is now ghost-writing for the 5th Circuit? First, it's not at all clear what Kent did. The order makes vague references to a complaint...[It] says that...a majority of the 10 appeals judges and nine federal district judges sitting on the council voted to reprimand Kent. The nature of the punishment is no clearer. The order says merely that 'appropriate remedial action had been and will be taken, including but not limited to the Judge's four-month leave of absence from the bench, reallocation of the Galveston/Houston docket and other measures.' What did he actually do? What is the punishment? If we find out, it won't be from our government." - From a good op/ed piece by Rick Casey. More (Houston Chronicle 09.30.2007). Comment. Federal judges are always moaning and groaning about threats to judicial independence. How often do you hear them talk about judicial transparency and accountability? For some of my views on judicial accountability, see, Judicial independence and its pal, judicial accountability (and links embedded in it) and the accompanying mini-essays ("The 'uncritical lovers' of the judiciary" and "The 'unloving critics' of the judiciary," followed by "A flurry of stories about judicial independence and judicial accountability"). For one Scot's views, read on...
'Murmur, but don't talk back.' "Why do judges wear wigs? The same reason they used to pretend not to know about the Beatles -- because they want to convey the impression they are above and apart from society. Fashion and politics don't influence them, for they are the guardians of the eternal flame of law -- the nearest thing we have to divine authority. And like divine authority, they cannot be second-guessed -- at least not by upstart law officers who aren't even members of the Faculty of Advocates. So, when Elish Angiolini publicly challenged the decision of the judge in the World's End murder case to abort the trial, wigs fairly flew in Edinburgh's New Club and other legal watering holes. Who is this woman? By what right? Married to a hairdresser too!" -- From a deftly-written op/ed piece by Iain Macwhirter. (Sunday Herald - Scotland 09.30.2007). Comment. Macwhirter says that "murmuring a judge, for those not familiar with the term, was a criminal offence back in the days when journalists were not allowed to question the rulings of a court." He adds, "Nowadays, they don't so much murmur as scream at the top of their voices." But Macwhirter suggests that voluntary self-imposed restraint by the press on "murmering" too loudly has merit: "[A]re judges to be given similar rights? They don't -- and cannot -- have a right of reply. Imagine if judges started holding press conferences to put their side of the story -- you'd soon have the legal equivalent of the Jeremy Kyle Show... It's an archaic convention that no-one murmurs a judge -- but it is not one we are ready to abandon." For our views, see, again, our mini-essays, "The 'uncritical lovers' of the judiciary" and "The 'unloving critics' of the judiciary." Click here.
'Murmuring Judges,' the play. "The power of the piece lies in its juxtapositions of lawyers, police officers and offenders so that we see the gulfs between them. This is a play about different Englands. One England spends nights at the opera and believes that the country comes to a standstill at Sunday lunchtime so everyone can listen to Desert Island Discs; another is up to its neck in debt and despair. In between stand the police and prison officers, endlessly processing those handed on to them...." -- From a review of a revival of David Hare's play, Murmuring Judges, in the UK Guardian. More (UK Guardian 04.09.2003).
'Murmuring the Judges,' the mystery novel. "In Edinburgh's old Parliament House, an armed robbery trial is about to take a macabre turn. While the lawyers tussle over the evidence, the judge suddenly collapses in mortal agony -- the victim of an apparant heart attack. For Deputy Chief Constable Bob Skinner, with his life finally back on track after the near-collapse of his marriage, the last thing he needs is to be faced with the most baffling case of his career. But as the wave of brutal robberies continues, it emerges that Lord Archergait's death may have been murder -- and he's not the only judge whose life is in danger. With a gang of ruthless killers still at large, it's down to Skinner to piece together a puzzle of sinister complexity." Ad for Quintin Jardine's mystery novel, Murmuring the Judges. More (QuintinJardine.Com).
