BurtLaw's Daily Judge is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, this is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal non-profit pro bono publico First-Amendment protected "web log" or "blog," one with a subjective, idiosyncratic, and eccentric sociological and social-psychological slant that focuses not on the latest judicial decisions of supposed great legal importance but on a) the institution of judge in the United States and in other countries throughout the world, b) the judicial office and role, c) judicial personalities, d) the great common law tradition of judging as practiced here and throughout the world, e) judges as judges, f) judges as ordinary people with the usual mix of virtues and flaws, etc. We link to newspapers and other sources in order to alert you to ideas, articles, stories, speeches, law books, literary works and other things that have interested us and that may interest you. In linking to another site or source, we don't mean either to suggest we necessarily agree with views or ideas expressed there or to attest to the accuracy of facts set forth there. We urge you in every instance to click on the link and read the entire story or other printed source to which we link. We often use the linked piece as a springboard for expressing our opinion, typically clearly labelled "Comment."
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About Burton Hanson. Burton Hanson is a graduate of Harvard Law School, admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Minnesota. He worked one year as Hennepin County District Court Special Term (Civil) Law Clerk, two years as law clerk for the late Justice C. Donald Peterson of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and over 26 years as Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Supreme Court. He was a nonpartisan candidate for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election in November 2000 and a liberal anti-war candidate for Congress in the Republican primary in the Minnesota Third District in September 2004. He was one of the first law bloggers (blawgers). He began planning his first blog, BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else in 1999 but delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. His campaign website, the no-longer extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first such use of a weblog or blog. In 2004 he also used the personal blog format in his primary campaign for Congress. That site, BurtonHanson.Com, has morphed into a personal political opinion blog and also contains the archives of his 2004 campaign web pages and blog postings.
Hairy cricket jurisprudence. "For anyone who considers the laws of English cricket to be incomprehensible or, indeed, for anyone who thought the mildly outraged term 'it's just not cricket' might imply a certain decorum, think again. On Sunday, an umpire presiding at a high-profile game between England and Pakistan ruled that in his belief, Pakistani players had been tampering with the ball, and he told Pakistani players of his suspicion, awarding England five bonus runs, or points...By way of protest, the Pakistanis refused to leave their dressing room after a scheduled break for tea. The umpire, Darrell Hair of Australia, a person known for contentious rulings against some Asian teams, then removed the bails -- little wooden bits that fit horizontally across the top of the larger wooden stakes called stumps -- denoting that Pakistan had forfeited the game...Game to England -- the first time in 129 years of so-called Test matches between national teams that a game had been forfeited in this way...." More (N.Y. Times 08.22.2006). The umpire strikes back (Guardian Unlimited 08.22.2006). Comment. The controversy in cricket-loving nations that has ensued is instructive in many other ways, but we like to focus on the jurisprudential aspect. For example, lack of transparency: "The umpires refused to say how they thought the ball had been tampered with...." Or, judicial over-reaction: "'[The umpires] went by the letter of the law, yes,' said Dickie Bird, a former Test umpire. 'But with a cricket ball it is very, very difficult in this day and age, because there are so many advertising boards around the ground and a ball can easily get scuffed when it hits one of the boards or hits any concrete.'" Or, judicial demeanor: "Sunday's game had a personal edge. Mr. Hair is regarded by many Asian players as a difficult man to deal with. As Imran Khan, a former Pakistan captain, wrote in Pakistan on Monday, 'Hair is one of those characters, when he wears the white umpire’s coat, he metamorphoses into a mini-Hitler.'" Or, "the rule of law": "For some there was a more metaphysical element, a musing on the nature of cricket as a standard-bearer of a decency so lacking in a cruel 21st century, as an exemplar of the rule of law [a/k/a "the rule of tradition"?] and the stiff upper lip in their finest form. 'Whatever turbulence rocked the world, one thing could be relied on. A Test match was a Test match, and a Test match was cricket,' The Independent said Monday in an editorial. 'It was played in whites; it paused for lunch and tea; and a player walked back to the pavilion without demur, however preposterous the umpire's ruling.'" Extra links. a) Hair risks all with judge-jury-executioner display (New Zealand Herald 08.22.2006). b) Camera-shy cricket is an expensive game for suffering Pakistan (The Observer Blog 08.05.2006). c) Darrell Hair: Cricket savior? (Manchester Evening News Blog 08.22.2006) ("In steps grumpy old man Darrell Hair, and suddenly cricket is the most exciting sport in the world again"). d) What the papers say (Sportinglife.Com 08.22.2006). e) Racial profiling of Asian cricketers? (Hindustan Times 08.22.2006) ("By playing, Inzamam would have only submitted to the whims of a 'diabolical' Hair and his backers in the International Cricket Council"). f) Hair's history of conflict with Asian teams (Reuters India 08.22.2006). g) He'sa misfit, says Sri Lanka's Ranatunga (Business Day - South Africa 08.22.2006) ("Hair is a misfit in today's cricket because he acts in a high-handed manner whenever he officiates"). h) Day four: How the controversy unfolded (BBC Sport 08.22.2006). i) Bad tamper: cricket's day of disgrace (Sydney Morning Herald (08.20.2006) ("Pakistan's petulance and Darrell Hair's stubborness have led cricket down a dark, treacherous path"). j) How Hair courts controversy (BBC Sports 08.22.2006). k) Is it on tape? (NDTV India 08.23.2006) ("Umpire Darrell Hair though must be hoping that one of the cameras has caught the offence, or else he might just find his case to be a very weak one when...."). l) What the papers say (Sportinglife.com - UK 08.23.2006) ("Australian umpire Darrell Hair fears there may be a conspiracy to drive him out of cricket but he is standing by his actions which helped bring the...."). m) Spirit of cricket lost for sake of a fat man's... (The Australian 08.23.2006). n) Darrell 'The Flippin' Hair, No Stranger to Cricket Controversy (Blogcritics.org 08.23.2006) ("Had there been a competition of the most dubious cricket umpire in our lives, Darrell Hair would be a runaway winner"). o) Woolmer wants ball rule scrapped (BBC Sport 08.23.2006) ("'I'd allow bowlers to use anything that naturally appears on the cricket field,' he said...And he took a discreet dig at umpire Darrell Hair, who only played the game...."). p) Australians hail Hair as 'bravest man' (Gulf Daily News - Bahrain 08.23.2006). q) Weird but true - curious cricketing tales from the annals of... (Independent - UK 08.23.2006). r) Could Pakistan sue Hair for libel (TimesOnline 08.24.2006). s) Mentor fears early end to ump's career (Hindustan Times 08.24.2006). t) Hair: 'If an umpire is feeling that he is under pressure, then there must...' (Guardian Unlimited 08.24.2006). u) Hair controversy brings India and Pak together (NDTV 08.24.2006).
Annals of stripped construction. U.S. District Judge Robert Bell is being asked to rule on the constitutionality of Grand Rapids' new strip-club ordinance. The new ordinance requires that strippers wear "pasties" and "G-strings" and perform on a stage at least 6 feet away from customers. One of the plaintiffs challenging the ordinance says, "Realistically, if people want to go watch girls in a bikini, I think they would go to the beach or a bar that would show the same thing instead of my nightclub, where they would pay to drink pop and watch girls in a bikini." More (Grand Rapids Press 08.24.2006). Comment. I won't be surprised if the new "Bush" majority on SCOTUS eventually revists the Court's precedents on nude-dancing in public "establishments." Update. Judge upholds ordinance (WOOD-TV 08.25.2006).
Hindu judge is Muslim Pakistan's acting chief. More (Hindustan Times 08.24.2006). Comment. Yet another sign of a thaw in bad relations between Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan? See, in re the "Hair cricket controversy," supra, Hair controversy brings India and Pak together (NDTV 08.24.2006).
How quickly we judge. "Princeton University psychologist Alex Todorov has found that people respond intuitively to faces so rapidly that our reasoning minds may not have time to influence the reaction -- and that our intuitions about attraction and trust are among those we form the fastest. 'The link between facial features and character may be tenuous at best, but that doesn't stop our minds from sizing other people up at a glance,' said Todorov...." More (South Asian Women's Forum 08.23.2006). Comment. A fellow's first impression of a young woman might be lop-sidedly favorable, based on one factor, her "looks." Then he sees other sides of her while associating professionally with her for many years, never really being "interested" in her. Then something happens and they find themselves drawn to each other physically. Then that changes. At each moment he was sure in his assessment of her "worth." Which impression, which judgment, which assessment, is right? Is each successive judgment right? Are they all wrong?
Dozing judge agrees to get treatment. "The [N.H.] Judicial Conduct Committee [has] found [that] Patricia Coffey, who sits in Rockingham County, did not actually sleep on the bench and [that] her briefly nodding off didn't affect the outcome of any trials or infringe on anyone’s rights. But the committee said nodding off violated the code of conduct for judges." Coffey has agreed to seek diagnosis and treatment. More (Boston Herald 08.24.2006). Comments. a) That nodding off while presiding (NWP) is a violation of "the Code" comports with family-law precedents that nodding off while sleeping with one's spouse constitutes not just rudeness but a violation of the marital contract. b) Every society has its own ways of dealing with those who depart from the boring norm in one way or another. China used to (maybe still does) send its erring sons (those who practiced free speech when there was none) to the provinces for "re-education." Despite its Christian traditions, America in many ways has become one of the harshest countries on earth when it comes to dealing with social deviance. However, one All-American way of getting a second chance without ruining one's career, including in the judicial system, is to humbly admit illness (most typically, an alcohol problem) and promise to seek "treatment." It is the secular road to secular salvation, comparable to admitting sin before a Christian congregation and being welcomed back into the fold. Earlier. More people claim judge was guilty of NWP (napping while presiding), with links and comments.
Judge as witness, law clerk as accuser, convicted felon as beneficiary? "In countless criminal trials during his decade-long career in the Queens County Courthouse, Jaime A. Rios, a State Supreme Court judge, has presided over the grilling of witnesses and evaluated accusations of all sorts of lurid misdeeds. But yesterday, Justice Rios was not behind the bench. Instead, he was beside it -- on the witness stand -- being questioned by Ronald L. Kuby, a prominent defense lawyer, as to whether he tainted the murder trial of a Queens man convicted in his courtroom in 2003...Adding to the tension was the testimony, earlier in the day, of Justice Rios’s longtime law clerk, Judith Memblatt, 48, who was fired by the judge in 2004. In a federal wrongful-termination lawsuit, she has accused him of having an affair with a Queens prosecutor, Meryl A. Lutsky, that was such an 'open secret' in the district attorney’s office that the judge regularly curried favor with prosecutors to keep them from exposing him...Asked about Ms. Memblatt, Justice Rios said, 'I'm aware that she made a lot of lies.'" More (N.Y. Times 08.23.2006). Earlier. More on former law clerk's allegations against judge - Was judge in bed with an assistant D.A.?
Psychobiography: Preliminary speculations on Scalia's 'Italian rebellion.' "In Italy, red lights come in many varieties. A rare few actually mean stop. Others, to the Italian driver, suggest different interpretations. At a pedestrian crossing at 7 a.m., with no pedestrians around, it is a 'negotiable red,' more like a weak orange. At a traffic intersection, red could mean what the Florentines call rosso pieno, or full red, but it might, with no cars coming, be more of a suggestion than a command. It all depends. The red-light mentality, as the journalist Beppe Severgnini sees it, explains volumes about Italy and the Italians. 'We think it’s an insult to our intelligence to comply with a regulation,' he writes in La Bella Figura, his witty, insightful tour of the Italian mind. 'Obedience is boring. We want to think about it. We want to decide whether a particular law applies to our specific case. In that place, at that time.'" From William Grimes, An Insider Explains Italy, Land of Cheery Dysfunction (N.Y. Times 08.23.2006) (Review of Jenna Thompson and Beppe Severgnini, La Bella Figura - A Field Guide to the Italian Mind 217 pages. Broadway Books. $23.95). Comment. It's elementary Freudian and Jungian depth psychology that adults often do things in unconscious (or conscious) reaction to, or rebellion against, various events and relations in the families and social groupings of their youth -- just as they often do other things in unconscious (or conscious) compliance with the familial and social didacticisms of their youth. We posit as a temporary working hypothesis in our psycho-biography (see, Erik Erikson's Young Man Luther as an example) that "Nino" Scalia's ways at oral argument and in public utterances represent a triumph of his "Italian-ness" over the cherubic Catholic altar boy in his soul, whereas his strict constructionism represents a reaction of the Catholic altar boy against the legal "relativity" of the Italian joy boy in his soul. Cf, Walter Lippman, A Preface to Morals (1929).
Former judge to serve year under house arrest. "Former Covington County Justice Court Judge Susan 'Dess' Kelly will spend one year under house arrest for embezzling about $50,000 when she was in office...." More (Jackson Clarion Ledger - MS 08.23.2006). Comment. We typically urge less-harsh treatment of everyone from Minnesota kids who bring plastic Nintendo guns with them to school to judges who veer slightly off the boring straight-and-narrow path they are expected to follow. See, e.g., my comments on a judge's conduct at Judge charged with reprising Michael Douglas' role in 'Traffic'? As to the boy with the plastic Nintendo gun & our schools' stupid zero-tolerance policies, see entry dated 04.27.2002 titled Zero-tolerance nonsense (scroll down) at BurtLaw's Law & Kids. We even urged probation with home-confinement rather than prison for former Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge Roland Amundson when he was convicted, of a property offense -- see, entry dated 06.08.2002 titled Wish list (scroll down) at BurtLaw on Crime & Punishment, an opinion that subjected us to national ridicule (a slight exaggeration) by an extremely popular conservative blogger (whom we nonetheless like). (We can take it -- & we can dish it out.) Judge Amundson now thinks, as we do, that our lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-keys sentencing laws are a big mistake. See, Imprisoned judge rethinks crime & punishment. It's one reason we have advocated, as Frank Lloyd Wright did, sending all judges and legislators to jail -- if only for a night or two. See, Should we send all judges and legislators to jail? Like Judge Amundson, people who spend time behind bars or have a relative or friend behind bars tend to stop thinking of people in trouble with the law as "others" or as "them" but as "us" and they start to see the folly of our unnecessarily-harsh and counter-productive sentencing policies. Further reading. I've held these views all my life and I've never been ashamed of them, although I've not always been free to express them. Here's a link to a campaign position paper on Crime and Punishment I posted on my campaign website in my 2004 anti-Iraq-war campaign against entrenched incumbent Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad. Compare and contrast. Judge gets four years in prison for masturbating.
