The Daily Judge
© 2009 Burton Randall Hanson
      Archives - 01.16.2009 - 01.31.2009
"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."

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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.

 "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) Circuit court upholds judicial censorship of lawyer critics of judiciary. c) Two Harvard Law grads botch the oath of office. d) Are judges paid too much? e) In tough times, slackers feel underappreciated by bosses. f) A tough place that makes exceptional people feel ordinary. g) A judicial photo gallery at the supreme court -- transparency or just plain old P.R.? h) Andrew Wyeth and the reconciling of opposites. i) Newest judge got engaged in her pajamas! j) The man who would rather defend than judge. k) The President entertained the Justices the night before he.... l) 3,000 new courts. m) Judge allows live-streaming in upcoming RIAA file-sharing suit. n) New judge is told to quit $150,000-a-year corporate board position. o) Chief judge is admonished for personal attacks on colleagues. p) Judge is accused of playing hooky. q) Annals of courthouse leaks that irreparably stain the robe. r) Guv says 80% of SCOMN C.J.'s requested budget increase is for salary and benefit increases. s) The 'Lesson' of Sundance: Bigger budgets don't = better films. t) The rise of accountability. u) Judge rules judge's BAC test results inadmissible. v) Annals of free speech: SCOFLA disciplines another judge for criticizing colleagues. w) The unreliability of judges -- of wine and human fallibility. x) Art as a reminder of judicial fallibility. y) Art and law. z) Two more judges are off to the clinker. aa) Annals of judges 'caught on tape.'

 Annals of free speech: SCOFLA disciplines another judge for criticizing colleagues. This one is County Judge Clifford Barnes. Details (First Amendment Center 01.30.2009). Earlier. SCOFLA will publicly reprimand appeals judge (Michael Allen) for content of written judicial opinion (The Daily Judge 12.19.2008). Comment. SCOMN's regrettable experiment in restricting judicial free speech did not fare well. I doubt that SCOFLA's will fare any better.

 The unreliability of judges -- of wine and human fallibility. "Only 10% in a four-year study of California State Fair judging were able to consistently give the same rating, or something close, to the same wine sampled multiple times in a large blind tasting...That was the conclusion of a four-year study of judging decisions at the California State Fair Wine Competition by retired Humboldt State professor Robert Hodgson. 'Consumers should have a healthy skepticism about the medals awarded to wines from the various competitions,' he said...." More (LAT 01.29.2009). Comment. One also ought to have a Holmesean skepticism about the reliability of decisions of trial jurors and common law judges.

 Art as a reminder of judicial fallibility. "Charles L. Brieant Jr., a federal district judge in New York for 37 years, died last summer at 85, and as court personnel began packing up his chambers, they confronted an unusual legacy. Hanging on the wall...was an oil painting of an obscure judge...Martin T. Manton, who sat for two decades on the prestigious federal appeals court for the Second Circuit in Manhattan, and who was almost appointed to the United States Supreme Court. But in 1939, he resigned in disgrace. He was accused of taking large sums in gifts and loans from parties in cases, was tried and convicted and spent 19 months in prison. Judge Brieant...told people that he displayed the painting as a reminder of the fallibility of judges, particularly those above him on the Second Circuit, whom he liked to needle and call the Second Circus. Now a question has arisen in the courthouse about what should be done with the painting...." More (NYT 01.27.2009). Comment. Only God knows the full stories about all the many honored judges who are subjects of "official portraits" in courthouses here in MN, around the country, and around the world. Judge Manton got caught. There but for the Grace of God go many other judges. But wait! What if it was God's Grace that led to Manton's getting caught? One never knows. My view? We are all of us -- whether caught or uncaught -- sinners; we have all fallen short of the Glory of God; and none of us is worthy of God's magnificent Grace or Forgiveness. Therefore, let us walk humbly and never forget that the man over there in the dock is our brother.

