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 "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 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.
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About Burton Hanson. Burton Hanson is a graduate of Harvard Law School, admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Minnesota. He worked one year as Hennepin County District Court Special Term (Civil) Law Clerk, two years as law clerk for the late Justice C. Donald Peterson of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and over 26 years as Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Supreme Court. He was a nonpartisan candidate for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election in November 2000 and a liberal anti-war candidate for Congress in the Republican primary in the Minnesota Third District in September 2004. He was one of the first law bloggers (blawgers). He began planning his first blog, BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else in 1999 but delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. His campaign website, the no-longer extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first such use of a weblog or blog. In 2004 he also used the personal blog format in his primary campaign for Congress. That site, BurtonHanson.Com, has morphed into a personal political opinion blog and also contains the archives of his 2004 campaign web pages and blog postings.
O'Connor resigns. "Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court and a critical swing vote on abortion and a host of other divisive social issues, announced Friday that she was retiring, setting up a tumultuous fight over her successor...." More (N.Y. Times 07.02.2005). Profile (NYT Magazine (06.03.2001).
Might Bush pick Minnesota's Blatz? While not likely, "Mr. Bush and his small circle of advisers may spring a surprise choice to replace...." More (N.Y. Times 07.02.2005). A number of female judges are reportedly being mentioned as possible nominees to the Supreme Court. Comment. One "darkhorse" to replace O'Connor (or to replace Chief Justice Rehnquist if he retires) might be Minnesota's politically well-connected Chief Justice, Kathleen Blatz (profiled here). Blatz, who has championed so-called "judicial outreach programs," including initiating annual Court Innovations Tours to different judicial districts throughout the state, might be expected to champion similar "public trust and confidence" innovations on the national level as O'Connor's or Rehnquist's replacement. (One similar, though more controversial, innovation we'd like to see is live television broadcasts of the Court's oral arguments.) Though she has been apolitical since becoming a judge, Blatz has been mentioned by others as a possible primary candidate in 2008 against GOP Senator Norm Coleman, a protege of Vice-President Cheney; appointing Blatz would be a way of removing that possible threat to Sen. Coleman's Presidential or Vice-Presidential aspirations. Minnesotans recall that President Truman executed a similar manuever in 1951, appointing an equally-popular Governor, Luther Youngdahl, who was considered a possible opponent to Senator Hubert Humphrey in 1954, to the federal district court in Washington, D.C., where he was safely out of Humphrey's way.
Judge loses cool, holds potential juror in contempt for honest response. "[W]hen [Judge William A. Wetzel of Manhattan Criminal Court] asked [prospective juror Stephen Caruso] if he could be fair and impartial toward a defendant on trial for kidnapping. No, Mr. Caruso said during the voir dire portion of jury selection. 'I have been held up three times at gunpoint,' he said according to transcripts, adding, 'I am already looking at him; I think he is a scumbag.'" Judge Wetzel immediately held Caruso in contempt. He may face up to 30 days in jail or a $1,000 fine. More (N.Y. Times 07.02.2005). Comment. The judge conducted himself in such a way as to likely cause some reasonable people to have contempt for the judiciary. As Randolph N. Jonakait, a law professor, is quoted as saying, "It's hard enough to get people to voice their opinions honestly in front of other jurors...When a judge intimidates prospective jurors from speaking their mind, I think it harms the jury system." Needless to say, this contempt citation won't stand.
Striking judge is accused of delaying his orders for years. "More than a year after the Punjab and Haryana High Court witnessed the country's first-ever strike by judges, new facts about Justice G S Singhvi, who actively participated in the agitation, are coming to light...The records show Singhvi took years to pronounce judgment...." More (Times of India 07.02.2005). Comment. Some of us have had personal experience, in litigation, with slow judges. Judges who can't do competent work in a timely fashion, thereby possibly harming the interests and even lives of the litigants, ought not be judges. Although one often hears judicial administrators speak platitudinously about "Justice delayed" being "Justice denied," glaring examples of incompetently slow judges and judicial processes still remain, both here in Minnesota and elsewhere.
Woman charged with sending rat poison to Supreme Court Justices. "Federal agents have charged a woman who rented a room in a homeless shelter in Bridgeport, Conn., and worked in a fast-food restaurant there with sending letters containing rat poison to justices of the United States Supreme Court and to top officials in the Federal Bureau of Investigation...." More (N.Y. Times 07.02.2005). Comment. Ancient kings had food tasters in the royal court to protect themselves from being poisoned. Nero reportedly used slaves to perform this function. We hope things don't reach the point that our judges need food tasters but if they do, we suggest they add this task to others performed by their law clerks. (A joke -- although I was never asked to taste food for a judge, I served for a couple years as a judicial law clerk or, as one so employed is sometimes called, a "judicial valet.")
Court censures judge for "inapprorpriate touching" of women. The N.C. judge in question, District Court Judge William Daisy, resigned some time ago pursuant to an agreement admitting wrongdoing & providing that he be censured & that he not serve as a substitute judge. More (News-Record 07.02.2005).
Judge removed from office for trying to influence matter involving son. "Billy Ray Brown has been removed [by the Mississippi Supreme Court] as a Rankin County Justice Court judge after 25 years on the bench....The [C]ommission [on Judicial Performance] cited Brown last September for trying to influence other justice court officials, a sheriff's deputy and a prosecutor to release or drop domestic violence charges against his son...." More (Picayune Item 07.01.2005).
Former judge censured for pressuring lawyers to give to re-election bid. "The state Judicial Discipline Commission has censured former Clark County District Judge Jeff Sobel for trying to pressure lawyers to give him campaign contributions in his 2002 re-election campaign...." More (KRNV.Com 07.01.2005).
Judge stripped of duties - did he improperly delegate authority to referee? "Talladega County District Judge Tommy Dobson has been stripped of his judicial duties by Supreme Court Chief Justice Drayton Nabers, a move that could affect more than 25-hundred juvenile cases. The order stems from an investigation of a number of cases that were handled by a court referee, Jack E. Swinford, on Dobson's authority...." More (Tuscaloosa News 07.01.2005).
Judge censured for hiring, training girl friend. "The [Louisiana] Supreme Court publicly censured St. Charles Parish Judge Kirk Granier...for using taxpayer money to hire his girlfriend to review medical records and to pay for her legal-consultant training...[T]he Luling judge...hired his girlfriend, Tanya LeBlanc, a registered nurse, to summarize medical records for him, at a rate of $95 an hour.
Between February 1999 and June 2002, Granier paid LeBlanc a total of $13,860.50 from his court's Judicial Expense Fund for reviewing the medical records, used for 19 court cases. Granier also paid for her tuition, airfare and hotel expenses -- a total of $2,321.78 -- for a nursing legal consultant course in Houston...." The court ordered the judge to reimburse the court for the $2,321.78. More (New Orleans Times-Picayune 07.01.2005).
Older women to pose nude in try to save courthouse. The county board in Randolph County, Indiana, didn't change its mind when 4,000 people signed a petition opposing the board's plans to tear down the old, "historic" courthouse. Now some "older women" are betting that if they pose nude, the board might change its mind: "Seven women who usually gather to play cards are planning to strip down for a calendar as part of the fight against plans to tear down Randolph County's 128-year-old courthouse. The women ranging in age from their early 70s to older than 90 will pose nude -- with strategically placed miniature replicas of the courthouse in front of them -- in the fund-raiser for the Save the Courthouse Fund...." More (Chicago Sun-Times 06.30.2005). Earlier links here & here. Comment. Do the women view their statement of intent to pose nude as an incentive to the board to change its mind or as punishment for not changing its mind -- or something else?
