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 worked one year as Hennepin County District Court Special Term (Civil) Law Clerk, two years as law clerk for the late Justice C. Donald Peterson of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and over 26 years as Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Supreme Court. He was a nonpartisan candidate for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election in November 2000 and a liberal anti-war candidate for Congress in the Republican primary in the Minnesota Third District in September 2004. He was one of the first law bloggers (blawgers). He began planning his first blog, BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else in 1999 but delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. His campaign website, the no-longer extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first such use of a weblog or blog. In 2004 he also used the personal blog format in his primary campaign for Congress. That site, BurtonHanson.Com, has morphed into a personal political opinion blog and also contains the archives of his 2004 campaign web pages and blog postings.
Judge's claim of sex bias is denied. "In a unanimous decision, a state appeals court ruled yesterday an Essex County judge was not the victim of gender discrimination when she was reassigned. The Appellate Division ruled that Superior Court Judge Francine Schott had no case against the state. The tenured jurist did not suffer substantial harm when she went from hearing civil cases to handling criminal matters and lost the title of 'executive judge.'" More (Newark Star-Ledger 07.14.2006). Comment. The judge vows an appeal. For a case in which a male judge claimed he was the victim of sex bias in being transferred, see, Panel of judges rejects ex-judge's claim of bias in transfer.
Ethics essentials for new judges. "Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts: Ethics Essentials, a Primer for New Judges on Conflicts, Outside Activities, and other Potential Pitfalls (26 pages, PDF)....emphasizes the importance of understanding and observing ethics standards." Ethics Essentials (Administrative Office for U.S. Courts via beSpacific.Com).
Annals of Great American Trials. "During closing arguments earlier Thursday, [special prosecutor Pattye] High displayed one of [Former Creek County District Judge Donald] Thompson's robes, which had been seized as evidence, and showed the jury that its pockets had been slit inside, so that someone wearing it could easily access areas underneath. Holding the robe, she stuck her hands through the holes in its pockets. She also attempted to discredit defense attorneys' arguments that a penis pump Thompson was accused of using didn't work. She removed her jacket and attached the cylinder of the pump to her arm, pumped the mechanism and let the cylinder hang from her arm. 'See? It works,' High said...." Thompson, who gained world-wide fame as the so-called "penis-pumping judge," was found guilty by a jury of four counts of indecent exposure and was sentenced by the presiding judge to a year in prison. The "trial that lasted nearly three weeks and saw some of Thompson's former jurors, court personnel and law enforcement officers testifying against the former judge." More (Tulsa World 06.30.2006). Related. Penis-pumping judge's attorney won't face criminal jury tampering charge (Sapulpa Daily Herald 07.13.2006). Earlier entries. A tabloid's take on judge charged with MWP (masturbating while presiding) - The Holmesian angle on the MWP case - Trial soon for judge charged with using penis-pump during trial? -Latest on case of the disgraced "penis-pumping" judge - A discussion of Erectile Dysfunction: Vacuum Constriction Devices (MedicineNet.Com).
Annals of specialized courts. "Nasscom today called for setting up of fast track and special courts for dealing with cyber crimes. 'We are recommending setting up of fast track and special courts for dealing with cyber crimes since conviction of criminals is more important than the severity of the punishment,' Nasscom president Kiran Karnik said...." More (IndLaw 07.14.2006).
Conductor to judge choir meet. "Vietnamese conductor Pham Hong Hai will join musicians from around the world to judge performances at an international choir festival to be held in Xiamen City, China tomorrow...." More (Viet Nam News Daily 07.14.2006). Comment. If conductors are allowed to judge, then simple fairness requires allowing judges to conduct.
Judge is accused of insulting Islam. "Malaysia's opposition Islamic party on Friday accused a top judge of insulting Islam by ruling that a Muslim boy need not wear a turban to prove his faith...." More (Jerusalem Post 07.14.2006).
Man on trial for theft is caught stealing judge's keys. "A 61-year-old German on trial for theft got himself into more trouble when he stole from the judge during his court hearing. Police in Coburg said that while facing her at the bench, the man pocketed a bunch of keys from the judge, who did not notice until he had left the room. When confronted by court officials in the toilet, the man, who had a string of convictions for theft, told them he had been shocked to discover the keys in his pocket...." More (SBS.Com 07.14.2006).
Famous London courthouse to become luxury hotel. "Away from the celebrated cases - the suspected terrorists, gangland killers and wayward politicians -- Bow Street magistrates court's bread and butter has always been petty criminals. And so it was again this morning, during the last session before the court closed to be turned into a hotel, that a series of small-timers accused of falling foul of the law appeared amid the oak panelling of court one. The chief magistrate, Tim Workman -- the 33rd in a continuous line of justices to have presided over the court since it was established by Sir Thomas De Veil in 1735 -- opened the session by remarking that, in that time, Bow Street had become the most famous magistrates court in the world, playing a part 'in some of the most notorious and high-profile cases.' Many of the staff and retired police officers in court today said they were sad the court would not be preserved as a museum. Instead it has been sold to an Irish developer who has promised a 'sympathetic' overhaul...Few were keen to exchange the Bow Street history for the 'soulless' Horseferry Road building. But Judge Workman maintained a fittingly stoical approach...." More (Guardian 07.14.2006). Comment. Worth reading for its colorful detail.
Scandal rocks judiciary. "The prosecution is questioning a high court judge and a number of other public officials, including high-ranking police officers and state prosecutors, in an investigation over bribes from a local lobbyist in return for influence peddling...Officials at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors¡¯ Office said Thursday they recently summoned 12 public officials for questioning over the corruption scandal, while issuing overseas travel bans on 10 of them. The list includes a presiding judge of a regional high court, who investigators identify as ``A,¡¯¡¯ and several other incumbent or retired justices of lower courts, and a number of police officers and prosecutors...." More (Korea Times 07.13.2006).
Woman 'forced' to remove bra to gain entry to courthouse? "Security guards at the Kenosha County Courthouse have been retrained on screening policies after a woman complained she had to remove her bra to enter the building...." More (WBAY-TV - WI 07.13.2006). Comments. a) When we headlined a posting Judges frown on underwear in courtroom, we did not intend courthouse security screeners to take us literally and "force" women to remove their brassieres. b) Maidenform, the bra company, used to run ads with an "I dreamed" theme in magazines -- e.g., "I dreamed I wore my Maidenform bra in the courtroom," accompanied by a photograph depicting the dreamer, an attractive model, as she might appear to an objective observer of the dream -- i.e., in our example, wearing, say, a size 34B demi bra while using all visible powers of persuasion available to her in arguing the merits of a motion. If you are a female attorney and there's a chance you might dream of yourself wearing not a bra but a swimsuit while arguing a motion, here are some helpful tips, from "a judge's perspective," on how to act in that dream:
...Keep shoulders back, [wear a] big smile and always make eye contact with each judge. You can be a little more relaxed with swimsuit [than when wearing an evening gown] but stay very poised. A judge can see everything in a swimsuit...[including] the way you stop and turn, the way you position your feet, and even your self esteem. I like to see taupe shoes with solid color swimsuits. I do take into consideration how the suit fits but I focus on how you carry yourself in the swimsuit. Does it show that you are comfortable?
Court rules in re private judges. "The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday... said [that] private judges could continue to hear nonjury trials, but not jury trials...The justices also ruled that counties could not allow private judges to use...public facilities at the taxpayers' expense...." More (Cleveland Plain Dealer 07.13.2006). Earlier. Judges feud in public view over private judges' use of courthouse. Comment. According to the Plain-Dealer, one private judge, a retired common pleas judge, charges litigants a $1,200 base fee, plus $300 per hour. "[T]hat didn't deter the lawyers from the richest law firms [from using a private judge. T]hey considered the added expense worth it to have their cases heard by a judge they respected, a start date that wouldn't change at the last minute, and a full-time trial without interruptions from the demanding criminal docket." Interestingly, "the marketplace," which lives by cost-benefit analysis, seems generally to place a higher value on retired judges than does Government, which requires their retirement no matter how experienced and wise and brilliant they are. See, BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges.
Inmates in training program do work on judge's house. "Two Orleans Parish Prison inmates participating in a government-financed program to learn construction skills were put to work Monday and Tuesday at the Octavia Street home of 1st City Court Judge Angelique Reed. The assignment, though, didn't come directly from the Opportunities Industrialization Center of Greater New Orleans Inc., which operates the training program, the head of the nonprofit said. Philip Baptiste, the center's executive director, said he 'loaned' the workers to the judge's uncle, David Reed, an OIC contractor who owns a private company overseeing construction of an addition to his niece's home. But Baptiste said he did not know Reed intended to dispatch the inmates to the judge's home. It's 'improper involvement,' Baptiste said after he was asked about the inmates who, under the supervision of a criminal sheriff's deputy, were seen standing next to Reed's pool Tuesday morning...." More (New Orleans Times-Picayune 07.12.2006).