 Art and law. "South African Supreme Court Justice Albie Sachs...spoke...about the overlap of art and justice, and their infusion into the construction of a unique Constitutional Courthouse in South Africa. Sachs described the building as saturated with art...'What the building establishes is that art requires rationality and law requires emotion,' he said. Sachs added that a constitutional court should be warm because it is the place where basic human rights are defended. Although most South African courthouses seem isolated from the bustle of the town, the new Constitutional Courthouse is incorporated into the neighborhood, Sachs said. '[The Courthouse] is on the way to something,' he said. 'It's an oasis in a sense, rather than an endpoint to some kind of journey'" More (Duke Chronicle 01.29.2009). Comment. Should a courthouse be "hot," as was the courthouse in the trial at the heart of To Kill a Mockingbird? Or should it be "cool" and Hopperesque, so as to calm the passions of those who enter its portals intent on vengeance? Or should it be "cold," as in Modernistic -- heartless and unforgiving? Or should it be "warm," like one of those birthday cards with pictures of newborn puppies? Or should it be "surrealistic," as in a painting by Salvador Dali? Or should it be gaudy and lit with neon, like Las Vegas, to remind us that Justice is a crapshoot? Or should it have Wall Street columns, to -- well -- remind us that Justice is a crapshoot? It's all so darn confusing....

 Two more judges are off to the clinker. "Two top Luzerne County Court judges took kickbacks to place juvenile offenders in detention centers, even ordering some to be locked up against the recommendations of probation officers, federal authorities said yesterday. President Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Judge Michael T. Conahan agreed to a plea deal that would send them to prison for seven years, according to an agreement filed in federal court Monday...." Details (Philadelphia Inquirer 01.27.2009).

 Annals of judges 'caught on tape.' "Repeatedly using vulgar and racial insults, Superior Court Judge E. Curtissa Cofield argued with a police officer -- addressing him as 'Negro trooper' at one point -- who was trying to process her on a charge of drunken driving in Glastonbury last October, a police video released Monday shows. Cofield also is heard twice on the video using the racial term 'n-----.' The state's Judicial Review Council released the video Monday after it found cause to pursue five judicial misconduct charges against her...." Details (Hartford Courant 01.27.2009). Comment. Readers of The Daily Judge thank the editors of the Courant for being kind enough to include the video in their online coverage.

 The rise of accountability. I've been publicly preaching greater openness and accountability by the courts and others in government since 2000. Back in 2006 I noted approvingly that newly-elected U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) had decided to join the 'Punchclock Campaign' and post details of her daily schedule online. See, Letting the sun shine in. Now Gillibrand is N.Y.'s latest U.S. Senator, replacing Hillary Clinton. And now Barack Obama, himself an advocate of openness and transparency, is POTUS. I say, in general and in specific, if you're in government, whether judge or executive or legislator or bureaucrat, "Let the sun shine in." See, among my many postings on transparency and accountability, my 2000 essay, BurtLaw on Judicial Independence and Accountability, in which I advocated my own version of "Internet transparency" on the part of judges; and "Sunshine and fresh air as judicial disinfectants" and "Let the sun shine in" at BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else - Court Gazing V (scroll down). A Google search leads you to these prior entries on "sunshine" for judges at BurtLaw coordinated sites.

 Judge rules judge's BAC test results inadmissible. "A judge has ruled that the results of a blood-alcohol test for State District Judge Elizabeth Berry taken in November cannot be used as evidence in her drunken driving case...According to Alvarado police, Berry was driving 92 mph in a 65-mph zone on Interstate 35 south of Fort Worth when she was pulled over. An officer smelled alcohol on her breath and saw beer cans -- some of them empty -- in her car...[R]etired Senior Judge Robert Dohoney ruled that the facts cited by the officer who arrested Berry were not sufficient to support a search warrant granted by a judge to obtain her blood...." More (Houston Chronicle 01.23.2009). Earlier. Judge vindicated in fake e-mail scandal gets nabbed for speeding, possible DWI (and she refused testing) (The Daily Judge 11.15.2008). Further reading. Roseville, MI judge gets censured, suspended for DWI (The Daily Judge 12.09.2008) (some comments about the variability among states in disciplining judges who drive after drinking booze). Update. Outrage follows evidence blunder in judge's DWI case (WFAA 01.24.2009).