Should Scotland allow TV cameras in courtrooms? "A majority of people are against allowing cameras into the courts, according to a Government report today. Only on the question of whether cases in the Court of Appeal Civil and Criminal Divisions should be broadcast was the majority in favour of allowing the cameras in either completely or to some extent...The greatest opposition to broadcasting courts was in relation to the Family Courts – 77% of respondents...." More (The Scotsman 06.30.2005). Comment. Perhaps the number of those favoring cameras would have been higher if the respondents had been told the "older women" from Randolph County, Indiana, supra, would be making a live appearance.
Preserving & regulating the Courthouse Green. "There is no doubt that the community owes the Allen County Courthouse Preservation Trust a great debt of gratitude for helping to create the Courthouse Green. The small park in the heart of the city highlights the grandeur of the historic Courthouse and is a tranquil oasis for downtown workers. Now that the city’s Parks and Recreation Department is responsible for maintaining the Green, it also needs the authority to decide what is best for the park...." More (Fort Wayne Gazette 06.30.2005). Comment. According to the story, the Courthouse Green is also the focus of "continuing controversy," including whether to permit "organized assembly" at the park, a ban the parks board rescinded. We still see controversies like this over use of park land, including courthouse grounds, around the country. See, e.g., Drop the Pamphlet & Put Your Hands Over Your Head (Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages 06.30.2005), and Campaign Fliers O.K. in City Parks, Superintendent Says (Minneapolis Star-Tribune 06.24.2005).
A state supreme court's justices pick chief. "South Dakota Supreme Court Justice David Gilbertson has been re-elected to a second four-year term as chief justice of the state's highest court. The other justices on the five-member court re-elected Gilbertson by a unanimous vote...He becomes only the second justice to be elected to two terms as South Dakota's chief justice...." More (Aberdeen American-News 06.29.2005). Comment. South Dakota is like Illinois in its justices picking the chief. Former Chicago Bears player chosen new Illinois Chief Justice. It is not always clear from a state's constitution who gets to pick the chief justice. Arguably in some states that have assumed otherwise, the justices of the supreme court could decide amongst themselves who is chief. Another interesting question is the extent to which the associate justices may strip a chief justice of many of his/her duties -- say, to take a far-fetched, unlikely example, a chief justice who on his own installs a Ten Commandments monument in the lobby of the judicial center in the middle of the night.
People 'dismayed & disillusioned' with courts. Pakistan's new chief justice says people there are "dismayed and disillusioned with the courts. "He said that Pakistan had lost its 'moral moorings' and that 'people craved high offices and exalted positions just to demonstrate their superiority over others.'" More (BBC 06.30.2005).
Judge says he can spot future thugs at age 3. "The next generation's violent criminals can be spotted by the age of about three, according to Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft. But early intervention in the often troubled lives of these 'human time bombs' is seriously lacking...." More (NZ Herald 07.01.2005). Comment. He's not alone in thinking this. Many in the U.S. do, too, & often their "preventative" is to give the kids Ritalin (methylphenidate). Ain't it funny that the ones given Ritalin at such an early age are usually boys. See, BurtLaw's Law & Kids, especially "The perils of ignoring our boys" (scroll down).
Historical perspective on L.A. County Bar's efforts in judicial elections. "The County Bar has rated, but not endorsed, judicial candidates in every primary election since 1976. But it used to do more. From 1920-72, it actually endorsed candidates, based on the outcome of a plebiscite, and publicized its choices, in some years devoting financial resources to advertising its slate...." More (Metropolitan News-Enterprise 06.29.2005).
Judge leads fund-raising drive to provide restitution to theft victim. "Not much of what [PA] District Judge Ronald N. Costa encounters in his Bloomfield office and at the courthouse, Downtown, amazes him. But the judge was flabbergasted, and a bit angry, at the audacity of the thief or thieves who stole $300 worth of pop tabs from the back yard of the Ronald McDonald House in Shadyside last week...Costa, unable to deliver a dose of judicial punishment, emptied his pockets instead -- and collected a whole lot of pop tabs....." More (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 06.30.2005). Comment. I didn't know a judge could do that.
When a judge's kid is under investigation in missing person case. What does a judge do in such a situation? Should he be father first? A prosecutor in the case of the missing Alabama teen in Aruba claims that the father of one of those being held in the investigation basically told his son & the others, "no body, no case." The father-judge allegedly says he was speaking only "generally." More (CNN.Com 06.30.2005). Comment. Sounds like a good question for the New York Times' "ethicist," Randy Cohen.
Newspaper takes credit for 'axing' of 'dirty' judge. "Citing a [New York] Daily News exposé, the state's highest court yesterday booted Brooklyn's most powerful judge for lining a pal's pockets. The Court of Appeals, in a 15-page unanimous decision, slammed Surrogate Michael Feinberg for routinely awarding a former law school buddy and personal friend nearly $9 million in fees as counsel for the public administrator...." More (N.Y. Daily News 06.30.2005). And, see Judge loses seat after showing 'shocking disregard for law' (N.Y. L. J. 07.01.2005).
EU pledges 5 million euros to train Russian judges. "The European Commission, the European Union's executive body, will allocate 5 million euros for a program to train judges and court administrators in Russia, the EC country coordinator has told reporters in Moscow...[The] Commission ha[s]already disbursed 4 million euros for the project, which was launched in June 2003, and...another 5 million [is] forthcoming...." More (Russian News & Info Agency 06.30.2005).
New system for judicial complaints in UK: mum's the word. "Judges who are disciplined for bad behaviour will not have the findings against them made public under a complaints regime to be launched next year. The decision to treat judges differently to doctors, barristers, solicitors and police officers was announced by the lord chancellor and the lord chief justice yesterday. The exception, as at present, will be those judges whose misdeeds are trumpeted in the media - for example, those who make racist remarks in open court which are picked up by reporters...." More (The Guardian 06.30.2005). See, also, UK: New Judicial Appointments & Conduct Ombudsman (Press Release).
Louisiana judge convicted of mail fraud; hung jury on six other charges. "A state judge was convicted Wednesday of a charge related to bribes he allegedly took from a bail bond company in exchange for setting affordable bonds for criminal defendants. However, a federal jury deadlocked on six other charges, including the two most serious facing Judge Alan Green -- conspiracy to commit mail fraud and racketeering. A mistrial was declared on all six counts.
Green was convicted of a single count of mail fraud. He could get up to five years in prison and be removed from the bench...." More (L.A. Times 06.29.2005).
Law clerks make allegations against judge. "There are very serious allegations against [Nevada] Family Court Judge Cheryl Moss. An attorney and two law clerks say moss has been favoring lawyers in her courtroom who donate to her campaign...One clerk says he was even instructed to familiarize himself with a list of contributors whose cases should flow easily through her department...." More (KVBC.Com 06.29.2005).