Judges frown on underwear in courtroom. More (Fort Wayne News Sentinel 07.12.2006). Comment. Who knew? Earlier. Durham courts follow lead of NBA. Further reading. Judges typically know they should wear robes in court, suits to public functions, etc., but understandably need help in some other areas of fashion, e.g., judicial swimwear. Some of the answers to their concerns about swimwear may be found at BurtLaw's Law and Swimsuits.
Chief Justice warns press: Don't ridicule us! "Chief Justice Evan Gicheru has warned newspapers against ridiculing the courts. Speaking on Thursday after admitting 70 advocates to the roll, the CJ said his attention had been drawn to several newspaper columns that continued to ridicule the courts 'over their exercise of the discretionary jurisdiction.' Such conduct, he cautioned, may amount to an offence relating to judicial proceedings, which can attract a three-year sentence if found guilty...." More (The Standard - Kenya 07.07.2006 via Legal Brief 07.12.2006). Comment. As Justice Frankfurter said, "Weak characters ought not to be judges." If a judge can't stand the heat in the courthouse square on a hot July afternoon, he ought to remove his robe and try some other line of work.
Judicial candidate rakes in $300,000. "Buoyed by a flood of building-industry money just before new judicial campaign-finance limits became law, property-rights lawyer John Groen has gained a huge financial advantage in his effort to unseat Chief Justice Gerry Alexander of the state Supreme Court. Public-disclosure reports filed by the candidates this week showed that Groen raised nearly four times as much money as Alexander -- $301,115 to $76,645 -- by the end of June...." More (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 07.12.2006). Comment. We like to believe that voters will see through any attempts to buy an election. We're not troubled that they, rather than the governor, have the ultimate say as to who serves as judges. But, you say, they'll base their choices on "politics." When, we reply, did governors fail to consider "politics" in naming judges? Ultimately, either way, the people get a government that is no better or worse than they are. And this way, they have no one to praise or blame other than themselves.
Courthouses -- the beautiful and the damned. "James Robert [Dearman, in visiting courthouses in all 67 Alabama counties,] noticed timeline trends for construction. 'Most courthouses in Alabama were built in the 1900 to 1920 time frame, or in the 1950s and 1960s. All built in the first two decades of the 20th century are very beautiful with large domes, big clocks and beautiful brickwork, including Limestone, Colbert, Fayette, Clay and Chambers counties,' he said. 'Then, in the 1950s and 1960s, the idea that everything had to be modernized came around,' he said. 'A lot of beautiful courthouses were torn down and modern, ugly courthouses were rebuilt.' He cited Russellville in Franklin County, Tuscaloosa in Tuscaloosa County, Dale in Ozark County and Cullman in Cullman County. 'Probably the worst is the Chilton County Courthouse in Clanton and ours, Madison County in Huntsville.'" More (Huntsville Times - AL 07.12.2006).
Court official resigns amid embezzlement investigation. "Springfield's municipal court administrator has resigned as an investigation continues into an estimated $450,000 in missing court funds. Janice Piper, an employee of the court for 19 years, was one of two court employees placed on administrative leave June 21 as the city launched an investigation into funds that went missing from the court over a 2 1/2-year period. She resigned Tuesday at an administrative hearing over her management of the department. Piper said she was led to believe if she hadn't quit, she would have been fired. She denies any role in a possible embezzlement...Piper's resignation came the same morning her attorney said Springfield police had said she was no longer a suspect in the criminal investigation...." More (News-Leader - MO 07.12.2006). Comment. We wonder how many court systems around the country are a scandal-of-this-sort-waiting-to-happen.
Judicial portraits. "The greatest compliment to a portrait artist comes from those who know the subject best. When Jeanne Zvetina unveiled her paintings of three judges for the North County Bar Association['s Distinguished Judges Gallery at the courthouse in Vista], she had no idea how they would be received. She had painted them from photographs because each of the judges was deceased. But family members who came to the dedications at the Vista courthouse told her how much they loved the images, she said...Zvetina and her husband, Judge Raymond F. Zvetina, moved to Rancho Santa Fe about two years ago from Del Mar. She grew up in La Jolla...." More (San Diego Union-Tribune 07.12.2006). Comment. We take it as a given that all judges are distinguished and we trust that eventually every judge who ever served at the Vista courthouse will be honored in this way, just as everyone who ever held an actor's union card, including Judge Judy, seems to be (and ought to be!) immortalized at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Maryland judges impress the great Scots. "The terms, the protocol and even the animals were unfamiliar at the Royal Highland Show's livestock judging contest in Scotland, but two Maryland teenagers adapted to earn top awards at the international competition. Rebecca Hamilton of Lisbon and Maria Stevens of Woodsboro, both 17, competed as a team at the show, receiving points for their ability to evaluate beef cattle and to explain their rationale for rating the animals...." The girls had to judge some breeds not common in the U.S., including "Limousin bulls, Belgian Blue heifers and Galloway heifers." They also had to use the different Scottish standards: "Scottish judges like much more muscle mass than Americans." More (Baltimore Sun 07.12.2006). Comment. Strangely enough, we've suspected over the years that American common law judges who are of Scottish descent are more inclined to favor litigants with "much more muscle mass." Why is that?
Four judges suspended, nineteen forced to retire. "In a meeting held yesterday, four judges were suspended from the High Judicial Council (HJC) due to alleged professional and conduct violations. Three have been referred to the Interrogation Council at the request of the Minister of Justice, Dr. Ghazi al-Agbari, with the Council’s resolution against the fourth delayed until all required evidence is available. The HJC also commissioned a report on all similar cases against which legal measures are required. At the same meeting, 19 judges were forced to retire by the HJC, 18 due to reaching the legal age of retirement, and one referred for early retirement...." More (Yemen Observer 07.12.2006).
Baby left in box at courthouse. "Police in Nyagatare [in eastern Rwanda] are searching for a woman who dumped her new-born baby boy in a box near the courthouse in Nyagatare town last week. 'The baby was found in the box already dead and I made an alarm which attracted the residents and the police but still the one owner of the baby has not yet been identified,' said Kayibanda Dismus, an eyewitness. One resident said the increase of prostitution and unemployment could be factors leading to unwanted pregnancies and abortions. Another witness said these incidents are becoming common in Nyagatere...." More (All Africa 07.11.2006). Comment. So many problems eventually make their way to the courthouse steps.
Iowa trumps MN and other states with its top state court website. "The Justice Served® 2006 Top 10 Court Website Awards are here. In this our eighth year of judging, we reviewed over 3,500 court websites to recognize the best court online offerings in the world...." Top ten court websites awards for 2006 (Project Justice 07.11.2006). Top honor goes to the Supreme Court of Singapore. Best court law library website award goes to CT Judicial Branch Law Libraries. Iowa won among state courts: "They earned this distinction with a clean, well organized site that boasts video appellate arguments, appellate opinions, trial court records, payment of traffic & minor criminal offenses, email notification subscription, and professional regulations. Records search and retrieval are free, with fee-based enhancements." Iowa Judicial Branch. "'Since 1998 when we began our website, it has been a central access point for public information about the courts. Now it's also becoming a central access point for court services. The site offers many useful services such as online court records, payment of fines, and professional regulation. In the near future, we plan to add more features, including more self-help forms, online jury check-in, and E-filing and document retrieval,' said Chief Justice [Louis] Lavorato." More (Iowa Politics 07.11.2006).
Dog saves courthouse from deliveryman. "Corporate Express, of Kansas City, Mo., arrived at the Shawnee County Courthouse this morning with a paper delivery when a Sheriff's Office K-9 detected explosive materials in the delivery at about 11:15 a.m. The driver, who wouldn't identify himself, said he invited sheriff's officers to go through the entire truck after the dog 'hit' on a pallet of paper he had unloaded onto the sidewalk. Sheriff Richared Barta explained that a K-9 trained in bomb detection, who was assigned to courthouse duty, got a 'hit' on a box of copy paper, and that 'hit' was confirmed by a second dog...." More (Topeka Capital-Journal 07.11.2006). Comment. According to their handlers, "the dogs, Bette and Rico, hit on traces of nitrates that had been absorbed into the pallets from the floor of the truck...[T]he origin of the nitrates was traced to another truck that delivered the paper to Corporate Express, and came aboard the truck in Topeka on the pallets as they were transferred from truck to truck." The deliveryman was delayed three hours while the investigation was completed. Dogs rule.