 Circuit court upholds judicial censorship of lawyer critics of judiciary. Back in 2006 SCOMICH, in a 4-3 decision, upheld a reprimand of a judicial critic, lawyer Geoffrey Fieger, for referring on a radio show in 1999 to some named judges as "jackasses" and comparing them to Hitler. Fieger got a federal district court (Judge Arthur Tarnow) to declare the judicial rules on which the reprimand was based as overly broad and vague and therefore violative of the First Amendment. Now a panel of the 6th Circuit has dealt Fieger a setback, dismissing his suit challenging the court rules in a 2-1 decision holding that Fieger failed to show there's a significant possibility he'll be disciplined again if he continues to criticize the judges, as he said he plans to do. In the  majority: Chief Judge Danny J. Boggs and Judge Richard Allen Griffin. Dissenting: Senior Judge Gilbert S. Merritt. More (Detroit News 01.21.2009). Comment. Here's a link to the 2-1 decision. It seems to me that the dissent, not surprisingly by a senior judge, clearly gets the better of the majority opinion. But, hey, I'm a lover of the First Amendment and a believer that, at least out of court -- as, for example, on a radio show -- lawyers ought to be free in this free country to criticize and condemn judges -- yes, even call them "jackasses." I doubt we've seen the end of this one. (By the way, this last November voters in Michigan unseated C.J. Cliff Taylor, who was in the SCOTMI majority in the Fieger case.) Further reading. See, my 2006 posting titled Calling a judge a 'jackass.' See, also, More on Michigan Supremes' split over free speech.

 Two Harvard Law grads botch the oath of office. More (NYT 01.21.2009). Comment. I listened to it all and I think it was Roberts who screwed things up by a) pausing after "I, Barack Obama..." and then interrupting to add "do solemnly swear" as Obama started repeating "I, Barack Obama," and b) by changing -- perhaps deliberately to satisfy his schoolmarm's view of proper grammar? -- the Founders' placement of "faithfully" and confusing Obama in the process. Further reading. Is Harvard Law now in direct control of two branches of our Government? (The Daily Judge 11.08.2009). Update. "In his legal opinions, Chief Justice Roberts has altered quotations to conform to his notions of grammaticality, as when he excised the 'ain't' from Bob Dylan's line 'When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose.' On Tuesday his inner copy editor overrode any instincts toward strict constructionism and unilaterally amended the Constitution by moving the adverb 'faithfully' away from the verb." Steven Pinker, Oaf of Office (NYT 01.22.2009).

 Are judges paid too much? "Federal judges say they are underpaid. The problem, in Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.'s words, 'has now reached the level of a constitutional crisis.' It takes a pretty brave soul to argue the other side...." -- From Adam Liptak, How Much Should Judges Make (NYT 01.20.2009). Liptak cites two studies, one by Prof. Scott Baker in the Boston University Law Review, Should We Pay Federal Judges More, the other by G. Mitu Gulati, Eric A. Posner and Stephen J. Choi, in The Journal of Legal Analysis, Are Judges Overpaid? Baker's findings, as summarized by Liptak, don't support the argument that a failure to give federal judges a pay raise will diminish the bench: "Money appears to have almost no impact on the quantity and quality of the work judges produce,...and lots of capable people are eager to take the jobs at the current salary." Gulati, Posner & Liptak also found no support, in studying state judicial salaries, for the notion that paying judges more will improve the judiciary. Comment. It may take a "brave soul" to challenge the conventional wisdom and to simply ask that the judiciary play fair with statistics, etc., in seeking pay increases, but I've been challenging the conventional wisdom all along -- and challenging the press for its "press release journalism" on the issue. Finally, someone in the NYT points out, as I've been doing, that "being a judge is pretty sweet work and the job is in high demand. It comes with status, power, good working conditions, no clients, the ability to affect policy and the satisfaction of doing justice. Federal judges get very good health care, exceptionally generous pensions and the ultimate in job security -- life tenure." Further reading. On "press release journalism," see, Annals of Press Release Journalism (The Daily Judge 01.01.2009). For some of the typical flaws and omissions of the judiciary's arguments for pay raises 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. Related. Guv says 80% of SCOMN C.J.'s requested budget increase is for salary and benefit increases (The Daily Judge 01.15.2009). Compare and contrast. The 'Lesson' of Sundance: Bigger budgets don't = better films (The Daily Judge 01.16.2009).

