The Daily Judge
© 2008 Burton Randall Hanson
      Archives - 04.01.2008 - 04.15.2008
"All the news that gives judges and lawyers fits."
BurtLaw's Daily Judge is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, this is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal 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 (archived here), contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first campaign 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.

 "BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else, a Web Site produced by Burton Hanson, is part of the Library of Congress September 11 Web Archive and 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 attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. Date Captured: September 20, 2001 - December 17, 2001"

 The campaign to deprive MN voters of a role in judicial selection. I've posted a detailed critical essay on this topic, and I link to it here for the convenience of not only Minnesota readers but also of voters in other states who are being "courted" in similar ways by the judicial establishment in well-financed campaigns to give up their historic role in judicial selection: Strib. urges longer terms for judges, no role for voters in their selection. Following my essay you will find updated links to many of my earlier as well as later postings relevant to this important public policy question.

Miscellaneous recent postings. a) 'If you want to become a judge, go to law school with a senator.' b) Elected judges as a check on corruption and guarantor of judicial independence. c) On the recording of interrogations and admission of confessions. d) County courthouse as 'the people's lawn.' e) April is Poetry Month (herein of Carl Sandburg on 'Government'). f) Challenger judge beats SCOWIS justice 51%-49% in contested election. g) Panel recommends suspension of judge over use of court stationery, etc. h) Judge arrested for DUI wearing woman's dress is reconsidering his resignation. i) Dan Pero: 'Democracy works in Wisconsin.' j) It's a 'tragedy' if voters don't pick your guy? k) Judge who decided controversial case is up for retention. k) Judge who lost election blames C.J. Russell Anderson for 'playing politics.' l) MN Lawyer editor wants us to retire mandatory retirement. m) Black judge apologizes for kicking white lawyers out, but he had a reason. n) Group dynamics in the federal judiciary. o) Ten years of art exhibits at SCOVT. p) SCOWIS' Chief leads the way -- herein of experienced judges, judicial elections and judicial independence. q) Threatening tactics by state judicial tenure chief in MI. r) History of political campaign blogging. s) The Return of the Ancient Mariner -- or is it the Minnesota Scariner? t) MN's elected justice who was elected governor. u) Cornerstone is laid for 'supreme court rest home.' v) Judges are warned against 'blasting out' in court. w) The Rule of Law comes to livestock judging. x) Judge is censured for 'patriotic' ticket fixing. y) Chief judge sues state, asking state judges to rule state owes state judges a big pay hike. z) Law prof: judicial elections are imperfect but they're the best option.

 Annals of court packing. "The decision of Zimbabwe's High Court not to compel the immediate release of the 29 March presidential election results comes as no surprise to most seasoned observers. Over the past seven years, the judges of Zimbabwe's courts -- virtually all of whom owe their jobs to Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party -- have operated, day in and day out, in a world suffused with politics. Judges appointed or retained on the bench after 2001 were chosen for one quality above all others: their apparent willingness to lend the court's process to the service of Mugabe's Executive...." Gugulethu Moyo, Mugabe has packed the courts with tame judges (UK Independent - op/ed 04.15.2008). Related. Bakers turn to the courts (a 2006 posting on on the judiciary's loss of independence in Zimbabwe). Links to some of our other postings over the years on the judiciary in Zimbabwe and on Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe. Comment. Musharraf, in Pakistan, sacked judges he didn't like and packed the courts with judges on whom he felt he could count. Those sacked judges, improperly removed from office and jailed by Mr. Musharraf, now owe their release to the ordinary people of Pakistan who voted in the recent Parliamentary elections, bringing about a change in government, and those judges will owe their eventual reinstatement to the same ordinary voters. Voters weigh in, and Pakistan's jailed judges finally taste freedom. One of the many reasons I disagree so strongly with the attempt by Minnesota's judicial elite, via the Quie Commission's Plan, to deprive Minnesota voters of a say in judicial selection, is that I believe Minnesota voters are at least as capable of protecting judicial independence (and ensuring judicial accountability) as the voters in, say, Pakistan.

 More from the 'sky is falling' folks. From an op/ed piece by Dorothy Samuels in the NYT on the recent judicial election in Wisconsin: "[J]udicial reformers have stepped up their call for public financing and strict fund-raising rules for state judicial contests or a switch to a nonelective merit selection system. But with states in no rush to make these changes, a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice smartly focuses on an effective if less sweeping antidote that would be more achievable in the short-term: persuading jurisdictions to strengthen their recusal rules. Surely special interests would be less inclined to invest so heavily in judicial elections if they knew the recipients of their largess likely would be barred from sitting on their cases." More (NYT 04.15.2008). Comment. Or the candidates could do as I did in 2000 in my general election campaign for chief justice in Minnesota: Just Say No. I foreswore not only contributions and endorsements from lawyers (why is it the "reformers" never howled for reform when it was only lawyers contributing and then only to judicial incumbents?); I also foreswore contributions and endorsements from everyone else. See, the archive of my personal campaign blog, specifically, the entry/essay on Contributions and Endorsements.

 'Real judges' -- elected or appointed -- aren't cowards. "[A] judge who consistently denies bail to a murder defendant is a coward who is taking the easy way out for himself and doing a distinct disservice to the legal system. Every day, parents in the nation's family courts are being prosecuted for child mistreatment. Some of them are innocent. Yet, they must overcome a pervasive judicial mentality that it is safer for judges' careers to convict them rather than dismiss the charges and risk a potentially career-threatening media circus should the child be abused by these same parents in the future. God help anyone -- and it could happen to you or a loved one -- who has the misfortune to appear before these me-first judicial cowards. This same cowardice infects judges who allow prosecutors to try little children in adult courts and place them in adult prisons...." From an op/ed piece by Daniel Leddy, Far too many judges are lacking courage (Staten Island Advance 04.15.2008). Comment. Leddy concludes, "Those close to the scene...know that the[se cowardly judges] are not real judges, but spineless pretenders, unfit to serve and undeserving of their taxpayer-funded paychecks." As Justice Frankfurter said, "Weak characters ought not to be judges." You'll find such weak characters in every kind of system of judicial selection. The beauty of Minnesota's system is that it provides a safety valve that allows strong characters -- attorneys who are willing to risk their reputations and livelihoods within the profession, if need be -- a) to come forward and challenge those incumbents who maybe are too prosecution-oriented or too defense-oriented or too wedded to the politicians or the bar or the judicial establishment, b) to make a case to the voters, and c) to ask the voters to chose. Maybe voters in some states, to use a Jack Nicholson expression, "can't handle" it. But Minnesota has more than a few good voters; our voters are as good as they come. If we can't trust our government to them, then there's no hope for democracy.

 Does 'Judge Sue' want lost wages, even though he has unlimited sick leave? "A Brooklyn judge planning to sue the city for a slip-and-fall accident on a wet courthouse floor claims he lost wages as a result -- even though judges get unlimited sick leave at full pay...Court officials said they could not discuss whether Battaglia took time off after the accident but confirmed judges get full pay when out on disability... Battaglia, brother of Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez's girlfriend, claims he suffered a fractured knee in the spill, requiring surgery and physical therapy...." More (N.Y. Daily News 04.15.2008). Earlier. Annals of judges who sue.

 A plan to save an old courthouse from imminent destruction by politicians. "The husband of a former Seneca County commissioner yesterday made a last-ditch effort to save the county's 1884 courthouse -- offering to swap a downtown building he owns for the courthouse. George Freeman told the board he would give the county the 1890 Tiffin Savings Bank building on East Perry Street if the board would deed the old courthouse to a not-for-profit organization for $1. The courthouse could become home to the vast collection of folk art by Tiffin native Bernadine Stetzel, he suggested. 'The swap would save Seneca County taxpayers the cost of demolition of their courthouse and possible national embarrassment should media focus on destruction of this landmark building,' Mr. Freeman said...." More (Toledo Blade 04.15.2008). Earlier. Last ditch effort asks SCOOH to save historic courthouse (with link to earlier postings). Update. Commissioners reject offer to save courthouse for other uses.

 Annals of feuding lawyers and judges. "A feud between a federal court judge and a prominent criminal defense attorney that had been the talk of Delaware's legal community appears to have ended as quickly as it began...It began with a missed hearing on April Fools' Day and ended with the attorney being barred from the judge's courtroom and vowing never to return to federal court. But a series of conciliatory gestures have apparently returned things to where they started. Longtime Wilmington attorney Joe Hurley is no longer banned from the courtroom of Chief District Judge Gregory M. Sleet and Hurley said he may now return to practice in the federal court system...." More (News Journal 04.15.2008).

 A judge's fish story. "Billy [Claxton the Hermit] stated: 'The only way to get this bull fish was to play upon his feelings.' [Judge Woolsey R. Hopkins] and the hermit conspired a plan. The judge was to row down past the cove some quiet evening dragging a trolling line. Naturally the trout would sneer at such a ruse, and it was hoped he would swim inshore where Billy would be waiting. Billy, hiding in some adjacent bushes, would lure the fish into shallow water by making noises like a female trout. They both hoped the fish would get close enough for Billy to hop in the water, get a line about the fish's gills and hang on until the judge could row up from the rear and help him in getting the fish on shore...." For the full story, "The Judge, The Hermit of Owasco Lake and the Big Fish Battle," from Memoirs of the Owasco Lake Anglers Society, click here (Auburn Citizen 04.15.2008).

 The politics of restoring sacked judges. "After the forced exit [in Pakistan] of Judge Chaudhry and 60 independently minded Superior Court judges, a hand-picked new judiciary approved an amnesty that had been granted by Mr. Musharraf to politicians, which was tailored to help the PPP. As a result, Asif Zardari, who succeeded his wife, Benazir Bhutto, as leader of the PPP after her assassination in December, has had a series of charges dropped, including a murder case. Critics point out that Mr. Zardari may not be keen to bring back the activist chief justice, whose courts had started a probe into the amnesty before he was fired...." More (Globe & Mail 04.14.2008). Comment. And what if the reconstituted supreme court vacates the amnesties on the ground the replacements weren't validly appointed, etc.?

