The Daily Judge
© 2009 Burton Randall Hanson
      01.01.2009 - 01.15.2009
"All the news that gives judges and lawyers fits."
BurtLaw's Daily Judge is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, this is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal non-profit pro bono publico First-Amendment protected "web log" or "blog," one with a subjective, idiosyncratic, and eccentric sociological and social-psychological slant that focuses not on the latest judicial decisions of supposed great legal importance but on a) the institution of judge in the United States and in other countries throughout the world, b) the judicial office and role, c) judicial personalities, d) the great common law tradition of judging as practiced here and throughout the world, e) judges as judges, f) judges as ordinary people with the usual mix of virtues and flaws, etc. We link to newspapers and other sources in order to alert you to ideas, articles, stories, speeches, law books, literary works and other things that have interested us and that may interest you. In linking to another site or source, we don't mean either to suggest we necessarily agree with views or ideas expressed there or to attest to the accuracy of facts set forth there. We urge you in every instance to click on the link and read the entire story or other printed source to which we link. We often use the linked piece as a springboard for expressing our opinion, typically clearly labelled "Comment."

About links.  a) Links, like judges, eventually retire or expire, some sooner than others. b) Access to all stories via these links is free, at least initially, although some sites require free registration. c) Free access often turns to fee access after a day or a week or some such period. d) Entries, following the typical blog format, are in reverse chronological order.

Complaints? If you feel we have made a factual error or been unfair in expressing our opinion, please contact us (see, infra) and give us an opportunity to correct the perceived wrong.

 Want to contact us? Send an e-mail addressed to "BurtLaw" at "The Daily Judge.Com" (we have deliberately not put the address in typical e-mail form, e.g., ABC@TheDailyClog.Com, because when one does so, the automated web-trollers used by spammers add such e-mail addresses to their lists). We trust you are smart enough to put "BurtLaw" together with "@" and "TheDailyJudge.Com," because you wouldn't be interested in this site if you weren't smart.
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.

 "BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else, a Web Site produced by Burton Hanson, is part of the Library of Congress September 11 Web Archive and preserves the web expressions of individuals, groups, the press and institutions in the United States and from around the world in the aftermath of the attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. Dates Captured: September 20, 2001 - December 17, 2001"

Some of our most recent postings. a) Why I support Harvey Silverglate for Harvard Board of Overseers. b) Judge Griffin Bell did go home again. c) The 'big names' on the Big Stage. d) Kitty Kimball takes charge at SCOLA. e) Annals of judicial colleageality, secrecy: judges suspect colleague of leaking unfiled decision. f) 'Common sense' judge 'retires' but keeps on judging. g) Holmes' tombstone, Arlington Cemetery 12.30.2008. h) Supporters of defeated judge allege judge-elect patronized prostitute. i) Bomber had maps to homes of lawyer, judge, and other elected officials in car. j) Judge's chambers is a veritable hunter's museum. k) Judge is censured for ordering witness to wear germ mask. l) Dahlia Lithwick on the silly solicitor-general-must-wear-a-morning-coat tradition. m) Bringing the Rule of Law to 'protection bullfighting.' n) Waco judges are getting tough on litigants who come to court all whacko. o) SCOFLA publicly reprimands judge for using office to aid relative of former co-worker. p) Regulators go after a judge for fourth time. q) Teacup terrier, a 'miniature institution' at courthouse, reminds clerk of her late hubby. r) Philly judge gets suspended over bogus order. s) Another Philly judge gets a reprimand. t) The feds indict federal judge on more sex charges. u) Judge Larry Seidlin, of Anna Nicole Smith fame, is cleared of wrongdoing. v) Annals of judicial economics in tough times. w) Judge okays 'Twittering' and blogging during criminal trial. x) Annals of 'judicial diversity.' y) MO Gov. Blunt picks opponents of Missouri Plan to serve as screening panel members. z) The broken promise of merit-based judicial selection in New York. aa) Don't you dare attack the courts in Singapore. bb) Annals of liberal activist judge commemorative postage stamps. cc) Judge retires after 'three decades in a swamp of murders, robberies, rapes and swindles.' dd) L.A. county judges may get what to them, but not to the law, is a big pay cut. ee) Judge Plough is scolded again. ff) Annals of horse judging greatness. gg) Something for C.J. Roberts to dream about: Government orders tripling of judicial salaries. hh) A typical New Year's Day in ye olde arraignment court. ii) Hawaii judges resist call for hard-times pay freeze, insist on 10% raise. jj) Judge Kara DioGuardi, that 'sexy new judge.' kk) Annals of press release journalism. ll) Judge is accused of 'fiscal shenanigans' with stripper. mm) Retired MN judge, vacationing in Panama, gets caught in undertow, drowns. nn) Judge suspended for drunken behavior in court.

