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.
A few of our recent postings. a) Quote/Misquote of the Day and What did Justice Coyne really say? b) MN's AG and door-to-door salespeople -- no, I mean door purchases. c) Annals of better living through government expense accounts. d) Annals of toilets as a mark of status within the judicial hierarchy. e) Courthouse to be closed for judge's funeral. f) Should SCOTUS justices be limited to one 18-year term? g) Our resident Thoreauvean on SCOTUS, Justice Souter will retire to his version of Walden Pond. h) Headline-of-the-Day: Senator Who Praised Segregationist Judges Will Lead Opposition To Obama Nominees. i) Jeffrey Toobin on C.J. John Roberts's following the party line. j) Judge dies in small plane crash. k) Norwegian Independence Day. l) Inquest report: judge drowned in 4" of water after night of drinking. m) Lawyer defending judge says what judge did was stupid but he shouldn't be removed. n) Judge is convicted of corruption. o) Was assignment of allegedly-biased Swede judge nonrandom? p) Amidst scandal and allegations, a trial court switches to random assignment of cases. q) Yet another judge is off to the clinker. r) Quote of the day. s) The latest on hedge-fund billionaire Geo. Soros, the financier of judicial 'reform.' t) Bd votes 8-2 to recommend removal of MN judge. u) Most NC judges agree to modest pay cut. v) Are judges 'perfectly suited' for making jelly? w) Wednesday Afternoon Courthouse Smackdown? x) Quote of the day. y) It's elementary, my dear Eaton. z) Governor recommends wife for federal judgeship. aa) Judge: 'I don't believe in justice.' bb) Shouldn't justices' votes on petitions for review be a matter of public record? cc) Annals of specialized courts. dd) Third major trial in judicial corruption scandal begins. ee) The latest on the judiciary in Lebanon. ff) May a complainant in sexual assault case refuse to remove her veil during testimony? gg) Judge to retire in wake of FBI raids. hh) Whistlebower suit by Assistant AG claims she was fired for refusing to lie about judge. ii) Magistrate-judge strains for laughs at Guiliani's son's expense. jj) Ex-judge, Larry Seidlin, of Anna Nicole Smith-case fame, is cleared of allegations. kk) Quote of the day. ll) Annals of judicial moonlighting: judge as cabbie. mm) Judging poets. nn) Quote of the day. oo) Annals of judicial crises: herein of the courtroom attire of female attorneys. Among our other relatively recent postings: a) Minnesota's 'Three Stooges'-like handling of Coleman-Franken recount. b) Annals of judicial aversion to sunshine. c) Courageous Iowa corn-fed judges unanimously declare ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. d) Parents get cheerleading coach fired over old nude photos. e) The 'Sue Me State' reconsiders its own much-touted judicial selection plan. f) Annals of judicial masochism -- herein of law clerk domination of judicial decisionmaking. g) Congressman turns SCOTUS budget hearing into forum on cameras in court, transparency. h) SCOTUS doesn't appear bothered if your kid gets strip-searched by school principal -- to see if the kid has ibuprofen in her underpants! i) Why the Missouri Plan has failed in Tennessee. j) The Great Missouri Judicial Merit-Selection Plan. k) Judge will stop writing column that raised a racial ruckus. l) Recent developments in invidious age discrimination against judges. m) Did SCOMN fumble the ball in the U.S. Senate recount case? n) The Minnesota Scariners are at it again, trying to persuade voters to give up their role in judicial selection. o) Competency -- what mandatory retirement takes away, the big law firms restore. p) On Geo. Soros, the hedge fund billionaire who doesn't want voters having a role in judicial selection.
Quote of the Day. "'I felt she could be very judgmental in the sense that she doesn't let you finish your argument before she jumps in and starts asking questions,' said Sheema Chaudhry, who appeared before Judge Sotomayor in an asylum case last year. 'She's brilliant and she's qualified, but I just feel that she can be very, how do you say, temperamental.'" -- From Jo Becker and Adam Liptak, Sotomayor's Blunt Style Raises Issue of Temperament (NYT 05.28.2009). Comments. a) For my views on "bully broads" & on men who are bullies (I don't like any of them & I've been known to stand up to them), see my 2001 posting titled "Are you a 'bully broad'? Wanna get ahead?" (scroll down) at BurtLaw's Law & Women. b) Is Judge Sotomayor, who #44 has nominated to replace Judge Souter, a "bully broad"? I don't know, but if she is, I'd never vote to confirm her if I were a Senator.