 Annals of judicial silliness. "Courts staff abandoned their wigs and gowns to celebrate Capital of Culture in European style. Teams of court officials and judges decorated their Vernon Street offices. And each division provided food and drink from their selected country. They also donned national dress for a competition overseen by District Judge Nicola Harrison. She used her judging skills to announce her verdict on the best decorated 'country.' All staff and judiciary from Liverpool's civil and family courts were charged an entrance fee to join in the events and cash raised will be donated to Zoe's Place baby hospice in West Derby...." More (icLiverpool 04.14.2008).

 Newspaper's court reporter who was known as 'Judge.' "Ronnie Morris, who died in his sleep early on Saturday evening...was hugely respected by just about every body in the legal fraternity for his work as a high court reporter over many years for the Cape Times...I remember walking with him through the high court (or supreme court, as it was then called) in Cape Town and how he greeted everyone, from judges to cleaners and court orderlies. This was probably one of the reasons why he was able to get so many good court stories and quite often exclusively. Our nickname for Ronnie was 'Judge' because of his extensive knowledge of the law. In fact, we used to believe that judges consulted him before delivering their verdicts in certain key cases...." From Ryland Fisher, A Tribute to the Judge (Thought Leader 04.14.2008).

 UK considering allowing prosecutors to become judges. "Hundreds of state prosecutors could be free to become judges under top-level moves to end a ban on Crown Prosecution Service employees entering the judiciary...[because] it would make the judiciary more diverse by widening the pool of women and ethnic minority lawyers who could be judges...At present, Crown prosecutors are barred from becoming part-time judges (recorders) who sit on criminal trials -- the first crucial stepping stone to becoming a judge. The chief reason is the sensitivity about preserving judicial independence from the state and a concern that salaried prosecutors, who have seen cases only from the Crown point of view, would be unsuited to being judges and too 'prosecutorial minded.'" More (UK Times 04.14.2008). Comment. A Times reader points out that "self-employed Barristers who may have done primarily prosecution work throughout their working lives, albeit as agents for the Crown" are able to become judges are are thought able to be fair in criminal cases.

 The answers they give at confirmation hearings tell us what? "Despite the high degree of interest generated by Supreme Court confirmation hearings, surprisingly little work has been done comparing the statements made by nominees at their confirmation hearings with their voting behavior once on the Supreme Court. This paper begins to explore this potentially rich area by examining confirmation statements made by nominees regarding three different methods of constitutional interpretation: stare decisis, originalism and the use of legislative history. We also look at nominees' statements about one specific area of law: protection of the rights of criminal defendants. We then compare the nominees' statements to decisions made by the Justices once confirmed. Our results indicate that confirmation hearings statements about a nominee's preferred interpretive methodologies provide very little information about future judicial behavior. Inquiries into specific issue areas -- such as the rights of criminal defendants -- may be slightly more informative." Abstract of Jason J. Czarnezki, William K. Ford and Lori A. Ringhand, "An Empirical Analysis of the Confirmation Hearings of the Justices of the Rehnquist Natural Court," 24 Constitutional Commentary 127 (2007). More (SSRN).

 Psst, wanna become a 'dressage judge'? Q. What is "dressage"? A. "Dressage (pronounced dress-ahhzh) (a French term meaning 'training') is a path and destination of competitive horse training, with competitions held at all levels from amateur to the Olympics. Its fundamental purpose is to develop, through standardized progressive training methods, a horse's natural athletic ability and willingness to perform, thereby maximizing its potential as a riding horse." More (Wikipedia 04.14.2008). Q. Okay. So I wanna become a dressage judge. How do I go about it? A. "There is a lot of work involved in becoming a licensed dressage judge. It requires a solid background and experience in dressage. After that, there is acceptance to and participation in dressage learner programs, a substantial block of time, considerable personal expense, travel in most cases and a strong commitment to meet all requirements. Even then there is always the possibility that you will fail required tests and not become a judge. On the plus side, even if the latter is true, you will have benefited greatly by expanding your knowledge and understanding of dressage. The first necessary step is to...." Peter Lert, How to Become a Dressage Judge (Equisearch 04.14.2008). Comment. Sounds like it ain't that easy becoming one. Further reading. Kip Goldreyer, Scribing for a Dressage Judge (Equisearch 04.14.2008). What quadrille judges are looking for (Equisearch 04.14.2008).

 Judges select Dubbo's Miss Showgirl 2008! The 04.08.2008 issue of the Daily Liberal in Dubbo, New South Wales, Australia, reported that "[w]ith Dubbo Show fast approaching, time is running out to nominate to be this year's showgirl," who not only receives "more than $5000 worth of prizes" but will "forever hold the title of Miss Dubbo Showgirl 2008." "[Y]oung local women aged 18 to 25 years" are eligible to enter. The first entrant was 20-year-old Stephanie Rees, who is studying for a Bachelor of Finance and Law degree at Newcastle University and "enjoys horse riding, cooking, sewing and helping on the farm." She explained why she wanted to be Miss Showgirl 2008: "I think I would be a great ambassador for the Dubbo community. I grew up in Dubbo, it is everything I know and everything I love." More (Dubbo Daily Liberal 04.08.2008). Miss Rees is depicted here, and she's gorgeous. What is the Dubbo Show? "The three day Dubbo Show includes: Horses, wood chopping, trotting, sheep, cattle, farming and motor displays, bands and side show alley." It's been held annually since 1876. More. Five girls entered and it was Miss Rees who caught the judges' eyes. The other contestants are described here. "The [competition] started at 10am when Miss Rees was the first to be interviewed by judges Val Cannon from Peak Hill, Shaunagh Mfula from Sydney and Paul Spargo from Wellington. Judging continued at a three-course luncheon before the final decision was made after the girls spoke to the audience of 70 at the Western Plains Cultural Centre." More. Want to know more about Dubbo? Click here (Wikipedia 04.14.2008).

 A husband and wife 'judging team.' "Jack and Joelle Ray, the husband-and-wife team behind Samuel Cole Salon and Salon Moxie in North Raleigh, recently served as judges to help select the 2008 "Salons of the Year" winners, a national salon décor competition sponsored by Salon Today magazine...." More (Carolina Newswire 04.14.2008).

 Supreme court judge is shot dead. "Unidentified gunmen shot and killed a senior judge in Ingushetia, a restive province in the North Caucasus. Khasan Yandiyev, deputy chairman of Ingushetia's Supreme Court, was driving his Mercedes through the town of Karabulak when the assailants fired automatic weapons at his vehicle...Yandiyev has presided over a number of high-profile trials of local rebels and officials charged with corruption, and investigators believe that he was murdered because of his work...Ingushetia is one of the country's poorest and most violence-torn provinces." More (Moscow Times 04.14.2008).

 Annals of judges who sue. "It's the mother of all slip-and-fall cases. A politically connected Brooklyn judge plans to file a $1 million lawsuit against the city after slipping on a just-mopped floor in his own courthouse...Supreme Court Justice Jack Battaglia -- who hears civil cases and earns $136,000 a year -- is even targeting the courthouse cleaning lady who wielded the mop, according to legal papers. The judge fractured his knee in the Nov. 9, 2007, tumble outside room 452 and was forced to undergo surgery and physical therapy. In his Jan. 31 notice of claim, Battaglia accuses the city of 'negligently using a mop bucket and wringer' and 'negligently using a mop and soapy water' to create a 'dangerous and hazardous traplike condition.'" More (N.Y. Daily News 04.14.2008). Comment. Sounds like a workers compensation case to me. Further reading. Chief judge sues state, asking state judges to rule state owes state judges pay hike.

 Annals of outrageous judicial corruption. "Crooks have constructed a small mobile 'town.' They use it as a speed trap to snare money from unsuspecting motorists and, for bigger game, as a way to hijack trucks carrying valuable merchandise. After two hijackings, Lois Lane comes upon the 'town' and is captured. Now, Clark Kent, Jimmy Olsen and Inspector Bill Henderson are trying to track her down. After they, too, are incarcerated, Clark turns into Superman to shut down the criminal operation." -- From IMDB entry on the 03.22.1957 episode of The Adventures of Superman TV show titled "The Town That Wasn't" (Season 5, Episode 3). More (IMDB). Comments. a) Back in the 1980's my then pre-teen son and I enjoyed watching this series, which is now out on DVD, on reruns. This episode -- with the mobile "town," mobile "court," mobile "jail," and phony "judge," well played by Dick Elliott -- is particularly amusing. Sadly, most speed traps -- and I know of one that regularly nabs people who are not aware of it -- are run by real towns, not phony ones, and the fines are ultimately imposed by real judges, not phony ones. b) One of the "transformational problems" facing Clark Kent as he shares a jail cell with Lois, Jimmy, etc., is how to transform himself into Superman in order to rescue everybody and apprehend the bad guys without Lois, Jimmy, etc., realizing that Clark and Superman are one and the same. Clark Kent/Superman's "transformational problem" in the episode is not unlike that faced by an intensely-partisan Superlawyer/Politician who, when appointed to the bench by his pol pal, the Governor, must somehow, through an exercise of "Supermaniacal" will, reclaim his "Clark Kentish" lost political virginity and "act" henceforward as if he is still a political virgin. Cf, Proud to be a virgin (NYT 06.19.1994).

 Jeers and cheers greet smiling, joking judge as she's introduced. "Heather Mills was greeted with both jeers and cheers as she was introduced as a judge at the Miss USA 2008 pageant in Las Vegas...The 40-year-old was smiling and joking with her fellow judges as the TV cameras panned to her...." More (Press Assn. 04.12.2008).

 Circuit judges decry town's lack of talent. "The judges of a TV talent show have slammed Blackpool's lack of talent after declaring the town as the worst to host auditions. Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan and Amanda Holden spent two days in the resort in January holding auditions for the ITV show...." More (This Is Lancashire 04.12.2008).

