BurtLaw's Daily Judge is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, this is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal non-profit pro bono publico First-Amendment protected "web log" or "blog," one with a subjective, idiosyncratic, and eccentric sociological and social-psychological slant that focuses not on the latest judicial decisions of supposed great legal importance but on a) the institution of judge in the United States and in other countries throughout the world, b) the judicial office and role, c) judicial personalities, d) the great common law tradition of judging as practiced here and throughout the world, e) judges as judges, f) judges as ordinary people with the usual mix of virtues and flaws, etc. We link to newspapers and other sources in order to alert you to ideas, articles, stories, speeches, law books, literary works and other things that have interested us and that may interest you. In linking to another site or source, we don't mean either to suggest we necessarily agree with views or ideas expressed there or to attest to the accuracy of facts set forth there. We urge you in every instance to click on the link and read the entire story or other printed source to which we link. We often use the linked piece as a springboard for expressing our opinion, typically clearly labelled "Comment."
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About Burton Hanson. Burton Hanson is a graduate of Harvard Law School, admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Minnesota. He worked one year as Hennepin County District Court Special Term (Civil) Law Clerk, two years as law clerk for the late Justice C. Donald Peterson of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and over 26 years as Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Supreme Court. He was a nonpartisan candidate for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election in November 2000 and a liberal anti-war candidate for Congress in the Republican primary in the Minnesota Third District in September 2004. He was one of the first law bloggers (blawgers). He began planning his first blog, BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else in 1999 but delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. His campaign website, the no-longer extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first such use of a weblog or blog. In 2004 he also used the personal blog format in his primary campaign for Congress. That site, BurtonHanson.Com, has morphed into a personal political opinion blog and also contains the archives of his 2004 campaign web pages and blog postings.
Annals of raging judges. "Reacting for the first time publicly to a case that drew national attention, District Judge Norene Redmond on Wednesday lashed out at those who have criticized her decision to jail a first-time offender over a noise violation. The 45-minute commentary came before Redmond released 23-year-old Carmen Granata from the Macomb County Jail. Granata had served 28 days of a 30-day sentence...." More (Detroit News 12.14.2006).
Judge orders Christmas tree removed from courthouse lobby. "A Toronto judge has ordered the removal of a Christmas tree from the lobby of a provincial courthouse, sparking widespread anger among court staff. Justice Marion Cohen ordered the decorated tree to be moved Monday from the lobby of the Ontario Court of Justice at 311 Jarvis St. to an out-of-the-way administrative corridor on grounds it is a Christian symbol that alienates people of other creeds and traditions...'A lot of people are ticked off,' said one worker who didn't want to be named...." More (Toronto Sun 12.14.2006).
Acting on tip by prosecution, high court tosses out judge's convictions. "The state Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the convictions of a former Española municipal judge who had sex with a defendant, saying judges are excluded from the bribery law under which he was convicted. Charles Maestas served about 21/2 years in prison before he was released earlier this year...[W]hen Maestas appealed to the state Supreme Court, the Attorney General's Office...pointed out a problem that hadn't been brought up earlier: The Governmental Conduct Act excludes judges...[The A.G.'s Office] argued to the court that the exclusion of judges was an oversight, and that since the intent was for the law to apply to judges, the court should uphold the convictions. The high court...disagreed...." More (Santa Fe New Mexican 12.14.2006).
Judge's outburst brings lawsuit. "An inmate whose complaint about mistreatment resulted in City Court Judge William Carter being disciplined is now suing Carter for $2 million, claiming pain, suffering and a lasting fear of the judiciary. Acting as his own lawyer, Talib Alsaifullah, 46, filed the civil rights violation lawsuit on Monday in U.S. District Court. He is serving a sentence for assault at Albany County Correctional Facility. The state Commission on Judicial Conduct censured Carter in September for two outbursts, including one in which he stormed off the bench, shed his robes and eyeglasses, and confronted Alsaifullah...." More (Albany Times-Union 12.14.2006). Comment. Assuming the plaintiff can get past a motion to dismiss on grounds of immunity from suit (something I wouldn't assume), I wonder what sort of damages would compensate him for his suffering a "lasting fear of the judiciary."
Judge murdered with his wife, grandson, and maid. "A criminal court judge, his wife and seven-year-old grandson have been murdered in their home in northwest China. The family's 16-year-old maid was also killed. Chen Yiming, chief judge of the intermediate court's No.2 criminal court in Linxia Hui Prefecture of Gansu Province, was found face down in a pool of blood in a bedroom of his fourth-floor apartment. The little boy, bound to a chair with his hands tied behind him and his mouth taped, apparently died of a head wound. The judge's wife and the maid were kneeling on the bathroom floor with their hands trussed up behind them by adhesive tape...." Police are offering a reward of 50000 yuan (US$6394). More (China Daily 12.14.2006).
Lost tapes = judicial system in disarray. "The judicial system in KwaZulu-Natal...is facing a crisis after the discovery that records of court proceedings are in disarray. This is following the introduction of a new recording system at high courts earlier in December. The Mercury has learned that a failure within the system in KZN has resulted in parts or all of certain proceedings not being recorded on to discs to be transcribed and then typed...." More (IOL 12.14.2006).
A small-town judge's unique form of alternative sentencing. "One of the bedrock principles of American law is that judges are...to be decision makers, not participants, in cases. They are not to befriend defendants, and are barred from meeting with them outside the presence of their lawyers or prosecutors, or outside court...But bedrock principles have a way of getting lost in New York's town and village courts, a sprawling world of more than 1,250 small courtrooms...." From an article about the unique kind of probation -- "judge's probation" -- meted out by Justice George Head, 72, a retired state trooper, who has served as town judge in Keeseville, N.Y. For 15 years. Of Judge Head a lawyer who has practiced in his court is quoted as saying, "Judge Head rules Keeseville, and God help you if you oppose him." More (N.Y. Times 12.14.2006).
Letting the sun shine in. "[U.S.] Representative-elect Kirsten Gillibrand has decided to post details of her work calendar on the Internet at the end of each day so constituents can tell what she is actually doing for their money...The level of transparency pledged by Ms. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York -- down to naming lobbyists and fund-raisers among those she might meet with -- is simply unheard of in Congress...For all the worthy proposals for ethics reform being hashed out by the incoming Congress, a heavy dose of Internet transparency should not be overlooked in the effort to repair lawmakers' tattered credibility...." -- From an editorial titled "Congress and the Benefits of Sunshine." More (N.Y. Times 12.14.2006). Comment. When she was campaigning, Gillibrand apparently signed the "Punch Clock Agreement," which provides:
Starting with the next Congress, I promise to publish my daily official work schedule on the Internet, within 24 hours of the end of every work day. I will include all matters relating to my role as a Member of Congress. I will include all meetings with constituents, other Members, and lobbyists, listed by name. (In rare cases I will withhold the names of constituents whose privacy must be protected.) I will also include all fundraising events. Events will be listed whether Congress is in session or not, and whether I am in Washington, traveling, or in my district.
One of the keys to my vision of real judicial accountability is more openness, and more detailed openness, with respect to judicial work activity and the judicial work product. 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.
