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 has devoted his entire professional career to the public interest. 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 public interest political opinion blog and also contains the archives of his 2004 campaign web pages and blog postings.
Some of our recent postings. a) Coffeemakers, toasters, microwaves are banned from offices at courthouse! b) Supreme Court tries to suppress colleague's dissent. c) Annals of 'Oops! There's a teeny-weeny conflict.' d) Bush's patronized, politicized picks as judges tend to behave as anticipated. e) 'Reality check' on Missouri-Plan 'merit' selection commissions. f) Federal judge is indicted; will fight charges. g) High court judges believe their phones are bugged. h) Annals of courthouse security: high-tech voyeurism? i) Complaint is filed against another Minnesota judge. j) Don't go near the courthouse - you might get seized. k) Q&A with a judge in South Africa. l) An igorant judge? A prejudiced judge? An absentee judge? m) A judge's not sitting on time is a 'crime against society.' n) Food fight in courthouse? o) Annals of judicial contempt. p) Judge is furious over defendant's swigging Coca Cola in the dock. q) The 'Imam' of judges. r) The 'Three-Pony Rule' in child support. s) Annals of pre-trial release. t) Judge with prosecutor son need not always disqualify self in criminal cases. u) Courthouse is flooded, trials are held in foyer. v) Are spiritual courts needed to counter witches and wizards? w) Rob a judge, get 1,000 lashes. x) Gourmet bandit nabbed in federal court building. y) Blogger Fidel sez, 'We wuz robbed' by judges. z) Judge is reimbursed $21,000 (at 50.5 cents a mile) for commuting expenses. aa) Eight percent of complaints against judges in Israel are found justified. bb) The stench at the courthouse. cc) Fun Lovin' Criminals will appear in Royal Courts of Justice. dd) Courthouse renovation to protect genealogy trove. ee) Fed judge's courtroom in Houston features modern art. ff) Judge tells battling billionaire brothers to ask mummy to mediate. gg) A profile in judicial courage? hh) Is a 'culture of knives' turning into a 'culture of baseball bats'? ii) Bluegrass courts and short shorts. jj) Stevens trial will stay in D.C. kk) New 'judge' described as 'desperate to fulfill' his role. ll) Controversial Boston judge agrees to step down. mm) MI Court of Appeals knocks 'Reform Michigan' amendment off ballot. nn) Judge/novelist's new screenplay recounts when heroin came to Harlem. oo) The Hotel Courthouse. pp) Judge denies sexual harassment allegations. qq) Annals of merit-based awards-show judging. rr) 'Girls Gone Wild' founder takes on 'small town judges' in video, lawsuit. ss) Government wants to popularize use of 'Kannada' in courts? tt) Won't you take the pledge? uu) Judge refuses to hold court in courthouse in James Dean's hometown! ww) Son keeps vow he made at funeral of dad, a judge who died young. xx) The cost of suspending a controversial judge. yy) Using the ancient 'Mimansa Principles' to interpret modern laws. zz) Wedding photos held hostage -- SuperJudge to the rescuse? aaa) A judge and his dog. bbb) Quote of the Day. ccc) Judge as 'Joker.' ccc) CA judicial council approves dependency court changes. ddd) Judge releases two defendants pending trial, warns public to be on watch. eee) A sack of crisp bills, in neat bundles, is left at high court judge's house. fff) Lawyers in Kenya move to oust chief justice. ggg) Look who's guarding the hen house. hhh) Complaint alleges judge ordered litigants, gallery members to pray. iii) Is ABA plotting a 'judicial coup'? jjj) Annals of ADR -- are people hiring criminals as alternative dispute resolvers? kkk) Annals of ex-justices in quasi-judicial roles, members of special litigation committees, etc. lll) Judge resigns, agrees not to serve again as judge. mmm) 'Dodgy judges.' nnn) When irked with judges, do you 'moon' them? ooo) Judge whose affair led to murder resigns. ppp) DWI&T: Driving while drunk while texting. qqq) MN judge who presided in case in which victim was friend is fined, reprimanded. rrr) Chinese Olympic judges are accused of favoring Chinese contestant. sss) Judge is charged with lewd conduct, harassment. ttt) Ex-secretary recounts judge's assault. uuu) Judge's house is shot up. vvv) Judge pleads not guilty to double billing charges.
Federal judge is indicted; will fight charges. "[Samuel Kent, a] federal judge accused of sexual harassment by his former case manager[,] was indicted Thursday on charges of abusive sexual contact and attempted aggravated sexual abuse, the U.S. attorney's office said...'He's angry and ready for a fight. He is innocent. We will try this case. It is nothing but a false accusation,' said Dick DeGuerin, Judge Kent's attorney...." More (Dallas Morning News 08.29.2008). See, also, Rick Casey, Judging the judges who judged Kent (Houston Chronicle 08.28.2008). Earlier. Links to earlier Daily Judge postings on Judge Kent. Update. Kent plans to keep hearing cases (Houston Chronicle 08.31.2008).
High court judges believe their phones are bugged. "The judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court believe that someone has been eavesdropping on them.Available information suggests the judges are of the belief that 'some state agency' has not only placed their incoming and outgoing numbers under surveillance, but is also listening to their conversations...." More (Chandigarh Tribune - India 08.31.2008).
Annals of courthouse security: high-tech voyeurism? Darin Earl Wanless, the security guard who pleaded guilty to felony voyeurism for using high-tech computer-linked security cameras in the federal courthouse complex in Spokane to watch women undress in a nearby hotel and condominium building, has been sentenced by a state court judge to three to four years of community supervision and ordered to register as a sex offender, undergo counseling, and submit a DNA sample. More (Seattle Times 08.31.2008). Comment. Do we support surveillance cameras in courthouses despite their occasional criminal or noncriminal misuse? Yes, but it seems to us that surveillance cameras, in the name of security, are everywhere in courthouses except where they are most needed. Surveillance cameras are hidden all over our courthouses these days. But "surveillance" cameras are most needed in the courtrooms, cameras that specifically are needed so that the press, and the people, who own the courthouse, may "suveil" those who are ultimately accountable to the people in the people's pursuit of fair, even-handed, open justice. But we don't just want press cameras in the trial and appellate courtrooms. We want "people's surveillance" cameras. More at Do we support cameras?
Complaint is filed against another Minnesota judge. "[Timothy Blakely, a] Goodhue County judge faces discipline for a whopping discount he got on his six-figure divorce bill after sending business to his lawyer...." More (Star-Tribune 08.28.2008). Comment. Just allegations at this point. We never believe allegations unless and until they are proven to be true or admitted.
Don't go near the courthouse -- you might get seized. "A juror shortage forced [Lane County Presiding Judge Mary Ann Bearden] to look through a phone book before sending sheriff's deputies out into the street to round up enough people for a trial...After trying the phone book and making some calls without much success, Bearden ordered Lane County sheriff's deputies to go out on a downtown Eugene street and summon citizens to immediate jury service...." More (Oregonian 08.29.2008). Comment. Apparently there's a little-used provision of Oregon law allowing this. But the fact a statute allows it, doesn't mean it's a good idea. Query: Is the law subject to constitutional attack? By whom? Constitutional or not, it goes against the American grain.
