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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.
A provincial judge's excellent adventure in the big city. "A senior Provincial Court judge in Kamloops has been charged with the criminal offence of 'causing a disturbance,' in connection with an incident earlier this year at a downtown Vancouver hotel. Balwinder William Sundhu, 47, was arrested in February after Vancouver police responded to a complaint from staff at the Four Seasons Hotel that a man had been harassing employees and a customer. Judge Sandhu spent the night in jail and was confronted the next morning by a reporter and camera operator from a local television station that had been tipped off about the timing of his release...." More (Globe & Mail 07.28.2006). Earlier. Judge suspended following arrest at hotel for drunken behavior. Comment. I'm surprised that whatever happened -- if it happened -- wasn't "caught on tape." The day is fast approaching when everything will be "caught on tape."
Traveling the country judging quilts. "Over in Household Arts & Crafts, assistant superintendent Janet Ziepfel praised a quilt for how close together its stitches were. That workmanship -- along with the pieceís appearance, edges and color -- is what helped to earn the quilt the title of best-in-show, as determined by Linda Scholten, who travels the country judging quilts...." From an interesting story about judging at county fairs titled Butler County Fair - Fair judging for fair results (Middletown Journal 07.28.2006). Comment. See, our comments at Globe-trotting judge. See, also, Mobile judge - he travels the country judging.
Latest on controversy over chief justice. "Trinidad's embattled Chief Justice, Satnarine Sharma, has bowed to pressure, saying he has decided to step down from performing any judicial duties until his application for judicial review is heard. Chief Justice Sharma has been charged with perverting the course of public justice relative to the Basdeo Panday trial but cannot be arrested because of having secured an injunction by the High Court. He is claiming that attempts to arrest him are politically motivated...." More (Caribbean Net News 07.28.2006).
State justices talk about their roles in gay marriage case. "At least one state Supreme Court justice who sided with same-sex couples this week says he initially voted, in a closed-door conference last year, to uphold the law that prevents them from marrying. Another justice who listened to his colleagues' discussion at the same conference quickly resolved to write his own opinion in the case. Thursday, a day after the court upheld Washington's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, six justices shared limited details about their roles in the decision and what went on behind the scenes at the Temple of Justice. The case took justices more than 16 months to decide, leading to six separate opinions [totaling 200 pages] and a fractured 5-4 decision denying same-sex couples the right to marry...." More (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 07.28.2006). Comment. It's unusual for judges to talk like this. The traditional practice among appellate judges is to let their written opinion speak for itself and to make no later attempts to explain either it or the specific events making up the process of deciding it. For a link to Dahlia Lithwick's take on the court's decision, see, Judicial gamesmanship.
Candidate for judge is accused of pitching opponent's signs. More (WFtv 07.28.2006). Comment. This is not a "first." See, Judicial candidate charged with theft of lawn sign. In 2004 a 32-year veteran of the Minnesota House of Representatives, Minneapolis DFLer Phyllis Kahn, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft for taking campaign brochures left on some New Hope doorsteps on behalf of Republican house member Lynne Osterman and replacing them with pieces from Osterman's DFL opponent, Sandra Peterson, whom Kahn was supporting. The district court judge ordered the apologetic and remorseful and embarrassed Kahn to pay $200 in prosecution costs but deferred imposing any other sentence for a year and agreed to dismiss the misdemeanor case if Kahn committed no similar offense in the interim. (San Jose Mercury-News, 09.23.2004). For my musings on that case, see my mini-essay Political lawn signs -- law & etiquette (entry dated 10.08.2004) at my political opinion website, BurtonHanson.Com.
Embattled judge is subject of suit by attorney. "A local attorney[, Erwin F. Meiers III,] has filed a lawsuit asking that he not be required to practice before Flint District Judge Herman Marable Jr.[,] claim[ing] that Marable has shown a 'continuing matter of prejudice and bias' against him [and] 'treats people just horribly in his courtroom'...[The] lawsuit comes the same week Chief District and Circuit Court Judge Archie L. Hayman temporarily replaced Marable on the bench. Hayman said he made the rare move Tuesday to speed up Marable's caseload so they could have time to discuss what he called 'continuing problems' in the way Marable runs his courtroom...." More (Flint Journal 07.28.2006). Update. Judge Marable speaks out (ABC12 07.29.2006).
Judicial campaign rivals spar over spouse issue. "Who's married to whom is becoming a hot issue in the race for the 53rd District Court's Howell seat. Bill McCririe, Linda Walker and Carol Sue Reader are running Aug. 8 to replace retiring Judge A. John Pikkarainen. The top two vote getters in the primary go head-to-head in the November election. McCririe is married to 53rd District Judge Suzanne Geddis. That relationship prompted Walker and Reader to say the couple shouldn't occupy two of the three spots on the same bench...." More (Detroit News 07.28.2006). Comment. A bogus issue, in our humble opinion.
Total cases pending in India's courts: 3.5 million. "India has a backlog of over 3.5 million court cases with the government ascribing the pendency to factors like the rise in population, citizens becoming more aware of their rights and vacancies of judges. In a written reply in the Lok Sabha, Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj said Friday that among the 21 high courts in the country, Allahabad has the highest backlog of 764,422 cases, while Bombay and Calcutta have 351,330, and 252,718 cases before them, respectively. The Supreme Court has a backlog of 37,323 cases, the minister said...." More (Telugu 07.28.2006). Comment. I've said it before, India ought to consider outsourcing these cases to "judges" in the U.S. Fair is fair. Update. Chief Justice suggests double shifts to deal with backlog (India E-News 07.29.2006).
Courthouse elevator stalls. "Union County's courthouse elevator went back into service Wednesday, after a serviceman made some adjustments. The elevator stalled Tuesday and trapped courthouse custodian Ronny Sidell, who was freed by Liberty Volunteer firefighters...." More (Palladium Item 07.28.2006). Comment. "Let the word go forth, if I am elected, I will bring the old 20th Century courthouse into the 21st Century...I will not stand idly by while judges risk getting trapped with commoners in slow, antiquated elevators...I will not tolerate unreasonable stoppages of the judicial production line by...." Related. Slow elevators = justice delayed = justice denied?
Threats against federal judges increasing. "Threats against federal judges are on a record-setting pace this year...Threats and inappropriate communications have quadrupled over 10 years ago. There were 201 reported such incidents in the 1996 government spending year and 943 in the year that ended Sept. 30, the [U.S.] Marshals Service said...." More (Washington Post 07.27.2006). Comment. It may be that we're paying more attention to threats or that we're classifying communications as threats that we would not have classified as threats (or even recorded) ten years ago. Related. India: Shahabuddin associate threatens judge (The Hindu 07.28.2006).
War freezes judiciary in Lebanon. "Israel's war on Lebanon has frozen judicial work since its outbreak 16 days ago, especially the Lebanese and international investigation regarding the 2005-2006 string of assassinations, including that of former Premier Rafik Hariri. The war also hampered the formation of an international court in October to try those accused in the assassination, as per an agreement the Lebanese government and the UN were expected to sign...." More (Daily Star 07.28.2006).
Did presiding judge's law clerk aid defense during criminal trial? "Attorney Demetrius Fannick cupped his hand in the coffee can and tossed hundreds of shotgun pellets onto the courtroom floor, stunning onlookers in what was widely considered one of the most dramatic moments in Hugo Selenskiís double-homicide trial. It has been assumed the theatrics, displayed during the closing argument of the trial, were the work of Fannickís mind. But four months after the trial concluded, Luzerne County District Attorney David Lupas says his prosecution team knew otherwise. In a stunning revelation Wednesday, Lupas accused Daniel Pillets, chief law clerk to presiding Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr., of privately suggesting the antic to Fannick during Selenskiís trial...." More (Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader 07.27.2006).
Contempt revisited. "An appeals court has ruled that a controversial Broward judge had the authority to sentence a 19-year-old juror to four months in jail for lying about his criminal record. But the panel said the sentence issued by Circuit Judge Eileen O'Connor -- in the hot seat herself for failing to reveal employee complaints lodged against her on her judicial application -- was 'harsh under the circumstances.'" More (Miami Herald 07.27.2006). Previously. Here's a link to a prior posting, which contains links to other postings, about Judge O'Connor, the so-called "prankster judge" with a record of harshness who herself is under investigation for conduct arguably similar to that she condemned in the juror.
Judicial gamesmanship. "Let's say you're a justice on the Washington State Supreme Court. You have a nice life, a quiet life. Cozy chambers. Huggable clerks. And then in March of 2005, you hear oral arguments in a case about the state ban on gay marriage. Eighteen months later, the dumb decision is still pending. You've tossed. You've turned. What to do? If you vote to strike down the ban, the president will take your name in vain...If you vote to uphold the ban, on the other hand...[i]nstead of causing widespread fury, you will unleash, at most, widespread resignation. Still, you feel bad. You hold no personal animus toward gay people. You even think there is something slightly mean-spirited behind your state's Defense of Marriage Act. You talk it over with your wife/husband/clerks. It's a pickle. Months pass. Until you hit upon the solution: Shift the blame. Make the legislature the bad guys. Find a way to frame the ban on gay marriage that makes it impossible to strike down. Rule that unless the ban is utterly insane, it's constitutional. Suggest that as long as the legislature passed it, it must be rational. Use the word 'deferential' six times...." From Dahlia Lithwick, Rational Lampoon -- How to Make a Thorny Constitutional Question Disappear (Slate 07.17.2006).
Appeals court: 'We're for dogs.' "The owner of a death-row dog said yesterday it was 'fantastic' that his beloved pet had been spared at the 11th hour. Three judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh granted a reprieve to Kez more than a year after the alsatian-whippet cross made a 12-year-old girl on roller blades fall over and graze her elbow by tugging at her jeans with its teeth. [A year ago] Linlithgow Sheriff Court...ruled that the six-year-old bitch was a dangerous dog and should be destroyed...Mr Armstrong, [the owner,] who has multiple sclerosis, said Kez was the only thing that kept him going. Victim Sarah Howard previously said she did not want to see Kez put down and would rather it was just kept on a lead." More (The Scotsman 07.27.2006). Earlier. The courthouse dog, which contains an update on the condition of our beloved friend, Lady Mathilda Ragnhilda Doolittle Hanson, a/k/a Mathilda, Wonder Dog, the original blawg dog.