 Memorial concert for beloved judge swept to death in flood. "Family of a much-loved Worcestershire judge[, Eric Dickinson,] who died during last year's flood have welcomed a memorial concert...[H]his daughter Emma Hagen...[said,] 'Growing up, I remember my dad's love of classical music and hearing it played at home. It was one of his greatest pleasures...The Worcestershire-based English Symphony Orchestra will perform specially chosen works at the Worcester Cathedral on Friday, April 18...The concert, which is open to the public, is being supported by the Rotary Club of Worcester Severn and the Worcestershire Law Society, who will unveil a specially commissioned portrait of Mr Dickinson on the night...." More (Worcester News 04.13.2008).

 Law prof: judicial elections are imperfect but they're the best option. Rick Esenberg, an assistant law professor at Marquette University, doesn't like the way the candidates and their supporters behaved in the recent election in Wisconsin, but he explains why he thinks judicial elections of Wisconsin's judges, though imperfect, are the best of the options. More (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 04.13.2008).

 Judge and commissioner face dereliction charges over delays. "[Marion County] Judge Grant Hawkins and his court commissioner, Nancy Broyles, face charges...[of] 'delay and dereliction of their duties'...[in a complaint filed by t]he Indiana Judicial qualifications commission...." The commission's report cites four cases that Commissioner Broyles, who is under the judge's supervision, "took from 13 to 28 months to decide." In one of them an apparently innocent fellow allegedly spent an extra two years in prison as a result of the negligent delay in ordering his release based on exculpatory DNA evidence. More (WTHR 04.12.2008). Related. Judge is fined $162,000 for negligence.

 Judge is censured for 'patriotic' ticket fixing. Farmington Town Justice Morris H. Lew received an e-mail from a friend serving with the Army in Iraq asking "what could be done" about his wife's speeding ticket for going 80 in a 65 zone in August of 2005. Justice Lew had the ticket transferred to his court calendar from that of another town justice without telling him, then dismissed the ticket, after which he e-mailed his friend in Iraq, saying, "Please consider it a very small token of thanks for your efforts in uniform." For this "misguided 'patriotic gesture,'" Lews now stands censured by the N.Y. Commission on Judicial Conduct. More (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle 04.11.2008).

 Board clears judge of misconduct allegations. "The state Court of Judicial Discipline on Thursday cleared Nanticoke District Judge Donald Whittaker of all misconduct charges, saying testimony of the lead witness was 'false, misleading and evasive.' In a 40-page opinion, a three-member panel took the task, saying she gave contradictory testimony [regarding allegedly sexually inappropriate comments by the judge] that seriously damaged her credibility...[At the hearing,] Whittaker's attorneys called a parade of witnesses who disputed [the complainant's] allegations...In a separate matter, the [board also cleared the judge of] violating a rule that prevents a judge from holding outside employment in his district...finding that the violation [driving a township fire truck part-time] was unintentional." More (Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader 04.11.2008). Comments. When we report allegations made against a judge, we typically remind everyone that they are just that, allegations, not yet proven, maybe never to be proven.

 163 years' worth of pictures of judges to be displayed. "The search over the past winter for pictures of the judges who served during the 163 years of the...[c]ounty courthouse in Ovid is nearing completion and just in time for a Law Day event May 1...Judge Dennis F. Bender will headline a 'Tribute to the Ovid Judges' beginning at 7 p.m. in the Ovid courtroom. Dan Motill, president of the not-for-profit, 5-year-old Friends of the Three Bears -- the title given the three buildings making up the...courthouse complex in Ovid dating from when the village was the county seat -- said friends and relatives of the judges are being asked to attend and read biographies accompanying the picture of each judge. Invitations are going out to various county and state officials...." More (Ithaca Journal 04.11.2008).

 Quote-of-the-Day. "Comprehensive legal reform [by the legislature] might help keep the tort war from seeping into judicial elections." Torts and Courts (The Economist 04.10.2008).

 Chief judge sues state, asking state judges to rule state owes state judges a big pay hike. "The state's chief judge sued the state Thursday over its failure to increase judicial salaries...." More (N.Y. Daily News 04.10.2008). Comment. I've posted a number of entries over Judge Judy Kaye's past threats to sue over the legislature's failure to give NYS judges a pay hike in recent years. I examine the issues critically at Judge Judy Kaye now has 'independent' report to support her plea for raise. There I opine that the commissioned study, which in effect told Judge Kaye what she wanted to hear, has the same sort of flaws and omissions that typically are contained in arguments/reports by other advocates of big judicial pay raises -- flaws and omissions that "press-release journalists" never perceive or mention. For some of the typical flaws and omissions and for the kind of approach I recommend to legislators who consider requests by judges for pay raises, see, my earlier mini-essay from 01.01.2002 titled I could be making lots more if I were Michael Jordan, along with Ten out of 10 pundits agree: Chief's Report on paltry pay was appalling, and The Chief Justice's annual harangue about his paltry pay.

 The Rule of Law comes to livestock judging. "For the first time in its nearly 90 year history, the Delaware State Fair is publishing the rules for its livestock exhibition. Until now, exhibitors and judges passed along the rules by word-of-mouth. This year, fair organizers decided to tweak the rules, write them down, and post them online...." More (CBS3 04.11.2008). Comment. The "Rule of Law" consists of a number of inter-related principles, one being that judicial decisions are made in accordance with written laws and rules. Another principle is that judicial decisionmakers provide written explanations for their decisions based upon the facts as fairly found and the written law. It may be awhile before that aspect of the Rule of Law comes to livestock judging, but then, sadly, it isn't followed fully by many common law courts. Too often, decisions without opinions and unpublshed decisions (particularly the former) serve as a cover for shoddy judging.

 Newest TV judge will mix law and religion. "Penny Brown Reynolds, a judge in Fulton County State Court, soon will star in Family Court With Judge Penny, drawing on her legal and personal background to address fighting couples, reckless parents and child custody issues...Reynolds also wears a robe as a member of the clergy. She is a licensed minister who is set to graduate from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta in May. She is married to the Rev. Edward Reynolds of Midway Missionary Baptist Church. [Fulton County State Court Judge Myra] Dixon said [Reynolds'] faith will likely factor into the show. 'She will bring with her the spiritual side...That's something you haven't seen a lot of in a TV judge." More (NewsOK.Com 04.11.2008).

 Judge Jewel Kilcher says she was taught to seek greatness, not fame. "Singer-songwriter Jewel [Kilcher] will be a judge on the upcoming season of Nashville Star. She'll join John Rich of Big & Rich as a judge-mentor on the country music reality series, which premieres June 9. Last year, Jewel hosted the national talent search, which seeks to find the next country music star...[Judge Jewel said,] 'As a young artist, I really benefited from having great mentors like Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard. They took me under their wings and encouraged me to stand up for things that, as an artist, are important...They constantly reminded me that an artist's only concern is being great, not being famous. If you are truly great, success should follow.'" More (CanadianPress.Google 04.11.2008). Comment. Might a new common law judge benefit from following Judge Jewel's sage advice? Certainly, a new common law judge ought not seek fame. But how exactly does a new judge go about seeking greatness? Well, I'll tell ya....

 Justice, who spoke (too?) candidly about colleagues, says he'll retire. "One of the Supreme Court of Canada's most senior and prolific judges, Mr. Justice Michel Bastarache, [60,] shocked the legal world yesterday by announcing his impending retirement at the end of the court's spring session in June...Judge Bastarache got into hot water in 2001 over an interview in which he expressed candid opinions about other judges and their motivations. While the Canadian Judicial Council later exonerated him of bias, it noted: 'While your personal motives were laudable, some of your comments were of a nature that could be expected to cause controversy. It is clearly preferable for judges to exercise restraint when speaking publicly.'" (Emphasis supplied.) More (Globe & Mail 04.10.2008). Comment. I love that line "shocked the legal world." How easy it is for one to think one's own little bailiwick is the center of the world's attention. I seem to recall one of my sociology profs at the U. of Minn. in the early 1960's refer to this as the "myth of central position."

 Judges are warned against 'blasting out' in court. "Judges should be careful about making comments on prosecuting officers and the quality of police investigations, Chief Justice Datuk Abdul Hamid Mohamad said. 'Judges shouldn't be making unnecessary remarks openly in court. In anything that you do, there's always a way of doing it,' he said today. Abdul Hamid said it was important not to 'blast out in court.' 'You have to maintain good relationships,' he added, speaking to the Press after a closed-door forum involving the judiciary, police, Attorney-General's Chambers and the Anti-Corruption Agency, held as part of the annual Judges' Conference...." (Emphasis supplied.) More (New Straits Times - Malaysia 04.10.2008). Comment. "But, gee, Chief, it's so fun to 'blast out' in court -- can't I do it, just a little?"

 Not fit to be a bishop but maybe he'd make a good judge? "In a memorable episode of the television series Yes, Prime Minister, the PM, Jim Hacker, is presented with a choice of two candidates for a vacant bishopric. When the cabinet secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby, mentions the first, Hacker expresses outrage. 'But he doesn't even believe in God!' he says. 'Yes, Prime Minister,' replies Sir Humphrey smoothly, 'but he doesn't have anything against him.'" -- From a profile titled 'Jesus will appear again as judge of the world and the dead will be raised,' by Sholto Byrnes, of Bishop Tom Wright, who is current "Bishop of Durham, fourth most senior cleric in the Church of England (after Canterbury, York and London), [and who] is also its leading evangelical theologian." (New Statesman 04.10.2008). Comment. A fellow who neither believes in God nor has anything against Him might be disqualified, in some churches at least, for a bishopric. But those same qualities ought not be either a qualification or a disqualification for a judgeship -- right? (If you think not, maybe you haven't read the Constitution recently.)