Panel defies governor over judicial selections. "The state's Judicial Selection Commission laid the groundwork Tuesday for defiance of Gov. Phil Bredesen, who some members said has brought racial discrimination into the process of picking a Tennessee Supreme Court justice. After a spirited argument, the commission voted 8-7 to ignore a state attorney general's opinion that would block the panel from nominating two white men to a vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Attorney General Paul G. Summers had declared that, because Bredesen has already rejected the two men once, their names cannot be re-submitted. In rejecting the earlier nominees, Bredesen asked the commission to 'send me a new panel of nominees that includes qualified minority candidates.'" More (Knoxville News Sentinel 08.23.2006). Comment. One commission member, Gary Brewer, is quoted as saying, "Race cannot be a factor. The governor is a politician. We cannot be politicians or affected by politics." It's o.k. with us if a commission member wants to and does believe that "commissions" are not "political." But we think otherwise. See, our comments at Sorry, bar association, but.... Related. Republican Arnie and the Democrats battle over judicial selection (The Argus 08.23.2006).
OMG: cracked toilet floods courthouse. More (Springfield News Sun - OH 08.23.2006). Comment. Yet another courthouse toilet crisis that temporarily brings justice to a halt or at least puts a damper on it. Like love, the course of true justice does not run smooth. Related. Judge Poseidon's Amazing Courthouse Adventure.
Judge admits to questionable behavior. "After two days of sometimes emotional testimony, Salinas Judge Jose Velasquez admitted that some of his behavior on the bench had been improper and that he owed at least one defendant an apology. Velasquez said he had inappropriately increased Modesto Herrero's fine from $750 to $2,000 in January 2005 after Herrero said his sentence was not what he had agreed to in his plea bargain...Velasquez is in the midst of a hearing on formal charges that he abused his power by denying defendants' rights to due process, punishing them for speaking out in court and being rude to them and their attorneys with inappropriate humor, among other things...." More (Monterey County Herald 08.23.2006). Update. Friends defend judge (Monterey Herald 08.24.2006).
Judge-elect dies shortly after winning election. More (Chattanoogan 08.22.2006). Comment. Sometimes when we think we've won, we've lost. Sometimes when we think we've lost, we've won.
Ex-judge may have made big mistake in contesting traffic ticket - latest allegations relate to evidence provided by legal secretary turned prostitute, ex-judge's lawyer's relations with her, etc. Marcus Einfeld, who is 66, is a retired federal judge in Australia who is known also as a human rights activist and businessman. Last January he received a $77 ticket alleging he'd been caught speeding in his silver Lexus. Einfeld told Downing Centre Local Court he'd never been on the street but that he had loaned his car to Professor Teresa Brennan, who had died after returning to her home in Florida. The magistrate dismissed the ticket as "not proven." It later was revealed that a Professor Teresa Brennan of Florida had died in an accident but that that was three years ago. Confronted by a reporter, Einfeld reportedly said that the woman he loaned his car to was another Professor Teresa Brennan and that she had died, also in an accident, after driving his car and returning to Florida. We posted a link to a story on 08.09.2006 saying the police were investigating. See, The mystery of the two Professor Brennan's. We've also posted other links: Could evidence 'sink' him? (Daily Telegraph 08.09.2006), Ex-judge's lawyer will provide driver's name (The Australian 08.10.2006), and Einfeld delivers dossier to police (News.com.au 08.24.2006). Now comes news that "A spurned prostitute has taken centre stage in the increasingly bizarre speeding case of former judge Marcus Einfeld." The woman in question is named Marie Christos. Ms. Christos left a secretarial position with "top Sydney silk Anna Katzmann" six or so years ago and allegedly began a relationship with Einfeld's solicitor, Michael Ryan, after meeting him in a brothel. She claims he regularly paid her for sex during a six-year relationship. She says that, seeking revenge after their breakup, she searched his garbage looking for information to use against him. One of the items in a suitcase full of documents she turned over to police is what purports to be a draft statement prepared by Ryan on behalf of Einfeld. Ryan reportedly has told police it's a "set-up." Other recent reports regarding Einfeld, relevant or not to the fraud squad investigation into the dismissal of the speeding ticket, are that a) two "doctorates" held by him were awarded, while he was a judge, by an unaccredited U.S. "diploma mill," and b) "one of his [last] judgments...failed to acknowledge material that was identical to work by Sydney University academic John Carter" (which Einfeld says is explained by the accidental omission of a footnote). More (Daily Telegraph - AU 08.22.2006). Updates. a) Thousands use the Einfeld defence (Sydney Morning Herald 08.26.2006) ("Former judge Marcus Einfeld was following a well-established excuse for avoiding traffic camera fines, with 13,000 people a year claiming someone from overseas...."). b) Conduct questions: gold past returns to haunt Einfeld (Sydney Morning Herald 08.25.2006) ("The gravitas of Marcus Einfeld, QC, carefully cultivated over 30 years, has continued to disintegrate as the former judge, already under siege over media...."). c) Einfeld used same defense twice before (WA Business News 08.24.2006) ("Latest woman blamed by former justice Marcus Einfeld for two traffic violations was not in Australia when the offences occurred...."). c) Einfeld pays fine (Melbourne Herald Sun 08.26.2006). d) The Einfeld Follies: a study in ego (Sydney Morning Herald 08.20.2006) ("The more you examine the career of the Honourable Marcus Einfeld, QC, the less you find. The great mystery is why it has taken so...."). e) Latest on controversy surrounding ex-judge.
Justice, sentence and civics lesson - all under one roof. "Now six years old, the court in Red Hook is one of a kind, the nation's first multijurisdictional community court. It combines elements of criminal, family and housing courts not only under the same roof, but also before the same judge, Alex M. Calabrese...[H]e and the court have garnered wide attention for what is considered a groundbreaking crossover role: a court linking criminal sentences with social services, like substance abuse counseling and youth programs, all in the same building...To sit through a few Tuesdays in the court is not only to see and experience the million little details and moments that make this courthouse unique in New York City, but also to return to a simpler time, to an array of affronts to a collective sensibility. Riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. Playing music too loud. Drinking in public. Urinating in public. Being in a park after-hours. Some cases are pleaded down or thrown out. Others bring a fine or a lecture in a 'quality-of-life class,' which is just that, a class that seeks to instruct on how to live a better life, a life without alcoholics in parks and urinators in alleys. 'It’s a small-town court in a big city. Just like in a small town, the judge actually knows who’s doing what,' said David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the state’s Office of Court Administration...." More (N. Y. Times 08.22.2006).
Courthouse intrigue. "The Walworth County Sheriff's Department investigation earlier this month of Diane 'Dani' Maculan, the former county health and human services director, was spurred by an anonymous letter accusing her of threatening a judge, according to a sheriff's department report. The investigation found that there was no threat to the judge from Maculan. Maculan resigned last week as director...A letter signed by 'One Concerned Constituent' was sent to Walworth County Judge Robert Kennedy, stating that Maculan called Kennedy an obscenity at a staff meeting on July 28 and threatened to run him over while he was on his motorcycle...Maculan [told an investigator] the staff was frustrated with Kennedy and made joking remarks about him being run off the road while riding his motorcycle to work, according to the report...Other employees cited in the report said the comments were light-hearted and that many people at the meeting made them...." More (Janesville Gazette 08.22.2006). Comment. There was a tradition among slaves of telling "bad ass" stories, in which a legendary "Bad Ass" made bad things happen to "the man." The stories served a therapeutic purpose of "letting off steam." It is not unusual these days for members of a close-knit group of employees to similarly "bad mouth the boss" in what is but a modern equivalent of bad-ass stories. Literalists might perceive as threat or insubordination what in reality is healthy release that indirectly may benefit the social or business or political organization/entity.
Sorry, bar association, but.... "The whole incident has ripped the curtain of secrecy -- and civility -- that the Florida Bar tries to maintain over judicial elections. Sorry, boys, paint it any way you want, but judicial races are political too...." -- From a political column in the Lakeland Ledger on an attempt by one judicial candidate to have his opponent removed from the ballot. More (The Ledger 08.21.2006). Comment. The precise circumstances prompting this remark aren't particularly important, but the remark is justified. Even before the so-called judicial free-speech cases, judicial elections in MN were "political," just as judicial appointments, even under the "great" Missouri Plan, invariably are "political." I'm not aware of any judge whose ascension to the bench was the equivalent of a virgin birth. In Minnesota the law says judicial candidates aren't supposed to know who his contributors are, but judges have been known to attend receptions at law firms, knowing that moments after they leave the room many of those present will contribute to the campaign coffers. And judges have never been shy about having their representatives seek out public endorsements from politicos and lawyers, which are printed on campaign brochures that judges surely read. Surely judges are able to put two and two together and make a good guess as to who their backers are. The cry that suddenly, because of the free-speech cases, judicial elections are "political" rings hollow, just as the cry rings hollow that the "great" Missouri Plan will remove "politics" from judicial selection. Hey, I was taught in the great pol. sci. dept. at the U. of Minn. in the early 1960's that "politics" isn't a dirty word. I still feel that way, and the fact that many politicians, of whatever ilk, are slimeballs and mediocrities doesn't mean "politics" is bad. Read on....
Editorial: judicial retention evaluations appear too lenient. "The [Colorado retention evaluation and recommendation] commissions calculate a grade for judges based on the responses from attorneys who have appeared before them. The average is 3.4 (of a possible 4.0) and almost all the scores are very close to that figure. Just eight judges [of 108, all of whom were recommended for retention] scored below 3.0. Only three drew any negative votes. Surely there ought to be more...." More (Rocky Mountain News 08.21.2006). Earlier. Big surprise: panel backs retention of 108 judges - Even better than the Great Missouri Plan? - A debate on judicial campaigns.
Unsolved Crimes: Judge’s killing broke Apayao’s rustic calm. "Known for his tough, no-nonsense decisions, Judge Pinera Biden of the Kabugao, Apayao, Sixth Municipal Trial Court no doubt had ruffled the feathers of criminals, politicians and influential families in his province. Exercising jurisdiction over Kabugao, Conner and Calanasan, the three highland towns of Apayao, Biden’s clout was unmistakable. He was ready to bow out of the judiciary on 2004 and try his hand at politics, but assassins aborted his plan...." More (ABS CBN News - Philippines 08.21.2006).
Courthouse Fashion, part III: Judges voice objection to some lawyers' attire. "In a letter sent last week to lawyers practicing in the 32nd Judicial Circuit, which includes Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, and Perry counties, Circuit Judge Benjamin Lewis informed them that a new rule on courtroom decorum and dress was imposed. The rule, passed by a majority vote by the six judges in the circuit, states that 'appropriate professional attire' is required when in court, including a coat and tie for men...While not explicitly stated in the rule, the letter said socks and shoes would be required for professional attire...Lewis admitted...no lawyer that he was aware of entered a courtroom sans shoes. The major problems recently was some who were wearing jeans and not wearing ties or socks, he said...'This is one of the few places left where its important that we dress appropriately and behave appropriately,' he said. 'It's not a cruise ship, it's not a carnival in there. You have to maintain some kind of decorum.'" More (Southeast Missourian 08.21.2006). Earlier. Another judge tries instituting courthouse dress code (with commentary + links to prior postings on courthouse fashions and judges as fashion police. Comment. Two can play this game, of course. It has come to my attention that female judges around the country -- indeed, at the highest levels -- sometimes wear silly huge bow ties or garish ribbons or fine lace collars with matching lace cuffs. This practice must stop. Henceforth, no judge, regardless of gender, may wear the bow ties, ribbons and lace collars to which we refer. (Western-style string ties, however, are permitted, and the red robe on the Chief Justice of Canada, left, may remind one of Mrs. Claus' Holiday garb but somehow it works on her.) Moreover, judges should remember that whenever they are in public, on or off the bench, they represent Justice and accordingly must dress appropriately. See, e.g., On judicial swimsuits & the Rules of Judicial Conduct. On a related note, younger judges who do not project authority or wisdom or gravitas or experience are allowed to take Gravitox treatments but should not appear on talk shows to tout the treatments or, for that matter, publicly acknowledge having received the treatments. Queries: 1. Was it proper or improper for the female judge in Hard Times at Christmas to a) wear what she did under her robe and b) reveal what she was wearing? 2. Might a judge properly wear a lime-green robe in court a) all the time or b) on special occasions? 3. Is it o.k. for judges, regardless of gender, to wear hair extensions? See, Judicial extensions. Further reading. Judge-endorsed BurtLaw Bench Pants - BurtLaw Super-Privacy Robes. Proper attire for judicial applicants. Our rules relating to judicial attire do not apply to those merely aspiring to judicial office. Thus, it was entirely appropriate for Bill Rehnquist to go to the White House to be interviewed by President Nixon for possible appointment as Associate Justice wearing "a pink shirt, psychedelic tie, Hush Puppies, and bushy mutton-chop sideburns," prompting Nixon to refer to him later as "a clown." Clowns in Gowns -- How Nixon's Rehnquist nomination screwed up the way we pick judges, by David Greenberg (Washington Monthly December 2001). P.S. As Chief Rehnquist wore a specially-designed $30,000 black robe, the one former White House Counsel John Dean has described as having "four gold chevrons on each arm -- inspired by Gilbert & Sullivan's Lord Chancellor from the comic operetta Iolanthe." More (John Dean, Writ 01.04.2002).