 Judge is accused of 'fiscal shenanigans' with stripper. "An appeals judge who made history as Stetson University's first black law school graduate is in trouble with the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, accused of taking gifts from a stripper and helping hide her assets from creditors. Judge Thomas E. Stringer Sr. is vowing to fight allegations that he violated judicial canons by accepting two Rolex watches, vacations to Las Vegas and New York City and a 2001 Mercedes from the exotic dancer but never reported the gifts on his financial disclosure forms. He also failed to repay her for a $50,000 loan, according to formal misconduct charges filed Tuesday...." Details (St. Petersburg Times 01.14.2009). Comment. A Google search shows I've posted a number of stories about judges and strippers over the last few years. I ask: Everything else about a male judge's relationship with a woman being the same, does the woman's being employed as a stripper somehow make the relationship more newsworthy -- more subject to scrutiny by the judicial ethics people? I don't know. Nor do I know anything about the instant case. I merely link to stories, ask questions, offer comments. You gotta do your own thinking.

 Annals of witness credibility -- judge tells woman she's 'too believable.' "A driving instructor who was punched and robbed as she was giving a lesson was left furious and disappointed after a judge told her she was 'too believable' to testify against her alleged attacker. Instead, the judge awarded Denise Dawson £250 from public funds and acquitted the man accused of the robbery. Judge James Tabor, QC, told the 35-year-old mother of two that she was 'honest, utterly decent and brave' but her 'impressive' performance in the witness box could sway the jury unfairly. The case against Liam Perks collapsed because the judge felt that Mrs Dawson's 'three-second' glimpse of the robber was insufficient to ensure a safe conviction...." More (UK Times 01.14.2009). Comment. Saying he believed the witness was being honest in her testimony is not inconsistent with saying that, without more, her testimony -- based on a "'three-second 'gimpse'" -- is insufficient to support a guilty verdict based on the proof-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard. The annals of convictions of the innocent are filled with examples of people convicted on the basis of persuasive testimony by honest eyewitnesses who were wrong. If a judge believes that the witness' opportunity to observe was clearly insufficient or that the witness' identification of the defendant as the culprit may well have resulted from impermissibly suggestive identification procedures, the judge has an obligation to hold the evidence legally insufficient.

 Retired MN judge, vacationing in Panama, gets caught in undertow, drowns. Retired District Court Judge John Roue, of Crookston, in Polk County in northwest MN, drowned while vacationing in Panama. More (Thief River Falls Times 01.13.2009). The judge and his wife were caught in an undertow; she was able to swim free but he wasn't. More (Star-Tribune 01.13.2009). Comments. a) Judge Roue retired in 2006 and has been doing fill-in work since then. One of his monthly "stops" was in Mankato, in Blue Earth County in southern MN. The Mankato Free Press has a nice story, with some telling details about the good impression he made on all the people he came into contact with on his visits there. b) In the late 1980's, while on vacation in Harbor Springs in northern Michigan, I almost drowned while swimming in Little Traverse Bay. It was a horrible feeling. My son saved me.

 Judge suspended for drunken behavior in court. "A drunk judge had to be escorted from court after kissing a solicitor, swearing at an usher and insulting a prosecutor while 'fortified' with brandy, a disciplinary tribunal has heard. Deputy District Judge Esther Cunningham caused uproar at the hearing, at which she was appearing as a solicitor, swaying and clutching a table to steady herself while interrupting proceedings. She also appeared drunk during a legal training course which she was conducting and spoke openly about wanting to punch the chairman of her legal governing body...." Now she's been suspended from practicing law for six months. Details (UK Telegraph 01.14.2009).

 Judge Griffin Bell did go home again. "Thomas Wolfe was wrong. You can go home again and there is something special about the fact that Griffin Bell came home after all those years away. In many ways, it was just as though he never left. Although he owned several residences, I believe he considered Americus his home. In a way, he never left and after he returned, he made his mark in the most remarkable way. By his choice, his remains will reside in historic Oak Grove Cemetery in the city he loved...." -- A personal remembrance by Stick Miller (Americus Times-Recorder 01.13.2009).