Timeless historian of law, jurisprudence. "In his inaugural lecture as Downing Professor of the Laws of England at Cambridge University in 1888, [Frederic William Maitland (1850-1906)] explained the current antipathy between legal and historical thinking and how he proposed to close that gap. He said, What is really required of the practising lawyer is not, save in the rarest cases, a knowledge of medieval law as it was in the Middle Ages, but rather a knowledge of medieval law as interpreted by modern courts to suit modern facts...That process by which old principles and old phrases are charged with a new content is from the lawyer's point of view an evolution of the true intent and meaning of the old law; but from the historian's point of view it is almost of necessity a process of perversion and misunderstanding...." From V. Sundaram's piece on Maitland, who died 100 years ago this year. More (NewsTodayIndia 07.11.2006).
Is the judge's seat in the ivory tower? "Addressing a batch of directly recruited district judges here, Justice [P.D.] Dinakaran [of the Madras High Court] said judges should avoid delay in disposal of cases. 'Long adjournments kill the spirit of the litigant and therefore red tapism should be avoided,' he said. 'The judicial seat is not an ivory tower and the purpose of sitting is not to please anybody,' he said, adding, 'justice according to conscience is expected from every judge.'" More (Hindu 07.11.2006). Comment. The judge's seat itself is not an ivory tower, but is it in the ivory tower? We believe it is -- or ought to be. [Note the "brilliant" Robertsian use of the dash in the last sentence.]
It's good when judges cringe. "[Jim Guigli of Carmichael, a] retired mechanical designer with a penchant for poor prose took a tired detective novel scene and made it even worse, earning him top honors in San Jose State University's annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for bad writing...The judges were most impressed, or revolted perhaps, by his passage about a comely woman who walks into a detective's office:
Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.
More (San Jose Mercury News 07.11.2006).
How often are common law judges 'wowed'? A quick web search suggests "judges" are "wowed" quite often. Consider these headlines: a) "Artist's beadwork wows the judges at Red Earth Festival" (Eureka Springs Times-Echo 07.10.2006). b) "Celia wows award judges [with her customer-focused attitude to win a VERTEX Service Excellence Award]" (The Whitehaven News 07.07.2006). c) "Beauties wow judges with poise" (The Star Online 07.03.2006). d) "Hot & Spicy: Cooks wow crowd, judges with tasty chili" (McKinney Courier-Gazette 07.02.2006). e) "Philly 11-Year-Old Wows Judges On 'America's Got Talent'" (NBC 10 Philadelphia 06.29.2006). Comment. We all know that common law judges aren't often, if ever, "wowed" by the performance of trial counsel, by the appellate briefs, by the oral advocates on appeal. Why is this? Does it reflect poorly on counsel? Are creative counsel just too damned worried about this or that to tap into their creative well? If we could get the "wow factor" up, might fewer judges complain about their poverty-level wages? Might they say, "My pay isn't just in moolah! It's in that indefinable -- oh, how should I put it? -- 'wow effect' that I sometimes witness when a world-class Norwegian-American attorney delivers a devastatingly effective argument, causing my colleagues and I to march out quietly afterwards, our hearts palpitating to the same martial beat, as if whispering to each other, 'That is what it is all about -- wa-wa-wow-wonderful Norwegian-American legal greatness!'" [Note the "brilliant" Robertsian use of the dashes in the quoted last sentence.]
Should we televise judicial awards show? "Gerry L. Alexander, chief justice of the Washington state Supreme Court, was honored by his peers with a prestigious lifetime achievement award Monday at the annual 9th Circuit Judicial Conference. Alexander is the first Washington state resident to win the American Inns of Court Ninth Circuit Professionalism Award, which goes to a lawyer or judge 'whose life and practice display sterling character and unquestioned integrity.'" More (Seattle Times 07.11.2006). Comment. "His nominating packet includes 118 pages of supporting documents, according to Cindy Dennis, awards and scholarships coordinator for the American Inns of Court, a foundation established to advance legal education. Most were from colleagues in Washington state, such as Chief Justice Robert Lasnik of the U.S. District Court in Seattle. One letter was from Gerald VandeWalle, chief justice of the North Dakota Supreme Court. Others came from chief justices of the supreme courts of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Wisconsin." We assume the Chief had nothing to do with the nomination process, that others nominated him entirely on their own and compiled the 118 pages of supporting documents, and that he was stunned to find he'd been nominated, and humbled to find he'd won. We remember attending an Optimist Club's dinner honoring my son and some other outstanding seniors, two selected by teachers at each school in the club's area. The fellow who introduced each kid had a few words to say about most of them. Then he unrolled a long, long printout of laudatory information, certificates, resumes, awards, etc., that he said one boy's mother had faxed him, extolling her boy's virtues. Pretty embarrassing for the boy. Query: Might an "American Judicial Walk of Fame" be a great tourist attraction for some court, drawing judicial groupies from all around the globe? It could be a money-making proposition, sort of like a museum gift shop, with friends who want to "immortalize" a favorite judge there being required to pay a modest fee, say, $5,000. The Judicial Walk of Fame Gift Shop could sell judicial bobble-head dolls, autographed copies of opinions by judges, etc., etc. The profits could be used to supplement the shockingly-low salaries of judges and help fund a dream project, The Big Court, a retirement court where the individual units would look like courtrooms by day but that could easily be converted to bedrooms at night through the use of Murphy beds, etc. During the day the judges would occupy themselves hearing moot court cases from local law schools. They would be allowed to play hooky and head for the golf course each afternoon without reporting their time off "the bench." Nurses would be required to address them as "Your Honor" -- or "Your Lordship." [Note brilliant Robertsian use of dash.]
Judicial candidate arrested for DWI. "A candidate for a Comanche County judge position faces charges of driving under the influence after being arrested in Altus. 63-year-old Lawton attorney Daniel Hutcherson was detained after a deputy observed him driving in the Jackson County Courthouse parking lot. According to the Altus times, Hutcherson refused to take a breath test and was stumbling and unsteady and fell aseep in a chair while being questioned...." More (KFDX-TV 07.11.2006). Comment. The primary is in a couple weeks, the first court appearance in September. Hmm, how can we spin gold from flax, how can we pull a mug of victory brew from the beer keg labelled defeat? Perhaps issue a statement along these lines: "Mistakes may have been made. I apologize for being human. But more importantly, I promise I'm going to learn from this. I'm going to make sure it makes me a better judge. Now I'll have seen it from the proverbial both sides, from in and out and upside down, from the prosecutor's side and from the defendant's side. Who knows but what this was all part of some Godly plan to make sure I am really ready to be a judge who sees both sides and strikes the balance true. Show you're a forgiving person. Vote Hutch!"
Courthouse happenings: selling drugs while standing in line. "Police say Deana Ayres, 25, sold ice methamphetamine to Charles 'Bubba' Groze Jr., 40, of New Caney while she was waiting [in line at the Montgomery County Courthouse] to talk to an assisant DA about her [traffic] ticket. Deputies overheard their conversation and confroned Ayres, who admitted selling the drugs and fingered Groze as her customer. 'She told us she needed money to pay her tickets.'" More (Houstonist 07.11.2006).
How about remote parking for jurors? "As if jury duty weren't already an inconvenience, jurors soon could be required to ride a Palm Tran bus three-fourths of a mile to get to the courthouse in the morning. And when they're finished for the day, they'll have to wait for an open-air trolley to take them back to their cars. County commissioners will consider a plan Tuesday that would require jurors, beginning next month, to park several blocks away from the courthouse, across busy Okeechobee Boulevard at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. The reason? A downtown parking crunch. County officials say there isn't enough room for jurors at the judicial parking garage and other overflow lots around the courthouse...." More (Palm Beach Post 07.11.2006). Comment. This is sort of typical of the way jurors are treated. Small wonder that so many people do not respond to jury summonses. Other good ways to discourage people from responding and to sour those who do serve: make jurors sit around in a windowless basement room all day for two weeks doing nothing; pay them $15 a day to cover transportation and parking and meals in a city where parking in a lot costs $12 a day; make them sit through a boring orientation that basically tells them nothing; subject them to all manner of irrelevant, intrusive questions as to their psychiatric histories, their private matters, etc.; treat them like children in a very bad pre-school.
Latest on Illinois judge's libel suit against paper. "Illinois Chief Justice Robert Thomas may ask for as much as $7.7 million in damages if he is successful in his libel suit against the Kane County (Ill.) Chronicle, the Chicago Sun-Times revealed Monday. Thomas, a former Chicago Bears player, is suing the Chronicle's parent company, its managing editor and columnist Bill Page, alleging he was libeled by three 2004 columns in which Page suggested Thomas acted improperly in the case of a state's attorney who was before the Supreme Court on a disciplinary charge...[T]he Sun-Times reported that an economist hired by Thomas' attorney estimates that damage from the libel suit could cost 'at minimum' $1.5 million in lost earnings in a post-Supreme Court legal career. The study...concluded that if the column's charges prevented Thomas from winning retention for two additional terms, his lost earnings would range from $3.6 million to $4.1 million...Thomas' losses would be the same if the columns prevented him from becoming a federal judge...Thomas' potential losses could climb as high as $7.7 million, if the column's charges prevented him from retiring in 2010 to become one of Chicago's highest-paid private attorneys...." More (Editor & Publisher 07.11.2006). Earlier. Chief Justice doesn't get mad -- he sues - Illinois judges opine on key issue in Chief Justice's defamation suit. Comment. I've been the target of defamatory statements but haven't so much as complained about them, much less contemplated suing. My view: if you can't take abuse in the arena, you ought not enter the arena. For our postings on defamation suits filed by other judges and an explanation of our minority view that the cause of action for defamation ought to be abolished, see: Newspaper attacks $2 million libel verdict awarded trial judge - Court upholds dismissal of judge's libel suit against TV station - Illinois judges opine on judicial privilege - Spicing up the courts.