Scalia decries stinking judicial salaries, bureaucratic career judges. "Low pay for federal judges threatens to undermine the U.S. judiciary system by letting it become the domain of provincially minded career judges, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Wednesday. 'Judicial salaries stink,' he said while speaking at a Northern Virginia Technology Council event. As a result, he continued, successful lawyers who can earn more in the private sector shun the bench while other lawyers make an entire career of climbing the court system...The career climbers are 'going to be beady-eyed, cause-y people, more willing to take the veil,' Scalia said...." More (GovExec.Com 12.14.2006). Comment. a) For the contrarian approach I recommend in evaluating requests by judges for pay raises, see, my much-read pieces, I could be making lots more if I were Michael Jordan and The Chief Justice's Annual Report. b) As for his not wanting bureaucratic judges, I'm a little surprised. His version of originalism or textualism -- I'm never sure what to call it -- seems to be premised on the belief that the words and intent of the framers are clear, so much so that any well-programmed robot -- or, say, any bureaucratic judge -- could sit on the Court and interpret and apply the Constitution. c) BTW, according to the above-linked report of the speech, Scalia also said i) serving in the Executive Branch during the Nixon and Ford Presidencies was more fun than being a Supreme Court Justice, and ii) "he favors televising Supreme Court proceedings, if for nothing else than to show the American people that most of the workload centers around 'Internal Revenue code, the [Employee Retirement Income Security Act], the bankruptcy code -- really dull stuff.'"
Judge is ousted for concealing source of donation. "A Santa Barbara County judge[, Superior Court Judge Diana R. Hall, who was] convicted of drunken driving and admonished for courthouse improprieties[,] was ordered removed from the bench for concealing her girlfriend [Deidre Dykeman] as the source of a $20,000 campaign donation. The Commission on Judicial Performance ordered [her] to vacate her Santa Maria office within 30 days...." More (San Jose Mercury News 12.13.2006).
Group faults judge for copying proposed findings. "An organization that supported the teaching of intelligent design...has chastised Judge John E. Jones III for...regurgitat[ing] the American Civil Liberties Union's [proposed] findings of fact when he held that the Dover school board's actions violated the First Amendment clause against establishing religion in a public school science class...[A spokesperson for the group] declined to call Jones' ruling plagiarism. But, he said...Jones 'wrote an essay and he is taking credit for it.'" More (York Daily Record 12.13.2006). Comment. One could fault all too many judges for the same thing. But that doesn't make it right. Judges ought to write their own findings of fact. Only in so doing are the resulting findings truly theirs. Although I am comfortable with the judge's decision, I think the complaining group's Backgrounder on the Significance of Judicial Copying is worth reading.
Reprimanded judge quits. "District Judge Ernest L. Marraccini, of Elizabeth, submitted his retirement notice to the governor's office on Dec. 4. He had held office since 1992...The Court of Judicial Discipline reprimanded Marraccini in October, saying he called defendants in the court waiting room 'morons' while filling in for another judge two years ago. The case stemmed from a day in May 2004 on which Marraccini dismissed 30 traffic cases, told defendants to leave, then belittled them when they hesitated, officials said...." More (Times-Leader 12.13.2006).
When your court is 'less of a hellhole' than before. "The so-called 'hellholes' of Madison and St. Clair counties' civil courts have cooled down slightly but by no means are extinguished, according to an annual ranking by a business-friendly interest group. On the list of the worst court jurisdictions for defendants in civil lawsuits ranked by the American Tort Reform Foundation, based in Washington, Madison has fallen to No. 5 and St. Clair to No. 6, a notch each...Atop the ranks sits the entire state of West Virginia...." More (St. Louis Post-Dispatch 12.13.2006).
Young Justices are maturing quickly. "I love my guys. They are moving toward something. They may not know what yet, but they are going to enjoy it when they get there." These encouraging words for "young Justices" came from John Marshall Justices coach Frank Threatts Jr. after their 71-69 victory in overtime over Mills Godwin..." More (Richmond Times-Dispatch 12.13.2006). Comment. Are they getting wiser?
Ex-judge is charged with mail fraud as judge. "A former eastern Kentucky judge, who resigned amid misconduct charges two years ago, pleaded not guilty to federal mail fraud charges on Tuesday. A federal indictment alleges that during his tenure as Perry County circuit judge, Douglas Combs Jr. would hire people as temporary employees and falsely certify them as substitute court reporters. More (Lexington Herald-Leader 12.13.2006). Comment. There've been a number of federal prosecutions of state judges recently for bribery, etc., & in almost all of them the feds use legal fictions to obtain jurisdiction. One fiction involves relying on federal grants given to the court systems in which the judges work. Another is the one in this case -- using the mails in commiting fraud. When I was in high school I argued in a debate before the local PTA that federal aid to secondary school education would lead to federal control. As a junior GOP-Man I was, of course, just mouthing the political platitudes of the GOP party. But it turns out I was right, as evinced by the GOP's "No Child Left Behind" initiative (which pulls off the slick trick of accomplishing federal control without much or any aid). And now, it seems, federal aid to state courts = federal criminalization of judicial conduct that the states traditionally have been thought (by Republicans, at least) able to regulate. Can it be fairly said that Republicans -- & I am one, though of the liberal Eisenhower-Rockefeller variety -- believe in states' rights? Or do they feel they have a "roving commission," to use Justice Cardozo's phrase, to clean up state and local government? But wait! I think the states where all or most of these investigations/prosecutions have occurred are historically Democratic, on the local level, at least. Hmmm. What's the great principle -- that it all depends on whose ox is being gored?
Foreign companies fare worse in US courts. "Non-US public companies sued in the US are more likely to lose than their American counterparts of similar size facing similar claims, a study of 3,000 corporate defendants has found. The mere announcement of a U.S. lawsuit also hits non-U.S. companies far harder...." More (Financial Times 12.13.2006).
Chief Justice is arrested. "The Chief Justice of the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago, Justice Satnarine Sharma has been arrested by the country's police and put before court for allegedly trying to pervert the course of public justice. The police have accused the CJ of trying to influence a judge presiding over a magistrate court that is trying a former prime minister of the country, Mr. Pandy on three charges of knowing making false declarations contrary to the the laws of the country...The local media quoted the CJ as saying that he was not prepared to resign from his post saying his trial was politically motivated...." More (AllAfrica 12.11.2006).
Annals of judicial discretion. "A judge dismissed charges on Monday against a 14-year-old boy accused of meowing whenever he saw his 78-year-old neighbor...The boy's family got rid of its cat after Alexandria Carasia complained it was using her flower garden as a litter box. Carasia claimed the boy would make meowing sounds every time he saw her. The boy says he only meowed at her twice." More (Pittsburgh Channel 12.12.2006).
When judges have an image problem. "On the second and concluding day of the National Seminar on Erosion of Values in Judicial System in Patna on Sunday, prominent judges from across the nation expressed their views on the need to re-establish faith in the judiciary that had suffered some setback thanks to some unscrupulous elements in the system...." More (Patna Daily 12.12.2006).
Judge to leave bench, become staff attorney. "Circuit Judge Max Gors said he will retire Dec. 31 after being a judge for 18 years. Gors, 61, of Pierre, said he plans to become a staff attorney with the state Department of Corrections...." More (Rapid City Journal 12.12.2006). Comments. a) I didn't know judges envied staff attorneys. b) In Great Britain an ex-judge typically has not been allowed to return to the practice of law. Read on...