Courthouse Fashion, part II: The Viking influence on judicial fashions. Here's a posting relevant to the above, from 2005:
Horsehair wigs, white gloves, garish robes, and fancy neckerchiefs. "One day, this friend of mine came to lectures with a newspaper showing the picture of three Zambian judges wearing horsehair wigs, white gloves, garish robes, and fancy neckerchiefs. Pointing at the picture, he asked the following questions: Do these African judges have to wear these wigs and robes in order to perform duties effectively? Why is it that when the British migrated to settle in North America they discarded the culture of allowing their judges to wear wigs?" From an opinion piece by Y. Fredua-Kwarteng, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, Canada in Ghana Web (08.30.2005). More. Comment. My property law teacher at Harvard Law School, W. Barton Leach, acknowledged world master of the intricacies of Rule Against Perpetuities, liked to toss out little nuggets of practical wisdom. Like this one: "When your opponent asks a rhetorical question, answer it! It's usually very easy to do." And so, Y. Fredua-Kwarteng, I will answer your rhetorical questions. Yes, these Ghanian judges maybe do need to wear those ridiculous wigs and robes in order to perform their duties effectively. We just don't know. But the British migrants in North America & their common law descendants clearly do not. You see, North America was discovered by the Vikings, who had their own distinctive style of dress. See, Viking Men's Clothing. When their style of judicial garb (horned helmets, etc.) was crossed with the British style of judicial garb (scratchy wigs, ridiculous red robes, etc.), the result was something entirely fresh, new and North American -- specifically, in the case of the United States, naked rather than wigged heads (symbolizing openness to light, air and ideas) and stark, simple but flowing black robes (symbolizing the common-ness of the common law with a nod, in the flowing nature of the robe, to the feminine quality of mercy as a countervailing force to the otherwise unwavering blackness of justice).
Shilpa Shetty to judge Jhalak Dikhla Jaa. "Just the other day, we had reported that Karisma Kapur had opted out of Sony's dance show Jhalak Dikhla Jaa. There were rumors that Kapur had demanded a very high remuneration. Now, Shilpa Shetty has replaced her as a judge. This is the first time that she will be seen on T.V. The other celebrity judges include Farah Khan and Sanjay Leela Bhansali...." More (India FM 08.21.2006). Comment. I'm not sure about the spelling or meaning of the replacement's name -- or, for that matter, of the spelling and meaning of the other names.
A judge's horoscope for 08.20.2006. "Gemini (May 21-June 21): Though you're an excellent judge in matters of character, taste and all sorts of things, this is your day to 'judge not, lest you be....'" More (Sun Herald 08.20.2006). Comment. This is only for those of us, judge or not, who are "Gemini's."
How a donkey became a judge (a tale from India). "Once upon a time a poor man who made his living washing clothes was leading his donkey through the village. As he passed by a school, he happened to overhear the mullah, the teacher, speaking angrily to his students. 'I'll teach you donkeys,' the mullah thundered. 'By the time I'm finished with all of you, you shall be men.' Now the washerman looked into his donkey's eyes, and he began to imagine how wonderful it might be to have a true son instead of this creature. If only he could send his donkey to school. He could not resist the mullah's promise, and so he knocked upon the door...." More (Sun Herald 08.20.2006).
Bd. admonishes supreme court justice over lunch with lawmaker. "A panel admonished a Kansas Supreme Court justice Friday for conduct violations stemming from a lunchtime conversation he had with two lawmakers about a case before the court. The Commission on Judicial Qualifications said Justice Lawton Nuss' March 1 conversation violated the code of conduct for judges and justices...." More (Washington Post 08.18.2006). Update. Dem wants panel to end (Topeka Capital-Journal 08.24.2006).
Beverages banned from county court. "Would-be plane bombers bearing liquid, and additional concern about concealed weapons, has resulted in all cups, water bottles and all other beverage containers being banned from Palm Beach County courthouses beginning Sept. 15...." More (Boca Raton News 08.19.2006). Comments. a) How about gel-insert shoe cushions? Cherry-flavored lip balm? b) This apparently-true story reminds me of the satirical "news story" in The Onion dated 10.03.2001, Security Beefed Up at Cedar Rapids Public Library, reporting on Cedar Rapids, Iowa Library Director Glenda Quarles' expression of concerns about foreign terrorists attacking their library: "As caretakers of the most prominent public building in the second largest city in Iowa, this library can no longer afford to take chances." Update. Beverages are again okay at courthouse (Palm Beach Post 09.16.2006),
Judge's ruling divides 'big football town.' "It was intended to be a prank: steal a decoy deer, place it on a country road and watch as motorists swerved to avoid it. It ended with two teenagers suffering serious injuries when their car hit the decoy and rolled into a ditch. When a judge ruled this week that two boys -- both high school football players -- can complete the football season before they serve 60-day sentences at a juvenile detention center, it caused a division in this northwest Ohio city...When Judge Gary McKinley announced his decision Tuesday to delay the sentence, he said, 'I shouldn't be doing this, but I'm going to. I see positive things about participating in football.'...The two football players are to remain on house arrest once released, pay fines, perform community service and each write an essay titled 'Why I Should Think Before I Act.' Trials are pending for three other defendants." More (CNN 08.19.2006). Comment. We're always on the side of kids. See, BurtLaw's Law and Kids. We trust the judge would have been just as lenient if the two boys had not been players on the football team, whose games draw crowds of 4,000 in this city of 8,000; we trust he'll be just as lenient in the future.
Courthouse stories. Bob Kriebel has written the first of four columns of "courthouse stories" about downtown Lafayette, Indiana's courthouse square, and events occuring in and around the Tippecanoe County Courthouse. This week: 1825 - 1877. Next week: 1878 - 1885. More (Journal and Courier 08.20.2006).
Blame the law clerk? "What the hell? Was there no law clerk who had enough nerve to say, Judge, it can't go out like this?" More (National Review Online Blogs 08.20.2006). Comment. This is a comment by a blogger who doesn't like a certain federal district judge's recent opinion (you can guess which one). I haven't read the opinion yet. I don't believe in blaming law clerks, but if I were a judge I'd want, among other things, a) to hire the best law clerk possible, never basing my hiring decision on friendship or connection or party affiliation or other irrelevancies (not all judges are comfortable with "the best"), and b) to teach the law clerk up front what I expected, including never to be afraid to tell me what he or she is thinking. I've never been a "yes man" and I wouldn't want to surround myself with them. Sadly, some judges -- some Presidents -- aren't comfortable except around sychophants and supplicants. I, of course, know nothing about the judge in question or her law clerk.
Drawn to criminals. This courtroom artist "likes nothing better than a good old-fashioned murder." Her name is Mona Shafer Edwards. "[She] has spent more than 25 years sketching Hollywood's rich and famous on trial. She talks about her experience as a courtroom artist and why she likes nothing better than a good old-fashioned murder...[Q] 'Do you ever feel like you're in a movie?' [A] 'Absolutely. It's very theatrical. The big story I'm working on at the moment is called the 'black widows' story. It's these two women accused of killing men, running them over to get their insurance money. The women are 73 and 75. I love clever murders, they're always fun...." More (Guardian Unlimited 08.20.2006).
What doors has she been knocking on? What do you think of when you ponder the general topic of "knockin' on doors"? In my case, a number of things come to mind, including a song I recall from my youth, Open the Door, Richard. I may be naive, but as I reread the lyrics, which I last heard when I was around four, I find it hard to believe that the singer either expected or consented to "Richard's" opening the door in the buff. In Minnesota, Land of Thousands upon Thousands of Repressed Norwegians, of which I am one, I like to believe that the Top 10 List of Major Social Problems does not include "People opening their door naked." But Georgia, where the word is "nekked," must be different. Here's a link to a story about a Georgia lawmaker, Rep. Dorothy Pelote. She's the person who last year claimed she had seen psychic visions of missing Congressional intern Chandra Levy. More. According to the story, "In the past she's introduced bills to ban long fingernails for students and to stop supermarket baggers from licking their fingers." This time around, she has proposed a law making it illegal for people to answer their doors naked. I'm puzzled why such a law is needed. One can commit the crime of indecent exposure in most states if one intentionally and knowingly exposes oneself indecently to a nonconsenting member of the public, as by standing naked by an open window intentionally attracting the attention of a passer-by. When the late Chief Justice Warren Burger was in private practice in St. Paul, he obtained a reversal from the Minnesota Supreme Court of an indecent exposure conviction of a student who didn't pull the shades before undressing because the supreme court, in its wisdom, deemed the evidence was insufficient to establish the student intentionally exposed to the complaining passerby. I would think that most reasonable people would agree that if one answers the front door naked, one has intentionally and knowingly exposed oneself to "the knocker." Perhaps a) there's caselaw in Georgia allowing indecent exposure defendants to "get off" by claiming they reasonably thought "the knocker" was someone who consented, and b) a significant number of ordinary folks in Georgia have read the law reports and have decided to "take advantage" of the loophole -- to exercise their "right" to open the door naked, so to say. Apparently, if the news story is accurate, the Georgia chapter of the ACLU believes the proposed law would violate a constitutional right of privacy inside the home guaranteed by the Georgia Supreme Court. Does this mean in Georgia people have a "right to open de door nekked"? If I lived in Georgia, I'd oppose the law on more general philosophical grounds. I'd quote Johnson's observation, engraved on the wall of the Minnesota State Capitol outside the Supreme Court Courtroom: "To embarrass justice by a multiplicity of laws, or to hazard it by reliance on judges, are the opposite rocks on which all civil institutions have been wrecked." (01.17.2002)
May boss require employee to count juror time as vacation? Article about the New York law on this. More (Chicago Tribune 08.20.2006).
High Court to retired judges: Git outta yer official residences. "A [Bombay high court] division bench of Justice R. M. Lodha and Justice S. A. Bobde on Thursday asked for a list of retired judges and other judicial officers who are yet to vacate the official accommodation provided to them. The HC also ordered A. A. Lad, a retired district judge who is now the presiding officer at the labour court, to vacate the official residence provided to him at Haji Ali by August 31, 2006...." More (Times of India 08.18.2006).
Another judge tries instituting courthouse dress code. "Superior Court Judge Paul Jones initiated a dress code in the Lenoir and Greene county courthouses because he says there has been a total disregard for the court when it comes to dress. 'I’m more impressed when people dress up properly,' he said. Jones said some people show up to court wearing t-shirts with marijuana plants on them, boots with the laces untied, and woman sometimes wear skirts that are too short. 'Women sometimes dress worse than the men,' Jones said...."
Pants must not sag below the waist or be worn in such a manner that otherwise expose undergarments;
Tank tops, strapless tops and other clothing revealing excessive skin shall not be worn;
Shorts and mini-skirts are not allowed;
Hats, including baseball hats, stocking caps and knit caps must not be worn in the courtroom;
Shirts, blouses and jackets, cannot contain inappropriate writing or pictures, including references to violence, alcohol, drugs, sexual matter or gangs. In addition, items of clothing with slogans that threaten or intimidate victims or witnesses will not be allowed;
For safety reasons, clothing with predominant colors that could be interpreted by others as symbolizing gang association shall not be worn. Other items, including tattoos and symbols that are associated with gang activity shall not be displayed.
Gotti sings 'Happy Birthday' to judge, mom sends praises to another judge. a) "The racketeering trial of [John 'Junior" Gotti,] the son of an infamous New York mafia boss, was interrupted yesterday so that he could sing Happy [60th] Birthday to the judge[, Shira Scheindlin]. Members of the defence and prosecution teams were said to have joined in the singalong." More (Guardian Unlimited 08.18.2006). Gotti and Scheindlin have gotten to "know" each other well; Scheindlin presided over two previous Gotti trials that resulted in hung juries. Id. b) "In a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Jack Weinstein, Victoria Gotti said he'd restored her faith in the justice with his 'tremendous amount of courage' in setting aside the murder convictions of former New York detectives Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa last month. A jury had found the two had participated in eight gangland slayings while still on the job...." More (Monsters and Critics 08.17.2006). Comments. We sense the plot of a feel-good Broadway musical coming on, in which there's a crowd-pleasing finale in which Mob defendants, judges, prosecutors, defense attornies, gun molls, flappers, court reporters, etc., form a chorus line, kicking up their heels in unison while singing, "Just-Us, Just-Us,/ coming together to sing,/ 'Justice, Justice,'/ Spell it any way you want/ it's all the same to us/ Just-Us. Just-Us...."
Officer accused of shooting off mouth about judge in hall outside court. "Lorain police Sgt. James Wolford is accused of using profane language and being disrespectful in a Lorain Municipal Court hallway on May 17. Wolford appeared before police Chief Cel Rivera yesterday for a predisciplinary hearing. According to Municipal Court Judge Mark Mihok, Wolford ''began yelling and screaming at the prosecutor and using extreme vulgarities'' in reference to Mihok when Wolford arrived in court and found out a defendant's attorney had requested a one-day continuance...." More (The Morning Journal - OH 08.18.2006). Comment. We hate to see discord in the "courthouse family." If John "Junior" Gotti can sing "Happy Birthday" to Judge Scheindlin and Gotti's mom sing the praises of Judge Weinstein, then can't we, too, all get along?
