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.
Police questioned sanity of judge trying case. "Kingston police were intent on pinning the murder of a little girl on her mother and had doubts about the mental stability of the judge presiding over the case, a confidential memo shows...The charge against [the mother] was dropped when it was determined her daughter had been mauled to death by a pit bull and not stabbed to death as pathologist Dr. Charles Smith had wrongly determined." An inquiry has uncovered and made public the memo, written to a crown attorney, in which the police said that according to "very informed sources" the judge hearing the case was mentally ill and that if the right people got this information "he would not be on the bench." More (Toronto Star 01.22.2008). Comment. Just speaking in the abstract and without reference to the parties, who would you rather have -- sane cops who get it wrong or judges of questionable "mental stability" who get it right? Hmm.
Further reading. The work of the pathologist in question has been challenged in at least 12 cases in which people have been convicted of killing babies and children based on his testimony. More (Peterborough Examiner 01.22.2008).
How the video that's rocked Malaysia's judiciary was made. "A businessman testified yesterday that boredom forced him to secretly videotape a lawyer allegedly brokering the appointment of top judges in a scandal that has severely damaged Malaysia's judiciary...In the clip, [the lawyer] identifies the person on the other end of the phone line as Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, who was Malaysia's No. 3 judge at the time. He is heard discussing plans to elevate Ahmad Fairuz to become chief justice with the help of a tycoon and a politician. Ahmad Fairuz went on to become Malaysia's top judge in 2003 and retired last year...." The "videographer" testified he accompanied his dad to the lawyer's home on business and began the surreptitious taping when he got "fed up" over the lawyer's constantly being on the phone: "We were supposed to discuss our legal matters but he was constantly attending to other matters, talking on the phone." More (Taipei Times 01.22.2008).
'Wild horses' couldn't get lobbyist to name high court judge who sought help in appointment. "Lobbyist Frank Dunlop has refused to divulge the name of a current High Court judge he met in 2000 when the man was seeking appointment to the bench...." Dunlop, testifying at the Mahon Tribunal, set up to investigate government corruption, said that "wild horses" couldn't get him to name the judge. More (Irish Independent 01.22.2008).
Courts don't like being collection agency, ask for 10% cut of amount collected. "The judiciary, groaning under a huge pendency of nearly three crore cases, on Monday demanded that it be compensated for giving quick relief to aggrieved parties through a statutorily mandated summary trial in cheque-bouncing cases...." More (Times of India 01.22.2008).
Judge enters fifth day of summing up evidence and instructing jury. "A High Court judge will today enter his fifth day of summing up in the four-month-old 'Cemetery murder trial'..." More (Trinidad and Tobago Express 01.22.2008). Comment. Is that a record or something? In what way is that "summarizing"?
Who's on first? "One month after Judge of Kwara State Justice Fola Gbadeyan was appointed the Acting Chief Judge, ACJ, of Kwara State, he is still being locked out of his office. Reason: His predecessor Justice Raliat Habeeb-Elelu has not vacated the office, creating what appears to be a case of two acting chief judges in one state...." More (Vanguard via AllAfrica - Nigeria 01.21.2008).
New judge resigns after two weeks. "[N]ew [Bluffton, Indiana] City Court judge...Gary Markley submitted his resignation last week, two weeks after he took the job, citing poor record keeping by his predecessor, and his own lack of knowledge of the requirements of the court system...." More (Indiana News Center 01.21.2008).
'Head judge' blogs breathlessly. "I've just been named the head judge! More on that later. Now. My concern going into this as a judge...so many years after being here as a contestant is: will I have the stamina to give each contestant the same attention...whether she's the 48th person I interview, or the 2nd?" - From the blog of Robin Meade, blogging from Miss America Live from Las Vegas (CNN 01.21.2008).
Judge defends secretary's use of e-mail, is irked by FOIA release of it. Circuit Court Judge David Reader's secretary, Jeannine Pratt, used her county e-mail address in sending e-mails to members of the Howell Public Schools Board of Education, of which she is vice-president. Judge Reader rejected FOIA requests by Detroit newspapers seeking the e-mails. The newspapers then sought the e-mails by filing a request with the county's Information Technology Department, which granted the request without the judge's knowledge, unwittingly giving the newspapers access not just to the personal e-mails sent to board members but to other e-mails sent by Pratt containing sensitive court information. The judge says he's "disturbed" by this and the IT people are "remorseful." As for the use of the county e-mail address for personal e-mails, the judge says that while the county does have a policy against such use, he noted that Pratt's personal use averaged out to 1.4 e-mails per week, which he labelled "incidental use." More (Detroit Daily Press and Argus 01.20.2008). Comment. If one thinks of a court employee's desktop computer as a) an extension of the desk, which employees have traditionally been allowed to use on lunch hours, etc., for reading, etc., and b) as a form of communication with the outside world not that different from a court telephone, which employees have traditionally been allowed to use for personal calls that don't interfere with work or cost the court extra money, then perhaps one might have the basis for devising sensible rules on personal use of court computers by employees that everyone can live with. Generally, courts ought to allow reasonable personal use of courthouse computers, including to use the internet. Employees ought to have the sense in using the computers to not do anything that might embarrass the court. The only thing Pratt did wrong, that I can see, is using the court e-mail address to send mail to board members. In the future it would make sense for her to obtain a free Google or Yahoo e-mail address and to use that account, easily accessible from any computer with online access, in sending and receiving e-mail relating to personal business.