Controversy over allowing ex-judges to practice law. "The London Solicitors Litigation Association (LSLA) has attacked Government proposals to allow salaried judges to return to practice, warning that the public perception of judges' impartiality could be compromised if the controversial plans go ahead...." More (Legal Week Student 12.12.2006). Comment. One of the prime but often unspoken motivating factors behind instituting mandatory retirement of judges in many jurisdictions was to free up judicial positions held my white men so that they could be filled by women and people of color. The Brits now believe abandoning the quaint "ban" on ex-judges practicing law will prompt more judges to retire, freeing up judicial positions held by white men for filling with women and people of color. Introducing mandatory retirement was a bad idea -- see, BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges -- but eliminating the "ban" on ex-judges practicing law is a good idea, regardless of whether it leads to greater diversity on the bench.
Chief Judge steps down temporarily. "St. Clair County's chief judge has temporarily stepped down pending the outcome of charges against another judge who allegedly was driving drunk when the two were involved in a wreck that injured another motorist...." More (Belleville News Democrat 12.12.2006). Earlier. When judges go out for a spin.
Former judge is arraigned. "A 70-year-old Colfax man [Eugene E. Dunagan] was arraigned in Dunn County Circuit Court Monday on one count of second-degree sexual assault of a mentally ill victim...Dunagan, a retired English teacher from the Colfax School District and a former municipal judge, was previously scheduled to be arraigned on Nov. 20...." More (Dunn County News 12.12.2006).
Rio airport-road bandits target supreme court judges, tourists. "Even those who enforce the law aren't safe from robbers on the highway linking Rio de Janeiro and its sandy beaches to the international airport. The road is a favorite target for armed bandits who prey on business travelers and plunder entire busloads of foreign tourists. Last week, gunmen assaulted and robbed Brazil's Supreme Court Chief Ellen Gracie...and Supreme Court Judge Gilmar Mendes...." More (Bloomberg 12.12.2006).
Officials begin building a case for replacing grungy courthouse. "If at first you don't succeed, there's always election year 2008 to sway voters, said officials who want Broward taxpayers to support a multimillion-dollar plan to build a new courthouse. Last month, 59 percent of Broward voters said no to the $450-million bond proposal, which would have meant a $35 tax increase for the average homeowner. ''I know the people of Broward County this year turned the referendum down to build a new courthouse, but I think with the right kind of education plan the people will understand we desperately need a new courthouse,' said Broward Clerk of Court Howard Forman, during a press conference outside of the courthouse Monday...." More (Miami Herald 12.12.2006). Comment. Around the country, advocates of new schools and courthouses rarely take "no" for an answer. The voters shoot down a referendum. No matter. The proposal, like a villain in a horror movie, just gets up and comes right back at them. What sort of "education plan" will do the job? In a small town somewhere in Middle America some church folks who wanted a new church did two things. They let the church go to hell, stopped repairing things when they broke, etc. Then they took pics of how God-awful things were and put together a brochure, complete with Bible verses, on how awful things were and how great the need was -- and that did the job.
Is bribing judges an 'ancient Iraqi tradition'? "Many jailers and judges are willing to take a bribe to let terrorists free. This move, by a Shia Arab judge, would seem insane, until you consider that judges taking bribes is an ancient Iraqi tradition (predating Islam), and by taking the bribe, the judge is less likely to be killed by Sunni Arab terrorists. That's because the terrorists want to keep 'friendly' judges on the job...." More (Strategy Page 12.10.2006).
Giant Christmas cards on display on courthouse lawn. "Christmas 'cards' are now on display on the courthouse lawn at the Hernando County Government Center, 20 N Main St. The large plywood cards have been provided by area schools, churches and nonprofit organizations. They will be on display through Dec. 29. For information, call the Hernando County Recreation Department at 754-4031...." More (St. Petersburg Times 12.11.2006). Comment. An imaginary conversation with "Information": "Hello. I'd like information about those giant Christmas cards on display on the courthouse lawn." "O.K. Yeah. They're out there on the lawn." "Are they nice?" "You bet."
Ex-chief justice plans to appeal ethics ruling, suspension. "Former [CT] Chief Justice William Sullivan plans to appeal his 15-day suspension by a judiciary review panel to the state Supreme Court [as well as the] ruling...that he violated ethics codes when he delayed the release of a court ruling to help a potential successor win confirmation...." More (Boston Globe 12.10.2006). Earlier. Review council finds chief justice guilty of ethics violations, suspends him (with commentary and links to earlier postings).
An 'injudicious' judge. "Suave, sleek, swollen with self-esteem, incurably covetous, Pratt was slippery as a greased eel. Corners of his career are shadowed by little mysteries intended to conceal indecorous truths." -- An assessment by historian Malcolm Clark, Jr. (in Eden Seekers) of Judge Orville Pratt, Oregon's first full-time judge, profiled here in The Oregonian (12.10.2006).
When judges go out for a spin. "A judge driving with his boss was charged with drunken driving after a wreck [in Belleville] that sent another motorist to the hospital, and the other judge was seen by an officer pouring out a can of beer, police said. St. Clair County Circuit Judge Patrick Young, 58, was handcuffed and arrested and charged with drunken driving after the Sunday crash, about 20 miles from St. Louis. He refused a sobriety test, authorities said. Another officer, Jeffrey Sheary, reported seeing Young's passenger, Chief Judge Jan Fiss, 64, pour out an open beer can on the road and try to hide it in his coat. It was not immediately clear Thursday if Fiss had been charged...." More (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 12.08.2006).
Legislator vs. Judge. "The speaker of the Florida House has opened an investigation into [Judge Charles Kahn, the] judge accused of showing favoritism to former Sen. W.D. Childers in a bribery case...." More (St. Petersburg Times 12.07.2006).
Judge-elect resigns as prosecutor amid allegations. "[Matthew Thornhill, 38, of St. Charles, a]n assistant prosecutor slated to become a judge next month[,] resigned Wednesday amid allegations he solicited baseball memorabilia in return for reducing a criminal charge...[Thornhill] was elected to a new associate circuit judge post in November and is set to take office in next month...." More (St. Louis Post-Dispatch 12.08.2006).
Court panelist backed judge hubby's aide for court post. "A wannabe clerk magistrate with a past sex harassment reprimand got a letter of recommendation from a judge and the blessing of the jurist's wife, who is on the committee that nominated him, the Herald has learned. Judge Wilbur Edwards, presiding justice at the Southeast Housing Court, wrote a letter recommending his first assistant, Stephen Carreiro, for the court's lifetime clerk job. Carreiro, who has worked under Edwards' supervision for years, was written up for sexual harassment in 2000 when he allegedly asked a female co-worker to give him a 'lap dance' at a strip club. The Governor's Council is expected to vote on his nomination next week. Edwards' wife, attorney Evelynne Swagerty, is a member of the Judicial Nominating Commission, which recommended Carreiro for the post. By Dave Wedge...." More (Boston Herald 12.08.2006).