Annals of judicial moonlighting: judge as cabbie. "Laila's Birthday follows a harrowing day in the life of an overqualified cab driver in Ramallah, the Palestinian city on the West Bank and de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority. This upright, middle-aged husband and father, Abu Laila (Mohamed Bakri), is a proud, well-dressed judge who has recently returned to his hometown from an unidentified country. Because the government has run out of money to pay his judicial wages, he is forced to earn a living driving his brother-in-law's taxi...." -- From Stephen Holden's film review, Navigating Ramallah, an Eye Out for the Absurd (NYT 05.27.2009).
Judging poets. "A historic month for women in British poetry turned sour on Monday when the first woman in 301 years elected to Oxford University's prestigious chair in poetry resigned and admitted what she had previously denied -- that she had played a part in a covert effort to taint her main rival for the post with old allegations of sexual impropriety...." -- From John F. Burns, Poetic Justice: Briton Quits Post, Saying She Helped Taint a Rival (NYT 05.26.2009). Comment. You ought to read this one. The female poet ID'd in the story is Ruth Padel, 63. If you've read any of the good biographies of Robert Frost, you know that he looked upon his title of "Greatest Living Poet" as a prizefighter looks on his championship belt and that he wasn't above delivering a few below-the-belt blows to his opponents. Ruth Padel's surreptitious shenanigans in disparaging her main opposition make Frost look like a Golden Glover fighting his first bout.
Quote of the Day. "'It is 100 percent political,' said Gamal Eid, director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information in Cairo. 'In the beginning, there was a political ruling to convict him, and now there is a political ruling to acquit him.'" -- The "him" in the above quote is the exiled Egyptian "democracy advocate" Saad Eddin Ibrahim, whose conviction was reversed, some say, in anticipation of President Obama's visit to Egypt. Details at Mona El-Naggar, Court Reverses Jail Sentence of Egypt Critic (NYT 05. 15.2009).
Annals of judicial crises: herein of the courtroom attire of female attorneys. "When U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lefkow mentioned during a judges' panel discussion at the Seventh Circuit Bar Association meeting this week that she thought some women attorneys should pay more attention to dressing appropriately for court, she probably didn't know the floodgates she would open...." Details at Lynne Marek, Federal Judges Grouse About Lawyers' Courtroom Attire (National Law Journal 05.21.2009). Comment. "Rome is burning," as in "Our judicial system is failing ordinary people to such an extent that not even lawyers and judges can afford attorneys," and what are these judges doing at a taxpayer-financed conference? They're playing their fiddles or, to switch metaphors, are howling like lonely wolves about such earth-shattering problems as the courtroom attire of female attorneys. Further reading. Links to some of my many postings on "courthouse fashion" and related subjects, including "judicial fashion," may be found at Bluegrass courts nix short shorts (The Daily Judge 08.22.2008).
Magistrate-judge strains for laughs at Guiliani's son's expense. "A federal magistrate judge with a taste for sports metaphors has found that Andrew Giuliani's lawsuit against Duke University for letting a coach push him off the university's golf team is 'a swing and a miss.'" Details (NYT 05.21.2009). The WSJ has posted Magistrate-Judge Wallace W. Dixon's "Memorandum Opinion, Recommendation, and Order" in PDF format on its website. Click here. Comment. The opinion is replete with lines like "Plaintiff tees up his case by alleging..." and includes a reference to the movie Caddyshack. There are always a few sucker blogsters/blawgsters who fall for opinions like this. Sorry, but I personally think judges generally ought not attempt to use humor or doggerel in opinions. For a mini-essay on the subject, see, "Judge Hardy-har-har -- or Dan Rather as judge" at BurtLaw's Legal Writing (scroll down) at LawandEverythingElse.Com.
Jeffrey Toobin on C.J. John Roberts's following the party line. "In every major case since he became the nation's seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff. Even more than Scalia, who has embodied judicial conservatism during a generation of service on the Supreme Court, Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the contemporary Republican Party...." Jeffrey Toobin, "Annals of Law - No More Mr. Nice Guy - The Supreme Court's stealth hard-liner" (The New Yorker - Issue dated 05.25.2009). Comment. He's a "strict constructionist" alright, strictly party line. :-)
Ex-judge, Larry Seidlin, of Anna Nicole Smith-case fame, is cleared of allegations. "An investigation into the relationship between former Broward County Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin and an elderly woman who gave his family hundreds of thousands of dollars has been closed with no findings of wrongdoing...." This is the second investigation clearing him. Details (Miami Herald 05.22.2009).
Judge to retire in wake of FBI raids. "Macomb County District Judge Paul Cassidy will retire May 31, just weeks after federal authorities raided his home and office...." Details (Detroit Free Press 05.20.2009). Comment. I guess I'm the only one who believes the fed's increasingly presumptious intrusions into the recesses of state government -- investigating matters that under our federalist system states have heretofore been thought capable of policing on their own -- is a potentially ominous development, providing future Presidents who care little about civil liberties of individuals and states' rights with tools beloved by dictators.
