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."
About links. a) Links, like judges, eventually retire or expire, some sooner than others. b) Access to all stories via these links is free, at least initially, although some sites require free registration. c) Free access often turns to fee access after a day or a week or some such period. d) Entries, following the typical blog format, are in reverse chronological order.
Complaints? If you feel we have made a factual error or been unfair in expressing our opinion, please contact us (see, infra) and give us an opportunity to correct the perceived wrong.
Want to contact us? Send an e-mail addressed to "BurtLaw" at "The Daily Judge.Com" (we have deliberately not put the address in typical e-mail form, e.g., ABC@TheDailyClog.Com, because when one does so, the automated web-trollers used by spammers add such e-mail addresses to their lists). We trust you are smart enough to put "BurtLaw" together with "@" and "TheDailyJudge.Com," because you wouldn't be interested in this site if you weren't smart.
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.
Judicial independence and its pal, judicial accountability. I have been arguing publicly since 2000 that, while judicial independence is a necessity, you can't expect to have it or to have public support for it without significantly greater judicial accountability. See, e.g., my 2000 essay, BurtLaw on Judicial Independence and Accountability. I am a friend of the judiciary and my criticisms and suggestions have been those of a "loving critic." John Gardner, the late Secretary of HEW and founder of Common Cause, memorably said, "The problem today is that our institutions have become caught in a savage cross-fire between uncritical lovers and unloving critics." John W. Gardner, The Recovery of Confidence (1970). Perhaps we have, on the one hand, too many people who are uncritical lovers of the judiciary and, on the other hand, too many unloving critics of it.
The 'uncritical lovers' of the judiciary. Sometimes some of the uncritical lovers of the judiciary remind me of people who wrap themselves in the American flag and question the patriotism of anyone who questions any decision by the Executive on matters of national defense. These are the people who seem to see any direct participation of the electorate in selection of state judges and all free and open criticism of courts, judges or judicial decisions as a threat to judicial independence. I offer as an example the MN Judicial Establishment's near-hysterical response to the judicial free-speech decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Eighth Circuit and its ongoing irritation with the reality that occasionally (it rarely happens) a lawyer will challenge a sitting state judge in a judicial election. The establishment's attitude most 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. See, today's entry titled Should MN take away judicial selection from the electorate? (and embedded links). For now it's easy to spot an "uncritical lover" of the judiciary: she loves to prate about threats to judicial independence (and there are many), but never or rarely mentions its handmaiden, judicial accountability. See, When judges misuse doctrine to deflect criticism ("Today judges regularly wave the flag of 'judicial independence.' It is a flag they believe should protect them the way the Red Cross flag protects relief workers in war zones. These politicians -- judicial politicians but nonetheless politicians -- want us to believe they are 'the good guys' and we should just leave them alone to do their business. Not a bad approach if they can pull it off.").
The 'unloving critics' of the judiciary. These are the people who have convinced themselves that every judicial decision they disagree with is a sign of improper judicial activism or proof of outrageous judicial incompetence. These are the folks, often radical religious right-wingers, who are constantly yammering a) about the need to rein in judges (see, e.g., my critical discussion of the South Dakota initiative: Maker of livestock-feed grinders wants J.A.I.L. for Judges); b) about the need to limit their terms of office (see, e.g., my critical discussion of the Colorado judicial term-limits intiative: Term limits for judges? and Latest on judicial term limits intiative -- it'd apply retroactively); c) about the need to remove court jurisdiction over certain types of cases (see, e.g., the extended critical entry in my political opinion blog, Sometimes Left, Always Right, on Monday, 09.27.2004 [scroll down]); etc. Today we offer:
A flurry of stories about judicial independence and judicial accountability:
a) Salaries of court employees - coming soon to a web site near you? "Welcome to LegiStorm. At long last, U.S. congressional staff salaries are available for free on the web - and only here at LegiStorm. Who is employed by Congress, and how much they are paid, is often a source of fascination for the politically aware. Prior to this site's creation, members of the public needed to visit the document rooms of the House and the Senate in Washington, DC to discover who was being paid what. Now, all this information is available on the web - for residents of Alaska or Zanzibar - at the click of a mouse...Over the coming months we anticipate adding other useful resources. Please stay tuned. And be sure to Register for Updates so you can be informed by email when we upload new data to the site or introduce new features." LegiStorm (via BeSpacific). Comment. Instead of giving us real openness, some courts have been pushing a sort of managed openness, which is an oxymoron. One way they do this is through the hiring of "court information officers." We're not sure of the mandated role of these "information officers." But in many states, the supreme courts have hired them to serve primarily a "p.r." role. Another form of "managed openness" is that which sometimes goes by the name of "judicial outreach." I have opposed that as a waste of taxpayers' money. If the courts were serious about providing real information to the public, in furtherance of the goal of judicial accountability, they would strive for real openness, not faux openness, BTW, I have long argued for this real openness on the part of our courts. In my 2000 essay titled BurtLaw on Judicial Independence & Accountability, I argued that citizens ought to insist on easier access to information bearing on judicial economics and performance:
Each individual judge's work calendars and timesheets and travel-and-expense reimbursement request forms are public documents readily obtainable by any citizen using the "sunshine" or openness-in-government law. These and similar documents can be made more easily accessible to ordinary citizens by placing them on the court's internet web site. Similarly, the court should put online for public scrutiny any statistical reports that the chief justice receives. Ultimately, I believe anyone who is interested ought to be able to type in any trial court or appellate court judge's name and obtain public information that will aid one in assessing that judge's work habits, productivity, expenditures of public money, etc. Moreover, after the fact one should be able to type in the name or number of any case and follow that case from start to completion, viewing, for example, at the supreme court level, the path and accompanying timeline as an opinion circulated through the supreme court, with the public given access to the dates the majority opinion and any separate opinions were put in circulation, the name and how much time each judge spent on the case before passing it on, etc.
b) Breyer Commission files report on federal judicial discipline system. In 1980 Congress enacted a federal judicial discipline statute governing discipline short of impeachment. In 2004 Chief Justice Rehnquist created the Breyer Commission in response to complaints about the judiciary's implementation of the statute. Now the commission has filed a 180-page report. "As part of [the] report...the commission said that the U.S. 9th Circuit's decision to dismiss a complaint filed over [Judge Manuel] Real's intervention in a bankruptcy case and to declare that corrective action had been taken 'appear[s] inconsistent' with the law on disciplining federal judges...Real...is scheduled to testify Thursday before a [U.S. House of Representatives] judiciary subcommittee that, at [Chairman James] Sensenbrenner's request, is exploring the impeachment question...." More (L.A. Times 09.20.2006). Comment. Sensenbrenner, who doesn't seem to understand or respect Separation of Powers, has introduced a bill to "establish an independent Inspector General within the Judicial Branch...[to] conduct investigations of complaints of judicial misconduct, conduct and supervise audits, detect and prevent waste, fraud, and abuse, and recommend changes in laws or regulations governing the Judicial Branch." I've been harshly critical of the proposal. See, my comments at Bill establishing U.S. judicial branch inspector general.
c) Chief Justice Roberts tries to make federal judiciary more accountable. "The federal judiciaryís top leadership responded Tuesday to criticism from Congress and elsewhere about asserted lapses in judicial ethics by announcing several steps aimed at enhanced self-policing and greater public accountability. All federal judges below the Supreme Court level will be required to install 'conflict checking' software on their computers to avoid unwittingly participating in cases in which they have a financial interest...The conference also adopted a policy on the attendance by federal judges at educational seminars...Judges will be prohibited from accepting reimbursement for attending a private seminar unless its sponsor has filed a public disclosure statement on the content of the program and all sources of financing. Judges will have 30 days to report their attendance at such seminars, and both the judgesí and the seminarsí reports will be available on judicial Web sites...Separately...Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. endorsed a report proposing improvements in the handling of individual complaints against federal judges under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980. The report was the product of a six-member committee, led by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, that Chief Justice Rehnquist set up two years ago...." More (N.Y. Times 09.20.2006).
d) Should MN take away judicial selection from the electorate? Minnesota Public Radio has a report on the so-called "Quie Commission," a/k/a, the "Commission on Preserving an Impartial Judiciary." As I say elsewhere today, the mission of the commission is how to address the "sky-is-falling crisis" created by the judicial free-speech decisions and their effect on Minnesota's state constitution-based system of judicial selection. The commission has been holding "hearings" around the state. On Tuesday the supposedly-objective-andopen-minded--until-now panel members "aired their views," if the MPR report is to be believed, for "the first time." As you would have expected if you've been reading The Daily Judge, "The commission members appeared to be leaning towards abolishing elections" and adopting the plan beloved by college political science professors, the so-called "Missouri Plan." Apparently endorsing this plan is Kathleen Blatz (a/k/a Mrs. Wheelock Whitney), who quit as Chief Justice earlier this year at age 51: "Blatz said Minnesotans might be willing to give the governor control over judicial appointments, if the public retains the power to kick them out. At the end of judges term, voters would decide whether to retain the judge. If the judge loses the election, the governor would appoint someone new." That, of course, is the "Missouri Plan." Her views are no surprise: see, Blatz again blazts judicial elections (and my comments and embedded links). But it appears there is at least one member of the commission who wasn't totally convinced by his college political science professor of the virtue of the plan: "Former Hennepin County Judge John Stanoch said he was convinced that retention elections are a bad idea. He said they would still leave judges vulnerable to special interests and fundraising influence." (If you don't believe him, see, my comment and embedded links concerning last fall's successful do-not-retain campaign in PA at Reaction to PA Supremes' snatching their pay raise from jaws of repeal, which ought to support our advice to advocates of the "Missouri Plan": Be careful what you wish for.) We're not sure which way Mr. Stanoch go: continue with the tried-and-true "Minnesota Plan," which has worked well in our opinion, or take the electorate out of the picture entirely, say, by giving judges life tenure or long terms with periodic re-confirmation by politicians in the legislature or something else. More (MPR 09.20.2006). Further reading. As you perhaps have guessed if you're very astute, we've 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. See, also, Those 'impartial' and 'nonpartisan' judicial selection commissions.