Murmuring the judges in India -- how the judiciary approaches criticism. "I hope our lordships are aware that this altercation [a reference to the so-called 'Justice Sabharwal affair'] has gone beyond Judiciary vs Media battle, it has widened and broadened into a Judiciary vs Civil Society battle. Two grave and critical issues have got entangled: 1) The absence of any mechanism to judge the judges; 2) Freedom of speech. Each issue by itself has the potential to inflict permanent damage on the authority and the majesty of the higher courts. This is no more a question of whether four journalists should be sentenced to short-term imprisonment. We are now in new and extremely dangerous territory where the constitutional protectors and defenders of our cherished right to free speech are accused of killing it. I hope the irony is not lost in the lofty chambers of the Supreme Court...." -- From a cogent op/ed piece by Vinod Mehta in Hindustan Times titled "Judges-journos bhai-bhai." More (Hindustan Times 09.30.2007).
A judge is 'slammed' for 'suicide advice.' "A judge who told a man with a history of mental health problems: 'The next time you want to commit suicide, find somewhere quiet to do it' has been slammed by charity workers. Emotional support charity The Samaritans has lambasted Judge Peter Bowers after he gave advice to dad-of-three Stephen Arnold on how he should kill himself if he ever wanted to take his life again. Arnold, who appeared in court last week, had downed 150 paracetamol tablets and been involved in a car chase with police at speeds of up to 130mph in June this year...." More (Sunday Sun - UK 09.30.2007).
Two months after pay hike, judges want another one - Whaa?! "Pity the Superior Court judges of New Jersey. They have to make do on just $149,000 annually. Two months after they got an $8,000-a-year raise, they're looking for another salary hike. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Stu Rabner thinks they should get it...Enough already of what first-year lawyers make and how much the feds pay judges. These people knew what the job paid when they accepted it. If they're unhappy, let them jump into the shark tank with their ambulance-chasing brethren...." -- From an op/ed piece by Bob Ingle. More (Cherry Hill Courier-Post - NJ 09.30.2007).
Why judges like Scottish cheddar. "Seriously Strong Cheddar, which is made in Stranraer by the Caledonian Cheese Company, beat off competition from more than 800 other products to take the first prize at the British Cheese Awards... Seriously Strong Cheddar was described by the judges as having a 'very firm, biteable, crumbly texture. Strong forthright confident cheddar flavour with very distinct sweet notes. Balanced with a distinct but not an overriding aggressive acidity. The finish is mouth-tingling but not vigorously aggressive. It is exactly what's on the packet -- seriously strong and seriously good.'" More (The Scotsman 09.30.2007). Comment. I wonder what cheese would be the favorite of common law judges. Here in the U.S., maybe Velveeta.
Developments in the law: small claims court reform. "What might a high-tech small claims court more in tune with the times look like? In such a court one can 'travel to the courthouse' with the click of a mouse and gain access to filing forms via the Web. One need not take time off from work to have one's case heard, engage in endless dialogue with court clerks or wait for the return of self-addressed envelopes to obtain a complaint form. Nor need one wait, sometimes for an extended period of time, to have a case resolved, as often occurs...." More (Boston Globe - Op/Ed 09.29.2007). Comment. The authors, Ethan Katsh and Jeff Aresty, state also that there is "rampant exploitation of small claims by unscrupulous loan companies," but, unless I missed it (it's early in the morning), don't clearly articulate how the proposed reforms, which make sense in any event, will end that "exploitation." Further reading. For my innovative proposal for small claims court reform -- which could save public money, teach law students and others, and benefit the public by letting law schools run our urban conciliation courts -- see, BurtLaw's 'Modest Proposal.'
Judge John Deed comes close to betraying his lover! "As played by [Martin] Shaw, [Judge John] Deed is a complex and volatile mix of arrogance, erudition, wisdom, self-righteousness, vulnerability and at-times impulsiveness -- particularly when his messy private affairs impinge on his scrutinised and morally forthright career in the court. Which is exactly what happens tonight, when he comes dangerously close to betraying his on-again, off-again lover, barrister Jo Mills QC, (Jenny Seagrove)...." More (SMH - AU 09.29.2007). Comment. I've never seen any of the Judge Deed episodes. I'd like to.