 In tough times, slackers feel underappreciated by bosses. "Taking a break from surfing the web, going out for multiple cups of coffee, and missing important work deadlines, employees at      complained once again Monday about being taken for granted. 'I come in almost every day, bust my hump for like four or five hours, and what do I get? Nothing,' said      , one of several chronic underachievers employed by      . 'You'd think management could show us a little appreciation now and again. It's not like I particularly enjoy just sitting around here all day'...." From Incompetent Staff Feels Underappreciated (The Onion 01.17.2009).

 A tough place that makes exceptional people feel ordinary. The "place" is Harvard Law. In one in a quilt of Sunday NYT op/ed pieces revisiting significant places in Barack Obama's journey, HLS grad John Matteson, now a novelist, writes that "the hardest, most precious lessons taught at Harvard Law [are] the finitude of one's own powers; the twin, paradoxical necessities of self-reliance and interdependence; and the humanity that comes when one finds oneself a long way from perfection, and then finds new ways of striving." It is, says Matteson, a place that teaches the extraordinary that, at least there, they are ordinary, a place where "the long hours, the quantity and difficulty of the work, and the pressure to excel are a recipe for frayed nerves, shortened tempers and durable frustrations." More (NYT 01.18.2009). Comment. Matteson admits he wasn't one of the "stars" of his class. I wasn't either. Up until then I had been one, just as Matteson obviously had been. I get the feeling that Barry O'B sailed through HLS, whereas I, and apparently Matteson and most of my classmates, rowed. Further reading. BurtLaw's Harvard Law.

 A judicial photo gallery at the supreme court -- transparency or just plain old P.R.? "For the past three days, the buzz in the Supreme Court has had nothing to do with any case whatsoever. What has kept everyone, including the judges, talking are their photographs, placed at the most 'strategic' location of the apex court -- right outside the courtroom of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan...." More (Indian Express 01.17.2009). Comments. a) Not everyone approves. The report in Indian Express quotes "Senior advocate Shanti Bhushan" (a former law minister) as saying he "found the entire act to be 'so pitiful.' 'It's so ugly it actually brings down the stature of the judges of the apex court...Displaying their photographs in the gallery, in full public view, is rather cheap and ridiculous. Everyone was seen making fun of it...To me, the photographs were more like a matrimonial ad.'" A former Chief Justice of India, J.S. Verma, is quoted saying, "'It's actually surprising when on the one hand they oppose disclosure of basic details like their assets and wealth but want to be seen right outside their courtrooms. What for, nobody knows.'" b) Perhaps our judicial friends in India are simply taking a lesson from their "P.R."-conscious judges in MN. See, Herein of SCOMN budget woes, 'p.r.' specialists, and Thoreauvian economics (The Daily Judge 08.08.2008). Update. "A glossy gallery of sitting judges was showcased in the Supreme Court for the first time this week, but it has been hurriedly dismantled for fear of public criticism. Portraits of all 24 judges, with the Chief Justice of India leading the pack, sprung up almost overnight on Thursday on the display board outside court 1 of the imposing building. But by today, sources said, they had been pulled down in deference to widespread 'disapproval' over what the legal fraternity termed a 'needless' exercise in 'self-aggrandisement.'" More (The Telegraph 01.18.2009). Wanna see small versions of the judges' pics? Click here (SCOINDIA's website photo gallery).

 Andrew Wyeth and the reconciling of opposites. "In later years, the press noted when he voted for Nixon and Reagan, not because he was a particularly outspoken partisan in his political views but because he differed in those views from other artists who were very outspoken at the time. Bucking the liberal art establishment, and making a fortune in the process, allowed him to play familiar American roles: the reactionary antiestablishmentarian and the free-thinking individualist who at the same time represented the vox populi. A favorite saying of his was: 'What you have to do is break all the rules.' And as bohemianism itself became institutionalized, Wyeth encapsulated the artistic conservatives' paradoxical idea of cultural disobedience through traditional behavior...." Michael Kimmelman, Andrew Wyeth, Painter, Dies at 91 (NYT 01.17.2009). Comment. Standing apart from the crowd while embracing it. Holding opposites in creative tension. Sounds like upper-level judicial work. Further reading. I offer for your perusal my 2004 congressional campaign position paper titled 'Liberals' and 'Conservatives.'