White powder found in doorway to courtroom!! "A Broward County maintenance worker discovered a white powder sprinkled on the floor outside the door to a locked fourth-floor courtroom shortly before 8 a.m. Wednesday, the Broward Sheriff's Office reported. BSO Homeland Security and BSO Haz-Mat responded to the site on the 200 block of Southeast Sixth Street. The courthouse was not evacuated, but the fourth floor was closed off temporarily. At 10:50 a.m., BSO declared an all clear at the courthouse...." More (Sun-Sentinel 07.26.2006). Comment. Preliminary indications are that the "powder" was just flaked-off dry wall. It's usually something innocuous -- e.g., talcum powder. Perhaps because many trial judges, who must sit on the bench (well, technically on a hard oak chair) all day, develop hemorrhoids and use talcum powder. Judges ought to think twice about taking talcum powder with them to the courthouse for personal (or other) use during the day. Suppose a judge were to spill a little and suppose a security officer were to spot it and mistake it for some dangerous substance. Well, we're talking probable evacuation. Accordingly, we at this time remind all judges of BurtLaw Rule-of-Thumb for Judges #07: "Leave the talc at home!" But, we're not just negative. We also offer this positive tip: wear a pair of our judge-endorsed BurtLaw Bench Pants with the specially-designed sculpted foam-cushion insert, guaranteed to help prevent irritation of "the judicial derrière." Our motto is: "An irritated judge is not a fair judge." The sculpted insert, BTW, is available in several designs, one of which "enhances" the "buns" of the judge who wishes to appear virile as well as wise. (Other custom inserts, serving varying functions, are also available and may be combined with the sculpted foam-cushion insert: e.g., the scented or unscented charcoal-filter insert, particularly popular with vegan judges.) Update. Another white powder scare in courthouse (Bradenton Herald 07.31.2006).
Globe-trotting judge. "As an FTD certified judge, [Jack Smith] trotted the globe to attend international floral design competitions, including the National Floral Competition in Argentina, the Pan-American Cup Competition in Colombia, and the Asia Cup Competitions in Tokyo and Seoul...." More (Naples Sun-Times 07.26.2006). Comment. With common law judges receiving poverty-level wages, having to defend themselves in partisan elections, getting bumped from the bench simply for being human, it is possible that in years to come more and more young law school grads will set their sights on alternative judgeships, say, flower judge, jam&jelly judge, county fair judge, or rabbit judge. FTD certified judges get to "globe-trot," rabbit judges get to travel around the country -- and what? -- a common law judge represents the court at a convention at some beach-front resort and gets skewered in the press! To paraphrase JFK, life isn't always fair; ironically, it's sometimes even less fair to those who devote their lives to fairness. :-)
Another historic first: a Kadazandusun is named chief judge!! "Federal Court Judge Datuk Richard Malanjum was appointed Sabah and Sarawak High Court Chief Judge, making him the first Kadazandusun to hold the post...." More (Bernama - Malaysian National News Agency 07.26.2006). Comment. Here in Minnesota, it's Norwegian-Americans, particularly those living in upper-bracket suburbs like Edina, who are shockingly under-represented in the state judiciary, while Swedes, particularly male Swedes with the surname Anderson, are vastly over-represented. To repeat what I just said, life ain't fair.
Is it wrong for judges to pick attorneys for criminal defendants? "More than two years after passage of a state law to ensure fairness, some Broward judges are skirting the rules when it comes to handing out work to criminal-defense lawyers. Records show that instead of appointing special public defenders in order from an approved list, judges offer up lots of reasons for skipping over people. Broward's public defender has asked for an audit of the county's system, saying that defendants are paying the price for the liberties judges take with the list...." More (Miami Herald 07.26.2006). Comment. The system is examined in some detail in this piece. I still think Minnesota's state public defender system -- created many years ago by Chief Justice Oscar Knutson, Hennepin County Attorney George Scott, the first state public defender, C. Paul Jones, and others -- is the model that other states ought to consider following.
Judge as crowd-delighter. "Palm Beach County Judge Nelson E. Bailey of the 15th Circuit Court of Florida...has a passion for Florida history and storytelling. He is even listed in the Directory of American Storytellers as a Teller of Florida Stories, performing as a 'Florida Cracker Storyteller' about the late 1800s. It was his famous storytelling that drew a sold out crowd to the Loxahatchee River Historical Museum in Jupiter Thursday night, to hear Bailey tell 'Tales of the Florida Cracker Cow Hunter,' and their practices in the 1800s and today...." More (TCPalm 07.26.2006). Comment. And then there was the Midwestern judge with the same great story-telling skills, who delighted his golfing buddies with good, clean All-American off-color stories at the 19th Hole.
Jammu and Kashmir's pre-modern judicial history. "Besides President A P J Abdul Kalam making an address, another event will mark the Diamond Jubilee function of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court; the inauguration of a court museum in Srinagar by the Chief Justice of India. 'The museum will display many judgements and court records,' said Director, Archives, S K A Qadri. In fact, Jammu and Kashmirís pre-modern judicial history starts from 1800-1928, said Qadri, adding, 'Also on display will be several judgements delivered in Persian.' Apart from valuable court documents, the museum will showcase photographs of lawyers of the likes of Mohd Ali Jinnah, Dr Sir Mohammad Iqbal, Tej Bahadur Sapru, V K Krishna Menon and Sir Mohammad Zafarrullah Khan who appeared for different cases in the state...." More (Kashmir Live 07.26.2006). Comment. You won't be able to take it all in in just one day. Bring the kids and plan on spending more than one day there. The photographs of lawyers will entrance the kids and surely set them on the path toward law as a career.
India to establish 6,000 rural courts. "The central government is mulling setting up of more than 6,000 special rural courts to bring speedy justice in rural parts of the country, Union Law Minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj has said. 'The union government is soon going to bring a bill for setting up rural courts, which would be known as 'Grameen Nyayalayas.' These courts would function in villages at the intermediate panchayat level so that people living in villages do not have to spend money to travel to towns and cities in search of justice,' the law minister told BBC Hindi in an interview Tuesday...."More (Daily India 07.26.2006). Comment. For a cheaper alternative, see, my comments at 'Mobile courts' as answer ("With the county fairs season approaching, the justices of a state supreme court could split up, each hopping on a bike, Lance-Armstrong-style, in nerdy tights and helmet, and head to a different part of the state, serving as Insta-All-Purpose-Judges at the fairs, judging rabbit competitions, deciding which jelly is best, and dealing -- quickly, on the spot! -- with carnie types and hooligans).
Latest on embattled chief justice. "Several developments have arisen over the embattled Chief Justice [in Trinidad and Tobago] who police want for allegedly perverting the course of justice. There is a new statement denying that there was consensus by the Judiciary over events which took place on Friday July 14 when the police tried unsuccessfully to execute an arrest warrant on the Chief Justice...Attorney General John Jeremie has asked the Judicial and Legal Service Commission to start an investigation of 'morally wrong' and 'improper' misbehaviour by Appeal Court Justice Stanley John whom he alleged interfered with the police in the execution of their duty on July 14...." More (Caribbean360 07.26.2006).
Innovations, trends in courtroom fashion. "A male lawyer who appeared in a New Zealand court dressed in an ankle-length skirt, lace stockings and a diamond brooch said on Tuesday he was protesting...what he described as a boys' network in the court room. 'I'm objecting to the male ethos that is dominating this case and from now on I'm going to be dressing as a girl in my daily life,' Moodie [said]. 'It wouldn't have happened if I hadn't seen the gung-ho attitude in this case. The more this goes on and the deeper the cover-up gets, the frocks will get prettier,' he said...."More (NZTV 07.25.2006). Further reading. Woman 'forced' to remove bra to gain entry to courthouse? - Judges frown on underwear in courtroom.
Judicial moonlighting. "[The delayed opening for the summer of] Hansen's Sno-Bliz Shop, the cinder block snowball stand at 4801 Tchoupitoulas St...on Saturday comes at the end of certainly the most sorrow-filled months in the business' 67 years. Neither Mary nor Ernest Hansen, the founders who'd been married 72 years, will be on hand to dispense pleasantries or fluffy cream of strawberry snowballs. Mary passed away Sept. 8, at the age of 95, after evacuating to a nursing home in Thibodaux. Ernest, inventor of the Sno-Bliz machine that yields the stand's preternaturally fine ice shavings, succumbed to cancer in March. Ashley Hansen, Mary and Ernest's granddaughter, will -- with the help of her father, Orleans Magistrate Judge Gerard Hansen -- keep the New Orleans tradition alive...." More (New Orleans Times-Picayune 05.26.2006). This basic story was featured this morning, 07.25.2006, on NPR's Morning Edition: Audio of report. Comment. Judge Hansen (who apparently doesn't know that the preferred spelling is Hanson) helps his daughter out on the weekend. She makes the syrups using Louisiana cane sugar (it tastes much better than beet sugar, much better than corn syrup) and an old, secret family recipe.