Will government condemn Souter's N.H. home to sell to hotel developer? "A letter that emerged yesterday from the fax machine in the Weare Town Hall has thrust Supreme Court Justice David Souter's beloved farmhouse into a national debate over property rights. Souter, a longtime Weare resident, joined in a court decision last week that allows governments to seize private property from one owner and turn it over to another if doing so would benefit a community. Now, an outraged Californian wants to test the ruling -- by asking Weare's selectmen to let him replace Souter's farm with a posh hotel...." More (Concord Monitor 06.29.2005). See, 'Liberals' on Court approve taking from the poor to give to the rich, and Washington to condemn White House to sell to developers?
One view of Jeb Bush's view of the judicial branch. "The logic [of the judge's decision] seems irrefutable, which is why Gov. Jeb Bush quickly branded the judge's ruling ''pretty bizarre.'' Of course, that's how Jeb describes almost any court decision that he doesn't like. For that matter, he doesn't seem to like the entire judicial branch of government, a trait that he shares with his older brother -- unless the judges in question are like Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas...." Opinion piece by Michael Putney (Miami Herald 06.29.2005).
Opinion: Scalia's latest speech in campaign to be Chief. It's no surprise that Justice Scalia has been campaigning, as best a sitting judge may, to be nominated to replace Chief Justice Rehnquist if/when he retires. See, e.g., Justice Scalia: The Charm Offensive (Time 01.31.2005). But what may a poor fellow properly do? Well, he can try stir up the President's "base." I believe he was trying to do just that in his dissent in the McCreary case, the one that ruled the two Kentucky courthouse displays of the Ten Commandments violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The dissent, which, inter alia, says that the effect of the majority's opinion is to "rachet up the Court's hostility to religion," will have two effects: it may stir up the President's base enough to get him to appoint Scalia, and it may make it even more unlikely for Scalia to get his colleagues to "follow" his lead, in any meaningful way, if he becomes Chief. But, then, the power of any Chief Justice of any supreme court to get the Associate Justices to "follow" is exaggerated. The Chief is primus inter pares, first among equals. In Austin Hall back in the fall of 1964 Dean Erwin ("The Grizzer") Griswold (depicted right) welcomed me & the other members of the Harvard Law School Class of 1967 by introducing himself as "Le maître d’hôtel of this ménage of prima donnas." As Chief, Scalia would just be "Le maître d’hôtel of a ménage of judicial prima donnas."
Judges condemn 'elderly, nice-natured' dog to death. "The owner of an 'innocent' pit bull terrier, whom magistrates were 'saddened' to condemn to death, reacted with anger and despair today as the High Court rejected her last-ditch plea for her pet’s life. Two judges ruled there were no legal grounds for overturning an order that 'elderly, nice-natured' Tyson be destroyed under the provisions of the highly controversial 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act...." More (The Scotsman 06.29.2005). Comment. People always want to know in advance how a judicial nominee or candidate feels about "the abortion issue" or "the Ten Commandments issue." But no one ever asks how one feels about dogs & the law or animals & the law.
Court-watchers weigh in on last term's effect on Rehnquist's legacy. "Solicitor General Paul Clement says he's noticed a new trend in the wardrobe of Supreme Court advocates. More and more men who argue before the Court are wearing bow ties, a tribute to the trademark neckwear of Justice John Paul Stevens -- and to his power...." According to Tony Mauro, writing in Legal Times, it was Justice Stevens' term. More. Comment. One might also make a case that it was Justice Kennedy's term. Kennedy is the Reagan appointee that the right-wingers love to hate. More (N.Y. Times 06.26.2005).
Commissioners ban cameras from courthouse. "County commissioners Monday officially ratified a policy banning cameras in the courthouse without prior permission of the elected officials involved. The prohibition is primarily aimed at TV cameras but also includes any 'electronic video recording device' -- such as cell phones and still cameras -- said County Attorney Jim Tirey. Audio recorders are permissible...." More (Plainview TX Daily Herald 06.28.2005). Comment. More & more courthouses are becoming fortresses & their owners, the people, are being made to feel less & less welcome. See, Building courthouses with security in mind. When I worked in Cass Gilbert's wonderful Minnesota State Capitol, where the Minnesota Supreme Court was housed for many years, before it moved to a nearby fortress-style courthouse, I used to occasionally be asked directions, etc., from people wandering in the corridors. They often were sheepish, as if they didn't belong there. I sometimes said, if the occasion warranted, "Feel free to just wander around. Take your time. It's your capitol, after all."
Check-bouncing judge resigns. "Traffic Tribunal Magistrate Aurendina 'Dina' G. Veiga has resigned from the bench, averting a private hearing that had been scheduled for this morning to show cause why she should not lose her $91,093-a-year job...." More (Providence Journal 06.29.2005). Link to earlier entries.
'The rock' of the judges dies, at age 63. "[LA] State District Judge B. Dexter Ryland died early Tuesday at Rapides Regional Medical Center, several weeks after he was hospitalized with pneumonia. He was 63...Judge Thomas Yeager described Ryland as 'the rock' of the judges. In 1999, the 9th District judges made Ryland chief judge...." More (New Orleans Times-Picayune 06.28.2005).
District Court Judge removed from office. "The charges stemmed from complaints that [Cambria County, PA Judge Allan C.] Berkhimer [an 18-year-veteran of the court] made sexually suggestive comments to his staff, used vulgar language with them and would show them pictures of naked women online. Berkhimer also was found to have used his employees to send out what he called congratulatory 'quickie notes' to his constituents when they were mentioned in the local newspaper...." The State Court of Judicial Discipline's decision removing him was a 6-1 decision. Berkimer has a right to appeal the decision. More (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 06.29.2005). Earlier: Annals of judicial conduct proceedings - 'the sleep apnea defense.'
Former High Court judge dead -- herein of 'spinsters.' "Freedom fighter and former Judge of Kerala High Court, P Janaki Amma, country's second woman High Court Judge, passed away after prolonged illness in Kochi early on Wednesday, family sources said. She was 85 and was a spinster...." More (Sify.Com 06.29.2005). Comment. Boy, you don't see any newspapers "over here" describe a single woman as a "spinster." "'Spinster' is now not purely 'an unmarried woman' but a strongly derogatory term.'" (AskOxford.Com). Etymology: "1362, 'female spinner of thread,' from M.E. spinnen (see spin) + -stere, feminine suffix. Spinning commonly done by unmarried women, hence the word came to denote 'an unmarried woman' in legal documents from 1600s to early 1900s, and by 1719 was being used generically for 'woman still unmarried and beyond the usual age for it.'" (Etymonline.Com). Also, an unmarried woman who did not live with her family but found "employ" as a prostitute was sent to what was called a "spinning house," a/k/a, women's prison. (KillerPlants.Com). One could almost say that an older unmarried woman had a Hobson's choice, "prison" with the relatives or "prison" courtesy of the government. Someday, perhaps, we will look back on our society's biases & our law's rules against a 70-year-old man or woman serving as a judge and against a man or woman marrying someone of the same gender as equally quaint, absurd, unfair & cruel. See, BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges and Burton Hanson on Marriage & Law (campaign archives).
Latest on allegations against judge who jailed juror. We've previously linked to a number of news reports about Broward Circuit (FLA) Judge Eileen O'Connor, the so-called "prankster judge," who jailed a 19-year-old "because he allegedly lied about his arrest history during jury selection" & then faced allegations that she herself had failed to disclose information she should have disclosed on her application for a judgeship, allegations she denies. Here's the latest (Miami Herald 06.28.2005).