e) Reaction to PA Supremes' snatching their pay raise from jaws of repeal -- more do-not-retain campaigns? "To-do list: November 2007. Vote NO on every appellate court judge seeking retention in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, we'll only get a crack at one judge on our abominable Supreme Court. That's Thomas Saylor. But there will be four Superior Court judges up for retention, and another three in Commonwealth Court. If we work together, we could cut an amazing swath over the next several years...." -- Columnist Bill White, commenting on the PA Supreme Court's recent decision nixing the legislature's repeal of the hugely-unpopular judicial pay raises. More (Allentown Morning Call 09.18.2006). Earlier. Judges in PA challenge repeal of controversial pay raises and PA Supremes nix legislature's repeal of unpopular judicial pay raise. Comment. One of two supreme court justices up for a retention vote in PA lost his seat in the retention election last fall as a result of the pay raises and the revelations about the justices' extravagant expense account practices. See, Reining in supreme court justices' expense account spending? and multiple embedded links to previous stories. Minnesota's direct judicial election system, unlike those states with Missouri Plan "retention" elections, has worked well and I believe our judiciary is one of the best. Once in office, of course, the judges, who usually reach office by political appointment as "term fillers," tend to resent the occasional (actually, rare) challenger. That's one reason some of them advocate the great "Missouri Plan." We think each state is different. What works so well in Minnesota might not work in another state. One of the reasons I prefer the Minnesota Plan to the much-touted Missouri Plan is that it's too easy for the rabble to wage a "do not retain" campaign when a judge who makes an unpopular decision comes up for retention vote. For more on my position on judicial elections, see, e.g., The 'great' Missouri Plan as well as my extensive critical comments at Blatz blazts politicization of judicial campaigns. See, also, Free speech is a 'bad idea'? and BurtLaw's Law & Judicial Elections. Updates. a) Former NFLer, Lynn Swan, candidate for governor, takes up judicial pay-hike issue (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09.19.2006). b) C.J. Cappy defends controversial Pennsylvania judicial pay raise ruling (Philadelphia Inquirer 09.20.2006). c) Pay rise fight rekindles on two fronts (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09.21.2006). Archives. For many of my earlier entries relating to the PA do-not-retain campaign, see, Justice loses retention election and embedded links; PA Supreme Court Justices again come under fire; Common Cause alleges legislators traded funding for favorable S.Ct. rulings; The latest on an embattled chief; Opinion: Conduct board misses the point; Reining in supreme court justices' expense account spending; Public is upset over judicial pay raises in PA; Did judge's role in judicial pay raises violate ethics rules; When populists revolt...over judicial pay hikes -- herein of e-mail addresses.
f) Annals of judicial independence - Iraq government sacks Saddam judge. "The Iraqi government Tuesday removed the chief judge in Saddam Hussein's genocide trial, prompting accusations of political interference in the highly sensitive trial and raising renewed questions over the fairness of the effort to bring Iraq's former dictator to justice. Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the decision to oust Judge Abdullah al-Amiri was taken at a Cabinet meeting as a result of the judge's comment in court last week that he did not regard Hussein as a dictator...." More (Chicago Tribune 09.20.2006). Comment. The U.S. and members of the "Coalition of the Willing" spent $75 million to train the judges selected to try Saddam Hussein. Saddam's Iraqi judges 'specially trained' by U.S. et al at cost of $75 million. I originally said that it looked like the trials would be a cut above Fidel Castro's "Roman Circus"-like "show trials" held in outdoor stadiums after he came to power in the 1950's and a cut above 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 this day - 12.29.1989 (BBC News). Perhaps, I said, the trials would be about on a level with the "show trials" for which the Russians became well known in the 1930s, maybe a cut below the Nuremberg Trials, which Chief Justice Stone referred to as "a high-grade lynching party" and which at least four members of the U.S. Supreme Court "particularly Stone, Black, Murphy and [Douglas] thought...were unconstitutional by American standards." Remarks of Chief Justice Rehnquist at ALI Annual Meeting 05.17.2004 (quoting Justice Douglas). "Show trials" are those which use the trappings of due process and justice to reach a pre-determined outcome, "kangaroo courts" in fact though not in form. While the trials of Saddam Hussein appear to be better than the non-trials we've given the GITMO detainees, those sent by extraordinary rendition to Syria, etc., they obviously ultimately will go down as yet another stain upon our country. As Senator Rockefeller said the other day, Iraq and the U.S. and the World would be better off if we'd never invaded Iraq and if Saddam Hussein were still in power.
g) 38 new varieties of judicial open-ness? "The [CT] Judicial Department's Public Access Task Force on Friday released a hefty list of 38 recommendations to bolster openness in the courts, including posting criminal-conviction records on the Internet and starting a pilot program to allow video recording of criminal court proceedings. The recommendations range from clerical procedures, like letting members of the public use hand-held scanners to reproduce court documents to moves that would require the legislature to change state law. The task force was created as a result of a scandal involving former state Chief Justice William J. Sullivan...." More (Journal Inquirer - CT 09.16.2006). Public Access Task Force Report (in irritating PDF format). Further reading. BurtLaw on Judicial Independence and Accountability.
h) SCOTUS transcripts PDQ. "The Supreme Court will post transcripts of oral arguments on its Web site the same day they occur, beginning in October...." More (N.Y. Times 09.15.2006). Comment. We believe that the U.S. Supreme Court (and all state supreme courts and federal appellate courts) ought to allow videotaping and live but unobtrusive TV coverage of all oral arguments. Indeed, we believe these courts need to provide Internet video and audio streaming of arguments, both "live" and in archived form. More. But we aren't just interested in greater public access to what goes on in front of the red velour curtains. We think there's far too much judicial secrecy and that many (but not all) things that judges do and say behind the red velour curtain ought not be secret or protected by privilege. See, in addition to our comments at Saving the truth, our earlier comments following the entry titled Illinois judges opine on judicial privilege, and our more recent comments on the need for written opinions in all appeals.
Local judge in Thailand at time of coup. "Calhoun County Circuit Judge James Kingsley was in Bangkok this week at the time of a military coup there...'At this point, we just want him to get off the ground in Thailand,' said Kingsley's daughter, Jill Hinde of Albion. Kingsley was unaware of the coup until Hinde, who learned of the events Tuesday morning via CNN.com, called him at his hotel...Kingsley saw nothing from his hotel window, but quickly called for a car to take him to the airport...Kingsley, chairman of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission, was a speaker at a judicial ethics conference in Bangkok...." More (Battle Creek Enquirer 09.20.2006). Comment. Perhaps the brave judge will write a book about his shattering experience being in a country but being unaware of a bloodless coup.
Judge proposes tents to end jail overcrowding. "A judge in Chattanooga, Tennessee, says putting up tents could solve jail overcrowding. Hamilton County General Sessions Judge David Bales says he doesn't think the county needs to make inmates too comfortable...The county jail had 574 inmates when the Tennessee Corrections Institute sent inspectors to review it. The jail has a capacity of 489 inmates. The Institute decertified the jail in December...." More (WTVM 09.20.2006). Comment. Nor should judges be made too comfortable either. Why not tents for chambers, tents for courtrooms, etc.
Names of lawyers who lent to judges are revealed. "Following an 11-month legal battle, the names of 10 lawyers who lent money to now-former Kansas City Municipal Judge Deborah Neal were disclosed on Tuesday. The names were on a list of creditors Neal filed when she sought Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief in May 2005. The Kansas City Star sought to obtain the list after U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jerry Venters sealed it at Nealís request. Three weeks ago a federal appeals court directed that the names be released...The names released include two former presidents of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association and a former Jackson County legislator. It also included three bonding companies...." More (Kansas City Star 09.20.2006). Comment. Good work by The Star. Earlier. Judge with gambling problem pleads guilty to mail fraud; State judge sentenced to prison for federal mail fraud.
Probate judge says stepfather abused her 30 years ago. "A probate judge accused her former stepfather of sexually assaulting her 30 years ago, and authorities have arrested the 69-year-old Elgin man. David O. McMillan was being held at the Richland County Detention Center on Tuesday. He is charged with criminal sexual conduct and committing a lewd act on a minor, according to the Richland County sheriff's department. The Associated Press and The Sun News generally do not name people the police have identified as a victim of sexual assault, but the attorney for Richland County Probate Judge Amy McCulloch said she wanted to come forward...McCulloch first accused him of molesting her in 1988 when she was 24, police said. But McCulloch and her family reached an agreement to not press for criminal charges against McMillan as long as he entered counseling and avoided contact with minors, Ellis said. McMillan did neither, [it is alleged]...." More (Myrtle Beach Sun News 09.20.2006). Comment. A criminal complainant may have some immunity from suit for defamation based on statements made in the criminal complaint and in the proceeding. On the potential risks of a judge being sued for defamation for making similar statements in a best-selling book, see, Annals of judge's families - judge's mom sues her for libel. Update. Judge dismisses suit for defamation filed by prof over lawyer ex-wife's book about their marriage (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 09.27.2006).
Brazilian cleaner in love triangle with judges is accused of video blackmail. "A Brazilian cleaner who became involved in a love triangle with two judges blackmailed one of them after stealing home videos of him having sex with two women, a jury heard yesterday. She also tried to extort thousands of pounds from the other judge, a woman, by threatening to tell Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Lord Chancellor, that she had worked at her home illegally for nearly five years, it was claimed. David Markham, for the prosecution, told the Old Bailey that the 37-year-old defendant had threatened to expose the complex private lives of the judges, who had once lived together as lovers. She tried to get £20,000 from the female judge and a rent-free home from the male judge after having a sexual relationship with him, it was claimed. At the start of the trial Judge Peter Beaumont, the Recorder of London, imposed an order banning the identification of both the judges and the defendant; the female judge was named only as J and the man was called I...." More (The Times 09.20.2006). Comment. The British papers love reporting the juicy details of a case like this in the Old Bailey and the British public loves to read such stories (as we do). Read the full story (linked to above) and subsequent reports (available by searching Google News) for those details.
Scotch guidelines to be posted? "Sentencing guidelines for Scotland's sheriffs and judges should be drawn up to tackle inconsistencies in punishments, an independent report produced for the Scottish Executive has recommended. The Sentencing Commission yesterday called for ministers to establish a new body which would create draft guidelines, outlining suitable sentence parameters for crimes like assault, theft and possession of drugs...." More (The Scotsman 09.20.2006). Comment. It seems judges are as susceptible as other people to fashion and fad -- whether the fad be a) sentencing guidelines, b) mandatory continuing education for lawyers and judges, c) mandatory attendance by lawyers and judges at didactic seminars on the subject of diversity, d) mandatory contribution by lawyers to programs providing emotional and psychological support to lawyers suffering from alcohol or drug dependence or depression, e) the adoption of judicial "mission statements" (a fad that apparently began in the business world with companies like Enron, which had a very fine mission statement, indeed), f) the holding of court sessions in the public schools, g) expensive "retreats" at corporate conference centers, h) the establishment of specialized courts such as drug courts -- the list goes on. Thomas Wolfe. the great American novelist (1900-1938), who wrote Look Homeward, Angel and You Can't Go Home Again, wrote, perceptively, "She who is whored by fashion will be whored by time." There are some students of the judiciary who believe that the courts are in danger of, well, not being "whored" by fashion but let's say of being too concerned with being fashionable or "new" or "cutting edge," of forgetting why we have courts and judges. In a tribute to Edwin Arlington Robinson after his death, Robert Frost wrote: "It may come to the notice of posterity...that this, our age, ran wild in the quest of new ways to be new....Robinson stayed content with the old-fashioned way to be new." Our judges could do worse than "stay content with the old-fashioned way to be new." I hear a judge say, "What are you talking about?" I reply, "That you have to ask suggests the scope of the problem." Sometimes I think ordinary people have a better understanding of the proper role of judge than most judges do.... As for sentencing guidelines, we adopted them in Minnesota in the 1980's. Based on an intimate familiarity with them, I ultimately became disappointed with them. In my opinion, the old system of broad judicial discretion and indeterminate no-minimum-term sentences, with probation determined by a professional parole board, was a more humane and more effective system. For more on my views on sentencing, see, comments and links at Imprisoned judge rethinks crime & punishment. I've basically been a "bleeding heart" opponent of harsh sentencing laws all my life and I've never been ashamed of holding these views, 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.