Public oversight of courts urged. "The Pennsylvania Supreme Court should be a transparent body whose internal rule-making and justices' actions are done in the open and under public scrutiny. Those are just two of the suggestions offered by Duquesne University law professor Bruce Ledewitz in his platform for reform of the state's highest court...." More (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 08.18.2006), and more (PhillyBurbs 08.17.2006). Comment. Just this brief squib for now. We've obtained a copy of Professor Ledewitz' "platform" and will be reading it and summarizing his important proposals later.
The OC -- Special Judicial Edition. "The state has [publicly admonished] an Orange County judge[, Superior Court Judge Pamela L. Iles,] for the fourth time, the latest after she threw a man in jail and denied him bail without giving him a chance to respond to the charges...'No reasonable or reasonably competent judge would assume or conclude that he or she could summarily incarcerate an unrepresented defendant, in the manner Judge Iles did here,' the commission wrote. Iles has twice received advisory letters from the commission for improperly handling cases. In 2004, she received a more severe private admonishment...A 10-year judicial commission study found that only 3.6% of judges who were reprimanded had three or more prior disciplinary actions against them...." More (L.A. Times 08.17.2006).
Judge's 'bizarre whim.' "A troubled Lowell[, MA,] mom's ability to reel off the first line of the Pledge of Allegiance, on a judge's bizarre whim, has wiped clean her debt to society. Lowell District Court Judge James McGuinness Jr. made the outlandish offer Monday to erase Grimary 'Mara' DeJesus' overdue court fees if she could recite the Pledge...The 10th-grade dropout has a criminal history of assaults and resisting arrest. She was in front of McGuinness on Monday asking for an extension to pay off the $250 she owes the state...." More (Boston Herald 08.17.2006). Comment. Perhaps the state could collect money to help raise judicial pay by selling "Judicial Pull Tabs," with prizes ranging from $10 off any fine to complete exoneration from any felony charges.
Board dismisses complaint filed over judges' controversial winter retreat. "The [MN] state board that oversees how money is spent on elections dismissed a complaint Wednesday against state judges for using taxpayer money to discuss judicial elections during a retreat earlier this year. Attorney Greg Wersal of Golden Valley accused the 25-member Minnesota Judicial Council -- the administrative body of the state's judicial branch -- of using $3,000 to coach incumbent judges on how to win elections during the February retreat...[T]he board said [it] had no jurisdiction over the Judicial Council...'They didn't rule on the (complaint's) merits,' Wersal said...." More (St. Paul Pioneer Press 08.17.2006). Comments. We're glad Mr. Wersal raised the issue, for reasons we explained in a detailed intial posting on the complaint: Did MN judges use public funds for lessons on how to get re-elected? We weren't surprised at the substance of his revelations, given the MN Judicial Establishment's near-hysterical response to the judicial free-speech decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Eighth Circuit. The attitude reflected in that response more recently has been made manifest in the establishment of the so-called "Quie Commission" or "Citizens Commission" on how to address the "sky-is-falling crisis" created by the judicial free-speech decisions. We've also been critical of the commission. See, in sequence, a) MN's 'establishment' still upset by S. Ct.'s judicial free speech decisions. b) MN's judicial 'power elite.' c) The 'Citizens Commission.' d) A debate on judicial campaigns. We're, of course, also not surprised by the Campaign Finance Board's action dismissing Mr. Wersal's complaint, any more than we were surprised by the Board of Judicial Standards' dismissal of the two complaints, one by Mr. Wersal and one by another attorney, filed against the MN Supreme Court Justices in re the "he said/ she said" controversy last winter involving Senator Johnson and alleged extra-judicial statements on the topic of same-sex marriage. Postings on Mr. Wersal's complaint against MN Supreme Court Justice. a) Minnesota's he-said/she-said controversy: Is somebody necessarily lying? b) Updates on MN's he-said/she said controversy involving senator, justices. c) Mn Bd. to investigate all seven supremes. d) MN Board of Judicial Standards says supreme court did no wrong. Other related postings on judicial retreats and junkets. a) No belt-tightening for New Orleans judge traveling on public's money. b) Revelations about those junkets for federal judges. c) Judicial 'Educational' Junkets. d) Judges huddle in high style on taxpayers' money. e) Judicial junk-science junkets. f) The 'Wacky Courthouse' playground as alternative judicial retreat. g) Will Senator's response to junket exposé affect judicial junkets? h) Three Senators want to end judicial junkets. i) Judicial privileges. j) Some judges are more judicious in spending. k) Judges of troubled court head for the beach for 'education.' l) The annual convention of the state chief justices.
Sitting judge criticizes Democrat candidate for governor in MN. "Attorney General Mike Hatch[, who is the DFL-endorsed candidate for Governor,] and [William Leary,] a Ramsey County district judge[,] are trading accusations of improper conduct concerning a pair of consumer protection cases. The two are headed for a courtroom showdown over Hatch's claims that the judge has mishandled the cases and should be removed. The judge has accused Hatch of improperly telephoning him about the cases and suggesting that a TV news crew was about to look into them...." More (Mpls. Star-Tribune 08.17.2006). Comment. Hatch denies wrongdoing but admits calling the judge, which is generally a "no-no" when done ex parte by a party concerning a case pending before the judge. Update. Hatch is wrong about call, judge says (St. Paul Pioneer Press 08.23.2006) ("A Ramsey County District Court judge took on Minnesota's top law enforcement officer again Tuesday, challenging Attorney General Mike Hatch's version of their....").
PA judge says another woman struck her on street. "Location, location, location. Police said Common Pleas Judge Lisa Richette was punched in the head yesterday by another woman on 20th Street near Spruce -- the third time the longtime judge has been assaulted in the same Center City area. Cops said the attack occurred shortly before 1:30 p.m., when a woman in her late 20s or early 30s jumped out of her vehicle, reached into Richette's Chrysler PT Cruiser and punched the 77-year-old judge in the side of the head. The attacker fled after throwing the punch. Richette...told television reporters that she was attacked while she waited for her son to rent a movie from Video City, on S. 20th Street at Panama. 'Out of nowhere, I feel this absolutely terrible blow to my head. I turned and there she was, and she said, 'You bitch, you bitch, I know who you are, Judge Richette! Come out and fight me!'" More (Philadelphia Daily News 08.17.2006). Comment. If the old saw about "things happening in three's" is true, Judge Richette need no longer fear being assaulted in the City Center area. Update. Police arrest woman in punching of judge (Philadelphia Inquirer 08.18.2006).
Sitting justices survive primary election in NV. "Two incumbent Nevada Supreme Court justices were the leading vote-getters in Tuesday's primary, and will face two district court judges as they fight to retain their seats in the November general election...." More (Reno Gazette-Journal 08.17.2006).
South Korea's prexy names first woman to head top court. "President Roh Moo-hyun has nominated the first female judge for the post of chief justice of the country's Constitutional Court. If cleared by parliament, Chon Hyo-suk will head a nine-member top court...." More (All Headline News 08.17.2006). Comment. Will Korea's high court be a "happier" court as a result. One country's chief justice probably thinks so. See, Female chief says female judges make courts 'happier' places to work.
Pigeon Redux. "A complaint about health risks from pigeon droppings has Columbiana County Commissioners talking again about ways to empty the Courthouse roost...[A] group of Sheriff's Office employees led by Sgt. Kenneth Biacco Jr. attended the commissioners' meeting and raised the pigeon issue...The pigeon problem has been perplexing commissioners for years, with a variety of methods attempted in the past, including compact discs hung from strings from the bell tower railing to create a shiny reflection. They also tried a sound device. [T]he commissioner in charge of buildings and grounds, said this time they'll install spikes on the railings and a sticky gel on the stone ledges. If those methods don't work, they'll check into power washing the building and looking for another way to get rid of the birds....." More (Salem News - OH 08.17.2006). Earlier. Emergency award of $1.8 million to clean up courthouse bird doo (with erudite commentary). Comment. The thing is, pigeons and courthouses go together like love and marriage -- "You can't have one without the other." We bet they were peeking through the windows of Constitution Hall in Philly way back when.... Were there any American Eagles expressing a similar interest? We think not. Perhaps, therefore, we ought to revere pigeons, the way some people revere cattle in India. Just a thought....
Judge committed error in delaying verdict to attend ballgame. "The state Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished Riverside County Superior Court Judge Paul E. Zellerbach on Tuesday for refusing to return from an Angels playoff game to handle a verdict in a murder trial and turning down the attorneys' request to allow another judge to receive the jury's verdict...Zellerbach told the commission that he should have allowed another judge to handle the verdict. Six members of the commission voted for public admonishment, and four voted for a private admonishment." More (L.A. Times 08.16.2006). Comment. With the BurtLaw Porta-Courthouse, the judge could have had his ballgame and received the verdict. With our wireless digital technology and our instantly-inflatable, soundproof "courtroom," the judge could have set up shop on a ramp, received the verdict remotely, polled the jurors, thanked them for their service, and returned to his seat in under 15 minutes. The cost? Only $1,999.99.
State fair judging - textualists, traditionalists, positivists, Stewartians, etc. "Cooking competitions still thrive on the nation’s fairgrounds...But some traditional skills, like canning vegetables and preserving meat, are falling away. Taking their place are ambitious new categories, like ones for bagels and biscotti, that would have surprised fairgoers a generation ago. Summoning skills they did not need before, judges in Iowa are critiquing ostrich entrees this week alongside the apple pies and the pork barbecue they have long encountered...." Pickles, pies and blue-ribbon biscotti (N.Y. Times 08.16.2006). Comments. This is an interesting piece on trends in cooking competitions at state and county fairs around the country, with some interesting tid-bits about competitors' strategies, including category-shopping, second-guessing of judges, etc. One successful competitor is quoted saying, "You want to look for categories that the regulars might not enter." He opines that if you want to win best-in-show, not just best-in-category, you need to enter the pie category, because, like most of us, "The judges love pie." Who are the judges? It varies: "In the more rigorous programs, judges are still home economics teachers or food science faculty members; elsewhere, local television hosts or restaurant owners fill in." What standards do the judges apply? It varies: Many state fairs, like Missouri's, make available "specific written standards that competitors should aspire to. Cakes 'should be light, with fine, even texture, moist and velvety but not sticky.' For yeast breads, 'flavor should be pleasant with bland nutlike flavor.'" Some fairs require judges not just to award ribbons but to give a "written critique of each entry that will help competitors correct their mistakes." One prominent judge says she's
"unswayed by frills" and her rules "prohibit decorative hats on jars of canned food, cookies more than three inches in diameter and all postbaking toppings, like frostings, glazes and even a dusting of confectioners’ sugar" by which competitors try to "hide [their] sins." Stay tuned for some thoughts on the extent to which the various schools of common law judicial interpretation are represented in state and county fair cooking competitions, etc.
Appeals court upholds order to take down 'Courthouse Bible' display. "A Bible must be removed from a 50-year-old monument in front of a county courthouse because a district judge changed it from a secular to a religious use in violation of the Constitution...the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 2 to 1 decision. Although secular in purpose when it was erected in front of the old civil courthouse in 1956, former state District Court Judge John Devine and his court reporter, Karen Friend, changed the character of the monument when they refurbished it in 1995, the majority said in a 24-page opinion...Circuit Judge Jerry E. Smith disagreed with the opinion by Judges E. Grady Jolly and Patrick E. Higginbotham, writing in his 15-page dissent that, 'The panel majority exhibits an appalling hostility to any hint of religion in public spaces.'...The county will likely ask for an en banc review by the entire Fifth Circuit...." More (Houston Chronicle 08.16.2006).
Bar Council seeks review of 1988 sacking of three judges during crisis. "The Bar Council has called for a review of the 1988 sacking of three top judges during Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's administration. Its president Yeo Yang Poh said in a statement that an impartial re-examination of the attack by the Executive on the judiciary was necessary to restore the honour of the judges who 'for no more than asserting their independence were so cruelly sacrificed at the altar of political power play.'" More (Malaysia Star 08.16.2006).
Stalking the judge. "A Bartlesville man has pleaded no contest to charges stemming from harassing a local judge. Joseph Murray Looney, 69, pleaded no contest to charges of stalking before Special Judge John D. Gerkin Monday. The charge came after a series of incidents involving Associate District Judge Curtis DeLapp...According to the probable cause affidavit filed in the case, Looney called DeLapp at home on June 14 and stated, 'God is going to fry you in hell for your criminal illegal decisions, you (expletive) pig.' He also was alleged to have called the Washington County Courthouse stating that DeLapp was a 'Nazi judge' and that he is going to 'fry in hell.' The next day, on June 15, Looney was seen by at least one witness standing across the street from the courthouse in front of the First United Methodist Church yelling, 'Lie in hell you satanic pig DeLapp.'" More (Bartlesville Examiner Enterprise 08.16.2006). Related. Man 'flipped off' judge (N.W. Indiana Times 08.16.2006). Man threatened to eat judge's liver (Oregon Live 08.16.2006). Jury finds man not guilty of threatening judge (Gwinnett Daily Post 08.17.2006). Comment. There is a way "Looney" could have told the world he didn't like Gerkin. Peaceful, civil, non-threatening picketing outside a courthouse in protest of this or that is protected by the First Amendment and ordinarily is not subject to criminal prosecution. Cf., Protester at courthouse says judicial system is unfair to black men (Orlando Sentinel 08.17.2006).