Of 'insects coming out of the woodwork,' of 'piling on,' of Tom Jones, etc. "The FBI's investigation of a Galveston County federal judge is looking into more than just sexual misconduct allegations. The Daily News was told last week that federal agents had been interviewing Galveston restaurateurs about who U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent had dined and drank with throughout the years, and who has picked up the tab. Dick DeGuerin, Kent's attorney, on Friday [said,] 'They're being as thorough as they can be and they're investigating all the rumors that have been going on for years.'" More (Galveston Daily News 01.20.2008). Comment. A judge gets accused of this or that. Suddenly, other people come forward with this or that complaint, not necessarily having anything to do with the matter that first caught the eyes of investigators. I think the expression "The insects come out of the woodwork" sometimes applies to this. In using it, I, of course, don't mean to suggest that those coming forward are insects. But investigators and decision-makers, in fairness, need to subject any Johnny-come-lately complaints to the usual scrutiny. They ought also to bear in mind that there is a not-attractive human tendency to "pile on" when a person in authority suddenly comes under scrutiny and that the mere fact people are willing to "pile on" doesn't mean their willingness to do so increases the likelihood that the original allegation that prompted inquiry is meritorious. To the tendency of decisionmakers to yield to the views of those who've "come out of the woodwork" to "pile on," the following excerpt from Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding, speaks:
Two to one are odds at every other thing as well as at foot-ball. But the advantage which this united force hath in persuasion or entreaty must have been visible to a curious observer; for he must have often seen, that when a father, a master, a wife, or any other person in authority, have stoutly adhered to a denial against all the reasons which a single man could produce, they have afterwards yielded to the repetition of the same sentiments by a second or third person, who hath undertaken the cause, without attempting to advance anything new in its behalf. And hence, perhaps, proceeds the phrase of seconding an argument or a motion, and the great consequence this is of in all assemblies of public debate. Hence, likewise, probably it is, that in our courts of law we often hear a learned gentleman (generally a serjeant) repeating for an hour together what another learned gentleman, who spoke just before him, had been saying.
Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling Book XII, Chapter ix ("Containing little more than a few odd observations").
Judge who preyed on young girls dies in prison. "David William Ramsay, the former Prince George provincial court judge who used his influence to prey on young girls, has died. Mike Leger, correctional manager at the Dorchester, N.B., penitentiary where Ramsay was being held, confirmed that Ramsay died sometime Saturday morning...." More (The Province 01.20.2008).
Lawyers say no to bar association's attempt to regulate judicial campaign speech. "As members of the State Bar, we urge the candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court not to sign the pledge put to them by the Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee, which the Bar recently formed. The pledge seeks to prevent the candidates from engaging in speech that the eight-person committee believes is false, unfair or otherwise offensive. It also requires that the candidates monitor what others say on their behalf and, if the committee decides that speech is improper, the candidates must publicly disavow it. No one wants the candidates or their supporters to engage in offensive speech. But it is inappropriate for the Bar to make itself the arbiter of when speech crosses the line...." More (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 01.18.2008). Comment. We've opposed such attempts by the bar association to gain control of what judicial candidates say, and applaud the brave Milwaukee lawyers who wrote this article disagreeing with the bar association. As I have said before, Emerson knew what he was talking about when he wrote in his great journal, "[L]awyers...are a prudent race though not very fond of liberty." Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journal 04.1850). Thus, e.g., I wasn't surprised by the organized legal community's reluctance to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the so-called "Judicial Free-Speech Case" -- Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002) -- in which it struck down Minnesota's outrageous restrictions on free speech by judges and judicial candidates. On this, see, inter alia, SCOTUS declines review of USCA's case on judicial campaigns; MN. Supreme Court reversed again on free speech; Free speech is a 'bad idea'? Truth-in-campaigning laws and bar-association-enforced "pledges" to comply with the bar's idea of what speech content is okay, like rules restricting judicial campaign speech, undoubtedly have noble purposes, such as keeping campaigns clean, preventing voter fraud, etc., etc. But, at root they are anti-democratic. As others have pointed out, these paternalistic, patronizing laws show a profound distrust of voters. Ultimately, they say that voters need protection by prosecutors and judges. I have always had a different view -- a perhaps naïve belief in the ability of ordinary people to distinguish the real from the fraudulent. I take comfort in the fact that this "naïve belief" was shared by Thomas Jefferson, who said, "If you state a moral case to a plowman and a professor [or a prosecutor or judge], the farmer will decide it as well, and often better, because he has not been led astray by any artificial rules." Jeffersonian (including Norwegian-American) farmers and other voters can see through campaign rhetoric, lies and distortions without Big Brother serving as Authoritative Voter Guide. All such attempts to rein in and purify democratic elections in the hope of protecting voters from making "mistakes" will and ought to fail. Moreover, a much, much more significant problem, as I see it, is not fraudulent campaigning but bland, even gutless, campaigning, both in legislative elections and in judicial elections. Back in February of 2006 I witnessed a very sad debate among some Republican candidates for Congress in one of Minnesota's districts in which not one of them mentioned the War in Iraq. See, my entry dated 02.19.2006 titled Who's the most narrow-minded? at BurtonHanson.Com. As I said in that entry, I'd rather participate as voter in a contest between two professional political mudslingers who address the important issues, albeit in a messy, dirty way, than as a voter in the sort of contest in which nice candidates like those engage. Beyond all this, something there is within me that doesn't like pledges, oaths, petitions, etc. See, "Why won't you sign the pledge?" at BurtLaw's War on Terrorism IV (scroll down). See, also, The debate about swearing on the Quran.
One TV judge will replace another TV judge as MLK keynote speaker. "Judge Joe Brown is replacing Judge Greg Mathis as Central Michigan University's keynote speaker for its Martin Luther King Jr. week celebration. Brown will speak at 7 p.m. Monday inside Warriner Hall's Plachta Auditorium in Mount Pleasant...." More (Saginaw News 01.18.2008).
Inquiry proceeds into alleged rigging of judicial appointments. "[Eusoff Chin, the Chief Justice of Malaysia between 1994 and 2000] took a family vacation in New Zealand with a prominent lawyer suspected of using his political influence to rig senior judicial appointments, a public inquiry was told Friday...A visibly uncomfortable Eusoff was grilled for nearly an hour while presenting his testimony to the government inquiry into a secretly recorded video that apparently showed a man believed to be V.K. Lingam, a top private lawyer, boasting about his influence over senior judges and politicians...." More (China Post - Taiwan 01.18.2008). Comment. This inquiry is yet another reminder of why we the voters are lucky in Minnesota to have ultimate selection (and not mere rubber-stamp approval of gubernatorial appointments) of judges. We don't use the power often. Indeed, typically judges who retire do so before their terms are up and the governor appoints a replacement. Moreover, attorneys may but rarely do challenge judges seeking another term. But they are free to run, and that's a good thing. It's happened twice in the last 50 years that an attorney has made it to the supreme court by election rather than appointment. The two, C. Donald Peterson and Alan C. Page, turned out to be among the finest judges in the court's history. Trust the people, I say -- at least in good old Minnesota.