Q&A with a judge in South Africa. The Times of South Africa has a Q&A with Edwin Cameron, who is a judge of the supreme court of appeal, that focuses on his favorite cities and things he likes and dislikes about them. An excerpt:
Q. Where do you live? A. My home is in Joburg, but for six months of the year, when the Supreme Court of Appeal is in session, I live in Bloem. Q. Who do you share your house with? A. Jozi: My niece, Marlise; her partner Marc; my housekeeper of 25 years, Sophie Kekana; her daughter, Diana; her granddaughter, Paulina; my Nigerian tenant, George; his Malawian sub-tenant, Philip; two ducks; two bantam chickens; a tortoise; two cats and a dog. Bloem: I live alone in an apartment, though more than half a dozen other judges live in the same apartment block....
More (Times of South Africa 08.29.2008). Comment. Worth reading, just for fun. He says "the biggest misconception about judges" is "[t]hat they live sedate, gentlemanly, disengaged lives." He "gets around" in a "government garage-issue Volvo S40; but, wherever possible, by bicycle." His "creature comforts"? A. "A nice armchair to read in, Woolies pecan and choc-chip shortbread and Sophie Kekana [his househeeper of 25 years]."
A judge's not sitting on time is a 'crime against society.' "I have authentic reports that certain judges of labour and district courts are not sitting on time, causing loss of precious time. They are not available in courts on time. This is a crime against society." -- Madras High Court Chief Justice A. K. Ganguly. More (Press Trust of India 08.28.2008).
Food fight in courthouse? "[A] conflict has arisen at the new Worcester courthouse...This altercation is a food fight pitting Richard A. Keyes, the blind proprietor of Dick's Lobby Shop, the new café in the basement of the massive courthouse, against Dean M. Gicas, who for many years ran a similar café in the old county courthouse that closed a year ago to make way for the move to the new building on North Main Street. Since the café opened July 30, Mr. Gicas has been a somewhat unwelcome daily visitor, according to Mr. Keyes and his employees...." More (Worcester Telegram and Gazette News - MA 08.28.2008). Comment. Worth reading.
Annals of judicial contempt. "[U.S. District Judge George Schiavelli,] who lost a $21 million lawsuit for injuries suffered in an escalator fall[,] has threatened a lawyer with contempt for asking him to address rumors that he would retire from the bench...." More (ABAJ Law News 08.28.2008).
Judge is furious over defendant's swigging Coca Cola in the dock. "A judge renowned for sending people to the cells for answering their mobiles in court turned his attention to a new nuisance. Nicholas Stopford was in the dock before district judge Peter Ward at Blackpool Magistrates Court when he took a swig from a bottle of Coca Cola he had with him. The judge warned him: 'Will you get rid of that bottle, I will not have drinking in court.' Hammer...." More (Blackpool Gazette - UK 08.28.2008). Comment. Welcome to the 21st Century, judge. If you visit American courtrooms, you'll find lawyers, jurors, plaintiffs, defendants -- all -- sitting there with plastic bottles containing water, Coca Cola, SuperPower fruit ade, etc. Every now and then, one of them will unscrew the cap, take a swig, and refocus on the proceedings with renewed vigor and laser-like concentration.
The 'Imam' of judges. "Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said that deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was the 'Imam' of all deposed judges and he would be reinstated soon along with other judges. He, however, gave no timeframe for the restoration...." More (Pak Tribune - Pakistan 08.27.2008).
The 'Three-Pony Rule' in child support. "While acknowledging there are unique problems with determining the reasonable needs of children of high-earning families, the court said trial judges should nevertheless avoid overindulgence -- citing the doctrine of In re Patterson, 920 P.2d 450 (Kan. App. 1996), that 'no child, no matter how wealthy the parents, needs to be provided [with] more than three ponies.'" From a Law.Com report in the Michael Strahan divorce case on NJ appellate court's decision holding the $18,000 child support award against Strahan was exorbitant. More (Law.Com 08.27.2008). Decision.
Annals of pre-trial release. Mayra Rosales, who weighs nearly half a ton, is charged with capital murder in the beating death of her two-year-old nephew, but the jail cells in the Hidalgo County Jail are "too small" and the jail lacks "the medical resources she requires." On 08.25 a trial judge "agreed not to send Rosales to jail provided she wear a global positioning system tracker until her trial." More (Houston Chronicle 08.26.2008). Comment. I oppose the death penalty, without exception. But, what if...? What if the state mandates a certain type of method of execution -- say, electrocution -- and the equipment of death -- say, the electric chair -- won't accommodate the person whose death is warranted? The conundrum I've posed is not unlike the conundrum posed by the execution of Jesus: Suppose it had occurred in the U.S. That's not so wild a supposition. I have no doubt that under certain circumstances our courts are just as capable of wrongly convicting and executing Jesus as were the courts in Jesus' time and place. In any event, what'd SCOTUS say about re-executing a man who was executed but then, three days later, rose from the dead? Well, the answer doesn't matter, I suppose, because by the time the legal process had run its course, Jesus would be long gone -- that is, long since Ascended. Here ends the Lesson of the Day. :-)
Judge with prosecutor son need not always disqualify self in criminal cases. "A 20th Judicial District circuit judge[, Charles E. Clawson Jr.,] whose son[, Charles E. Clawson III,] is a prosecutor in the same district does not have to disqualify himself in all cases handled by the prosecutor's office, though he might have to disqualify himself if his son were to come before him in court, a panel on judicial ethics said Tuesday...." It's a "Point of Arkansas Law." More (NWA 08.26.2008).
Courthouse is flooded, trials are held in foyer. "A large overnight flood at West Covina Superior Court forced judges to hold trials in the foyer Tuesday and prompted the closure of the courthouse for at least a week, officials said...." More (Whittier Daily News 08.27.2008). Comment. Do client-chasing lawyers who daily prowl courthouse corridors looking for business have an unfair advantage over other lawyers when trials are held in the corridors?
Are spiritual courts needed to counter witches and wizards? "[A] Ghanaian spiritualist and herbalist Alhaji Akanayo Konkronko Managing Director of Black Herbal Clinic at Ntoaso near Nsawam in the Eastern Region, has called for the establishment of spiritual courts to deal with anti-social vices in society. The Spiritual Courts according to Alhaji Konkronko would also help reduce the operations of witches and wizards who have brought hardships and atrocities upon countless innocent people in society...." More (MyJoyOnline - Ghana 08.27.2008). Comments. One man's TV evangelist is another man's witch. Similarly, one man's advocate is another man's wizard. Stated differently, if wizards were outlawed, how would Harvard-Law-educated Rufus Choate, the 'Wizard of the Law,' have plied his trade? Update. "How would the Spiritual Courts reduce the diabolical activities of evil spirits that cause crimes? Who would be the judge? How would the judge be trusted? How fair would the spiritual judge be? Are there traditional spiritual laws to arbitrate spiritual cases? Would the spiritual judge use empirical evidence to inform decisions?" -- From an interesting commentary: Kofi Akosah-Sarpong, Engaging Evil Spirits through Spiritual Courts (Modern Ghana 08.31.2008).
Rob a judge, get 1,000 lashes. "The Court of Cassation has upheld the six years' imprisonment and 1,000 lashes handed down by a Jeddah court against a Saudi citizen who held a judge captive at his own home and robbed him of SR300,000 at gunpoint...." More (Arab News 08.27.2008).
Gourmet bandit nabbed in federal court building. When Federal Bankruptcy Judge Paul W. Bonapfel arrived at his chambers on the 14th floor of the 23-story Richard B. Russell Federal Building in Atlanta, he discovered a half-eaten apple and distinctive markings left behind on some memos. In subsequent days other equally-renowned jurist/crimefighters reported similar acts of thievery: "chocolate chip cookies stolen from a 10th-floor desk; a purloined sandwich on the 9th; a packet of dried soup stolen from the 23rd floor." Was it a mischievous night security guard on his rounds? No. It was a promiscuous masked bandit -- Procyon Lotor. Authorities caught him in the act, took him into custody, and -- you guessed it, this being Georgia -- decided to banish him. More (AJC 08.26.2008).