The courthouse dog. In 1997, District Judge Ralph Strother's mother, Alline, died. As she wanted him to do, Judge Strother began taking care of Buff, her cocker spaniel, who is now 13. Judge Strother has been bringing Buff with him to the McLennan County Courthouse "two to four days a week for the last four to five years." According to him, the dog "is universally loved. He has become an unofficial mascot of the courthouse." Buff typically spends his time curled up in a chair in chambers, but he has also become, in Strother's view, "a wonderful asset" in the courtroom, where he is "especially valuable in putting young people at ease during adoptions and child-custody fights." If you've seen sentimental dog movies, you know that someone had to play the role of the bad guy and complain. A commissioner did so at the board meeting on Monday, saying there'd been complaints by people with allergies and suggesting maybe the board should adopt a policy regarding animals in the courthouse. According to a report of the meeting, "some" also have been critical of Strother's using his 82-year-old bailiff, Clarence Cobb, to take the dog outside for bathroom breaks twice a day. But "Cobb said he enjoys his time with Buff, adding that it permits him to escape from his small bailiffís cubicle and allows two old dogs to get their exercise. He and the judge joke that Buff also is a 'chick magnet,' attracting plenty of attention from the ladies. 'You donít want to hear what I think,' Cobb said when asked about [the one commissioner's] agenda item." Judge Strother said what he thinks: he suggested that the commissioner must have more important things to worry about. "I have no idea what the agenda here is or why this has become an issue after all this time. Buff does not bark, growl, bite or snarl. He minds his own business. He is a perfect gentleman. None of those qualities apply to [the commissioner in question]." More (Waco Tribune-Herald 07.25.2006). Comment. At this very moment, I'm providing care and comfort to my old friend, Mathilda, Wonder Dog, a ten-and-a-half-year-old Aussie who's been mascot of my original law weblog since its inception in 2000. Mathilda is suffering from a tumor around her heart that's slowly but surely weakening her. She's always been a perfect lady, just as Buff is a perfect gentleman. Who knows but what dogs like Mathilda and Buff around the courthouse might make the courthouse safer. There's a great Pedigree dog food commercial that shows a number of cute dogs & has the punch line, We're for dogs (there also are ones that say, "We're for pups" and "We're for shelter dogs"). Well, we here at the international headquarters of BurtLaw's The Daily Judge are for dogs -- Mathilda and Buff and a lot of other ones. Further reading. Judge caught on tape demeaning man with service dog - Annals of eccentric judges - The courthouse dog -- or, what are dogs up to? - Judge under fire for saying dog rescuer should have shot dogs - Dog saves courthouse from deliveryman - Courts are going to the dogs.
How to deal with gays, Aborigines in court. "There is a new guide book for judges that suggests ways to deal with gay men and Aboriginal people...In dealing with people from an ethnic or migrant backgrounds the book cautions judges against using Australian sporting analogies. It gives an example of saying sticky wicket instead of difficult. It says words like bugger or bastard should be avoided because they may be much more offensive to someone from a non-English speaking background if taken literally...." More (ABC Online 07.25.2006).
Pansy judges. "The Ohio Association of Garden Clubs sent Mary Lee Minor of Bucyrus to judge the floral entries at the fair. Doug Bland of the Blossoms and Butterflies Garden Club said those certified to be judges attend classes and take tests. 'They have to identify the flowers, shrubs, seeds ó all the plant materials that are used -- before they can become a judge,' Bland said. 'Itís really time and labor-intensive to become a judge. Thereís a lot of miles involved, too, with travel.'" More (Tiffin Advertiser-Tribune 07.25.2006).
Former judge killed flying small plane. "A former Morgan County judge once convicted of drug trafficking was killed Monday when the small plane he was flying crashed near the Hartselle Municipal Airport. Thomas Coggin crashed nose-first onto private property at 3090 Celestial Drive, a few hundred yards from the airport...." More (Huntsville Times 07.25.2006).
Judge's 21-year-old daughter murdered. "The 21-year-old daughter of a Washington County judge, found unconscious Friday on West Arlington Street, died of homicidal violence, an autopsy confirmed Saturday. The woman, identified as Meghan Kohl, was found unconscious by her two roommates when they returned from work around 4 p.m., said Sgt. Lynne Benton, a spokeswoman for the Gladstone Police Department. Kohl is the daughter of Washington County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Kohl...." More (KTVZ TV 07.25.2006).
Dahlia Lithwick on Jeffrey Rosen. "Forced to choose between toothless justices and unconstrained ones, [Jeffrey] Rosen opts for the toothless ones. And he leaves us with the vision of a court that trudges dutifully, almost pointlessly, behind the nation and the other political branches...If the court must meekly approve any act taken by the executive branch or Congress, so long as it's supported in the polls -- performing at most an 'educative' function -- we hardly need nine justices. And if the court is really to become the national prom queen or House of Windsor -- more interested in appearing legitimate than in doing anything -- we can probably phase it right out...." Dahlia Lithwick, Silence in the Court! - Why are liberals urging that the Supreme Court do next to nothing? (Slate 07.24.2006).
'Mobile courts' as answer. "Prosecutors will be able to issue on-the-spot fines through police stations and offenders like TV licence dodgers will see their cases dealt with in bulk and will no longer have to face magistrates. New mobile courts, which will be temporarily based in places like town halls, will be tested to deal with crimes including graffiti and criminal damage. The whole magistrates' court system will be speeded up to see some offenders, such as thieves, receive 'next day' service where their cases have to be dealt within 24 to 72 hours. Some processes in the court system such as pre-trial hearings will be scrapped and live links between police and magistrates courts will be trialed allowing offenders to give pleas without leaving their police charging cells. Young first time offenders may not be taken to court for minor offences, but instead be made to apologise face-to-face to their victim...." More (Sheffield Today 07.24.2006). Comment. If it's o.k. for Justice Breyer & other members of the USSCt to cite foreign precedents (click here for more), we don't see why state supreme courts, as part of their judicial outreach efforts, can't take this "foreign" idea & run with it, adapting it as necessary in the great laboratories of the American experiment. The possibilities are endless. Indeed, one Philadelphia trial judge, perhaps not realizing what a path-breaking visionary he was, started holding mobile court at Philadelphia Eagles football games in 1998, as recounted in this excerpt from an item we posted at BurtLaw's Court Gazing in early 2002:
In Philadelphia, a former cop named Seamus McCaffery, who is now a publicity-seeking, Harley-riding, gun-toting highly-popular judge, adapted this idea to the trial bench in 1998, taking his show on the road to Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, where, during Eagles' football games, he provides summary, on-the-spot justice, Philadelphia-style, to hooligan fans arrested for "public urination, intoxication, throwing beer on people, that sort of thing." (UK Guardian Observer 01.20.2002).
With the county fairs season approaching, the justices of a state supreme court could split up, each hopping on a bike, Lance-Armstrong-style, in nerdy tights and helmet, and head to a different part of the state, serving as Insta-All-Purpose-Judges at the fairs, judging rabbit competitions, deciding which jelly is best, and dealing -- quickly, on the spot! -- with carnie types and hooligans. Further reading. Mobile food courts - Mobile Court: The T.V. Show - Mobile court program in India - Mobile courts in India. And see, To Many in the Amazon, Government Comes on a Boat (N.Y. Times 09.18.2005).
Mobile judge - he travels the country judging... "'I turned a hobby into a living,' [Terry] Fender [of Lynchburg, Ohio,] said while trying to wipe the rabbit fur from his contact lens with his finger. 'I work on the side, and I am not making as much money as before I became a rabbit judge but I'm a hell of a lot happier.' Visiting about 70 rabbit shows per year at county and state fairs across the country, Fender said he judges between 200 and 300 rabbits per show -- an estimated 17,500 rabbits per year...." More (Indiana Daily Student 07.24.2006). Comment. You gotta love that line: "I am not making as much money as before I became a rabbit judge but I'm a hell of a lot happier." One never knows, as a young boy or girl, how one will find one's bliss, or what form it will take.
Keep Judge David Bales, my dad. "His many life experiences and roles as a father and grandfather have adequately prepared him to serve as judge for Hamilton County. I challenge anyone who disagrees with this message to sit in his courtroom and listen as well as observe how he treats the lawyers, officers and defendants that come before him with respect and fairness...." From an opinion piece by Kristin Allen, daughter of Judge David Bales. More (The Chattanoogan 07.24.2006).
Why my son Johnny Houston should be judge. "Every mom is proud of her children. I have four (John is my oldest) and I deeply love each of them. But John is more than a son to me. I had him at an early age and I guess you could say we grew up together in some ways. He is a person I enjoy talking to and whose advice I listen to. Although I live at the other end of the state, we speak by phone several times a week, discussing everything from family to politics to my interest in pro basketball (he likes to tease me about that.) I enjoy spending time with him and he can always, always make me laugh...." From an opinion piece by Nancy Estes, mother of Johnny Houston. More (The Chattanoogan 07.24.2006).
State's 'sweetest judge.' "By day, Judge Dan O'Hanlon is your typical circuit court judge, locking up bad guys and settling disputes. But in his spare time, this judge has developed an unlikely hobby: honey-making...Every Saturday, O'Hanlon packs up his truck full of honey pots and treks down to the Central City Farmers Market in Huntington to peddle his homemade product. Usually, he can sell 12 quart-size jars, six pint-size jars, 12 honey bear-shaped squeeze bottles and 20 8 oz. jars in a matter of two or three hours -- making $200 or more each Saturday. His quart-size jars, honeycomb included, usually sell out by 9 a.m...." More (Charleston Daily Mail 07.24.2006). Comment. Today seems to be Judicial Hobby Day. Read on...
Columbus judge 'hams it up.' "During the Christmas of 1953, when John Laney was 12 years old, he heard a voice. He was delivering a fruit cake to a family friend when he heard the disembodied speech. His father's friend had a ham radio in a room nearby, and Laney moved closer to the equipment when he heard the noise. The man was talking to someone in Marietta over the radio waves. He offered the microphone to Laney. 'And I had the classic case of mic fright,' said a smiling Laney, now a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Columbus. That first case of mic fright didn't keep Laney away from what has become a lifelong hobby. Now close to 53 years later, Laney remains a ham radio enthusiast. His home has a cluttered room one might think every ham operator has, filled with equipment used to speak across continents...." More (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer 07.24.2006). Comment. During the 1953-1954 school year, my fifth grade teacher, Julian J. Meyer, helped me learn the International Morse Code and taught me what I needed to know to pass the novice Ham radio operator test, which I took early one spring morning in the old federal courthouse in St. Paul (now "Landmark Center"). I may have been the youngest ham operator in MN at that time. I spent a good part of the summer of '54 holed up in a bedroom "communicating" by code with other operators around MN and beyond, using an old receiver given me by Mr. Meyer and a new Heathkit transmitter he helped me build from kit at the end of the school year. By the end of the summer I'd gotten my own weekday afternoon (and Sunday morning) Mpls. paper-delivery route and, what with sports and studies, pretty much lost interest in the hobby. In other words, I was growing up. :-) Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., second-cousin-once-removed of my ex-wife, said several years ago that surfing the web is like ham-radio operating. I think instant-messaging and blabbing on cellphones (I don't do either) are more akin than web-surfing to hamming. Blogging? I think it's more like publishing without an editor or, to use a line from Robert Frost, "playing tennis without a net" (or an opponent). Blogging also reminds me somewhat of my days as "Rockin' Rand," an after-school top-40 deejay at the old KBMO radio, 1290 on the AM dial, in Benson, MN, starting when I was a junior in high school. Both are forms of "broadcasting" to an imaginary and real audience consisting of God knows how many or how few "listeners." I sometimes used to imagine that some "scout" for WCCO radio, the 50,000 watt clear-channel "Good Neighbor to the Northwest," might be driving within hearing distance one day, hear the show, and "discover" me. I still dream of being "discovered." It is, I think, the dream of all shy people, of which I am one. I hope, even when I'm dying, I'll still be capable of dreaming of being "discovered." Who knows but what I will be.... Who knows but what each of us will be....