 The 'big names' on the Big Stage. "The Ford cabinet experience was educational. The men and women in the room, high-ranking White House officials and secretaries of cabinet departments, were pleasant and well briefed. But they struck me as similar to small-town Rotary Club members or Junior Chamber of Commerce officials -- polite and cordial, but far from rocket scientists. They were just high-average to B+ status, with the exception of some supersmart types like Henry Kissinger...." -- From Ben Stein, In the Financial Crisis, Ordinary People vs. Extraordinary Problems (NYT Sunday Business 01.11.2009). Comment. An excellent column by Ben Stein, who points out what anyone who has served in any branch of government knows: "High-level bureaucrats, like high-level professors or doctors or investment bankers or baseball pitchers, are just people, whether serving with Bush 43 or Barack Obama or anyone else." The same, of course, is true of most of the judges who serve us. The "best and the brightest" usually are neither. But, hey, that's okay. Sometimes an ordinary person who, realizing his own shortcomings, commits himself to acting fairly and in good faith, will do a better job than the man or woman who was the favorite of the profs and the star of law review.

 Kitty Kimball takes charge at SCOLA. Today's NOLA Times-Picayune has this profile of Catherine "Kitty" Kimball, 63, who is the new chief justice. In LA the senior associate justice ascends to the seat of chief justice on the retirement or resignation of the current chief. Chief Justice Pascal Calogero, who's retiring, has been on the court 36 years. Kimball was first elected in 1992 and has been re-elected twice since then.

 Annals of judicial colleageality, secrecy: judges suspect colleague of leaking unfiled decision. "Supreme Court  (SC) justices are inclined to believe that it was retired Justice [     ] who was the source of the leaked unofficial decision involving an election case -- an incident that has compromised the integrity of its internal procedures...[A] source said that with the absence of direct evidence, the Tribunal's resolution will not name [     ] as the guilty party but would state that he compromised the integrity and confidentiality of SC procedures. 'This would stigmatize him and no decent civic club would invite him. This is worse than slashing his retirement benefits.'" Details (ABS.CBNNews - Philippines 01.12.2009). Comments. a) Pretty serious allegation. Unacquainted with the reliability of Philippine newspapers, I've left out the name of the judge suspected of leaking and I link to the story only so that I can make comments b) and c). b) Do appellate judges "leak"? There's intentional leaking and unintentional leaking, and there's disclosure/leaking of that which really isn't a secret and that which is (too much of what courts do that judges label "secret" ought not be secret). Over the years one has heard rumors about instances of various combinations of the aforesaid four types of disclosure/leaking. c) So, I ask, not being "invited," whatever that means, by a "decent civic club" is worse than having one's retirement benefits slashed? I'm curious what goes into deciding whether a civic club is "decent" or not. Anyhow, my attitude has always been that, like Groucho Marx and perhaps others before him, I wouldn't want to belong to any clubs, decent or otherwise, that would have the likes of me as a member. But then, I've also said that if I were a judge, I wouldn't go to one of the taxpayer-funded judicial conferences at some expensive resort even if you paid me double, wouldn't go to "Maz-it-lan" (she said slowly, as if it were paradise) on vacation if you gave me a free round-trip, wouldn't join a crowd sitting on a velvet cushion on a fast train to Heaven when I could sit on a pumpkin by myself (my allusion to H. D. Thoreau's line in Walden), wouldn't....

 'Common sense' judge 'retires' but keeps on judging. "She was befuddled and humble and low. Then she burst into a raging sob and begged, needlessly, as the bailiff clamped handcuffs around her wrists and ordered her on a bench. The Honorable R. Patrick Hayman, in his final days presiding over Maryland District Court for Somerset County, was unmoved by the emotional display, sentencing the unemployed young mother of five children, weeping before him, to six months in jail on a charge she conspired to aid an alleged cocaine dealer during an undercover police drug buy...." - From a profile titled Somerset's 'common sense' judge set to retire (Delmarva Daily Times - MD 01.12.2008). Comments. a) Have you ever heard of a judge who isn't a "common sense" judge or who isn't "tough but fair"? b) Instead of mandatory retirement of judges, with some retired judges being allowed to serve part-time or full-time as retired judges, I favor i) abolishing mandatory retirement and ii) allowing judges to serve only as long as the electorate allows them to serve. In states with true judicial elections, allowing judges to continue judging after they've retired keeps certain judges judging even though the voters, if given a chance, might reject them. The solution to the twin problems of unfairly discriminating against judges 70 and above and paradoxically allowing some judges to escape the judgment of the voters is to abolish mandatory retirement and treat all judges equally, requiring those who choose not to retire to face the voters if they wish to extend their terms when the terms expire. Further reading. BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges.

 Holmes' tombstone, Arlington Cemetery 12.30.2008. Holmes' tombstone, Arlington Cemetery 12.30.2008 (photo by Cliff1066 Flickr Photostream).