Is it o.k. to run for two judicial positions at the same time? "In a split vote, the state Board of Election Commissioners allowed two chancery judges to seek re-election this fall while running at the same time for an open seat on the state Court of Appeals. Gov. Haley Barbour cast the only 'no' vote in the 2-1 decision...Attorney General Jim Hood and Secretary of State Eric Clark voted to allow the dual candidacy. They said there is no prohibition in state law...[Clark said to the other two, 'W]]hat I plan to do is I plan to go to the Legislature in January, and I invite both of y'all to go with me and let's say make it real clear that nobody can run for more than one office at one time in Mississippi.'" More (Jackson Clarion-Ledger 08.16.2006). Comment. Y'all do that. And remember, it's a point of law: if it ain't prohibited, why it's allowed.
Should lawyers be allowed to skip courthouse security screening? "Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett plans to give courthouse employees and lawyers the privilege of bypassing courthouse security screening...Commissioners Stacy George and Richard Lyons say they oppose creating a select group...After the meeting, George said he plans to talk to Bartlett because he does not have the authority to excuse anyone from going through security...'The lawyers shouldn't be favored over others in the general public, neither should the county employees,' George said. 'I don't mind going through screening, and I think it's good for not only employees but for elected officials because sometimes they might have a bad day.'" More (Decatur Daily 08.16.2006). Comment. Hmm. I wonder what he meant by that last remark. We generally oppose "judicial privilege" in matters like access to flu shot, exemption from rules against smoking in the courthouse, etc. See, Judicial privilege - Judges ask to smoke despite smoking ban (and comment). There are multiple factors involved in deciding whether to allow certain people -- say, all pre-screened courthouse workers -- to bypass screening. If I were a judge, I would feel more secure -- and more comfortable as an egalitarian -- if everyone were screened, but that's just me. One the subject of whether only judges should be exempt, see, Who gets to use courthouse side doors, who gets fined? Update. Editorial: courthouse screening should be required of everyone (Decatur Daily 08.17.2006).
'I'll be a policeman again, but in the courthouse.' "Dueling ethics complaints, partisan rallies and even a lawsuit: Breaking with the tradition of polite judicial races, the campaign to unseat Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Arthur Wroble has been anything but boring. The three candidates -- Jerald Beer, David French and Kenneth Lemoine -- came out swinging early, with two making it clear the Sept. 5 election is a referendum on a first-term jurist they claim is incompetent...." More (Palm Beach Post 08.16.2006). Comment. a) Judge Arthur Wroble. i) Groups opposing him: Families Against Court Travesties (members say he "stomps on the rights of people in divorce cases"); National Organization for Women. ii) Lemoin on Wroble: Lemoine is filing a complaint against Wroble for claiming he is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, "accusing Wroble of trying to fool voters that he was on the battlefield in the Gulf War when he was actually in Fort Stewart, Ga." Wroble says he hasn't misrepresented his service. iii) French on Wroble. French is quoted as calling Wroble "absolutely atrocious." iv) 'The Bar' on Wroble. There are 6,000 lawyers in Palm Beach County. In 2005 the bar association surveyed them about judges' performance. Fewer than 300 evaluated Wroble. Of these, 68% gave him low marks for "knowledge of the law." Wroble says the results are "statistically invalid." [Note: With my background in statistics, I'd need more info before I'd weigh in on that.] b) Jerald Beer. Beer has specialized in tax and probate matters, has worked as an arbitrator, and has served as a $25-an-hour traffic hearing officer. i) Abramson on Beer. He has filed a suit to get Beer's name removed from the ballot, claiming Beer's continued work as a traffic hearing officer violates the state's "resign-to-run law." ii) French on Beer. French has filed a complaint claiming Beer has misleadingly described himself as a traffic court "judge," but Beer denies he has misled anyone. French also has dissed Beer for not being a litigator. He's quoted as saying, "He may know where the courthouse is, but he doesn't know where the courtrooms are." c) Kenneth Lemoine. Lemoine worked as a West Palm Beach police officer for seven years; he graduated from law school in 1996 and has a general practice. Lemoine points out that he is the only candidate who has worked on "all sides of the law" [how many are there?] and is quoted as saying, "I'll be a policeman again, but in the courtroom." French on Lemoine. French says Lemoine "simply isn't seasoned enough for the bench." d) David French. French is a civil trial lawyer in Boca Raton. He says, "I have been fighting in the trenches for individuals for 25 years." A local chapter of NOW has endorsed him. e) The big bucks. Wroble has raised $79,000, $50,000 from his own pocket; Beer, $106,000, $50,000; Lemmoine $66,000, $26,500; French, $162,700, $130,000. By comparison, when I stood for the office of chief justice in MN in the general election in 2000, I accepted no contributions and limited my expenses to under $100; my opponent, the then sitting chief justice, accepted contributions of between $120,000 and $130,000. She won by a 3 to 1 margin but has since resigned. I don't recall either of us saying a bad word about each other. Update. Beer allowed to remain on ballot (Palm Beach Post 08.18.2006). Ruling secures Beer's place on ballot (Palm Beach Post 09.02.2006). Judge reaffirms ruling allowing Beer to run (Palm Beach Post 10.14.2006).
Even better than the Great Missouri Plan? "Chris Buttars -- the state senator who last session championed instruction on divine intervention and banning gay clubs at schools -- now proposes giving him and his Senate colleagues the power to fire judges whose rulings they don't like. The current judicial retention election, in which Utahns vote to keep or get rid of a judge, is inadequate, the West Jordan Republican contends. Every judge 'should have to pass a Senate confirmation vote again' when his term comes up, he said. 'That is the only way to make the public aware of some of these terrible decisions...I don't know where some of these decisions are coming from. Some judges just go in there and wing it,' Buttars said...." More (Salt Lake Tribune 08.15.2006). Comment. MN's system of judicial selection occasionally -- indeed, very rarely -- results in an attorney filing to run against a sitting judge whose term is expiring; when that rarity occurs, the voters almost invariably "re-elect" the sitting judge, not atypically by a margin of, say, 3 to 1. Notwithstanding this history, the MN Judicial Establishment, in an almost hysterical over-reaction to the recent "judicial free speech" decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Eighth Circuit, is toying with the idea of proposing an amendment to the MN Constitution to substitute the so-called "Missouri Plan" (misnamed "merit selection"), which provides for periodic retention elections. See, A debate on judicial campaigns and comments and embedded links. Supporters of the Missouri Plan believe it will better insulate sitting judges from removal for unpopular decisions and thereby enhance judicial independence. They should be careful what they wish for. Last year in Pennsylvania, people angry over judicial pay raises targeted two Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justices who were up for retention and succeeded in removing one of them and almost removing the other. See, Justice loses retention election. It is because of instances like this that many judges around the country prefer the possibility of facing a specific challenger in an election to the Missouri Plan's retention elections. They reason that some (many?) voters might vote no in a retention election as a kind of protest against judges in general whereas those same voters might favor the incumbent if faced with a choice between him/her and a specific opponent with identifiable flaws of his or her own. In other words, the retention system may present a far graver threat to judicial independence than MN's benign system of elections. And as the above linked story suggests, adoption of a system of retention elections may be just a step down the slippery path toward adoption of a system of periodic retention votes by legislators, a far, far graver threat to judicial independence than MN's relatively benign system.
U.S. better on Potter than Blair, Seven Dwarfs than nine Supremes. See, Results of Zogby Poll. "There was a similar disparity between the 74% who could name the three members of comedy act the Three Stooges -- Larry, Curly and Moe -- and the 42% who could correctly name the three branches of the U.S. government -- judicial, executive and legislative...." More (BBC News 08.15.2006). Comment. But some might say that if you know Larry, Curly and Moe, you know all you need to know about the guys who run our country.
Judge held on meth charge. "An Alabama judge was jailed on methamphetamine possession charges Tuesday in the same Mississippi town where his wife was arrested earlier this year on similar charges. Ira D. Colvin, a district judge from Pickens County, Ala., was arrested Monday afternoon by police investigating suspects who were believed to be traveling store-to-store purchasing ingredients for the drug, said sheriff's officer Ivan Bryan...." More (Biloxi Sun Herald 08.15.2006). Comment. The good judge is presumably innocent. We do not suggest otherwise when we say that if you want to read a good novel written by a judge about a judge who uses drugs, etc., etc., try Martin Clark, The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living (2000). Update. Judge and woman charged; judge suspended (Commercial Dispatch 08.17.2006). Judge arrested on another drug charge (08.27.2006). Judge resigns (Jackson Clarion-Ledger 09.01.2006).
The buzz on the courthouse lawn. "A German bomb from World War II has been restored and returned to the Putnam County courthouse lawn. The V-1 Buzz Bomb was hoisted back into its position on a platform near the courthouse this weekend, nearly two years after it was taken down for restorations...." More (Fort Wayne News-Sentinel 08.15.2006).
The path to judicial greatness runs through traffic court. "The traffic trials...take place in trailers adjacent to the main building in Kearny Mesa, and are conducted by newly appointed county judges. [T]hese trailers are where 'judges learn how to be judges.' When a judge is first appointed to the bench, he or she rotates through a training period at various city courts. The rotation includes a mandatory two-week stint in traffic court, which is ideal...because 'you get to wear the robes but you don’t have to face seasoned criminals.' Think of it as a practice round, where mistakes don’t matter and the justice system is incapable of completely ruining lives...[A typical traffic court trial] is over in a matter of minutes -- a piece of cake for the judges. Still, the cake is bittersweet: it can be hard to justify passing judgment on those few unfortunates caught for the type of minor driving infraction we all commit. The judge Vyuz spoke to recalls an especially compassionate fellow judge, who once said that 'she’d rather sentence a violent criminal to death than accuse an otherwise upstanding citizen of lying about running that stops sign.'" More (Vyuz San Diego 08.15.2006).
Annals of courtroom design: the 'gang-trial courtroom.' "Another super-secure courtroom for large gang-related trials was announced yesterday, months before Ontario's first such court is expected to become operational. The latest 'major crime' courtroom will be a renovation of an existing facility on Finch Avenue West. Some changes are designed to improve security, others will expand prisoners' boxes, allow for the more efficient presentation of evidence and increase space for more lawyers and larger juries...." More (Globe & Mail 08.15.2006). Comment. Is this a judicial example of the trend toward bigness that is evident in all the neighborhood "tear-downs" and erection of McMansions? Click here and here. There is such a thing as a courtroom being too small, sort of like those micro-sized movie theaters in some of the multi-plexes in which one sees Indy movies. Such courtrooms make a criminal trial seem small and unimportant, whereas a larger, normal-sized traditional Perry Mason courtroom tells the jury the drama that is unfolding is important and their task is, too. Small windowless courtrooms remind me of the sickening middle-of-the-night videotaped 1989 "trial" of Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena by a secret military tribunal, which resulted, of course, in their being found guilty of crimes against the state and their immediate execution by firing squad. On the other hand, if court-"rooms" are too large, one thinks of Fidel Castro's "Roman Circus"-like "show trials" held in outdoor stadiums after he came to power in the late 1950's. The design of a courtroom ought not suggest to jurors that the courtroom is extraordinary and specifically meant for gang members and other notorious defendants.
Judge announces new inductee to his personal 'hall of fame for murderers.' "Judge Thomas O'Keefe added Keith Foster to his own personal murderers 'hall of fame.'" More (Danbury News Times - CT 08.15.2006).
Female chief says female judges make courts 'happier' places to work. "'Since we have women on our bench, we have nicer pictures on the walls, better food in our dining room, a cake for every judge's birthday, yoga and, recently, a piano,' [Canada's Chief Justice, Beverley] McLachlin[,] said in a speech at the Canadian Bar Association's annual meeting. On a personal level, women judges could make for 'happier courts,' McLachlin said yesterday. But from a broader perspective, they are also essential to the credibility of the country's justice system, demonstrating Canada's commitment to equality, she said...." More (Toronto Star 08.15.2006). Comment. Four of the nine justices on Canada's top court are women. At one point a majority of the justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court (four of seven) were women. Has the addition of female justices to state and federal supreme courts around the world necessarily made those institutions "happier"? It'd be hard to establish, scientifically speaking. One shouldn't assume that everyone agrees with McLachlin's opinion, which is what it is. What would an old-school justice on an all-male supreme court say, for example, about the tearing down of the courthouse pub and its replacement by a yoga studio? And what would that old-school justice say about the conversion of one of the two bathrooms for justices (i.e., male justices) into a bathroom for female justices?
Not a single hearing in five years. "Hearing of the Bangabandhu murder case suspended five years ago was not held for a single day during the coalition rule for judges' reluctance to hear and the government's unwillingness to dispose of the long-drawn-out case. The proceedings of the historic case, pending with the highest court for the last five years, is unlikely to resume before March next year unless the government appoints at least two judges to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court...." More (Daily Star - Malaysia 08.15.2006). Comment. A majority of justices apparently recused on the ground of "embarrassment," that is, that recusal was necessary to avoid embarrassment in the performance of their duties.
When is a judge improperly biased? "John Demjanjuk says the judge who ordered him deported is biased because he once wrote about targeting Nazi war criminals. Demjanjuk, 86, says former Chief Immigration Judge Michael Creppy should have stepped aside because...Creppy wrote an article for the Georgetown Immigration Law Journal in 1998 that said the U.S. government should push for the removal of Nazi war criminals. Creppy wrote that 'as long as we persist in taking action against them, then we continue to triumph over them,' according to the court filing. [Demjanjuk's attorney] said reasonable people would agree that vigorously prosecuting Nazi war criminals is important. But he said that for the chief immigration judge to give such opinions betrays 'an improper bias.' He also said that Creppy assigned the case to himself. Attorneys with the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations said Creppy...simply expressed 'a bias in favor of upholding the law.' [They also said there isn't] anything wrong with chief judges assigning cases to themselves, especially if they involve complex issues...." More (Cleveland Plain Dealer 08.15.2006). Comment. Hmm. The article arguably betrays a certain prosecutorial zeal on the judge's part with respect to Nazi war criminals. And the judge's assigning the case to himself under these circumstances arguably creates a "bad" appearance.