Judges among dead in air crash. "A passenger plane crashed today on the outskirts of the central Pakistan city of Multan, killing all 45 people on board, the local police chief said. Senior ranking members of the military and judiciary are believed to have been among the passengers...." More (Times UK 07.10.2006).
Muslims gain a judicial foothold. "Anuar Zainal Abidin, a former chief judge, claim[s] there [is] a 'creeping Islamisation' in Malaysian courts. 'There is a lot of [Islamic] influence, which I'm not happy about,' he said...Malaysia prides itself on being a multi-racial society in which Muslims -- who account for more than half of the population -- live together with Buddhists, Christians and Hindus...." More (Guardian UK 07.10.2006).
Sharia courts in U.S.? "Most law abiding Americans will have contact with only three kinds of courts in the course of their lives: traffic court, probate court, and Sharia court. The last amongst these is also referred to as 'family court' in polite language, though its purpose is to preside over the destruction of families, one family at a time, in a civilized manner. But I digress. Sharia court, you said? Walk into any divorce related child custody proceedings, and you will agree with me. Except, that you cannot walk into any of those proceedings...." Esam Sohail, Sharia Courts: American Style (OpinionEditorials.Com 07.10.2006). Comment. Sharply-worded opinion piece that, sadly, has some truth to it,
Roberts' 'brilliant' use of a dash in opinion. "We may wait decades to learn whether Roberts will keep his promise not to use his judicial perch to be a legislator. He never said he wouldn't be a bureaucrat. In the meantime, those concerned about judicial activism may begin to wonder which is worse: legislating from the bench -- or punctuating...." Bruce Reed, The Case of the Brilliant Dash (Slate 07.10.2006). Comment. This is a sharp piece responding to the sychophantic Linda Greenhouse's piece in yesterday's NYT praising C.J. Roberts' "brilliant" opinion-writing style.
Trial lawyers' summer golf outing for legislators, judges. "The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association annual summer golf outing attracts legislators and judges from across Southern Illinois, giving them a chance to fairway schmooze with some of the state's finest litigators. This year, however, they'll do so in a bit less style than years previous. Members are muttering that new ITLA President Judy Cates has moved the event, scheduled for Aug. 10, from tony Sunset Hills Country Club in Edwardsville to less luxurious, public Clinton Hill Golf Course in Swansea...." More (St. Clair Record 07.10.2006). Comment. It's always nice when plaintiffs' lawyers, legislators and judges can put on the old polo shirts, plaid pants and pork-pie hats, grab the old wooden-shafted niblicks and mashies, and get together on the links, letting their hair down and sharing a good-natured Mulligan or two. I can hear it all now, the sounds of good clean All-American fun echoing down the lush green fairways under the blue August sky.
New guide for judges. The Judicial Council of Barbados has published a Guide to Judicial Conduct. Among its admonitions is this:
A judge must be sensitive to the fact that fraternal bodies are shrouded in mystery and clothed with a perception of secrecy and of providing unconditional assistance to members in times of need, trouble and distress. Persons who are not members of such bodies are likely to conclude that a litigant, belonging to the same fraternal body as a judge, may enjoy an unfair advantage. In such circumstances, it would be appropriate for a judge to disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the impartiality of the judge might reasonably be questioned.
More (The Nation Newspaper - Barbados 07.09.2006).
Knife thrown at judge; security breach. "The county sheriff has apologized for what he called an 'embarrassing and egregious' security breakdown after court security workers missed a knife later allegedly thrown at a judge in a courtroom [in York, PA]. Terry Lee Rehm, 58, was arrested Thursday after authorities said he threw a 13-inch butcher knife at Judge Michael J. Brillhart, who was seated on the bench. The knife went over the heads of several county employees and a defendant and sank into a wall to the judge's left, authorities said. No one was injured. Also found on Rehm after he was taken into custody were a 4-inch knife, a 3-pound hand-held sledgehammer and a utility knife with a blade, officials said...." More (Centre Daily Times 07.09.2006). Comment. Mistakes may have been made. Update. Knife thrower has history at courthouse (Evening Sun 07.10.2006).
Judges of troubled court head for the beach for 'education.' "With the New Orleans criminal justice system in shambles and authorities struggling to ease a backlog of about 6,000 cases, at least two Orleans Parish Criminal District Court judges have jetted off to Jamaica for a week of continuing legal education at a deluxe resort, according to courthouse administrators. Judges Charles Elloie and Calvin Johnson were off the bench last weekend in Negril, attending a course run by a New Orleans for-profit company called Jamaican Sunset CLE, according to staffers in the judicial administrator's office and various clerks scattered about the largely dormant court building at the corner of Tulane Avenue and Broad Street that still bears signs of hurricane damage. The duo's Caribbean getaway...could cost more than $4,500 per judge....It is unclear how many judges from other city courtrooms, most of which are in better shape than Criminal District Court, were also in Jamaica. The trip is slated each summer just a month after many judges spend a week in Sandestin, Fla., on another continuing legal education trip...." More (New Orleans Times-Picayune 07.09.2006). Comments. a) If this is the way state government funds are being spent down there in New Orleans, one wonders if the federal government ought to reassess the degree of its commitment to the rebuilding of New Orleans. b) For my posting on the annual Sandestin trip, see, Judicial privileges. For my previously-stated in-depth views on these junkets by judges, see, Judicial 'Educational' Junkets.
Judge admonished for claiming sick leave while working elsewhere. "Former Houston judge Eric Andell has been publicly admonished by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct for cheating taxpayers while he was a federal education official...A year ago he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of violating the federal conflict of interest statute while he served as a top official in the U.S. Department of Education. The offense was related to travel that Andell approved for himself at government expense for trips which included travel for personal purposes. At the time of the trips...[Andell] was also still working as a visiting judge in Texas. The conduct commission said that as part of several trips, Andell was paid for sick leave 'when in fact he was working and being paid as a visiting judge in Texas.'" More (Houston Chronicle 07.08.2006).
Could supervisor's idea save courts money? "A Solano County supervisor has suggested that significant savings could be realized if all criminal cases were heard in Fairfield and civil cases in Vallejo. 'It costs us well over $1 million a year to transfer prisoners down to Vallejo from the jail in Fairfield, whereas we can walk them there through the tunnels that we have,' Supervisor Mike Reagan said Thursday...." More (Times-Herald via TheRecord.Com - CA 07.07.2006). Comment. The "savings" might be illusory. If one "saves" x dollars here, one may just be transferring the expense somewhere else or to someone else. For the type of analysis that is required before one makes such a decision, see, One-judge courthouse to go the way of one-room schoolhouse?
Justice O'Connor wishes Alito wore a skirt. "[Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Justice] O'Connor, who was the first woman to ever sit on the Supreme Court, said she was 'sad' her replacement was not a woman qualified for the office. Instead, President Bush selected Third Circuit Judge Samuel Alito to replace O'Connor. 'I know we have a qualified judge and this is to take nothing away from his qualifications, but I wish he (Alito) was in a skirt,' she joked. 'At the end of the day a wise old woman and a wise old man will reach the same conclusion. I would like to see not just two women on the court but a good many more in years to come.'" More (Aspen Daily News 07.07.2006). Comment. The statement comparing a wise old woman and a wise old man, which we assume she attributed properly, is a not entirely accurate paraphrase of a celebrated much-(mis)quoted statement by my friend, the late Justice Mary Jeanne Coyne of the Minnesota Supreme Court. BTW, Justice Breyer also spoke at the Festival. More (Aspen Times 07.07.2006).
Former judges ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluations. "A New Milford couple accused of abusing their pet cats have been banned from owning any animals for two years and ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation...After the couple[, both ex-cat show judges,] appeared at Bantam Superior Court last Friday, Judge Eliot Prescott continued the case until June 2008 and ordered the [couple] to undergo a two-year accelerated rehabilitation program and stay out of trouble. The [court's order] forbids them to judge any animal contests...." More (Greater New Milford Spectrum 07.07.2006).