Whistlebower suit by Assistant AG claims she was fired for refusing to lie about judge. "A former assistant attorney general[, Ginger Weatherspoon,] alleges in a whistleblower suit filed May 18 that the Texas Office of the Attorney General fired her in 2008 for reporting that two OAG attorneys in the Dallas child support office tried 'to suborn perjured testimony' from her about a Dallas judge[,David Hanschen]...." Details (Texas Lawyer 05.19.2009). Complaint (PDF).
Governor recommends wife for federal judgeship. Because Wyoming's congressional delegation is Republican, the White House asked Wyoming's Democrat governor, Dave Freudenthal, to recommend people for an open federal district court judgeship. Freudenthal has submitted three names, one being his wife, Nancy. Details (CQ Politics 05.15.2009). And who are the others? Democrats who are Freudenthal contributors. :-) Details (Wyoming News 05.15.2009). Comment. For my mini-essay on a) the tendency of governors (and so-called "merit" commissions) to find governor's pals (and bar-association bigwigs) to be the "best" people to fill judicial openings and b) the "check" on such cronyism that the "Minnesota Way" provides (in the form of the possibility of contested judicial elections), see, Annals of cronyism: MN's Pawlenty appoints another colleague to bench (The Daily Judge 06.25.2008).
Judge dies in small plane crash. The dead judge's name is Sanford "Sammy" Jones, age 56. He was piloting the plane, flying three teenagers to FLA. One of the teens died in the crash, two survived. Some say the judge's cool thinking after the engine failed and the descent began helped save the lives of the two survivors. Details (AJC 05.17.2009).
Norwegian Independence Day. Today, May 17th, a/k/a "Syttende Mai," is the anniversary of the adoption of Norway's "new" constitution at Eidsvoll in 1814. It is Norway's "national day," the equivalent of our Independence Day. Independence from whom? From the damn Swedes! LLRX.Com, an excellent legal site, contains a useful summary of online legal resources in Norway by Suzanne Thorpe. The summary includes links, including a gateway (Snakker du Norsk?) to the Norwegian courts' sites. Further reading. a) Constitution of May 17, 1814 (English, with amendments); b) Norwegian Independence Day (Norway Post 05.17.2009); c) Thriving Norway Presents an Economic Lesson (NYT 05.13.2009); d) Those 'randy' Swede (not Norwegian) judges; e) Courthouse Fashion, part II: The Viking influence on judicial fashions; f) Annals of Clintonian constructionism -- held, Swede judge didn't pay for 'sex'; g) Law and Norwegians; h) The Half-Norwegian (on the Mother's Side) American Bar Association. i) Should we annex Norway? (see, my extended, highly-persuasive argument at U.S. opens newest national park, in Norway).
Inquest report: judge drowned in 4" of water after night of drinking. "Judge William Everard, 59, was walking back to his holiday cottage in South Creake near Fakenham, Norfolk, alone on Jan 31 when he slipped into the water." Now following an inquest a coroner has concluded that he had a blood alcohol level 2.5 times the DWI limit in the UK and that his intoxicated condition combined with his heart condition and the freezing water "hampered his efforts to scramble out of the stream." There was testimony at the inquest that the good judge had spent over three hours in a local pub following an afternoon of shooting before heading home. Details (UK Telegraph 05.15.2009). Comment. Recently, in a posting titled Yet another judge is charged with drunk driving (The Daily Judge 04.17.2009), I said (gee, it's fun to quote myself), "You all know how to avoid getting caught and avoid going through the ringer [of bad publicity] on this, don't you? Don't drive if you've had anything to drink. I've come to believe it's as simple -- and as necessary -- as that." I guess I should add: "If you're a judge and you've spent several hours drinking in a bar or pub, it's not enough that you don't drive home -- you also shouldn't set out alone to walk home, especially on a dark and stormy night."
Lawyer: What judge did was stupid but he shouldn't be removed. "Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Willis W. Berry demonstrated 'stupidity' by running a real estate business out of his chambers, but it did not rise to the level that the state should strip him of his robe, his attorney argued yesterday...." Details (Philadelphia Inquirer 05.14.2009).
Judge is convicted of corruption. "A special court of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) here on Friday convicted a former judge on corruption charges in a six-year-old case...." The judge in question was former "district judicial magistrate S S Bhardwaj." The court acquitted another judge ("district and sessions judge R M Gupta") in the case. Details (India Times 05.15.2009).