Judge who ordered probationer to attend church is scolded. "[Circuit Judge Richard Albritton Jr. of Panama City] received a scolding Monday from the Florida Supreme Court for 14 admitted ethics violations, including unconstitutionally ordering a probationer to attend church,...telling a woman in open court that she 'needed to close her legs and stop having babies,'...jailing a woman because she was unable to remember her address, soliciting gifts and invitations to lunch, getting hunting trips from lawyers, and demeaning a Department of Children & Families staffer because of her young age...." The judge, who admitted the violations, received a 30-day suspension and must pay a $5,000 fine and costs. More (Orlando Sentinel 09.19.2006). Comment. There were other allegations. The discipline was based just on the allegations the judge admitted.
Trust in judges in UK is lowest in Ulster. "Trust of politicians, judges and police officers is lower in Ulster than anywhere else in the UK, it has been revealed...." More (Ulster Telegraph 09.19.2006). Comments. What surprises me in reading the full story is how highly regarded most judges are in the UK, including in Ulster. In other words, the headline is arguably somewhat misleading.
Woman who threatened judge must get treatment. "A Cincinnati woman who threatened a federal judge last year must spend at least six months receiving treatment in a mental health facility. Courtney Ann McFinley, who has a history of psychological problems, was declared not guilty by reason of insanity last week [of] a charge of mailing threatening communications to a judge...." More (Cincinnati Enquirer 09.19.2006). Comment. Courts have been receiving written threats in the mail from troubled people for years. Whereas some, perhaps most, threats used to be ignored, since 09.11 most such threats are treated as the real thing, even if it's obvious they represent no clear and present -- or even remote -- danger to any judge or court. It is entirely possible -- at least worthy of rational consideration -- that the system's current practice of responding harshly to such threats does nothing to increase the safety of judges and may even be counterproductive and unwise.
Candidate for lieutenant governor blasts 'pay-to-play' judges. "'I hate to say it, but I know that there are judges in Philadelphia who check that sheet and see who that attorney is -- the defense attorney; in politics, in contributions,' [Jim Matthews, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of PA,] said. 'There's a lot of pay-to-play judge shopping mentality going on in Philadelphia....That's the root cause of your problem right now.' Alan M. Feldman, chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, called upon Matthews to provide evidence of his accusations or issue an apology for his statements about the Philadelphia judiciary...." More (Patriot-News 09.19.2006).
Top judge says courts can't judge matters of taste. "Judges should not be called on to settle disputes over 'notoriously subjective' issues of property aesthetics, says Cape Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso in a Cape Argus report. Speaking at a property convention, Traverso said it was a bad idea for courts to venture into this area. 'As diverse societies in [South Africa] mingle, increasingly different building styles are coming to the fore,' she said...." More (Legal Brief 09.19.2006). Compare. Chief Justice says some things, like quality of judges' work, are impossible to judge (including comments).
Judge irked by lack of law books. "The largest regional court complex in the Western Cape, at Wynberg in Cape Town, does not have a single textbook on tax law in its library, a frustrated magistrate complained on Monday. Regional magistrate Jackie Redelinghuys made the remark while handing down a ruling on a point of law in the fraud trial of former Springbok fast bowler Garth le Roux and his accountant Deon van Heerden...." More (Independent Online 09.19.2006). Comment. Justice Brandeis famously said that one of the things that set SCOTUS Justices apart from others in the government in Washington, D.C. was that "We do our own work." Sadly, there are too many judges around the country these days who don't know what it is to read transcripts, research the law independently, write their own opinions, etc. Too many rely on law clerks, novice, inexperienced lawyers fresh out of law school to do their spade work. I remember reading an essay by Justice Frankfurter in which he said that Chief Justice Hughes was a scholar at heart and "could tear the cover off a book." When some opposition developed over Hughes' appointment as Chief Justice because of some of the people he represented in private practice, the great HLS professor and First Amendment scholar, Zachariah Chafee, remarked that, as Paul Freund paraphrased it, "it is less revealing to examine the list of clients in the nominee's office than to investigate the books in his library." Paul A. Freund, "Umpiring the Federal System," 54 Columbia L. Rev. 561, 574 (1954). Chafee, of course, had inside information: he knew that an investigation of the books in Hughes' library would confirm what Frankfurter later wrote. For more of my views on this, see my mini-essay following the posting titled Question the judgments but not the judges?
Lawsuit seeks ruling on supreme court selection. "The war of words over the selection of a new Tennessee Supreme Court justice is headed to court after Gov. Phil Bredesen on Monday sued the panel that nominates judges to the state's highest court. Bredesen, in an interview with reporters, accused the Judicial Selection Commission of 'game playing' that was depriving the state of the best Supreme Court justice...." More (Tennessean 09.19.2006). Further reading on Gov. Bredesen on judicial selection. a) Those 'impartial' and 'nonpartisan' judicial selection commissions. b) Inside story of governor's judge pick.
Chief Justice says some things, like quality, are impossible to judge. "The NSW [New South Wales] Chief Justice, Jim Spigelman, thinks strategic plans are a waste of time, and he reviles management doublespeak. And don't start him on performance indicators for the courts. Each year the Productivity Commission publishes measures of judicial performance, but Justice Spigelman is determined to stop a push to extend the tables to include a 'quality indicator.' In a speech to the Australian Institute of Judicial Administration at the weekend, Justice Spigelman said measuring court performance was futile...Fairness [is] difficult to count, as [are] impartiality, honesty and accessibility, but all [are] essential to the administration of justice...He fears that if they are imposed on the courts, figures could be manipulated, practices changed to improve superficial statistics, and judges encouraged to be popular -- with no real increase in quality...." More (Sydney Morning Herald 09.18.2006). Comment. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I've never been impressed with the work of professional court administrators, whose numbers keep increasing, nor, for that matter, with the various studies and recommendations that come out of administrator-friendly organizations like the National Center for State Courts. Too often the plea of administrative types is the simple-minded plea for more money, more judges. On the other hand, when people wait years and spend small fortunes just to get their contested divorces decided by a judge or when litigants wait months and months for the state's highest court to produce opinions that Justice Holmes could have written in ten minutes, one thinks it might be nice if some administrators were to give some of the people in gowns a few kicks in their behinds. Another thing administrators theoretically could do would be to help train court personnel -- those who deal with the public on a daily basis -- to treat the public with courtesy and respect, etc. Read on....
Customer service awards for courts. "Courts in Avon and Somerset have achieved an award for the quality of their customer service. The area is one of the first in the country to achieve Her Majesty's Court Services'(HMCS) Charter Mark...." More (BBC News 09.17.2006).
Chinese flock to honor famous judge. "Touring the former court where China's most famous judge Bao Gong (¥]¤½) once ruled, businessman Shen Baokui laments that today's magistrates, poorly trained and often corrupt, are not more like him. 'Nowadays judges can be bribed for 500,000 yuan [US$62,500]. For 500,000 yuan, you can buy the law,' said Shen, a 52-year-old vegetable wholesaler from Heilongjiang Province. 'Bao Gong was the cleanest judge in China. The central government should learn from the spirit of Bao Gong,' Shen said. Nearly a millennium after the legendary judge's death, Bao has resurfaced as something of a folk hero -- his life has been depicted in television dramas and comic books, and what was his courtroom is now a major tourist attraction. It could be a sign of the times...." More (Taipei Times 09.18.2006).
Judge is walking, not waltzing, across Texas with his cell phone turned on. "He's had to dodge rattlesnakes and lightning, but mainly it's the miles and miles of Texas in front of him that the district judge thinks about during his long walk across the state. Judge Bill Moody of El Paso is running one of the more unconventional races for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court: He's walking 1,017 miles, from the New Mexico border to Orange at the Louisiana border, in an effort to meet people the old-fashioned way...." Moody works for two weeks in district court, then walks for two weeks, averaging 25 miles a day. "His cell phone allows him to thank supporters from the last town he visited, set up meetings for his next stop or chat on radio talk shows." More (Houston Chronicle 09.18.2006). Comment. As we commented in our earlier posting, Ernest Tubb's great 1965 hit, Waltz Across Texas, would make a good campaign theme song for Moody.
Cell-phone video clears four young men falsely accused of rape. "A woman who falsely accused four men of rape has been given six months youth custody...Police detained the four for 36 hours after Cinzia Sannino, 18, from Llanishen, Cardiff made the rape claim. But they were freed after the mobile video was produced...Sentencing her, Judge Roderick Evans KT told Sannino he had 'no doubt' she had had voluntary, consensual intercourse with the four...A spokeswoman for the False Allegations Support Organisation welcomed the sentence, adding: 'Up to now girls who falsely accuse have had nothing done to them...[T]here are too many people jumping on the bandwagon as they are aware they can get compensation for false accusations....'" More (BBC News 09.18.2006). Comment. We note that there are some who argue that, whereas "the system" used to be far too skeptical of claims of rape, it now is far too inclined to believe claims of rape. See, e.g., "Crying Wolf" (and the linked-to article of the same name by Christie Blatchford) at BurtLaw's Crime and Punishment.
'Tokyo Trial' recalls post-war justice. "Tokyo Trial, a Chinese film portraying the court proceedings against Japanese war criminals, will be shown in cinemas and about 100 universities across the country today to mark the 75th anniversary of the start of Japan's invasion of China. Theater tickets for the general public will cost 10 yuan (US$1.30), half the normal price, and students, service personnel, teachers, lawyers and judges will enjoy further discounts, Yan Wei, media liaison director for the distributor, Oriental Film and Television, said yesterday...." More (China Daily 09.18.2006).
Annals of specialty courts -- the problems with 'family courts.' "Supporting [the] idea of having civil judges hear family cases are lawyers and others who view the family courts as clubby fraternities where a lawyer's ties to a judge outweigh evidence and rules of procedure. 'If you're not an insider down there, your client is in a bad, bad position, especially if you're up against someone who is down there all the time and is donating to the judge's campaign,' said Chris Maurer, a civil lawyer from Bellaire and member of Fathers for Equal Rights...." More (Houston Chronicle 09.17.2006). Comment. I'm sorry to say I'm not impressed with the family court system in my home county, Hennepin, which is the most populous county in MN. My own divorce proceeding, in which I was the defendant, went on forever and was absurdly expensive, making me inclined to be somewhat ashamed of the state court system I had served for nearly 30 years. However, I was told by someone in the know that other district courts within the state would have decided the case within six months at a fraction of the cost in pain and expense.