 Annals of so-called 'merit selection' screening in judicial selection. "A House subcommittee has killed Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen's proposal to bar the Judicial Selection Commission from meeting in private. The measure carried by House Judiciary Chairman Kent Coleman, a Murfreesboro Democrat, failed to advance on a voice vote in the Democrat-controlled House Civil Practice Subcommittee on Tuesday. Members of the panel expressed concern that applicants' criminal background checks and credit information would be discussed in public meetings. Rep. Rob Briley, a Nashville Democrat, also argued it was unfair the governor could still hold his interviews with candidates in private...." More (Clarksville Leaf Chronicle - TN 04.10.2008). See, also, Lawyers deal blow to open government (Nashville City Paper 04.10.2008) ("The 17-member Judicial Selection Commission is probably an equally unknown governmental body to most Tennesseans, but it has the potential to have a massive impact on lives of people in our state...Supposedly loyal Democratic House members...voted down the bill, suggesting the brotherhood of attorneys in the state Legislature runs deeper than party ties).

 Judge is fined $162,000 for negligence. "A Spanish judge has been fined ¤103,000 (US$162,000) and suspended for a year for allowing a man to spend 455 days in prison for a crime of which he was acquitted. The Superior Court of Justice of Andalusia said in Wednesday's ruling that Judge Adelina Entrena was guilty of grave negligence...." In December 2005 Judge Entrena acquitted the fellow of purse-snatching but failed to notify the jail. She did notify the defendant by mail but he has limited reading skills. Fifteen months later a clerk detected the error. "Entrena blamed the oversight on a backlog of work and insufficient staffing at her courthouse in Motril in the southern province of Granada." More (PR-Inside 04.10.2008). Comment. A few days, 15 months -- close enough for government?

 Judge finds illegal patronage is still practiced. "Job applicants with minimal qualifications are being hired by the county, and until recently, their credentials were not checked, said a federally appointed judge charged with looking into illegal patronage in Cook County government. Judge Julia Nowicki outlined to the Cook County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday the problems she has uncovered since early last year while evaluating the county's hiring practices...." More (Medill Reports 04.10.2008). Comments. Who suspected?

 Judge decries manipulation of court system in custody cases. "An Ontario judge has criticized the criminal-court system for permitting warring spouses to lodge assault charges as part of a strategy aimed at winning custody of their children...He said that it is commonplace for the criminal-justice system to be manipulated by estranged spouses who claim to have been assaulted 'no matter how remote the assault may be in time or, indeed, how trivial the contact. Spouses of every walk of life -- and often with completely unblemished prior character -- are routinely detained for a formal bail hearing for such assaults,' Judge Pugsley said...." More (Globe and Mail 04.09.2008).

 Rodeo Days at the courthouse in North Platte. "Business at the Lincoln County [Nebraska] Courthouse came to a sudden and complete stop Tuesday morning after a Black Angus cow escaped from a trailer and made her way onto the courthouse lawn....Ray Brown, an employee of the Livestock Auction and a calf roper in his own right, came to the rescue. Brown loaded up his horse in a trailer at the barn and headed downtown...'I've roped in the Astrodome and at Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyo.,' Brown said, 'but that was the most pressurized shot I ever pulled off.' Brown rode up alongside the cow, which bolted once again to the east, and he lassoed her on his first try...." More (North Platte Bulletin 04.09.2008).

 C.J.'s son's girl friend gets unadvertised job with court's admin. office. "A woman dating a son of Chief Justice Joseph E. Lambert has been hired for a human resources job opening that was not advertised." Common Cause of Kentucky says the job should have been posted and advertised. Court officials deny they created the position for the young woman, who, like the chief's son, is a graduate of Princeton University, one of the top colleges in the country. They add that since the job is one of four "nontenured" (non-merit) jobs in the 17-person department, they didn't need to advertise it and "no one else applied for the job." More (Lexington Herald-Leader 04.09.2008). Comment. The director of the administrative office of the courts says he "leapt at the chance to hire [the young woman] when he learned that she and [the chief's son] were moving to Kentucky from Texas. 'I bet you in 10 years she'll be running this shop,' [he] said." No kidding? Seriously, anyone who has worked in state government anywhere in this country has probably seen this sort of thing happen. It's especially telling when someone who has blabbed about "equal opportunity for all" turns around and discovers that a friend's kid is "the best person for the job." In some cases -- possibly here, because a degree from Princeton is nothing to sneeze at -- that may be true, but it's sort of beside the point.

 Henry Hobson Richardson's Allegheny County Courthouse. "It has been 120 years since Henry Hobson Richardson's Allegheny County Courthouse was dedicated in 1888, and to mark the occasion, a dozen architectural historians and other academics from the United States and Canada will gather April 18 at the University of Pittsburgh for a daylong symposium. 'The Allegheny County Courthouse in Context' will explore Richardson's career, the design and conservation of the courthouse and its impact on civic architecture across North America...." More (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 04.09.2008). Comment. Richardson designed, among many great buildings, one of the many places in my heart, lovely old Austin Hall (depicted here), at Harvard Law School.

 Last ditch effort to get SCOOH to save historic courthouse. Opponents of the 2-1 decision of the county board to demolish the historic Seneca County Courthouse in Ohio are asking SCOOH to save the courthouse from those intent on wrecking it. More (Toledo Blade 04.08.2008). Comment. I'm with those who want to preserve, restore and improve the courthouse. It's a gem of a building. Any new one won't hold a candle to it. See, my essay on historic preservation, The failed campaign to save a historic courthouse. BTW, most counties in our experience wisely appreciate their historic courthouses and do what they can to preserve them. Read on...

 William Faulkner's courthouse is being restored. "For more than 130 years, the courthouse on Oxford's Square was the center, the focus, the 'hub,' of Lafayette County, as William Faulkner described it in his fiction. The familiar white structure has now been closed for most of a year while it undergoes a much-needed renovation from its foundation to its four-faced clock. 'We had one of the most historic buildings in North Mississippi, and it was deteriorating beyond usefulness,' said Supervisor Johnny Morgan, who was board president when the county undertook the renovation. 'Either you just have an eyesore in the middle of the Square, or you take the bull by the horns and appropriate the money to have a historic renovation.'" More (Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal 04.08.2008).

 Annals of brand new courthouses. "Brick by brick, the outside of the Charleston County [SC] Judicial Center is being removed. And replaced. A long-running legal fight over construction [and water leaks] has triggered an ambitious plan in which just about every brick and bit of stucco on the exterior walls are being chipped out. Hundreds of bricks are being removed, making the building look like a giant defective 3-D puzzle. The [$48 million] Judicial Center opened in 2002 as the new four-story courthouse in Charleston...." More (Charleston Post and Courier 04.08.2008). Comment. Fortunately, the wise preservationists in Historic Charleston also restored the old courthouse, the roof of which was blown off by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The new separate structure referred to above was part of an overall plan that included restoring the old one (including by removing innappropriate modern additions attached to it).

 Legislators use 'bill of address' as alternative to impeachment of judge. "What one lawmaker dubbed a legislative 'grand jury' met yesterday to begin investigating whether [NH] Superior Court Justice Patricia Coffey should be forced from the bench. The committee yesterday drew up rules, picking officers and setting April 25 as the date when they'll take six hours of testimony from lawmakers and the public about Coffey. She will have a chance to respond at a hearing at least two weeks later...The bill of address, an alternative to impeachment that requires no Senate trial, was brought by members of the House Republican Alliance. It has strong bipartisan backing...." More (Concord Monitor 04.08.2008). Comment. Back in 2000 articles of impeachment were filed against Chief Justice David Brock of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, and a trial was held in that state's senate, which resulted in the judge's acquittal. These cases out of NH show that the flip side of judicial independence is judicial accountability. I personally think the "Minnesota Plan" of ensuring the accountability part of judicial independence and accountability through the occasional contested judicial election, while not without problems, is better than the other methods, including the "New Hampshire Plan" and the plan favored by MN's Quie Commission, the "Missouri Plan," with its fake, undemocratic "no opponent" elections. Our MN courts, by the way (as well as those in Wisconsin, which also has judicial elections), consistently rank way, way higher than the courts of those states. See, e.g.,.SCOMN #5, SCOMO #47 -- so let's adopt the Missouri Plan?

Impeachment proceedings continue against chief justice! "The judicial board has moved forward in impeachment proceedings against Student Chief Justice Lock Whiteside, according to Morgan Early, a senior in mathematics and communication and member of the judicial board. 'The board has had a majority vote to go forward with the impeachment,' she said. Five members of the board sent a letter to Whiteside, a graduate student in political science, before he was elected for a third term as student chief justice, stating that if he did not withdraw from his position, they would pursue his impeachment...." More (NC State U. Technician 04.08.2008). Comment. Impeachment proceedings in student government at colleges and universities around the country seem to me to occur at a greater rate than in "the real world." Not sure why.

Gotti's son 'rats out' three judges. "Besides ratting out members of the Mafia, John Gotti's 'adopted son' fingered three crooked judges and corrupt officials in Nassau County, the Daily News has learned...." More (N.Y. Daily News 04.08.2008).

 The Return of the Ancient Mariner -- or is it Minnesota Scariner? "A senior family court judge has hit out at the government over what he says is an 'epidemic' of family failure that will have 'catastrophic' effects. In a speech, Mr Justice Coleridge, a Family Division judge for England and Wales, warned the results could be as destructive as global warming. He said ministers are not doing enough about a 'meltdown' in family life...." More (BBC News 04.06.2008). Comment. Judge Coleridge paints a picture almost as scary as that painted by famous namesake's bright-eyed Ancient Mariner, equally as scary as that painted of late by the Minnesota Scariner: "And thus spake on that ancient man,/ The bright-eyed Minnesota Scariner./ And now listen to/ The ghastly tale of woes to come/ Of which he strangely spake/ That lie in wait for those who vote/ For judges free./ He seemed to say,/ Only ill will come/ Or so I thought I heard him whee,/ If foreign money come/ And buy spots on TV." Further reading. In case you're not from Minnesota, my lame allusion is to the scare tactics being used by some members of the Minnesota judicial power elite who are leading a well-financed campaign (that includes "outside money") to enact a constitutional amendment depriving Minnesota voters of their historic say in judicial selection in Minnesota. Click here for links to some of our essaying on the many facets of this campaign.