Judge dismisses tickets because courtroom not available. "A Winston County judge threw out 220 traffic tickets this week after he and the defendants showed up for court but had nowhere to meet. The only courtroom large enough to handle the crowd was in use by another judge, court officials said. Winston County District Court Judge Michael Newell ordered that all pending traffic cases on his Tuesday docket, except DUI cases, be dismissed...." More (Birmingham News 01.18.2008).
SCOTX justice and wife are indicted in arson fire. "Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina and his wife were indicted Thursday in the arson fire that destroyed their home in the Houston suburb of Spring, but the couple's attorney said he has been told by the Harris County district attorney's office that the charges will likely be withdrawn [for lack of evidence]...." More (Fort Worth Star-Telegram 01.18.2008). Updates. a) Judge dismisses indictment on DA's motion; grand jury foreman irate (Houston Chronicle 01.19.2008). b) "Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina paid himself nearly $57,000 from his campaign funds for mileage reimbursement as he commuted between Houston and Austin, possibly violating state law, a newspaper reports...Val Zuniga, a Houston-based attorney for Medina, said his client admitted the mistake and reimbursed the campaign." More (Houston Chronicle 01.20.2008). c) Judge dismisses grand jury (Houston Chronicle 01.23.2008).
Complaint against judge over comments on immigration is dismissed. "A complaint has been dismissed against [Superior Court Judge Correale Stevens,] a judge who was accused of violating conduct rules after he advocated changes in immigration law...." More (PennLive 01.18.2008).
Those who can't, teach -- or they become judges. "Whenever I agree to be on the judging panel of a beauty contest, I always go in with a healthy dose of skepticism regarding the whole process - but inevitably I end up charmed by the dear girls who work so hard for the coveted title...." Stephanie Davis ("The Downtown Diva"), If you can't be a pageant contestant, judge them (News-Press - SW FLA 01.18.2008).
Judge uses courtroom to promote voter registration. "As a defendant approached Judge Marcus Salone last week, a row of news reporters heard the judge ask, 'Do you have your voter registration card?'...Salone was doing his civic duty of encouraging unregistered voters to register. 'I've been doing this for 15 years since I've been on the bench here [at criminal court]. If they aren't registered, I tell them I have the form right here. It's just the right thing to do,' Salone told the Defender. During his time on the bench in the criminal division, Salone said he's responsible for registering about 8,000 voters. Last year he registered about 500...." More (Chicago Defender 01.18.2008). Comment. I'm not sure whether I'd do this or not if I were a judge. Maybe it'd be better if someone at the courthouse other than the judge did the encouraging. But I do see it as an indirect way of increasing the size of the juror pool.
Mississippi judge may be reprimanded for setting defendant's bail, then representing him. "The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance has recommended the state Supreme Court issue a public reprimand and fine for Hattiesburg Municipal Judge Edwin L. Pittman Jr. The commission found that Pittman, 45, in his capacity as a judge, signed orders related to a criminal defendant and then represented the defendant as an attorney in Forrest County Circuit Court...." More (Hattiesburg American 01.18.2008).
Latest on allegations of judicial bribery in Mississippi. "Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter e-mailed a proposed judicial order involving Mississippi lawyer Dickie Scruggs to Ed Peters, a one-time district attorney and DeLaughter's former boss. Peters, in turn shared it with Scruggs' lawyers, according to federal court documents. The allegation is contained in a transcript from a closed hearing in U.S. District Court in Oxford and is part of an unfolding judicial bribery scandal...." More (Jackson Clarion-Ledger 01.18.2008). Comment. Not all "tipping off" regarding pending decisions is nefarious. Sometimes it's just negligent or careless or misguided or foolish. See, Did SCOPA Chief Justice tip off reporter on pending decision? Update. Mississippi's judicial watchdog is investigating DeLaughter (Clarion-Ledger 01.27.2008).
Latest on the C.J. fired by Pakistan's Musharraf. "The judge's family has been locked in its house for more than 10 weeks. The 8-year-old son is disabled and has difficulty walking. His two teenage sisters are not allowed to go to school. Strangers often padlock the gates, and armed men roam the neighborhood. 'How mad they are,' the 16-year-old daughter, Palwasha Iftikhar Chaudhry, wrote in an e-mail to a lawyer, referring to government officials who have kept the family detained. The father, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, is the former chief justice of Pakistan, a man detained since a state of emergency was declared by President Pervez Musharraf on Nov. 3...." More (Chicago Tribune 01.18.2008).
Middle-of-the-night call from magistrate gets ex-judge's son released from jail. "A northern Idaho magistrate ordered a retired judge's son, accused of domestic battery, released from jail in the middle of the night after receiving a phone call from the judge, an old friend. Magistrate Eugene Marano said he received the call from retired 1st District Judge Gary Haman at 2:45 a.m. Tuesday after Michael Haman, 40, was arrested late Monday night at a downtown Coeur d'Alene motel...." More (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 01.18.2008). Comment. You've gotta admire the magistrate for hs frankness in why he did it; he told the Coeur d'Alene Press: "It is a very unusual situation. It's my only time in 23 years as judge where I released someone on a domestic violence charge. It's all because of my respect for Gary Haman. Gary Haman and I go back 32 years. He hired me for my first job as a prosecutor here. He also was the deciding vote in my election as an administrative judge." Id.