Top court's new female chief justice. "Conservatives branded her an activist judge when they tried to defeat her re-election last year, but Leah Sears survived the assault and on Tuesday will become the first woman to head Georgia's highest court...U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is among the invited guests to Tuesday's installation ceremony in the House chambers. Both Thomas and Sears hail originally from the Savannah area and have kept regularly in touch. 'We're African-Americans. We're both justices on high courts. There weren't very many when we got started,' she said." More (Access North Georgia 06.28.2005). Update. Justice Thomas speaks at swearing-in, decries talk of "imagined resignations," & Chief Justice Sears is profiled. More (Fulton County Daily Report 06.29.2005).
Jury deliberates in bribery trial of LA judge. "There's little debate about some of the most important facts in state Judge Alan Green's public corruption case: Between 1999 and 2002, Green accepted two $5,000 cash deliveries, golf rounds, meals and a yacht ride from then-Gretna bail bonds kingpin Louis Marcotte III. During the same period, Green set dozens of bonds for the company, often on the terms the firm requested....Green's attorney, Todd Jones, told jurors Green is a "not perfect" public official who accepted 'off-the-books' political contributions, but did not take bribes...." More (New Orleans Times-Picayune 06.28.2005).
Hispanic no-shows makes for fewer diverse juries in Dallas. "The no-show phenomenon is an enormous problem, court administrators say. Only one in five of those who are summoned appear. Monday was typical -- 489 of 3,400 people summoned appeared for duty....Anthony Miller, a lawyer with Vinson & Elkins, said his firm's research found that many Hispanics, in particular, can't afford to take time away from their jobs to serve on a jury....According to [a] motion filed Monday, none of the jury pools since March 2000 has included a sufficient number of Hispanic potential jurors...." More (Dallas Morning News 06.27.2005).
Guess who won skirmish between judge and clerk of court? "A courthouse power struggle is over, at least for now, and Seminole County [FLA] Clerk of Courts Maryanne Morse is the loser...In February, [Chief Judge James E.C.] Perry ordered Morse to distribute to divorcing parents a set of rules -- for example, parents cannot simply move away with their children, they cannot talk ugly about the other parent, and they must take parenting classes...But Morse refused, saying Perry was not her boss...." More (Orlando sentinel 06.28.2005). Comment. It's BurtLaw Rule-of-Thumb No. 2437.45(2): "In a power struggle between a judge and a clerk, the judge will prevail." Subd. (a) further provides that one protesting a request such as this ought to have a better reason than, say, "You're not my boss" or "It's not in my job description."
Is air in courthouse safe? - Tests say 'yes.' "For at least three years, several judges, court reporters and courthouse staffers have reported symptoms including headaches, runny eyes, sinus problems and respiratory congestion. In addition, a musty, basement smell reportedly looms in courtroom 1A. The smell has prompted about half of the district's judges and several court reporters to refuse to work in the courtroom...." More (Iowa City Press-Citizen 06.28.2005). Comment. For many years The New Yorker published occasional pieces from the annals of medical & public health detection written by one of the many outstanding "Burtons" in the world, a deft writer named Berton Roueche; some of these pieces later were collected in a single volume by Roueche titled The Medical Detectives. Stories of complaints by workers about courthouse smells & about the resultant investigations pop up every now & then. The investigators always have to do a thorough investigation. Sometimes they solve the problem. In one of Roueche's cases, I think, they ultimately concluded that a sort of mass hysteria was at work & the bad air & the illnesses were "imagined." Further reading: Michael Fumento, Scents and Senselessness (American Spectator April 2000).
Threat relayed by mental health worker closes courthouse. "Tazewell County Sheriff’s Detective Captain Kevin Bales said Friday that a mental health worker from Southern Highlands Mental Health in Mercer County West Virginia phoned his office around 11:30 a.m. to say that one of her patients said he was going to shoot someone when they appeared for court in Tazewell at one p.m." The fellow has since been arrested & committed "for observation." More (Richlands News-Press 06.28.2005).
Ex-judge denied tenure in 1993 may return to bench. "The [N.J.] State Senate moved a key step Monday toward returning to the judicial bench a former Superior Court judge denied tenure in 1993. Marianne Espinosa was a Superior Court judge for seven years in Morris County, but the Democrat wasn't confirmed for a lifetime appointment when her nomination was blocked by Republicans after some groups said she was rude and abusive in court...." More (Asbury Park Press 06.28.2005). Comment. The stones of the gods sometimes grind slowly, but they also....
Air-conditioner breakdown turns courthouse into judicial hellhole. "More people than usual were sweating it out in the Galveston County Courthouse on Monday morning. The building’s air-conditioning unit shorted out about 4 a.m., turning the courthouse into a hothouse...'It was horrible,' said 56th State District Court Judge Lonnie Cox. 'If they hadn’t gotten it fixed, it would have been merciless.'" More (Galvestone Daily News 06.28.2005). Comment. I've always liked the hot courtroom scenes in the 1962 movie To Kill a Mockingbird, with Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) looking somehow cool in his Southern lawyer's white linen suit while everyone else seemed to be sweating profusely. Atticus Finch is yet another of the "fathers of my spirit." Recommended reading: John Jay Osborn, Jr. (author of The Paper Chase), Atticus Finch - The End of Honor: A Discussion of To Kill a Mockingbird, 30 U.S.F. L. Rev. 1139 (1996); Thomas L.Shaffer, "The Moral Theology of Atticus Finch," 42 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 181 (1981); Bibliography of works about To Kill a Mockingbird.
Judge criticizes courthouse cleaning crew. "[Broward] County [FLA] Judge Leonard Feiner...demanded that [the] custodial supervisor...appear in his courtroom after discovering someone had left his bench in disarray, pushing aside desk supplies, his phone and coffee mugs. When Feiner began questioning Coke whether the custodial staff was responsible for the mess, the courtroom recording system was turned off. But midway through the conversation, the recording system came back on, a court transcript shows. 'They may live in -- in hovels where they -- where they live, but they don't have to leave places they work looking like a dump,' Feiner said." The public defender is calling for an investigation by the judicial discipline folks. More (Newsday 06.28.2005).
Judge criticizes nail salons. "[J]udge Paula Abdul has urged Californian authorities to force nail salons to clean up their act, saying she's had a year of ill-health after an unsanitary manicure...." More (The Age 06.28.2005).
Murdered judges remembered. "A wreath laying ceremony was held at the Forecourt of the Supreme Court in Accra on Monday in memory of the three High Court Judges who were murdered on June 30, 1982. The murdered judges were Mr Justice Frederick Poku Sarkodie, Mr Justice Kwadjo Agyei Agyapong and Mrs Justice Cecilia Koranteng-Addow. The ceremony marked the commencement of the Martyrs' Day celebration and the 23rd remembrance anniversary of the murdered Judges...." More (Ghana Web 06.28.2005).
Bulletin! Third woman appointed to Supreme Court. "The National Women’s Council today welcomed the appointment of another female judge to the Supreme Court. Mrs Justice Fidelma Macken becomes the third woman on the eight-member body, following the appointment of Mrs Justice Susan Denham and Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness...." We're talking about the Supreme Court of Ireland, of course. More (Ireland Online 06.27.2005).