 Former SCONC justice is running for governor. "Sitting on North Carolina's Supreme Court, Bob Orr was indistinguishable from his fellow black-robed justices. It was his attire for less formal meetings that raised an eyebrow. 'He would wear a pink shirt to conference just to irritate me,' says then-Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake Jr., a Republican. 'I used to kid him about being a liberal.' Orr always defied easy labels...'He's hard to define,' says Lake. 'He's pretty middle-of-the-road.' Now Orr, 61, is one of five Republicans running for governor in the May 6 primary...." More (Charlotte Observer 04.07.2008). Comment. It's not unprecedented for a supreme court justice to get elected governor. Back in 1946, when gambling was still called a racket, Luther Youngdahl resigned his position as a Minnesota state supreme court justice, to which he was directly elected in 1942 (so much for voters being unable to pick good judges), to run successfully for governor as a Republican, promising to clean illegal one-armed bandits out of country clubs, bars and other "establishments." On taking office in 1947, he did just that. (Minnesota did well without legalized gambling for many years but now one can't turn on the evening TV "news" without being reminded through the announcement of "today's lottery numbers" that the state sold its soul in legalizing gambling.) President Truman executed an adroit manuever in 1951, appointing the then-tremendously-popular Youngdahl, who was considered a possible opponent to DFL Senator Hubert Humphrey in 1954, to the federal district court in Washington, D.C., where Youngdahl was, both politically and geographically, safely out of Humphrey's way. As Time magazine put it, "With one round from his gun, Harry Truman had just about blown off the head of the Minnesota Republican Party. Slick Senator Humphrey, who had laid the gun on the target, could chuckle...When word of Youngdahl's appointment got out, [Harold] Stassen cried foul: 'A typical Truman trick.'"

 Cornerstone is laid for 'supreme court rest home.' "Foundation stone laying ceremony of a 14-Kanal Supreme Court judges Rest house was held here at Aikmen road, GOR-1 on Sunday...[T]he Rest House is being built to accommodate the SC judges during their stay in Lahore to hear the  cases at SC Lahore Registry. The Rest-House will comprise  6 suites each at ground and second flour and a Chief Justice annexe...." More (APPakistan 04.07.2008). Comment. When I saw the headline I thought the planned "rest home" was a retirement home. No, it's a comfy place for the justices to stay when on tour. Since judges here in the U.S. are paid "paltry" wages, I have suggested that perhaps the Government ought to build subsidized Melrose Place-style courtyard apartments as permanent housing for judges and their spouses. The courtyard apartments would coordinate with the Melrose Place-style appellate courthouses I've proposed. See, my mini-essay titled Of courtyard apartments & 'courtyards.'

 Posters of SCOIS justices found scrawled with swastika. "Posters scrawled with swastika and inciteful messages were discovered on Sunday in Jerusalem's Kiryat Moshe neighborhood. Police do not know who vandalized the posters, many of which showed images of Supreme Court justices...." More (Haaretz 04.06.2008).

 District judge, told to stop calling woman, apologizes. Erie County PA's president judge, Elizabeth K. Kelly, has directed a fellow district judge, Gerald Alonge, of North East, to stop calling a woman who doesn't appreciate his attention. Apparently there are other women he's called who also don't appreciate his attention. Judge Alonge has issued a statement, saying in part:

I was recently informed that an individual had sent a letter to my superior expressing her complaint that I was periodically attempting to reach her by phone. I have many social contacts with whom I frequently converse in person and by phone. At no time have I ever knowingly put myself in a situation where by thought or action anything inappropriate could have been perceived. I have never sensed during any conversation or interaction that someone felt uncomfortable with my comments or mannerisms. If that is what some perceive I sincerely apologize as that was not my intent.

More (Erie Times 04.06.2008).

 Threatening tactics by state judicial tenure chief in MI. In January Paul Fischer, the director of the judicial tenure commission in MI, accompanied by a state trooper, entered the chambers of Judge Steven Servaas in Rockford and told Servaas he was technically no longer a judge because of a change in residence and that if he didn't resign by 9:00 a.m. the next morning using a letter Fischer had already prepared, he'd file a petition for suspension and see to it that Servaas would face public embarrassment. The trooper, with Fischer's okay but without Servaas' knowledge, audiotaped the 16-minute encounter. You can listen to it here and decide for yourself whether you think this is the way a director of a judicial tenure commission ought to behave toward an elected judge. More (Grand Rapid Press 04.06.2008). Earlier. Embattled judge mounts a defense (including links to other postings).

 Jim Thorpe's daughter, a tribal judge, dies at 86. "Grace Thorpe, 86, a tribal judge and environmental and antinuclear activist, died Tuesday of heart failure in Claremore, Okla. The daughter of Olympic great Jim Thorpe, she was a direct descendant of Sac and Fox chief Black Hawk and was of Potawatomi, Kickapoo and Menominee heritage...She served as a Women's Army Corps corporal in New Guinea, the Philippines and Japan during World War II...." More (Philadelphia Inquirer 04.06.2008). Comment. Among the many movies of my childhood that I retain in memory -- and even organize my memory by -- is Jim Thorpe, All-American (1951), starring Burt Lancaster. I was eight at the time I saw the movie. Jim Thorpe was one of the American Idols among boys of my generation, along with Charles Lindbergh, Jr., Jesse Owens, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Audie Murphy...the list goes on....

Judicial (fire)power. "The Supreme Court has allowed judges to carry firearms for their protection and security and would provide a 'hand gun loan,' the amount of which has been set initially at P10 million...Repayment scheme for the loan will not be more than 36 monthly installments and will not exceed P50,000, according to the high court...." More (Manila Inquirer 04.06.2008).

 SCOWIS' Chief leads the way -- herein of experienced judges, judicial elections and judicial independence. Wisconsin's Chief Justice, 74-year-old Shirley Abrahamson, who's been on the court for 32 years, 12 as its chief justice, has announced that she will seek another term next year and that she plans to "run hard." Her announcement follows the much-publicized hotly-contested election in which voters elected a trial judge named Gableman over a recently-appointed justice named Butler who was seeking his first full term. The fellow who prevailed, Gableman, had "criticized Abrahamson as anti-law enforcement and liberal during his final, televised debate with Butler." But Abrahamson said "she wouldn't hold the comments against him." Indeed, she "congratulated him on his victory in a phone call Thursday." She also said that "the court will remain the same in treating each case on the facts and the law without regard to political pressure and outside influence." More (Wisconsin State Journal 04.05.2008). Comments. This story brings cheer to me and ought to bring cheer to all populists who a) oppose forced retirement of our most-experienced judges, b) support, as Abrahamson does, judicial elections, and c) believe, as Abrahamson does, that judicial elections, with the accountability they bring, are not only not not inconsistent with judicial independence but provide a unique opportunity to get public support for it:

 a) Mandatory retirement of judges. In 1977 Wisconsin's wise voters wisely abandoned its relatively-brief experiment with mandatory retirement of judges. Thus, we have a vigorous 74-year-old chief justice, with 32 years' of experience on the court, saying she plans to "run hard" next year. I've publicly argued since 2000 that Minnesota ought to abandon its unwise, costly experiment in what in reality is invidious discrimination on the basis of age, whereby the best and most-experienced judges are forced to retire at the age when some of our greatest judges -- e.g., Holmes and Hand -- were just coming into their own. Not only is it bad policy, for multiple reasons, it's also "antidemocratic, depriving people of their right to elect judges of their choice." See, my 2000 Campaign Position Paper on Mandatory Retirement of Judges. Just last week, Mark Cohen, who edits The Minnesota Lawyer, referred in his blog to Minnesota's policy of forced retirement at 70 as "an anachronism that itself ought to be retired." (MN Lawyer Blog 03.31.2008). I think it's just a matter of time before the public demands its repeal.

 b) Judicial elections make sense in populist states with intelligent voters and strong two-party traditions like Minnesota and Wisconsin. Refreshingly, Chief Justice Abrahamson isn't whining about the recent election in Wisconsin, in which i) various interest groups wasted lots of money on silly ads insulting the voters' intelligence and ii) the candidates said silly things I never dreamed of saying when I ran in the general election in 2000 for state judicial office. (See, 2000 Hanson for Supreme Court campaign archives.) Unlike some judges, Abrahamson doesn't see her position as a sinecure or entitlement, nor does she feel that seeking support from the voters every now and then is beneath her or somehow corrupting to the institution or the office. Nor does she question the ability of voters to separate the wheat from the chaff. She knows of what she speaks: she's been through three hotly-contested elections already, in 1979, 1989, and 1999, prevailing each time. Here's what she said about her last election in a speech titled The Ballot and the Bench, 76 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 973, 975 (2001):

The last campaign involved such lofty issues as the appropriateness of my sponsoring a staff aerobic class in the courtroom after hours, my decision to hang a portrait of the first woman to be admitted to the Wisconsin Supreme Court bar, and the removal of computer games from justices' computers. I was also the target of television ads challenging my votes in specific cases involving a school locker search, a Terry stop, and the sexual predator law. More than $1 million was raised by both candidates, and the election set a record for Wisconsin judicial campaign spending. The most fun thing about the race was winning it.

She said that with that experience behind her, one might think she is unalterably opposed to judicial elections. She quickly added, "But I am not  -- that is, I am not opposed to electing judges in a state like Wisconsin." (Emphasis added). That's one of the points I've been making: every state is different. What works in populist states like Minnesota and Wisconsin, with their sophisticated, involved electorate and great political traditions of voter involvement and balanced parties and with their highly-respected judiciaries, might not work in other states. While acknowledging her concerns with the way elections are conducted, Abrahamson explained why she favors them, saying, inter alia:

Judges who are running for election take the time to ride with law enforcement officers, make rounds with social workers and doctors, visit schools and factories, and lunch with the fork-and-knife clubs and bar associations. These visits give a judge the opportunity to understand the legal system from the perspective of the users: litigants and lawyers. When I write an opinion I am also mindful that one of the opinion's many audiences is the public. I try to make my opinions comprehensible to a lay reader (which probably makes them more comprehensible to lawyers, too). Elections can increase the citizen's understanding of the judicial function and the need for judicial independence. The public's appreciation of and respect for judicial independence is, I think, the best way to ensure that the judiciary will remain independent. I see these benefits of the elective system as outweighing, at least in some states, the less-appealing aspects of elections.