When judges are misjudged. "The State Supreme Judicial Court last week defanged a nine-member commission responsible for enforcing the standards of judicial conduct and disciplining wayward judges. The SJC claims the move was necessary to reinforce public trust in the integrity of the judiciary. But it may have the opposite effect. Justices of the state's highest court disapproved of commission actions last year that led to a $50,000 fine and year-long suspension for Plymouth County Juvenile Court Judge Robert Murray. Members of the state's highest court felt strongly that Murray deserved removal from the bench...But the SJC's response is now raising more eyebrows than the Murray decision. How is public trust served when the SJC, angered by a single decision, strips a commission of its authority to impose serious sanctions, including suspensions and large fines? The SJC is the last body in Massachusetts that one would expect to find overreacting in such a case...." More (Boston Globe 08.14.2006). Earlier entries. MA Supremes question judicial conduct board's authority - MA Supremes summon members of judicial conduct board - Judge suspended, fined for sexual harassment - Judge settles sexual harassment claims by two women. Comment. More and more, we're seeing state supreme courts arguably "over-react" in matters directly concerning them. See, e.g., some of my linked-to previous entries in today's posting titled A debate on judicial campaigns (about the MN Judicial Establishment's crabbed response to the judicial-free-speech rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Eighth Circuit) and my earlier posting titled Annals of judicial colleageality: a frictionalized, fractured supreme court, which links to my posting and comments on a couple of split free-speech decisions by the MI Supreme Court -- Calling a judge a 'jackass' and More on Michigan Supremes' split over free speech.
A debate on judicial campaigns. "Pioneer Press: Is there such a thing as impartiality? [Greg] Wersal: Somehow, [opponents of free speech for judicial candidates] think magically, impartiality exists if a candidate doesn't state his views. He's got the views anyway. They're in his head, or her head. The fact that he or she hasn't announced them, or stated them, simply means we're all in the dark....[Sue] Holden: Commenting on issues would let a voter know what a candidate stands for. But you have to ask the question of whether or not that is relevant to a voter's decision about a judge...." More (St. Paul Pioneer Press 08.13.2006). Comment. Greg Wersal is the lawyer who made a name for himself in national and MN legal history by single-handedly taking on the Minnesota Judicial Establishment and winning stunning First-Amendment victories from the U.S. Supreme Court and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Sue Holden, a former president of the MN Bar, opposes free speech for judicial candidates and apparently opposes election of judges. Some of our mini-essays on this topic include: "Blatz blazts politicization of judicial campaigns"; "MN. Supreme Court reversed again on free speech"; "Free speech is a 'bad idea'?" (where we criticize Ms. Holden's predictably-negative response to the decisions); and "Sandra Day O'Connor on MN's judicial election rules." For your convenience we have combined them in one place (click here), allowing you to read them in sequence. I should add that yesterday, 08.13.2006 I viewed excerpts from an interview of former Republican Gov. Al Quie by T.V. "newsperson" Cyndy Brucato, a former aide to Republican Gov. Arne Carlson, on KSTP-TV's Sunday morning public affairs show. Quie is head of the so-called "Citizens Commission" to investigate the subject of judicial elections and make recommendations. It was obvious from what he said, as I have predicted all along, that he was picked to head the commission because his views would reflect those of the judicial establishment. For my criticisms, see, my piece titled The 'Citizens Commission.' Further related reading. BurtLaw on Law and Judicial Elections; BurtLaw on Judicial Independence and Accountability; BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges. These are three of the most-visited pages on my original pioneering blawg, BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else.
Judge is removed from ballot; she missed campaign finance deadline. "The state Republican Party must decide who will replace Mobile County Juvenile Judge Pamela Millsaps on the ballot after she was disqualified from running for re-election because she missed a deadline for filing a campaign finance report...." More (Times Daily 08.14.2006). Comment. Removal from the ballot seems to be an excessively-harsh punishment for missing such a deadline.
Will new federal courthouse be named after Rush Limbaugh? "With about four months before the completion of the new federal courthouse in Cape Girardeau, the question remains: What will its name be?...State Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau, said he could think of no better person than the late U.S. Rep. Bill Emerson. 'He gave a great deal of his time and wonderful service to our area,' Cooper said, adding naming the courthouse after him would be especially significant as the building sits in the shadow of the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge. Cooper noted that most federal buildings are named after elected federal officials. But if the new courthouse were not to be named after Emerson, he suggested the late Judge Rush H. Limbaugh Sr. 'It's a wonderful opportunity to the people of Cape Girardeau to honor one of their own,' he said...." More (Southeast Missourian 08.14.2006). Comment. If you're a Bill Emerson fetishist, you might not want to stop with the bridge and courthouse -- why not name the airport, the post office, all the schools, the new parking ramp, etc., after him, too? But we think "The Rush Limbaugh Federal Courthouse" sounds neat. And the keynote speaker at the dedication might be a neo-Freudian addressing the topic of "Judicial Rebellion -- The Curious Ways Sons of Judges Honor Their Fathers."
Will Spanish language signs remain in courthouse? "About 20 signs written in Spanish will stay up in the Canyon County Courthouse. That's despite the County Commission's decision three weeks ago to pass a resolution requiring virtually all reports, forms, brochures -- and signs -- in the building to be in English. Commissioner Robert Vasquez, a strident anti-illegal immigration activist, says the existing signs will be left up out of 'courtesy.' Only new signs will be printed in English-only, in a county where nearly a fifth of the population has Hispanic roots...." More (KTVB - ID 08.14.2006). Comments. One wonders what a hypothetical fiercely-independent judiciary would say about county commissioners determining what court-related signage says.
Court bailiff convicted of felony theft for lying about work hours. "A former Tippecanoe County court bailiff has been sentenced to house arrest and ordered to pay $6,100 in restitution for padding her work hours to make it appear that she had worked more than 1,000 hours of overtime. Kelly M. Davis, 31, a former bailiff in Tippecanoe Superior Court 1, pleaded guilty last week to felony theft before Special Judge Donald Currie of Carroll County...." More (Indianapolis Star 08.14.2006). Comment. In most state court systems the "lowly" court employees all have to report their hours and are subject to "big trouble" if they get caught swearing they worked when they didn't, but, sadly, the judges themselves very often don't require themselves to report their hours present and working at the courthouse, their vacation days, their sick days, their time campaigning, their time doing volunteer work that cuts into court time, their time at conventions that cuts into court time, etc. We're as big on "judicial independence" as any judge we know but we're also big on "judicial accountability." This is one area where we have long argued that judges need to be more accountable -- and need to be held accountable. The ever-present reality that some lawyer might someday run against one in an election has a tendency to sharpen a judge's focus on giving good weight to the people who are his employers. Further reading. BurtLaw on Judicial Independence and Accountability.
Reporter who covered courts pleads guilty in drug deal. "[Mark C. Johnson, 56, t]he former KAAL-TV...reporter accused of selling [OxyContin] to a police informant pleaded guilty this morning in Mower County District Court...to a third-degree drug crime; a second-degree drug charge alleging sale in a school zone was dismissed...Johnson was dismissed from his job covering the police and courts beat for the Austin-based TV station shortly after charges were filed...." More (Austin Herald - MN 08.14.2006). Comment. We never take satisfaction in something like this. For some of our views on crime and punishment, see, Crime and Punishment at BurtonHanson.Com.
Should judges be allowed to dismiss defense lawyers in terrorism trials? "Proposals giving judges the power to dismiss lawyers in lengthy terrorist and fraud trials have been published by the UK Department for Constitutional Affairs, says a report on the Times Online site...Under the plans, judges will be given a power to order the withdrawal of a defendant’s solicitor or barrister from the case...if there appears to be a risk of a conflict of interest with other defendants in the trial, or where judges think a barrister or solicitor lacks sufficient capacity and that this threatens the efficient running of the trial...The move has been criticised by lawyers who say that it threatens to undermine a key legal right: that of suspects to choose their solicitors...." More (Legal Brief 08.14.2006).
Courthouse to be recycled as community theater. "For a century, citizens of Appomattox would sit on the benches of the old courthouse to watch cases unfold. This fall, they’ll be able to sit in those seats again to watch a new case unfold...only this one will be on stage. The town and county of Appomattox recently signed a deal that will allow the old courthouse, which closed in 2004, to reopen as a community theater. The non-profit theater will be ready by September, and will put on its first production, Anthony Shaffer’s murder-mystery comedy Whodunnit? in November...." More (Lynchburg News and Advance - VA 08.14.2006). Comment. The best depiction of what is taken when a beloved public building is taken down was a 1971 episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, They're Tearing Down Tim Reilly's Bar, which Serling said in his final interview was one of his favorite creations. Among the beloved buildings of my youth in a small town in western MN that have been demolished are the Carnegie library, the southside grade school, Our Savior's Lutheran Church, and the Great Northern Ry. Depot. Another such building, the Paris Hotel, was destroyed by fire. The old courtroom in the courthouse was, I believe, cut up to make smaller courtrooms, and a not-attractive-to-my-eyes jailhouse addition to the courthouse was built. The wonderful Railroad Park was diminished in size to provide more downtown parking. The destruction of each historic building is one more reason for me not to go home again -- except in memory. But the people of Appomattox have shown there is another way -- it's called creative recycling/reusing of old beloved public buildings and spaces. Any community that wants to save historic main streets, promote restoration rather than teardowns (& the obscene McMansions that replace them), etc., should contact former-Minnesotan & former-Mondale-aide Richard Moe and his staff at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a terrific organization. Too bad the folks in my hometown didn't have the wisdom to do that. But, wait! It's never too late to start afresh. I'm thinking of the historic second-floor Benson Opera House, which, last I heard, was used for storage by its private owners. Perhaps funds could be obtained to purchase and restore it.... Related. Old Lexington courthouse's new look, new use (Kentucky.Com 08.15.2006); Museum of Art eyes old courthouse (Tucson Citizen 08.16.2006).
Italian judge rules dogs have 'existential right to bark.' "An Italian judge has ruled that dogs have the "existential right to bark", after a retired man took his neighbour to court over the loud raucous the dogs were making...." More (Axcess News - NV 08.14.2006). Comment. With apologies to Dylan Thomas, "Do not bark gentle into that good night,/ Old dogs should growl and snarl at close of day,/ Growl, growl, 'gainst the dying of the light...." Or, so I say to my dear Mathilda, Wonder Dog, who, despite the weakening of her Great Heart, which cannot be weakened, is happy to be here.
Son of judge drowns in boating accident. "The youngest son of a Perak Syariah Court judge drowned at Ayer Ganda Lake when the fishing boat taking the family for a picnic at Pulau Dala, Grik, capsized. Judge Datuk Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, 61, boarded the boat at 5.30pm with his wife Datin Dewi Periswati and sons 18-month-old Ahmad Syakir, Ahmad Faiz, three, and Mohd Lutfi, five. Five minutes into the journey, the boat sank, drowning Ahmad Syakir...." More (Malaysia Star 08.14.2006). Comment. Sad stuff. We just received the news last Friday that the son of a dear old friend died by his own hand at age 35. As I said the other day, I've never known a judge, or anyone else, for that matter, who is immune from the ordinary or the extraordinary griefs. Cf., Robert Frost's Trial by Existence and The Fear of God. Sometimes the grief is just too damned much to bear.
Judges on payroll of criminals? "The rumour mill in Cape Coast and Elmina is awash with allegations that some judges are on the payroll of some criminals and for that reason any time these criminals are brought to court for prosecution they are let off the hook...." More (Public Agenda - Ghana 08.14.2006). Comment. I find it hard to believe that any judges would be on the payroll of criminals. In fact, I'm shocked at the allegations.
Eccentric ex-judge is at center of drama. "As the guardianship dispute over Brooke Astor rivets society circles in Manhattan, a tale with similar themes has been unfolding in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The Brooklyn drama has at its center an eccentric former civil court judge, John Phillips, 83...In his younger years, when Judge Phillips was not presiding over court cases, he ran a political club and developed a style of martial arts that he called 'the gorilla-gnat system.' He owned a well-known theater and residential buildings in Brooklyn. He spoke of running for district attorney in Brooklyn until the present officeholder, Charles Hynes, initiated a guardianship proceeding against him in 2000 following reports that he was being taken advantage of financially in his old age...Although Judge Phillips, who retired from the bench in 1995, once had assets worth many millions, his bills now go unpaid...." More (N.Y. Sun 08.14.2006). Comment. I'd rather die sooner & leave "it all" to my kids than live longer & use it up on nursing home bills, etc.
The case of the judge's unpaid driver. "The Tarkwa High Court Judge, Justice Francis Poku, has -- through his watchman -- allegedly warned his former driver, Maweli Taylor Tsyokor, not to enter his house again or risk being shot.