Spunky 'Punkie' is dead. "Punkie, 'Troublemaker of the Courthouse,' died last week. The flamboyant file runner was -- as she liked to tell her courthouse friends -- 78.99 years old. Born Sara Mostow in December 1927 in Washington, D.C., she was known around the Broward courthouse for her salty sense of humor, potent perfume and exuberant style, including a gold necklace that spelled out 'PUNKIE' in block letters...." More (Miami Herald 12.08.2006).
Norwegian Go-Go Justice. "A court in Norway has ruled that stripping is considered to be an art, thereby leaving Norwegian strippers exempt from taxes, reported the BBC. Dancers at the Diamond Go-Go Bar in Oslo, Norway, argued that their act should be considered an 'artistic performance,' and thereby be exempt from the country's 25 percent value-added tax...." More (Fox News 12.08.2006). Comment. Striptease dancing in Norway is a variant of folk dancing and consists of a woman artfully removing her flannel nightgown to reveal double-layer insulated wool underwear.
Annals of judicial expostulations. "If I had a big red button right here that would kill all the pit bulls, I wouldn't hesitate to press it." So said Garfield County Judge Jason Jovanovich in sentencing the owner of a pit bull, "Butterbean," to community service and fines in connection with the dog's unprovoked attack that injured a 74-year-old woman. More (9News.Com 12.08.2006).
Annals of judicial expostulations. "A Chorley businessman has been called 'greedy and ruthless, with no moral scruples' by a judge over a fatal works incident...." More (Chorley Citizen - UK 12.08.2006).
Annals of judicial expostulations. "It is a personal affront to a judge." -- Circuit Court Judge Richard Wright, angrily commenting on a prosecutor's motion requesting he be removed as presiding judge from a felony prosecution of a former village president for misconduct in public office. "In the motion, [the prosecutor] states that she had been approached by several citizens who cited at least three occasions in which Wright had expressed opinions about the case ó one that occurred during a Ducks Unlimited banquet, a second that occurred in a conversation with John Cummings and a third conversation that was held with Marquette County District Attorney Richard DuFour...." More (Portage Daily Register 12.08.2006).
Annals of Islamic jurisprudence. Sheik Hussein Barre Rage, chairman of the Islamic court in Bulo Burto, Somalia, has decreed that all public places must close during prayer time and anyone who fails to pray five times a day "will definitely be beheaded according to Islamic law." More (Lone Star Times 12.08.2006).
Words in praise of a retiring, independent chief justice. "It is one of those merciful wonders that, in our fledgling democracy beholden to patronage and Mafia-style politics, we find chief justices who spurn the appointing power." -- Raul Pangalangan, writing in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Artemio V. Panganiban's "brief but historic watch as chief justice of the republic." More (Philippine Daily Inquirer 12.08.2006).
Ought justices keep their mouths shut? "A charitable way to put it is that justices, like writers, are better read than heard." -- Victor Agustin in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, commenting on the forensic skills, or lack thereof, demonstrated by Justice Conchita Carpio Morales and the new Chief Justice, Reynato Puno, at a farewell tribute to retiring Chief Justice Artemio. More (Philippine Daily Inquirer 12.08.2006).
Judge to counsel: 'Don't mistake me for Father Christmas.' "A Pretoria High Court judge...Mahomed Ismail was fed up with counsel arriving late, congested court rolls and absent interpreters. To top it all, an accused...wanted bail because his case could not proceed on Wednesday due to being double-booked. When counsel for [the accused] asked for his client to be released on bail, the judge said his [red robe] should not be mistaken for that of Father Christmas...." More (IOL 12.07.2006).
Attorney who supported opponent of judge's hubby claims retaliation. "A well-known Howell attorney and former Livingston County prosecutor filed a complaint Monday against Livingston County District Court Judge L. Suzanne Geddis, alleging she is retaliating against him for supporting her husband's challenger in the November judicial elections...." More (Daily Press and Argus 12.07.2006).
Dahlia Lithwick on Breyer vs. Scalia. "If judicial confirmation hearings in the Senate were one-tenth as illuminating as last night's debate between Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer at the Capitol Hilton, there would be a booming market for Supreme Court action figurines. Co-sponsored by the American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society (the Birkenstocks and bow ties of the legal universe), the debate has Breyer and Scalia whacking their way through the possibility of 'justice,' the limitations of constitutional history, and, throughout the evening -- the possibility of persuasion. The justices agree more than they differ, and they agree about nothing so much as the extent to which they agree. They agree in the majority of the cases they decide, and they agree that 'judicial activist' is a stupid label. They agree that religion cases are hard and that judicial minimalism is overrated. Still, when you're sitting close enough to see that Supreme Court justices actually wear socks, their differences are stark...." Dahlia Lithwick, Justice Grover Versus Justice Oscar - Scalia and Breyer sell very different constitutional worldviews (Slate 12.06.2006).
When Art bops Justice on the head. "The piece of the colorful art work called 'Floating Forms,' that hangs above the New Castle County Courthouse entrance may be coming down after one of its pieces crashed to the building's atrium floor last week. No one was injured when a seven-pound metal piece from the display fell about 4:05 p.m. Friday. The piece, which had been anchored incorrectly to the wall, fell about 20 feet and cracked a glass panel hanging over a set of metal detectors at the courthouse entrance...'Floating Forms,' by sculptor Bob Goodnough, went up in November 2005...The $50,000 display is part of the New Castle County Courthouse Art Committee's effort to bring art to the building...About $1 million, mostly from Delaware Bar members, has been raised to purchase much of the artwork -- and future displays -- seen in the 14-story building...." More (News Journal 12.07.2006).
Annals of judges driving drunk. "A Marion County judge who once chaired the state's alcoholic beverage commission has been arrested for drunk driving. Late Monday night on the near north side, police pulled over a driver whose car was weaving northbound on Keystone Ave. The driver turned out to be 51-year-old Judge John Hanley...[P]olice say Hanley's blood alcohol content tested at .16, double the legal limit...." More (WISH-TV 12.06.2006).
State supreme court, under fire, considers proposed reforms. "The Nevada Supreme Court on Tuesday indicated that it was prepared to take substantive steps toward reforming the state's judiciary, which has been plagued by allegations of cronyism, blatant conflicts of interest and judges who hand down money awards to friends and business associates...However[...j]ustices signaled that they considered a proposal to prohibit judges from personally soliciting or accepting campaign contributions a violation of constitutional rights...The measures that appeared to have support among the justices included [proposals] allow[ing] parties in some civil court cases to seek the removal of 'senior judges'...[requiring that] judges disclose when a former law clerk appears before them...[requiring disclosure] when judges have received contributions of more than $10,000 from 'the same or similar sources'...[and setting a] cap on the amount of campaign money a judge can keep after an election...." More (L.A. Times 12.06.2006).
Santa visits courthouse. "Celebration of Lights officially began Monday night in conjunction with the annual Saline County Christmas parade in Downtown Benton. Following the parade, several hundred children visited with Santa Claus at the courthouse gazebo, which has been transformed into a North Pole setting for the holiday season. Santa will continue to make visits to the courthouse to visit with children through Thursday, Dec. 21...The visits will be taking place from 6 to 7 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays...This Thursday, while Santa and his elves are at the site, Juvenile Judge Gary Arnold and his staff will serve free hot chocolate and cookies to children visiting Santa...On Dec. 18, Judge Lanny Fite and his staff will serve free refreshments to children visiting Santa...." More (Benton Courier 12.06.2006).