Council member calls judge's views about trash collection 'absolute rubbish.' "A judge today backed an academic who refused to pay her council tax after blaming the city's controversial fortnightly bin collections for rats in her home. Dr Frances Kennett, 62, was told by district judge Brian Loosley she had no legal excuse to skip the monthly instalment to Oxford City Council in protest. But he did tell her he believed there was a connection between the city's switch from weekly to fortnightly general rubbish collection and the rats in her home in Great Clarendon Street, Jericho. Tonight, Jean Fooks, the city council's executive member for a cleaner city, described the judge's view as 'absolute rubbish'...." More (Oxford Mail 09.29.2007).
How do you protect judges from being thrown about? "Showing societies are to tackle a growing problem of judges being thrown in the ring. Simon Somers broke ribs last summer at the Bath and West Show, then dislocated his shoulder in a fall from a hunter he was judging at a show over the August bank holiday. Another judge, Ian Smeeth, had a fall at the Royal, Allen Mickleburgh rode a horse that 'reared spectacularly' at the Derbyshire Festival of Showing and Lucy Killingbeck told H&H she has had more horses 'trying to dump' her this year than in her entire career as a judge. Earlier this year, the British Show Horse Association (BSHA) set up an accident reporting system, through which its board will investigate such incidents...'In New Zealand, America and Australia, there is no ride judging, and unless people take responsibility for their horses in the ring, it'll be the same here,' [Simon Somers] pointed out...." More (Horse & Hound - UK 09.28.2007). Comment. Here in America there's a somewhat analogous problem: trial judges sustaining injuries from Night-Court-style courtroom hijinx, as in a bailiff pulling the chair from under a judge as he's about to sit down behind the bench. In 2006, believe it or not, 28 judges sought workers compensation based on injuries resulting from practical jokes in the courtroom or in chambers. NOT.
Stand up, sit down -- which is it? "Attorney Virginia Murtha-Cowley just wrapped up a case in front of Judge Ann Lokuta and took a seat. She shouldn't have. 'Why are you sitting down?' the judge asked, according to Murtha-Cowley. 'You sit down when this jurist tells you to sit down!' So, Murtha-Cowley testified Thursday, she kept standing -- even after the next case was called. She shouldn't have done that, either. 'Why are you standing?' Lokuta boomed, according to Murtha-Cowley. 'Now you're just being ridiculous.' That type of humiliating, contradicting demand unfolded in front of others inside Lokuta's courtroom, Murtha-Cowley testified. But it really wasn't that humiliating for Murtha-Cowley, Lokuta's attorney, Louis Sinatra, argued. It was Murtha-Cowley who purposely engaged in the 'childish' act, in an attempt to give Lokuta a 'comical' payback, Sinatra argued in his intense cross-examination of the attorney...." The ongoing soap opera -- er, hearing -- involving the conduct or misconduct of Judge Ann Lokuta continues. More (Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader 09.28.2007).
Toilet paper thief on the loose at courthouse. "Officials at the Fond du Lac City County Government Center are on the lookout for a toilet paper thief. Since the beginning of summer, toilet paper has apparently been repeatedly stolen from the men's bathrooms throughout the building, said Fond du Lac County Executive Allen Buechel...." More (Fond du Lac Reporter - WI 09.28.2007). Comment. Time for an undercover courthouse toilet sting operation in order to protect the public from toilet shenanigans?
'Health courts' a big waste of money? "A groundbreaking new report on health courts by Case Western Reserve University professors Max Mehlman and Dale Nance finds that health courts would be burdensome, prohibitively expensive and would come at the expense of injured patients. The report prepared under a grant from the American Association for Justice Robert L. Habush Endowment, finds that health courts would require the creation of new and costly bureaucracies that would be controlled at every level by the insurance industry...." More (PRNewswire 09.28.2007).
Another judge in trouble over dismissing parking tickets? "At Jersey City's Municipal Court, where the parking enforcement Thursday was busy at work, word of the scandal spread quickly. Wanda Molina is no longer a judge here after sources say she disposed of parking tickets issued to a woman with whom she is believed to be romantically involved...." More (WCBS-TV 09.28.2007).