Annals of judges' families - judge's mom sues her for libel. "One of Britainís most high-profile black women judges is facing a writ for libel damages from her mother over allegations that she was abused as a child. Constance Briscoe, who 10 years ago was one of the first black women to be made a judge, is being sued by Carmen, her 73-year-old mother, over the claims made in Briscoeís autobiography. In the book, entitled Ugly, Briscoe claimed that her Jamaican mother not only beat and kicked her but spat on her and deprived her of food...." More (Sunday Times 09.17.2006). Comment. While I favor the abolition of all causes of action for defamation, I'm surprised, given the state of the law, that more people who write books or appear on TV claiming childhood abuse aren't sued for defamation. Related. Judge refuses to dismiss killer's libel suit against former lawyer (Boston Globe 09.21.2006).
Judging dogs. "A special judge apparently will have to be appointed to preside over a hearing about the city of Clinton's dog ordinance. Three Hinds County Chancery Court judges decided they are stepping aside -- at least two of them because they are dog owners. The only Chancery judge left -- William Singletary -- stepped aside weeks ago because he lives in Clinton...." More (Jackson Clarion-Ledger 09.17.2006). Comments. a) If judges who like dogs all step aside, who does that leave to judge the dog ordinance? Doesn't everybody like dogs (as opposed to cats)? b) Should judges who've been divorced recuse in divorce cases? Should judges who themselves live in families recuse in family law cases?
Female judges in Yemen. "The new appointments in the judicial system on Saturday included for the first time the appointing of a female judge in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Council of Judiciary announced on Saturday the appointment of Samiyah Abdullah Saeed Mahdi as a judge in the Supreme Court in addition to other female judges in southern governorates...." More (Yemen News 09.17.2006).
Annals of judicial pasttimes - banjo-picking. "Circuit Judge Dick Prince, a banjo-picking, guitar-strumming fiddler...is one of six members of the acoustic band Mustang Sally and the Hamjos...'When I was in bands in my teen years and 20s, it used to be all about attracting the girls. Now that I'm happily married, it's all about the music and playing with friends.' By day, he administers the law. But on weekends and evenings, he steps out of his floor-length black robe and into a flashy rayon shirt and comfortable pair of bluejeans. He and group founder Sally Anderson of Winter Haven even leave behind shoes, preferring to perform barefoot...." More (Orlando Sentinel 09.17.2006). Comment. BurtLaw Rule of Judicial Conduct #365: While a judge, within limits, is free to go barefoot and pick a banjo in his spare time, he ought not appear barefoot or pick a banjo, his teeth, or anything else while in court.
Judge decries trend of self-representation. "Over the next year, Ohio's courts will be working to reduce the number of pro se litigants that appear before the court, while also attempting to implement an electronically linked, statewide case-management and docketing system. Delivering his annual state of the judiciary address Thursday before the Ohio Judicial Conference, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer said an increasing number of people choose to appear in court without a lawyer...." He said the usual reasons are lack of money and distrust of lawyers. More (Bizjournals 09.17.2006).
Howard Dean is named judge - and he's not a lawyer! "The Leon County Democratic Party is sponsoring a TV political ad contest that will be judged by Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee; Karen Thurman, Florida Democratic Party chairwoman; and local leaders. The contest is called 'Leon Dems in 30 Seconds.' You can submit an ad on the topic, 'Why Leon County voters should vote Democratic.'" More (Tallahassee Democrat 09.17.2006). Comment. The trick is in knowing what the judge likes. In 10th grade, on hearing that my Spanish teacher was going to judge the homecoming parade, I persuaded the people preparing my homeroom float to put up a sign reading, "Deseamos Sange!" ("We want blood"). Needless to say, it caught the judge's eye and we won first place. My suggestion: Do a commercial with someone shouting in the style of Howard Dean the night he lost in Iowa in 2004.
Judge Cherie Blair slap-flap. "The Prime minister's wife[, Cherie Blair,] has been investigated by detectives because she reacted by giving...Miles Gandolfi a playful slap [when he made 'rabbit ears' behind her]. But the 17-year-old, from Chelsfield, Kent, said he thought it was 'a joke' when he was asked to give a statement to police investigating whether he had been assaulted by Mrs Blair...Strathclyde police took statements from witnesses to the incident but Downing Street confirmed later that no action was expected against Mrs Blair, who is also a Crown Court judge." More (ITN 09.17.2006).
Three generations of judges. "The archive of the extended family of one of the greatest English Romantic poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, dating from the mid 18th to the early 20th centuries has been acquired by the British Library...Highlights include...[t]he letters, journals and court-room notes of the poet's nephew, Sir John Taylor Coleridge (1790-1876), barrister and judge (and for a brief period editor of the Quarterly Review)[; these papers] record his long legal career and the innumerable cases he (and after him his son and grandson) tried at all levels of society...The family produced three successive generations of judges (including John Duke, 1st Baron Coleridge, Lord Chief Justice of England) and the correspondence, diaries and professional records form a substantial part of the archive...." More (50 Connect 09.17.2006). Comment. Cf., Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927) ("Three generations of imbeciles is enough," Holmes, J.).
Suppose they held court and prosecutors didn't show up. "[Four] assistant state attorneys in Naples [have resigned] within the past two months...[T]hat many resignations in that brief a period has caused supervisors to scramble to cover bulging court dockets and prompted doubts about whether the State Attorneyís Office can keep its veteran prosecutors...." More (Naples Daily News 09.17.2006). Related. Sheriffs shortage stalling courts (Providence Journal 09.17.2006).
The law in 'Dawson's Creek.' "The air conditioning in the three-story building located in the county government complex in Bolivia went on the blink earlier in the week. A county repair crew was still working on the problem Friday. District Attorney Rex Gore said it became too warm on the second floor of the building for items on the Superior Court calendar to be heard...." More (Wilmington Morning-Star - NC 09.17.2006). Comment. Another building with few windows that can be opened to let in fresh air. Wilmington, NC, by the way, is where Dawson's Creek was filmed.
Courts working double shifts? "An idea of holding double shift court sessions to clear the huge backlog in subordinate courts is under consideration and might be practised in the state. Supreme Court Chief Justice Justice Y K Sabharwal said...He also said the National Judicial Education strategy for training of judges in India through national and state-level judicial academies will be finalised within this month...." More (Kolkata Newsline 09.17.2006).
Curbing noise pollution near courthouse. "The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed Deputy Commissioner of Police (traffic) to ensure that the noise limit, as provided under the Noise Pollution Regulation and Control Rules, 2000, is maintained outside all city courts. A division bench of justices R M Lodha and S A Bobde gave the direction following a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Udayan Shah...." More (Mumbai Newsline 09.16.2006). Related. The carousel outside the courthouse is making the judge 'very angry.'
Judge won't face misconduct charge over bias allegations. "Broward Circuit Judge Eileen O'Connor will not face judicial misconduct charges in connection with accusations she failed to disclose two employee discrimination complaints when she applied to become a judge in 2003...." More (Sun-Sentinel 09.16.2006). Earlier. "An appeals court has ruled that a controversial Broward judge had the authority to sentence a 19-year-old juror to four months in jail for lying about his criminal record. But the panel said the sentence issued by Circuit Judge Eileen O'Connor -- in the hot seat herself for failing to reveal employee complaints lodged against her on her judicial application -- was 'harsh under the circumstances.'" More (Miami Herald 07.27.2006). Here's a link to a prior posting, which contains links to other postings, about why Judge O'Connor was in the "hot seat."
Judge kills self. "An 86-year-old retired judge killed himself after fearing that ill-health would make him a burden on his family, an inquest has been told.
Judge Charles Pitchford shot himself in the grounds of his home near Abergavenny, Monmouthshire...Gwent coroner David Bowen recorded a suicide verdict. Mr Bowen said: 'He killed himself whilst depressed over his perceived ill-health and the burden it would cause to his family.." More (BBC News 09.17.2006).
Son fills dad's unexpired term as justice. "For now, the position of justice of the peace for precinct 4 will stay in the Luna family. Rene 'Reno' Luna, an administrator for the local public school district, and the son of the late Virgilio Luna, was sworn in as the justice of the peace precinct 4 Friday morning following his appointment to the position by Val Verde County Commissioners Court. Virgilio Luna held the JP4 position until his death on July 31...." More (Del Rio News-Herald 09.16.2006). Comment. The newest Justice Luna is quoted saying, "I know my dad...would have been really proud." Judicial ability and accomplishment may well be genetic. Perhaps even patronymic -- see, MN Governor names yet another Anderson to bench. Further reading. Mayor appoints son as municipal judge.
Judge: 'What wife wouldn't lie?' Cynthia Van Lanen, who is the wife of a man involved in a scheme to sell fake autographed prints of Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Favre, pleaded guilty to obstruction for lying to police about whether her husband knew one of the principals in the scheme. Her attorney, Brian Maloney, argued for a lenient sentence, suggesting a fine of $1,000 and community service. According to the local paper, "Brown County Circuit Judge William Atkinson did him a bit better. After saying the case didn't belong in circuit court on the grounds that 'what wife wouldn't lie to protect her husband?' Atkinson ordered a fine of $10 plus court costs...." More (Green Bay Press Gazette 09.16.2006). Comment. That's likely the English translation of one of those Latin legal maxims they didn't teach us at Harvard Law School.
Judges dodge holy blessing at start of term. "More than 100 high-ranking judges snubbed the head of the Church of Greece, Archbishop Christodoulos, yesterday as he blessed the Council of State, the countryís highest administrative court, at the start of the new judicial year. The head of the courtís judgesí union, Constantinos Kousoulis, had said on Thursday that many of the justices felt [attending] might compromise the neutrality the court has to maintain...." More (Kathimerini 09.16.2006). Related. Red Mass to signal start of court term.
The new courthouse mini-museum. "The new conference room at the Reno County Courthouse has the smell of fresh paint but the look of history. The General Reno Conference Room in the southeast corner of the courthouse's main floor is a veritable mini museum. Hung on the wall are framed photographs taken in 1931 when the courthouse opened. A map of the county in 1886 shows the location of numerous one-room schools and post office sites in the county...." More (Hutchinson News 09.16.2006).
Powder sent to courthouse wasn't talc this time but cat litter. "The Beaver County Sheriff's Department is investigating how cat litter got into a payment envelope a man mailed to the county clerk of courts' office Friday. Clerk of Courts Judy Enslen said employee Sandy O'Shea opened an envelope in the office's collection office around 11:30 a.m. Friday and what appeared to be a gritty powder fell from the envelope...No employees were evacuated from the courthouse." More (Beaver County Times 09.16.2006). Comment. Usually it's talcum powder.