Judge Lee's Arizona Card Room and Social Club. "Retired cop Mike Rose chomped on an unlit stogie and took one last peek at his cards, then shoved the remainder of his poker chips toward the dealer. 'All in,' he announced. Another player called the bet. Rose shook his head ruefully, turned up a losing hand and muttered, 'He just caught me bluffing.' The exchange Thursday night occurred not at an Indian gaming center or a Las Vegas casino but in a Sierra Vista storefront with a sign advertising Judge Lee's Arizona Card Room & Social Club. The place, open every night, is run by Harold S. Lee, a former Maricopa County justice of the peace who admits he is risking arrest if state authorities decide his operation is illegal...." More (Arizona Republic 01.18.2008). Comment. The good news, as I see it, is there's life after judging.
SCOTUS: Hey, judges are politicians, too. "Sweeping aside complaints that New York State chooses its trial judges through an antiquated, patronage-tainted system that favors party cronies and gives voters no real say, the United States Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the state's unique system...'Party conventions, with their attendant 'smoke-filled rooms' and domination by party leaders, have long been an accepted manner of selecting party candidates,' Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, in a decision that provided ample reminders that judges are politicians as well as somber, black-robed jurists...." More (NYT 01.17.2008). Comment. We recommend to the lawmakers in NYS that they adopt the Minnesota Plan, whereby voters have a real role in judicial selection in those instances in which a lawyer challenges a sitting judge seeking another term. It's better than the so-called Missouri Plan, which the academics love and which some self-styled "good-government types" would like MN to adopt. The Missouri Plan doesn't give voters any say in selecting judges, giving them, instead, a Soviet-style "yes or no" vote on whether to retain an incumbent. If the MO Plan is so good, why is the MN judiciary so much better than the MO judiciary and why is there such dissatisfaction with it in MO?
Annals of judicial spouses. "A court employee married to [Javier Gomez Bermudez,] the main judge in the Madrid bombings[,] trial was fired Wednesday for writing a book that divulged confidential information about the case. The General Council of the Judiciary dismissed Elisa Beni from her job as spokeswoman for a Madrid regional court. The panel lost confidence in Beni because she used information obtained from her husband, said a council official...." More (LAT 01.17.2008).
When judges sue. "Few at the Norfolk Superior Court house in Dedham disputed that the worn and uneven front steps needed fixing. But when a judge in his late 60s tripped on them and broke his left kneecap more than three years ago, neither the state nor the county wanted to take responsibility for the condition of the steps. Now the judge, Paul A. Chernoff, is suing both the state and the county to determine who is at fault...." More (Boston Globe 01.17.2008).
The lots of judges and jurors compared and contrasted. "Judges [presiding at St Albans Crown Court] have their own lodgings in the rural peace of a large country house in Ayres End Lane between St Albans and Harpenden. They are chauffeured to and from court. Their meals are provided and they are waited on hand and foot...The latest cost review...showed that every night a judge used the house, it cost taxpayers £1,605...Jurors on the other hand, enjoy no such benefits...[T]hey are expected to use public transport even when they live in remote areas. If they use their cars, they are encouraged to park at Westminster Lodge and then walk to the courts as the daily charge there is £2 and the city-centre charge is £10...And while the judges dine well, the jurors get a subsistence allowance of £5.25 a day which they can use in the court canteen where the main dish seems to be sausage and beans...." From a terrific op/ed piece titled The contrasting lifestyles of judges and juries in the Herts UK Advertiser. More (01.17.2008).
Did SCOPA Chief Justice tip off reporter on pending decision? "Gene Stilp, founder of Taxpayers and Ratepayers United, filed a complaint yesterday against Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille alleging he prematurely revealed a case's outcome. Mr. Stilp's complaint pertains to an article in the Philadelphia Daily News on Dec. 10 in which columnist John Baer reported that Justice Castille had told him the Court would allow a grand jury probe of casino owner Louis DeNaples to go forward after a stay...Justice Castille's reported discussion with Mr. Baer took place outside the Peacock Alley bar and restaurant in New York City's Waldorf-Astoria during December's Pennsylvania Society Weekend, a gathering of civic bigwigs from across the state...." More (Philadelphia Bulletin 01.16.2008). Comment. A number of years ago a prominent member of a state supreme court, speaking to a huge luncheon crowd of trial judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, and law enforcement officers, indirectly tipped off the crowd as to the likely outcome of an important sentencing appeal pending before the court. Afterwards, a public defender was heard to ask, "Hmm, I wonder how the court's going to rule in that case?" But, hey, judges are not perfect. "Perfect" people tend to be twits and twerps. Would you want one judging your case?
SCOTUS' 'clubby ways.' "Every year, the Supreme Court hears arguments in cases that can change the nation and reshape American rights. Just last week, it heard arguments on a challenge to a harsh Indiana voter ID law, a partisan scheme to disenfranchise poor and minority voters. It was, like many legal showdowns in the court, something Americans would have been interested in observing firsthand. Yet beyond a few hundred visitors, the public was denied that opportunity because members of the court, stubbornly clinging to their clubby ways, refuse to allow their proceedings to be televised...." More (NYT -- Editorial 01.16.2008). Comments. Roberts & Co. wouldn't even release an audio-recording of the arguments.
The year-long celebration at the courthouse. "U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts is scheduled to visit Rhode Island on Feb. 12 to help celebrate the centennial of the federal courthouse in downtown Providence...Roberts' visit will highlight a yearlong centennial celebration of the five-story gray granite building, which was built between 1904 and 1908 as the Providence Post Office, Court House and Custom House...." More (Providence Journal 01.16.2008).
When the barbarians take over and sit in the judges' seats. "The Detroit Red Wings' management has apparently seen enough of the scores of empty seats that returned when they bumped tickets back up to their initial rates in November...As part of their carrot to fans, the Wings are reaching into the, 'Dude, we should totally put two leather recliners where the goal judge used to sit!' file...." More (MLive.Com 01.16.2008). Comment. Major League Baseball ought to go one better and let individual fans, for a "participation fee" of, say, $1,000 an inning, act as behind-the-plate umpires.
When the hand that grasps the gavel is cold. "Workers in the Franklin County Courthouse in Brookville, Ind., are hoping the building's new boiler is ready to run Thursday, as promised, after three months without heat...The courthouse, which is undergoing renovation, has been without a central heating system since October. On Tuesday, with outside temperatures in the 20s, Commissioner Eric Roberts said the building was about 50 degrees...Temporary furnaces set up in the hallways blow into the front offices but don't reach back offices...." More (Indianapolis Star 01.16.2008).