Law clerks' three-day celebration of 85-year-old federal judge. "'Some judges don't interact much with their law clerks,' said Muyiwa Bamiduro, a University of Maryland law school graduate who just finished a one-year clerkship for [Judge Damon] Keith, a member of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. 'What makes Judge Keith so special is that he spends countless hours teaching you life lessons.' To show appreciation for what they learned, Bamiduro, 26, and scores of other former law clerks plan to pay tribute to their 85-year-old mentor during a three-day celebration that starts today...Keith, the longest-serving black federal judge in the nation...has hired more minority law clerks -- African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and women -- than any federal judge, based on court records. All told, 80 of the 87 law clerks Keith has hired over the years are minorities, Bamiduro said...." More (Detroit Free Press 09.28.2007). Comment. Might one fairly say that white men need not apply?
Can a non-Muslim be a Sharia Court judge? "The Council for Islamic Ideology (CII) has said in its report on Hudood and Tazeerat that a non-muslim can be a judge of the Federal Sharia Court if he has knowledge of the Sharia Law...." More (Malaysia Sun 09.28.2007).
Technology report: a new tool in the judicial arsenal -- the photocopier. "In a 'small but firm step to promote quicker judicial proceedings' in the Capital, 20 more photocopiers will be installed in Sessions Courts here to 'fulfill a constitutional obligation' the state government owes to poor convicts...." More (Express-India 09.28.2007). Comment. Perhaps now our courts can outsource their photocopying to paralegals in India.
Judge says prosecutor should have kept her criticism of ruling 'private.' "Lord Hamilton, the lord justice general, yesterday claimed that Elish Angiolini, who as lord advocate oversees the Scottish prosecution system, was putting the rule of law at 'serious risk' after she openly criticised a judge's decision to stop the World's End murder trial...Yesterday, Lord Hamilton said...: 'Public criticism in a political forum of particular decisions, especially in controversial and sensitive areas, is in my view inappropriate'... Mrs Angiolini rejected Lord Hamilton's complaints...[She] said she had clearly defended the independence of the judiciary in her statement and [the trial judge's] right to make his decision. But the controversy surrounding [the] acquittal and widespread attacks on her department's handling of the case meant she was obliged to make a statement...." More (UK Guardian 09.28.2007). Comment. Funny, you never hear a judge say one should keep one's praise of the judiciary or a judicial decision "private."
Judge who called man a 'pig' agrees to step down; may become TV judge. "A Family Court judge, criticized for intemperate comments such as calling a man 'a pig,' has agreed to step down permanently when her term on the bench expires at the end of the year. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct, the agency that monitors the conduct of judges, said Thursday it began investigating the courtroom behavior of Bronx Judge Marian R. Shelton but stopped when she agreed to leave...when her 10-year term expires on Dec. 31...Published reports say Shelton, appointed in 1998 by then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, has offers to star on television in a role similar to 'Judge Judy' Sheindlin's...." More (Newsday 09.28.2007). Comment. We admire a person's taking a minus and turning it into a plus. If she gets a gig as a TV judge, then the more she calls people "pigs," the bigger audience she'll draw and the more money she'll make. Reportedly, Judge Judy, the top-rated TV judge, makes over $25 million a year.
Judge declares provisions of Patriot Act unconstitutional. "A federal judge in Oregon ruled Wednesday that crucial parts of the USA Patriot Act were not constitutional because they allowed federal surveillance and searches of Americans without demonstrating probable cause...." More (NYT 09.27.2007).