The constitutional separation of courts and sports. "Blair County Judge Hiram A. Carpenter was taught to work and play hard. He presided over some of the biggest cases in Blair County legal history...Carpenter is tackling one of the most explosive murder trials in county history -- Miguel Padilla, accused of a triple homicide. The public rarely sees the other side, the off-time, thoughtful judge-turned-super-sports-fan. Carpenter is at Altoona Curve games, Pirate games, Penn State football games, but most always at West Virginia University home and away football games. Carpenterís love of sports is not a come-lately, middle-age thing. Carpenter was a five-sport letterman in high school: football, baseball, basketball, tennis and volleyball...Carpenter manages to keep his two worlds apart, except he sometimes wears a casual Mountaineer sports jacket to the courthouse, and he has the habit, now a tradition, of sprinting from his office to the bench as the court begins each day, a five-yard scurry reminiscent of a football player breaking from the huddle. That separation of sport and court, however, was put to a severe test Jan. 2 when two judges were due to take the oath of office. He didnít want to miss the 9 a.m. ceremony, but he also didnít want to miss the 8 p.m. kick-off of the West Virginiaís appearance in the Sugar Bowl. A plan was hatched...." More (Altoona Mirror 07.24.2006). Comment. Hmm, I muse outloud: how big a wall should the wall be that separates courts from sports -- or is the "wall metaphor" inappropriate?
'Superjudge'? "Bruce Cutler once slam-dunked an indictment into a trash can. The Brooklyn-born defense lawyer's most famous client was the late mob boss John Gotti. Cutler's style has been compared to that of a pro wrestler. But when he came up to Goshen and raised his voice during a murder trial in 2000, this is what Judge Jeffrey G. Berry told him: 'Sit down.'" More (Times Herald-Observer 07.24.2006). Comment. Our hero.
Antwerp's new law courts - an architectural masterpiece. "Inspired by the port The Law Courts, located on the southern edge of Antwerp, cover a surface area of 78,000 m² and features six levels: one underground and five above ground, the highest of which is just 15.75 m off the ground. The pointed glass roofs over the six large courtrooms stunningly reproduce the port and sailboats on the Scheldt river. The structures also houses 26 small courtrooms capped with wooden and steel roofs. All of the roofs are linked together by a central glass-covered area (traditionally known as the Salle des Pas Perdus)...Glass is everywhere, rendering the workings of justice more transparent and giving the citizenry pride of place. The architects opted for glass because it is so multifunctional, providing natural light, thermal control, solar protection, fire resistance, acoustic insulation and a choice between transparency and privacy...." More (Glass on Web 07.24.2006). Comment. Sounds like a judicial version of Rev. Robert Schuller's "Crystal Cathedral" out in California. I'm all for lots of natural light in any building in which people work, including a courthouse. I suffer from so-called S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and need as much light as I can get during the short winter days. Both my offices with the supreme court -- the first on the third floor of the capitol, the second on the fourth floor of the Minnesota Judicial Center -- faced south, overlooking downtown St. Paul, giving me much-needed sunlight on winter days that were sunny.
Ex-judge is spared jail after being found guilty of altering a cheque. "Former district judge Brendan Salsbury was spared jail last week after being convicted of altering a cheque from a school trust. Salsbury, 47, initially faced 25 charges of theft, false accounting and obtaining transfers of money between January 1 1999 and July 31 2002, while employed as a clerk to the William Parker School Foundation Trust. But several charges were dropped by the prosecution during the two-week trial at Croydon Crown Court, and Salsbury was acquitted on all but one of the remainder. A jury convicted him of adding £1,000 to the figure stated on a cheque last Thursday. The solicitor, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, was given a year's conditional discharge and ordered to pay £300 in costs. Judge Timothy Stow QC said: 'I appreciate it is enough punishment for a solicitor to find himself a defendant on criminal charges and to be convicted after a fairly lengthy trial.' The judge added he accepted that Salsbury had not been involved in a deception. He reasoned Salsbury believed he had been entitled to the extra £1,000 he entered on the cheque, and said he would give him the benefit of the doubt...." More (Hastings Observer 07.24.2006). Comment. Wouldn't it have been better for Judge Snow, in placing the former judge on probation, to simply have said that this is a sentence on a par with that given to any other defendant convicted of this offense under these circumstances?
Two judges have past with Communist-era state security service. "Two members of Bulgaria's Supreme Cassation Court have contributed for a short period of time to the Communist-era state security services, the court said...The news comes amidst an ongoing debate over how Bulgaria should reckon with its totalitarian past and after the names of well-known television journalists, who allegedly collaborated with communist secret services, were revealed at the end of May. Sixteen years after the collapse of the regime, Bulgaria has remained the only country among former Soviet satellites in failing to reach consensus on the issue...." More (Sofia News Agency 07.24.2006). Comment. Go ye forth as neutral arbiters and sin against Capitalism no more.
Lawyers are hit up for judge's debt. "Fundraising receptions for some of Nashville's soon-to-be-judges are drawing fire from critics, who question why lawyers who would come before the judges' courts are being asked to pay up. These unopposed candidates are trying to pay off their campaign debts -- or pay back their own funds that they've sunk into their races -- by having fundraisers at which donors, many of them lawyers, are asked to give money...." More (Fairview Observer 07.24.2006). Comment. The director of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research is quoted saying, "If attorneys are dumping money into unopposed judicial races, it certainly raises suspicion that Tennessee's legal system may also be for sale." From my perspective, it doesn't matter whether a judicial candidate is opposed or unopposed or whether he is aware of the names of his donors/supporters or not: a candidate for judicial office ought not solicit or accept endorsements or contributions. That's the position I took in 2000 when I ran for statewide judicial office in MN. I also spent less than $100. Of course, I lost, but in the immortal words of Hon. Alfred E. Neuman, "What, Me Worry?"
Sensational drama in the courtroom. "Tommy Sheridan will tomorrow start to present his case against the News of the World following one of the most sensational weeks ever witnessed in a Scottish courtroom. The week's drama began on Tuesday, when the former leader of the Scottish Socialist Party sacked his legal team and started to defend himself. It ended on Friday when he sobbed as he declared his love for his wife, Gail. In between, Sheridan said he was the victim of 'the mother of all stitch-ups' and accused 10 witnesses of committing perjury...." More (The Observer 07.23.2006). He's a Scot, a socialist, and, when needed, a dirty fighter (Sunday Times 07.23.2006). Earlier. Sex and socialism in defamation case.
The 'Citizens Commission.' "Quie said the volunteer commission was formed after Minnesota Supreme Court Justice G. Barry Anderson approached him about chairing the group, which includes Anderson, Justice Alan Page, other judges, and a bipartisan mix of people from the legal, political, academic and business communities...." That's from a longer version of basically the same story I linked to last week on the "hearings" conducted by the so-called "Citizens Committee on the Preservation of an Independent Judiciary," chaired by former Gov. Al Quie. More (St. Paul Pioneer-Press 07.23.2006). Here's a link to the list of the committee members. Comment. I posted a critical piece last week on the "hearings" by the commission. See, MN's 'establishment' still upset by S. Ct.'s judicial free speech decisions. Here's an opinion piece I posted last January on the commission shortly after its formation was announced:
Group-think on judicial selection. Today's St. Paul Pioneer-Press has an editorial titled Revamp judicial selection process that illustrates the kind of group-think I spoke of yesterday in my critical comments (click here & here) on the predictable reaction by MN's new chief justice on the U.S. Supreme Court's declination of review of the 8th Circuit case holding that MN's restrictions on free speech by judicial challengers and their supporters in judicial elections violate the First Amendment. We expect more such predictable group-think to come from the so-called Quie Commission formed by "the legal community" to address the "crisis" created by the 8th Circuit's upholding of First Amendment values. Why? a) Experience supports the opinion that most such "commissions" are formed to reach and support predetermined conclusions. b) The membership of these commissions is usually hand-picked to that end. c) The "legal community" has shown it is close-minded on the issues of free speech by judicial challengers and their supporters. (If some of the local judges who are so close-minded on these issues are as close-minded in deciding cases, they ought not be judges.) Our advice to ordinary people: Don't give undue weight to the views of "the legal community" on the subject of judicial selection "reform." 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).
Looking at the list of members on the commission's web site and the carefully-chosen, extremely limited list of "readings" suggested there only confirms my initial views as to the likely outcome of the committee's "investigation." I don't claim it's a "stacked" or "dummy" commission with a "pre-determined outcome" but I think that, if someone asked me to do it, I could predict pretty much what the commission's report will say. By the way, those of us familiar with Minnesota history know that the mere use of the word "Citizens" in connection with a committee or organization doesn't necessarily mean the committee or organization is benign. Consider, e.g., the history of the so-called Minnesota Citizens Alliance, a notorious anti-union group financed by the Wayzata crowd in the 1920's and 1930's. In such matters, one must always -- in Justice Holmes' phrase -- "think things, not words." One other "by the way": one should always be suspicious of the bias of a group that says it is concerned about "judicial independence" if it doesn't also say, and convince you, that it is equally concerned about "judicial accountability." For more on this theme, see my 2000 essay, BurtLaw on Judicial Independence and Accountability.