Blogger Fidel sez, 'We wuz robbed' by judges. "Former Cuban President Fidel Castro blamed corrupt referees for the nation's poor performance at the Beijing Olympics, where it won two gold medals compared with nine in the previous Athens Olympics. Two Cuban boxers were 'robbed' in the semifinal matches, Castro wrote in a column published on the Web site of the daily government newspaper, Granma...." Castro also defended a Cuban Taekwondo athlete who kicked a Swedish judge in the pucker and has been banned for life. More (Bloomberg 08.26.2008). Comments. a) We here at the International Headquarters of The Daily Judge welcome Señor Castro to the community of law bloggers. b) Did the Swede judge turn the other cheek? Further reading. Here's a link to the results of a Google search for our prior postings at The Daily Judge on Swede judges, etc.
Judge is reimbursed $21,000 (at 50.5 cents a mile) for commuting expenses. "Over almost three years, Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter has tapped more than $21,000 in public money to pay for mileage on his commute to New Orleans from Baton Rouge, where he relocated after the flood...." That's a lot more than other judges on the criminal court bench have sought in reimbursement. More (Times-Picayune 08.25.2008). Comment. The judge is up for reelection. We wish him good luck.
Eight percent of complaints against judges in Israel are found justified. "Outgoing Judges' Ombudswoman Tova Strasberg-Cohen completed the examination of the 543 complaints against judges in the court system in the first half of 2008 and found 45 of them to be justified...." More (Jerusalem Post 08.26.2008).
The stench at the courthouse. "About 50 court employees, jurors and other officials were barred from returning to the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse for about an hour yesterday as fire officials investigated a sulfuric stench in the building...." The cause? A leak in the court building's generator battery. More (Washington Post 08.26.2008).
Fun Lovin' Criminals will appear in Royal Courts of Justice. "Fun Lovin' Criminals to appear at Royal Courts of Justice. No, the New York band are not being had up for robbing banks all whacked off of Scooby Snacks. They are playing the first-ever gig to take place in the hallowed halls…and it's a silent disco...." More (Guardian UK 08.25.2008). Comment. The "Fun Lovin' Criminals" will be in a soundproof booth & the attendees will be issued headphones to wear while they dance to the beat. I guess I'm "out of it." This is the first I've heard of the concept of "silent discos." But I'm so out of it I've never even been in a disco. The closest I ever got to a disco was in my imagination, after I heard rumors (which I doubted) about a certain someone I used to know long ago visiting St. Paul's Oz disco (in the basement of the old Hotel Lowry on the Lowry Block) back in the 1980's whenever her significant other was outta town. What is it about dancing that women like? I've never figured it out. But then, along with Freud, I've never figured out the answer to "Was will das Weib?" (What do women want?). In any event, I wouldn't walk across the street to attend the silent disco at the Royal Courts of Justice. Cf., Justice Holmes ("I should like to be admitted to be the greatest jurist in the world, but I wouldn't do much more than walk across the street to be called Chief Justice instead of Justice"), from Letter to Patrick Sheehan dated 12.15.1912, reproduced in Richard Posner, The Essential Holmes 29 (1997).
Courthouse renovation to protect genealogy trove. They're renovating the old Roane County Courthouse in Kingston, TN, which was built in 1854, and they're being careful to preserve, in the process, the courthouse's "large collection of documents attracting researchers and genealogists from as far as Alaska and Australia." The Roane County Heritage Commission now owns the building. It's converting the second floor courtroom into a "transportation museum." More (WZTV FOX 17 - Nashville 08.25.2008).
Fed judge's courtroom in Houston features modern art. "Visitors to U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison's courtroom won't find portraits of retired judges. Instead, Ellison relies on the artwork of Houstonian Van McFarland to add a splash of color and a sense of proportion. 'We should not be intimidated by the courthouse, but neither should we enter it as casually as we would enter a store or restaurant,' Ellison said...." More (Houston Chronicle 08.25.2008) (site contains video tour). Further reading. See, my mini-essays at 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."); Another soul-less public building? Clint Stephens, courthouse custodian -- and more; Might Mr. Stephens' flowers lead to better government?
Coffeemakers, toasters, microwaves are banned from offices at courthouse! "Spurred by three fire alarms that have gone off in the Brown County Courthouse [in Aberdeen, SD] in the past year or so, commissioners have ordered court offices to get rid of their coffee pots, toasters and microwave ovens. Commissioners say those appliances should be limited to break rooms only...." More (KXMC 08.23.2008). Comments. a) Apparently the alarms were set off by burnt toast and burnt microwave popcorn. By limiting the appliances to break rooms, the commisioners reasoned that building maintenance employees will be better able to make sure the units are unplugged during non-work hours. But bread doesn't jump into toasters when the workers are gone, so we're not sure the new policy necessarily will reduce the number of false alarms. b) Will the change lead to more mingling of judges and others, since judges will no longer be allowed to keep coffee pots, etc., in chambers? Or will the judges use their skills at interpretation to construe the term "break room" as including the area in which a judge's personal coffee pot, etc., reside? That, presumably, will depend upon whether the judges are strict constructionists. Consider, in this regard, the spoof opinion by "Blue, J." (i.e., Blue Jay) of the "Supreme Court of Canada" in Regina v. Ojibway, 8 Criminal Law Quarterly 137 (1965) concluding that a pony, fortuitously saddled with a feather pillow, constitutes a "small bird" within the meaning of the Ontario Small Birds Act. See, also, comment d) at Pick to be new Aussie chief is an 'orchid.' c) I'm sort of like the canary in the coal mine. I often can tell when something's bad before others do. For instance, 10-15 years ago I realized that whenever I walked down the hall during the lunch hour past the kitchen on the fourth floor on the Minnesota Judicial Center I'd experience an allergic-reaction-type coughing spell if anyone had recently used the microwave to make popcorn coated with artificial butter flavoring. I kept the stuff out of my home, and, if I'd had my way, those popping buttered microwave popcorn would have been required to do it outside the building, down where the smokers were allowed to smoke. Later I read that workers at the microwave popcorn plants were saying they were experiencing lung problems linked to the artficial flavoring. It's only recently that public health officials have begun to take seriously those claims and to say the fumes also could be dangerous to the ultimate consumers themselves when they pop corn in the microwave. More (WTNH 09.04.2007). Related? Judge to decide whether dog is a 'wolf' (Jackson Citizen-Patriot - MI 08.27.2008).