Annals of PWDP: Presiding While Dating a Party. "A Downstate judge violated ethics rules in 2003 by dating a woman while he was presiding over her divorce case, the state Judicial Inquiry Board alleged in a complaint filed Tuesday. Logan County Associate Judge Donald Behle also broke ethics rules in 2005 by presiding over a custody hearing without revealing that he knew one of the witnesses, the complaint alleged...." More (Chicago Tribune 12.06.2006).
The SCTRS: Supreme Court Traveling Road Show. "A day after voicing starkly opposing views on voluntary public school integration, U.S. Supreme Court justices Stephen G. Breyer and Antonin Scalia shed their robes and kept up their debate about their differences in interpreting the Constitution. The justices' traveling Supreme Court road show Tuesday did not venture very far, just to a Washington hotel ballroom. But the liberal Breyer and the conservative Scalia took part in a rare public discussion touching on some of the most contentious issues that have come before the court, including abortion, religion and the death penalty...." More (IHT 12.06.2006). Comments. a) Don't the justices have enough work to keep them busy? See, Breyer appears on FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace. b) For some of my views on judges going on the road, see, my comments and embedded links at Holding court in the great hall at Heidelberg College.
Courthouse as family's home away from home. "Each day, chances are good that [a father and two kids,] Bill, Amy and Jon Jeffress[,] will be applying their legal talents just a few doors down the hall from each other in the [E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse, Washington's federal court.] Bill is a defense attorney; Jon, a public defender; and Amy, a prosecutor. On the sixth floor [today]...father ...has been busy with pretrial hearings in a case that has rocked the White House. He represents I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, who is accused of lying to investigators probing the leak of a CIA operative's name. On the second floor, daughter Amy, 41, has been checking on narcotics cases she oversees for the U.S. Attorney's Office...And in a magistrate courtroom down the hall, Jonathan, 35, has been representing poor people as a public defender..." More (Washington Post 12.06.2006).
Woman claims she was fired from courthouse job for being a woman. "For more than three years, Bridget Hayes dealt with male employees who undermined her authority and unwanted sexual advances by a judge. Eventually, the judges of Iowa's 3rd Judicial District fired her based on slanderous statements made by many of those same employees and because she complained about sexual harassment, Hayes[, a former chief juvenile court officer,] claimed Tuesday, the first day of trial in her lawsuit against the state of Iowa...In his opening remarks to the jury, Assistant Iowa Attorney General Grant Dugdale said Hayes was fired because she did a poor job...." More (Sioux City Journal 12.06.2006). Update. "The judge at the center of a sexual harassment claim took the stand, today, during a civil suit filed by the former head of Juvenile Court Services. Bridget Hayes claims Judge John Ackerman touched her inappropriately; and other co-workers discriminated against her during her three years on the job...." More (KTIV 12.07.2006).
SCOTUS' caseload is way, way down. "The court has taken about 40 percent fewer cases so far this term than last. It now faces noticeable gaps in its calendar for late winter and early spring...The number of cases the court decided with signed opinions last term, 69, was the lowest since 1953 and fewer than half the number the court was deciding as recently as the mid-1980s. And aside from the school integration and global warming cases the court heard last week, along with the terrorism-related cases it has decided in the last few years, relatively few of the cases it is deciding speak to the core of the country's concerns...." More (N.Y. Times 12.07.2006). Comment. Here's an oldie-but-goodie quote-of-the-day from last summer: "No justice worth his or her salt should need a bunch of kids who have never (or barely) practiced law to draft opinions for him or her. Yet that is exactly what the Court now has -- four clerks in each chamber to handle the lightest caseload in modern history. The justices -- who, unlike lower-court judges, donít have to hear any case they donít wish to -- have cut their number of full decisions by more than half, from over 160 in 1945 to about 80 today. During the same period they have quadrupled their retinue of clerks...." From Stuart Taylor and Benjamin Wittes, Of Clerks and Perks - Why Supreme Court justices have more free time than ever -- and why it should be taken away (The Atlantic July 2006).
Government by lawyers? "The judiciary has an inherent and insidious bias in favor of legal procedures and solutions that has led to an expansion of judicial influence over nearly every sector of society from schools and prisons to religion and medicine, said Chief Judge Dennis G. Jacobs of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York at a lecture at Fordham Law School...Jacobs, delivering his first speech since becoming chief judge as part of the Law School's John F. Sonnett Memorial Lecture, said that the bias displayed by judges is not a political one, but one that places legal thought and solutions above all else in society. The 'inbred' preference by judges to find solutions to public policy and other issues through the legal process is infused with a kind of smugness that such procedures 'produce the best results.'" More (Fordham.Edu 12.07.2006).
Imagine yourself working for judges. "Imagine waking up on a Monday morning to start pupillage with one of the finest minds in the legal profession. Imagine arriving at work later that morning to find that you have to work on one of the most complex and high-profile appeal cases in recent years. Imagine then being put on the spot by three Lord or Lady Justices of Appeal who want to know why you have taken the view you have as to the disposal of the appeal. If you can imagine this, then you have a reasonable idea of what it feels like to be a judicial assistant to the Court of Appeal. While it may sound daunting, being a judicial assistant offers young barristers invaluable experience of working with judges at the highest level and can only serve to enhance their career prospects...." More (Legal Week 12.06.2006).
Does judicial decision give X-mas joy to adulterers? "Here's good news for all those cheating on their spouses. A landmark high court judgement in Britain, the first of its kind, has blocked kiss and tell stories. Justice Eady's order restrained a cuckolded husband, called AB for public consumption, from revealing the name of a celebrity, a high-profile sports personality[, identified as CC,] who allegedly had a roaring affair with ABís wife. They met in hotels all over Europe and the United States to which the lady flew at the celebrity's expense...CC had pleaded that if his philandering was exposed it would upset his wife and children...." More (Hindustan Times 12.06.2006).
Courthouse lawn to get makeover. "The Culpeper County Courthouse lawn will get its first real face-lift in almost 100 years. The Board of Supervisors voted yesterday to proceed with a makeover estimated to cost $216,000. Since no public funds were appropriated, most of the renovation costs will come from public donations. Work will proceed as the money comes in. County Environmental Services Director P.J. Howard yesterday unveiled the new plan, which includes a canopied stage for lawn concerts...." More (The Free Lance-Star 12.06.2006). Comments. For our views on why adding flowers and holding concerts at courthouses may do more to enhance courthouse security than adding fences and scanners, see my comments and embedded links at: Prayer Day at the county courthouse. - Building courthouses with security in mind - BurtLaw and Montaigne on Court Security - How about a courthouse surrounded by & filled with flowers?
What if they held court and the judges didn't show up? "The judges of the Supreme Court on Tuesday started their unprecedented en masse boycott of the court, grounding the justice delivery system in the highest judiciary in protest against the mayhem and vandalism that took place in the Supreme Courtís premises on November 30..." More (Weekly Blitz - Bangladesh 12.06.2006).