Judge is censured, suspended. "The state Supreme Court has censured a King County district court judge and suspended her without pay for 30 days. The court's unanimous order disciplining Judge Mary Ann Ottinger of Issaquah came on the recommendation of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, which...said Ottinger routinely told defendants of their right to have an attorney after they had entered a plea rather than before...." More (Seattle Times 07.23.2006).
Judicial 'reform' as ministerial influence. "An international body of senior judges has criticised key Scottish Executive plans to shake up the appointments system to the judiciary. The Commonwealth Magistrates' and Judges' Association (CMJA) says it is 'concerned' that if the changes go ahead politicians will have too much influence over the Scottish bench. It also believes that proposals for disciplining judges and sheriffs may lead to members of the bench being sacked for personal reasons...." More (The Scotsman 07.23.2006).
Naming a pop group after a judge. "Spanish pop group Garzon, named after the crusading judge who tried to bring former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to justice, has had to change its name after Baltasar Garzon himself threatened legal action...So the musicians, on the bill at Spain's Benicassim rock festival this weekend, have renamed themselves Grande-Marlaska after the judge who substituted for Garzon at the High Court while he was away on sabbatical...." More (Mail & Guardian 07.22.2006). Comment. How about "The Rockin' Nino's"? Or, simply, "Scalito -- the Band"?
Summoning a heifer. "Cecil Henry Sloman and Harold Goodman both claimed ownership of the animal and, after a day of legal wrangling, Judge Scobell Armstrong finally had enough. With Solomon-like ingenuity he decided the matter could only be settled by an expert in the field -- Jenny herself. He ordered both cattle owners to call their respective herdsmen to a nearby farmyard where Jenny was walked between them by a clerk of the court. Each then called to the animal and Jenny at last provided the evidence that she belonged to...." More (Telegraph - UK 07.22.2006).
Developments in the law -- blogging jurors. "New Hampshire's Supreme Court is considering whether a convicted rapist got a fair trial after a man who posted disparaging comments about the case on the internet later became foreman of the jury that voted for the conviction. Stephen Goupil is serving at least 35 years in prison after being found guilty of leading a home invasion in Laconia in April 2004 and repeatedly raping a 24-year-old woman at knifepoint...Goupil's lawyer, Mark Sisti, said the trial court should have set aside the verdicts after learning that Vachon, a member of the Laconia School Board, referred to defendants as 'local riff raff' on a personal Web blog four days before jury selection. Vachon also is said to have posted a statement in which he said he was frustrated to have to serve on a jury that would require him to spend time listening to defendants trying to prove they were innocent...." More (Boston Globe 07.21.2006). Comments. a) I served on a jury in a slip-and-fall case a couple years ago. During voir dire I revealed that I had a law blog and that I had posted comments to the effect that our society is "over-litigated," but I also said that I felt the right to sue for personal injury was part of our liberties. Both plaintiff and defense counsel accepted me without challenge, and I served on the jury, which returned a monetary award in plaintiff's favor. b) A separate issue would be raised by a juror's posting comments on the trial on his blog during trial. The thought of posting such comments never occurred to me. Indeed, when plaintiff's counsel left word on my answering machine after trial to call and discuss the case, I didn't return the call. Similarly, I didn't answer and return a routine questionnaire sent by the court that inquired about my participation as juror.
Striking silks leave courts in chaos. "Italy's judicial system, glacial in good times, has ground virtually to a halt. 'Italian justice today is a disaster beyond what it has ever been before,' said Alessandro Vannucci, a lawyer...Mr Vannucci joined the strike with most of his 160,000 colleagues, who are protesting against changes proposed by the centre-left Prodi Government. These would allow lawyers to advertise and to change their fee structures so they can claim a percentage of settlements in civil cases. The new law would also eliminate a minimum cap on fees. The Government maintains the changes would make the legal profession more competitive and match it to standards prevalent in the European Union...." More (Sydney Morning Herald 07.22.2006).
Judge presiding over drug trial is murdered. "[Peruvian] Judge Hernan Saturno Vergara is said to have been killed by a single gunman. The judge's cousin, a lawyer who was dining with him, was hurt in the attack and is receiving medical treatment. The judge had been handling the trial of alleged members of the Mexico-based Tijuana cartel, regarded by the US as a major cocaine-trafficking organisation...." More (BBC News 07.21.2006).
Annals of creative sentencing. "For Judge Michael A. Cicconetti, a lesson learned is the preferred outcome for one of his sentences. So, in true Cicconetti form, two men were sentenced Thursday in Painesville Municipal Court to pelt [their own car] with pink paintballs. And then wipe it clean. Christopher Lyons, 19, and Joshua Breeding, 20, both of Madison Township, both pleaded guilty to criminal damaging after pelting a woman's home in the township with paintballs...." More (News-Herald 07.21.2006). Comment. I wonder if the judge has tried "the stocks" or "the dunk tank." I don't like the idea of humiliating people in this way but I think a case can be made that it's better in many cases than sending them to jail. Is it "either/or"? Why not "neither"? We jail too many people for piddly things (at great expense) & imprison too many people for far too long (at enormous expense) for "non-piddly" offenses. See, BurtLaw on Crime & Punishment. (I know I'm in the minority on this.) Further reading on Judge Cicconetti. Dept. of Judicial Dangers: Fishing - Judge uses 'humor & humiliation' rather than jail.
Judge advocates 'safe house' for men fleeing forced marriages. "A judge yesterday called for a specialist refuge to be set up in Yorkshire -- to provide a safe haven for men fleeing forced marriage. District Judge Marilyn Mornington, who chaired a major conference in Leeds on honour killings, said men were often victims of so-called 'honour crime,' and one in five forced marriages affected men...." More (Yorkshire Today - UK 07.21.2006). Comment. Is a "forced marriage" in the UK something like the old "shotgun wedding" in my hometown back in the 1950's? As Sen. Hruska might say, those guys deserved a little protection, too.
Court chastizes judge for outburst. "Allegheny County District Judge Ernest L. Marraccini brought his office 'into disrepute' when he threw a 15-minute tantrum and dismissed 30 traffic cases two years ago, the state Court of Judicial Discipline has determined...A complaint filed by the board last year accused Marraccini of announcing to defendants in the waiting room that all their cases were dismissed, and then asking if they were 'morons' when they hesitated to leave. The board also accused him of asking 'whether they understood English and bobbing his head back and forth in a belittling manner.' The court called his treatment of the defendants 'impatient, undignified and discourteous.'" More (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 07.21.2006).
Woman says judge treated her like garbage. "Superior Court officials were reviewing a hearing in which a judge told an illegal immigrant seeking a restraining order against her husband that she should leave his courtroom or risk being deported to Mexico. During the July 14 hearing in Pomona, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Pro Tem Bruce R. Fink asked Aurora Gonzalez if she was an illegal immigrant...Fink later warned Gonzalez that he was going to count to 20 and expected her to disappear by the time he was finished. 'One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. When I get to 20, she gets arrested and goes to Mexico,' Fink said, according to the transcript. After Gonzalez left the courtroom, Fink dismissed the case...." More (San Jose Mercury-News 07.20.2006). (See, also, story in Inland Valley Daily Bulletin 07.20.2006.) Comment. The judge said he only had the woman's interests at heart. In other words, his gallant behavior has been misinterpreted as rudeness. Updates. Experts criticize judge's deportation threat (L.A. Times 07.21.2006); Judge gets the boot over remarks (L.A. Times 07.22.2006).
Judges allowed to go bare-headed during U.K. heat wave. "In Britain, many people simply sought shelter indoors as the mercury rose. By mid-afternoon yesterday, the temperature at Charlwood, near London's Gatwick Airport, hit 36.3C -- the hottest temperature ever recorded in Britain in July. The average temperature in southeastern England in July is 21C. In a bid to beat the heat, the Royal Courts of Justice allowed judges to remove their traditional wigs. And in a rare move, the two-hour shifts of the royal guards who stand outside Buckingham Palace were cut to one hour. At the Colchester Zoo, zookeepers gave lions ice blocks flavoured with blood to try to cool them down...." More (Toronto Star 07.20.2006). Comment. Couldn't they give the judges, who after all are lions of the law, some "flavoured" ice blocks to lick, too? And if mere royal guards get their shifts cut in half because of the heat, shouldn't judges get the afternoon off? Fair is fair.
Judge to decide who owns church. "Parishioners worked their rosary beads, clutching them tightly and repeating their prayers as they departed their beloved St. Frances X. Cabrini Church to board a bus to Boston. Carrying bagged lunches, and donning blue shirts and dove pins, the faithful parishioners made their way to Suffolk Superior Court Thursday for their second civil suit hearing against the Archdiocese of Boston. It was another step on what has been a nearly two-year journey to preserve and reopen the Catholic church closed by the Boston Archdiocese in October 2004. Since then, the St. Frances faithful have held a round-the-clock vigil inside the church and have filed every kind of appeal they can to reverse the Archdiocese...." More (Scituate Mariner - MA 07.20.2006). Comment. I recall the late Professor Mark DeWolfe Howe talk about the Mass. cases on this very topic in his class on Development of Law and Legal Institutions in the fall of 1964 during my first year at Harvard Law School. Howe was one of several professors I had who had clerked for Justice Holmes and he was working on his biography of Holmes at the time and talked about Holmes in class occasionally. I wish I'd paid more attention. See, BurtLaw's Harvard Law School. I seem to recall that top-down churches like the Catholic church usually prevail over the congregation in cases like this. Can't the church officials bend a little on "the law" and work things out with the good congregants? Christ, I believe, said that the only law is love. See, BurtLaw's Law and Love.
Panel charges newly-retired chief justice with misconduct. "Connecticut's retired chief justice was charged Wednesday with violating state law and the judicial code of conduct for holding up the release of an opinion to help a colleague win legislative confirmation. The state Judicial Review Council, which has been meeting for weeks, found probable cause to bring charges against William J. Sullivan, who has remained eligible to sit on cases as a retired justice. He faces a public hearing Sept. 6...Last week, the Democratic leaders of the legislative committee that handles judicial confirmation hearings asked a Waterbury Superior Court judge to reconsider a ruling that stopped them subpoenaing Sullivan to testify at a committee hearing. The judge has not yet ruled on the motion for reconsideration...." More (Boston Globe 07.19.2006). Earlier. Legislators subpoena former chief justice and embedded links/comments.