Judges support scrapping minimum sentences. "The head of the high court's Natal Provincial Division and his deputy have come out strongly in support of calls by members of the legal profession for the scrapping of the law on minimum sentences. The law was 'an inconvenience' and 'creating problems,' Judge President Justice Vuka Tshabalala told a conference here, while his deputy, Justice Phillip Levinsohn, said it was a 'monstrosity.'" More (Independent - South Africa 07.06.2006). Comment. All around the world, cheap politicians are finding short-term political gain in attacking judges unfairly over alleged "leniency" in sentencing people convicted of crimes. It's happening this very moment in the U.K. Here's how an honest politician talks about crime and punishment:
I suppose one way of summarizing my views on "crime & punishment" is to say that I have long been out of sorts with the politicization of the subject, the resultant "get-tough" approach, the constant "upping of the ante," the creation of more and more federal crimes, the attempts to remove discretion in sentencing through the use of mandatory prison terms and mandatory-minimum terms, the almost-total abandonment of rehabilitation as a primary and direct goal, the tough-guy posturing by politicians, etc.
Strawberry judging. "'Judges look for uniformity in size, color and overall appearance among other things,' says Walt Kuntze, organizer of this year’s strawberry judging competition at this weekend’s Copper Country Strawberry Festival in Chassell [in the Upper Peninsula]. Since the festival’s beginnings more than half a century ago, local strawberry farmers like Kathy and Henry Ohtonen have brought their best picks to the competition. Judging, usually done by someone from the Michigan State University Extension or Farm Bureau will assess eight-quart flats and single quarts. They’ll look for uniformity in each entry since they are grouped by variety, explains Henry...." More (Daily Mining Gazette - MI 07.06.2006). Further reading. BurtLaw's Dog Judging, Jam&Jelly Judging, Etc. Comment. One judge who was devoted to the Upper Peninsula was the late John Voelker (1903-1991), the former Michigan Supreme Court Justice who, under the pen name, Robert Traver, wrote Anatomy of a Murder, which is set in the U.P. Voelker also wrote several much-loved books on trout fishing in the U.P. as well as a book titled Small-Town D.A., about episodes in the work of a D.A. in the U.P. Here's his "Testament of a Fisherman," which I think gives a clue as to the kind of judge, and man, he was:
I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly; because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape; because, in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion; because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience; because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don't want to waste the trip; because mercifully there are no telephones on trout waters; because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness; because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there; because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid; and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant -- and not nearly so much fun.
Jury Chow? "The judges of the four-county 25th Judicial Circuit decided at their June 23 meeting to provide meals for jurors who are selected to serve on a jury panel, with the meal expenses included as court costs. 'Before I started trying this, I always thought Judge Moore, Judge Wiggins, and Judge Long pampered the juries too much, but now that I’ve seen what we expect them to do for a few dollars a day, I think we should rethink that,' said Presiding Judge Tracy Storie...." But, the judges asked, how best to do it? -- a) order catered meals brought in, b) let the jurors choose their own restaurant, c) "provide a meal certificate to a single restaurant with a buffet arrangement," d) give the jurors the money and let them choose to eat or not to eat? Judge Colin Long of Pulaski County argued that option c) is the most efficient: "Let’s arrange with Ryan’s -- there’s always something everyone likes at Ryan’s unless you’re really picky -- to have the jurors go there." When Pulaski County Circuit Clerk Rachelle Beasley suggested option d), Bailiff Ed Sheldon said, "Giving them money is like us saying, ‘Honey, I know it’s our anniversary, but I don’t have time to take you out so here’s $18 for you to go out to lunch.'" Judge John Clayton of Maries County agreed. Bailiff Sheldon said most jurors had told him they'd rather have meals than money; he added that they wanted the meals brought to them. More (Waynesville Daily Guide - MO 07.06.2006). Comment. Missouri is home to Ralston Purina, maker of Puppy Chow, Dog Chow and Senior Chow, among other dog foods. The dogs in my life -- Mathilda, Jane and Alice (usually only one of them is here at any one time) -- prefer Beneful, also made by Purina. I sometimes think they have a more balanced, healthful diet than I do. And I've often wondered why Purina doesn't come out with a Senior Chow for superannuated Baby Boomers like me. Which brings me to this modest suggestion to the judges of the four-county 25th Judicial Circuit: why not ask the good folks at Purina to develop Jury Chow, in several varieties, say, vegetarian, beef, chicken and fish?
Alito throws out first ball; judges start three-month summer vacation. "[Alito's] fastball wasn't so fast, but it went across the plate to the waiting arms of the Phanatic, the [Phillies'] mascot...[Alito] has rooted for the Phillies since childhood and dreamed as a kid of being a professional ball player. He even attended a weeklong Phillies Phantasy Camp in 1994, where he received instruction from -- and played in games with -- former team star and manager Larry Bowa. Alito said he received an award at the camp for his defensive skills. His prowess with a bat? 'I couldn't hit at all,' was all he would say...." More (CNN 07.06.2006). Comment. For an extended piece on why judges like baseball, see, Annals of judicial fantasy.
How Scalia lost his Mojo. "[Scalia's] writing style is best described as equal parts anger, confidence, and pageantry. Scalia has a taste for garish analogies and offbeat allusions -- often very funny ones -- and he speaks in no uncertain terms. He is highly accessible and tries not to get bogged down in abstruse legal jargon. But most of all, Scalia's opinions read like they're about to catch fire for pure outrage. He does not, in short, write like a happy man. But there was a lot less of his trademark style this year. And there's a very simple reason to expect to see less of Scalia's verbal pyrotechnics in the future: Scalia's angry wit depends on having someone to criticize, and criticism tends to travel by way of the dissent...." Conor Clarke, How Scalia Lost His Mojo -- Why the Supreme Court's most exciting justice is becoming much less fun to read (Slate 07.06.2006).
King to lose power of appointing judges. "In gradual cut off of his power, the King is also losing his power to appoint Judges. The Judicial Council led by Chief Justice Dilip Kumar Poudel agreed on taking away from the King his power to appoint judges, a newspaper [Himalayan Times] report said on Thursday...." More (Nepal News 07.07.2006).
Sharia law update: Islamic courts threaten to kill those who don't pray. "In a speech...at the opening ceremony of an Islamic Sharia Law court at Mogadishu Gubta neighbourhood, Sheik Abdalla Ali[,] one of the Court founders[,] insisted they will start practicing Islamic Sharia Law through out the Capital to handle security. 'When people accept practicing Islamic Sharia Law every body will enjoy life based on peace and prosperity,' Sheik Abdalla said. He also vowed during his speech they will kill any body that fails to practice daily prayer (Salaad)...." More (AllAfrica.Com 07.06.2006). And see, Islamic influence in courts is worrying (Malaysia Kini 07.06.2006).
Bar association alleges revenue court is filled with corruption. "The Revenue Tribunal, the highest court for revenue, is full of corruption and malpractices. A simple mutation case which requires a mutation form and Re 1 stamp comes at a fixed rate of Rs 500. This was charged by the president of All Manipur Bar Association (AMBA) Khaidem Mani during a press conference at the office of the association today...." More (Kangla Online 07.06.2006).
Judicial body slams Supreme Court over gift policy. "The Judicial Commission has harshly criticized a Supreme Court policy allowing judges to receive gifts while they are in office, saying the move will encourage corruption. Commission chief Busyro Muqoddas said gifts were akin to the tributes paid by subjects in ancient times, a practice believed to be the template for the country's rampant modern-day corruption...The Supreme Court recently issued a code of conduct for judges throughout the country, banning them from receiving gifts from defense lawyers, prosecutors or defendants. The code, however, allows judges to receive gifts from friends and family or from anyone who presents them during religious holidays, traditional ceremonies, weddings and farewell parties...." More (Jakarta Post 07.03.2006).
Judicial campaigns -- of pledges & questionnaires. Kansas Judicial Watch has submitted a questionnaire to judicial candidates asking them if they agree or disagree with a number of statements, e.g., "A law defining marriage as between one man and one woman is the prerogative of the Legislature, not the court," "Marriage should only be between one man and one woman," "The unborn child is biologically human and the right to life should be respected at every stage of development," and "The Kansas Constitution does not provide a right to assisted suicide." In 2004 when I ran for Congress I received a letter from a political interest group asking me to sign a formal pledge that, if elected, I would support an amendment to the U. S. Constitution confining "marriage or its legal equivalent" to "the union of one man and one woman." It stated that Governor Pawlenty and many of our state legislators here in MN had signed the pledge. I said on my campaign weblog that I didn't agree with the proposed constitutional amendment but that even if I agreed with it, I wouldn't sign the pledge. I reacted the same way to other missives requesting I sign this or that silly pledge or answer this or that loaded question. I've always felt there is something odious and coercive about pledge drives, whether conducted by churches to raise funds or by political and social organizations for other purposes. Call me a misanthrope, but if you come to my door with a petition, I'll come up with a polite (or, if need be, impolite) way of declining to sign it. The last petition I ever signed was one I drafted and circulated in eighth grade. It was a petition to the city council urging the city to establish a "teen center." It was easy getting people to sign it. And circulating it provided me, a shy guy when it came to directly approaching girls for certain purposes, with a legitimate shyness-neutralizing cover to talk to some of the more attractive junior high girls. Curiously, I never presented the petition to the council. At some point I decided there were flaws in my idea. Or was it that I didn't want to give up my precious collection of signatures, some by the coolest chicks in school. :-) On occasion since then, I've pondered whether in some way it was unethical of me to unilaterally decide not to go forward after soliciting and obtaining signatures of support on the understanding that I would go forward. It's not necessarily an ethical question with an easy answer. What has concerned me more, though, is that somewhere along the line I misplaced (or maybe even discarded) the old petition. It is one of the tokens or artifacts of the past I wish I had.