Courthouse Hotel Kempinski. "Back when this historic building served as the Great Marlborough Street Magistrate's Court, its defendant list read like a 'whoís who' of bad-boy rockers: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, John Lennon and Johnny Rotten, all of whom appeared before a judge. Though the scene is a bit tamer these days on the edge of Soho, certain quirky details of the past remain in the hotel, which opened last year. Iron bars separate the swooping lobby lounge from the hotel bar -- a sexy, black mica-floored space that also features three prison cells remade as private booths -- and nine suites in former judges' robing rooms...." More (N.Y. Times - Sunday Travel 09.17.2006). Earlier. a) Turning a Northern Ireland courthouse into a hotel. b) Famous London courthouse (Bow Street Magistrate Court) to become luxury hotel.
Judge's entry in book had a familiar ring to it. "[District Judge Rene] Diaz...copied answers from a form filled out by 407th District Judge Karen Pozza for a San Antonio Bar Association bench book and used them as his own. Pozza noticed the similarity immediately after the release of the 2-inch-thick, spiral-bound book, which is intended to give members of the bar insight on how judges conduct their courts. 'I thought it was very serious, and I went to talk to him about it,' Pozza said...." From a commentary by Gloria Padilla, who sets forth a number of excuses/explanations offered by Diaz, including that he thought he had permission to use the lifted text and that the text used wasn't expressly copyrighted. More (San Antonio Express 09.16.2006). Comment. When a judge signs his name to an opinion written by his law clerk, it's called judging; when an ordinary bloke does that, it's plagiarism. Further reading. a) Mark Twain on "unconscious plagiarism" involving Justice Holmes' dad. b) Holmes' dad on unconscious plagiarism. c) Judicial election issue: Did justice lift quotes in applying for judgeship? d) Judge says AWOL juror cheated on his assignment.
Judge dismisses juror for drinking. "A woman serving on a jury in a civil case in Jefferson Circuit Court was dismissed after admitting to [Judge Geoffrey Morris] that she had been drinking. But by the time the juror was ordered to leave the courtroom this week, the jury had signed off on a verdict and damages had been awarded, according to the judge who presided in the case. [The juror] told him that she had been drinking, bringing clear alcohol into the courtroom in a water bottle...." More (Louisville Courier-Journal 09.15.2006). Comment. For a posting about a related "offense" against justice, see, Judge charged with PWI (presiding while under influence) resigns. For my expostulations on presiding while under the influence (as well as on golfing under the influence and performing surgery under the influence), see Hi ho, hi ho,/ it's off to court I go,/ to judge, to judge,/ tra la, tra la.... PWI should be compared and contrasted with NWP (napping while presiding), LWSJ (leaking while secretly judging) and MWP (masturbating while presiding). A wise chief judge of a metropolitan trial court established a rule that no judge could return to work in the afternoon if he had a drink at lunch. He later announced such a rule when he was chief justice of the state supreme court. While we wouldn't advocate removal of a judge who violated the rule or termination of a court employee for working while very slightly under the influence of one drink, we believe the rule is a good one, and that a wise judge or judicial employee will refrain from drinking at lunch on a work day, rule or no rule. Certainly a judge should not hold a juror to a no-drinking-during-trial standard unless the judge holds himself to such a standard.
How super are those 'Super Lawyers'? "In an opinion that has set off a nationwide discussion, an ethics committee appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court concluded this summer that a magazine advertising supplement [called New Jersey Super Lawyers] listing [what purported to be] the stateís top lawyers violated rules of professional conduct...The panel questioned the process used to compile the list, but it was also clearly troubled that the supplement was 'designed for mass consumption' by New Jersey residents who may have been misled by what they read...Lloyd Levenson, who was selected as a New Jersey Super Lawyer in 2005, wrote that he was offended when the company told him of his selection and then informed him he could buy a full-page ad for up to $15,000...." More (N.Y. Times 09.15.2006). Comments. a) Publishers are free under the First Amendment to publish magazines with lists like this and to solicit ads from those listed. b) The people who read magazines like this aren't -- or shouldn't be presumed to be -- dopes who need protection from Big Brother. c) The organized bar's uneasiness with the First Amendment is not confined to attorney advertising but also finds expression in opposition to SCOTUS' judicial free speech decisions. As I like to say, Emerson knew what he was talking about when he wrote in his great journal, "[L]awyers...are a prudent race though not very fond of liberty." Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journal 04.1850). d) I know nothing about the fairness of the surveys or the reliability in general of the methods used or the results obtained. All I'll say is this: a) If the medical profession is in as sorry a state as the legal profession, you ought to be very worried when you go to the doctor; b) I've never met a lawyer I'd call "super" and I doubt one exists; c) I'm familiar with the work of some of the named "Super Lawyers" in my state and I wouldn't consider hiring some of them to represent my interests; and d) many of the lawyers who I know to be "pretty good" -- which is the highest praise I've yet to give to lawyers -- have never been selected.
SCOTUS transcripts PDQ. "The Supreme Court will post transcripts of oral arguments on its Web site the same day they occur, beginning in October...." More (N.Y. Times 09.15.2006).
Federal judge charged in vehicular homicide case. "U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom was cited on Wednesday by police in connection with a fatal accident that killed a 74-year-old motorcycle rider. [Lincoln, NE p]olice spokeswoman Katherine Finnell said that the 80-year-old Urbom was cited on suspicion of misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide for unintentionally causing the death while violating a traffic law [turning left from center lane, a non-turn lane]...." More (KETV 09.15.2006). Comment. There but for the grace of God goeth an untold number of good people. Update. Federal judge to enter pre-trial diversion program.
PA Supremes nix legislature's repeal of unpopular judicial pay raise. "The Pennsylvania Supreme Court partly reinstated a controversial raise yesterday that state legislators repealed last year after a popular outcry. But the ruling said that only judges should receive the raise, not the legislators or other government workers who originally qualified. The raise, which was passed at 2 in the morning on July 7, 2005, just before the General Assembly adjourned for the summer, was viewed by critics as sneaky and self-serving. It produced a reaction across the state that led to a Supreme Court justiceís being voted out of office in November and the defeat of 17 legislators the following May...'This is a cynical judicial swindle,' said Bruce Ledewitz, a professor of constitutional law at Dusquesne University in Pittsburgh and a frequent critic of the Supreme Court. 'Itís blatantly self-serving, and they donít have the authority to do it.'" More (N.Y. Times 09.15.2006). Earlier. Judges in PA challenge repeal of controversial pay raises. Comment. One of two supreme court justices up for a retention vote in PA lost his seat in the recent election as a result of the pay raises and revelations about the justices' expense account practices. See, Reining in supreme court justices' expense account spending? and multiple embedded links to previous stories. BTW, I'm going to be posting a piece about some of Professor Ledewitz's suggested reforms in the near future. See, Public oversight of courts urged.
Judge removes machete from courthouse. "A machete that Hinds County Chancery Judge William Singletary brought into the Chancery Court building was removed Wednesday, Sheriff Malcolm McMillin said today. Singletary brought the machete into the building, on President Street in Jackson, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday following a confrontation last week between the judge and a county tax assessor. Deputies asked the judge to remove it...." More (Jackson Clarion-Ledger 09.15.2006). Earlier. Assessor claims judge wielded machete.
Retired federal judges oppose Bush on detainees. "Nine retired federal judges accused the Bush administration and Congress of trying to deprive detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of the most basic legal right...." More (Washington Post 09.15.2006).
Missing CT judge found in hospital as 'John Doe.' "A long-time judge and former Greenwich first selectman William Lewis was in grave condition Thursday night after suffering a massive heart attack while driving his sonís car in Houston...Lewis, 75, was reported missing early Thursday after he didnít return from a workout a local gym Wednesday evening...Lewis suffered the attack while driving his sonís Chevrolet Suburban...He had the stamina to pull into a parking lot, stop his car and stumble into a nearby business before collapsing, Harris said. An ambulance transported Lewis to St. Lukeís Episcopal Hospital in Houston...Lewis had no identification on him when the ambulance arrived at St. Lukeís...He was entered into the system as John Doe...A hospital employee recognized a photograph of Lewis shown on a local news broadcast and called police...." More (Greenwich Times 09.15.2006). Annals of unrelated "missing" judges. a) Judge is 'on the run.' b) The most famous 'judge mystery' ever.
Court worker's Legionnaire's case closes county courthouse. "An independent researcher who occasionally worked at the Mercer County clerk's office in Trenton, became ill with the disease over the past week. The woman is listed s in critical condition at Capital Health System at Mercer hospital. Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes says the county's epidemiologist and Centers for Disease Control assured officials there is no reason to close the building. But Hughes says they're erring on the side of caution...." More (WPVI-TV 09.15.2006). Update. Courthouse reopens; no sign of Legionnaires (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 09.19.2006).
French express outrage over Chirac's pick of pal for top judicial post. "French President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday was accused of appointing a close ally to one of the country's top judicial posts to dodge corruption charges when his presidential immunity ends next year...." More (Taipai Times 09.15.2006).
Mayor appoints son as municipal judge. "Hasbrouck Heights -- Mayor Ron Jones nominated his son as municipal judge Tuesday, the second time the younger Jones has been named to the post. Joseph Jones' original appointment was voided in August by Superior Court Judge Menelaos Toskos, who ruled the appointment procedure was flawed and must be corrected by the mayor...." The council split 3-3 in the vote on approving the nomination, and the mayor broke the tie. More (NorthJersey.Com 09.14.2006). Comment. Lots of nepotism and favoritism is less blatant, less transparent. But it still goes on, even in clean Minnesota.
Sex shop endorses judicial challenger. "St. Paul City Council Member Jay Benanav is getting support for his judicial campaign from a surprising quarter: The Love Doctor is endorsing Benanav's bid for the bench...He has repeatedly referred to the shop as 'blight,' led a regulatory crackdown on the store and still says he'd like to see it gone...Minneapolis attorney Randall Tigue said an adult bookstore in Ramsey endorsed a mayoral candidate that had opposed the shop in the 1990s...." More (St. Paul Pioneer-Press 09.14.2006). Comments. a) When I ran for state chief justice, the metropolitan rags, which always support the incumbents, weren't interested in doing straightforward reportage on serious non-"sexy" issues I raised, like my emphasis on judicial open-ness and accountability, my proposal to eliminate mandatory retirement of judges, etc. But if some sex shop had endorsed my candidacy, you can be sure they would have covered it. b) My advice to voters in judicial elections: Just vote for the candidates who don't solicit contributions, who reject endorsements and reject as well ads disparaging the other candidates, who don't spend big bucks to get your vote, who stand quietly, who don't run scared, who aren't trying to sell you something. Vote for the seemingly disinterested ones, who typically are the best ones. Use your own good judgment. Hint: despite what the editorial boards tell you and the "unbiased" reporters hint at, the "best ones" I'm referring to aren't always the sitting judges.