Comment. The stones of the judiciary grind slowly but they grind exceedingly small. We've been railing against that sad and shameful Act from Day One. Here's one of our first posts on it, at BurtLaw on the War on Terrorism III:
Congressmen pass bill they haven't read. I'm talking about the anti-terrorism bill just passed by Congress and signed by the Prez. Click here for an article in Reason on the shameful process. As the article points out, in response to the events of 09.11, Attorney General Ashcroft's aides "dusted off" some old proposals and plugged them into a bill, telling Congress and the public that they desperately needed the bill if they were going to find those responsible for 09.11 and prevent another 09.11. In times of crisis, Congress always passes some new ill-considered legislation. Witness the legislative hysteria surrounding our entry into WWI. It reminds one of the old directive, "Don't just stand there, do something." Ike once asked, "Have you ever considered doing nothing?" I'm not suggesting that would have been a wise response. I'm saying any changes that affect our liberties should be an improvement on doing nothing. The benefits should outweigh the costs. No evidence of that. No evidence even as to what the bill says. As the article states, it's hard to even find a copy of the bill, much less read it. But it's a sad truth about many of our "governors" -- executives, legislators, judges -- that they don't write their own stuff or even read it. Justice Brandeis once said that what distinguished Justices of the U. S. Supreme Court from others in Government was that "We do our own work." Justice Frankfurter wrote of Chief Justice Hughes that "he could tear the pages of a book off" and that for him the life of a judge was "a scholar's life." It's no longer so, folks. And it's a damn shame. (10.26.2001)
Manager/agent's case against TV's Judge Alex goes to SCOTUS. "TV's Judge Alex is heading to the U.S. Supreme Court -- as a defendant. On Tuesday, the nation's high court agreed to hear the appeal of attorney-manager Arnold Preston, who filed suit against his former client, Alex Ferrer, over alleged unpaid commissions... At issue is whether the Federal Arbitration Act...pre-empts...California's Talent Agencies Act, which governs disputes over whether managers have acted as unlicensed talent agents...[Specifically, may a state] labor commission...void management contracts when the manager allegedly acts [without a license] as an agent and procures employment for [his] client...." More (Hollywood Reporter 09.27.2007).
Commission recommends removal of judge over impairment from Rx drugs. "The state Judiciary Commission recommends that suspended Shreveport City Judge LaLeshia Walker-Alford be permanently removed, a ruling that comes more than 18 months after hearing complaints ranging from her absenteeism to incoherent behavior from the bench...The case arose from numerous complaints of excessive absenteeism, canceled court sessions without prior notice and impairment to the extent that she was inarticulate, incoherent or overtly drowsy. The initial proceeding began following an anonymous complaint dated May 26, 2002...." More (Shreveport Times 09.27.2007).
Lawyer urges judges to stop accepting gifts from lawyers, others. "A renowned private legal practitioner, Mr R. E. Bannerman, has called on judges to desist from accepting gifts from lawyers and members of the public, since the practice has the tendency to compromise their neutrality... According to Mr Bannerman, there had been instances when lawyers gave hampers to judges, especially during Christmas, and narcotic drug dealers presented gifts to judges...." More (MyJoyOnline - Ghana 09.27.2007).
Audit reveals ex-judge's expenditures on 'fancy' items. "A former Jefferson Davis Parish judge spent nearly $19,000 on fancy office furnishings -- including $4,500 in high-end writing pens -- before the state Supreme Court forced him from the bench, according to an audit released this week. Thirty-first Judicial District Judge Wendell Miller was forced to step down in February for a list of ethical violations that included handling his secretary's divorce case while in an affair with the woman and having weekly sexual liaisons with her in his chambers. The recent audit questions about $3,000 in travel expenses, monthly cell phone bills that ranged from $130 to $244 and $18,961 spent on office furnishings during Miller's final year as judge. Miller defended the expenses, including $4,545 paid for seven writing pens that ranged in cost from $300 to $1,250...." More (2TheAdvocate - LA 09.27.2007). Comment. Other items: "a $2,685 mahogany game table, a $2,362 chess set, an $830 marble bust of the Greek god Apollo and a $1,550 barometer." Asked about the expenditures, Miller is quoted as replying, "What are they going to do? Remove me from office?" Further reading. Earlier we explored judicial interior design matters/crises in a mini-essay titled Annals of judicial chambers makeovers - Reining in those wild-spending judges.
A federal magistrate's medical emergency. "Magistrate Judge Patricia Gorence...who seemed perfectly normal for the whole hearing, started talking but the words didn't make any sense, almost like the soundtrack for a movie that was going too fast. She said something else, and everyone in the courtroom started to look at each other. The judge kept talking and the lawyers moved toward the bench, telling her something was wrong. At that point, her face drooped on the right side, but then her normal voice returned and she said she was fine. She was helped from the bench and paramedics were called, arriving about five minutes later...." At press time she was in stable condition in hospital. More (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 09.27.2007).