Those darn vacation photos. Last fall SCOWVA, in a 3-2 decision, with Chief Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard voting with the majority, overturned a $76.3 million judgment in Caperton and Harman Mining Co.'s favor in a suit against Massey Energy. Now the head of C&H is using multiple photos of C.J. Maynard and the CEO of Massey, Don Blankenship, vacationing in Monaco. C&H wants the court's 3-2 reversal vacated and a new hearing on the merits without Massey participating. More (Forbes 01.14.2008). Updates. a) Here's a statement released by C.J. Maynard on 01.15.2008:
I will file a written response promptly to the motion filed yesterday, but first let me say I've been a prosecutor, Judge or Justice for more than 30 years and nothing is more important to me than the integrity of the Court. The suggestion I have done something improper is nonsense. Like most judges I don t reward my friends, or punish my enemies from the bench. I have never denied my friendship with Mr. Blankenship. Our friendship has never influenced any decision I've made for the Court. I'm going to address the specific allegations separately, but I want to be crystal clear that in the noted trip I paid my own way, paid for my travel expenses, paid my own hotel expenses out of my own pocket. I have receipts and records to prove it.
Best movie courtroom drama? "Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder, from 1959, is still the best courtroom drama ever made in this country, and, in its occasional forays out of the court, among the finest evocations of place -- an Upper Peninsula Michigan resort area in the off-season, leafless, underpopulated, alcoholic, and forlorn...." David Denby, Balance of Terror -- How Otto Preminger Made His Movies (New Yorker 01.14.2008). Comment. The author of the novel on which the film was based was the late John Voelker (1903-1991), who was a Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court; he was better known by his pen name, Robert Traver, under which the book was published. Voelker also wrote several much-loved books on trout fishing in the U.P. as well as a book titled Small-Town D.A., about episodes in the work of a D.A. in the U.P. Here's his "Testament of a Fisherman," which I think gives a clue as to the kind of judge, and man, he was:
I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly; because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape; because, in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion; because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience; because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don't want to waste the trip; because mercifully there are no telephones on trout waters; because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness; because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there; because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid; and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant -- and not nearly so much fun.
Judicial news from Nepal.
a) 'Kangaroo courts.' "Maoists are still operating illegal 'kangaroo courts' and labour camps across Nepal, even after the Comprehensive Peace Accord signed by the rebels in 2006 banned their existence, a human rights organisation [INSEC] has claimed...." More (The Hindu 01.14.2008).
b) Judges to get 50% salary increase?! "The interim parliament Monday passed a bill seeking 50 percent increment in salary as well as other facilities of judges...." More (Kantipur -- Nepal 01.14.2008).
Comment. Somewhere in America a common law judge, feeling sorry for himself for having to subsist on a typical poverty-level judicial salary while being constrained by old fuddy-duddy rules of fair procedure, is saying to himself, "Maybe I ought to move to Kathmandu, where I can have my own 'kangaroo court,' with everyone hopping to my tune, while I sing that happy old bouncy tune, 'Ha! Ha! Ha!/ 50% more/ 50% more.'"
SCOCAL justices' conflicts doom appeal. "Braxton Berkley...alleged that the chemicals he and his [assembly-line colleagues at Lockheed] used to degrease parts and wash their hands eventually made the workers sick. Berkley was among hundreds who sued Lockheed and the firms that supplied the chemicals, including some the world's biggest oil companies. The cases began going to trial a decade ago in groups of about a dozen each. But Berkley's case ended abruptly, and in a most unusual way. In November, the California Supreme Court dismissed his appeal after initially agreeing to hear it. The court's decision was based not on its legal merits, but because four of the seven justices controlled stock in oil companies that provided some of the solvents at issue, such as acetone...." More (San Jose Mercury News 01.14.2008). Comment. So let me get this straight -- the judges have a conflict but Berkley pays the price?
Is NJ courthouse addition 'a lemon'? "The addition built on the Cumberland County Courthouse in 1995 is falling apart and will cost up to $12 million to fix, Freeholder Bruce Peterson said Friday...Peterson said there have been complaints involving the courthouse addition for some time, which led to the county ordering an investigation of the building last year. The results of that study concluded that the county had purchased a lemon...." More (Bridgeton News 01.14.2008).
Security officer leaves loaded handgun in courthouse bathroom. "[A] security officer accidentally left a loaded gun in a public bathroom at the downtown courthouse last week...[A] court reporter found the gun and duty belt and notified a deputy...." More (Eyewitness News Memphis 01.13.2008).
A $54 million media-ready courthouse -- but judges say 'Keep your cameras away.' "Courtroom cameras are routine in many North Texas courthouses. But it appears the only way Collin County residents will get to see a trial in their new $54 million courthouse -- designed in part to accommodate the media -- is to walk through a courtroom door and have a seat...." More (Dallas Morning-News 01.13.2008). Comment. Eventually the people -- who own the courthouses and who employ the judges -- are going to say, "It's not your call, it's ours." Further reading. BurtLaw on Judicial Independence and Accountability.