Id. at 977. She recognizes, as any sensible observer does, that "in any single election the emotions of the voters may outweigh the voters' commitment to judicial independence," but she believes in general that "Good judging is good politics" and that "the bar and the public will support judges whom they perceive as independent even if they do not agree with particular decisions."

 c) Judicial elections, with the accountability they bring, are not only not not inconsistent with judicial independence but provide a unique opportunity to get public support for it. What's Abrahamson's approach to the issue of judicial independence? "[J]udges have to talk about judicial independence and make it a campaign issue," she says. "Over the past twenty-five years, and in each of my elections, the concept of judicial independence has played a prominent role in my discussions with the public." Id. at 986. In her experience, elected judges in Wisconsin take their oaths seriously and are not less independent than judges in other states. She adds that "at least in some states, like Wisconsin, elections provide an opportunity to develop electoral support for judicial independence, and this opportunity outweighs the risks inherent in an elective system." Id. at 990. In the same vein, she argues that "Rather than scuttling elections because we fear voter ignorance, we should capitalize on elections as a vehicle for voter education." Id. at 994. And she makes a point I've been making:

Underlying the debate about appointed versus elected judges is a fundamental disagreement about the capacity of the voters to choose wisely. If the people need more information, it is our task to provide it. As Thomas Jefferson said: "I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion."

Id. at 997.

d) Conclusion. The speech we quote from was delivered by Abrahamson in 2001. You might ask, Have her support for judicial elections and her views on judicial independence changed since then, in view of the judicial free speech cases, etc.? Apparently not. Here's a relevant excerpt from one of her responses at 20 Questions for Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson (How Appealing 09.13.2004):

I have reread my NYU article, and I continue (perhaps not surprisingly) to be persuaded by my reasoning. I favor elections because I favor transparent government. Too much of what goes on in the appointment and confirmation process is kept behind closed doors; the public does not have an opportunity for meaningful participation in the process. Ideally, the elective system can also be an educational experience for both the judges and the electorate. I do not subscribe to the view that elected judges are more (or less) likely than appointed judges to tailor a decision to the wishes of the legislature, the executive, or popular opinion. Experience demonstrates that appointed judges, even those with life tenure, are not free from outside pressures, whether in the selection process or thereafter. Indeed in recent years some life-tenured federal judges have asserted that their independence is being threatened. No constitutional or statutory safeguards can guarantee judicial independence. The qualities most needed in judges are courage and personal integrity, both of which are indispensable to independence.

Although Abrahamson is frequently described as a "liberal," one might get the impression these days that most of the supporters of judicial elections are on "the right." But I don't think it's true, and Abrahamson helps prove my point. As I see it, our state constitutional provision allowing voter participation in judicial selection is neither "liberal" or "conservative," any more than populism or basic democracy is necessarily either "liberal" or "conservative." See, my 2004 congressional campaign essay titled 'Liberals' and 'Conservatives.' And if you're not familiar with my own positions on the issues addressed here, I offer the following as good starting points on each: a) essay on mandatory retirement of judges; b) essay on judicial elections in Minnesota; c) essay on judicial independence and accountability.

 Black judge apologizes for kicking white lawyers out, but he had a reason. "An Atlanta, Georgia, judge who ordered white lawyers out of his courtroom so he could lecture African-American defendants called that decision a 'mistake' Tuesday night. 'In retrospect, it was a mistake,' Judge Marvin Arrington told CNN...Arrington, who is African-American...said he got fed up seeing a parade of young black defendants shuffle into his courtroom and decided to address them one day last week -- out of the earshot of white lawyers. 'I came out and saw the defendants, and it was about 99.9 percent Afro-Americans...and at some point in time, I excused some lawyers -- most of them white -- and said to the young people in here, What in the world are you doing with your lives?'" More (CNN 04.03.2008). Comment.  My favorite movie judge, the stern, kind, wise Judge James K. ("Jim") Hardy (played by Lewis Stone), in the delightful Andy Hardy series of films (which also starred Mickey Rooney and, among others, Ann Rutherford and Judy Garland), did unorthodox things like this in a good faith effort to help people and, at least in my memory, never got criticized for it. Judge Arrington was just trying to talk with the kids "man to man." Kicking the white lawyers out wasn't the way to go about it, at least these days. Related. Judges as depicted in movies; Judge J. Howard Sundermann, Jr., Judges in Film (Picturing Justice - The Online Journal of Law & Popular Culture 03.13.2002).

 Group dynamics in the federal judiciary. "Federal judges are heavily influenced by the political ideology of other members of their court, renowned legal scholar and theorist Cass Sunstein told a full house in Dodds Auditorium last night when he delivered the Fourth Annual Bernstein Lecture in legal scholarship. Sunstein said his investigation of the phenomenon began five years ago when his research assistant, while searching through environmental law cases to see how judges appointed by Democratic presidents voted, noticed that Democratic appointees were 'more environmentally friendly' if they were with two other Democratic appointees but not than with one or two Republican appointees. Sunstein added that research into other types of cases yielded similar results...." More (The Daily Princetonian 04.04.2008). Comment. Sunstein also stated that his analysis of cases showed that "Justice Clarence Thomas was the most partisan member of the Court and that Justice Antonin Scalia was the most activist." But he added that all of the justices play politics "to be sure." As a small-town Minnesotan would say, "For sure."

 Ten years of art exhibits at SCOVT. "[I]t's been 10 years since Vermont Supreme Court Judge Marilyn Skoglund began to transform a dull, institutional space (the dreary first floor court lobby at 111 State St. where she works) into one of the liveliest art galleries in the region. 'Nobody can believe it,' Skoglund said. 'They thought I was a dilettante.' Skoglund is the first to admit she had no idea what she was doing. She started out by going to group shows in the area, picking out artists she liked and simply asking them if they'd like to hang their work in her 'gallery,' the large walls of the lobby. In the intervening decade, Skoglund has, largely on her own, managed to exhibit five shows a year -- more than 55 solo shows (it could be more, she says, as she stopped counting a while ago) of works by artists from all over the state...." More (Times-Argus 04.04.2008). Related. Courthouse displaying student art (Arizona Star-Net 04.04.2008). Further reading. What's 'wall sculpture' to your eye may be 'just colored blocks' to an attorney; County courthouse as 'the people's lawn' (and included links).

Judge pleads guilty to driving car without car test certificate. "A district court judge was 'very embarrassed and very apologetic' after being fined 250 for driving his seven-year-old car without an NCT cert. Judge Terence Finn, who was not in court yesterday, pleaded guilty through his solicitor before his colleague, Judge Michael Patwell...." More (Irish Independent 04.05.2008).

'Slow justice' spares man's life. "People who urge swifter justice on death row should think about Glen Edward Chapman. He could have been executed long before spending 14 years on death row, but that wouldn't have been justice. Just the opposite. Chapman, 41, was released this week when all charges against him were dropped...." More (Greensboro News-Record - NC 04.05.2008). Comment. It would have been even better if the system had worked quickly and his earlier trial had been fair, etc.

 MN Lawyer editor wants us to retire mandatory retirement. "It is unfortunate that the state requires that judges retire on their 70th birthday. It seems a waste that, through an arbitrary cut-off line, the state deprives its citizens of wise and experienced, albeit somewhat gray, heads. Personally, I would much rather have the 70-year-old [Judge] Oleisky presiding over my case than the 34-year-old one, but the state seems to have a preference for the latter. I think forced retirement at 70 is an anachronism that itself ought to be retired." Mark Cohen, Editor, MN Lawyer (MN Lawyer Blog 03.31.2008). Comments. a) I appreciated the professional, fair, extensive way Mark and his associates at the Minnesota Lawyer covered the campaign in 2000. I said at the time that I felt he was the only editor of any newspaper in MN who could hold his/her head high in that regard. Not surprisingly, his MN Lawyer Blog is equally excellent. b) For my similar views on Judge Oleisky's age-mandated retirement and on the need to abolish mandatory retirement of judges, see, Most-experienced judge wants to keep judging; but 'the law' says no; Mandatory Retirement of Judges.

 Judge who lost election blames C.J. Russell Anderson for 'playing politics.' This piece is worth reading in its entirety. It turns out MN C. J. Russell Anderson's daughter was District Judge Terrance Holter's "campaign manager" in his failed bid for another term in 2006. It was a close contest but Holter lost to a challenger 51%-49%. Holter isn't satisfied with the job Anderson's daughter did (or didn't do) as campaign manager. He's also angry that Anderson, as chief, turned down his bid, supported by fellow trial judges, to serve as a retired judge after he lost. He feels, at a minimum, Anderson should have recused. More (City Pages 04.02.2008). Comments. a) Holter is quoted saying that Anderson's daughter called him to volunteer to serve as his campaign manager and that she said, "My dad called me last night and said you've got to help Terry." Anderson's daughter "denies that her father asked her to get involved with the campaign. 'I had told my dad that I was going to offer to help,' she says. 'I heard rumors about this, but no, my dad wasn't behind it. It was my decision.'" According to the article, the C.J. "declined" an interview but, through a court spokesman, denied asking his daughter to help Holter's campaign: "She was a lawyer practicing in the same town as the judge and offered without any prompting by the chief justice to help the judge gain reelection." I don't know what happened. For what it's worth, this is not the first time another public figure's account of events has differed with that offered by Chief Justice Anderson or his "spokesman." See, Leading senator accuses MN's chief justice of 'outright fabrication.' b) I must say, I'm surprised that the Chief didn't recuse.
c) Once again the court, or a member thereof, speaks only through a "spokesperson." For my critique of spending taxpayer money to hire what in effect is a court "p.r." or "press relations" person and my distinction between faux openness and real openness, see my comments and the links at Arizona becomes a sunshine state in re judicial complaints.