Quote/Misquote of the Day -- herein of the proverbial wise old woman and the wise old man. "Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." -- Judge Sonia Sotomayer, on being a 'Latina judge.' The NYT has posted online the text of the speech by Judge Sotomayer, who is apparently one of a number of (wise?) women President Barack O'Bama is considering as a possible replacement of Justice Souter. The speech is titled A Latina Judge's Voice (NYT 05.15.2009). It was published in 2002 in the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, as part of a special "symposium issue" titled "Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation." Comments. a) Wow! Read that line again: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." If a white male judge said the reverse, he'd be skewered right and left. b) Putting that aside, you'd think Judge Sotomayer, if she is SCOTUS material, would be more careful in her attributions. The judge who made the original statement is not named "Coyle." Rather, it's the late Justice Mary Jeanne Coyne of the Supreme Court of Minnesota. c) And, finally, I don't think the quote is accurate. Read on....
What did Justice Coyne really say? Justices O'Connor and Ginsburg and Judge Sotomayer aren't the only judges who, in my opinion, aren't quite accurate in their quoting of Justice Coyne. One of her former colleagues on SCOMN said the following in a formal law review piece:
"Esther challenged long-standing approaches to problem solving. A former colleague of hers believed [that] 'a wise old man and a wise old woman will come to the same conclusion.' This comment bothered Esther. Her retort was that if this statement was correct, then 'a lot of us wasted our time trying to assure the appointment of women to the bench.'" -- Justice Paul H. Anderson, A Tribute to Justice Esther M. Tomljanovich, 32 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev 1737, 1740 (2005).
Comments. a) The statement that a wise old man and a wise old woman usually will come to the same conclusion is typically attributed to my friend and former boss and mentor, the late Justice Mary Jeanne Coyne of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Here's the way Justice Coyne put it in talks with me after she retired and in a sheet of paper I requested containing i) the typed statement and ii) her autograph: "A wise old woman will make decisions in about the same way as a wise old man." In other words, in the version I believe is accurate, she didn't say they'd come to the same conclusions but that they'd make decisions in about the same way. b) Given that so many prominent people appear to me to have gotten the quote wrong, I don't fault anyone for that mistake, if mistake it is. c) A personal word about "women judges." Many of the women who sit as judges undoubtedly owe their appointments to their being women, but, I hasten to add, many of the men who sit as judges owe their appointments in some sense to being men (and, perhaps, to being pals or allies of the governor who appointed them). Undoubtedly some judges also see themselves as "women judges" or "men judges" -- or, for that matter, as "Latina women judges" or "gay judges" or "Swede judges" or whatever. For the record, I don't believe Justice Coyne was appointed because she was a woman or because she had an Irish surname or because she was a pal of anyone but simply because she was one of the best and smartest lawyers in Minnesota. And, for what it's worth, to my knowledge she didn't refer to herself or see herself as a "woman judge." She was simply a great judge who was a great lawyer who incidentally happened to be a wonderful woman. Further reading. a) On Justice Coyne, see, A 'Marti' toast to a great judge and grand friend (The Daily Judge 12.07.2005); Was Justice Coyne right about that 'wise old woman' sitting as judge? (The Daily Judge 07.19.2007); Justice O'Connor wishes Alito wore a skirt (The Daily Judge 07.07.2006). b) Among my mini-essays on judicial and natural diversity, see, i) A farraginous supreme court ("My ideal state or federal 'final' appellate court would involve, as 'Sir T. Browne' (whoever the heck he was) put it, 'A farraginous concurrence of all conditions, tempers, sexes, and ages'"), and ii) Burtlaw on Pied beauty, pied lawns, pied dogs, pied politics and pied judges (Entry dated Sunday, 05.08.2005, BurtonHanson.Com - scroll down).
Amidst scandal and allegations, a trial court switches to random assignment of cases. The trial court in question is in scandal-plagued Luzerne County, PA, which has seen judges and an administrator plead guilty to felony charges in recent months. See, earlier postings. Assignment was formerly done by the court administrator and "Allegations have been raised that certain attorneys appeared before certain judges a disproportionate number of times," suggesting, I guess, that the assignments were not done fairly. Now, the chief or president judge has instituted a system of computer-generated random assignments of cases. Details (Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader 05.15.2009). Comments. A truly random assignment system, with each judge getting a roughly-equal caseload, is the only way to go. Such a system should be tamper-proof so no functionary -- as has been known to occur -- can diddle with it. Moreover, reassignments based on conflicts, etc., ought to be random. Related reading. New judge in the Blago case in ILL -- judge-shopping? (The Daily Judge 04.09.2009).