Court o.k.'s Bush's '10 Commandments' & their own, but not all. On the grounds of the Texas State Capitol, where President Bush served as governor, there's a tall-Texas-cowboy-sixed granite monument on which are inscribed the "Ten Commandments." It's one of 17 historical displays on 22-acres of grounds. In the court room in Cass Gilbert's U.S. Supreme Court building are marble friezes depicting the great lawgivers of history sculpted by Adolph Weinman. In the friezes [depicted right] Weinman included 18 "lawgivers," specifically, Menes, Hammurabi, Moses, Solomon, Lycurgus, Solon, Draco, Confucius, Octavian, Napoleon Bonaparte, John Marshall, Blackstone, Grotius, Louis IX, King John, Charlemagne, Muhammad and Justinian. For more, see Joan Biskupic, Great Figures Gaze Upon the Court (Washington Post 03.11.1998). In some Kentucky courthouses are hung framed copies of documents thought by the hangers (if not necessarily the Framers) to be important in our country's & that state's legal history. There is also an "explanatory document" that says this about the "Ten Commandments":
The Ten Commandments have profoundly influenced the formation of Western legal thought and the formation of our country. That influence is clearly seen in the Declaration of Independence which declared that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." The Ten Commandments provide the moral background of the Declaration of Independence and the foundation of our legal tradition.
More (LibertyCounsel.Org). I haven't read the two opinions filed today, but from a news report (N.Y. Times), it appears that, by a vote of 5-4, the Court has upheld (or said it would uphold in the case of the friezes) the Texas and U.S. Supreme Court displays but not the Kentucky displays. The flaw in the Kentucky displays seems to be that the display was not "neutral," presumably referring to the text of the "explanatory document." I won't know until I've read the opinions, but the opinions, at least in outcomes, seem to follow the lines I suggested in 2001 on my Law and Everything Else law weblog in a piece titled The 'Ten Commandments movement"revisited, which I invite you to read in full. Excerpts:
Do I think there's a place for "The Ten Commandments" in a court house or court room? My answer to that is "Yes, come to the Supreme Court's main court room in the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul [depicted right] or go to the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. and see for yourself."...If Alabama's Chief Justice Moore...really [had] wanted to "do it right," he wouldn't have done it the way he did. He'd have talked it over with his colleagues, he'd have done some research, and he'd have solicited input from legal scholars and historians -- and there wouldn't be any "Ten Commandments controversy" whatever. Moore would have had his Moses, and more.... But, in my opinion, politicians like Moore aren't as much about Moses and the great Judeo-Christian tradition as they are about using Moses and the great Judeo-Christian tradition to create controversy and get votes.
Bermuda Supreme Court celebrates 100th birthday. "Bermuda’s Supreme Court turns 100 this week and the legal community have planned a number of events to celebrate the centennial. Bermuda established the Supreme Court on July 1, 1905. By creating one main court the Government did away with a myriad of different courts including the Court of Admiralty, the Court of Chancery, the Court of Exchequer and the Coroner’s Court to name a few...." More (Bermuda Royal Gazette 06.27.2005). Related stories: Court played host to celebrated trials - Legal garments - traditional & expensive.
Issue paper on judicial independence in the U.K. "Most constitutional theories require that the judiciary is separate from and independent of the government, in order to ensure the rule of law - that is, to ensure that the law is enforced impartially and consistently no matter who is in power, and without undue influence from any other source...However, this doctrine is not observed in the UK. The Executive (the Government) is drawn exclusively from members of the Legislature (Parliament), while in the office of the Lord Chancellor the three arms are fused: the Lord Chancellor is a Cabinet Minister, a member of the House of Lords and the head of the Judiciary...." More (Politics.Co.UK 06.27.2005). Comment. Good, brief history of relation of judiciary to executive & legislative branches in the UK. More & more, voices for change are being heard: "I think the time has come to put the relationship between the judges and the executive on a proper footing. It is wrong that a member of the cabinet appoints all the judges and it is wrong that a member of the cabinet can sit as judge." - Lord Falconer of Thoroton, Lord Chancellor, November 2003.
Candidate for 'court employee with fastest hands' award? "[Court reporter] Cheri Anderson ...18 years ago got out of school and could type a radar-gun-breaking 225 words a minute. Now? 'Oh, I have no idea," she said. "I know it's much faster than that.'" More (Fergus Falls Daily Journal 06.27.2005).
Candidate for 'most-reversed circuit' award? "Three times in the past three years the U.S. Supreme Court has rebuked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' handling of death penalty cases, occasionally using blunt language to portray its judges as inattentive to legal precedents and evidence. While those capital punishment cases have drawn a great deal of scrutiny, the reversals have continued in the 2004-2005 Supreme Court term, expanding into other areas. The high court, for example, has overturned the 5th Circuit's decision sustaining the criminal conviction of accounting firm Arthur Andersen, a pay dispute involving Jackson, Miss., police officers and two environmental cases...." More (Newhouse News 06.27.2005).
Full Ninth Circuit to hear makeup case. "The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments last week in a case testing whether a casino violated nondiscrimination law by firing a bartender who refused to wear makeup, the Associated Press reports. The court agreed to hear the case of Darlene Jespersen against Harrah's Entertainment en banc (with all judges present) after a three-judge panel from the court dismissed the lawsuit in December...." More (HR.BLR.Com 06.27.2005). Comment. Perhaps this case would better be decided by the World Fashion Court. On the subject of specialty courts, see, also, MN Supreme Court Justice gushes with praise for drug court and Protest Court & Equality Court.
'Judges of the Year' award to judges who voided ban on same-sex marriage. "The Bar Association felt both judges deserved to be recognized for their courage, said Marijean Moschetto, outgoing chairwoman of the Family Law Section. 'The basis was to honor Judge [Richard] Hicks and Judge [William] Downing for, more than anything, courage in having made the decision that I think certain people will disagree very strongly with,' Moschetto said. 'Family law cases don't often have this kind of magnitude. This was a case of magnitude and we have the opportunity to acknowledge it.'" More (The Olympian 06.26.2005).
Supreme Court Justice as 'team player'? A bow-tied judge named Paul Rudman is retiring from the Maine Supreme Court & he's proud of the fact he rarely dissented. "'Our accomplishments are a corporate effort and rarely reflect an individual contribution,' [former Chief Justice Daniel] Wathen said. 'I think the court works best that way.' Rudman said what he most appreciated was a chance to be part of a team, which is why he calls it state government's best job...." More (Portland Press-Herald 06.27.2005). Comment. Justice Holmes used to say he didn't like it when people praised him because their words of praise were so often either flatly untrue or distorted his work and his role. Justice Rudman seems like a fine judge and seems comfortable being called a "team player" on the court. If being a "team player" on an appellate court means pulling one's weight in contributing to discussions & in authoring opinions, being agreeable even when disagreeing, etc., then I'm all for it. But there is such a bird as, in the words of possible Bush Supreme Court nominee, J. Michael Luttig, "false collegiality." More (Legal Times 06.20.2005) ("Luttig himself has voiced disdain for the 'false collegiality' of papering over differences, preferring instead the collegiality that he says comes with the airing of 'high-spirited differences of opinion'").