 Judge who decided controversial case is up for retention. "Judge James Klein, who issued a controversial decision awarding a south Boulder couple a third of their neighbors' lot, will be on the [retention] ballot...Bob Greenlee...who first publicized the land dispute, said he's talked to people who want to convince voters to oust Klein. 'I've heard from people who are upset, people who have said they plan to follow up and lobby against the re-appointment of the judge, but I don't fall into that category,' Greenlee said. Greenlee said that while he disagreed with Klein's ruling, he doesn't think the judge strayed beyond his role. 'I think it was an outrageous decision, but that's why we have judges, to render the decisions,' he said." More (Daily Camera 04.03.2008). But wait! It appears that Judge Klein will get a chance to revisit so-called 'Land Grab' case, since it's been remanded to his court for further hearing. More (Daily Camera 04.02.2008). Comment. The "couple" referred to in the above-cited stories are Richard McLean and Edith Stevens; McLean is a former district court judge and former Boulder mayor. See, Former judge under fire for relying on adverse possession to get title to neighbor's land (includes summary of dispute, links, comments).

 It's a 'tragedy' if voters don't pick your guy? "Governor Jim Doyle called the result of Wisconsin's state Supreme Court election [Challenger judge beats SCOWIS justice 51%-49% in contested election] 'a tragedy.' It's surprising to hear how little he thinks of his constituents, who had the sense to depose one of the court's ultra-liberal justices and in the process helped toughen the standards for judicial accountability...A seat on the bench is not a sinecure, and justices who abuse or contort the law must sometimes answer for their actions." More (WSJ 04.03.2008). Read on....

 Dan Pero: 'Democracy works in Wisconsin.' "Some have even proposed abolishing judicial elections in Wisconsin and imposing what's known as 'merit selection' -- a scheme that transfers the power to pick judges from the people to a closed-door committee of lawyers, usually dominated by the trial bar. These incumbent protection plans -- usually masquerading as judicial 'reform' -- are based on the notion that we need to get 'politics' out of courthouse races...Remember that [Justice] Butler lost his own bid to unseat a sitting justice by a landslide and rose to the bench only after being appointed by a Democrat governor. Once on the court, he proved to be a judicial activist, imposing his own ideological views rather than interpreting the law -- confirming the suspicions of Wisconsin voters who had earlier denied him a seat." More (American Courthouse 04.03.2008). Read on....

 Challenger judge beats SCOWIS justice 51%-49% in contested election. "Circuit Court Judge Michael Gableman narrowly edged out incumbent Justice Louis Butler for a spot on Wisconsin's Supreme Court in a 51 to 49 percent split...Gableman is the first to oust an incumbent justice in Wisconsin since 1967 and will serve a 10-year term on the state's highest court...." More (UW Badger-Herald 04.02.2008). Earlier. WSJ on the 'why' of judicial elections -- with reference to Wisconsin. Comment. Undoubtedly in the days ahead the proponents in Minnesota of the so-called Quie Plan -- i.e., the "Missouri Plan" with its retention "elections" (i.e., fake elections) -- will be citing Judge Gableman's victory over Judge Butler as evidence that "the system is broken" (or that it will be broken soon). Trouble is, the members of the judicial power elite in Minnesota have been advocating and/or wishing for the Missouri Plan for as long as any of us can remember. They've tried of late to tie their arguments to the notion that judicial independence is compromised by campaigns like those in Wisconsin. Their notion of judicial independence differs from mine and from that of the wise drafters of our populist state constitution, who believed not just in judicial independence but also in judicial accountability, ultimately through election of judges.  By allowing for contested judicial elections, the drafters signaled their understanding of judicial independence as being more in the nature of independence from the two other branches of government, not independence from the people who ultimately are their bosses. I explored the establishment's skewed notion of independence divorced from accountability in my campaign blog in 2000 in an essay titled Judicial Independence and Accountability (which can be found here in the online archive of my 2000 campaign blog). I urge serious students of Minnesota government to reread what I said there, as well as my 08.14.2000 campaign blog entry (on the establishment's "something bad is happening" theme).

 Judge arrested for DUI wearing woman's dress is reconsidering his resignation. "[U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Somma] said yesterday that he is reconsidering his resignation, two months after he was charged by New Hampshire authorities with drunken driving. The arrest had caused an uproar, not only because a member of the judiciary had been accused of a crime, but because...Somma was wearing a woman's dress when he was involved in the car accident that triggered the charges...." More (Boston Globe 04.02.2008). Here's a link to the letter he wrote to the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (04.02.2008) explaining why he's reconsidering. Earlier. Fed bankruptcy judge quits after being arrested for DWI while dressed in drag. Comment. If two flamenco dancers can shed their dresses and put on judges' gowns (click here), then logic tells us (doesn't it?) that judges ought to be able to shed their gowns and put on dresses. Or, to state the issue in the form of a rhetorical question, Would the initial press reports of Judge Somma's arrest have seemed less shocking to the ordinary reader if they'd said that the judge was arrested wearing a long flowing black gown, i.e., judicial robe? See, How can men in long flowing gowns uphold ban on gay marriage? Or how about if a female judge had been arrested wearing an old pair of Oshkosh B'Gosh men's bib overalls? (Note: In our hypothetical, we were forced to characterize the pair of overalls as "old" because we're not sure Oshkosh B'Gosh makes them anymore. See, Oshkosh B'Gosh Closing Men's Bib Overall Plant.)

 Panel recommends suspension of judge over use of court stationery, etc. "[Superior Court Judge Ernest B. Murphy] should be suspended without pay for 30 days, fined $25,000, and publicly censured for sending two letters [on court stationery] to the publisher of the Boston Herald demanding that the newspaper drop its appeal of a libel verdict and hand him a check for $3.26 million, the [Massachusetts] Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended yesterday...." More (Boston Globe 04.02.2008). Related. Those early-retirement pension provisions for 'disabled' judges; Judge who won big libel verdict is subject of ethics charges; Judge upholds libel verdict in judge's favor against newspaper; Judge apologizes for using court stationery; Newspaper attacks $2 million libel verdict awarded trial judge (includes comments and links to photocopies of Judge Murphy's letters).

 Embattled judge mounts a defense. "There is no shortage of people willing to say good things about embattled Rockford District Judge Steven Servaas, who is fighting for his career in a Kent County courtroom. In fact, a judge overseeing the weeklong hearing had to scale back the number of character witnesses and the amount of testimony they could give...." More (Grand Rapids Press 04.02.2008). Comment. We urge our readers to read the entire account. It's an example of why it's necessary, whenever allegations are made against a person -- yes, even a judge -- to allow a full airing, including the right to confront witnesses and present a defense. Earlier. Did judge reveal jock strap at court staff X-mas party? Judge is accused of 'sham residence' within district plus an inappropriate remark and drawing. Update. Servaas' day two on witness stand (Grand Rapids Press 04.03.2008).

 April is Poetry Month. Although poetry is never out of season with us, we're cooperating with the culture lords who have decreed April as poetry month. Here's a poem by Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) titled Government from Chicago Poems (1916).


The Government -- I heard about the Government and I went out to find it. I said I would look closely at it when I saw it.
Then I saw a policeman dragging a drunken man to the callaboose. It was the Government in action.  
I saw a ward alderman slip into an office one morning and talk with a judge. Later in the day the judge dismissed a case against a pickpocket who was a live ward worker for the alderman. Again I saw this was the Government, doing things.  
I saw militiamen level their rifles at a crowd of workingmen who were trying to get other workingmen to stay away from a shop where there was a strike on. Government in action.  

Everywhere I saw that Government is a thing made of men, that Government has blood and bones, it is many mouths whispering into many ears, sending telegrams, aiming rifles, writing orders, saying "yes" and "no."

Government dies as the men who form it die and are laid away in their graves and the new Government that comes after is human, made of heartbeats of blood, ambitions, lusts, and money running through it all, money paid and money taken, and money covered up and spoken of with hushed voices.  

A Government is just as secret and mysterious and sensitive as any human sinner carrying a load of germs, traditions and corpuscles handed down from fathers and mothers away back.

And here's one titled The Lawyers Know Too Much from Smoke and Steel (1920).

The Lawyers Know Too Much

The Lawyers, Bob, know too much.
They are chums of the books of old John Marshall.
They know it all, what a dead hand wrote,
A stiff dead hand and its knuckles crumbling,
The bones of the fingers a thin white ash.
  The lawyers know
  a dead man's thoughts too well.

In the heels of the higgling lawyers, Bob,
Too many slippery ifs and buts and howevers,
Too much hereinbefore provided whereas,
Too many doors to go in and out of.

When the lawyers are through
What is there left, Bob?
Can a mouse nibble at it
And find enough to fasten a tooth in?

Why is there always a secret singing
When a lawyer cashes in?
Why does a hearse horse snicker
Hauling a lawyer away?
The work of a bricklayer goes to the blue.
The knack of a mason outlasts a moon.
The hands of a plasterer hold a room together.
The land of a farmer wishes him back again.
  Singers of songs and dreamers of plays
  Build a house no wind blows over.
The lawyers -- tell me why a hearse horse snickers hauling a lawyer's bones.

 Judge, secretary, others being investigated over escape of arrestee. "A Mexican judge, his secretary and two jail employees were under investigation Monday after a man accused of killing a vacationing Colorado university student escaped from jail. Local prosecutor Guillermo Martin Diaz...told a news conference Monday that officials want to know why the judge and his secretary issued a release order and the two jail employees let Ramirez go, all before dawn Friday. The two jail employees have been detained since Friday. Officials are looking for the judge and his secretary...." More (IHT 04.01.2008).

 Judge is banned from majors, sent to the minors. "A Broward County judge was told not to return to the Central Courthouse when he was demoted from hearing county court civil cases to handling traffic- and parking-ticket cases at the satellite courthouses...County Court Judge Jay S. Spechler learned of his reassignment in a hand-delivered letter dated March 27 from Chief Judge Victor Tobin. 'You are not to return to the Central Courthouse except at my direction,' Tobin wrote...." More (South Florida Sun-Sentinel 04.01.2008). Update. "A complaint that Broward County Judge Jay S. Spechler bullied fellow judges preceded his demotion and ouster from the downtown courthouse, according to sources with knowledge of the case. Spechler, a 20-year veteran of the bench, submitted his resignation letter to Gov. Charlie Crist on Monday, effective the same day." More (South Florida Sun-Sentinel 04.03.2008).