 Newest judge got engaged in her pajamas! Eunice Oh, Idol Judge Kara DioGuardi Got Engaged in Her Pajamas (People 01.15.2009). Comment. While we've never specifically addressed the appropriateness of a judge's getting engaged while wearing pajamas, we believe any judge with an appropriate training in the interpretation of rules and precedents and with the experience and ability to creatively apply the rules and precedents in related contexts should find guidance on this warm-as-flannel issue in our previous -- indeed, groundbreaking -- entry titled BurtLaw on judicial swimsuits and the Rules of Judicial Conduct (discussing, inter alia, appropriate swimwear for female judges and Muslim women) at BurtLaw's Law and Swimsuits Issue.

 The man who would rather defend than judge. "First and foremost, [he] loves the courtroom. Despite attempts by his friends and family to get him to move on to a more respectable position for his age, such as a QC or a Circuit Judge (referred to [by him] as Queer Customers and Circus Judges...), he only enjoys the simple pleasure of defending his clients at The Old Bailey, London's central criminal court. A devotee of Arthur Quiller-Couch's Oxford Book of English Verse, he often quotes Wordsworth and secretly calls his wife Hilda 'She Who Must Be Obeyed' (SWMBO), a reference to the novel She by H. Rider Haggard...." By now you know to whom this refers...Horace Rumpole, a/k/a Rumpole of the Bailey, the best-known literary creation of John Mortimer, QC. Sir John died yesterday, 01.16.2009, at age 85. Here's a link to some Mortimer quotes, here's one to a Salon interview, and here's one to the NYT obit.

 The President entertained the Justices the night before he.... "On this cold and clear evening of February 2, 1937, eighty-five guests assembled downstairs to partake in the president's annual dinner for the Supreme Court justices. Woodrow Wilson's widow had accepted the invitation, along with the handsome ex-boxer Gene Tunney and his pretty socialite wife, the congressional barons who regarded the judiciary as their own preserve, a rear admiral, a major general, the Pittsburgh judge who had crusaded against intoxicated drivers -- the president had personally added him to the invitation list -- and almost a dozen millionaires named by the party treasurer as having helped 'financially and in other ways during the recent campaign.' These were in addition to seven of the Nine Old Men, as a recent ill-natured best seller had described this evening's guests of honor...." -- From first chapter of Burt Solomon's new book, FDR v. the Constitution -- The Court-Packing Fight and the Triumph of Democracy (NYT Sunday Book Review 01.18.2009). Related. David Greenberg, Books About FDR (NYT Sunday Book Review 01.18.2009). Comment. FDR's court-packing plan is an example of proposing an increase in the membership in an institution in order to dilute the power of those ensconced in power in the institution. FDR's plan also is illustrative of the phenomenon of the young using the law to get rid of the old. For a recent example of this from Europe, see, Wiktor Osiatynski, Poland Makes Witch Hunting Easier (NYT 01.22.2007). An older, American example of this "perverting" of institutions or procedures to bump out the old is what occurred half a century ago at Harvard when young members of a "new school" of sociological thought, functionalism, neutralized the powerful "old school" chair (and founder) of the sociology department, the great Pitirim Sorokin, by creating a new department with a slightly-different name and a new chairman, Talcott Parsons, leaving the powerful old department head, Sorokin, as an isolated researcher consigned to an out-of-the-way office, later to head what in effect was a sometimes-maligned center on research in creative altruism. (Sorokin later got the last laugh in 1963 when his allies in American sociology conducted a phenomenal write-in campaign and got him elected president of the American Sociological Association.) To come closer to home, one of the (primarily-hidden but sometimes-ackowledged) goals of some of the prime movers for adopting mandatory retirement of judges in certain jurisdictions was to get rid of "old white men" so as to free up positions for women and members of previously-under-represented minorities. For my 2000 essay opposing mandatory retirement of judges, click here. Using age discrimination to cure the problem was unnecessary and was a mistake, as we're now seeing. See, comments at Gail Chang Bohr wins election to open seat on district court in MN (The Daily Judge 11.05.2008).