Quote of the day. "Isn't that the American way?...Whoever is left standing, whoever was prudent, is always the one who has to pick up the pieces." -- Donald E. Goetz, president of the prudently-run low-flying DeMotte State Bank, a small chain of Indiana banks, on his irritation over the fact that his FDIC insurance will gor from $42,000 last year to $500,000 this year "because of failures in other parts of the country and particularly among national banks." David Segal, We're Dull, Small Banks Say, but Have Profits (NYT 05.12.2009). Comment. As this excellent story illustrates, America's small-town independent bankers, for the most part, weren't suckered in by the financial numbers wizards with their esoteric instruments, promises of easy money, etc. Neither was I. See, BurtLaw compares his prognostications with those of world-class economists (The Daily Judge 12.19.2008). Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan's foolish cheap-credit policies fueled the inflating of the big real estate bubble that finally burst last year, and now Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is, paradoxically, using even cheaper credit to try re-reinflate the bubble (although not to the size it was before it burst). Who paid for the cheap credit that fueled the sub-prime mania and who is paying for the even cheaper credit used to rescue those who are too big to fail? Sadly, it's, among others, the prudent retired people who saved for retirement, resisted the allure of the stock market and kept their savings in bank accounts that, because of the Fed's policies, have paid and pay almost no interest. What's next? I agree with Irwin Stelzer, who says, "Batten down the hatches. America is about to be overwhelmed by an inflationary wave." See, Fed chief looks for moment to apply the brakes (UK Times 05.09.2009). And what will it take to get inflation under control? The last guy to do that, Chairman Paul Volcker, felt it necessary to allow interest rates to reach high double digits to accomplish the task. If that happens again, then those risk-averse retirees -- whose savings have in effect been indirectly taxed (by the Fed's policy of unjustifiably low interest rates) in order to fuel the bubbles of recent years -- may finally get their nuch-deserved turn in the sun.
The latest on hedge-fund billionaire Geo. Soros, the financier of judicial 'reform.' "Readers of American Courthouse know that I (and many others) have often written about the role of groups funded by hedge fund billionaire George Soros in trying to abolish democratic judicial elections across America and to adopt 'merit selection' systems that put lawyers in charge of choosing judges. But his influence in American politics doesn't stop there. Soros and other prominent Democrats are also working to influence the conduct (and therefore the outcome) of elections under the guise of something called the 'Secretary of State Project.'" Details at Dan Pero, Secretary of State Watch (The American Courthouse 05.13.2009).
Bd votes 8-2 to recommend removal of MN judge. The recommendation is based on a determination that the judge, Timothy Blakely, Goodhue County District Court, "referr[ed] dozens of divorce cases to his personal attorney for mediation, an arrangement that allegedly netted him huge savings off his legal bills." The panel that was appointed to find the facts recommended censure and a six-month suspension without pay. The Board, however, recommends the harshest penalty of all, removal. Details (St. Paul Pioneer-Press 05.13.2009). Comment. Two of the 10 board members dissented, calling instead for Judge Timothy Blakely's suspension. That's the wise and humane result.
Most NC judges agree to modest pay cut. Thus far, it appears that "of [NC's] 396 trial and appeals judges, 368 have agreed to a voluntary 0.5 percent salary cut." More (Winston-Salem Journal 05.13.2009).
MN's AG and door-to-door salespeople -- no, I mean door purchases. MN's controversial DFL AG, Lori Swanson, has a warning on the AG Office website urging MN consumers to "beware of the following:...Door-to-door sales....."
Comes word that the legislative auditor has issued a report in response to a request by a GOP legislator for an investigation into some recent big ticket expenditures by Swanson, including $15,000 for two soundproof (and maybe bulletproof) doors for her office. The auditor's response? No need to investigate -- she had the authority to sign off on the purchase. Details (FOX9News 05.13.2009). Comment. For some of my relevant postings on such foolish government spending in the context of the judiciary, see, Annals of judicial chambers makeovers and Reining in those wild-spending judges. And read on....
Courthouse to be closed for judge's funeral. "The Miller County[, ARK] courthouse [in Texarkana] is to be closed for the funeral for Circuit Judge Jim Hudson...." Details (KATV 05.06.2009). Comments. a) When I was a teenager in the 1950's in my small hometown of 3,500 people in west-central Minnesota on the eastern edge of the Great American Prairie, if a sufficiently-prominent man (and I emphasize man) died, the businessmen (and I emphasize men) up and down main street would shut up shop for a couple hours in order to attend the funeral. In some states I suspect it would be a violation of state law to shut down a county courthouse so employees could attend the funeral of a co-worker. More typically, offices would remain open, short-staffed by people who didn't know the deceased or didn't wish to attend the funeral. b) BTW, maybe it's just me, but when a judge attends the funeral of a colleague and friend, I don't think he ought to ask for reimbursement of mileage to and fro the funeral, toll charges, etc. Believe it or not, apparently in some places -- presumably not in Texarkana, ARK -- judges actually have been known to seek reimbursement for these expenses. Want more on the sort of expenses for which our public servants seek reimbursement? Read on....