 Supporters of defeated judge allege judge-elect patronized prostitute. "State prosecutors will review allegations provided by Michael Hecht's political opponents that the Pierce County Superior Court judge-elect patronized a prostitute several years ago and recently threatened to kill the man. Supporters of outgoing Judge Sergio Armijo allege that Hecht picks up male prostitutes near Tacoma's Antique Row, a part of downtown that police say is known for prostitution..." Hecht, through his attorney, denies any criminal wrongdoing. More (News-Tribune - WA 01.11.2009). Comment. At this point, I gotta say I assume Mr. Hecht (rhymes with "judge-elect") is innocent of any criminal wrongdoing. Am I biased? No more so than the law directs a juror to be when it says a defendant (and Hecht hasn't even been formally accused) is presumed innocent.

 Bomber had maps to homes of lawyer, judge, and other elected officials in car. "A man who left four homemade bombs around Aspen on New Year's Eve because he was bitter about his hometown had maps in his car to homes of people he'd come across over the years: a lawyer who prosecuted him, a judge who sentenced him, and several elected officials...." More (FOXNews 01.11.2009).

 Judge's chambers is a veritable hunter's museum. "'I'd don't fish as much as I used to. There's just not enough time. But recently I bought a new boat and when I retire I'm going to make good use of it,' he said. However, the judge always makes time for hunting, and judging from the mounted antlers, hides, turkey fans, a bear hide, and deer heads in his office, he's done his share. Gerheim said he's hunted throughout Pennsylvania, Maine, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. One of his more unusual trophies is a rattlesnake hide replete with a set of rattles...." -- From a profile of Magisterial Judge Michael Gerheim, whose "colorful and varied career...includes a brief stint as a hod carrier, working 19 years for Western Electric, serving as a police officer in five counties, and for the past 18 years as district judge in southern Armstrong County" (Leader-Times - PA 01.11.2009).

 Judge is censured for ordering witness to wear germ mask. "An Ontario judge whose fears about a witness with HIV-AIDS caused him to order the use of face masks and rubber gloves at trial in Barrie has received a dressing-down from the Ontario Judicial Council.The council said Judge Jon-Jo Douglas has conceded his actions were wrong, and he has been given a thorough education in the reality of HIV-AIDS at a renowned treatment facility in Toronto, Casey House...." More (Globe and Mail 01.10.2009).

 Dahlia Lithwick on the silly solicitor-general-must-wear-a-morning-coat tradition. "Like so many of the court's goofy sartorial traditions (the inaugural skullcap, e.g.), the solicitor general's morning coat seems to have lingered on for decades merely because it has lingered on for decades. At oral argument, Justice Department attorneys, notably the solicitor general and his staff, have always been required to wear 'morning clothes' -- the pre-5 p.m. version of men's formal wear, consisting of a frock coat with tails, stripey pants, and a vest. This is a holdover from the old days when all attorneys wore morning coats to argue at the Supreme Court...." - From Dahlia Lithwick, Law Suit -- Time to do away with morning wedding attire at the high court (Slate 01.08.2009). Further reading. See, my extended mini-essay, Judges to toss wigs, get new 'Star Trek' gowns (The Daily Judge 05.13.2008) (with links to earlier BurtLaw postings on courthouse fashions).

 Why I support Harvey Silverglate. My law school classmate, Harvey Silverglate, the prominent Cambridge/Boston civil liberties attorney, is running for the Board of Overseers at Harvard University. He needs 219 alumni signatures by February 9 in order to appear on the ballot that is mailed to each alumnus of Harvard University. I've already signed on, and I hope enough others will to ensure Harvey a spot on the ballot. Here's a link to a formal statement he's made announcing his candidacy and his reasons for running. The reasons he's running are the same reasons I'm enthusiastically supporting him and urging other Harvard Law grads to do the same. C'mon, Barack....

 Bringing the Rule of Law to 'protection bullfighting.' "Protection bullfighters" are the unacknowledged heroes of the sport of rodeo bullriding. It is their role to serve and defend bullriders after they've been tossed from the bulls. Now "protection bullfighting" is being recognized as a competitive sport that is judged by impartial bullfighter judges according to impartial criteria that focus the judges' attention not on bullfighter reputation, past bullfighter accomplishments or bullfighter connections but strictly on "what happens in the arena." It appears that those hired to judge protection bullfighting are not common law trained judges but bullfighters themselves, just as those hired as common law bull-detecting judges are bullthrowing and bullfighting lawyers. Specifically, highly-experienced bullfighters Rowdy Barry and Allen Nelson will serve as judges -- in effect, neutral arbiters of protection bullfighting -- at this week's SandHills Stock Show and Rodeo, where five teams of bullfighters will compete for best in show. More (Rodeo Attitude 01.09.2009). Comment. A believer in cross-fertilization, I look forward to the day when common law judges and protection bullfighter judges will get together, perhaps initially on an informal basis as fellow sojourners in service of the Rule of Law, to break bread together, swap stories and exchange lessons learned in their respective spheres -- all with an eye to eventually swapping seats, so to speak, just as different branches of the Christian church extend communion privileges to each other's members, share pulpits, etc. Stated differently, I look forward to the day when some judges I know will board a plane on a Friday afternoon and head for Odessa, Texas for a weekend of "judging the bull" and when your typical Minneapolis slip-and-fall case will be tried before a visiting protection bullfighting judge on loan from the SandHills Stock Show and Rodeo.