Supreme Court tries to suppress colleague's dissent. "The split between some members of the state Supreme Court now appears to be a chasm. A majority of the high court voted this week to bar a dissent [that] Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. wrote in an appeal on a wrongful death case, only to reverse themselves Thursday afternoon, allowing the opinion to be included in the file. Diaz said that vote didn't take place until after news media calls. 'I'm speechless,' Diaz remarked. 'Never before has a majority voted to prohibit a dissent in Mississippi.'" More (Jackson Clarion Ledger 08.23.2008). Further reading. Justices tell colleague not to publish his opinion -- unprecedented? (Dan Slater's Blog at WSJ 08.22.2008). Comment. Back in 2007 the Michigan Supreme Court tried to suppress the dissents of three members of the seven-member court from the "biennial report" issued by SCOMICH's "administrative arm," a report that echoed the chief justice's opinion that Michigan should cut, by attrition, ten trial judgeships and four intermediate appellate court judgeships. See, Michigan Supremes are at it again -- guess the vote. The majority relied on the so-called "judicial deliberations privilege," arguing that the dissent disclosed privileged matter. We opined then that the majority justices on the sadly-divided court made a big mistake in relying on the privilege to prevent publishing the dissent. The privilege at best is something the court may invoke against the inquiry of outsiders. It was never intended to be used to prevent a judge from saying what she wants in a dissent or from otherwise "going public." See, also,
Annals of 'Oops! There's a teeny-weeny conflict.' "Oops. Three of the five retired [supreme court] judges who have been specially appointed to hear a case involving the re-election of a Supreme Court justice are publicly supporting the justice's re-election bid...." More (MinnPost 08.22.2008). One of Gildea's three challengers, Jill Clark, wants the supreme court to remove her from the ballot or, failing that, to deny her designation as "incumbent." More (Minnesota Lawyer Blog 08.13.2008). Comments. a) Seemingly pretty sloppy, stumble-bum work by the folks who managed this (I don't know who they are). All they'd have had to do was check the list of publicly-announced supporters on Gildea's campaign website -- something that I just did and something they should have known to do, since some former justices routinely sign on as endorsers of all sitting justices up for election even before they know who, if anyone, will be opposing them -- and they'd have seen the names of Hanson, Stringer and Tomljanovich. b) I'm guessing the special panel, however constituted, will reject Clark's arguments. But she has gained valuable free publicity by her complaint, and the court has managed to look bad in responding to it. (Sadly, that's becoming a habit. See, e.g., Leading senator accuses MN's chief justice of 'outright fabrication.' c) The candidates responses to questionnaires by MinnLawyer may be found here. Updates. a) The three former justices in question (Justices Hanson, Stringer, and Tomljanovich) have recused, and two court of appeals and one district court judge have been selected to replace them on the panel. More (MinnPost 08.22.2008). b) As we predicted, the special panel of lower court and retired supreme court judges has denied the relief requested by Clark. More (MPR 08.26.2008).
One of 'finest judges' pleads guilty to DWI; sentencing judge berates press. Allen Circuit Court Judge Thomas Felts pleaded guilty yesterday to driving drunk in Nap Town in July. Superior Court Judge William J. Nelson sentenced him to a stayed term. Nelson is quoted as saying that "Felts [is] one of the finest judges on the bench in Indiana" and "he is offended by the mentality of people who hound judges who make mistakes and suggest they shouldn't be allowed to serve. He also spoke about the media in the room, asking where the circus was when judges do positive things...." More (Journal-Gazette - Indiana 08.22.2008).
Bush's patronized, politicized picks as judges tend to behave as anticipated. "Immigrants seeking asylum in the United States have been disproportionately rejected by judges whom the Bush administration chose using a conservative political litmus test, according to an analysis of Justice Department data...." More (NYT 08.24.2008). Earlier posting. Report: AG Gonzales' top aide politicized hiring of immigration judges. Comment. I think the average American would be stunned if he knew the extent of favoritism, discrimination, bias, etc., in governmental hiring of and appointing people to so-called nonpolitical positions. Here's a sad little secret: Democrats do it, too. And here's an even sadder secret: so-called merit-based appointment processes are not Simon pure -- which is one of many reasons we oppose current attempts in MN to deprive voters of their historic role in judicial selection. Read on....
Judge tells battling billionaire brothers to ask mummy to mediate. "An Indian judge[, Justice J.N. Patel,] has told India's billionaire Ambani brothers to get their mother to settle their latest fight over natural gas supplies, telling them it is in the 'national interest,' a report said Friday...." More (AFP 08.22.2008).
A profile in judicial courage? A judge in NZ ok'd the annual 'boobs on bikes' parade, and 100,000 attended. a) Judge Nicola Mathers dismissed the Auckland, NZ city council's bid for an injunction to stop the annual "Boob on Bikes" parade. She stated, "It may well be that the parade is tasteless but equally it may be that in a more mature society the vast majority might consider it harmless." More (NZ Herald 08.20.2008). b) "Offices in New Zealand's largest city emptied and an estimated 100,000 workers lined Auckland's main street Wednesday to enjoy the annual 'Boobs on Bikes' parade." More (AFP 08.21.2008).
Is a 'culture of knives' turning into a 'culture of baseball bats'? "A district judge[, Barney McElholm,] has told Londonderry court that he is 'amazed by the number of baseball bats in this town.'" He uttered the comment after sentencing a fellow who admitted going to another fellow's house armed with a baseball bat. More (BBC News 08.22.2008). Comment. Baseball bats apparently have taken the place of Shilelagh clubs (the kind Dennis Day's father brought with him pn the boat) and appear to be overtaking knives as the weapon of choice in good old Ireland.
Bluegrass courts nix short shorts. "Kirstie Arnold, 28, of Lancaster, was sent to the Boyle County Jail after wearing short shorts during a court appearance Monday before Garrard District Judge Janet Booth. Booth had warned Arnold about her clothes in two previous court appearances, and in the last appearance had fined Arnold $50 for her attire...." More (Herald-Leader via Bluegrass Beat - KY 08.22.2008). Comment. Come on, Judge, lighten up. Live 'n' let live. What's so bad about tank tops, tube tops, low-rider jeans, denim short shorts (especially in Kentucky), sandals, flip-flops, clogs, etc.? 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 oxford cloth dress shirt, tie, sport coat, & dress pants to class. So did most of my male classmates. The few women in my class always dressed up (and they looked fabulous). But times have changed. Get with the flow, Judge. I know "it" when I see it, too, & the gowns judges wear (What is the deal with the judiciary's apparent "gown fetish"?) aren't necessarily an improvement over tube tops, short shorts, etc. Further reading. Judges to toss wigs, get new 'Star Trek' gowns; Latest developments in courthouse fashion (essay with links to multiple postings); On judicial swimsuits and the Rules of Judicial Conduct.
Stevens trial will stay in D.C. Dan Slater, Case Might Be 'All About Alaska,' But Judge Keeps Stevens Trial in D.C. (WSJ Law Blog 08.22.2008). Comment. Conducting the trial of Alaska Senator Stevens in D.C. is absurd. The federal prosecutors a) typically overcharge in an attempt to force plea bargains and/or ensure a guilty verdict on "something," b) routinely are allowed to forum-shop for the most-favorable venue, as this case illustrates, and then, c) if the poor sap is convicted after a trial, they don't imprison him near his home but hundreds or thousands of miles away, making it difficult for family members to visit. As to the last point, perhaps if they manage to convict Stevens the feds will make an exception and try get him sentenced to prison in Alaska on the theory that that will double the punishment ("You wanted your trial in Alaska? How about we compromise and put you in prison there?").
New 'judge' described as 'desperate to fulfill' his role. "Not surprisingly, it was a role that the retro singer[, Leo Sayer,] was 'desperate to fulfill,' according to venue manager Guy Robberts. 'Leo has a real appreciation for what we do -- or at least what the girls do -- and is really excited about being part of the judging,' Robberts told Confidential...." More (Daily Telegraph - AU 08.21.2008). Comment. In case you haven't figured it out, the judging role that "Leo" was "desperate to fulfill" is the role of "judge" in the Miss Nude Sydney competition. We here at The Daily Judge congratulate him on the high honor of being admitted to the international fraternity of judges.