Courts stripping old people of their property and freedom. "For 20 months now, [73-year-old Dawn] Cromwell's life has been defined by a 10.5-by-12.5-foot living space at North End Rehabilitation and Nursing Center...[She] is one of hundreds of forgotten docket numbers in Massachusetts probate and family courts, where judges routinely fast-track infirm elders into the care of guardians, often with little evidence to justify such wrenching decisions. Cromwell, after a broken ankle and a brief rehab in early 2006, had expected to go home. But on the say-so from the nursing home's doctor -- a short, nearly illegible diagnosis -- a judge decreed that Cromwell was mentally ill and handed all of her decision-making to a guardian. Cromwell lost all power over her own life, with no opportunity to object, no right to have a lawyer represent her, no chance to even be in the courtroom. Three months later, the same judge, E. Chouteau Merrill, made the guardianship permanent -- in a two-minute hearing in which the judge asked not a single question...." From a long prize-worthy piece of investigative reporting in the Boston Globe "reported and written for a graduate seminar in Investigative Reporting at Northeastern University by eight students...[with t]heir work...overseen and th[e] article...edited by Northeastern journalism professor Walter V. Robinson, former editor of the Globe Spotlight Team." More (Boston Globe 01.13.2008). Comment. Whenever we hear lawyers and judges engage in self-congratulation about the superiority of our legal system, we think of stories like this -- and this sort of thing is not limited to Massachusetts -- and we're reminded of the essential underlying motivating truth in Clarence Darrow's devastating conclusion, "There is no Justice in or out of court." Further reading. "Paula M. Carey, the new chief justice of Massachusetts Probate and Family Court, said she is determined to address the lack of medical documentation and other flaws in the court's handling of guardianship cases. Carey, who was known for her diligence in guardianship cases during her years as a probate judge in Norfolk County, said the court should appoint independent fact-finders to review cases before guardianship decisions are made or have an attorney appointed to represent the patient...." More (Boston Globe 01.13.2008). Comment. We'll believe it when we see it. Update. Carol Strieff, the writer of a letter to the Globe's editors, asks in response to the Globe's story, "Who is the more appropriate candidate for a finding of mental illness?" -- the woman who was committed "after a judge spent two minutes and 10 seconds before finding her mentally ill...[o]r the pantless T-riders featured on the same page ('Neighborhood of the traveling pantless,' City & Region), who rode the subway so they could 'create a scene of chaos and joy'?" Courts target the wrong population (Boston Globe 01.18.2008).
Changes in Scotland put the courts on the sidelines. "The time-honoured civil liberties of the court system in Scotland are under threat, lawyers fear, claiming reforms introduced last month have handed too much power to the police and procurator fiscal service...Since December 10, many less serious offences are being dealt with outside the courts by fiscal fines, while police now have the power to set the conditions of bail by imposing curfews and exclusion orders before the accused has even appeared in court...." More (The Sunday Herald 01.13.2008).
Latest developments in courthouse fashions.
a) Judge's no-exceptions approach to caps in courtroom upsets cancer sufferer. "Bev Williams of Richland wears a knitted beanie cap to cover her hairless head everywhere she goes, but not in Judge Holly Hollenbeck's courtroom. The District Court judge told Williams, 43, to take her cap off or leave his court in the Benton County Justice Center on Friday morning. 'I was embarrassed. It made me cry,' said Williams, who recently underwent six months of chemotherapy for cancer. Williams said she wouldn't remove the cap as Hollenbeck instructed and left the courtroom, but she believes he could have made an exception when he learned why she wears a cap in public...." Judge Hollenbeck says he's made an exception only once, for "religious reasons." More (Seattle Times 01.13.2008). Comment. Some might say Judge HH (Holly Hollenbeck) ought to be called HHHH, for Hard-Hearted Holly Hollenbeck. We won't go that far. But, and we're just speaking generally and without implying anything about HH, "no-exceptions" judges tend to be close-minded, resting on the superficial fairness of an easy-to-apply hard-and-fast rule. If justice were so easy of application, we wouldn't need judges. Well-programmed robots could do the job: If a person comes in with a cast on his head over the area where he had brain surgery, the robotic no-exceptions result would be the same as if the person had come in wearing a homburg, i.e., take the cast off or get out. We know of appellate judges around this country receiving chemotherapy who have worn caps in conferences with fellow judges in the sanctuary of the conference room. Perhaps some cancer-suffering judges have worn them in the courtroom. Anyone with any experience with that? If a persnickety colleague objected, the judge could always put on a horsehair wig. Update. "Benton County District Court Judge Holly Hollenbeck has apologized for telling a cancer patient to remove a knitted cap or leave his courtroom. Hollenbeck says he told Bev Williams on Monday he was sorry and that the no-hat rule would no longer apply in his courtroom...." More (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 01.16.2008).
b) Judge won't accept attorney's ascot as alternative to neck- or bow-tie policy. "Justice may be blind, but Milwaukee County Circuit Judge William Sosnay's sense of courtroom fashion is not...In the courtroom of the pompadoured judge long known as a fastidious dresser, a sentencing hearing in a misdemeanor case was delayed for three hours Tuesday after a veteran prosecutor turned up for court wearing an ascot. A courthouse rule requires all lawyers to wear neckties...Sosnay's review found [prosecutor Warren] Zier's red ascot -- which matched the handkerchief in the breast pocket of Zier's pinstriped gray suit -- 'borders on contemptuous'...." More (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 01.09.2008). Comment. One of my great sociology profs at the U. of Minn. in the early 1960's, when the U's sociology department was one of the leading ones in the country, might have explained courtroom fashion rules as a dominant group's way of publicly asserting and reminding subservient groups who's in charge. There is, of course, nothing sacrosanct about a particular culture's ideas about what is correct or incorrect in the way of dress. Update. "Sosnay has a very long history as one of the most well-groomed personalities in the courthouse complex...[A] Milwaukee Journal story from 1984...open[ed] by calling Sosnay 'a man as genteel as he is scrupulously groomed' and say[ing he] 'wears his silver hair swept into a pompadour.' He maintains the style today, and is one of the few judges we can't recall seeing around the courthouse hallways in anything less than a full suit. After being invited into his judicial chamber for an interview yesterday, we noticed that he was wearing shiny gold-colored links on his French cuffs." Derrick Nunnally, The clash of courthouse dandies (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 01.11.2008).
Shoppers at mall are summoned for instant jury duty. "Judge Eaton, of Caledonia District Court in St. Johnsbury, Vt., had an accused child molester to try and too few good-people-and-true on hand to pick a jury from. So he sent the county sheriff and his deputies out to three locations in town -- outside the post office, the local Price Chopper supermarket and the Green Mountain Mall -- to bring 'em back alive. They stopped passers-by and asked if they were residents of Caledonia County; a 'yes' answer won a summons to appear at the courthouse for jury duty immediately, right now, this minute. They rounded up 45 people that way in all...." More (NYT 01.12.2008). Comment. Pretty outrageous, I think.