 Waco judges are getting tough on litigants who come to court all whacko. "For whatever reasons, it seems more and more criminal defendants are coming to court high or drunk, court officials say. Judges in McLennan County are taking notice and, with increasing regularity, have been ordering those defendants to undergo drug or alcohol testing on the spot before they leave the courthouse [in Waco, TX]...." More (Waco Tribune 01.08.2009).

 SCOFLA publicly reprimands judge for using office to aid relative of former co-worker. "The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday publicly reprimanded...Brevard County [Circuit Judge Geo. Maxwell III for] us[ing] his influence to get the relative of a former co-worker out of jail..[O]n Oct. 28, 2007, Maxwell contacted the Brevard County Jail and ordered the release of his former co-worker's sister...[even though s]he was not eligible for pretrial release...." More (Orlando Sentinel 01.09.2009).

 Regulators go after a judge for fourth time. "In Justice of the Peace Thomas Jones' busy and chaotic South Dallas court, numerous people were on the receiving end of unjustified arrest warrants, court rulings and fines because of clerical mistakes and the judge's decisions, according to a civil action filed against the judge by state judicial regulators...Jones, 65, whose questionable methods have already resulted in three state sanctions, now faces another discipline attempt by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct...." More (Dallas Morning News 01.09.2009). Earlier. Dallas justice of the peace's jammed court prompts inquiry (Dallas Morning News 10.15.2007) (long story includes quote from a 1995 Dallas Observer story by Laura Miller, the future mayor, calling him "a judge who pretty much screws up everything he touches [and who runs his court] like a Little Rascals clubhouse").

 Teacup terrier, a 'miniature institution' at courthouse, reminds clerk of her late hubby. "[Margaret] Rappaport, clerk of the Howard County [MD] Circuit Court, said she often sees children in the Ellicott City courthouse crying for one reason or another. When she does, she gently leads the child into her office and shows the child her 4-year-old, three-pound, teacup Yorkshire terrier...Shayna Madel (Hebrew for 'pretty girl') has been at her side for the past four years, coming to work with her most days and in the process becoming a miniature institution at the Howard County Circuit Court. People from all over the courthouse, including at least one judge, regularly come in to see her dog...." More (Howard County Times 01.09.2009). Comment. The article quotes Clerk Rappaport as saying the little teacup pup "reminds her of her late husband, former Howard County Police Chief Paul Rappaport, who gave his wife the dog shortly before he died in 2005." I wonder if "Pretty Girl" would behave so well if I brought Jane, my border collie pal and champion personal trainer/supervisor, in with me to help me file some legal documents. Further reading. Iowa judge nixes dog-friendly cafe (The Daily Judge 08.03.2006) (with extended comments); The courthouse dog -- or, what are dogs up to? (The Daily Judge 03.19.2006); and The courthouse dog (The Daily Judge 07.25.2006) (with extended comments and links to some of my other memorable "dog posts," including "Judge caught on tape demeaning man with service dog," "Annals of eccentric judges," "Dog saves courthouse from deliveryman," "Courts are going to the dogs," and "Judge under fire for saying dog rescuer should have shot dogs").

 Philly judge gets suspended over bogus order. Judge DeLeon, the Philly judge who issued a bogus protection order as a favor to an acquaintance, has been suspended for three months and will be on probation until 2012. More (AP.Google 01.07.2009). Earlier. Panel says judge erred in signing bogus order as favor for acquaintance (The Daily Judge 12.11.2008).

 Another Philly judge gets a reprimand. Judge Willie Singletary, the Philly traffic court judge who sought donations from motorcyclists by suggesting -- seriously or not -- they'd get favorable treatment in his court, was given a reprimand and probation by the judicial discipline court in PA. More (Philadelphia Inquirer 01.07.2009). Earlier (The Daily Judge 12.03.2008).