Judicial pensions - what's fair, what's not. "As a judge in the Supreme Court for more than six years, Justice Santosh Hegde delivered many landmark judgements that became the law of the land. But he retired recently... at a meager pension of Rs 64,000 per annum...A person from High Court or from judicial service getting elevated to the Supreme Court gets a much higher pension [than one elevated from the Bar, as Justice Hegde was] due to the long service period...'If people complain against retired Supreme Court judges for accepting arbitration work, then they should also tell us what to do when we get a pension which is less than a upper division clerk in government,' Justice Hegde said...." More (Rediff.Com 06.27.2005). Comment. The flaw in the argument is that judges elevated from the bar rather than from previous government service were free while in private practice to plan for their retirement and tack on that pension to the one they have earned as judges. Presumably, also, the "upper division clerk in government," whose pension the good judge mentions, worked many, many years in government to qualify for a higher pension than the judge is receiving for his "more than six years" of judicial service. For more of my views on judicial economics, see, BurtLaw's Law & Judicial Economics at BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else.
Kansas House fails in attempt to rein in state supreme court. "A proposal to rewrite the state constitution failed Sunday, thwarting an effort by Republican leaders to punish the Kansas Supreme Court for its recent order telling legislators to provide more money for public schools. The House voted 70-53 to adopt a proposed constitutional amendment limiting the courts' power, but the margin was 14 votes short of the two-thirds majority necessary...." More (Wichita Eagle 06.26.2005).
Tribe fires judge. "The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana's new council has fired a tribal court judge, several attorneys and taken steps to retake control of the tribe's police force. In the meantime, an unsuccessful candidate for tribal chairman is seeking to get the results of recent elections thrown out...." More (Tuscaloosa News 06.26.2005).
Attorneys & judges stage protests in Palestinian territory. "'Lawyers are subjected to threats and judges are blackmailed. People cross the line with judges and lawyers, and the police do nothing. Our work environment is no longer safe because of the interference of armed groups who enter the courtrooms in order to influence deliberations. This has become commonplace in more than one Palestinian courtroom. Many people have lost faith in the judicial system and its ability to deal with legal disputes. Instead, they turn to gang members.'" - Fawaz Saymeh, head of the Nablus branch of the Bar Association. More (Palestine Media Center 06.25.2005).
Washington, D.C. to condemn White House, sell it to developers? "The Supreme Court ruled this week that local governments may take property from private citizens and give it to other private citizens for 'economic development' purposes. Following the Supreme Court's ruling, the city of Washington, DC announced plans to confiscate the White House, tear it down, and build a new strip mall to create an economic boost for the struggling economy there...." More (ChronWatch 06.27.2005). And see, 'Liberals' on Court approve taking from the poor to give to the rich.
Little people whup land sharks in Saturday night bar brawl. "A number of prominent land sharks and their attorneys celebrating a recent Supreme Court decision at the Ollie Holmes Courthouse Bar Saturday night were set upon and whupped by some unidentified little people who took offense at the content but not the manner of their celebration. The land sharks were expressly celebrating the eminent domain case authorizing municipalities to take away the homes of little people and sell them to land sharks and other developers at bargain-basement prices so the developers can build upper-bracket condos in their place...." More (Lappestad Daily Spy 06.26.2005).
Annals of strict interpretation - India. Comes now Sister Teena Jose of the Congregation of Mother of Carmel L F Convent, Cherthala. She is trying to enroll as a lawyer, but the Kerala Bar Council says no. In the U.S. she clearly would not be so barred, assuming she met the other requirements, because to do so would violate the First Amendment. Indeed, there are many priests, and I'm sure some nuns, who also are attorneys. Anyone who goes for legal help to one of 'em may get a two-fer-one, legal advice with some spiritual advice tossed in at the usual rate, free. Anyhow, Bar Council Secretary Gopakumar has denied Sister Teena's application, saying she's ineligible because a) she wears a habit (some nuns don't & maybe she won't?), b) she gave no permanent address (her address, I would think obvious: "In the presence of the Holy Ghost," no?), c) she's in a salaried profession (I thought nuns took a vow of poverty), and d) she wants to do voluntary legal work (thus proving that most lawyers charge too much or maybe that the bar folks think that she'll take away business from lawyers who live off their fees rather than their faith?). Anyhow, Justice K Balakrishnan Nair of the Kerala High Court has issued an order to show cause to the Bar Council. More (The Times of India 06.26.2005). Commentary. We're guessing not even the strictest of strict constructionists will agree with Bar Council Secretary Gopakumar.
The appointment boomerang. "To extend his political legacy through his Supreme Court appointments, President Bush will have to overcome a fairly common historical phenomenon -- the tendency of nominees to become ideologically unpredictable after their confirmation. Examples abound, especially of supposedly moderate or conservative nominees becoming more liberal...." More (Edward Lazarus, Los Angeles Times 06.26.2005). Lazarus is the former law clerk who wrote a tell-all book about the Supreme Court.
Building courts with security in mind. "The new state courthouse in West Jordan, which opened last week, shows how architecture and technology can make the justice system safer. It is designed to move three sets of people separately: members of the public, judges and staff members, and prisoners. 'Certain groups of people cannot cross paths except in the courtroom,' said Kevin Miller of GSBS Architects, which designed the building...." More (Salt Lake City Tribune 06.26.2005). Comment. After some of the urban rioting in the 1960s, developers built fortress-style commercial buildings in city centers. Some of those buildings have been major failures from a commercial standpoint. Besides that, they're ugly. Without getting specific by pointing the finger at any courthouse in particular, I believe the years 1990-2010 will probably be known as the era of ugly courthouse design, paranoia-inspired monstrosities that maybe don't reduce the number of legal-process-related killings but do say "No" to the public they're supposed to welcome.
Should judge be member of 'law enforcement team'? Some people think so. Some people thought Athens-Clarke Municipal Court Judge Kay Giese was appointed to fill that role. But this article (Athens Banner-Herald 06.26.2005) suggests she's been independent & fair.
Metaphors for criticism of judges. I often enjoy a good critique of a judicial decision, even when I don't agree with its conclusion. A good one usually includes a fresh metaphor or two. I like this critique, titled "A contortionist court upholds slots law with odd reading of state constitution," in The Morning Call (06.26.2005). The phrase "contortionist court," while not new, is an amusing image, and I especially like the piece's peroration: "Beyond those quibbles [some criticisms that are hardly "quibbles"], forget banking on the state constitution. In the view of the justices, it hardly is a constitution at all. It's just a list of official suggestions." In view of last week's holding by the U.S. Supreme Court in the condemnation case, the last sentence sort of describes the majority's view of the eminent domain clause. See, 'Liberals' on Court approve taking from the poor to give to the rich.
The news from Limerick Court. "Three men who were arrested on Friday near Shannon are due to appear before a special sitting of Limerick...Court today. The men, from Clare, Limerick and Cork, were intercepted as they travelling towards Ennis at 9.30am on Friday morning...." More (U.TV 06.26.2005). In view of the unfortunate trend toward more & more specialty courts, we're not surprised that there's a "Limerick Court." I'm not sure what these guys were arrested for -- perhaps illegal trafficking in plagiarized limericks.
Hats fly into ring for judge vacancy. "White County Judge Bob Parish said it was time to get out of Dodge, as he affectionately calls White County politics. The race for who will take his place began to take shape this week with Bob Evans and Waylon Heathscott joining perennial hopeful Barth Grayson as candidates for the $52,000-a-year office. Parish's term expires at the end of 2006, and the new county judge will be determined during elections in May and November of 2006...." More (The Daily Citizen 06.25.2005). Comment. Hmm, despite the "fact," sworn to by numerous bar association types, that judges are paid starvation wages, good lawyers apparently are still willing to give up their law practices & serve as judges. For my idiosyncratic views, see, 'I could be making lots more if I were Michael Jordan' at BurtLaw's Law & Judicial Economics at BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else.