Lawyers wage war over wife's selection as judge. "Queensland Bar Association president Peter Lyons has launched an extraordinary attack on his deputy for criticising the appointment of Mr Lyons's wife to the Supreme Court bench. Mr Lyons has accused Martin Daubney -- one of the state's top silks -- of engaging in 'an inexcusable act that discredited and disparaged the integrity of the courts.' The attack on Mr Daubney has sent shockwaves through the Queensland Bar and raised concerns that relations between the two men are now so poor that one of them may need to resign. 'It's like World War III,' one barrister told The Australian last night...Former Bar Council member Richard Douglas, who received a copy of Mr Lyons's letter, said he had the highest regard for both men. But if the collapse in relations meant they could no longer work together, 'I certainly hope that Daubney does not go.' 'His remarks would be almost universally supported among the senior bar,' Mr Douglas said. 'We don't need training-wheel judges.'" More (The Australian 07.20.2006). Comment. Aussies take note: The U.S. Federal Judicial Center's educational division operates what it refers to as Baby Judges School for new federal judges. (The Third Branch 08.2005). In some sense, one might argue, every new judge is a "training-wheel judge."
Board accuses another judge of misconduct for 'interfering.' "Volusia County Judge Steven deLaroche was accused Wednesday of deliberately violating judicial ethics by interfering with cases assigned to other judges and dismissing five traffic tickets, including one for his father-in-law...Through his attorney, he denied any improper conduct in throwing out the traffic tickets and blamed his involvement with his father-in-law's case on a short-term bout of depression. Two cases involved the daughter of a former client and another involved a local attorney...." More (Orlando Sentinel 07.20.2006). Comment. It used to be that attorneys and judges in trouble blamed booze. More and more they're saying they were depressed -- even that they suffer from ADD. Annals of judicial conduct proceedings - 'the ADD defense' - Part II - Annals of judicial conduct proceedings - 'the ADD defense' - Part I. On the outcome of the case in which the judge blamed ADD, see, Panel recommends suspending, not removing, judge. Hey, I don't ridicule any of this. I have only sympathy for judges who surprise us by revealing through one misstep or another that they're human.
Panel urges judge's suspension for controversial remarks. "A committee reviewing complaints against Superior Court Judge Bill Mathesius recommended yesterday that the controversial jurist who presides in Mercer County be suspended from his $141,000-a-year post for six months -- three of those without pay. The panel found that remarks Mathesius made both inside and outside the courtroom constituted a pattern of behavior that violated the code of judicial conduct...Mathesius, a former Mercer County executive and prosecutor known for his straight-talking style, was accused of castigating a jury that failed to convict a man on a weapons charge, dismissing a jury for the day without the trial attorneys being present and making inappropriate remarks to appellate court judges who had reversed a criminal conviction...." More (Trenton Star-Ledger 07.20.2006).
Convicted judge must return stolen funds. "A former judge with the Gila River Indian Community's tribal court was sentenced Monday to five years' probation and ordered to reimburse $36,188 she looted from a scholarship fund. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Darlina C. Mercado, 43, of Sacaton, also must serve 90 days of home detention. She previously was stripped of her position as associate judge...." More (Arizona Republic 07.20.2006).
Another attempt by G.O.P. to bar jurisdiction of courts over specific issue. "The House, citing the nation's religious origins, voted yesterday to protect the Pledge of Allegiance from federal judges who might try to stop schoolchildren and others from reciting it because of the phrase 'under God.' The legislation, a priority of social conservatives, passed 260 to 167. It now goes to the Senate, where its future is uncertain...." More (Boston Globe 07.20.2006). Comment. I discussed the Republicans' use of other similar proposed jurisdiction-stripping measures in an extended entry in my political opinion blog, Sometimes Left, Always Right, on Monday, 09.27.2004 (scroll down). For reasons I explained there, and as illustrated years earlier by Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope, proponents of such measures typically care little that many of their promises and proposals "never will be done" -- that is, that they never will take the form of law. The point is "promis[ing] it at the hustings" and "demand[ing] it in the House" -- i.e., winning votes back home. Here's the excerpt from Trollope:
"You must have a subject," pleaded Mr. Scruby. "No young Member can do anything without a subject....[A] subject..., if it's well worked, may save you thousands of pounds -- thousands of pounds at future elections."
"It won't save me anything at this one, I take it."
"But it may secure the seat, Mr. Vavasor...."
"But it never will be done."
"What matters that?" and Mr. Scruby almost became eloquent as he explained the nature of a good parliamentary subject. "...Of course it won't be done. If it were done, that would be the end of it, and your bread would be taken out of your mouth. But you can always promise it at the hustings, and can always demand it in the House. I've known men who've walked into...[a] permanent place, on the strength of a...subject...!"
From "The Election for the Chelsea Districts" in Can You Forgive Her? (1864-65), the first of the six Palliser novels by Anthony Trollope.
BTW, the view that the political party in power ought to feel free to diddle around with the jurisdiction of federal courts in this blatantly expedient and utilitarian way is profoundly not "conservative" and would send the great conservative political theorists into paroxysms of rage.
'White-haired, genteel' judge dies at home. "One of the last true Southern gentlemen died peacefully Wednesday at his Gloucester County home. Retired Circuit Judge John E. DeHardit was 81...Judge DeHardit retired from active judicial duty in 1989 after serving more than three decades on the bench. He continued serving in subsequent years as a substitute judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit. But health problems about 10 years ago forced him to finally doff his robe for good, ending the white-haired, genteel judge's visits to the courthouse...He was gentle even chastising someone for not showing proper decorum, said Herbert I. L. Feild, retired Gloucester Juvenile and Domestic Relations judge. 'If he saw someone without a jacket in the courtroom, he'd quietly say, 'Mr. so-and-so, where is your jacket?' Feild recalled...[His nephew] said the judge would tolerate no profane words being uttered in his courtroom. If profanity was necessary as part of someone's sworn testimony, he said, the witness was asked to write the offensive language on a sheet of paper, which was then passed to the jurors to be read silently...." More (Daily Press - VA 07.19.2006).
Judge's vacation closes court. "The judge of one of Marion Countyís busiest criminal courts is being criticized for closing his court for two weeks while he was on vacation. Superior Court Judge Bill Young took four weeks off to volunteer at a summer camp in Brown County. Fill-in judges and commissioners or magistrates presided over his major felony drug court for two weeks. However, for the first two weeks of July the court shut down completely. 'Itís like a retailer closing in December,' City Controller Robert Clifford said. 'Itís the busiest time of the year.' Some officials questioned the timing of the shutdown, coming as the Marion County Jail has had to release hundreds of inmates in recent weeks to ease overcrowding...." More (Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette 07.19.2006). Comment. Justice Brandeis used to say he could do a year's work in eleven months, not twelve. The system ought to be set up so a judge can use his vacation time without the system breaking down. I know what it is to work for years without taking a vacation. If a judge doesn't take a vacation now and then, he'll break down. The cases of judicial breakdown monitored and featured in these pages are testament to that.
Sex and socialism in defamation case. "It is the libel case which has had everything: a flamboyant political leader, claims of three-in-a-bed sex, visits to swingers' clubs, and even allegations of drug-taking. Yesterday Tommy Sheridan, the man at the centre of the claims, took the lead in his defamation action, enthralling a packed courtroom as he fought to save his career. The former leader of the Scottish Socialist party is suing the News of the World for £200,000 over claims that he took part in orgies, and yesterday Mr Sheridan faced the women who are his principal accusers. He began his crossexamination of one witness with the memorable preamble: 'In your evidence to court this morning, I think you said you had a sexual relationship with me, correct me if I'm wrong.'" More (Guardian - UK 07.19.2006). Comment. In a story like this, one usually finds an amusing quote. Here's Katrine Trolle, 31-year-old "Danish occupational therapist," describing "her first sexual encounter with Mr Sheridan, which she said happened at his house. Ms Trolle said: 'He offered me a glass of wine. We talked a wee bit about politics, and then went upstairs to the bedroom.'" You gotta love that "We talked a wee bit about politics." Also, in a story like this, one often finds mild amusement in the seemingly coincidental, as in a name. Here's an alternate definition, with example, from the definition of "troll" on one of the Internet dictionaries: "praise or celebrate in song; 'All tongues shall troll you.'" Earlier. Changing times in the UK libel courts. Later. Kate Hudson wins libel suit over being called 'dangerously thin' (Independent - UK 07.21.2006).
Judge: 'We're not out of touch -- we push our own trolley.' 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. Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers answered these charges, including the related one that judges are "out of touch." He said: "'We do not live on run-down estates, but we do travel on buses and Tubes, we push trolleys around supermarkets, we have normal family concerns and commitments -- and neither are judges immune from the impact of crime.' Rather than being confused by modern culture, the work of judges, said Lord Phillips, gave them an 'insight into what is happening in all sectors of society.' He described some recent newspaper campaigns as 'intemperate, offensive and unfair.'" More (Independent - UK 07.19.2006).
MN's 'establishment' still upset by S. Ct.'s judicial free speech decisions. "The man who led the fight that prompted the courts to throw out Minnesota's strict limits on how candidates can campaign for judgeships said the change doesn't threaten the impartiality of judges...Wersal was facing the Citizens Commission for the Preservation of an Impartial Judiciary, which was formed in response to his successful battle in what's known as the White case. Wersal, a former state Supreme Court candidate, said the legal community was thrown into 'near hysteria' by the U.S. Supreme Court and Appeals Court decisions that overturned the state's restrictions." Former Gov. Al Quie, who heads the Citizens Commission, "said [it] was formed after Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Barry Anderson approached him about leading the group, which includes Anderson, Justice Alan Page, other judges, and a bipartisan mix of people from the legal, political, academic and business communities." More (Duluth Tribune 07.19.2006).