Annals of better living through government expense accounts. "Some MPs have profited by tens of thousands of pounds by manipulating their taxpayer-funded second homes allowance, it has been reported, and the Commons fees office has been deluged with penny-pinching claims for items including dog food, light bulbs, mock Tudor beams and a lawnmower...." -- From Gordon Brown apologises 'for all MPs' over expenses scandal (UK Times 05.11.2009). See, also, Gordon Brown scuppers secret Labour plan to shield MP expenses (UK Times 05.11.2009). Comments. a) It's amazing how judicial, legislative, executive and administrative political types the world over keep committing the same old public service sins. For links to some of my many postings on judicial expense accounts, judicial junkets, etc., click here. Among my more recent such postings is Judge K and his nemesis both attend judicial conference at Sun Valley, Idaho (The Daily Judge 07.31.2008). b) BTW, if you're an aspiring journalist who wants to keep an eye on judges, etc., their requests for reimbursements of expenses are typically available under the various freedom-of-info laws. For the record, the journalist whose investigations led to the revealing of the MPs' shenanigans started things out a couple years back with a freedom-of-info request; also for the record, she's an American of British parentage who's been living of late in the UK. c) Want more along these lines? Read on....
Annals of toilets as a mark of status within the judicial hierarchy. During boom times "Riverside County government" in CA showed it was responsive to criticism by upgrading from one-ply to two-ply toilet paper in the county's 340 (!!!) public buildings. It now appears that, as we've been saying all along with respect to courthouse toilets, some are more equal than others in these matters. Specifically, ace NYT reporter Jennifer Steinhauer has a piece in today's paper revealing that certain elites within Riverside County government got an even better upgrade (if that's possible). To wit, they were provided with four(Count-'em! One! Two! Three! Four!)-ply toilet paper. Belt-Tightening's Latest Victim is Four-Ply Toilet Tissue (NYT 05.08.2009). Comment. I'm just a Spartan Scandinavian -- I buy 1000-sheet-per-roll Scott-brand one-ply toilet paper. I actually prefer it to the "softer" kind. If my memory is correct, during the years I worked there the employee toilets in the Minnesota Judicial Center were -- consistent with the Scandinavian influence on good government in MN -- furnished with one-ply toilet paper. (I have no idea, and don't care to know, whether SCOMN judges, each of whom has a private in-chambers bathroom, are furnished with two- or four-ply paper.) Ms. Steinhauer's research suggests that four-ply is "less than a third of a penny per sheet more expensive than two-ply." Leaving aside the question whether perhaps the county ought to downgrade, across the board, to one-ply, I ask, Is that "less than a third a penny per sheet more" for the four-ply tissue a tiny sum -- or not? It all depends, I'd guess. I have no idea whether people who use four-ply use more "sheets" per day than people who use two-ply, and I have no idea whether people who use two-ply use more than those who use one-ply. But, assuming the one-plyers don't use more than the two-plyers, an extra penny for every three sheets ain't small, er, change, when a unit of government buys "half a million rolls a year." Further reading.
Are judges 'perfectly suited' for making jelly? "He...believes judges are perfectly suited for making jelly and gardening. 'I feel peace when I'm pruning plants or stirring a pot of mayhaws,' he said. 'My mind is focused on what I'm doing, not the capital murder case coming up.'" -- The "he" in the above teaser is 63-year-old Liberty County District Court Judge Rusty Hight, whose secret prize-winning jelly is made from "mayhaws," a "tart, marble-sized crimson fruit" found in the swamps 40 miles east of Houston. Cindy Horswell, Texas judge's award-winning jelly rules (Houston Chronicle 05.10.2009).
Wednesday Afternoon Courthouse Smackdown? "Two civil court judges got into an uncivil altercation this afternoon at the George Allen Courthouse downtown. It was a reported shoving match between Judge Carlos Cortez of the 44th Civil District Court and Judge Eric V. Moyé of the 14th Civil District Court...." Kevin Krause, Smackdown in the Dallas County courthouse: two judges go after each other (Crime Blog - Dallas Morning News 05.06.2009).