How to disqualify a judge: deposit money in his account and... "It began with the allegations in a series of petitions against Justice Muhammad Lawal Uwais, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, that he had received N5 billion in the James Ibori identity crisis case. '[T]he original plan they had was to get me disqualified from participating in the case. There were plans to pay money into my account and then it will be released to the press that I have taken bribe and that will force me to disqualify myself,' he said. 'Even if I deny it, because of that allegation, it was thought that I will disqualify myself [from] taking part in a particular case.'" I don't know if there's anything to what "Adamu Adamu" is talking about in Judiciary: The Adventure of Sai-ka-yi (alternate link) in Abuja Daily Trust (06.24.2005), but it makes for interesting reading. Here's a sample of Adamu's writing:
Alhaji Maina Dahuwa is a very compassionate, funny, good, kindly-looking, middle-aged man that we knew as children in the Azare of the 1960s. He is still around unchanged, and will never pass anyone without a smile or a kind word. His pedigree is well known; because his blood is blue but not of the tinge that ultimately reaches the throne. But Maina Dahuwa is determined. So determined is he to reach the throne that all those who know him affectionately call him: "Sai-ka-yi". In other words, he was born to rule. At close to 70, he is now greying and balding; but neither his infectious smile nor his readiness to help and other good qualities have deserted him. And he is still as determined as ever. To all those who know him, his name is still "Sai-ka-yi", to which he always answered, "Ko garin ba kowa;" meaning, he will be king even without subjects. Nowadays we have many Sai-ka-yis in the country. The only difference between them and him is that he doesn't take himself or his long-gestating succession too seriously.
I think I'd like to meet Alhaji Maina Dahuwa. He sounds like some of the "characters" in my hometown when I was growing up, the "everyday saints" of my youth, the fathers & mothers of my spirit. See, Annie Dahlen's rosettes. For more about one of the fathers of my spirit, read on....
Remembering Thomas Wolfe's 'Judge Bland.' Today's McAlester News-Capital from McAlester, OK, has a brief story about the elevation of Special Judge James Bland to the position of Associate District Court Judge for Pittsburg County, OK. It called to mind Thomas Wolfe's memorable, chilling portrait of "Judge Bland" in his posthumously-published novel, You Can't Go Home Again. I trust Judge Bland of Pittsburg County, OK, is a nicer, yes, blander, fellow than Thomas Wolfe's "Judge Bland." I first was introduced to Wolfe's writing by a wonderful and beautiful English teacher, Elizabeth Breeland Rogers, who recognized potential in me when I was a freshman at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, in 1961. She assigned Wolfe's magnificent short story, The Lost Boy, which resonated with me and prompted me to read Look Homeward, Angel, his well-known coming-of-age novel, which absolutely captivated me, as it has captivated many young people, particularly men, during their late adolescence. Wolfe's father, a stonecutter who loved to quote Shakespeare, wanted him to become a lawyer. Instead, he went to Harvard for graduate school and became a fiction writer who created a number of memorable fictional characters, including the afore-mentioned "Judge Bland," around whose mouth "there hovered constantly the ghost of a smile" that was "lewd, evil, mocking, horribly corrupt...." Reading Wolfe, who lived only 38 years (1900-1938) made me briefly want to become a fiction writer. Instead, I went to Harvard and became a lawyer. So it goes. Tom, "you were not absent in my Youth," and you're still with me, as all the fathers of my spirit are. Wolfe links: The Thomas Wolfe Web Site - The Thomas Wolfe Society - Excellent list of links.
Would you like to stay in 'The Oscar Wilde Room'? "[It's] not just your normal luxury hotel...there are a whole host of those already in [London]. No, this one is very different, probably unique in fact. Why? Well this hotel has been hewn from an ancient magistrates court and, surprise, its name is The Courthouse...." More (Hindustan Times 06.25.2005). Actually, its name is Courthouse Hotel Kempinski (hotel's web site). Wilde, of course, slept in one of the jail cells in the courthouse. More (Robot Wisdom). As did, if the hotel's web site is accurate, "Napoleon III, John Lennon...Keith Richards and Sir Mick Jagger." The hotel has 116 rooms & suites: "The 13 suites are located in the former judges’ robing rooms and the spectacular Lalique Suite is sited within the former London residence to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner." There are three dining areas: "'Silk' is located within the infamous No. 1 Courtroom where the great and not so good...pleaded their cases in previous years."
MN Supreme Court Justice gushes with praise for drug court. "'It's working because everybody came together to solve the problem -- police, court administration, probation, the prosecutors, the public defenders, the judges -- all sitting down at the table,' [Associate Justice Helen] Meyer said. 'It's really inspiring.'" More (St. Cloud Times 06.25.2005). Comment. I'm not a fan of specialized courts. See, Protest Court & Equality Court. Drug courts appear to me to be primarily a way to moderate the harshness of our absurd drug laws. There are better, more cost-effective, less-cruel ways of addressing "the drug problem" than enacting mandatory-minimum-term & other harsh drug laws & then, in a nod to the foolishly-abandoned idea of rehabilitation, establishing "humane drug courts" to moderate the harshness of those laws. My advice to all the policymakers concerned with "the drug problem" is that they pick up a copy of Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do about It, by Judge James P. Gray. Or, just as well, here's a link to a Cliff's Notes version of it appearing in The American Prospect (01.28.2002). Gray says: "I have learned over twenty years of experience that although the War on Drugs makes for good politics, it makes for terrible government. The War on Drugs is about a lot of things, but only rarely is it really about drugs."
Daniel Stewart, former Utah Supreme Court Justice, dies at 72. "'He had an eye for beauty,' [his daughter] said of her father. 'He'd look at a landscape and say, 'Look at all the colors,' no matter how subtle. He did that Wednesday with his grandson. He said, 'Look at that green leaf over there and how different and beautiful it is.' Near the end of his life, [his daughter] said her father [who was confined to a wheelchair since contracting polio at age 23], struggled physically, [but] never complained, simply jok[ed] about his 'dumb old body.' 'He rose to the top of everything he did, and that included parenting.'" More (Salt Lake City Tribune 06.25.2005). According to the story, the justice dissented from a 1993 decision upholding prayers in Mormon-dominated Utah during city council meetings, referring to the decision as "a stunning and revolutionary change" that could lead to "tyranny." Comment. Polio was a serious concern many summers before Dr. Salk announced his development of his polio vaccine: I myself caught it and was temporarily disabled -- I still have the blue wooden kid's cane I used for a time in walking. Justice Stewart wasn't the only judge in the "polio club." Chief Justice Peter S. Popovich, a fine man & judge, one of the six Minnesota Supreme Court Chiefs with whom I worked in my 28+ years at the Court, was laid low by polio about the same time I was. See, Burton R. Hanson, "The Voices of a Judge -- The Judicial Opinions of Chief Justice Peter S. Popovich of the Minnesota Supreme Court," The Judicial Career of Peter S. Popovich (MN. Justices Series No. 10, 1998). I never spent any time in a wheelchair, but a stunning illness like that affects one's outlook forever.
Highest-paid judge in world to get her own star. She's the highest-paid judge in the world ($25 million a year) & she'll get her own "star" on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next year. More (MSNBC 06.24.2004). Other "greats" to be so honored include the immortal Shecky Greene & the unforgettable Wink Martindale.