Tired, clockwatching judge, with shopping to do, releases suspects. "'I had to let them go. It would've been a human rights violation to keep them in custody for more than 48 hours, and at 4pm on Monday the 48 hours would have expired.' This was the word from Kimberley magistrate Kubashni Padayachee on Wednesday about her decision to scrap the cases of 11 suspected criminals from the roll, leading to their immediate release...Padayachee said the court's operating hours were from 9am to 4pm. 'I sat through 70 cases on the roll, of which 33 cases were put on the roll after 2pm....After sitting in court for six hours, I am hungry, tired, my feet hurt and I'm thirsty. I'm only human and not a computer. So give me a break...I also had to go to the post office because my husband died recently and there were things I had to post. There is also shopping to be done. At which point do I cut off? Should I sit there until midnight? Magistrates work very hard, very long hours and it's very stressful...I don't get paid overtime." More (Independent Online - South Africa 09.14.2006).
Judge won't let defense use different attorneys to examine different witnesses. Pontiac, MI District Judge Michael C. Martinez surprised two lawyers representing a defendant in a first-degree murder preliminary exam when he told them only one of them could question witnesses. Here's Judge Martinez's explanation, from a transcript: "When I used to work in New York this happened all the time. When there was co-counsel the judge told them you don't have any participation except through the lead attorney and it was left at that. Now, there is, I daresay, there is no court, superior court or otherwise that is going to say to me 'Judge Martinez you can't run your court the way you wish.'" More (Detroit News 09.14.2006). Comment. Time will tell, judge. You should know that it's much easier to obtain a reversal of a conviction on appeal if the right to counsel was significantly denied than if some other trial error occurred. For an interesting example of how a home-town defense attorney was able to turn to the defense's advantage the prosecution's use of a specialist from the state AG's office to assist in examination of some witnesses, etc., at a trial in Upper Michigan, see, Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Murder (1958).
City considers smoking ban for courthouse square. "Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman [has] proposed [a] no-smoking ban for downtown's Pioneer Courthouse Square...'The square is our living room, and it should be smoke-free,' Saltzman said today...Although a total ban would keep secondhand smoke out of the faces of children visiting the square, it could also push away another group of youths -- street kids. For years, downtown businesses have tried to find tactful -- and legal -- ways to shoo away street kids who hang out in the square, often just sitting with their belongings and smoking...." More (OregonLive 09.14.2006). Comment. Many courthouses ban smoking inside the building. (These bans are not always followed by judges and staff.) But the smokers often gather outside public entrances, blowing smoke on people coming and going, leaving ugly butts behind in ash bins, and otherwise presenting a not-too-pleasant image of government employees not-so-hard-at-work. We think smoking bans immediately outside government buildings -- say, within 25 feet -- as well as in parks, capitol green malls, etc., make good sense. See, Firing up glass pipes at the courthouse door?
Judge to 30,000 college students: please stay away from me. "District Judge Nancy R. Dusek-Gomez was sick of seeing college students in her Hadley courtroom, where she has jurisdiction over about 30,000 undergraduates at five schools near Amherst. She was sick of underage drinking, and tired of drunken assaults and drunken driving. This school year, Dusek-Gomez tried something different, putting on her meanest face as she posed for a photo that appeared in a full-page ad in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian school newspaper yesterday under the headline: 'Welcome back students...I hope we never meet.'" More (Boston Globe 09.13.2006).
Judges in UK will now be allowed to return to practice. "Judges will be allowed for the first time to quit the bench and go back into practice as barristers or solicitors, the lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, announced yesterday in an attempt to attract recruits from more varied backgrounds to the judiciary.
A consultation exercise last year showed that some potential candidates were reluctant to sign on to a job for life...In a consultation paper issued yesterday, Lord Falconer seeks views on the length of a quarantine period before a former judge will be permitted to argue cases in court in front of judges at the same or a lower level...The paper also suggests that an ex-judge should not be allowed to join a law firm if a member of the firm appeared before him for a final ruling within the previous two years...." More (Guardian Unlimited 09.13.2006). Earlier. As stated in this report, "There was a furore only last year when Sir Hugh Laddie quit the high court bench, citing boredom, to become a consultant to a firm of solicitors." Here are links to our postings regarding Laddie and his controversial resignation. a) Ex top judge says judges don't always know what they're doing. b) Musing on judge who quit because he was bored. c) Judge resigns from high court.
Media controls extended to China's courts. "China has announced tighter controls governing communication between court officials and the media.
Special spokesmen would now release all information to journalists, state-run Xinhua news agency said, and leaks from court officials would be punished...." More (BBC News 09.13.2006). Comment. In an Orwellian-spin, the kind we've come to expect from China and other totalitarian regimes, the government said the move would increase judicial transparency. But we shouldn't focus too much on the faults of China's judicial system. Ours is far from perfect, and far from transparent. Read on....
Judge asks supreme court to open his discipline hearing to public. "Appeals Court Judge Wendall Griffin has asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to order the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission to open a private hearing scheduled for Friday over complaints against Griffen. Griffen says the commission has no legal basis for closing the hearing because he has waived his right for confidentiality in the proceedings...." More (KAIT-TV 09.13.2006). Comment. According to the news story, "Griffen is being investigated by the commission for statements he made on Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, raising the minimum wage, and a nomination by President Bush for a U.S. Supreme Court seat." We wonder if the members of the commission have read Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002), and its progeny. Update. Local opinion (Arkansas Times 09.13.2006).
Judge weeps in open court -- a trend? "A judge was reduced to tears by a motherís deeply felt tribute to her daughter who died when her car was hit by a speeding teenage driver. Judge Julian Hall walked out of court, dabbing his eyes, halfway through a sentencing hearing for Nolan Haworth, who had collided with the medical student...." More (Times - UK 09.13.2006). Comment. One witness said the judge "appeared completely to fall apart." Just a month ago we posted a link to another such instance: Judge cries in open court. Are we witnessing the start of a trend?
Irascible judge who rode bus to work dies. "Francis J. Boyle, a U.S. District judge for 20 years who retired as chief justice in 1997, died Monday...He was 79...'He was fairly irascible, but he was irascibly fair,' recalled Terry MacFadyen, an appellate lawyer...Lawyer Brian Spero, who worked as Boyle's clerk in 1979, recalled the judge as 'a joy to work with...Spero[, like Boyle] lived in Newport, and most days he rode the bus with Boyle to the federal courthouse in Providence...." More (Providence Journal 09.13.2006). Comment. We assume that the "irascibly fair" Judge Boyle never got irascibly upset if on boarding the bus he found someone sitting in a seat the judge preferred. See, Judge sentences car in his spot in parking lot to lockdown.
Homeowner who followed judge's advice loses at supreme court. "In a first-of-its-kind eminent domain case, the Alabama Supreme Court[, in a 6-3 decision,] said a homeowner waited one day too late to appeal a land condemnation order even though he followed a probate judge's advice on when to appeal...." More (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer 09.13.2006).
Leighton Pusey has been appointed a Puisne Judge. "Seven judges were sworn in to higher office...September 11...by Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Professor Kenneth Hall, at King's House. Puisne Judge, Horace Marsh has been appointed to act as Judge of the Court of Appeal, while Resident Magistrate, Leighton Pusey has been appointed a Puisne Judge...." More (Jamaica Information Service 09.13.2006). What is a 'puisne judge'? A puisne judge is a judge inferior in rank. More (Merriam-Webster Online 03.03.2006). Its precise meaning varies depending on the jurisdiction in which the term is used. The term has sometimes been applied -- methinks wrongly -- to referees, court commissioners, even court law clerks.
County to pay $458,000 to workers who claim judge harassed them. "Current and former Warren County employees will be paid between $40,000 and $165,000 to settle their claims that a 72-year-old ex-county court judge intimidated and sexually harassed them. The nine workers will receive a total of $457,500. The former judge, Dallas Powers, has to pay $25,000 of that amount out of his own pocket; the rest will be paid by insurance companies for Powers and the county government...." More (Oxford Press - OH 09.13.2006). Earlier. Judge, mistress accept plea deals in criminal prosecutions; Suspended judge & alleged mistress will get separate trials.
Juvenile court judge's grandson arrested. "Juvenile Court Judge Curtis Person has been in office less than two weeks and already he has an unexpected issue to address: the arrest of his own grandson. The 15-year-old student at St. Benedict at Auburndale High School in Cordova was charged with misdemeanor vandalism along with three friends who broke out windows Saturday night at Mt. Pisgah Middle School, where he was a former student...." More (Commercial Appeal - TN 09.13.2006).
Prisoners doing chores at courthouse. "The Columbiana County Sheriff's Office once again is using prisoners to do chores at the courthouse and other county facilities. Sheriff David Smith said Tuesday he resumed the program this week. He had suspended it in July after three prisoners walked off...." More (Youngstown Vindicator - OH 09.13.2006).
The carousel outside the courthouse is making the judge 'very angry.' "A York merry-go-round may be a magic roundabout for children but it's a noisy nuisance to the city's top judge. The Recorder of York, Judge Paul Hoffman halted a trial to complain about the cheery musical tunes that were drifting into the courtroom at York Crown Court from outside. 'I have got this undercurrent of constant noise from that roundabout,' he said...'I am getting very angry. It is quite outrageous it should be there at all...The merry-go-round spends about two months at the Eye of York on the grassy area between the Castle Museum and York Crown Court, setting up shortly before the summer holidays and ending in early September...Tourists, particularly families, find it a big attraction...." More (York Press - UK 09.12.2006). Comment. I have personal experience with courthouse drumming & other music playing. I worked for many years for the Minnesota Supreme Court in the capitol & many years for it when it moved across the street to the east to its own judicial building. Once a year I had to try get work done with the sound of loudly-played Indian drums being played for a good part of the day in connection with some gathering, and once a year I had to try get work done to the sound of "Amazing Grace," as played on bag-pipes, being played over & over again in connection with the annual anti-abortion, Roe v. Wade protest. Walking out of the building once on that day a friend, who was a devout Catholic and strongly anti-abortion, said to me, laughing, "They [i.e., the protesters] are the best argument I know in favor of abortion." I admire a guy who can joke about "his own side." I'm not sure anyone ought to be able to play an over-amplified recording over & over again all day outside any public building. On the other hand, I always much preferred the hustle-and-bustle of the open-to-all capitol (bands playing in the rotunda at noon, school kids coming and going, protesters of all sorts having their say) compared with the lack of it in the judicial center, which is a fortress-like building. Related postings. a) Beating a drum outside courthouse every day is o.k.? b) Did hotdog stand in courtyard create 'circus-like atmosphere in the courts'? Update. Curbing noise pollution near courthouse (Mumbai Newsline 09.16.2006).