This was after Mawuli had driven the judge's car for six months without being paid a pessewa, a situation which had made the impoverished Tsyokor exert some pressure on the judge to pay him...He said the judge told him that his basic pay would be ¢500,000 per month and that he would be paid traveling allowances plus other benefits as well. Tsyokor said he worked diligently from that period without pay and, each time he enquired about his pay, the judge told him to exercise patience...Last October 27, Tsykor says, he was told by the registrar of the court that the judge had said he no longer needed his services...This supposed directive by the judge was without his pay and other allowances, which had accumulated for six months...He has since filed a complaint...Several attempts made by this reporter at Tarkwa to get the judge's version proved futile. Once the judge asked this reporter to return on a particular day but when he went the judge was not available...." More (The Heritage - Ghana 08.14.2006). Comment. Great stuff. Read it all....
If the T.V. show is 'Meet the Judges,' you know it's public access. "The two judges sat at a battered wooden table, waiting for the man behind the camera to tell them when to begin. As soon as the cameraman gave the signal, Lackawanna County Judge Tom Munley began a warm introduction of Senior U.S. District Judge Edwin Kosik, his most recent guest on Channel 61’s Meet the Judges. Judge Munley had no notes and no teleprompter as he talked about how long he had known Judge Kosik and then went right into their first topic -- Judge Kosik’s childhood in Luzerne County...Judge Munley, no stranger to television, began the informal chats with judges soon after he took office in December and quickly worked his way through the eight county judges before moving on to the federal judges. 'The whole purpose of this show is for people to get to know the judges,' Judge Munley said. 'The judges are interesting people, but the public doesn’t really know anything about them.' The idea for the show grew out of Judge Munley’s experience in front of the camera in other shows locally. He got started in the mid-90s, helping former Mayor Jim McNulty co-host the show Sunday Live and hosted a segment called The Law and You, both on WYOU-TV...." More (Scranton Times-Tribune 08.14.2006). Comment. We love that line about judges being "interesting people." Anyhow, it sounds like scintillating, magnetic television.
Chief: high cost of lawyers is causing an epidemic of self-representation. "Canada's senior judge appealed to lawyers on Saturday to consider whether they should alter their fees to help an 'epidemic' of Canadians who are representing themselves in court...[Chief Justice Beverley] McLachlin, in an annual speech to the Canadian Bar Association, said as many as 40 per cent of people are appearing in some courts without lawyers, a problem that she said is growing rapidly and adding further delays to a system that is already stressed to the limit...." More (National Post 08.13.2006). Comment. I've said it before and I've been criticized for saying it, but it's how I feel: I'm not particularly proud of my profession. The day may come when the public will say of the experiment with regulation of it by the judiciary, "Enough, already!" Don't say you didn't hear it from me.
Frustrated with lack of good child care options, judge quits and... "Sangeeta Prasad became so frustrated with her search for child care in Santa Fe that she left her job as an administrative law judge and started a nonprofit that aims to increase the number of quality day-care facilities here. Naya Childcare Resources provides start-up grants of up to $10,000 to people who want to start child-care businesses, Prasad said. In addition, the nonprofit conducts seminars on how to start an in-home child-care business and provides information for people who have child-care businesses...." More (Santa Fe New Mexican 08.13.2006).
The latest on judge with 'supernatural powers.' "In an en banc resolution issued over the weekend, the Supreme Court affirmed its earlier decision dismissing Judge Florentino Floro of Malabon Regional Trial Court for mental unfitness to discharge the responsibilities of his high office. Floro had been sacked after announcing in open Court that he possessed the ability to see things in the future and the power to appear in two places at the same time. And, perhaps what disturbed the Court most, he told litigants and their lawyers several times that he consulted dwarfs when making a decision on cases brought before him...." More (Manila Times 08.13.2006). Comments. a) It's good that The Apostle Paul, Martin Luther, and Abraham Lincoln, among others -- all people who at one time or another "suffered" from profoundly-spiritual crises, "hearing voices," etc. -- never wanted to be judges in the Philippines. It's good that a wonderful district court judge I knew back in 1970 didn't let too many people know he prayed to his "spirit pal" (i.e., God) for guidance in difficult cases. b) Too bad James Stewart isn't around. He could play Judge Floro in a movie treatment of this case -- a sort of updated version of his role as Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey (1950). c) I always say, Just because I don't see what you say you see, doesn't mean you're not seeing it. And I would add, other judges have given worse explanations or justifications for their rulings than Judge Floro gave. The Reports are full of examples.
Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
’T is the majority
In this, as all, prevails.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur, -- you ’re straightway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.
BTW, not too many people know that Emily Dickinson carried on rather wantonly with a judge, name of Otis Lord, to whom she gave the nickname "The Owl." Read on at Emily Dickinson's own judge. Sometimes, it seems, the little woman who presents herself as shy, modest, quiet, passive, and passionless is anything but....
Judge Jacobs dies at 95. "In 1955 [Robert Lee] Jacobs ran for Cumberland County judge against the incumbent, Republican Mark E. Garber, and again outside events affected his campaign. Judge Garber was on the stand in the courthouse on the Square in Carlisle when a defendant in a support case pulled out a gun and started shooting, killing one of his estranged wife’s lawyers and injuring the other lawyer and the judge. Jacobs announced he would not campaign until his opponent had recovered, and figured his cause was lost. However, this gesture endeared him to voters and prompted several praising newspaper editorials -- and Jacobs won. 'It turned out to be a very good move,' [his daughter, Bessie Jamieson] Boyle said." She also described him as "a down-to-earth person, not snooty." More (Carlisle Sentinel 08.13.2006).
Judge famous as corruption buster admits he served as middleman. "Former Judge Willem Heath -- once famous as a crusading corruption buster -- has admitted he served as a middleman for payments by slain mining magnate and mega-fraudster Brett Kebble to 'third parties' who included employees of Kebble's enemies...." More (Independent Online 08.13.2006). Comment. A reminder to all judges: Never allow yourself to be portrayed as an expert on legal/judicial ethics -- if "they" ever catch you at anything, they'll double your trouble by trying to make you out as a hypocrite, when really (it is no secret) you're just another "someone" who maybe "slipped and fell."
Supreme Court Justice is impressed by Kuala Lumpur. "It is not every day that a judge of the U.S. Supreme Court and his wife take a walk in the park in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. But that was what Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and Mary did on Friday evening, and they came away impressed. 'We walked around the park and we saw so many people with their families, enjoying the beauty of the Twin Towers,' he tells Sunday Star...This is his first visit to the country and Kennedy remarked that although we live in a world that is supposedly so advanced, and we think we know everything, the fact is we know very little about one another. He feels it is important to have a better and more-informed dialogue with people in the Islamic world, for example. The judge, who has been on the Supreme Court for nearly 18 years, was in town to deliver the 20th Sultan Azlan Shah lecture on Thursday at the Shangri-la...." More (Malaysia Star 08.13.2006).
Yet another 'crackdown' on jury no-shows. "Sixty people who didn't report for jury duty earlier this year were again ordered to court, this time to tell a judge why they weren't there the first time around. Only four of the once-prospective jurors made it to Thursday's show-cause hearing in Kent County Circuit Court. As for the other 56, Judge Dennis Kolenda read their names aloud as he issued bench warrants for their arrests...." More (Detroit Free Press 08.12.2006). Earlier. Judge orders reluctant juror to sit in dunce's chair - who's the dunce? Comment. I wouldn't want a fellow sitting as juror in my case if his presence resulted from service of a bench warrant. There are better ways to get people to respond to jury summonses. One way is to teach kids in school about civics in a way that makes government participation seem appealing, not a chore. I still have a local newspaper picture of myself and some friends standing in line to use the voting machine back in 1956, when I was in eighth grade. The whole school used to vote in Presidential elections. In 1960, when I was a senior, a friend and I debated the relative merits of Tricky Dick (I supported the Trickster) and The Womanizer in front of a class of sophomores studying world history. I know a guy who served in the army in Germany in the late 1980's who has never voted; he says he wouldn't know how and would feel out of place at the polling place. No graduate of Benson (MN) High School from my era ever said anything like that. Similarly, no students in Parkland, FLA, who've had Judge Louis Schiff put on a mock trial in their class (click here) will ever ignore a jury summons out of ignorance of the mechanics and rewards of participation as a juror. Are there other ways to get people to respond? An entry from Ralph Waldo Emerson's journal for 05.25.1862 suggests an answer: "When Edward & I struggled in vain to drag our big calf into the barn, the Irish girl put her finger into the calf's mouth, & led her in directly." What was on her finger, of course, was sugar. Many of our court systems treat jurors badly -- treat them like cattle. Word gets out. Eventually, the administrators and judges struggle in vain to drag them into the barn. There are better ways. Do I need to spell it all out?
Stealing the magic lamp? "At an elementary school, he'll re-create his courtroom to stage a new twist on a classic kid tale. The trial is on; Aladdin is the defendant. Is he guilty of stealing the magic lamp? Schiff assigns each child a role within the mock trial. The kids represent lawyers on both sides, the court reporter, bailiffs and jury members. One lucky student gets to be judge. Then, while dissecting the motives and moves of the fabled Aladdin, they explore the legal arguments of the case...." From a cover-story profile of Judge Louis Schiff, Parkland, FLA, in Parents who make schools better (USA Weekend 08.13.2006). Comment. We focused our spotlight on Judge Schiff a year ago in Judge as leader of the band. It's nice to see the national media catching up to us.
Annals of specialized courts - fast-track female foeticide courts. "Upset over the rampant occurrence of female foeticide in the country, the National Commission for Women has recommended to the Central Government to bring amendments to the PNDT Act and the MTP Act incorporating provisions for punishment to those indulging in and facilitating female foeticide. The commission has also recommended that fast-track courts should be set up to ensure conviction of those committing the sin of killing unborn daughters...." More (The Tribune - India 08.12.2006). Comment. Many parents who don't want girls in India go to private sonogram clinics; if the sonogram says it's a girl, they abort the fetus. Many of those who don't do that kill the baby shortly after birth. A convenient "accident" occurs. Others leave the baby on the doorstep of the police station. Some of those girls actually are lucky. They get adopted by Americans, snatching the victorious good life in America from the jaws of a life of shame or destitution. The unwanted ones who are kept? Some are married off as child brides; of these, the ones who are "lucky" won't get abused or killed off in "accidental" fires. Some, relatively "lucky" ones in the overall picture -- grow up to be prostitutes. The chances of an unwanted female fetus making it all the way past abortion to birth, past birth to early childhood, past early childhood to any school -- much less a school like the one Judge Schiff visits in Lakeland, FLA -- are shockingly slim. Will the "fast-track foeticide courts" help much? Unlikely.
'Super judge' doesn't believe in being 'just a judge.' "The choreographer[, Shiamak,] will judge the reality show Superstars. This is [his] first appearance on TV as a judge." Asked, "How excited are you," he replied, in relevant part, "I am extremely excited. In fact, I had been approached earlier to judge shows. But I didn’t take those up because I don’t believe in being just a judge. You have to be a part of the entire process to be able to judge anybody....." More (News and Analysis - India 08.11.2006). Comment. We couldn't have said it better.
Ed Rivera Internet Law School. "Ed Rivera Internet Law School Exposes The World’s Greatest Conspiracy...Internet Law School's leader, a true legal genius, has proven America’s freedom became endangered in 1789 by the creation of a non-judicial federal judiciary and completely lost when the Supreme Court handed the Presidency to George W. Bush. According to Dr. Eduardo M. Rivera, freedom lost to government can only be regained when the U.S. Supreme Court is widely exposed as a non-judicial court. Rivera offers a simple procedure to prove the U.S. Supreme Court is not judicial using any copy of the Constitution...." More (Eworldwire - press release 08.11.2006). Comment. How come Al Sacks, Paul Freund, and company didn't teach us that in constitutional law at Harvard Law School?
Judge to defendant: If you were 'an Anglo,' sentence might be harsher. "During a trial Tuesday morning, a district judge told the defendant had he been an 'Anglo,' the man may have received a harsher punishment, according to court transcripts. District Judge Thomas Hynes sentenced Bryan Comanche, 21, to seven years imprisonment rather than the maximum sentence, 12 years, the transcript states. 'What if, instead of being Native American, you were Anglo?' Hynes said, according to an audio recording of the sentencing. 'What would I do then? Probably be tougher, I guess. I don't know.'" Hynes later said, to a reporter, that what he meant was that if the crime had been a "hate crime," he'd have imposed a harsher sentence. More (Farmington Daily Times - NM 08.11.2006). Comment. We are fast approaching the day when everything will be "caught on tape," including every judicial faux pas. Read on....
Panel reprimands judge. "Taking a rare step, the state Commission on Judicial Disabilities has issued a public reprimand to Baltimore Circuit Judge John N. Prevas, one of the longest-serving members of the bench...The commission found Prevas was wrong in three instances[, including] calling a defendant in his courtroom 'a jerk,' [and] interrupting his court proceedings to help his longtime companion delay her jury duty and entering a finding of not guilty for a defendant who had requested a jury trial. During a hearing June 9, 2004, the commission found, Prevas 'shouted in a loud and angry voice' at a defendant who had tried to fire his lawyer. 'It was obvious from the videotape [of the hearing] that Judge Prevas had temporarily lost control of his words and actions,' the commission found. On July 6, 2005, Prevas stopped his docket to take a telephone call from Baltimore Circuit Judge John C. Themelis, then the city judge responsible for managing jury duty. In open court, Prevas arranged for his longtime companion to reschedule her jury duty. 'Judge Prevas' decision to accomplish this intervention while on the bench...suggested to any person present that a friend of the judge could receive special favors,' the commission said...." More (Baltimore Sun 08.11.2006).