 Judge Roy Bean's Eatin' and Drinkin' Emporium closes. "Business at Judge Roy Bean's Eatin & Drinkin Emporium on Court Avenue downtown will adjourn for good April 12. Owners Pam and Jeff Baker are selling the business after operating there for 26 years...." More (Des Moines Register 04.01.2008).

 County courthouse as 'the people's lawn.' "Members of the Crossville, Tennessee chapter of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster sought and received approval to install a statue of the Flying Spaghetti Monster outside the city's courthouse...." More (Geek Gestalt at C/Net News 03.31.2008). Sponsors read the following statement at the installation ceremony:

We are lucky enough to live in a country that allows us, its citizens, the freedom of speech. I have chosen to put up a statue of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to represent the discourse between people of all different beliefs. The many faiths, ethnicities and backgrounds of Cumberland County's residents make our community a stronger richer place. I respect and am proud that on the people's lawn, the county courthouse, all of these diverse beliefs can come together in a positive dialogue. Here, we are all able to share the issues close to our hearts whether it is through a memorial to the soldiers killed fighting for our country, the Statue of Liberty honoring our nations welcoming promise to all, a group's fight to stop homelessness, or powerful symbols of faith. I greatly treasure this open forum between everyone in the community.

What is the Flying Spaghetti Monster? "The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a pile of noodles and meatballs, but it is meant to open up discussion and provoke thought. Being able to put up a statue is a celebration of our freedom as Americans; a freedom to be different, to express those differences, and to do it amongst neighbors -- even if it is in a noodley way." More (ItLovesYou 03.21.2008). Policy on lawn art at courthouse is explained in Crossville Chronicle (12.04.2006). Further reading. Some of our postings on alternatives to courthouses as fortresses of solitude: a) How about a courthouse surrounded by and filled with flowers? b) Might Mr. Stephens' flowers lead to better government? c) Airports, subways, museums, courthouses ("It's perhaps worth asking also whether a few hundred dollars spent on planting & tending flowers outside a courthouse might be more cost-effective in promoting courthouse civility & safety than a few hundred thousand dollars in increased spending on building up more & more layers of security.") d) Another soul-less public building?

 On the recording of interrogations and admission of confessions. "In a decision that restores the prosecution's strongest evidence against the remaining defendant in the Brown's Chicken massacre, an appellate court ruled Monday that jurors can watch a videotape in which James Degorski acknowledges his role in the 1993 slayings...Cook County Circuit Judge Vincent Gaughan had thrown out the tape last year, saying authorities should have reread the defendant his rights before filming the statement. Prosecutors appealed the decision and argued that authorities informed Degorski of his rights several times in the hours before the cameras were turned on. In a 2-1 opinion Monday, the panel overturned Gaughan's decision and agreed the Miranda warnings had not grown stale over the course of the interrogation...." More (Chicago Tribune 04.01.2008). Comment. Police shouldn't be able to get away with waiting until they've obtained a confession and then turning on the recorder and having the suspect repeat the confession for the record. Sound taping policy requires taping of the waiver of Miranda rights and the entire interrogation. I explain why in a detailed case note dealing with the Minnesota Supreme Court's pathbreaking 1994 decision in State v. Scales, 518 N.W.2d 587 (Minn 1994).

 Annals of public employees as judicial valets. Judge Elizabeth Halverson of the 8th Judicial District in Clark County, Nevada, faces an April disciplinary hearing on allegations that, if proven to be true, could result in her removal from the bench. Among the allegations are some relating to her treatment of judicial assistants: "Her former bailiff said he was forced to heat and serve her lunch, check the temperature of her ice water, brush lint from her robe, help her put on her shoes, massage her neck and cover her with a blanket before her nap. An[other] assistant said Halverson...made her answer questions -- under oath -- about courthouse gossip. She and others said the judge often hurled insults, some religious and ethnic...." More (L.A. Times 03.31.2008). Earlier. a) Suspended judge is told to clean up messy yard. b) The ongoing judicial soap opera in Vegas. c) Vegas justice. d) Judge gets supremes to reverse order barring her from courthouse.

 Saudi courts find room -- separate ones -- for women. "Saudi women are to be employed in soon-to-be-established reception centers at courts, Minister of Justice Abdullah Al-Asheikh announced here yesterday. These women-only reception centers will provide legal assistance before cases are brought before judges. 'We have come up with a mechanism in which women can reach judges without having to mingle with men,' said Al-Asheikh. 'These reception centers will deal with women visitors and convey their requests to judges.'" More (Arab News 03.31.2008).

 'If you want to become a judge, go to law school with a senator.' "'If you want to become a judge,' goes an adage in the legal community, 'go to law school with a senator.' The message, though generally referring to federal court, resonates in a state like Virginia, where judges need legislative support to get on the bench. It is not uncommon for an aspiring judge to have ties to a legislator -- generally a shared bloodline, political affinity, personal relationship or combination thereof...." More (TriCities 03.31.2008). Comment. Some would say VA ought to adopt the Missouri Plan. But studies have shown that the so-called "merit commissions" used by the Missouri Plan don't take politics out of judicial selection. Familiar tactics include "stacking the commissions" and "log-rolling." Let's face it: "politics" is involved in every form of judicial selection, and "politics" isn't bad in and of itself. If the public doesn't like an invariably-political appointment in a state like VA -- too bad. If the public doesn't like an invariably-political appointment in a Missouri Plan state, the public gets to vote no, eventually, to the person appointed; if the voters in such a state don't extend that appointee's term, the elite appointers rather than the voters get to name a replacement. In other words, the voters can knock down a judge by a "no" vote but "the system" then, if it so chooses, can proceed to spew out a clone as a replacement; and the clone, like a horror movie monster that keeps getting up and coming at you, will keep doing what his predecessor did. Compare and contrast, summary of testimony of former Minnesota Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz at Quie Commission hearing (MNVoters.Org 09.19.2006). The beauty of the "Minnesota Plan," which has worked well and given us a much better judiciary than Missouri has under the Missouri Plan (click here), is that there's a safety valve: if the de facto and invariably-political gubernatorial appointment system, for whatever reason, starts churning out bad judges, the voters can not only remove the bad judges who face opposition in contested elections but replace them, thereby preventing "the system" from spewing out more equally-bad judges to replace the rejected ones. Further reading. For a detailed explanation of the many arguments favoring retention -- that is, retention of judicial elections -- see, my critical essay at Strib. urges longer terms for judges, no role for voters in their selection (including multiple embedded links).

 Election of judges as a check on corruption and as guarantor of judicial independence from other branches of government. John Grisham in his latest novel, The Appeal, ties judicial corruption in Mississippi to big bucks judicial elections. Grisham's Mississippi indeed seems to have more than its share of judicial corruption in real life, not just in fiction. But the fault of Mississippi, dear Grisham, lies less with its method of selecting judges, as you would have us believe, and more in the nature of the Mississippi political culture in general. Indeed a recent scholarly study, Political and Judicial Checks on Corruption: Evidence from American State Governments, by James E. Alt, a Harvard government professor, and David Dreyer Lassen, a Danish economist, finds that "having elected, rather than appointed, state supreme court judges is...associated with lower corruption." The study also finds that "divided government in American states is associated with lower corruption." Their findings also "may contradict a long-standing belief in the court reform literature...that appointed courts are more independent [than elected courts]." I wouldn't pretend to suggest to our friends in Mississippi that I know what's best for them. But I've been a student of Minnesota politics and the Minnesota court system for a long time, and I think judicial elections in MN have played a significant role in helping our courts remain not only corruption-free but also refreshingly independent from excessive influence of and interference by the other branches. As for the big bucks whose influence Grisham fears, those buckaroos certainly haven't been spent on judicial elections in Minnesota -- perhaps because our voters, whom I trust, are above average and wouldn't likely be fooled by silly TV commercials. Paradoxically, there is "big money" behind the national campaign, being waged in Minnesota and in the other states with judicial elections, to persuade those states to go the way of Missouri. See, More on the big money behind 'judicial reform.'

 History of political campaign blogging. Some credit the Howard Dean presidential campaign in 2004 with maintaining the first campaign blog. Others cite as the first campaign blog one maintained by a congressional candidate in 2002. Actually, one has to go back earlier, to 2000. I was a nonpartisan candidate for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election in November 2000. I began planning my first law blog, BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else, one of the pioneering law blogs, in 1999, but I delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. My 2000 campaign website,  the no-longer-extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign blog (weblog or web journal), i.e., a blog actually written and maintained by the candidate, not by some staffer. I like to think it was the first campaign blog (a/k/a weblog or web journal), although it's quite possible someone else independently came up with the idea and executed it contemporaneously in 2000 also. Because most "web archivers" were not in business in 2000, there has been no web record of my campaign website and campaign blog. For archival purposes and in the public interest, I have reproduced and reposted as near as I can given software changes, the backed-up contents of what was VoteHans.Com as it appeared in 2000. Here are the links: Campaign Home Page; Campaign Journal; Earlier Journal Entries; Even Earlier Journal Entries; Earliest Journal Entries; Endorsements and Contributions; Mandatory Retirement of Judges; Judicial Independence and Accountability; Questions and Answers; BRH Speech; Emerson for Judges; Quotations for Judges; MN Const. Art. VI; About BRH.

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   U. Mich. L. Library's Alito links. The University of Michigan Law Library has compiled a webpage devoted to links to information about and writings by Samuel A. Alito, Jr. They are categorized and are arranged in reverse chronological order within each category.

   U. Mich. L. Library's Roberts links. The University of Michigan Law Library has compiled a webpage devoted to links to information about and writings by John Glover Roberts, Jr.  They are categorized and are arranged in reverse chronological order within each category.

   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.

   U. Mich. L. Library's Miers links. The University of Michigan Law Library has compiled a webpage devoted to links to information about and writings by Harriet Ellan Miers.  They are categorized and are arranged in reverse chronological order within each category.

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