Controversial Boston judge agrees to step down. "Judge Ernest B. Murphy has agreed to step down from the bench because he is 'permanently disabled from performing his judicial duties,' the state's highest court stated yesterday. The ruling stems from a new and previously unknown complaint against the long-embroiled Murphy, who still faces a misconduct case based on allegedly threatening letters sent to the publisher of the Boston Herald in 2005 after the judge won a libel verdict...." More (Boston Herald 08.21.2008). Related. Lawyers may revisit cases Murphy decided (Boston Herald 08.21.2008). Comment. The commission alleged that Murphy "suffers from a combination of personality factors and cognitive deficits that adversely affect his fitness to be a judge." The commission more specifically alleged that "neurocognitive, neuropsychiatric and personality factors constitute likely bases for inappropriate behavior and failure to make sound decisions on which to rest judicial rulings. In addition, Judge Murphy lacks the insight to recognize these deficits." Our posting dated 04.02.2008, Panel recommends suspension of judge over use of court stationery, etc., contains links to some of our previous postings related to Judge Murphy, his defamation lawsuit, misuse of court stationery, etc. Today's Herald article contains links to previous Herald stories concerning Judge Murphy.
MI Court of Appeals knocks 'Reform Michigan' amendment off ballot. "A sweeping proposal led by Michigan Democrats and labor unions to rewrite much of the Michigan Constitution appears dead after a court ruling Wednesday. A unanimous three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals said the proposal for the November ballot was an illegal attempt to enact a general revision of the state constitution...." More (Detroit Free Press 08.21.2008). Comment. My main posting on this "reform" proposal is a 06.25.2008 mini-essay titled A coup d' judiciaire masquerading as 'reform'? In it I also give my general skeptical views on proposed amendments to state constitutions by those who deceptively cloak themselves in the self-righteous robes of "reform."
Judge/novelist's new screenplay recounts when heroin came to Harlem. "Maybe it's habit, but when Edwin Torres, the judge and novelist, entered La Fonda Boricua in East Harlem for lunch, he took a corner table, back to the wall, with a great view of any and all who entered. He's retired now, though maybe some of the bad guys he dispatched to prison with eloquent oratorical flourishes may not be...." -- From a profile by David Gonzales (NYT 08.21.2008). Comment. Torres, age 77, retired in January, His new screenplay is titled Pleasant Avenue. Three of his novels -- Q & A, After Hours and Carlito's Way -- have made it to the screen as, respectively, Q & A, Carlito's Way, and Carlito's Way - Rise to Power. Wikipedia profile with links to novels and films: Edwin Torres (Judge).
The Hotel Courthouse. The Edmonton Sun reports that a banquet room at a Fort Nelson hotel has been "retrofitted with all the hallmarks of a courtroom" and is being used as a courtroom because a "mould" (a/k/a "mold") problem has led to the court building being deemed "unsafe." More (Edmonton Sun 08.21.2008). Further reading. See, my recent entry, links and comments at Judge refuses to hold court in courthouse in James Dean's hometown!
Judge denies sexual harassment allegations. "Leavenworth County District Court Judge Frederick N. Stewart, who faces an investigation surrounding alleged sexual misconduct against a former administrative assistant, denied the allegations Tuesday...." More (Basehor Sentinel 08.21.2008). Comment. The newspaper's detailed summary of the judge's response suggests the judge, who's been in office since 1977, will be mounting a vigorous defense. Unlike some people, we never assume the truth of allegations made against judges. The proper response is the old reliable one: "Let's wait and see what the evidence is" and see what the factfinder says, etc.
Annals of merit-based awards-show judging. "For four years, Elizabeth Albanese turned one of the most important journalism awards in the Southwest into her own myth-making machine, transforming herself from an obscure and ordinary business writer into the brightest star of the Dallas Press Club. Concocting a series of elaborate stories to hide her deception, Albanese rigged the Katie Awards to win 10 prizes over three years, fooling the working reporters and public relations pros who presided over the contest and counted themselves as her friends. It took a part-time journalist, who uncovered her reckless use of a press club credit card, to unravel Albanese's weird little web...." -- From Jesse Hyde, Matt Pulle, Kiss Me, Katie - Fairy tales can come true. Why, they can even win you an award from Dallas' less-than-vigilant press club (Printer-friendly version) (Dallas Observer 06.14.2007). Comment. This is a fascinating story, worth reading in its entirety. Links to some of the other press reports on it may be found here at Poynter Online. Recently, the Dallas Press Club announced that it is reviving the Katie Awards, this time promising "real judges" -- that is, a panel of journalism awards judges from the likes of the Poynter Institute and the University of Missouri School of Journalism. BizJournals (07.21.2008), A.P. (08.19.2008).
'Girls Gone Wild' founder takes on 'small town judges' in video, lawsuit. "Joe Francis today released a video message in which he said he was fighting a clique of small town judges and law enforcement officers over the right to free speech. He asks viewers to help him end 'Panama City's war on the Constitution.'" More (News-Herald - FLA 08.19.2008). Video announcement. Francis' has filed suit in federal court in California. The allegations are detailed in The Dish Rag by Elizabeth Snead (L.A. Times 08.19.2008). Comment. Want a Judges Gone Wild video? See, comments at High Court upholds dismissal of judge over drunken revelry (The Daily Judge 12.27.2006).
Government wants to popularize use of 'Kannada' in courts? "The government will promote use of Kannada in courts by bringing out a compendium of judgments delivered in Kannada. Also on the cards is a Kannada dictionary of legal terms. Minister for law and parliamentary affairs S Suresh Kumar said on Sunday that such an effort will motivate more judges to use Kannada. 'A beginning can be made from the district and taluk courts. Petitioners will understand judgments better if they are in the local language,'' he said...." More (Times of India 08.18.2008). Comment. Canadians who aren't good at spelling are scratching their heads over this one, asking, "What on earth are courts in India doing promoting Canada?" FYI, "Kannada" is "one of the major Dravidian languages of India, spoken predominantly in the southern state of Karnataka. Kannada, whose native speakers are called Kannadigas (Kannadigaru), number roughly 35 million, making it the 27th most spoken language in the world. It is one of the official languages of India and the official and administrative language of the state of Karnataka." More (Wikipedia 08.18.2008).
Won't you take the pledge? Once again members of the MN legal elite, most of whom hate the idea of judicial elections and most of whom don't like the idea of free speech for judicial candidates, have come forth with a code they want candidates for judicial office in MN to pledge they'll adhere to. Comment. I've opposed such attempts by the bar association to gain control of what judicial candidates say. As I have said before, Emerson knew what he was talking about when he wrote in his great journal, "[L]awyers...are a prudent race though not very fond of liberty." Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journal 04.1850). Thus, e.g., I wasn't surprised by the organized legal community's reluctance to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the so-called "Judicial Free-Speech Case" -- Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002) -- in which it struck down Minnesota's outrageous restrictions on free speech by judges and judicial candidates. On this, see, inter alia, SCOTUS declines review of USCA's case on judicial campaigns; MN. Supreme Court reversed again on free speech; Free speech is a 'bad idea'? Truth-in-campaigning laws and bar-association-enforced "pledges" to comply with the bar's idea of what speech content is okay -- like rules restricting judicial campaign speech -- undoubtedly have noble purposes, such as keeping campaigns clean, preventing voter fraud, etc., etc. But, at root they are anti-democratic. As others have pointed out, these paternalistic, patronizing laws show a profound distrust of voters. Ultimately, they say that voters need protection by prosecutors and judges. I have always had a different view -- a perhaps naïve belief in the ability of ordinary people to distinguish the real from the fraudulent. I take comfort in the fact that this "naïve belief" was shared by Thomas Jefferson, who said, "If you state a moral case to a plowman and a professor [or a prosecutor or judge], the farmer will decide it as well, and often better, because he has not been led astray by any artificial rules." Jeffersonian (including Norwegian-American) farmers and other voters can see through campaign rhetoric, lies and distortions without Big Brother serving as Authoritative Voter Guide. All such attempts to rein in and purify democratic elections in the hope of protecting voters from making "mistakes" will and ought to fail. Moreover, a much, much more significant problem, as I see it, is not fraudulent campaigning but bland, even gutless, campaigning, both in legislative elections and in judicial elections. Back in February of 2006 I witnessed a very sad debate among some Republican candidates for Congress in one of Minnesota's districts in which not one of them mentioned the War in Iraq. See, my entry dated 02.19.2006 titled 'Who's the most narrow-minded' at BurtonHanson.Com. As I said in that entry, I'd rather participate as voter in a contest between two professional political mudslingers who address the important issues, albeit in a messy, dirty way, than as a voter in the sort of contest in which nice candidates like those engage. Beyond all this, something there is within me that doesn't like pledges, oaths, petitions, etc. See, 'Why won't you sign the pledge?' at BurtLaw's War on Terrorism IV (scroll down). See, also, The debate about swearing on the Quran. Further reading. See, a) First Amendment scholar Wendy Kaminer's entry at Free for All titled Government Truth Squads (10.06.2007), which links to one of our blogs, and b) my posting titled 'Are 'campaign lies' free speech protected from government regulation?'