 The feds indict federal judge on more sex charges. Last year the feds indicted U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Kent for allegedly making unwanted sexual advances toward his court case manager. Now the feds have indicted him for allegedly sexually abusing another employee and lying about it. Judge Kent denies the charges and his attorney, a prominent defense attorney, vows to vigorously defend the judge against them. More (Houston Chronicle 01.07.2008).

 Judge Larry Seidlin, of Anna Nicole Smith fame, is cleared of wrongdoing. More (AP.Google 01.07.2009).

 Annals of judicial economics in tough times. "Luzerne County President Judge Mark Ciavarella's 2009 budget request was far more than is needed to operate the courts and included funding for positions that were created to provide jobs for the judge's friends, family and political associates, county commissioners said in a court document filed Tuesday...." The "document" is the commissioners' answer to Judge Ciavarella's suit seeking to block cuts in court staffing in the county's 2009 budget. More (Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader 01.07.2009).

 Judge okays 'Twittering' and blogging during criminal trial. "Prosecutors and defense attorneys wanted bloggers silenced in the courtroom next week, but a Boulder judge ordered Monday that cell phones and computers won't be banned from the child-abuse trial of Alex Midyette, the Boulder Daily Camera reports. The attorneys argued that live-blogging and Tweeting the sensational case could tip witnesses to proceedings before they testified, thus impeding a fair trial. 'I think there are other manageable options and less restrictive options than shutting down the flow of information during the trial,' Boulder District Judge Lael Montgomery said...." More (Colorado Independent 01.06.2009).

 Annals of 'judicial diversity.' "The 2009 Miss America Pageant promises to be an exciting event with the announcement of the strikingly diverse panel of national judges. This year's panel of seven esteemed judges includes a Broadway star; a renowned denim designer; a Miss America turned philanthropist; an Olympic gold medalist; a casting genius; a celebrated entertainment news reporter and anchor; and the hottest hairdresser in Hollywood...." More (American Chronicle 01.04.2009). Comment. Just as the common law judiciary has benefited greatly from the selection of beauty pageant winners as judges, so will the beauty pageant judiciary benefit greatly from the selection of common law judges as beauty pageant judges. Until that happens, any boasting by pageant organizers about the striking diversity of their panels of judges ought to be greeted with the skepticism of the greatest burlesque-loving judge of all time, Mr. Justice Holmes.

 Gov. Blunt picks opponents of Missouri Plan to serve as screening panel members. Gov. Matt Blunt of Missouri has appointed two opponents of Missouri's so-called merit-based judicial appointment system to the panels that screen applicants and provide the governor with a list from which to pick judges. One of them will serve on a five-member commission that screening applicants for Greene County Circuit Court seats, the other will serve on the seven-member commission that screens applicants for the Missouri Court of Appeals and SCOMO. More (K.C. Star 01.04.2009). Comment. Blunt being blunt.

 The broken promise of merit-based judicial selection in New York. "Founded in 1979, as New York switched from electing top judges to appointing them on merit, the Commission on Judicial Nomination started out attracting a variety of comers...." But no more, according to a fine op/ed piece in the N.Y. Daily News (01.04.2009). Comment. Initially, the "best and the brightest," believing their applications would be given a fair shake, applied in large numbers. And for a time it worked. But politicians have a way of subverting just about anything, and what began in the felicitous but naive belief that merit could supercede politics has ended in this distilled bit of wisdom: what's been touted as merit-based selection ain't. Am I surprised? No. You can read why at my recent posting, Annals of so-called merit-based judicial selection panels -- a descent into mediocrity? (The Daily Judge 12.21.2008).

 Don't you dare attack the courts in Singapore. "The Chief Justice, Law Minister and Attorney-General made clear yesterday that they would not brook any attack on the courts here...." More (Straits Times 01.04.2009).

 Annals of liberal activist judge commemorative postage stamps. "The traditional USPS boomer sop is the 'Early TV Memories' series, with black-and-white tube images of Ozzie and Harriet, Joe Friday, Lassie, Howdy Doody, et alia. Conservatives will enjoy the marriage-promoting Wedding Cake and Wedding Rings stamps, while liberals will snap up the William Brennan stamp in the Supreme Court Justice series. 'King and Queen of Hearts,' this year's 'Love' stamp, 'pays clever tribute to what is said by many to be world's favorite 'game.'" From a 01.02.2009 blog posting in The Village Voice describing the USPO's planned 2009 commemorative stamps.