Judge cries in open court. "Prosecutors and judges aren't supposed to cry. But yesterday, two did. The tears fell as Assistant District Attorney Mark Gilson described the death of Kayla Peter and anguish of those who loved her. 'She was 15 years old. Five feet, 2 inches tall. She weighed 126 pounds,' Gilson told the court, his eyes welling as he then listed the damage done to that small frame by a speeding car. That brought him to her family. 'Not a day goes by that they're not reminded of Kayla, that they see her everywhere. Every girl reminds them of Kayla, every voice.' At that, even Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner began to weep...." More (Philadelphia Inquirer 08.12.2006). Comment. Shortly before he died, Hubert H. Humphrey said, "A man without tears is a man without a heart."
Judge's son to appear in court on drug charges. "The preliminary hearing for a district judge's son facing drug charges is set for Wednesday in Farmington Magistrate Court, according to court documents. John Kellen Dean, 22, is scheduled to appear on charges of providing alcohol to a minor, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, court documents state. Dean is the son of District Judge John Dean...." More (Farmington Daily Times 08.12.2006). Comment. It's not necessarily easy being the kid of a judge, or the kid of anyone else for that matter. We hope "the system" is lenient with the boy, not because he's the son of a judge but because it ought to be lenient in all such cases. See, BurtLaw's Law and Kids and BurtLaw's Crime and Punishment. And read on....
Is judge's son being dealt with differently? "Gates Enoch admitted in March to gathering more than 150 images of children engaged in sex acts on his computer, and on Thursday he was scheduled to be sentenced for his crime in federal court in Austin. But at the end of an hourlong hearing in which Enoch, the 20-year-old son of a former Texas Supreme Court justice, again admitted to gathering as well as distributing the illegal images, Senior U.S. District Judge James Nowlin...adjourned the hearing and invited lawyers in the case to bring him any evidence to show what effect medication Enoch took for attention deficit disorder may have had on his affinity for child pornography...Nowlin said he was hesitant to accept Enoch's guilty plea to possession of material involving the sexual exploitation of a minor, entered in March before a U.S. magistrate judge, because with the conviction Enoch would have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life...Nowlin said he is not treating Enoch differently because of his father, although he did say that he rarely in 35 years as a federal judge has approached a sentencing with so much concern...He said he would act the same if a similar-aged defendant 'from East Austin' stood before him on the same charge...." More (Austin American-Statesman 08.11.2006). Comment. The day will come when we will look back on the current hysterical approach to sex crimes in the same way we react when reading Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. We applaud the judge for his solicitude toward Gates Enoch.
Courthouse cuts proposed -- herein of judicial luxuries. "Scaled-down renovation and expansion plans unveiled Thursday for the Lehigh County Courthouse eliminate four floors [from the eight-story plan], nix the upscale amenities and shave $22.5 million off the more than $80 million project's price tag. The reductions, with borrowing included, will save taxpayers a total of $35 million...Two of four private judges' bathrooms, custom-made exterior panels, expensive finishes on light fixtures and doorknobs, and 17-foot-high courtroom ceilings didn't make the...cut...[R]educing the height of the ceilings to 12 feet reduced the need for extra stories, saving the county $10.7 million...." More (The Express Times - PA 08.11.2006). Comment. If on any weekday you drive up and down the streets of the suburb in which I live, you'll see truck after truck belonging to this or that home remodeling company. Thanks to President Bush's tax cuts, which favored people with high incomes, these people have money to remodel their already more-than-adequate homes. Contractors are buying and tearing down upper-bracket houses and replacing them with tasteless (in my opinion) "McMansions" to sell for McMillions of dollars. In 1999 Princeton University Press published a book titled Luxury Fever: Money and Happiness in an Era of Excess, in which the author, R.H. Frank, coined the expression "luxury fever" to apply to the resurgence in the 1990's of what Thorstein Veblen, the great Norwegian-American economist/sociologist termed "conspicuous consumption." It's all about the desire of small people to convince themselves and others of their own bigness -- bigness in cars (they're called SUV's), bigness in boats, bigness in breasts (they're fake), bigness in houses, bigness in this, that and everything. And it's continuing. But every bubble eventually bursts. And every luxury comes with a price that eventually must be paid. All of which is why that wise Spartan moralist, Justice Brandeis, said that "the worst" was not the Crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression of the 1930's but the sad excesses that preceded and led to the Crash.... Further reading. I have expressed similar views but in the specific context of "judicial luxury fever" in previous postings, including Annals of judicial chambers makeovers and Reining in those wild-spending judges.
Judges deliberate on calligraphy entries. "The judges for the Asean Calligraphic Writing Competition 2006 yesterday gathered at the Ministry of Religious Affairs Islamic Da'wah Centre for a two-day deliberation on the best entries...The panel of judges are Hj Ishak bin Hj Md Rais (Brunei Darussalam), Jainal Sakivan (Malaysia) and Hj Didin Sirajudin Abdul Rahman (Indonesia)." More (Borneo Bulletin 08.11.2006). Comment. Common law judges have much to learn from calligraphy judges. If only they realized it....
Man gets revenge on female judge by biting her. "A 43-year-old female judge was assaulted and attacked in a Lisbon car park by a man who claimed to have been sentenced by the judge some years earlier...." More (Portugal News 08.11.2006). Comment. When my daughter was very young and I momentarily lost my patience with her because she wasn't sitting still as I was giving her a haircut, she got "revenge" by calling me a "pickle." She was a born lawyer, with a wonderful sense of balance and proportionality and nuance, and it's no surprise to me that she's now a real lawyer with a very good job.
Judicial race 'gets personal.' "It's an affair Ramsey County District Judge Elena Ostby apparently wants voters to remember. Weeks after St. Paul City Council Member Jay Benanav filed to run against the incumbent judge, Ostby complained in a public letter that an article [in a semi-monthly neighborhood newspaper briefly describing the marital status of each of the three candidates] -- she's divorced with no children -- should also have mentioned her opponent's extramarital affair...Ostby doesn't mention Benanav by name. But Benanav's affair made headlines in January 2004 when his former mistress stormed into his City Hall office, smashed a picture frame and overturned a potted plant. Police responded to the incident, but no charges were filed. Benanav is married with three sons...." More (St. Paul Pioneer Press 08.11.2006). Comments. Opponents of judicial elections like to suggest that sitting judges facing electoral opposition will be the targets of dirty campaigns, partisan attacks, etc. It's amusing to me that it's the sitting judge who has made this sort of thing an issue. Something like this might have prevented Mr. Benanav from ever getting appointed by the governor to judicial position. But voters, I like to believe, are fairer minded. They will look at the whole man, not just one incident, perhaps bearing in mind the wisdom underlying the admonition of Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd to "Fill the seats of justice with good [people], not so absolute in goodness as to forget what human frailty is...." And they will have the benefit of seeing, and weighing in the balance, the unflattering potential for pettiness that the governor did not have the benefit of seeing in her when he appointed Ms. Ostby. Having said this, we would add that there are grave problems with the way all elections, not just judicial elections, are conducted, starting with a public that seems to feel citizenship ought to be easy, candidates who don't respect the intelligence of the public, and news media that are lazy & leave the political informing of the public to TV commercials. The result is that campaigns have become a sad spectacles. Yes, democracy is sometimes messy, but it's ultimately better than the known alternatives.
Judge won't face criminal charges for messy campaign, but... "Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard, who was brought in as a special prosecutor, has decided not to file charges against [Appeals Court Judge Joan] Kessler for anything she did related to her hard-fought victory over then-incumbent Appeals Court Judge Charles Schudson in 2004...Schudson had accused Kessler of smearing him with "numerous false allegations" during that bitter race...The matter now rests with Bruce Rosen, who has been brought in as a special investigator by the Office of Lawyer Regulation, which polices lawyers for the state Supreme Court...A prominent Madison attorney, Rosen was given the OK by a special panel in February to file a complaint with the Supreme Court, accusing Kessler of intentionally providing Rosen with false information as he looked into Schudson's allegations. But Rosen has done nothing publicly on the case since then, leading insiders to believe he was waiting for Blanchard to finish his review...." More (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 08.11.2006).
Before you judge, listen. "Whether you believe Kornegay's claims, sympathize with his actions, pass him off as just another worthless vagrant or despise him for his errors (real or imagined, intentional or unintentional), he still has a story to tell, as most people without homes do. He has a soul. He has a life, although a marginal one. And as such, he has just as much value as anyone else in this world...." - From an essay by Lindsay Jones on homeless people. More (Memphis Daily News 08.11.2006). Comment. Have you ever watched Judge Judy? Judge Judy is not a good listener. Most of what is said on the show is said by her.
Gonzales: Immigration judges facing performance reviews. "Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales warned the nation’s 215 immigration judges on Wednesday that they all faced annual performance evaluations for the first time and regular scrutiny to detect high reversal rates, frequent complaints or unusual backlogs...." More (N.Y. Times 08.10.2006). Comment. So much for any pretence of independence of immigration judges. Update. Immigration judges form union (Washington Post 08.11.2006). Comment. With Attorney General Gonzales representing management, the judges need to be unionized. Good for them.
Big surprise: panel backs retention of 108 judges. "The state Judicial Performance Commissions have recommended that voters return all state judges to the bench. Evaluations released Tuesday recommend retention for all 108 judges in the November election...." More (Rocky Mountain News 08.10.2006). Comment. Big surprise. This is one of many, many reasons why I oppose the so-called "Missouri Plan" of judicial selection, a/k/a "merit plan with retention elections." Almost invariably, these commissions in states with the "Missouri Plan" recommend retention of all the judges up for retention. As readers of The Daily Judge know, while there are many, many good judges out there, but also a surprising number of bad ones. Isn't it curious, therefore, that these commissions almost always recommend retention? Moreover, merely because a judge is "not bad" or "not a crook" doesn't mean he ought to continue to serve as judge. Judicial elections provide voters the opportunity to compare sitting judges with real live opponents and vote for the ones they, as the ultimate appointers, believe are better..
Judges give varied stories on expungement of judge's cousin's DUI arrest. "How did courts handle David Thomas' 1998 DUI arrest, and did [his cousin and fraternity brother,] Mobile County Circuit Judge Herman Thomas[,] have any involvement in the eventual expungement of the case? Four judges told three different stories Wednesday...." More (Mobile Register 08.10.2006). Comment. Another "he said, she said." Update. Judge seeks investigation of himself (Al.Com 08.12.2006).
A courthouse concern. "It is illegal to carry a weapon into a Cape Girardeau County courthouse, but all that stops anyone from doing so is a simple sign.
'If somebody walks into the courtroom, he hasn't been searched for weapons,' Associate Circuit Judge Peter Statler said. 'He can walk right in and start shooting'...A few years ago a knife was found in the women's bathroom at the Common Pleas Courthouse, and [Circuit Clerk Charles] Hutson said members of his staff have been threatened on numerous occasions. 'They can't get the judges, so we catch it,' [Chief Deputy Clerk Patty] Wibbenmeyer said. In her 25 years working in the court building, Wibbenmeyer said she has been threatened more times than she can remember. Many people who threaten her are angry at a judge's orders or are seeking legal advice, which Wibbenmeyer and the rest of her staff are barred from providing. So the litigants become angry...." More (Southeast Missourian 08.10.2006). Comment. In other words, it's nothing new. I worked at the largest district court in MN one year and at the state supreme court 28+ years, and my experience corroborates that of Ms. Wibbenmeyer. Was I ever scared? Not that I can recall. I'm not at all convinced that our increasingly-large expenditures on courthouse safety can be justified on a cost-benefit basis. Build a wall and the first thing that pops into some people's minds is how to scale it, and most walls can be scaled, actually or metaphorically.
Bomb scare closes Finnish courthouse. "The Lahti courthouse was evacuated Friday due to a bomb scare. A suspicious package found amongst incoming mail was taken by the Lahti police for further investigation. Police allowed people back into the building after the mystery package had been removed. Following inspection, the suspected package was found to be harmless. According to Superintendent Taisto Kuhlman, the parcel contained aluminium foil, which was packed in such a way as to resemble a bomb. The fake bomb was addressed to a female prosecutor specialising in violent crime...." More (Newsroom Finland 08.11.2006). Comment. See, it's happening everywhere, even in placid Finland.
Toy gun 'causes' evacuation of courthouse. "The Nevada County Courthouse in Nevada City was evacuated Wednesday morning after a toy gun initially thought to be real was spotted in a handbag at the front-door electronic checkpoint. [T]he child’s cap gun, placed in a woman’s purse by her son, was discovered by a security guard on the screen of an X-ray machine. By the time the gun was spotted, the woman, who later said she did not know the small cap gun was in her purse, had picked up her belongings and [gone] into the courthouse for a mediation. The security guard radioed to the court officers that a gun had been spotted, and the entire courthouse was evacuated for 30 minutes using the building’s eight exits...." More (Nevada Appeal 08.10.2006).
Capturing the court. "Art is where you find it, and Joe Vega finds a canvas full of possibilities in the courtroom. Vega, 29, spends most weekday mornings at the New Hanover County courthouse, acting as an interpreter for Spanish-speaking defendants. Not one to sit idle between cases, Vega is always at the ready with his sketchbook, poised to capture the ongoing interplay among attorneys, prosecutors, defendants, bailiffs and the judge...." More (Winston-Salem Journal 08.10.2006).
Car crash kills judge's wife. "The 55-year-old wife of a Jackson County judge was killed Tuesday night in a single-car wreck near Grain Valley. Diane Scoville, wife of Associate Circuit Court Judge Vernon Scoville III, died when the car she was driving overturned along Interstate 70 about two miles east of Adams Dairy Parkway...." More (Kansas City Star 08.10.2006). Comment. I've never known a judge, or anyone else, for that matter, who is immune from the ordinary or the extraordinary griefs. Cf., Robert Frost's Trial by Existence and The Fear of God.
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