Quote-of-the-day. "'All kinds of little piddly stuff was just kind of worked to death, and that kind of demoralized people,' said one former prosecutor with the public integrity unit. 'The flip side of that was that we were probably overly aggressive about things that weren't crimes of the century. You could argue that the Stevens case is an example of that. It was a forms case -- a guy got his financial disclosure forms wrong.'" -- From Charlie Savage, Elite Unit's Problems Pose Test for Attorney General (NYT 05.08.2009). Comment. For a number of years my voice was one of the few voices suggesting that, while Rome has been burning, "the feds" have been wasting resources diddling around prosecuting judges and other state and local officials over misdeeds that the states are fully capable of policing. More and more, I'm hearing from people who are saying they now realize there was more to what I was saying than they believed.
It's elementary, my dear Eaton. SCOWIS has held that Judge Robert E. Eaton erred in allowing his mom to sit on the jury in a criminal trial over which he presided. The case is State v. Tody (No. 2007AP400-CR), the opinion in which is summarized here (Wisconsin Law Journal 05.06.2009).
Judge: 'I don't believe in justice.' "I am a sessions judge in the Lahore High Court. I should tell you at the start, so that you understand my position regarding these events, that despite my profession I don't believe in justice, am no longer consumed by a desire to be what in law school we called 'a sword of the Lord'; nor do I pretend to have perfectly clean hands, so am not in a position to view the judicial system with anything except a degree of tolerance. I render decisions based on the relative pressures brought to bear on me...." -- The opening paragraph from "About a burning girl," one of the stories in Daniyal Mueenuddin's short story collection, Other Rooms, Other Wonders (2009). The story is reprinted here in The Drawbridge. About Daniyal Mueenuddin. "Daniyal Mueenuddin was brought up in Lahore, Pakistan and Elroy, Wisconsin. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Yale Law School, his stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope, and The Best American Short Stories 2008, selected by Salman Rushdie. For a number of years he practiced law in New York. He now lives on a farm in Pakistan's southern Punjab." -- From an author profile accompanying this review of his collection at TheOxfordBookstore.Com.
Shouldn't justices' votes on petitions for review be a matter of public record? A Texas legislator, Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, thinks so and has introduced a bill requiring SCOTX to reveal how all nine justices vote on each petition for review. It takes four "grants" of nine justices to get review. The court denies 87% of the petitions but the public is left in the dark as to how the individual justices voted on each petition. Details (Austin American-Statesman 05.04.2009). Comment. Here's a relevant piece I posted back in 2006:
When a state supreme court justice is ill. "California Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin, who's recovering from skull surgery, won't take the bench during oral arguments next week, making it the third month in a row he's been absent, causing delays and prompting lower court judges to take his place in two cases...He's eligible to participate in decision-making even if he's not present during arguments, and has done that in all but two of the 14 cases the high court has heard since January...Under high court rules, attorneys on both sides must agree to Chin's absence. If either side doesn't agree, George, as chief justice, can delay oral arguments or assign a state appellate court judge to fill in for Chin. The U.S. Supreme Court has different rules. Lower federal court judges do not fill in for absent justices." More (San Jose Mercury News 03.03.2006). Comment. One attorney who did not agree to Chin's absence from oral arguments is quoted as saying, "This practice of relying on the justice listening to a tape of the argument is good, but not the same as the justice being able to ask his own questions when they come up during oral argument." I have mixed feelings about that. Oral arguments occasionaly make a difference but their importance is often exaggerated by advocates. Moreover, it's not as if the parties aren't given a full opportunity to make all their points in their written briefs. I'm more troubled when a justice doesn't attend conference, but simply provides the other justices with his votes, in writing, in advance. Presence is especially critical at conferences on petitions for review, less so at conferences following oral arguments on a case being reviewed on the merits. Typically, the final decisions on petitions for review are made at conference, with the order granting or denying review being circulated shortly thereafter. If a judge votes in absentia on petitions, for all practical purposes he foregoes the opportunity to change his vote on a petition and to change the minds of others during conference. On the other hand, votes are temporary at conferences following oral arguments on cases being reviewed on the merits, with a justice being free to change his mind and to try change the minds of others during the opinion-circulation process. Incidentally, I believe strongly that the order denying or granting each petition for review ought to state not only each judge's vote on the petition but the names of any judges voting in absentia. There is no valid reason this ought not be a matter of public record as part of the court's obligation to be not just independent but accountable. [Emphasis supplied.]