Quote-of-the-day. "We're justices who happen to be Jews. We're not Jewish justices as they were." Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking at a synagogue "about her heritage and participation in the television documentary The Jewish Americans that is airing over three weeks on public television." The "we" refers to Justice Breyer and herself, and what she was opining, in part, was that whereas the Jewish faith of their five predecessors who were Jewish played a role in their selection, it did not play a role in President Clinton's selection of Breyer or her. More (AP.Google 01.11.2008).
'Let Justice Be Dunn!' "Orphaned at age 6, Melvin E. Dunn was a child of the Depression who bounced from one relative's home to another until a widowed great-aunt took him in and instilled in him a strong work ethic and other virtues. 'She gave him a stable environment and sent him to good schools,' said his wife of 35 years, Jude. 'She worked two jobs herself and found him a job setting pins in a bowling alley when he was 9. By the time he was in his teens, he'd also worked in a deli and delivered milk.' Loved ones say the retired judge's hardscrabble youth included minor scrapes with the law and running with a gang on Chicago's South Side...." Kane County Circuit Judge Dunn, 74, died in FLA of cancer. His slogan during the campaign that first won him election to the bench was "Let Justice Be Dunn!" More (Chicago Tribune 01.11.2008).
Rule of thumb on winning an appeal. "If you're defending the judgment of the trial court, it is good strategy to make the proceedings and judgment seem boring and obvious." A so-called "Legacy Rule of Thumb from previously published collections" posted at RulesofThumbs.Org. Comment. As readers of TheDailyJudge.Com know, we've posted a number of our own BurtLaw's Rules of Thumb. One rule we just read on the MetaFilter.Com site that linked us to RulesofThumb.Org is "Never vacuum up vomit." We're not sure how, but we think this somehow has relevance to the judicial process.
Federal court dismisses porn charge against ex-judge. "After three indictments and nearly three years, a former Douglas County judge will not stand trial on child pornography charges, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. That's because repeated delays on the part of the U.S. Attorney's Office violated Roger Wall's right to a speedy trial. In a stinging order dismissing the case [with prejudice], U.S. District Court Judge Richard E. Dorr called the government's handling of the case 'disappointing' and 'out of control.'" More (News-Leader - MO 01.09.2008).
Islam in American Courts: 2007 Year in Review. A summary of cases, by Jeff Breinholt (Family Security Matters 01.08.2008).
Some heretical views on Lincoln and the Constitution. In Judge Napolitano on Lincoln, Thomas J. DiLorenzo, professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland, has an op/ed piece at LewRockwell.Com focusing on the "Dishonest Abe" chapter of Napolitano's The Constitution in Exile, in which Napolitano argues that a) "In order to increase his federalist vision of centralized power, 'Honest' Abe misled the nation into an unnecessary war. He claimed that the war was about emancipating slaves, but he could have simply paid slave owners to free their slaves...The bloodiest war in American history could have been avoided," and b) "Lincoln's actions were unconstitutional and he knew it." Comment. I long ago suggested that there are "forbidden thoughts" in this great liberty-loving country of ours and that people who profess them will be shouted down by the thought police or, arguably worse, ignored by people, including academicians, who style themselves "open-minded thinkers." Among the forbidden thoughts are thoughts such as the ones articulated by Judge Napolitano.
History-making first 'clerk of judicial records.' "Andrea Naugle made history Monday morning when she was sworn in as Lehigh County's first clerk of judicial records. Naugle, who formerly served as clerk of courts, was elected to the new position in November. In 2006, voters through referendum chose to create the position, which combines the duties of clerk of courts, recorder of deeds and register of wills...." More (Express Times - PA 01.08.2008). Comment. Says our resident expert, Armond Pouissaint, "Clerk Naugle, you have made history today. As you continue on the path toward the Judicial Records Hall of Fame, we will be with you all the way."
Women are not emotionally, physiologically fit to be judges, say male lawyers. "Male lawyers in Qatar are opposed to women being appointed as judges and say if at all, they should be restricted to family courts. A woman is emotionally and physiologically not geared to fit in the role of a judge since the job demands a balanced disposition, said Waleed Abu Nida, a lawyer. Women are showing excellence in almost every field in Qatar and walking shoulder to shoulder with men, but dispensing justice is not their cup of tea. 'It is entirely the male's domain,' said Lawyer Mohsen Thiyab Al Suwaidi...." More (The Peninsula - Qatar 01.08.2008). Background. In the Matter of the Motion to admit Miss Lavinia Goodell to the Bar of this Court, 39 Wis. 232 (1875). Related. "Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign stop was interrupted Monday when two men stood in the crowd and began screaming, 'Iron my shirt!' during one of her final appearances before the New Hampshire primary. Clinton, a former first lady running to become the nation's first female president, laughed at the seemingly sexist protest that suggested a woman's place is doing the laundry and not running the country. 'Ah, the remnants of sexism -- alive and well,' Clinton said to applause in a school auditorium...." More (Yahoo News 01.08.2008). Further reading. BurtLaw's Law & Women.
How to address a judge. "Aficionados of the Ministry of Justice website will have noticed that it spent much of December issuing stern guidance on how to address correctly all the country's big cheeses...Included in the hefty and tedious list is the judiciary: how to describe judges, how to write to them, what to call them in court...Male high court judges will continue to be officially referred to as Mr Justice Doe. Women are Mrs Justice, even if unmarried, a decision taken because the term Miss Justice could too easily be associated with miscarriage of justice, or missed justice. More absurdly, judges of the court of appeal are cited as Lord Justice or Lady Justice Doe, even though they are in no way peers of the realm...." The author of this op/ed piece, Marcel Berlins, argues judges in England ought to be just called "Justice." More (The Guardian 01.07.2008). Comment. "Yo, Judge! Wha's up?"