Judge refuses to hold court in courthouse in James Dean's hometown! The judge is Superior Court and Juvenile Court Judge Randall Johnson of Grant County, IND, and he has informed the county by letter that he's refusing to hold court in the courthouse there in Marion (James Deans' birthplace) any longer because his doctors have found high levels of mold in his blood of the same type found in an analysis of the courthouse conducted by the Dept. of Labor. Apparently the mold problem developed after a leaky roof was not repaired. The county council has borrowed $1.8 million to finance the needed repairs and cleanup. A second judge, Mark Spitzer, says he'll continue to hold court in the courthouse but he adds that he doesn't want to suggest he's not concerned. More (Chicago Tribune 08.18.2008). Comments. a) If I were working in the courthouse, I might well grin and bear it, but then I'm i) Norwegian and ii) sorta in the mold of James Dean, who, I have to believe, would want court to go on in the historic courthouse. b) 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 (why there are so many we don't yet understand), 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." Needless to say, we suggest nothing in re the situation in Grant County, IND. Further reading on scent hysteria: Michael Fumento, Scents and Senselessness (American Spectator April 2000). c) Without reference to "the facts" in this case, we'll repeat what we said awhile ago: "[J]ust as asbestos removal from courthouses (and other public buildings) was a big 'necessity' that cost taxpayers zillions not too many years ago, don't be surprised if mold removal isn't the 'next big thing.' All we're saying is that the Holmsean skeptic in us prompts us to be skeptical of all 'next big things.'" d) Read more about James Dean at essay at WWW.BurtonHanson.Com dated 09.30.2005 and titled Might this day, fifty years ago, have been the real day the music died?
Son keeps vow he made at funeral of dad, a judge who died young. "As a child, Andrew Graves spent countless hours in a Rockingham County courthouse watching his father, the late Circuit Court Judge Porter R. Graves Jr., make sure justice prevailed...In 2001, Graves[, a college dropout,] found himself rethinking his career goals. His father, a cancer survivor, died suddenly at age 57...At his dad's funeral Graves vowed to complete college...." He's done that -- and law school. Recently he set himself up in general practice in Harrisonburg. More (Rocktown News 08.18.2008).
The cost of suspending a controversial judge. "It's tough to figure exactly how much, but it has cost taxpayers more than $200,000 for District Judge Elizabeth Halverson not to sit on the bench. Halverson has continued drawing her $130,000 annual salary even though she was suspended in July 2007. The state also pays for replacements to handle her cases in Las Vegas...Bill Gang, public information officer for Nevada Supreme Court, [is quoted saying,] 'Since July 2007, when Judge Halverson was suspended, more than $180,000 has been paid to senior judges who have spent at least a portion of their time covering for her absence.'" More (Las Vegas Sun 08.17.2008).
Using the ancient 'Mimansa Principles' to interpret modern laws. "Ever heard of the Mimansa Principles? This ancient set of rules to interpret Hindu religious scriptures is now being promoted by a Supreme Court judge, who finds it 'regrettable' and 'distressing' that lawyers and judges are ignorant of the treatise. Apex court judge Markandey Katju, known for his unusual observations during court proceedings as for his unconventional judgements, said: 'It is deeply regrettable that in our courts of law, lawyers quote Maxwell and Craies (Western jurists) but nobody refers to the Mimansa Principles of interpretation. Most lawyers would not have even heard of their existence.'" More (Sindh Today - India 08.17.2008). Justice M. Katju The Mimansa Principles of Interpretation -- I and II. Comment. We hereby adopt the Mimansa Principles by reference and heartily recommend them to Justice Scalia and urge him to start relying upon them in interpreting the U.S. Constitution and federal statutes. Our previous relevant posts include, An American 'provincial' discovers Europe and Annals of American provincialism - judicial variety.
Wedding photos held hostage -- SuperJudge to the rescue? "State officials hope to persuade a judge in Morristown this week to approve a proposal to distribute photographs and videos to nearly 1,700 brides and grooms left without wedding mementoes when Celebration Studios abruptly closed in January. The state Division of Consumer Affairs in January filed a consumer fraud action against now-defunct Chester-based Celebration Studios, and got court orders to freeze its assets and impound wedding film, videos and DVDs for which couples contracted but never received...." More (Daily Record - NJ 08.17.2008). Comment. For what it's worth, it's our view that Principle #147 of the Mimansa Principles mandates distribution of all wedding photographs and videos held hostage, wherever that may be. Call it a "Mimansan Point of Law."
A judge and his dog. "You may remember [Jack London's Call of the Wild]. Buck is a noble dog, the king of his domain, 'Judge Miller's place,' a big house on an estate in the 'sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley.' 'It stood back from the road, half-hidden among the trees, through which glimpses could be caught of the wide cool veranda that ran around its four sides,' London wrote. On an evening when the judge was at a meeting of the 'Raisin Growers' Association' and his sons were organizing an athletic club, Buck is led by a gardener's assistant to the College Park railroad stop, where he is choked and thrown aboard a train. Here's what's intriguing about those details: The estate existed. The judge existed. The association and the club and the judge's sons existed. And of course, Buck existed. They've all played a role in the history of our valley -- even though the record once had to be set straight in bronze. 'Judge Miller' was in fact Judge Hiram Bond...." I recommend reading this detailed story, by Scott Herhold, Famous tale inspired by valley dog, estate (San Jose Mercury News 08.17.2008).