More on the public's right to know judge's decisions, reasons. It shouldn't take prodding from the legislatures for state supreme courts to make the votes of individual justices on petitions for review a matter of public record. Shockingly, many states still keep the public in the dark on such important matters of such clear interest to the voters in ensuring that our common law courts are not just independent but also accountable. This specific view is part and parcel of our general belief in more, rather than less, transparency in the judicial process. As part of that opinion, we also believe a) all appellate decisions on the merits and all decisions dismissing appeals, whether by an intermediate state appellate court or by a state supreme court, should be by written opinion, b) all opinions should set forth sufficient facts and reasons so the public may understand and fairly evaluate the court's decision, c) all opinions should be published and available online, and d) all parties should be free to cite any such opinions "for what they're worth." A state supreme court, which decides which appeals it hears, should abide by the same rules with respect to appeals it grants and decides but shouldn't have to file an opinion when it simply denies a petition for leave to appeal. However, a) the votes of each justice on such a petition should be a matter of public record and b) any justice who wishes to dissent in a written opinion from the order denying review or who otherwise wishes to explain his/her vote on the petition ought to be free to do so. Further reading. For a sample of our many postings dealing with the much-neglected topic of judicial transparency and accountability, click here.
Annals of specialized courts. "In about two months, Rock County will become the first in Wisconsin to have a special court for military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder...." Details (New Richmond News 05.04.2009).
Should SCOTUS justices be limited to one 18-year term? Matthew J. Franck, writing in Bench Memos (National Review 05.03.2009), bemoaning the Presidential practice of appointing relatively inexperienced but ideologically-encamped youngsters to SCOTUS, thereby ensuring Presidential influence for decades to come, says he's "drawn toward the idea of eliminating the federal judiciary's tenure 'during good Behaviour' and instituting 18-year terms for Supreme Court justices, with one seat coming vacant every two years." He suggests that this would eliminate the premium on youth over experience, would "give everyone reason to hope for some influence over judicial behavior in the near term," might improve public understanding of the nature of judicial power, and, to the extent that the Court continued to be "just another political institution," it would at least allow the political process to play a role in the composition of the Court "on a regular basis."
Our resident Thoreauvean on SCOTUS, Justice Souter will retire to his version of Walden Pond. "The black flies were swarming outside Justice David H. Souter's house on a dirt road here last week, and the house itself -- with peeling paint, rotting wood and tattered shades pulled low -- looked only slightly more seductive than a mud hut. Yet to Justice Souter, who told President Obama last week that he would retire from the Supreme Court in June and return to rural New Hampshire at the relatively young age of 69, this is apparently heaven...." From an interesting piece in today's NYT, which I encourage y'all to read. A No-Frills Embrace for a Low-Key Justice (NYT 05.04.2009). Comment. When Souter was nominated, I got a call from the ABA "investigators" who were going to rate his qualifications. Souter is a friend of John S. Kitchen, my now-former brother-in-law, a prominent attorney in New Hampshire (with whom I was happy to renew my acquaintance last summer at my daughter's wedding). I was glad to pass along to the ABA the hearsay about Johnny's high regard of him.
Third major trial in judicial corruption scandal begins. Another trial in the judicial corruption scandal in Greece begins today, "with five people in the dock, including former MP Petros Mantouvalos and former judge Evangelos Kalousis." Details (Athens News Agency 05.04.2009).
May a complainant in sexual assault case refuse to remove her veil during testimony? Interesting news story at Toronto Star (05.01.2009). Comment. Wouldn't this be a no-brainer in the U.S., given that a defendant has a) a right to face his accuser and b) a right to have a jury base its assessment of the complainant's credibility on all relevant factors, including her physical demeanor during her testimony?
History of political campaign blogging. Some credit the Howard Dean presidential campaign in 2004 with maintaining the first campaign blog. Others cite as the first campaign blog one maintained by a congressional candidate in 2002. Actually, one has to go back earlier, to 2000. I was a nonpartisan candidate for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election in November 2000. I began planning my first law blog, BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else, one of the pioneering law blogs, in 1999, but I delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. My 2000 campaign website, the no-longer-extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign blog (weblog or web journal), i.e., a blog actually written and maintained by the candidate, not by some staffer. I like to think it was the first campaign blog (a/k/a weblog or web journal), although it's quite possible someone else independently came up with the idea and executed it contemporaneously in 2000 also. Because most "web archivers" were not in business in 2000, there has been no web record of my campaign website and campaign blog. For archival purposes and in the public interest, I have reproduced and reposted as near as I can, given software changes, the backed-up contents of what was VoteHans.Com as it appeared in 2000. Here are the links: Campaign Home Page; Campaign Journal; Earlier Journal Entries; Even Earlier Journal Entries; Earliest Journal Entries; Endorsements and Contributions; Mandatory Retirement of Judges; Judicial Independence and Accountability; Questions and Answers; BRH Speech; Emerson for Judges; Quotations for Judges; MN Const. Art. VI; About BRH.
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