When Judges streak. "Four Brandeis [Judges] starters scored in double figures, paced by sophomore Kevin Olsonís career-best 22 as the Judges improved to 9-0 for just the third time in school history with a 66-51 win over Clark University in Red Auerbach Arena last night...Their 11-game winning skein that includes the last two games of the 2005-06 season is the second-longest in school history to an 18-game streak that spanned the 1953-54 and 1954-55 seasons...." More (Daily News Tribune 12.06.2006).
Annals of judicial commissions. "The president of a freedom of information group said Tuesday that he is concerned about a lack of media representation on a committee investigating how the court system can protect users from identity theft. The committee is an offshoot of an 18-member task force that met earlier this year to consider ways to make the judicial branch more open to the public. Acting state Supreme Court Chief Justice David M. Borden established the task force in response to an uproar involving former Chief Justice William Sullivan, who delayed the release of a high court decision earlier this year to help a colleague's chances of being confirmed to succeed him. Gov. M. Jodi Rell appointed a commission to examine similar issues...." More (Newsday 12.06.2006). Further reading. Those 'blue-ribbon commissions' and 'task forces.'
Don't get into fight with judge at Kid Rock concert. "Two people who got into a fight with a Milwaukee County judge have paid tickets for disorderly conduct. It stems from a fight at a Kid Rock show at the Rave on July 22...." More (WTMJ-TV 12.06.2006). Earlier. Beating up the judge - literally.
Judge pleads guilty to filing false expense accounts, resigns. "A veteran Geary County district judge[, Judge Larry Bengtson,] on Monday pleaded guilty to filing false expense accounts, then resigned his judgeship and gave up his law license...Bengston also resigned his judgeship, effective Monday, and gave up his law license. Bengston admitted that he filed expense vouchers for trips he never took and that he called a couple planning to be married, told them a judge wasn't available and persuaded the couple to reschedule, so he could be paid for the ceremony...." More (Kansas.Com 12.06.2006). Further reading. See, Reining in supreme court justices' expense account spending?
Lawyer is arrested for slashing tires on car of judge, her former lover. "Haifa police arrested defense attorney Galia Salvetski last week under suspicion that she had slashed the tires of a private car belonging to Haifa District Court judge Oded Gershon. Police suspect Salvetski slashed Gershon's tires on several separate occasions, slashing 21 tires in all. The suspected motive for her actions is a four-year romantic relationship between the two that had recently ended...." More (Haaretz 12.06.2006).
Indian village hails daughter who is judge in U.S. "It is a typically poor village in Bihar but with one key difference. A girl born here occupies a top judicial position in the US and the small village is waiting to felicitate her. Sabita Singh, appointed judge of the District Circuit Court of Massachusetts last month, has become an icon for the people of Mureka in Saran district, about 300 km from the state capital. She is the first South Asian woman to become an American district judge...." More (Telugu Portal 12.04.2006). More (Indian New England).
Judge is irked with noisy kids ice skating outside his court. "York's top judge got hot under the collar when schoolchildren ventured into a winter wonderland just outside his court. Staff at the ice rink at the Eye of York tested out a public address system to help the youngsters' day out...The Recorder of York, Judge Paul Hoffman, told barristers: 'We have been promised there would be no intrusive noise. But I have never heard anything as loud as this before. It is impossible to work under these conditions. It is just impossible to concentrate.' A court official hurried outside to convey His Honour's comments to the ice rink staff and the microphone was immediately switched off...The judge's complaint is only the latest about noise in the Eye of York. In September, he complained about music from the merry-go-round which entertained children during the summer months. In 2000, he halted a trial when the music of a marching band disturbed the courtroom hush...Since it opened ten days ago, the rink round the tree in the middle of the Eye of York has proved a big draw with children and adults. It will remain until after Christmas...." More (York Press 12.04.2006). Earlier. See, The carousel outside the courthouse is making the judge 'very angry.' 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'? c) Curbing noise pollution near courthouse (Mumbai Newsline 09.16.2006).
Judge kills self four days after handing down landmark ruling. "An Osaka High Court judge died Sunday morning in his Hyogo Prefecture home in an apparent suicide four days after handing down a landmark ruling on the controversial resident registry system. Shogo Takenaka, 64, was the presiding judge when the high court ruled Thursday that listing people on the Juki Net national resident registry network without their consent is unconstitutional. The court, citing a request from his family, did not comment on how Takenaka died at his home in the city of Takarazuka. But police sources said he was found hanged in the second floor of the house at around 9 a.m. and was later confirmed dead...." More (Japan Times 12.04.2006).
Courts battling 'CSI' effect. "While selecting a jury for a recent rape trial, Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Stan Levco asked potential jurors a question that raised eyebrows. 'Who watches shows like CSI and Law and Order?'
More than half the hands in the jury pool went up. The question is one prosecutors say they almost always ask potential jurors now. 'Particularly if we don't have spectacular scientific evidence,' Levco said. The question is only the first step prosecutors take to explain to jurors that criminal cases in the real world aren't like those on popular television dramas...." More (Henderson Gleaner - KY 12.04.2006).
Transcript of Justice Breyer's talk with Fox News Sunday. "The following is a partial transcript of the Dec. 3, 2006, edition of FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace...." More (Fox News 12.04.2006).
Your courts: secrecy hides cozy ties in guardianships. "Potential conflicts of interest radiate through guardianship cases, a Seattle Times investigation has found. The roles played by lawyers, guardians, court-appointed investigators and investment managers often overlap or blur. Sometimes, the same person assumes multiple responsibilities that would normally be kept separate. And who's to know? The Weed file, for instance, has been stamped secret -- one of hundreds of such cases to be improperly removed from public scrutiny. Judges and court commissioners across the state have sealed the entire file in at least 398 guardianship cases since 1990, The Times found during its ongoing series investigating concealed court records. Most of the cases were sealed in King County...." More (Seattle Times 12.04.2006).
Golf with the justices. "Some time ago the Supreme Court ordered a stop to a charity golf tournament with RTC judges being organized in Wack Wack by a motel magnate...Still, for a well-connected few, there is another, very exclusive judicial tournament played in exotic locales, sanctioned by the Supreme Court no less. The players this time happen to be the very same Supreme Court justices themselves, with the chief promoter, Accra's name partner, Avelino Cruz, organizing the tournament 'to foster interaction and mutual cooperation among lawyers and judges'...Past tournaments had been held in Kuala Lumpur's Tropicana, Chiang Rai's Santiburi, Bali's Le Meridien, and Singapore's Country Club, as well as in the Philippines' very own Wack Wack, Sta. Elena and Manila Golf Club...." More (INQ7 12.03.2006).
Judge Greg Mathis: Michael Richards should pay for using 'N' word. "African American Judge Greg Mathis said that comedian Michael Richards should 'pay for his offensive behavior'...Mathis, who hosts a television show and is also Chairman of Jesse Jacksonís Rainbow/PUSH-Excel Board, has made controversial statements of his own. In referring to President Bush having won two elections, Mathis gave what was described as a 'fiery speech' when he said in part: 'The Supreme Court was an accomplice to the biggest election crime in history in 2000!'" More (The Conservative Voice 12.02.2006).