Isaac Bashevis Singer's dad's view of pledges. The late and prolific Yiddish writer, Isaac Bashevis Singer, who won a Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote a book I like about his father, a Rabbi, titled In My Father's Court - A Memoir 60 (1966). In a chapter titled "The Oath," he wrote:
Whenever he conducted a Din Torah [rabbinical arbitration], Father repeated the same speech: that he was opposed to the taking of oaths. Not only did he object to oaths, he objected even to pledges, words of honor, or handshaking guarantees for the fulfillment of a promise. One can never fully trust one's own memory, Father argued; therefore, one must not swear even to what one believes to be the truth. It is written that when God proclaimed, 'Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord...,' heaven and earth trembled.
As I said, I'm like Singer's dad in my general personal objection to pledges, oaths, petitions, promises, loaded questionnaires, etc. I don't let people or groups put words in my mouth. It comes from my parents. Two Mom-isms from my youth: "Dare to be different" and "Don't be afraid to say no." I'm with Cosmo Kramer, who, in the episode titled "The Sponge" (Season 7 of Seinfeld), is "against" AIDS but unwilling to wear "the ribbon" that everyone insists he wear. "You know what?" -- he says to one of them -- "You're a ribbon bully." Groups are free to submit questionnaires to and otherwise try to pressure candidates for public office, including judicial office, to "wear their ribbons," the ribbons everybody is wearing; but candidates who allow themselves to be bullied or who try curry favor with this or that group signify to me that by doing so they are not the kinds of candidates I think worthy to represent me. Thomas Jefferson said it all better than I can:
I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to Heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.
If I couldn't get elected except by submitting "the whole system of my opinions" to the creed of this or that group or this or that newspaper, I'd rather lose -- which of course is what I do. But what do you win when you win by selling your soul?
Becoming a judge. "The students here, mostly local men who spend many weekends little more than an arm's length from their backyard barbecues, had paid $70 each to cover the five-hour class and membership in the Kansas City Barbecue Society. (Members of the society paid only $45, for the class.) After studying the rule book and signing the judges' code of conduct, they would qualify to rate events like the fourth annual Grill Kings competition, with 50 teams, at Belmont Park on July 15 and 16, and the second annual Hudson Valley Ribfest from Aug. 18 to 20 in New Paltz, N.Y...." More (N.Y. Times 07.05.2006). Comment. Phil Rizzardi, who competes for Barbecue Brethren, a Long Island team...said later that he was a little dubious about the class...No experience beyond the class is required for certification...'It kind of concerns me!' Mr. Rizzardi said. 'These are our future judges of America.'" We say, "It ought to concern all Americans that all it takes is $45 and attendance at a five-hour class to obtain a certificate entitling one to judge a barbecue contest. It takes more, so much more, to become a common law judge in a typical state -- admittance to the bar + the favor of the governor."
Judge decides hot dog contest, ruling against American. "At about 1:50 p.m., with just a few minutes left on the clock, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound Chestnut was tied with his diminutive competitor as they neared the 50-dog mark. Suddenly, Kobayashi appeared to regurgitate -- a move that results in automatic disqualification and that speed eating experts call 'a reversal of fortune.' As Kobayashi lifted a cup of water to his mouth, a spray of bread chunks and wiener bits shot into his cup, which the 170-pound champion immediately gulped down. Chestnut, unable to spit out words, pointed and gestured toward judges to draw their attention to the slip. 'The judges found a quarter of a hot dog in his cup,' said Patrick Chestnut, Joey's older brother who witnessed the spew from the front row as he cheered on his brother. 'If that's not grounds for disqualification, what is?' Gersh Kuntzman, the judge who ruled in Kobayashi's favor, saw it differently. 'The effluvia never touched the table,' Kuntzman said, a distinction he claimed was part of the International Federation of Competitive Eating's official rules. 'When the hot dog came up, and some of it came out his nose, Kobayashi sucked it back down. To me, that's the testament of a champion and great athlete.'" More (San Francisco Chronicle 07.05.2006). Comment. Greatness all around:
a) Greatness on Kobayashi's part in sucking it back down.
b) Greatness on Judge Kuntzman(pronunciation?)'s part in his Scalian application of the text, as text, to the messy facts, even though it meant victory for a Japanese over an American. (Compare, SCOTUS's decision in Hamdan.)
c) Greatness on Chestnut's part in his Nixonian/Gore-acious refusal to further contest the results or even to blame the judge's decision. Said he, "I feel like I could have prepared better. I could have pushed myself harder."
Knesset wants role in drfating judges' code of ethics. "A special committee headed by retired Supreme Court justice Mishael Cheshin is due later this week to present Justice Minister Haim Ramon with the final draft of a new code of ethics for judges, but the Knesset Law Committee may have thrown a monkey wrench into the proceedings on Tuesday by insisting that the code require the panel's approval...." More (Jerusalem Post 07.04.2006). Cf., Bill establishing U.S. judicial branch inspector general.
Ethics panel calls judicial candidate's signs misleading. "A lawyer who is running for Baltimore County Circuit Court has used campaign materials that misleadingly portray him as a judge, according to a report released yesterday by a newly formed judicial candidates ethics panel. The panel faulted Arthur M. Frank, a 51-year-old Owings Mills attorney, for using campaign materials emblazoned with 'People's Choice For Judge Arthur Frank,' with the words 'Judge' and 'Frank' in bigger type and a different color than the rest of the text...."
Politician: judges 'must join fight against terror.' "Charles Clarke, the former home secretary, has denounced the UK's most senior judges for refusing to debate difficult security issues...Clarke said: 'One of the consequences of the Human Rights Act is that our most senior judiciary are [m]aking decisions of deep concern to the security of our society but without any responsibility for that security. One of my most depressing experiences as Home Secretary was the outright refusal of any of the law lords to discuss the principles behind these matters in any forum at all, public or private, formal or informal. I have never met a law lord.'" More (Herald - UK 07.04.2006). Comment. Judges ought not "join" the so-called "war" on terror anymore than they ought join any "war" on crime. Nor ought "law lords" be meeting with politicians, in public or private, to "discuss" such a war. The judge's role is to serve as neutral judicial arbiter, to "strike the balance true." Any politician who urges otherwise doesn't have even the most basic respect for or understanding of the institution and role of judge.
Stealing the courthouse hostas. "A Washington Street woman was charged with theft after she was caught uprooting and walking off with ornamental grasses and hostas planted around the Morris County courthouse by newly-installed surveillance cameras. Sheriff's Office Sgt. Bill Szekula signed disorderly persons complaints of theft against Debra Heater, 35, based upon surveillance images that show the woman on two occasions helping herself, after dark, to plants cultivated by county employees. The county, since January, has had close to 100 new surveillance cameras installed inside and around the perimeter of the courthouse and county administration complex on Court Street to heighten security...." More (Daily Record - NJ 07.04.2006). Comment. If, as we suspect, "war on terror" (Fatherland Security) funds were used to purchase and install the cameras, we can only say, in view of the capture of Ms. Heater, "Money well spent." On the irrelevance of traditional cost-benefit analysis in this context, see, Clarke County, AL courthouse is insured against attack by foreigners. And see, The Onion (10.03.2001) (Security Beefed Up at Cedar Rapids Public Library, reporting on Cedar Rapids, Iowa Library Director Glenda Quarles' expression of concerns about foreign terrorists attacking their library: "As caretakers of the most prominent public building in the second largest city in Iowa, this library can no longer afford to take chances"). On the relation of courthouse flowers to courthouse security, see, How about a courthouse surrounded by & filled with flowers? Also of interest: Prayer Day at the county courthouse, Building courthouses with security in mind, and BurtLaw and Montaigne on Court Security.