Security guarding Judge Mukasey filed complaint in 2005. "Emptying the trash, carrying groceries and toting golf clubs were among duties assigned to U.S. marshals protecting two New York federal judges -- one of whom has been nominated to be the next attorney general, a complaint says. The valet-like chores were outlined in a complaint two years ago against Michael Mukasey, another judge and their wives by deputy marshals assigned to the judges' security details...." More (N.Y. Post 09.26.2007). Update. "Protecting former federal judge Michael Mukasey cost taxpayers an estimated $28 million over more than seven years -- or $10,000 a day...[He] was given U.S. Marshals bodyguards while presiding over a high-profile terror trial in the early 1990s, when he served as a U.S. District Court judge in Manhattan. He kept the protections...until 2005 -- nine years after the trial ended...." The security detail ended after the marshals complained. More (A.P. 09.29.2007).
Judge criticizes Tory 'law-and-order' platform. "A London judge weighed in on the Ontario election yesterday, taking aim at the Tory law-and-order platform amid an overcrowding crisis at the local provincial jail. In a rare move, Ontario Court Justice John Getliffe referred to a 'Conservative candidate who wants to tighten things up in the criminal justice system,' but isn't 'saying much for additional accommodation for all these people he wants to lock up.'" More (London Free Press 09.26.2007).
Sheriff's report: chief judge and wife involved in domestic brawl. "A report of a bloody, alcohol-involved domestic brawl involving Chief Circuit Judge Donald Moran Jr. and his wife of 28 years is being investigated by Jacksonville police, a Sheriff's Office report said Tuesday. No arrests were reported...Moran's wife, Elaina, called officers to their home Monday night alleging that she'd been struck by her husband and was bleeding badly from her mouth, the report said. The report said that Elaina Moran, 56, was on an 'emotional roller coaster' as police spoke with her and that she was 'uncooperative.' She described her husband in the report as a good man who would never hurt anyone but also said she endured abuse from him throughout their marriage...." More (Florida Times-Union 09.26.2007). Comment. One shouldn't come to any conclusions about anyone, including a judge or the judge's spouse, on the basis of hearsay information contained in a report relating to a domestic dispute. Update. Judge's wife drops abuse claim, says she lied. "The wife of Chief Circuit Judge Donald Moran Jr. has told police that she lied about being beaten by her husband because she had been drinking and wanted to embarrass him, according to police reports...'I lied. I tried to get him and hurt him. I'm the abuser. I lied to police. You could probably arrest me for that,' Elaina Moran told investigators Tuesday in a follow-up interview to the initial report filed Monday night. Moran also said she repeatedly struck her husband during the incident at their San Marco home and suffered a bloody mouth and swelling when she fell and hit her chin on the floor...But he never hit her, the report said...." More (Florida Times-Union 09.28.2007). Prosecutor won't charge either judge or wife (Florida Times-Union 09.29.2007).
Justices to charge columnist with contempt over allegation re one of them. On 09.18.2007 Amado Macasaet wrote, in part: "A lady justice did not report for a day last week. Her secretary received a gift-wrapped box [which later turned out to be five boxes] about the size of two dozen milk cans. Believing that the gift might be something perishable, she opened the box. Indeed, it was a gift -- estimated at P10 million. Posthaste, the secretary informed the magistrate about the gift. She thought she was doing her job. The lady justice fired her instead." Now the press is reporting that the 14 justices of the supreme court are circulating a resolution ordering Macasaet to explain why he shouldn't be held in indirect contempt. Associate Justice Consuelo Yñares Santiago, the "lady justice" who did not report to work on the day in question, says the allegations are lies and has threatened to seek criminal charges against Macasaet and his sources. More (Manila Standard Today 09.26.2007).
A judge reverses himself: 'I was wrong, wrong.' "Late last month, Justice M. Mishra of Calcutta's Sealdah Court sent a woman who slapped a traffic constable to three days' judicial remand. But just as the prison van carrying her was about to set off, he retracted the order and set her free. 'I realised I was wrong...wrong,' Justice Mishra is reported to have told the lawyers present. The woman had hit the traffic constable because she and her daughter were nearly run over by a bus and she held the policeman responsible for it...." More (The Telegraph - India 09.26.2007).
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