High court judge is charged with murder in shooting man on his roof. "A high court judge who climbed onto his roof to investigate some strange noises is now facing murder charges. A witness claims she saw the judge stood in his dressing gown pointing a shotgun at a man on the roof. He pulled the trigger and the man came rolling down and landed flat out in the garden. She says the man was dressed in a red suit with white trim. Police have confirmed that the dead man was Santa Claus and that they have taken the judge in for questioning...." More (The Spoof 12.01.2006). Compare and contrast, Rooftop protester accuses judge of aiming gun at him.
Judge says his court's record as 'judicial hellhole' is 'ill-deserved.' "In Madison County Circuit Judge Lola Maddox's final days on the bench she took a few moments to reflect on her experience...[She said, in part, ']I believe that the reforms that have been implemented since Judge Callis became Chief Judge have helped improve the image of the judiciary in the Third Circuit and lessen our ill-deserved image as a judicial 'hellhole.'" More (Madison County Record 12.01.2006).
Kyoto discord: ex-judge must compensate woman he stalked. "KYOTO -- A former judge has been ordered to compensate a woman for persistently stalking her, a local court has ruled. The Kyoto District Court has ordered the 49-year-old former judge to pay 110,000 yen in damages to the 32-year-old plaintiff, who worked as a court clerk. Both previously worked at the Amagasaki branch of the Kobe District Court...The names of the plaintiff and the defendant are being withheld...." More (Mainichi Daily News 12.01.2006).
Ex-judge is hired to root out patronage in Cook County. "A federal judge approved a plan Thursday meant to root out widespread political patronage in Cook County government, where having a sponsor with clout has long been the key to getting on the payroll. U. S. District Judge Wayne R. Andersen, who appointed a federal monitor to oversee hiring practices at Chicago City Hall last year, named a retired circuit judge, Julia M. Nowicki, to monitor how county jobs in departments overseen by the county board president are handed out...." More (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 12.01.2006).
Annals of judicial discipline.
a) "[S]tate Superior Court [J]udge [Judge Bill Mathesius] will be suspended from his job for [30 days without pay for] using harsh words against jurors, a defense lawyer and even appeals court judges, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Thursday...The complaints levied against Mathesius include: Entering a jury room after its members had acquitted a defendant in a gun possession case and asking the jurors 'what the hell' they were thinking when they came to their decision...." More (Newsday 11.30.2006). Comment. The judge raised a First Amendment defense to some of the complaints. One complaint was that he i) sent a letter to Judge Jane Grall, an appeals panel judge, criticizing her for overturning his ruling in a robbery case, ii) told Grall's law clerk during a bar association dinner that Grall was "inexperienced and not competent," iii) engaged in "an angry tirade" over the robbery decision during a panel discussion. Hmm, there have been numerous instances of trial judges complaining to appellate judges about specific decisions after final judgment and of publicly criticizing such decisions, without adverse repercussions to them for their complaints and criticisms. We believe the First Amendment protects these communications.
b) "Orange County Superior Court Judge James M. Brooks, [69,] was publicly admonished Wednesday for demeaning and intimidating a husband and wife involved in a civil case, and making prejudicial comments to a Syrian woman involved in a separate property dispute. The commission's action against Brooks follows previous advisories for referring to Latino defendants as 'Pedro,' and for telling a defendant in a sexual molestation case how he would react if the victim had been his daughter: 'I would go down and punch the defendant's lights out'...." More (L.A. Times 11.30.2006). Comment. According to the newspaper, Brooks's biography on the county court's website indicates he was named judge of the year in 1989 by the California Judges Assn.
c) "Phrases like 'good luck' and 'thank you' were commonplace Tuesday morning in Luzerne County Judge Ann H. Lokutaís courtroom...Judge Lokutaís demeanor was polite and professional -- the opposite of her alleged abusive, crude and rude attitude outlined in a 24-page complaint filed Monday by the state Judicial Conduct Board...Judge Lokuta said Tuesday she...will publicly prove she has done nothing wrong...." More (Scranton Times-Tribune 11.29.2006).
Annals of judicial-spousal discipline. "[Joyce Wilhelmina Davies t]he wife of [Judge Joseph Gibson,] a Sydney District Court judge[,] received her first conviction today -- at the age of 62 -- for biting a police officer and violently resisting police efforts to arrest her after three unsuccessful attempts to provide a roadside breath test...Davies, who was fined a total of $900 and ordered to pay $134 in court costs on the two convictions, is expected to appeal...." More (Sydney Morning Herald 11.30.2006).
Judge is arrested on weapons charge. "Senior District Judge Donald H. Presutti was arrested Wednesday when police said he was found carrying a loaded, concealed handgun in West View...." More (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 11.30.2006). Attorney says judge's gun was for safety (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 12.01.2006).
A chief resigns after other judges complain. "[Charles J. Kahn, t]he former chief judge of the 1st District Court of Appeal[,] resigned as its leader last month amid complaints about court management and personal relations among the members, according to documents obtained Wednesday through a public records request..." More (The Ledger 11.30.2006).
Judge's wife pregnant one month after wedding; case filed. "It should be time for celebration if a husband learns that his wife is seven to eight months pregnant. A judge of a city court in Udupi got these very tidings. But the only hitch keeping him from celebrating was that they were married only last month. And so, he wasted no time in filing a complaint of cheating against his newly wed wife...." More (Bellevision 11.30.2006). Comment. What if Joseph had so complained about the Virgin Mary's pregnancy?
A judge who loved and stole the limelight. "Although George Taylor Denison III wasn't exactly a hanging judge, over the course of the 44 years that he presided over a Toronto police court, he could never be accused of letting the law stand in the way of justice. He often ignored precedent unless it conformed to his point of view, preferred speedy judgment to a lengthy presentation of evidence, and relied as much on intuition as the balance of probability in determining a verdict. More than once he made a decision that seemed contrary to the facts and he was not above shouting down the accused or his lawyer to make a point...." From an interesting profile of a judge who died, at age 86, in 1925...." More (Toronto Star 11.30.2006). Comment. To a judge who has to struggle to repress the George Taylor Denison in his soul/psyche, those were the good old days.
Murder case jurors' after-hours hotel hijinks didn't taint verdict. "Several male jurors in last month's trial of John R. Myers II, convicted in Jill Behrman's murder, engaged in high jinks, including painting their toenails and racing down a hotel hallway in a bailiff's backless high heels, but the judge said that horseplay and other actions didn't warrant a new trial...." More (Indianapolis Star 11.30.2006).
Sharia courts now operating in UK. "Secret courts imposing draconian Islamic justice are operating across Britain. Last night politicians and religious leaders expressed outrage that sharia law is gaining an increasing foothold in our society...The scandal was outlined on BBC Radio 4ís Law in Action programme which uncovered evidence that Muslims are using their own laws here...." More (UK Daily Express ("The World's Greatest Newspaper") 11.30.2006).
A shiny new gem of a courthouse. There's a new federal courthouse in Eugene, OR, the Wayne Lyman Morse U.S. Courthouse...The design embraces light and materials to bring the outside in and the inside out...[T]raditional courthouses were located on the second floor of a building in the town square. Light shone in for the court process, while light shone out to inform the public that court was in session. The new courtrooms bring natural light in on three sides and have a spiral light fixture overhead that can be seen blocks away shining through the windows when court is in session...." More (Register-Guard 11.30.2006).