State government shutdown in NJ hits the courts. "John Raynor showed up at the Morris County courthouse this morning -- as he was ordered to a week ago -- only to be turned away as a casualty of the state government shutdown. Raynor, of Montville, said he was supposed to appear before a Superior Court judge for what he believes is an emergency hearing involving custody rights over his three daughters. 'We have no idea when to come back; it's part of the frustration,' said Justin Nguyen, the brother of Raynor's three daughters. Just three of 16 judges assigned to the Morris County courthouse were on duty this morning to handle any emergency matters...." More (Daily Record - NJ 07.03.2006). Comment. Even if no one waters the petunias and marigolds outside the courthouse, at least, thanks to the 100 state-of-the-art security cameras, no one can steal them without getting nabbed. More.
Are 'campaign lies' free speech protected from government regulation? "Can political candidates lie about their opponents and chalk it up to free speech? The state Supreme Court is wrestling with how to balance the goal of fair-minded and civil campaigns with the First Amendment's broad guarantee of free speech. The nine justices presided over a lively debate Thursday over whether the state's law regulating political advertising is constitutional. The high court previously threw out a law that barred campaign lies and the Legislature responded by writing a narrower version that gives the Public Disclosure Commission authority to police candidates' most damaging and malicious lies about their competition...." More (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 06.30.2006). Comment. Bill Maurer, executive director of the state chapter of a libertarian law organization is quoted as saying, "The idea that the government must shield the people from falsehoods in political campaigns is both patronizing and paternalistic. It assumes that the people are too ignorant or disinterested to determine the facts and that the government must enforce its vision of the truth through prosecution." We agree.
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., said that "experience" is "the great teacher." In 2000 I stood for the position of Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election. In my non-campaign I accepted no contributions or endorsements and spent less than $100, confining my efforts to a self-produced website. The campaign website, the no-longer extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first such use of a weblog or blog. In writing the weblog and in writing several position papers, I came to have first-hand Holmsean experience with the Minnesota Supreme Court's experiment in restricting speech in judicial campaigns. I spoke to what that experience taught me in a 10.07.2000 entry in the weblog:
I grow less impressed with the court's effort [in restricting speech in judicial campaigns] and more wary of the whole business. I worked for the court for more than 28 years, 26 and a half of them as deputy commissioner, and learned a thing or two about speaking and writing in a judicial manner or judicious way. And yet, even I find it difficult to fathom the operational meaning of some of the court's restrictions -- that is, how the restrictions apply in practice. Perhaps there is something to be said for the attempt, and I don't doubt the judges who approved the restrictions, including my opponent, acted in good faith. But each of us has feet of clay and each of us has blind spots. I submit that in this instance the court somehow got itself involved in the business of trying to rein in democracy.
It really ought not to have surprised anyone that the U.S. Supreme Court, in the so-called "Judicial Free-Speech Case," struck down those restrictions. See, Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002). By the same token, I guess we shouldn't have been surprised by the legal community's reluctance to comply with that decision. On this, see, inter alia, SCOTUS declines review of USCA's case on judicial campaigns - MN. Supreme Court reversed again on free speech - Free speech is a 'bad idea'? As I like to say, Emerson knew what he was talking about when he wrote in his great journal, "[L]awyers...are a prudent race though not very fond of liberty." Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journal 04.1850).
Truth-in-campaigning laws, like the kind under advisement in Washington, like rules restricting judicial campaign speech, undoubtedly have noble purposes, such as keeping campaigns clean, preventing voter fraud, etc., etc. But, at root they are anti-democratic. As Mr. Maurer points out, these paternalistic, patronizing laws show a profound distrust of voters. Ultimately, they say that voters need protection by prosecutors and judges. I have always had a different view -- a perhaps naïve belief in the ability of ordinary people to distinguish the real from the fraudulent. I take comfort in the fact that this "naïve belief" was shared by Thomas Jefferson, who said, "If you state a moral case to a plowman and a professor [or a prosecutor or judge], the farmer will decide it as well, and often better, because he has not been led astray by any artificial rules." Jeffersonian farmers and other voters can see through campaign rhetoric, lies and distortions without Big Brother serving as Authoritative Voter Guide. All such attempts to rein in and purify democratic elections in the hope of protecting voters from making "mistakes" will and ought to fail.
Moreover, a much, much more significant problem, as I see it, is not fraudulent campaigning but bland, even gutless, campaigning, both in legislative elections and in judicial elections. This last winter I witnessed a very sad debate among some Republican candidates for Congress in one of Minnesota's districts in which not one of them mentioned the War in Iraq. See, my entry dated 02.19.2006 titled Who's the most narrow-minded? at BurtonHanson.Com. I'd rather participate as voter in a contest between two professional political mudslingers who address the important issues, albeit in a messy, dirty way, than as a voter in the sort of contest in which those nice candidates likely will engage.
Questions raised about top judge's major stake in housing development. "The Herald Sun can reveal Justice Stuart Morris, president of VCAT, is moonlighting as a property speculator in blue-chip real estate in East Ivanhoe. Justice Morris, QC, and his wife Jennifer own eight lots that are being sold to Queensland property developers to build a 92-apartment retirement village...." More (Melbourne Herald-Sun 06.30.2006).
Deal allows judge who viewed porn at court to apologize, retire at end of term. "A Florida judge will receive public reprimand and must retire at the end of his term after admitting to viewing pornography on the computer in his chambers. Circuit Judge Brandt C. Downey III of Clearwater previously announced his intentions to retire at the end of his term on Jan. 1 but the Florida Supreme Court decided Friday that he also may not serve as a senior judge or seek appointment or election as a judge...." More (All-Headline News 07.01.2006). Earlier entry. Another case of judge charged with viewing porn on court-owned computer. Comment. For my presumably minority viewpoint on removing judges found to have viewed porn on court-owned computers, see Judge removed for viewing porn on court-owned computer. Readers interested in the related issue of monitoring of judges' computer use at work should read my 2001 entry titled "Foes of monitoring of judges' computer use win first round" at Court Gazing II at BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else.
The art of judging. "A [Fourth of July] parade, of course, wouldn't be complete without a team of discerning judges...What exactly goes into judging a parade? Are over-the-top drill team productions guaranteed first place? Will the biggest, most expensive float always score top honors? And, more importantly, what's it take to be a judge? A lot more goes into judging a parade than you might think. It certainly isn't a matter of, 'Oh, this float is so pretty,' or 'These kids are too cute.' 'You have to dissect an entry and take into account the entire judging criteria for it,' says Jenny Norman, a member of the Pacific Coast Judges Association. But first, before you can even say 'yay' or 'nay' to your favorite entries, you have to be a qualified judge, Norman says. These requirements for judges is what separates the PCJA from other community-appointed committees. PCJA judges must meet specific criteria...." More (Inside Bay Area 06.30.2006). Comment. Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) wrote in Democracy in America, "I am not aware that any nation of the globe has hitherto organized a judicial power in the same manner as the Americans." Our common law judicial system has always been the best, even better than the British system from which it evolved. It ought surprise no one that we not only "do judging" of "cases and controversies" better than anyone else but that we judge parades, state fair jam and jelly competitions, dog shows, beauty pageants, etc., better than anyone else. See, BurtLaw on Dog Judging, Jam&Jelly Judging, Etc. We must, however, never rest on our laurels. What, for example, will future generations say of a small town Minnesota Fourth-of-July-Parade judging system that has no provision guaranteeing a right of appeal? To ask the question, is to answer it. I add only this modest thought: We must keep improving our judging not because we fear the Chinese will eventually overtake us in this area, as in other areas -- and, make no mistake, they will try to do so -- but because it - is - the - right - thing - to - do.
Kiss = two month suspension. "Superior Court Judge Randolph Subryan will be suspended without pay for two months for kissing his female law clerk against her will in 2003, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled yesterday. The 63-year-old Subryan, who sits in Paterson, has consistently denied harassing his former clerk, Jennifer Breaton, 40, of Riverdale, N.Y. The high court, however, agreed with a nine-member judicial advisory committee that found "'clear and convincing evidence' the judge made an 'unwanted advance' toward Breaton when they were alone in his chambers May 30, 2003. The advisory committee had recommended Subryan be censured, but the justices unanimously decided a tougher punishment was needed. They ordered him suspended without pay for the months of July and August. The incident cost taxpayers $300,000, the amount the state paid in February to settle Breaton's lawsuit charging Subryan harassed her and that after she complained the 'upper management' of the judiciary retaliated against her. Neither Subryan nor the state admitted wrongdoing, explaining they settled only to 'avoid further expense and protracted litigation.'" More (Newark Star-Ledger 06.30.2006). Comment. We know nothing about the facts of this case. But we note that there are some who take the position that it is "too easy for women to file false claims against men in the public eye." See, "Women suing men" at BurtLaw's Law and Women. See, also, "Crying Wolf" (and the linked-to article of the same name by Christie Blatchford) at BurtLaw's Crime and Punishment. For a suggestion as to how a judge who fears being falsely accused might protect himself or herself, see our "Rule of Thumb" at Annals of law clerk-judge relations. For a refreshingly different position on this hot-button topic, see, Lisa Zeidner, Seeking Carnal Knowledge - Ban all amorous intimacy between professors and students? - There goes one of the higher forms of education (LisaZeidner.Com, reprinted from GQ November 1997). Further reading. BurtLaw on Law & Kissing.