 Judge retires after 'three decades in a swamp of murders, robberies, rapes and swindles.' "Patricia Gifford spent three decades in a swamp of murders, robberies, rapes and swindles, a toxic turf few judges in Marion Superior Court survive half as long. Yet amid those wrenching cases, the low-key, sober style that became Gifford's hallmark means most outside the City-County Building probably remember her best for presiding over boxer Mike Tyson's 1992 rape trial. That midcareer act still draws admiration for the judge, who kept the proceedings from becoming a national circus, a calm before the storm of O.J. Simpson....." More (Indianapolis Star 01.03.2009). Comment. The catchy opening sentence set me to thinking back on my nearly 30 years of helping the judges of our state supreme court decide cases. My main "beat" was criminal appeals and I read the entire transcripts, briefs, etc., and wrote memos with reasoned recommendations based on case law and statutory law in a very high percentage of the criminal appeals and, later in my tenure, petitions for appeal coming before the court. You might say that I, too, daily worked for nearly three decades in a swamp of murders, robberies, rapes and swindles. Reading the entire transcripts in thousands of cases meant in a way reliving each of the underlying crimes. I sometimes wonder in retrospect how I did it without becoming totally pessimistic about human potential for depravity and hardened in my attitudes about the treatment of convicted criminals. And yet I'm not a pessimist, just a realist, about human nature and I'm pretty much a softie in matters of treatment of criminals, believing that we imprison too many people for far too long and that flexibile indeterminate sentencing with rehabilitation as a goal is a better model than the "just desserts"/guidelines determinate sentencing model now in vogue. If I'd have done anything differently, it'd be taking a full month off every year, if that had been possible, which it wasn't. As Justice Brandeis said, and I paraphrase, a judge (or a judicial valet, like I was) can do a full year's work in eleven months but not in twelve. A fellow needs an occasional break from working down there in the swamp (which, when you think of it, is where most "professionals" work).

 L.A. county judges may get what to them, but not to the law, is a big pay cut. "The California Supreme Court last week refused to review an appeals court decision ruling unconstitutional more than $46,000 in benefits each judge [in L.A. County] receives from the county, opening up the possibility that judges here might be taking a steep pay cut in the near future. With the benefits, judges in L.A. County each receive a total of $249,413 annually. By contrast, the base salary for judges statewide is $192,386, including benefits...Sterling Norris, an attorney for Judicial Watch, [which brought the suit,] said benefits were unlawful payments retained by jurists behind taxpayers' backs...." More (LAT 01.03.2009). Comment. Some judges are threatening to quit if they lose the extra benefits. Most state constitutions don't allow a pay cut during a judge's term. But the money the judges get from the county is not pay for the purposes of the constitutional provision.

 Judge Plough is scolded again. "An Ohio appeals court has upbraided a controversial Portage County judge for a second time in as many weeks -- this time for finding a young public defender in contempt. The [court] found Wednesday that Municipal Judge John Plough 'abused his discretion' when he fined attorney Brian Jones for refusing to proceed with trial in 2007. Jones was just four months out of law school and had been assigned the case only the day before. Jones said he had a duty to his client to be able to prepare. Plough ordered the young attorney held and later fined him...." More (Cleveland Plain Dealer 01.03.2008). Earlier.

 Annals of horse judging greatness. The members of the Collegiate Oklahoma State University Horse Judging Team are now "Horse Judging World Champions...The collegiate judging team is made up of five members...The team judges classes with four horses each and ranks them, according to learned criteria, first through fourth. Kawcak explained that team members give five or six sets of reasons at each competition...The team judges only quarter horse breeds with the exception of spring, when they judge the Paint Horse Sweepstake. Judging areas include western riding, western pleasure, hunter under saddle, western horsemanship, reining, pleasure driving, and English equitation. Western horsemanship and English equitation classes are judged based off the rider rather than the horses...." More (Craig Daily Press 01.03.2009). Comment. If all knowledge is inter-related, if the common law judicial mind can benefit from exposure to literature, art, music, sociology, psychology, etc., then why, I ask, might not common law judges learn something from horse judges -- and vice-versa. Perhaps a good starting point might be for state supreme court justices to participate as guest or celebrity judges at various horse competitions, with their "verdicts" being made independently of those of the experienced, professional horse judges. Then afterwards, the two groups of judges could meet & discuss the results, learning from each other in the process. Then, after the horse competition season is over, the horse judges could sit in the public section of the state supreme court's courtroom and listen to the arguments in appeals & render their decisions, later comparing them with the justices' decisions. Only good can come from the various kinds of judges reaching across the artificial divides of class, section and even prejudice that have historically separated them. Personally, we think the experiences gained and skills learned by the participants in the horse judging competition will transfer well to common law judging. Indeed, already the OSU team members have more actual judging experience than some people named to some of our higher appellate common law courts around the country. So, to the team member who says she "could go anywhere" with her degree in Equine Nutrition and her judging experience, I say, "Don't necessarily limit your vision to 'working at a race horse farm or for a major feed company, preparing feed rations for horses.' Consider the possibility of becoming a common law judge."