Quote of the Day. "We've had them flying in the building during meetings, during work hours. What you usually hear is a scream and a door slam. They make some people uncomfortable." -- Leslie Korgel, McLean (ND) County Auditor, quoted in a story about the county courthouse's "bat problem." The courthouse "is the workplace of about 20 employees and the home of about 150 flying bats." According to Korgel, who has worked in the courthouse for 23 years, the courthouse bats have been there as long as he can remember. More (InForum 08.17.2008). Comment. McLean County must be populated by people descended from the Stoics of Ancient Greece. I say it's time to call in Bill Murray and his BatBusters. Following are my own personal reminscences of bats and pigeons in the state supreme court's quarters at the state capitol in St. Paul:
During my 28+ years as an aide to the Justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court I typically worked a flex-time schedule, getting to work at 6:30 a.m. but leaving in mid-afternoon to pick up my kids at school. I recall two incidences like the above in which screams would have been justified, both when the court occupied the 3rd & 4th floors of the East Wing of the Capitol. One morning I spotted a bat in a common area & alerted the head custodian. He killed it with a broom. In the other I had my window open to let in a bit of fresh air & a pigeon entered through it. I asked the assistant custodian, a fellow who once had pigeons as pets, for help. He grabbed it with his hands & released it through the open window. In neither instance did I scream. They don't teach courses -- in law school or at the NYU Institute for new appellate judges or at the Judicial College in Reno or in continuing judicial education programs -- on dealing with bats or pigeons -- or with pigeon doo. But every judge in nearly every courthouse in America eventually becomes aware of the problem. I recall as a new law clerk at the Minnesota Supreme Court in the fall of 1970 seeing layers of pigeon doo on the floor of the portico just outside the Court's conference room on the second floor of the east wing of the State Capitol in St. Paul. The problem of keeping pigeons away was by then an old problem, with no great solution. Some of the doo may have been old enough to be featured as a historic artifact on the PBS show in which people bring in antiques for valuation.
Judge as 'Joker.' Robert Angus Williams is a candidate for circuit judge in Pasco County, FLA. Vandals defaced most of his campaign signs, costing as much as $500 each, shortly after his campaign put them up. According to MyFOXTampaBay.Com and FOXNews, the "'artists' painted big, red clown lips over Williams' mouth and dark sagging circles around his eyes, making Williams look like the Joker in Batman." Mr. Williams is quoted saying, "You really have to get a chuckle out of it" and that his brother-in-law told him the painter made him look better. More (FOXNews 08.16.2008).
CA judicial council approves dependency court changes. "The California courts approved massive reforms on Friday to the state's troubled juvenile dependency courts that would ease the overwhelmed system and ensure fairness for those who are 'literally and legally the children of the state.' Finding unconscionable the overloaded dockets that leave only minutes for hearings that determine critical issues for 75,000 California children in foster care, the state Judicial Council approved measures that would include more judges to hear dependency cases and more lawyers to represent impoverished family members...." More (San Jose Mercury-News 08.16.2008). Comment. Those advocating changes to ways of dealing with governmental problems always refer to the changes using the term "reform," a term with positive connotations. Thus, those who want to deprive MN voters of a say in judicial selection refer to their plan as "reform." One needs to look behind the nice-sounding words, because the law of unintended, uncontemplated, and/or unwanted consequences may be at work, with the changes producing results not intended, contemplated, or wanted. I know nothing about California's problem or whether the changes will help improve matters, but the mere fact that the plan calls for "more, more, more" (as in more judges, more lawyers, more social workers) doesn't necessarily guarantee much of anything other than more jobs for more lawyers and social workers.
Judge releases two defendants pending trial, warns public to be on watch. "A northern Kentucky judge who released two men charged with violent felonies because of cuts to the state public defenders' budget warned the public to be on the watch. The Kentucky Enquirer is reporting that after Campbell District Court Judge Gregory Popovich released the two men, he said, 'Please be careful' and 'hope that nobody else gets hurt.'" More (Fort Mills Times 08.16.2008). Comment. "Here I was just getting ready to let my guard down when out in public and you tell me I gotta be careful, be on guard, etc."
A sack of crisp bills, in neat bundles, is left at high court judge's house. Judicial news from Chandigarh, India, includes this: "A sackful of crisp notes, in neat bundles adding up to Rs 15 lakh, which was delivered at the door of a high court judge has the judiciary and the government in a tizzy. The 'courier' was none other than a munshi working with Haryana's additional advocate general. Even as a police inquiry got under way, the judge said she was the one who reported the matter to the authorities and police. Justice Nirmaljit Kaur said on Friday that she had told the chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana high court what she had to. 'I have reported the matter to the CJ as well as to the police,' the second woman judge of the high court said...." More (Times of India 08.16.2008).
Comments. a) You know, I re-read this news account just to be sure, and nowhere in the report do I see any indication that anyone said "Thank you! Your gift is much appreciated!" b) A Lakh Rupee is one hundred thousand rupees. Fifteen Lakh Rupees today converts to $34,802.22 in U.S. dollars. Conversion site (Convert Indian Rupees). c) The "munshi" (secretary or aide) who delivered the packet works for Haryana additional advocate general Sandeep Bansal. Bansal is quoted saying, "I had sent the packet for Nirmal Singh, who lives in Sector 18. It was meant to be advance money for a property deal. It was by mistake that my clerk reached the house of Justice Kaur in Sector 11." Update. Latest in cash-in-the-bag inquiry (Times of India 08.21.2008).
Lawyers in Kenya move to oust chief justice. The Law Society of Kenya has called for the resignation of Chief Justice Evan Gicheru and has said it will petition President Kibaki to establish a tribunal to consider removing him if he does not resign. More (The Standard 08.16.2008).
Look who's guarding the hen house. "[Michael E. Rudkin, 39, a] former guard at the federal prison in Danbury admitted in court Friday that he tried to hire a[ female] inmate, with whom he was having sex, to kill his wife. The price: $5,000 in payments to the inmate's commissary account. The unidentified inmate reported the plot before it was put into effect...[Rudkin] pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court in New Haven to using interstate telephone lines to plan a murder for hire and to the sexual abuse of a prisoner...." More (Hartford Courant 08.16.2008).
Annals of ADR -- are people hiring criminals as alternative dispute resolvers? "The inordinate delay in justice delivering system is tempting people to hire criminals to settle their disputes, Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju said on Thursday. Addressing the seminar on 'Mediation-The Way Ahead' at the Madras High Court premises here, Katju said, 'The courts across the country are piled up with cases and the people are really fed up with the delay in the judicial system. They hire criminals to get immediate results to their disputes.'" More (Zee News - India 08.15.2008).
Annals of ex-judges in quasi-judicial roles -- 'special litigation committees.' Awhile ago shareholders of United Health Group filed suit on behalf of the company against its former CEO, Wm. McGuire. The company's board appointed what's known as a "special litigation committee" to investigate the claims. The members of the SLC? Two former justices of SCOMN, Edward Stringer and Kathleen Blatz. Before he was appointed to SCOMN Stringer held a number of positions, including Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer of the Pillsbury Company. Blatz, who is now married to Wheelock Whitney, a prominent financier and Republican fundraiser, had no experience in the corporate world before becoming a judge but now serves on the board of RiverSource Funds (f/k/a American Express Funds), which is chaired by former GOP Governor Arne Carlson, who appointed both Stringer and Blatz to SCOMN. Stringer and Blatz, acting as SLC, investigated the claims and negotiated a settlement with McGuire. The federal district court judge whose task is to decide whether to approve the settlement asked SCOMN, the court on which Stringer and Blatz served, what his scope of review is under MN corporation law. SCOMN has now advised the district court judge that his scope of review of the investigation/settlement is limited and that he must accept the settlement unless it appears the SLC was not independent and disinterested or did not act in good faith. More (Pioneer-Press 08.15.2008). Opinion. Further reading on SLC's. Fourth Annual Conglomerate Junior Scholars Workshop: a) Minor Myers on The Decisions of Special Litigation Committees: An Empirical Investigation (Abstract). b) Lisa Fairfax on Special Litigation Committees. c) Barbara Black on Special Litigation Committees. d) Bob Lawless on Special Litigation Committees. e) Paul Rose on Special Litigation Committees. Further reading on former judges serving in quasi-judicial roles. a) Judge named newsmagazine's Person of the Year? b) Federal court slams judge over conduct as head of public inquiry into scandal. c) Should retired top judges be barred from doing ADR, heading commissions? d) Investigation of retired judges serving as arbitrators -- Does ADR need reining in?