 3,000 new courts. "Union Minister for Law and Justice H.R. Bhardwaj on Saturday announced that 3,000 gram nyayalayas (village courts) would start functioning within a month across the country...." More (The Hindu 01.18.2009).

 Judge allows live-streaming in upcoming RIAA file-sharing suit. "A federal judge in Massachusetts agreed this week to allow live Internet streaming coverage of a Jan. 22 motions hearing in an illegal file-sharing case involving the recording industry. U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner on Wednesday approved a defense request that the hearing be carried directly over the Web by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University...." More (RCFP.Org 01.16.2009).

 New judge is told to quit $150,000-a-year corporate board position. "Newly elected District Judge Bill Belk continues to hold a lucrative corporate board seat despite being told that such service is barred by North Carolina's judicial code. As a director of Sonic Automotive, Belk earns annual compensation of around $150,000 and stands to gain more than $8,000 in additional stock if he stays on the board until mid-April...." More (Charlotte Observer 01.16.2008).

 Chief judge is admonished for personal attacks on colleagues. "The State Commission on Judicial Conduct has scolded Chief Justice Tom Gray of Waco's 10th Court of Appeals with a public admonition after investigating what it called his 'unprofessional personal attacks' against his court colleagues and staff. In a four-page decision made public Wednesday, the commission said Gray committed 'willful and/or persistent' violations of two standards of conduct for judges, including allowing his fractured relationships with former Justice Bill Vance and Justice Felipe Reyna to affect his behavior...." More (Waco Tribune-Herald/Longview News-Journal 01.16.2009). The decision is worth reading in its entirety. I also enjoyed viewing Security camera slideshow of twelve photos taken in sequence beginning at 8:27:12 a.m. on June 16, 2008 (Waco Tribune 01.16.2009).

 Judge is accused of playing hooky. "A Riverside County Superior Court judge[, Christopher J. Sheldon,] accused of working half-days and leaving without permission -- sometimes causing another judge to pick up his case-loads -- will be the subject of hearings on potential judicial misconduct, it was announced Thursday...." More (The Desert Sun 01.16.2009). Comments. I know nothing about the basis for the allegations against Judge Sheldon or whether they are justified. Speaking therefore only generally, I'll just say that I do know that many, many courts throughout America are scandals "waiting to happen," especially now that so many chief judges are publicly complaining about how hard they're working and how they're underpaid and courts are underfunded. All it takes in an individual case is a tip from an insider and a little footwork by an I-Team reporter. They're scandals waiting to happen because the courts don't have policies in place designed to prevent them from happening. The simple preventative for this type of scandal? Require all judges to fill out timesheets in the same way as other court employees and report as "vacation time" or "sick leave," to be subtracted from allotted vacation and sick leave, all unofficial time away from the court during their regular work hours. Judges who properly think of themselves as "professionals" and who regularly take work home at night and otherwise give the public good weight -- and they are in the majority -- don't like the idea of such a requirement. But they're foolish not to insist on such a requirement. I-Team-type exposés of judges playing hooky are nothing new. To take just one of many examples, back in 1998 a San Jose Mercury News investigation "revealed a group of jurists routinely took off Fridays to hit the links -- with little evidence they were doing so on vacation time...." (San Jose Mercury News 07.24.2005, referred to in Daily Judge posting titled Dept. of Judicial Dangers: Golf). The key words there are "evidence" and "vacation time." It's all right for a judge to go shopping or play golf during normal working hours so long as she does it in the right way, reporting it on a timesheet and subtracting it from allotted vacation time. A judge who does it in the wrong way is playing Russian roulette with her own career. Related reading. a) Since 2000 I've been publicly advocating that courts ought to post judges' trips, their expense account reimbursement requests, their timesheets, etc., on court websites. See, my 2000 essay Judicial Independence and Accountability. b) For some of my thoughts on local TV "news" businesses and their sweeps "journalism," see, my mini-essays/comments at Another I-Team-type report: Judge caught on tape away from bench! (The Daily Judge 03.01.2006); More on the judge caught playing hooky (The Daily Judge 02.13.2006); Annals of TV 'sweeps' and judges 'caught on camera' (The Daily Judge 02.21.2006); What he found on a visit to Jeddah's general court (The Daily Judge 07.21.2007); It's 'Sweeps Month' for local TV 'news' shows -- judges are targets (The Daily Judge 11.10.2008); More on judges and judicial employees caught on tape (The Daily Judge 11.13.2008).