Controversial judicial proposals axed. "Controversial draft legislation aimed at overhauling the structure of the judiciary has been shelved after the intervention of President Thabo Mbeki...The proposed constitutional changes are likely to be scrapped entirely...While plans to rationalise the structure of the courts were generally welcomed, constitutional changes to hand full control of administrative functions to the justice minister, and to give the president an expanded role in the appointment of senior judicial officers were widely seen as undermining the independence of the judiciary...." More (Mail and Guardian 06.30.2006).
Sanctioning a tumor? "Two Iowa judges have dismissed sanctions and modified orders against the former Madison County attorney who was accused of neglecting his prosecutor duties. Less than two weeks after Martin Ramsey was effectively removed from his county position in early April, he stopped breathing and collapsed at his Earlham home from a brain tumor. Ramsey’s doctor has said the tumor caused his poor job performance...'The great news is that doctors believe he will be able to resume working in three months,' [a co-worker] said. 'Martin is doing very well, recuperating very nicely. He’s just getting his energy level back up.'" More (Des Moines Register 06.30.2006). Comment. If we really knew how often that which we condemn ought not to be condemned, we would bow our heads in utter shame at the inadequacy of our poor human judgment.
Female judges. "The Law, Justice and Human Rights Ministry has decided to appoint woman judges to run family courts in all the districts of Pakistan, a ministry source told Daily Times on Thursday. 'The government has decided to create fresh vacancies for woman judges and all the family courts will be headed by women judicial officers. The provincial governments have been directed to supplement the ministry’s final plan in their provinces,' said the source...The source said that according to the Family Courts Act 1964, women judges would head all family courts...." More (Daily Times 06.30.2006).
Judge calls for opening family courts to press. "A Senior judge called last night for the media to be admitted to family courts to shake off the 'canard of secret justice.' Days after a ruling that removed the automatic ban on identifying children in family court cases, even after proceedings have ended, Lord Justice Wall said: 'We need to have a system which is understood by and accountable to the public.'" More (Sunday Times 06.30.2006). Comment. It's long been my view that the term "secret justice" is self-contradictory and that "sunshine" is the "best of disinfectants." And I've long believed that sunshine is needed on the workings of juvenile and family courts as much as on the workings of other courts. I took a course in juvenile delinquency in the sociology department at the U. of Minn. during the 1963-64 school year and was allowed to sit as an observer at a normally closed-to-the-public session of the court. I still remember the name of the poor black kid who was under ten years old who had engaged in petty larceny, and I still remember my shock at the judge's metaphorically yanking the kid from his crying, pleading mom and sending him off for "treatment," something that of course probably wouldn't have happened if he'd been a kid from a so-called "good home" in a "good suburb." I couldn't help but remember similar "bad things" I'd done as a kid in a town that knew better that, to a considerable degree, to be a normal boy is to be delinquent in one way or another. In any event, the public needs to be able to see what I saw. Further reading. BurtLaw's Law & Kids.
Emir okays family courts. "The Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani yesterday issued a law on enactment of the Family Law, which allows for the setting up of family courts...." More (Peninsula On-line - Qatar 06.30.2006).
Courts take three month summer break. "The courts will remain closed for three months for the summer break. Yesterday was the last working day for them. However, the three criminal courts will have three sessions each in July, August and September to hear emergency cases. The courts will, however, remain open three days a week for registration of power of attorney and other documents. At least one day in a week will be specified when marriages can be registered...." More (Peninsula On-line - Qatar 06.30.2006).
Bill establishing U.S. judicial branch inspector general. "Good morning. I want to welcome everyone to this important hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security to examine H.R. 5219, the Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act of 2006, introduced by the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Sensenbrenner...H.R. 5219 establishes an independent Inspector General within the Judicial Branch who is appointed by and reports directly to the Chief Justice of the United States. The Inspector General will conduct investigations of complaints of judicial misconduct, conduct and supervise audits, detect and prevent waste, fraud, and abuse, and recommend changes in laws or regulations governing the Judicial Branch. The creation of an Inspector General is not a radical idea. Inspectors General exist in over 60 Executive agencies, boards and commissions, and Congress as well. They shine a light on the internal operations of these entities in order to prevent fraud and improve efficiency and accountability. There is no reason why the Judicial Branch should be exempt from this type of oversight...." More (U.S. House of Representatives 06.29.2006). Comment. Note that the hearing is before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. It seems Sinclair Lewis' chilling vision of an America in which every overstepping of traditional boundaries is justified by reference to national security was prescient. See, S. Lewis, It Can't Happen Here (1935):
During the very first week of his campaign, Senator Windrip clarified his philosophy by issuing his distinguished proclamation: "The Fifteen Points of Victory for the Forgotten Men." The fifteen planks, in his own words (or maybe in Lee Sarason's words, or Dewey Haik's words), were these: (74-75)
* * * * *
(15) Congress shall, immediately upon our inauguration, initiate amendments to the Constitution providing (a), that the President shall have the authority to institute and execute all necessary measures for the conduct of the government during this critical epoch; (b), that Congress shall serve only in an advisory capacity, calling to the attention of the President and his aides and Cabinet any needed legislation, but not acting upon same until authorized by the President so to act; and (c), that the Supreme Court shall immediately have removed from its jurisdiction the power to negate, by ruling them to be unconstitutional or by any other judicial action, any or all acts of the President, his duly appointed aides, or Congress. (78-79)
* * * * *
The Speaker of the House, and the Hon. Mr. Perley Beecroft, Vice-President of the United States and Presiding Officer of the Senate, had the power to declare that quorums were present. (If a lot of members chose to dally in the district jail, enjoying themselves instead of attending Congress, whose fault was that?) Both houses passed a resolution declaring Point Fifteen temporarily in effect, during the "crisis" -- the legality of the passage was doubtful, but just who was to contest it, even though the members of the Supreme Court had not been placed under protective arrest...merely confined each to his own house by a squad of Minute Men! (165)
Annals of courthouse life: the pigeons are always with us. More (ABC News 06.30.2006). Comment. They don't teach courses -- in law school or at the NYU Institute for new appellate judges or at the Judicial College in Reno or in continuing judicial education programs -- on dealing with pigeon doo; but every judge in nearly every courthouse in America eventually becomes aware of the problem. See, e.g., Emergency award of $1.8 million to clean up courthouse bird doo. I recall as a new law clerk at the Minnesota Supreme Court in the fall of 1970 seeing layers of the stuff on the floor of the portico just outside the Court's conference room on the second floor of the east wing of the State Capitol in St. Paul. And I remember early one morning in the 1980's when a pigeon entered my office on the third floor through a window I'd opened to get some fresh air. Pat Robertson (the excellent court employee, not the Yale Law grad with a penchant for getting his foot in his mouth) came to my rescue, grabbing it in his hands and releasing it outside.
Pilot scheme for subordinate specialist courts. "A new pilot scheme has been unveiled to test out a new type of judge. The scheme brings in so-called Specialist Judges to the Subordinate Courts for their expert knowledge...The aim of the Specialist Judges pilot scheme is to bring in professionals and practicing lawyers to the judiciary. What the Subordinate Courts want to do is to tap their expertise and to give them an insight into the workings of the courts...." More (Channel News - Singapore 06.30.2006).
UN investigator: Jordan should end torture, special courts. "Jordan should criminalize torture and end the use of special courts that protect accused police and intelligence officials, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak told a press conference following the conclusion of his two-day visit to Jordan...." More (Jurist 06.29.2006). Comment. We in America ought to be proud that our government would never allow torture by its agents or create special courts of the sort condemned by Manfred Nowak.
Courthouse gunman gives thumbs up to cops. "The man accused of killing a judge and three others during a shooting spree that started inside a[n Atlanta, GA] courthouse told police just before allegedly confessing to the crime that he was glad they didn't turn their guns on him when he surrendered, his videotaped statement shows. 'I was actually very impressed they didn't shoot me when I came out the door,' Brian Nichols said in a portion of his statement to police replayed in court Thursday. 'I was expecting to be shot.'" More (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer 06.30.2006). Comment. And, on a similar note, a fellow whose robbery conviction was affirmed on Friday by an appellate court in Nodaksodakminnewisiowa praised the court for, as he put it, writing a "surprisingly persuasive opinion."
Our Motto - "Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat" (Horace). Loose translation: Does anything prevent telling the truth with a smile?
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