Judge resigns, agrees not to serve again as judge. "A judge in Washington County[, N.Y.] has resigned after he was found guilty of misconduct by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct. Judge Michael M. Feeder used his position as justice of the Hudson Falls Village Court to have a motorist arrested, and then he presided over the case when the defendant was tried, the commission found...." Details (Albany Times-Union 08.14.2008). Board's decision and press release.
'Dodgy judges.' "Billy Joe Saunders and Joe Murray, two of the brilliant young pups in this Great Britain boxing squad, no doubt saw red when poor judging undermined their efforts this week. But did the errant judges see only red as well? Saunders, frustrated today by the outstanding Cuban Carlos Banteaux Suarez when within sight of a quarter-final place, will hardly be consoled by a new report which suggests judges in all sports have a subconscious bias towards competitors wearing red kit...." From a critique of the system of judging employed in amateur/Olympic boxing. Kevin Mitchell, Amateur boxing is still blighted by dodgy judges (UK Guardian 08.14.2008).
When irked with judges, do you 'moon' them? "A debate coach for Fort Hays State University, in Kansas, is under review by the institution after he swore at officials and mooned judges at a tournament earlier this year, in an incident that was recorded and uploaded to YouTube. The coach, William Shanahan III, a professor of communication, got into a shouting match with a judge -- and at one point briefly dropped his pants -- during the national tournament of the Cross Examination Debate Association, which was held in Kansas this spring...." Detailed story (Chronicle of Higher Education 08.14.2008).
Judge whose affair led to murder resigns. "A judge[, James Muir-Little, 45,] has resigned after his affair with a married woman ended in her husband killing their daughter [in revenge]...He had cheated on his own wife with Joanne Hall, 31, a cardiac nurse, after meeting her through an internet website for swingers. They exchanged naked pictures and sexual fantasies by email before twice meeting for sex at hotels. In one email Mrs Hall promised to be a 'dirty little slut' for the judge...." Muir-Little is an experienced divorce solicitor specializing in "high value divorce settlements" and is free to resume his practice. Details (UK Telegraph 08.14.2008).
DWI&T: Driving while drunk while texting. "The woman who drove her sport utility vehicle into a crowd of people in Blacksburg last summer was ordered this afternoon to serve one year and 10 days of a six-year prison sentence...[She] had been drinking and was sending a text message on her cellphone when she swerved her SUV onto the sidewalk in front of Big Al's Grille & Sports Bar in downtown Blacksburg as bars closed about 2 a.m. June 16, striking several people. At least eight were treated for injuries...." More (Roanoke Times 08.14.2008).
MN judge presided in case in which victim was friend; is fined, reprimanded. "A Dakota County judge[, Michael V. Sovis,] has been fined and reprimanded for jailing a man who harassed his friend without offering him the right to a trial and defense attorney...." Sovis was appointed by Gov. Rudy Perpich in 1988. Twice previously the judicial conduct board has issued him warnings. In the past couple years three other members of the bench in Dakota County have also been publicly disciplined. Details (Pioneer-Press 08.13.2008).
Chinese Olympic judges are accused of favoring Chinese contestant. "The [Olympic] Double Trap shooting event...came under the scanner on Wednesday with Australian Mark Russell charging the Chinese judges of cheating...Russell alleged that the judges were influenced by a boisterous home crowd and helped local hope Hu Binyuan win the bronze medal in the event...award[ing] a hit to Hu even though he missed the target...." Russell is quoted as saying, "The crowd were yelling and calling shots in and out. It was like a circus. It would have been a brave Chinese judge that would have put his hand up [to signify a miss]." More (Times of India 08.13.2008). Further reading. a) "'Home Towned' is a euphemism that lawyers sometimes use to describe mistreatment when they try cases outside their home county and have failed to associate with a local attorney." Jacqueline S. Wright, The Supreme Court Library -- A Source of Pride, 47 Arkansas Historical Quarterly 136, n. 23 (Summer 1988). b) "Nobody likes to be 'home-towned.' Typically, the outsider is at a disadvantage. That applies state to state, as well as county to county. An Orange County defendant doesn't want to be in Berkeley, and vice versa. It's easy to vilify someone from Berkeley, in Orange County!" From Notes for Civil Procedure 2, Feb. 25, 2002, Prof. Fletcher at Mike Anderson's Boalt Law Website.
Judge is charged with lewd conduct, harassment. "Longtime Brazoria County Court at Law Judge James A. Blackstock is accused of sending lewd photos and inappropriately touching three female employees of the county's juvenile probation department, officials said Wednesday...." The charges, 14 in all, are of misdemeanor "official oppression," defined in Texas as using one's official position to abuse another person. Details (Houston Chronicle 08.14.2008). Comment. As we always say, these are "charges," and the judge, who is clothed in the presumption of innocence, has not yet had his proverbial day in court. Update. "Longtime Brazoria County Court-at-Law Judge James Blackstock resigned Friday in a plea agreement stemming from charges that he inappropriately touched women employed by the county." More (Houston Chronicle 08.29.2008).
Ex-secretary recounts judge's assault. Willacy County Judge Eliseo Barnhart is on trial on charges of aggravated perjury stemming from previous denials under oath regarding an incident in 2006 when, as a justice of peace, he allegedly assaulted Andrea Espinosa, a temp worker hired by a fellow justice of peace. Espinosa testified that Judge Barnhart "cornered her in his office, exposed himself and fondled her" and that she "feared [he] would rape her" on the evening in question. Detailed story (Houston Chronicle 08.13.2008). Updates. Report on testimony at trial (Houston Chronicle 08.14.2008). Judge is found guilty (Houston Chronicle 08.15.2008).
Judge's house is shot up. "Four bullets were fired early Tuesday into the Queens home of an acting [trial judge, Fernando M. Camacho,] who has in the past worked as a prosecutor on cases involving drug dealers and murderers, officials said...The judge was away, and no one else was hurt...." More (NYT 08.13.2008). Comment. Turning courthouses into armed fortresses won't prevent dissatisfied litigants from harming judges. For my views on what I see as judicial paranoia over courthouse security and for the alternatives I propose, see, my mini-essays linked to in the comments at Four men charged with plot against federal judge in Mpls. Update. It turns out the shooters mistook judge's house for neighbor's. More (N.Y. Daily News 08.15.2008).
Judge pleads not guilty to double billing charges. "State Judge William Roe of the 25th Judicial District Court pleaded not guilty Tuesday to theft and malfeasance charges related to financial mismanagement at the Plaquemines Parish courthouse...." The allegations apparently are based on an audit that accused Roe of "pocketing double reimbursements for beachside legal seminars in 2005, 2006 and 2007." More (New Orleans Times-Picayune 08.13.2008). Further reading. For background on the annual trips by Louisiana judges to beachside legal seminars in Sandestin, FLA, see, my postings titled Judicial privileges and Judicial educational junkets. See, also, these prior Times-Picayune stories: Some judges are more judicious in spending and Summer school for judges (06.18.2006). For links to some of my many other postings on judicial expense accounts, judicial junkets, etc., click here. My most recent such posting is Judge K and his nemesis both attend judicial conference at Sun Valley, Idaho.
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.
Our Motto - "Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat" (Horace). Loose translation: Does anything prevent telling the truth with a smile?
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Slate's list of Judge Roberts resources. Slate has created a John Roberts Roundup, a regularly-updated page of links to some of the better web postings relating to Judge Roberts. Click here.