Annals of courthouse art. "Three other artists who created new works for the Wayne Morse Federal Courthouse downtown got paid a lot less than lead artist Matthew Ritchie, but delivered more art and less high-concept for their money...." More (Register-Guard 11.30.2006). Comment. Two artists were paid around $45,000 each for their contributions, and one got paid $164,000. I always say, you ought to pay artists by the relative size of their works, with a large canvas getting twice what a canvas half as large would get. Same with judges -- the ones who write bloated footnote-laden opinions ought to get paid more than the twerps who write short little beautifully-crafted Holmesean-style opinions.
Assize Courts building is on market for £1 million. "The Assize Courts building in Northgate Street, Devizes, has been put up for auction with a guide price of over £1 million, despite being derelict for nearly 20 years. Although the buildings have planning permission for conversion to 20 flats, many were surprised at the high price for a building that will require extensive work just to make it safe...." More (This Is Wiltshire 11.30.2006).
She kept order in the court. "Over the years, Bernice Borden listened to a lot of excuses from people who missed court dates...Today, she will hear the last of the excuses when she retires after 36 years of working for four Wake County clerks of Superior Court, including outgoing clerk Janet Pueschel...Borden, 56, supervises a dozen deputy clerks and handles more than 7,700 criminal files annually filed in Wake County's Superior Court system. At 4 feet, 9 inches...she roams the 12 floors of the courthouse chasing after misplaced files and stopping by courtrooms to help judges...." More (News and Observer 11.30.2006).
Public screening of high court aspirants is called off. "Five magistrates of the Supreme Court (SC) who are vying for the position of chief justice along with Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Wednesday made good their promise not to attend the first-ever public interview conducted by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC)...." More (Manila Sun Star 11.29.2006).
Woman pleads to forging judge's signature. "[Carrie J. McMillan, 31, of Grand Blanc, MI], who police said forged a judge's name to an expired eviction notice at the apartment complex where she worked, is pleading guilty in a deal with prosecutors...to attempted forgery, a 5-year felony...." More (Flint Journal 11.29.2006).
Annals of judging: Speed judging. "A perfect performance by Richard Webster saw him triumph in the Welwyn Wheelers and Team Welwyn speed judging competition. The event requires riders to complete two laps of the circuit, with the winner being the cyclist who can clock the smallest time difference between the laps -- without the aid of a timer. Team Welwyn's Webster completed his two circuits in exactly the same time to clinch a well-deserved win...." More (Herts 24 11.29.2006).
The life of a specialized, limited jurisdiction judge. "Lesson No. 1: If ever you judge a wine competition, carry a toothbrush. Use it often. Lesson No. 2: Should you find yourself tasting nearly four dozen stout red wines, have a bottle of palate-cleansing champagne handy. Lesson No. 3: A scarf around the neck stops the dribble (says a smartly dressed judge)...." More (Houston Chronicle 11.29.2006). Cf, Judging the art of football (West Hamp Football 11.29.2006); Making Spirits Bright judges are in town (Williams Lake Tribune 11.30.2006).
Brooklyn judge writes anti-immigration children's book. "Unhappy with the childrenís books on the market, a Brooklyn criminal court judge has written a picture book that uses a horticultural metaphor to deplore the perils of unchecked immigration. In The Hot House Flowers, self-published by Judge John H. Wilson, an envious dandelion releases her seeds into a hothouse, where they grow and eventually use up so much water and food that thereís none left for the plants that were already there. In the end, the master of the hothouse -- clearly standing for God -- removes the dandelions...." More (Boston Herald 11.28.2006). Comment. According to the story, there's a New York ethics panel decision that allows a state judge to write a fiction (but not a nonfiction) book on controversial topics so long as the judge doesn't use his judicial office promote it. Update. Legal Aid joins immigration groups in thrashing judge's children's book (N.Y. Daily News 11.30.2006).
Court launches webcasting plan. "Maryland's highest court is launching a project for live Webcasting of its sessions, hoping to be ready in time to broadcast arguments set for Dec. 4 in a high-profile case involving gay marriage...." More (Houston Chronicle 11.28.2006).
Judge offered settlement in defamation case. "An attorney for Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Thomas said Monday that his client offered to accept a reduced settlement after a $7 million victory in a defamation case against a Kane County newspaper, but opposing attorneys did not respond...." More (Chicago Tribune 11.28.2006).
Protester on judge's roof. "A judge could face police questioning after claims he aimed a gun at a member of Fathers 4 Justice who was staging a protest on his roof. Judge David Tyzack was accused of brandishing the weapon at a campaigner who climbed on top of his country residence dressed as Father Christmas...Judge Tyzack admits holding the gun, [but] he insists it was because he believed an 'injured bird' had landed on his roof...." Rooftop protester accuses judge of aiming gun (This Is London 11.29.2006).
Embattled judge requests more time off. "A federal judge who took leave from the bench while simultaneously dealing with the death of his wife and a federal investigation has applied to extend the furlough up to six months more. Thomas Porteous...lost the roof of his Metairie home to Hurricane Katrina and then mourned his wife, Carmella, who died of a heart attack in December. In the meantime, a grand jury has been hearing testimony from his longtime secretary, Rhonda Danos, and several lawyers with whom the judge is friendly...." More (New Orleans Times-Picayune 11.27.2006).
Judge is slammed for Chinese slur. "A New Zealand judge has been criticised for suggesting...that Chinese people are hard to identify...Judge Thomas Everitt made the comments during a bail hearing at the Auckland District Court for Eng Phuan, an ethnic Chinese facing drugs charges...Everitt denied bail, saying Eng was likely to be able to obtain false travel documents and enlist the help of Asian syndicates to flee New Zealand. He then said: 'Indeed to New Zealand eyes, people of Chinese extraction or race are difficult to identify, facially and also by name,' the report said...." More (Peninsula Online 11.27.2006).
Texas courthouse anecdotes and trivia. "When Wharton County Judge W.J. Croom and his commissioners announced plans to build a new courthouse, rancher Able 'Shanghai' Pierce raised such a ruckus the governor had to call in the Texas Rangers to keep the peace...The Wharton County Courthouse and its tale are among 100 profiled in Historic Texas Courthouses, a 276-page coffee table book written by attorney and former Houston U.S. Rep. Michael Andrews and illustrated by architectural photographers Paul Hester and Lisa Hardaway...." Book chronicles historic courthouses in Texas (Fort Worth Star-Telegram 11.26.2006).
Did God guide judge-elect to church? For a letter-to-the-editor suggesting that Judge-elect David Hastyís visit to a church during the recent election campaign was 'led by God,' see, Letter to the Observer (Fayettville Observer 11.25.2006).
Annals of pipefitters and the law. "A judge told an apprentice [plumber] it was 'a great shame' he had carried out a near-fatal bottle attack because 'the world needs plumbers.' Lord McLean made the remark at the High Court in Glasgow as he was sentencing 19-year-old Kevin Quinn to 40 months' detention...." More (Glasgow Daily Record 11.24.2006).
Our Motto - "Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat" (Horace). Loose translation: Does anything prevent telling the truth with a smile?
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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.