Mostly cloudy in Canada courtroom? "When the trial of three alleged Hells Angels members resumes this week in the Vancouver Law Courts, an observer of the proceeding need only take a few steps outside the fifth-floor courtroom to look through the sloping glass roof that distinguishes the Arthur Erickson-designed building. From an architectural standpoint, the building conforms to the view of the Supreme Court of Canada that 'the administration of justice thrives on exposure to light -- and withers under a cloud of secrecy,' as it said in a 2006 decision. However, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Anne MacKenzie has thrown the equivalent of a judicial tarp over the glass by issuing a publication ban on the entire trial, which she is hearing without a jury...." -- Shannon Kari, From Courts pay 'lip service' to open access - The Supreme Court promotes open access, but are lower courts following its lead? (National Post 01.07.2008).
Probate judge under investigation. "A probate judge who hit up lawyers across the state for cash to help pay off his campaign debt is under investigation by the state probate administrator for possible ethics violations. Phillip Zuckerman, a New London lawyer, was elected judge in 2006, after spending nearly $18,000 on his campaign. This past summer, Zuckerman's wife and campaign treasurer asked lawyers to donate up to $500 to help pay off their debt...." More (Hartford Courant 01.07.2008). Comment. A Yale Law prof, John Langbein, is quoted saying, "What's special here is this guy was so clumsy he left tracks. Normally these shakedowns don't leave evidence of this quality." I'm a big advocate for the Minnesota Plan of selecting judges, which requires sitting judges to face the voters every six years -- occasionally, but usually not, with opposition by an attorney -- but I think that those who run for another term and those who run in opposition ought not accept contributions from lawyers. When I ran in the statewide general election in 2000 for judicial office I accepted no contributions from anyone, lawyers or nonlawyers, and limited my expenditures to under $100. I lost, but so what? I sleep well at night. Update. Judge Zuckerman "has agreed to disqualify himself from hearing any contested matters those lawyers may have, the state probate administrator announced." More (Hartford Courant 01.12.2008).
Zimbabwe judges get 600% pay hike. "The Zimbabwean government has awarded a 600 percent immediate pay rise to striking magistrates and prosecutors in a bid to end a three-month work stoppage, state media reported on Sunday. According to the salary structure released by the government, a magistrate without a university degree -- the entry point -- will now earn a basic monthly salary of 316 million Zimbabwe dollars (10,561 US dollars)...." More (AFP 01.07.2008). Comment. Sounds good but, according to VOA News, inflation is "currently more than 7,000 percent." Hyperinflation typically is the result of "a massive and rapid increase in the amount of money, which is not supported by growth in the output of goods and services. This results in an imbalance between the supply and demand for the money (including currency and bank deposits), accompanied by a complete loss of confidence in the money, similar to a bank run." Hyperinflation (Wikipedia). In hyperinflation, which is what Zimbabwe is experiencing, "rates of inflation of several hundred percent per month are often seen." The example most typically cited by historians is that of Weimar Germany, when "in 1923 the rate of inflation hit 3.25 × 106 percent per month (prices double every 49 hours)." In Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, the hyperinflation results from the misrule by Robert Mugabe and others, particularly their seizing the land of and driving productive white farmers out of the country.
The judge who lived in a houseboat. "Jamie Tabor QC was appointed resident judge of the Gloucester court in 2003. But rather than move from his home in Glastonbury, Somerset, or buy a commuter's flat, he decided to live on board his boat on the Sharpness canal. He has regularly ridden from his mooring on his mountain bike, sometimes taking his dog Milly with him to court...." He could only be with his family, in Somerset, on weekends. Now he's remedying that by taking up a new, "commutable" position at Bristol and Taunton crown courts. More (This Is Gloucestershire 01.07.2008).
Justice in Nicaragua: 'subjective to the point of abstraction.' "Somebody raped and strangled Doris Jiménez in her tiny clothing boutique 14 months ago. Ever since, Nicaragua's justice system has found itself on trial. The case has become both an international dispute and a political spectacle. And it has proved not who killed Ms. Jiménez, but that justice here is a nebulous concept, subjective to the point of abstraction...." More (NYT 01.06.2008).
Save Our Courthouse. "[S]uddenly, [Bob] de la Penotiere has found himself leading the city's newest heritage fight, Save Our Courthouse. It's a battle to save the 155-year-old Elgin County courthouse [in St. Thomas], once owned by the province but now privately owned and rented to the province for court purposes. The fight is gaining steam... But the Ontario Realty Corp., the provincial government's real estate arm,..appears focused on building a new site, says de la Penotiere...." More (London Free Press 01.06.2008). Comment. Sometimes the best "change" -- the freshest approach -- is to go back to first principles, to restore, renovate, rehabilitate, renew, refresh, revive....
Mafiosos are ordered to pay murdered judge's family $5.54 million. "A Sicilian court has ordered mafia boss of bosses Salvatore Riina and another mafioso to pay 3.3 million euros ($A5.54 million) to the family of a top anti-Mafia judge killed in a car bomb attack, the family lawyer said on Saturday. Riina - also known as "The Beast" - and Salvatore Biondino were among seven mafiosi handed life sentences in 1999 for their part in the 1992 attack that killed the judge, Paolo Borsellino, and shocked Italians...." More (SMH 01.06.2008).
Annals of contempt. "While signing [a] probation revocation order, [the probationer, Judith] Law decided to tell the judge what she could kiss. Typically that document would not go back to the judge, but when this one did, [the judge, Diane] Goodstein ordered a hearing, found Law in contempt and sentenced her to 90 days on top of her remaining sentence...." Now the South Carolina Supreme Court has upheld the contempt ruling, rejecting the argument that the contempt occurred outside the court's view. More (Washington Post 01.06.2008). Comment. Almost invariably, I find myself disagreeing with a judge's use of the contempt power. And I do here, too. In my nearly 28+ years as an aide the Minnesota Supreme Court I saw countless pro se petitions filed in which convicted defendants told judges what they could kiss, engaged in disrespectful name-calling, etc., and I don't recall an instance in which the court held anyone in contempt.
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Slate's list of Judge Roberts resources. Slate has created a John Roberts Roundup, a regularly-updated page of links to some of the better web postings relating to Judge Roberts. Click here.