Comment. a) We'd be surprised if the commission's membership is truly representative and open-minded. More likely, it represents what we have referred to as MN's judicial power elite. In fact, based on our familiarity with the members of that elite, we bet we could predict pretty much what the commission's report will say. That's just our First Amendment-protected opinion.
b) It's also our opinion that Mr. Wersal is accurate in his statement that "the legal community's" response to the White case and to its application by the 8th Circuit has been "nearly hysterical." Obviously, the legal community's response is not in the same category as "the South's" post-Civil War reliance on doctrines of interposition and nullification in response to the Civil Rights Laws, although I must admit the comparison has occurred to me.
c) Much of "the legal establishment's" hysteria (or "resistance" or whatever you want to call it), we believe, comes from a fear of democracy, a distrust of voters. We're not afraid of voters. We like to believe that voters will see through any attempts to buy an election. And we're not troubled that they, rather than the governor, have the ultimate say as to who serves as judges.
d) But, you say, the voters will base their choices on "politics." Politics has always had a big part in judicial selection in MN and elsewhere. The issue is who does the selecting and what may people do to influence the selection. Governors for generations have appointed people primarily from their own party to the judiciary. Our Populist state constitution says the voters, through elections, have the right to decide who their judges are if challengers come forth. The "rules" adopted by judges have been overly restrictive of the First Amendment rights of challengers and of political parties to provide voters with the same sort of relevant information available to governors when making interim appointments. (Justice O'Connor referred to those rules as the MN's "judicial incumbents' Bill of Rights.") Moreover, favored interest groups, including lawyers, as well as elected officials (i.e., politicians), have been allowed to make endorsements all along.
e) No, justice ought not be for sale. But until now, in MN, the "big" spenders have been the incumbents in those few instances in which there've been challengers and a good chunk of the incumbents' money has come from lawyers. When I ran against C.J. Blatz in 2000, her proxy collected a war chest of around $125,000-130,000 even though I promised to not spend more than $100 and in fact did not spend more than $100. Other states have had problems with moneyed interest groups trying to influence the voters. MN has not and I doubt that it will. If outside money comes in, the "good guys" -- i.e., candidates like me :-) -- can refuse the money and the voters, whom I trust, presumably will vote for the good guys. If they don't, well, then maybe they don't deserve better. But I do trust our "above average" voters.
MN's judicial 'power elite.' Sometimes I think sociologists, those "scientists" of how people behave in and because of groups, might find fertile ground for study in the group-think that prevails among those who wield and those who influence the awarding of judicial power. The late C. Wright Mills (1916-1962), a great sociologist, wrote an influential book titled The Power Elite in the 1950s. I read it in a wonderful course taught at the U. of MN in the early '60's by the late Arnold Rose, a brilliant sociologist who was also a DFL legislator. For some of my early musings on whether there is an "invisible" power elite in Minnesota and, if so, the extent to which that elite gets its way in running the state judicial system, go to BurtLaw on Politics & scroll down to "'Power elite' in MN?" For a good introductory explanation of "group-think," including the typical "symptoms" of it, see, this excerpt from E. Griffin, A First Look at Communication Theory c. 18 (1997).
Judging facial cues -- quicker isn't more accurate. "adults who are highly anxious can perceive changes in facial expressions more quickly than adults who are less anxious, a new study shows. By jumping to emotional conclusions, however, highly anxious adults may make more errors in judgment and perpetuate a cycle of conflict and misunderstanding in their relationships...." More (The Hindu 07.19.2006).
When fire guts a courthouse. "Charred debris still litters the Merced County Courts Complex, a reminder of the devastating Sunday morning fire that raced through the District Attorney Office. But Frank Dougherty, Merced County Superior Court presiding judge, said the courts continue to operate efficiently...'The loss of the three courtrooms because of smoke and soot damage have led courts to be held in judge's chambers and other small rooms available to us around the complex. But all cases are being held without any interruption,' the presiding judge said...He said if the two jury trials are held today, one would be conducted in the Women's Clubhouse, at 707 W. 22nd St., and the other in the Merced City Council chambers made available by city administrators...." More (Merced Sun-Star 07.19.2006).
Judges fall for beginner's work product. "I wasn't supposed to win.
I thought third place would be respectable. I surely didn't expect to place...The judges -- Rowland, the fair's culinary superintendent, and Manna, owner of Manna's Restaurant in Ballston Spa -- started with my confection and inspected every inch. They flipped over the piece to even check the bottom...Manna started the critiques with my pie. When he started with mine, I figured I'd be last. He complimented the pie, saying it was definitely a mom's version of an apple pie. Manna went on to casually say it was going to be awarded a blue ribbon. I really felt bad that Brianna Scanlon, who's won the last two pie bake-offs, didn't place. I told her my success was beginner's luck...." More (Albany Times-Union 07.19.2006). Comment. When my mom, Beatrice (1913-1990), was a little girl, her older sister, Adeline, who I remember from my youth as a great cook, prepared several entries in various food preparation & preservation categories for county fair competition. Mom was allowed to use Ad's scraps & leftovers, which she submitted under her own name. Alas, some of Mom's entries beat out Ad's. That didn't please Ad! Judging is always subjective. Some judges fooled themselves into thinking Beaty's pie was significantly better than Adeline's identical pie. Further reading. BurtLaw's Dog Judging, Jam&Jelly Judging, Etc.
Shock-jock in trouble over provocative statements about judge. "Adelaide radio broadcaster Bob Francis faces a possible jail term after being found guilty of contempt for telling listeners on air they should smash in the face of a senior magistrate. Francis and Festival City Broadcasters, owner of station 5AA - pleaded guilty to bringing a judicial officer into contempt. And in the South Australian Supreme Court yesterday, Justice David Bleby found both defendants guilty of prejudicing or perverting the course of justice...." More (News.Com.AU 07.19.2006).
The high cost of judicial delay in Sweden. "Slow courts are costing Sweden millions of kronor in reparation fees. The government last month decided to pay out nearly a million kronor to those who reported the country to the European court after their tax cases took such a long time to be dealt with. Willis Thulin and nine others took Sweden to European Court of Human Rights because it took Sweden nearly 10 years to handle their tax cases. The Swedish government has agreed to a conciliation proposal and paid 95,000 kronor of taxpayers' money to Thulin and the other nine...." More (The Local 07.19.2006). Related entry. Those "randy" Swede (not Norwegian) judges.
Justice Blackmun's widow dies at 95. "Born in a small town outside Duluth, Minn., Dorothy, who went by the nickname 'Dottie,' overcame family difficulties to earn a full scholarship to a St. Paul, Minn., college. She dropped out because of the Great Depression and took a secretarial job. The Blackmuns met during a doubles tennis match and dated for four years. They married in 1941 and had three daughters: Nancy, Sally and Susan. She was a partner in a dress shop in Rochester, Minn., while her husband served on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals...." More (Orlando Sentinel 07.18.2006).
Writing Justice Blackmun. "The Washington Post had learned of my arrangement and was furious. The Post does not like to be scooped, and in fact had beaten the world on the Thurgood Marshall papers, when Bob Woodward learned of the unannounced opening. Through its law firm, Williams & Connolly, the Post now threatened to sue the library, although what the cause of action would have been I was never sure. When the library was unresponsive to the legal threats, the Post executive editor, Leonard Downie, wrote to the president of Yale University, warning him that his incoming dean of the law school, Harold Koh, was about to bring disgrace on the university by this arrangement with the New York Times. Harold later told me that the president called him into his office to read him the letter, and they had a good laugh over it...." From Linda Greenhouse's speech, "Writing Justice Blackmun," delivered at the convention of the American Association of Law Libraries in St. Louis on 07.09.2006. Greenhouse is author of Becoming Justice Blackmun (2005). More (LLRX 07.18.2006).
Deadlocked Supreme Court: 'Someone's voting twice!' "The Supreme Court's third 5-5 vote in the past month has some justices wondering whether one of their number is voting twice. "'As the highest court in the land, it's vital that the Supreme Court observes the basic rule of one vote per justice, even if it's hard to pick a side,' a spokesman for Chief Justice John Roberts said. 'The court will begin again on Thursday in the usual fashion, writing votes for SCOTUS case 11816, People v. Padilla and Brown, on little slips of paper, placing them into the Supreme Court voting hat, and not peeking.'" More (The Onion 07.17.2006).
House leader seeks impeachment investigation of judge. "House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) introduced a resolution on Monday to permit the committee to open an inquiry into possible grounds for the impeachment of U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real of Los Angeles. 'This resolution has become necessary due to a breakdown in the judicial branch's enforcement of the judicial discipline statute Congress enacted in 1980,' Sensenbrenner said in a formal statement...." More (L.A. Times 07.18.2006).
Judge may be in trouble for confiscating TV crew's camera. "Grayson County District Attorney Joe Brown said Monday he plans to file a complaint with the Texas Judicial Ethics Commission against a visiting judge after a camera belonging to KXII-TV was confiscated and footage of the judge erased. 'Destruction of the property of a news organization in this circumstance is at best an abuse of office and at worst criminal behavior,' Brown said in a story in Tuesday's editions of The Herald Democrat...." More (Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram 07.18.2006).
Those unionized courthouse employees. "A powerful public employees union is crossing labor lines in a controversial recruiting campaign aimed at thousands of courthouse workers. The National Association of Government Employees, which represents tens of thousands of government employees across Massachusetts, has sent out recruiting cards to clerical staff and other workers in the stateís courthouse system. The move is highly unusual, however, because the courthouse workers are already members of another union, Local 6 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union. Local 6 leaders have blasted the drive as 'low tactics' and a 'raid' in letters sent out to workers urging them not to sign up with NAGE...." More (Boston Herald 07.18.2006).
Mayor denies judge's claim his town is 'lawless town.' "A judge's claim that Amesbury is a 'lawless town' has been rebuffed by its mayor David Reed. Councillor Reed told a meeting of the town council last week that from his observations the streets of Amesbury are well patrolled by police and it is no better or worse than other towns. He was hitting back at criticism levelled by Salisbury's resident Crown Court Judge Keith Cutler last month when he sentenced a 19-year-old man, convicted of possessing an air rifle during an incident in the town earlier in the year. Judge Cutler said that Amesbury was turning into a lawless town, where every Friday and Saturday night the streets are handed over to people who have had too much to drink...." More (Salisbury Journal - UK 07.18.2006). Comment. Where's Gary Cooper when we need him?