 Annals of courthouse leaks that irreparably stain the robe. "With the [Multnomah County C]ourthouse closed because of nearly impassable streets, [melted] water [from a recent heavy snowfall] cascaded down a corner of Judge Jerome LaBarre's chambers, seeped into the jury box of Marilyn Litzenberger's courtroom, and broke through the ceiling tiles and spilled next to Judge Eric Bergstrom's desk, irreparably staining his judicial robe...." More (Oregonian 01.15.2009). Comment. I love that phrase: "irreparably staining his judicial robe." And, as one who darns his socks with holes in them, I probably would find a way to continue wearing the robe if it were mine. One man's "irreparable" is just another man's hour of darning (or stain removing). Query: Should judges be required to tend their own robes -- i.e., remove stains from them, mend them, etc? I'm told most judges either have their robes supplied to them by the government or enjoy a "robe allowance." I like to think that back in the day when men were real, judges -- like plumbers, carpenters, auto mechanics, and others -- bought their own uniforms (and didn't eat quiche).

 Guv says 80% of SCOMN C.J.'s requested budget increase is for salary and benefit increases. SCOMN's new C.J., Eric Magnuson, a Pawlenty pal, "is asking for a $43 million increase over the two-year budget request of $600 million" at a time when Pawlenty, the guv., "has directed all state government agencies to find a way to chop 10 percent off their current budget -- not add to it." Today's Minneapolis Star-Tribune quotes a Pawlenty spokesman saying, "'Almost 80 percent of [the courts'] requested funding increase is for salary and benefit increases for judges and court personnel. In an era when we are urging pay freezes for government employees, we suggest they reexamine their priorities.'" Details (Strib 01.15.2009). Comments. a) As we've come to expect, the C.J. is asking rhetorically, "What part of justice do you want us to stop doing?" I've already weighed in, in some detail, on this tactic. See, Herein of SCOMN budget woes, 'p.r.' specialists, and Thoreauvian economics (The Daily Judge 08.08.2008). My short answer is the answer judges give to defendants who -- when sentenced to, say, 30 days in the clinker -- say, "Judge, I can't do that much time." The answer judges give: "Do what you can, do what you can." b) In a second report in the Strib, the chief is quoted saying, "'The rule of law really is at stake.'" This is reminiscent of Chief Justice Roberts' widely-criticized playing of the Judicial Independence Card and the Constitutional Crisis Card in his dire over-the-top warning about the consequences of Congress' not giving federal judges a pay raise. See,  Ten out of 10 pundits agree: Chief's Report on paltry pay was appalling (with links to other postings) (The Daily Judge 01.02.2006). Memo to C.J. Magnuson: Overstatement doesn't sell as well in Minnesota since Lou Holtz left town. Update. See, my 01.20.2009 posting titled Are judges paid too much? Compare and contrast. The 'Lesson' of Sundance: Bigger budgets don't = better films (The Daily Judge 01.16.2009); Should judges be required to tend their own robes -- i.e., remove stains from them, mend them, etc? (The Daily Judge 01.15.2009).

 The 'Lesson' of Sundance: Bigger budgets don't = better films. "It is a truism of the industry that making even a bad movie is hard, so making a great one must be near impossible. But the odds curiously seem to go up when the odds are against the filmmaker. Part of the reason so many great movies come from outside the studio apparatus is that the lack of big shooting budgets and 'help' from the people signing the checks forces filmmakers to innovate. Ultimately, you can't manufacture cinematic excellence; you can only enable it." -- David Carr, At Sundance, 'Slumdog' Casts a Long Shadow (NYT 01.16.2009). Comments. And bigger judicial budgets don't necessarily make for better courts.

 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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