Judge bans kids from playing in park by his residence. "Selfish giants are still at large, at least in Kolkata [Calcutta]. A judge in Chinsurah court, Shambhunath Chatterjee, has imposed a ban similar to that depicted in the famous fairy tale, on children playing within Siriti Housing Estate in Tollygunge." That's how The Times of India begins its report. Apparently the noise disturbs him. He is quoted by Ananova as telling a TV reporter, "As I am a member of the judiciary, it is the policeman's job to protect me. I get disturbed when the children play outside. The park is for us to move around, sit and talk, it is not for playing. They can go and play somewhere else." According to The Times, "he called up the police [one night] and two truck loads men in uniform arrived and summoned the parents of the children." Ananova quotes a parent as saying, "The police insisted it must be stopped; otherwise if Mr Chatterjee makes a written complaint, then the police will have no option but to take the parents of the children who play here into judicial custody and that will be for seven days." (09.10.2001)
Judge resigns over residency, ballot challenge by neighbor. "Multnomah County Circuit Judge Youlee Yim You, appointed to the bench a month ago, said Monday she is resigning her seat. Her statement came four days after she was removed from the Nov. 7 ballot on a challenge from her next-door neighbor...You filed candidacy papers Aug. 21 to run as an incumbent. Eight days later, her neighbor and friend, private-practice lawyer Leslie Roberts, 58, jumped into the race...." More (Oregonian 09.12.2006). Earlier posting. Neighbor vs. judge (with commentary). Comment. You decided against challenging the secretary of state's decision, even though she has concerns about the three-year residency requirement's constitutionality. Her neighbor now is unopposed, absent a write-in candidacy by some other lawyer -- which we'd sorta like to see.
Turning a Northern Ireland courthouse into a hotel. "Plans to turn a Belfast courthouse into a luxury hotel have resurrected old ghosts for local politicians. They had the pleasure of Crumlin Road courthouse and prison in the days when porridge was more than a tick box choice on the breakfast menu. In the old 'Crum' of 30 years ago, you could check in any time you liked -- but you could never leave...Thousands of republicans and loyalists were tried in the courthouse during the Troubles...The courthouse, designed by architect and one-time Lord Mayor of Belfast Sir Charles Lanyon, was completed in 1850 at a cost of £16,500...." More (BBC News 09.12.2006). Earlier. Famous London courthouse to become luxury hotel (about another courthouse conversion). Later. Courthouse Hotel Kempinski (N.Y. Times 09.17.2006).
Retired judge will head war probe in Israel. "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Monday the appointment of retired judge Eliahu Winograd as head of the government panel reviewing the events of the war in the North. The Winograd Committee will examine the conduct of the political echelon and of the defense establishment, and Olmert intends to bring its appointment for cabinet approval this Sunday...." More (Haaretz 09.12.2006).
High court limits rabbinical courts' jurisdiction. "In another blow to Jewish law's jurisdiction in secular Israel, the High Court of Justice ruled Monday that rabbinical courts were not empowered by law to divorce a Jew who is married to a non-Jew, even if both partners agree...'The rabbinic courts offered a quick, efficient solution that side stepped a lot of unnecessary bureaucracy,' said [Shimon] Ya'acobi, who argued that the state of Israel had an interest in reducing the number of mixed couples by simplifying the divorce process for them...." More (Jerusalem Post 09.12.2006). Comment. Apparently Orthodox Jews dislike the decision, whereas Reform Jews like it. The former, I believe, are more troubled by mixed marriages than the latter.
Judge's lot is not easy, nor should it be. "There are few countries in the world that can boast an independent judiciary. There are none apart from Israel in the Middle East. What other court in the world maintains the rule of law in the face of a constant and potent threat to the survival of the state from enemies who dispute its right to exist and seek to destroy it? Under Barak, the Israel Supreme Court has imposed high standards on the other organs of government: it ruled that the torture of terrorists was illegal even if used to discover the location of a ticking bomb; it ordered the Prime Minister to dismiss Cabinet colleagues indicted for alleged criminal offences; and it required the Government to relocate the West Bank fence to reduce damage to Palestinian interests...." From a review by David Pannick, QC, of Judge in a Democracy (Princeton University Press, US$29.95), by Aharon Barak, who recently retired after 26 years on the Supreme Court of Israel, the past 11 as President or, as we would say, Chief Justice. More (Sunday Times 09.11.2006). Comment. I like the reviewer's quote of a statement from the Talmud directed at judges: "Do you imagine that I offer you rulership? It is servitude that I give you." Read on about a different kind of judge's "lot."
Judge sentences car in his spot in parking lot to lockdown. "You donít tug on Supermanís cape. You donít pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger. And you never, ever, pull into Circuit Judge Stanley Millsí parking spot. Nichole Delameter spent all day Monday learning that lesson while cooling her flip-flops at the West Pasco Judicial Center....[Mills] used his 2005 Cadillac to block in her 1990 Oldsmobile until he left at the end of the day. Delameter, of New Port Richey, swears she thought the 'reserved' sign meant it was reserved for those going to court...'Thereís two perks to the job,' Mills said. 'I have my own bathroom, and I have my own parking spot, and youíre not going to get to use either.'...Delameter had to cancel her 7-year-old daughterís dentist appointment and get the girlís father to pick her up from school. She got a ride from a friend so she could pick up her 4-year-old niece and 2-year-old nephew from day care. The judge said she should have thought about the kids before she parked illegally....While Mills was still working, his judicial assistant kept moving the Cadillac to let other judges get in and out of their spots. But Delameterís car was still stuck...Mills finally left at 4:20 p.m. Delameter came back at 5:10 p.m...." More (St. Petersburg Times 09.12.2006). Comments. a) We've said it before. The St. Petersburg Times does an excellent job of covering the FLA judicial system. Metropolitan papers around the country could learn from it. b) Justice Frankfurter said that the most important office in a democracy is the office of citizen. We think it's okay for the people who manage the courthouse to provide reserved spaces for judges, provided the judges pay for the spaces or the IRS gets notified of the market value of their reserved spots. But we think the managers have a greater obligation to provide convenient parking for the ordinary people who use the courthouse, which is their house. Since it appears Delameter was prevented from leaving the courthouse for awhile, she ought to consider a civil suit for false imprisonment. Or perhaps a suit for "intentional blockage of her means of egress from the courthouse," on the theory that it's a "cousin" of improperly barring court access (read text and comment at link). And maybe someone ought to question the judge's use of his judicial assistant to play car jockey for him. And maybe some lawyer ought to run against him next time around. If I lived in FLA, I'd consider doing it. There's nothing like occasionally having to face opposition in elections to keep state judges' eccentricities in reasonable check. Compare and contrast. See, Judge Edward H. 'Big Foot' Johnstone ("On his first day at work in 1977 at the U.S. courthouse in Paducah, Johnstone ripped down the parking lot sign that said, 'Reserved for Federal Judge.' 'I didn't want to be treated differently than any other citizen,' he said during an interview last week at his modest, $75,000 home in Princeton, where he and his wife Kay have lived since 1952. The sign is now planted in his yard."). Judicial parking and the law. For those "judicial parking fetishists" who are totally obsessed with the topic of judges and their parking (and/or parking lot) problems, we herewith provide convenient links to some of our relevant earlier entries: a) Judge Donna Mills arrested! (scroll down). b) Should judges get free valet parking while other government employees pay? c) Angled parking comes to FLA courthouse. d) The $8.3 million 'judicial garage.' e) Ex-magistrate barred from judicial office for five years. f) Judge convicted of tampering with a record. g) Former traffic-ticket judge used 'inside knowledge' to try beat system. h) Intemperate judge's fate rests with supremes (a judge's parking confrontations) and Court orders judge to see psychiatrist). i) Re-beautifying an uglified courthouse ("[Judges'] fenced parking lot is an architectural travesty. The 8-foot-tall iron fence looks like it belongs in front of the jail, not the people's courthouse...Making matters worse, the county also gouged out what little grass there was on the courthouse square and covered it with asphalt for judges' cars. The fenced parking lot is just another indignity done to the courthouse, which now has only one public entrance -- on the south side of the building, where the public is immediately confronted with a battery of metal detectors and security guards."). j) How about remote parking for jurors? (and other ways to discourage people from serving on juries). k) Park-and-glide rules at courthouse parking lot (on illegal parking by courthouse employees). l) Latest on controversy surrounding ex-judge (the terrible troubles that can befall and are befalling an ex-judge for trying to beat a parking ticket and a speeding ticket). Update. Injudicious use of power at Pasco courthouse (St. Petersburg Times - Editorial 09.13.2006).
Barring court access results in $400k judgment for fees, expenses. "A federal judge has ordered former Rutland County Sheriff R. J. Elrick to pay more than $400,000 in legal fees and expenses to an outspoken court critic from Bennington who prevailed in a civil rights lawsuit earlier this year challenging his barring from a Rutland courthouse...." More (Barre Montpelier Times-Argus 09.12.2006). Comment. The critic apparently had picketed against a local judge and was barred from the courthouse as a result. If an ordinary citizen has a cause of action in federal court for being barred from the courthouse, maybe one might argue that an ordinary citizen ought to have a federal cause of action against a judge for intentionally blocking her means of egress from the courthouse.
Judge's son fired from county job wants ARD, not trial. "[Robert W. Breakiron Jr., 37, a] former Fayette County probation officer[,] wants to enter a probationary program rather than go to trial on allegations that he filed a false report about a stolen car in 2003...The son of District Judge Robert W. Breakiron Sr., [he] was fired from his county job after the charges were filed...[His attorney has] requested that a judge approve Breakiron's request to enter the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, or ARD, program...." More (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 09.12.2006). Comment. That's a typical disposition used by courts around the country for first-time offenders in cases like this. Such a disposition typically allows stay of imposition of sentence conditioned on successful service of probation, with the conviction either vacated or reduced to a misdemeanor after completion of probation.
Inside story of governor's judge pick. "[TN] Gov. Phil Bredesen recently appointed a former prosecutor to serve as a temporary Criminal Court judge...Bredesen's appointment was prompted by a court battle being fought over who won a recent election in the Cookeville area. But, instead of tapping a retired judge to fill in, the governor picked [John Roberts,] a political supporter whose most recent experience was heading a local Chamber of Commerce...[who] was essentially forced out as U.S. Attorney [for what an] internal Justice Department report...calls 'deplorable' efforts by Roberts to interfere in a death investigation...." More (WTVF - TN 09.12.2006). Further reading on Gov. Bredesen on judicial selection. Those 'impartial' and 'nonpartisan' judicial selection commissions.