Supreme Court's ruling costs Justices their homes. "The homes of all nine U.S. Supreme Court justices are being seized by local governments in the Washington, D.C., area to turn them into fast-food restaurants, bars and strip clubs. 'My God, this is outrageous. We never dreamed it would come to this,' said Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the controversial majority opinion that allowed governments to seize private property if it was 'for the public good.' 'It was just legal blah-blah on a piece of paper. How on earth could they want to come and take my house?' Stevens said, adding that he 'didn't realize my words had consequences.'" More (DeadBrain.Com 06.25.2005) (satire). See, 'Liberals' on Court approve taking from the poor to give to the rich? at my personal political opinion website, BurtonHanson.Com.
Mommy, can I go to 'Law Camp'? "High school students acting as attorneys for the commonwealth made their arguments in front of Virginia Court of Appeals Judge Jean H. Clements this morning as part of one of five mock trials held on the final day of the Loudoun Bar Foundation’s sixth annual week-long law camp. More (Leesburg Today 06.24.2005).
A place where there's no ceiling on number of supreme court judges. "Mr Justice D.F. Annan, has called for intense public debate on the ceiling to the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court [in Ghana, which now has 13]...Mr Annan said the appointments, as they stood now, gave room for suspicion, adding that since there was no ceiling, the appointments could be manipulated to a advantage of a ruling government which was not prepared to demonstrate good faith in its actions...." More (Ghana web 06.24.2005).
Alabama Supreme Court candidate's bumper sticker. "I'm going to get a bumper sticker that says: 'I'm a Christian. I own a gun. I'm a Democrat.'" More (Ledger-Enquirer 06.24.2005). Comment. Alabama voters gave us former Chief Justice Roy Moore, the so-called Ten Commandments Judge, whose campaign success as a Republican was directly attributable to his use of the issue of the Ten Commandments in the courtroom. Judge Albert Johnson, a Democrat, seems to know the Alabama voters & that knowledge is reflected in his planned bumper sticker. It's also reflected in this statement: "I think a person's faith and life philosophy is more important [to a court] than legal acumen."
What's so bad about shorts & tube tops in courtroom? "This summer, Metro Juvenile Court is fighting back against the scantily clad with an arsenal of hospital gowns. The stylish doctor's office staples are now covering bare legs and bellies in Nashville's juvenile court....That tube tops and flip flops are significantly outside the category of 'business casual' would seem self-explanatory, but according to Juvenile Court Judge Betty Adams Green, these and other summer items routinely show up in front of the judge's bench. 'Common sense isn't that common,' Judge Green said. 'There's not one article of clothing that is or isn't appropriate. It's how it's worn and how it fits. It's like obscenity: I know it when I see it....'" More (Nashville City Pages 06.24.2005). Comment. Come on, Judge, lighten up. Live 'n' let live. What's so bad about tank tops, tube tops, low-rider jeans, sandals? Have you been in a law school classroom recently? When I attended Harvard Law School in the 1960's, I always wore a button-down shirt, tie, sport coat, & dress pants to class. So did most of my male classmates. The few women in my class always dressed up. But times have changed. Get with the flow, Judge. I know "it" when I see it, too, & hospital gowns aren't an improvement over tube tops, etc. And while I'm on the subject, what's behind the judiciary's apparent "gown fetish"?
Lyle Wolff, eccentric judge, dog lover, dies at 85. "Along with his colorful ways in the courtroom, Wolff was also known for taking his dog, Socrates, everywhere. 'Socrates was a poodle,' Dielman said. 'Not a big, full-grown poodle, but a small version. He brought him to work every day.' The small dog would spend time in Wolff's chambers and occasionally on the roof outside of his window...." More (Baker City Herald 06.23.2005). Comment. One never knows how a particular judge, or anyone else, will be remembered. A fellow in my home town in the early 1900's who lived in a shack but loved books, which he used to loan out to kids, made his living with horses & used to drive old Doc Scofield, the town's unofficial historian, in a horse-and-buggy on house calls & farm calls in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter. When Jule died & was buried in the city cemetery, Doc Scofield, who was as classy a guy as ever lived in my hometown, bought a nice tombstone & put on it the inscription, "He loved horses" &, for good measure, he added a depiction of a horse. Jule was appreciated & remembered not just by Doc Scofield but by the boys to whom he lent books & served as mentor. Years later, one of those boys, in his 80's at the time, told me this story. I'm sorta guessing Judge Wolff wouldn't mind being remembered more for his eccentricities & his love of Socrates, the poodle, than for any oft-cited decisions. A judge could do worse than being remembered for his love of dogs. True, dogs aren't people -- they're better than people.
Woman says she had 'criminal affair' with male judge. "A former bail bond executive on Thursday described her relationship with a [Louisiana] state district judge accused of corruption as 'baring souls together.' Lori Marcotte, former vice president of Bail Bonds Unlimited, said she had 'a criminal affair' with Judge Alan Green -- not focused on sex, but on mutual monetary profit. Prosecutors contend that Green took bribes to cut criminal defendants' bonds to affordable levels, with Bail Bonds Unlimited then getting the business...." More (Tuscaloosa News 06.24.2005). The judge, however, testifying in his own defense, said that "the meals and other gratuities he and his staff accepted from the [bail bond] business were common throughout the Jefferson Parish Courthouse. More (Tuscaloosa News 06.24.2005). Comment. R. 23.741(2), BurtLaw's Rules of Judicial Etiquette: A trial judge ought never have a personal relationship with a bail bondsman (or bondswoman) & ought never invite one or allow one in one's chambers on an ex parte basis.
Musing on judge who quit because he was bored. A one-time reporter of court cases muses on Mr. Justice Laddie's decision to resign because he is bored with being a judge: "Those who enjoy a bit of emotional drama will find plenty of it in any criminal court in the land. But courtrooms of every sort, civil and criminal, are also the perfect settings for high comedy. These are the places where all the pomposity of the law, with its hopeless attempts to make sense of human behaviour, clashes with real life. If there were some afternoons in Ipswich when I had to struggle to stay awake, there were others when I had to fight to suppress fits of laughter...." More (Telegraph 06.24.2005).
Bitter lawmakers in Kansas dump retaliatory plan to elect judges. "Conservative state lawmakers have spent recent days talking about sending Supreme Court justices a message. But one proposal intended to send such a message -- an effort to change justices from being appointed to elected -- was shot down Thursday...." More (Wichita Eagle 06.23.2005).
Three of seven Georgia Supremes are African-Americans. "Gov. Sonny Perdue installed his former legal aide, Harold Melton, on the Georgia Supreme Court on Thursday, calling him a man of deep integrity and conscience. Melton becomes the third black among the seven judges on the court and is the first justice since 1868 to be appointed by a Republican governor...." More (Atlanta Journal-Constitution 06.23.2005). Earlier link.
Judge who's tough on DUI's is arrested for DUI. "A Sonoma County judge who handed down the stiffest possible sentence in two recent high-profile drunken driving cases will remain on the bench following her arrest for reportedly driving under the influence, officials said today. The investigation of the charge against Superior Court Judge Elaine Rushing, who was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving following a single-vehicle crash late Tuesday night, has been turned over to the state Attorney General...." More (San Francisco Chronicle 06.23.2005). Related story: MN judge pleads guilty to DWI.
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