 Something for C.J. Roberts to dream about: Government orders tripling of judicial salaries. "Judges of the Supreme Court and high courts will get a three-fold salary raise and the Chief Justice of India will get Rs one lakh after the government on Friday decided to bring an ordinance to hike the monthly pay for the higher judiciary...." More (Times of India 01.02.2009).

 A typical New Year's Day in ye olde arraignment court. "Pinellas Circuit Judge Thane B. Covert began New Year's Day listening to the sad, strange and sometimes moving stories of 88 men and women who are among the first offenders of 2009. Forty-nine people were booked into jail between midnight and 8 a.m. Most of the charges were related to fighting or domestic violence, followed by driving offenses, drug charges and disorderly conduct. One man spent the night locked up for relieving himself in public...." More (MSNBC 01.02.2009).

 Hawaii judges resist call for hard-times pay freeze, insist on 10% raise. "The state Judiciary will not support Gov. Linda Lingle's proposed pay freeze for judges and will ask the Legislature this month to fund 10 percent salary hikes scheduled for July 1. The new raises would come on top of 13.5 percent pay hikes received by judges over the past two years...." More (Honolulu Advertiser 01.02.2009).

 Judge Kara DioGuardi, that 'sexy new judge.' The folks at American Idol are bringing on board a fourth judge ("that sexy new judge" is how one reviewer describes her), singer-songwriter Kara DioGuardi. "Heading into season 8, they're hoping viewers will be as rapt with how DioGuardi shakes up Idol's 'dawg'/'beautiful'/'dreadful' judging dynamic as they are with which singer takes the big prize...." More (Entertainment Weekly 01.02.2009). Comment. Speaking of judges, I just heard a SCOTUS analyst say President Obama will be under pressure to appoint a female hispanic judge to replace either Souter (age 69, who hates D.C.) or Stevens (age 89, who still plays tennis), whichever one retires first. If Obama just thinks in terms of categories and needs a woman who has an ethnic-sounding name, maybe Judge Dio Guardi (or "KDiG," as those of us who are close to her call her) will fit the bill. Change is good!

 Annals of press release journalism. Each year on January 1 the blue-ribbon press dutifully writes a piece based on the Chief Justice's Annual Report in which he moans about the "insulting" and "paltry" pay (other judges' words) of federal judges. This year's plea, reported today in the NYT, was no different. And, just as the mainline press dutifully reports the chief's annual plea, I dutifully offer links to my previous essays on the flaws and omissions that typically are contained in arguments/reports by advocates of big judicial pay raises -- flaws and omissions that "press-release journalists" never perceive or mention. So, here goes: For some of the typical flaws and omissions and for the kind of approach I recommend to legislators who consider requests by judges for pay raises, see, my earlier mini-essay from 01.01.2002 titled I could be making lots more if I were Michael Jordan, along with Ten out of 10 pundits agree: Chief's Report on paltry pay was appalling, and The Chief Justice's annual harangue about his paltry pay. Addendum. The NYT's story reports, "The court decided 67 cases with signed opinions -- the same number as the year before and about half the number in an average year two decades ago." I realize statistics can be deceiving, but this one, I maintain, is telling.

 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?

Click here for DMCA Digital Millennium Copyright Act Claim Notification Info pursuant to Subsection 512(c)

Main Page

Affiliated Web Sites

Advertisers - Please consider patronizing the advertisers, including today's featured advertiser, Bob's Perpetuities, Ltd., a multinational boutique law firm specializing in all facets of the arcane Rule Against Perpetuities. Founded in 2004, Bob's is already the leading firm in the field. You may not know you have a perpetuities problem. That's why the motto of Bob's Perpetuities, Ltd., is: "Whatever your situation in life, better contact Bob's."

Adv. -  In response to the "makeover craze" that's sweeping the nation, Klara's Kut 'n' Kurl announces that it will be setting aside Saturdays for judicial makeovers. Many judges, we find, have an image problem in the courtroom. They do not project authority or wisdom or gravitas or experience - whatever. Klara Fribund Kollevitz can help. For example, if you're an obviously-young judge or an older judge cursed with a Dick Klark youthful appearance, Klara can use state-of-the-art aging technology -- Gravi-Tox -- to add gravitas to your look. Judge-appropriate konfidentiality assured. Kall Klara's at Local 536 for a free konsultation.
Favorite Websites
Coming soon