Ought/may a police chief criticize a judge? "Except in a police state, the role of a police commander is not to oversee judges, or interfere with their decisions, or criticize them politically on television. The job of a judge is to make decisions without fear or favor, and without police chiefs accusing them in forums where they cannot explain or defend their actions...." Excerpt from an opinion piece criticizing the Albany, N.Y. police chief for criticizing a judge's decision. More (Albany Times-Union 07.18.2006). Comment. No, in a police state criticism of a judge's decision might well be forbidden. See, Chief Justice warns press: Don't ridicule us! In a free country, people -- even police chiefs -- are free to criticize judges and their decisions. Criticism is the lifeblood of a democracy. Update. A judge responds to chief of police's criticism (Centre Daily Times 07.21.2006).
Panel recommends that voters remove judge. "For the first time in nearly 20 years, the state council that rates Alaska judges is recommending that voters toss a sitting judge off the bench...The Alaska Judicial Council voted 6-0...to recommend voters cast 'no' votes when asked to retain Kenai District Judge David S. Landry at the November general election. The council voted to recommend the re-election of 30 other judges...." More (The Anchorage Daily News 07.17.2006). Update. Panel gives reason: judge has shown 'pattern of poor judgment' (Anchorage Daily News 07.19.2006).
H ow one judge has responded to cancer. "When people are diagnosed with cancer, they often go through numerous emotions -- from denial to anger to resignation. Eventually, they face two general choices -- give in to the disease or fight it. Troy District Judge Michael Martone[, 59,] has found a third alternative in his personal battle with...cancer: provide a little laughter and fun for children who also are suffering from the ailment...." More (The Oakland Press 07.17.2006). Comment. Martone has non-Hodgkin's Burkitt's lymphoma. My main mentor in the law, the late Justice C. Donald Peterson of the Minnesota Supreme Court, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in the late 1960's. When I left the district court to serve as his law clerk in 1970, a person told me that he was a dying man, and, in truth, CDP had been given only a few years to live by his doctors. But he lived nearly 20 years and all that time continued to enrich the lives of all around him. Whenever he read of someone like Judge Martone, newly diagnosed, he'd write to him and urge him to keep the faith. CDP was a prince of a man and is still with those of us who were blessed by his friendship.
Man calls judge a 'faggot,' gets week in jail. "A man facing wounding charges was jailed for seven days for contempt of court today after he abused Christchurch District Court Judge Stephen Erber. Damien Keen, 24,...called out 'Love you babe' to a woman and a baby who were being escorted from the public gallery and was told to 'grow up' by Judge Erber...Keen swore as he was leaving the dock and called Judge Erber a 'f...ing faggot'...[A short time later, charged with contempt,] Keen tearfully told Judge Erber: 'I'm a fool. The emotions took over and I'm very sorry for what I said to you.'" Judge Erber sentenced him to seven days' in jail, saying, "'Without the apology I would have sentenced you to 14 days' [in jail].'" More (New Zealand Herald 07.17.2006). Related. Judge holds country singer, Mindy McCready in contempt for arriving ten minutes late for trial in a DWI case. More (Fox News 07.18.2006). Comment. For my views on judges' use of the contempt power, see, Judge jails man for shouting 'Thank you, Jesus!' in courtroom.
Thoughts while livestock judging at the county fair. Mark Parker, author of Farm Talk (Parsons, Kan.) came up with "The Top 10 thoughts going through a judgeís mind as he picks his county fair grand champion." Excerpts: "9. You can never go too far wrong picking the cute little girl with the pink bow in her hair...5. That animal has on more makeup than my sister-in-law...4. I think Iíll just walk around scratching my head a while and let the suspense build....." More (Meadville Tribune 07.17.2006). Comment. Justice Holmes, who always wrote his typically-short opinions right after conference, found that his amazing speed and brevity sometimes worked against him, with other justices thinking less of his opinions on the theory that the worth of an opinion correlates positively with the length of time in writing it and the length of time required to read it. Thus, some similarly speedy justices have found it to their advantage to sit on their completed opinions for a few weeks before circulating them -- which strikes me as the equivalent of Mr. Parker's "walk[ing] around scratching [his] head a while and let[ting] the suspense build."
Attempt made to arrest chief justice at his home! "In Trinidad and Tobago, a vain police attempt Friday night to arrest chief justice Satnarine Sharma has triggered a storm of criticism. The arrest attempt at his home came after the high court had ordered a stay of the action, pending a judicial hearing on the legality of the charge...Chief [J]ustice Sharma has been accused of seeking to pervert the course of justice in a recent case involving former prime minister Basdeo Panday...." More (Caribbean News Service 07.16.2006). Comment. Did they knock and announce? See, Hudson v. Michigan, U.S. (2006). Update. Lawyer disgusted by attempt to arrest C.J. (Trinidad & Tobago Express 07.18.2006); Judge sets date for judicial review of chief justice (Jamaica Gleaner 07.19.2006).
High court judge facing arrest. "The prosecution is likely to request an arrest warrant for an incumbent senior judge at a regional high court who allegedly took bribes from a lobbyist in exchange for favors in legal cases. If indicted, he would be the first sitting judge in the country's judicial history to stand trial. Prosecutors said on Sunday they are seeking an arrest warrant for the judge as they have obtained reliable testimony about the bribery from lobbyist Kim Hong-soo and those who allegedly sought the judge's favors through Kim...." More (Korea Times 07.16.2006).
To kill a mockingbird with heat and humidity. "The Autauga County Courthouse lately looks like a scene from the past, with lawyers plying their trade in their shirtsleeves, judges doffing their robes to stay cool and jurors mopping damp foreheads with hankies. You might even expect to see Atticus Finch round the corner at any moment, dressed in a seersucker suit and fanning himself with a straw fedora. But it's not a Hollywood movie set -- it's a real-life drama created by a cranky air-conditioning system. The more than 40-year-old behemoth leaks Freon at such a rate that afternoons in 95-degree-plus heat become steamy, and office workers jockey for position in front of oscillating fans...." More (Montgomery Advertiser 07.16.2006). Comment. It's hot and humid here in the Twin Cities today, too. I'm glad I've got air conditioning. But my parents lived without it all their lives and didn't feel deprived. In the summer of 1966 I shared a large house on Wendell Street in Cambridge, MA, with two fellows from Japan, two from Taiwan and one from India; it was terribly hot at night in my un-air-conditioned poorly-ventilated upstairs room but it was also one of the happiest summers in my life and I didn't feel deprived. When I began working at the MN Supreme Court in 1970 it was located in the then-un-air-conditioned state capitol; I didn't feel deprived. When....
The log cabin courthouse where A. Lincoln tried cases. "Abraham Lincoln may be smiling down on the Daughters of the American Revolution Stephen Decatur Chapter. The local group unveiled a bronze rededication marker in front of the log cabin courthouse where Lincoln tried cases. On Saturday, they stood under umbrellas to be shaded from the sweltering sun, along with Mayor Paul Osborne and U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana. Johnson, who called the courthouse a gem, comes from a generation of family members active with the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution...." More (Herald-Review 07.16.2006). Comment. The article contains a brief history of the courthouse, its preservation, etc. Note: Abe didn't complain that the courthouse was not air-conditioned.
Judges' recipe for saving football. "[A] round table on 'Football -- What reform is needed?' in the Main Lecture Hall in the Law Faculty at Genoa University has been started with a 'code' drafted by leading jurists...." More (Agenzia Giornalistica 07.15.2006).
Armed judges. "The New York state Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics has ruled that it is permissible for judges to pack a pistol beneath their robes while on the bench. 'From an ethical standpoint, there is no prohibition...barring you from carrying a firearm while performing your duties on the bench,' the committee said in a decision published in this week's New York Law Journal...." More (Newsday 07.15.2006).
Judicial outrage over tee shirt. "'AAA mafia t-shirt for sale'. Hot issue in Palermo, after the discovery that many shops are selling t-shirts bearing pictures of mafia bosses and mafia writings. An event which outraged politicians and judges; plus, the anniversary of the murdering of judge Paolo Borsellino and his escort will take place in a few days' time...." More (Agenzia Giornalistica 07.15.2006).
Judge jails man for shouting 'Thank you, Jesus!' in courtroom. A fellow named Junior Stowers was on trial in Hawaii for domestic abuse in the courtroom of Judge Patrick Border. An immigrant, Stowers faced possible deportation if convicted. Just before the verdict was read, the judge whispered to the attorneys, "No displays of emotion one way or another by anyone in the case. You understand?" Four seconds later, before defense counsel could warn Stowers, the jury foreman read the "not guilty" verdict. "Thank you, Jesus!" Stowers said. The judge told him to be quiet and refused an offer of an apology, instead had Stowers "'placed in handcuffs in front of his family...and taken down to the cellblock,'" where he spent the next four or five hours. The judge eventually dropped the contempt charge but reportedly has refused to apologize. More (Hawaii Channel 07.15.2006). Comment. It's BurtLaw Rule-of-Thumb #139 for avoiding discipline: Avoid using the contempt power altogether. The rule is a corollary of another rule, one we like to call, in our clever way, The Golden Rule, an obscure little rule that prompted us to oppose from the very outset the Bush Administration's nice little plan to allow the use of torture in interrogating and summary justice in trying "enemy military detainees" in its "War on Terror." Further reading. Judge who lost cool over cellphone ringing has immunity from suit.
Supreme court blocks challenge to judicial elections. "Fifty-five new judges will be elected in Florida after the state Supreme Court denied Friday a petition to prevent the judicial elections. A panel of nominating judges had sued the state, saying they wanted the governor to appoint the new judges instead. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, came just before next week's qualifying deadline for candidates running for state office. The elected positions were created by the Legislature earlier this year. The Judicial Nomination Commission in Miami-Dade County had argued that law is unconstitutional...." More (Gainesville Sun 07.15.2006).
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