Judge Edward H. 'Big Foot' Johnstone. "Struggling to seat a jury, Judge Edward H. Johnstone offered an unusual deal to a farmer who insisted he needed to be excused to cut his tobacco. 'If I come help you cut tobacco on Saturday, will you sit on my jury today?' asked Johnstone, then a circuit judge. The farmer served on the jury, recalled then-Commonwealth's Attorney Bill Cunningham, and the judge reported for duty that weekend on the farm. Now, after 30 years on the bench -- 29 of them in federal court -- the judge with a common touch has hung up his robe. After barreling more than a million miles from Paducah to Bowling Green and Owensboro to Louisville, Johnstone, 84, has stopped trying cases as a U.S. district judge and now only handles Social Security disability appeals...." More (Louisville Courier-Journal 09.10.2006). Comment. This is a must-read, anecdote-rich profile of an old-fashioned, naturally-independent, all-American judge, written by Andrew Wolfson. If there is an annual award for best journalistic profile of a judge, this one deserves serious consideration. Here's a sample excerpt:
Johnstone never used a gavel. He said he thought it better to command respect through fairness and humility. He introduces himself as 'Ed' and insists his clerks call him 'Big Foot,' a nickname he earned with his size-14 shoe. His home number is in the phone book, and he fought the General Services Administration for years to keep it from adding luxuries to his chambers like hardwood floors. 'He just wanted his toilet fixed,' recalled former clerk Steve Reed, who was later U.S. attorney and chairman of the University of Kentucky board of trustees. And on his first day at work in 1977 at the U.S. courthouse in Paducah, Johnstone ripped down the parking lot sign that said, 'Reserved for Federal Judge.' 'I didn't want to be treated differently than any other citizen,' he said during an interview last week at his modest, $75,000 home in Princeton, where he and his wife Kay have lived since 1952. The sign is now planted in his yard.
For purposes of comparison with judges whose tastes in interior decor diverge from Judge Johnstone's, see, my posting titled Annals of judicial chambers makeovers, which includes our popular 2001 piece titled "Reining in those wild-spending judges."
Should county restrict group access to courthouse grounds? "The Commissioners' Court will discuss today the possibility of limiting or banning use of the courthouse grounds by private organizations. County officials told the Midland Reporter-Telegram the measure is being considered in part because of instances in the past where event participants have damaged county property. County Judge Bill Morrow said the damage has been primarily limited to the courthouse lawn and landscaping...." More (MyWestTexas.Com 09.11.2006). Comment. It may be easier to identify the problem than it is to come up with a solution that is fair to the various groups who may want to use the courthouse grounds for events. Some of the proposals possibly being considered may be challenged on constitutional grounds by groups who find they don't qualify. Have the commissioners considered the possibility that an open, welcoming much-used courthouse complex not only says something very important about a community and its values but may do more to protect the daily occupants -- the judges, the jurors, the litigants -- than all the fancy "stay away" security systems being marketed and installed. See, a) my Mini-essay on courthouse security; b) Building courthouses with security in mind; c) How about a courthouse surrounded by & filled with flowers? d) Might Mr. Stephens' flowers lead to better government?
Judicial candidate dies five days after losing election. "Fort Myers attorney Steve Holmes was an optimist to the end. Five days after his bid for circuit court judge came up short on election day, Holmes lost his battle with Melanoma. Holmes, 47, died at home at 5 a.m. Sunday, surrounded by family, according to his sister Debra Holmes...He told The News-Press last week what the election meant to him. 'This campaign has been the most fulfilling experience of my professional career,' he said...." More (News-Press - FLA 09.11.2006). Comment. Shallow people think politics is all about getting the most votes and that losing an election is something to cry over. Not so. John Adams said that "the divine science of politicks is the science of social happiness" (Thoughts on Government), and he loved to talk about the spirit of "public happiness." As our late, great Minnesota Senator, Eugene McCarthy, said [The Hard Years, p.192 (1975)], that spirit is "the spirit...which possessed the American colonists at the time of the Revolution and which was reflected in their delight in public discussion and public action, in joy of citizenship and civic commitment, in self-government, in self-discipline in a political community." When Mr. Holmes said, in his last days, that his campaign was the most fulfilling experience of his professional career, he was expressing the happiness that was so dear to John Adams, the social/political happiness that comes from civil participation in seeking the public good. Sadly, there are those -- many of them members of the bar and the judiciary -- who discourage lawyers from offering themselves to the voters in those states in which the voters are the ultimate appointers of judges. Some of these folks even shun those who have the audacity to step forward in this way. So, in a way, it takes a bit of civic courage to step forward, as Mr. Holmes did, and enter the arena. As a tribute to him, I offer this little sermonette by the great William James on the theme of civic courage:
That lonely kind of courage (civic courage as we call it in times of peace) is the kind of valor to which the monuments of nations should most of all be reared, for the survival of the fittest has not bred it into the bone of human beings as it has bred military valor; and of five hundred of us who could storm a battery side by side with others, perhaps not one would be found ready to risk his wordly fortunes all alone in resisting an enthroned abuse. The deadliest enemies of nations are not their foreign foes; they always dwell within their borders. And from these internal enemies civilization is always in need of being saved. The nation blest above all nations is she in whom the civic genius of the people does the saving day by day, by acts without external picturesqueness; by speaking, writing, voting reasonably; by smiting corruption swiftly; by good temper between parties; by the people knowing true men when they see them, and preferring them as leaders to rabid partisans or empty quacks. Such nations have no need of wars to save them. Their accounts with righteousness are always even; and God's judgments do not have to overtake them fitfully in bloody spasms and convulsions of the race.
Judge tops most-hated list, Mugabe and Oprah close behind "Zoo Weekly's Hate List 2006, compiled by a staff panel, gives the title of most hated man to radio DJ and Australian Idol judge Sandilands, while talk-show host Oprah Winfrey was the most hated woman, coming in ninth overall. Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, described by critics as a corrupt dictator, came in second on a list 'of our 50 most loathed people.'" More (News.com.au 09.11.2006).
Annals of courthouse coicidences: courthouse ceiling art. "Instead of 'Where's Waldo,' starting today visitors and workers at the downtown Jackson County Courthouse can play a game of 'Whereís Katheryn.' Katheryn Shields is exiting as county executive Dec. 31, but her visage will remain behind to observe her successors. Thatís because New York artist Chris Doyle is putting up a mural with portraits of county employees, including Shields, plus an appearance by Harry S. Truman. 'Vault,' the digital fresco on the second floor ceiling is costing taxpayers $100,000 and should be completed within a week...." More (Kansas City Star 09.11.2006). Comment. The Jackson County website contains a description of the renovation of the county's 1934 art deco courthouse, of which renovation project the "fresco" is, if I'm not mistaken, a part. The website says: "County Executive Katheryn Shields proposed, and the Jackson County Legislature passed, 2003 Leasehold Bonds in the amount of $25 million to pay for capital improvement and deferred maintenance projects. The renovation of the Downtown Jackson County Courthouse is one of those projects. Construction commenced in mid-December, 2003...." We assume it is just a happy coincidence that Ms. Shields' visage will be among those featured in the fresco.
Judge protests attempt to force polio vaccine on his grandson. "The alleged coercive manner of an over-enthusiastic team of Pulse Polio drive volunteers in Muzaffarpur on Sunday caused embarrassment to the state government when a Patna High Court judge took strong view of their behaviour. The family members of Justice S. M. M. Alam were passing through Muzaffarpur when the volunteers halted the car and attempted to administer anti-polio drops to a month-old child [who had already received the first dose from her doctor]. C. M. Nitish Kumar reacted quickly, first apologising to the judge and then ordering health secretary Deepak Prasad and and Muzaffarpur D. M. Vinay Kumar to immediately take action against the guilty persons...He said the polio drops should be administered voluntarily by spreading awareness among people and should not be forced upon on anybody...When [the judge's daughter] told [the volunteers] that the next dose would be given after consulting the doctor, the volunteers reportedly became furious and used foul language that hurt religious sensibilities, the judge's wife, Nikhat Alam, said...." More (Times of India 09.11.2006). Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927). Comment. In the U.S., SCOTUS upheld compulsory administration of the smallpox vaccine in Cambridge, MA, during an epidemic; see, Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905). Schools regularly require parents of children to present proof-of-vaccination or religious/health exemption as a prerequisite to attending school. Assuming the accuracy of the report, the error of the Patna volunteers was in being over-vigilant and over-zealous in their attempt to do a good thing. Did the judge err in any way? We assume from the tone of the report that his complaining as he did is okay in India, and if that's the way India wants to do things, that's okay by us. In the U.S., however, a judge confronted with a phone call from his adult daughter describing facts like this would be well-advised to urge his daughter to complain in a proper way rather than intervening himself. Update. Bihar probe into humiliation of judge's daughter (Telugu Portal 09.13.2006).
Trash-loving judge. "Cate Fante has a character flaw...[O]n the surface, you'd expect her to be the most dignified of legal persons. She's of a mature age, 39, and serves as a judge on the Philadelphia Federal Court. In the entire United States, there are only 600 federal judges. It's not a job for a lightweight who doesn't know her law. Fante is fine on the law. What she apparently doesn't come close to understanding is her own psychological makeup. For reasons she never satisfactorily explains, once a month she hits the town and picks up a guy. By itself, this is not a fatal addiction, but to select her partners, Fante travels to the scuzziest neighbourhoods in Philly, drops into the most lowlife bars, and takes the drunk with the greasiest hair to a motel. What is the woman thinking? That's the first question you ask. The second is, aren't these chickens going to come home to roost?" From an entertaining review by Jack Batten of Dirty Blonde, by Lisa Scottoline. More (Toronto Star 09.10.2006). Comment. Sounds like a very realistic novel that pretty much reflects the way things are in our judicial system. (Just kidding.) In case you're worried about Judge Fante, rest easy: "In what seems no time, Fante solves [a] murder, reclaims her reputation after word of her taste in guys makes the front pages of all the Philadelphia newspapers, swears off men with greasy hair, keeps her job when her fellow judges rush to kick her off the Federal Court, and falls in love...."
Our Motto - "Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat" (Horace). Loose translation: Does anything prevent telling the truth with a smile?
Click here for DMCA Digital Millennium Copyright Act Claim Notification Info pursuant to Subsection 512(c)
Affiliated Web sites
Advertisers - Please consider patronizing the advertisers, including today's featured advertiser, Bob's Perpetuities, Ltd., a multinational boutique law firm specializing in all facets of the arcane Rule Against Perpetuities. Founded in 2004, Bob's is already the leading firm in the field. You may not know you have a perpetuities problem. That's why the motto of Bob's Perpetuities, Ltd., is: "Whatever your situation in life, better contact Bob's."
Adv. - In response to the "makeover craze" that's sweeping the nation, Klara's Kut 'n' Kurl announces that it will be setting aside Saturdays for judicial makeovers. Many judges, we find, have an image problem in the courtroom. They do not project authority or wisdom or gravitas or experience - whatever. Klara Fribund Kollevitz can help. For example, if you're an obviously-young judge or an older judge cursed with a Dick Klark youthful appearance, Klara can use state-of-the-art aging technology -- Gravi-Tox -- to add gravitas to your look. Judge-appropriate konfidentiality assured. Kall Klara's at Local 536 for a free konsultation.
Slate's list of Judge Roberts resources. Slate has created a John Roberts Roundup, a regularly-updated page of links to some of the better web postings relating to Judge Roberts. Click here.