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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.
Bush commutes 'Scooter' Libby's prison sentence. "President Bush said today that he had used his power of clemency to commute the 30-month sentence for I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, who was convicted of perjury in March and was due to begin serving his time within weeks. The action, announced just hours after a federal appeals court denied Mr. Libby's request to allow him to remain free while his case is on appeal, spares Mr. Libby his prison term, but it does not excuse him from stiff fines or probation...." Bush explained, in part: "I respect the jury's verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive." More (NYT 07.02.2007). Comment. Four comments. a) Believing that, if need be, Bush eventually (late in 2008 or early in 2009) will issue an outright pardon, we think the commutation gives Libby the best of both worlds: he won't have to serve any time in the clinker and, if he wants, he still can go forward with the appeal, which may well give him a reversal of his conviction, something that may be better, from his perspective, than a pardon. b) It's funny that Bush, of all people, who never saw an Alberto-Gonzales-reviewed death warrant he wasn't gung-ho to sign, thinks the sentence was excessive. I, too, think it was excessive, but I'm an old believer in rehabilitation (and quaint things like redemption) and a softie on punishment, believing we incarcerate way too many people for way too long a time and ought never kill people for criminal conduct. See, Burton Hanson on Crime and Punishment, and comments accompanying Former judge to serve year under house arrest. c) The botoxicated Hillary Clinton, who brought the big lug along to Iowa yesterday to help her out (that's okay, guys have been bringing their Pat's & Betty's & Hillary's along for generations to help them out),
spoke to the BBC about the commutation. (I typically leave the BBC on on my radio all night long and listen in my sleep so I heard it all night long.) She said, presumably with a straight face: "What we saw today was elevating cronyism over the rule of law. And what we saw today was further evidence that this administration has no regard whatsoever for what needs to be held sacred."
I guess we should file that under "Chutzpah." We never agreed with those who tried to impeach and remove Bill Clinton but we also shouldn't forget that it was Bill Clinton himself who benefited from a pretty sweet plea on January 19, 2001, shortly before he left office, a deal negotiated by his lawyers and Special Prosecutor Ray and President-elect Bush's lawyer. See, Nat Hentoff, Clinton's Deal: Justice Denied (Village Voice 02.14.2001 issue). Nor should we forget that Bill Clinton himself sort of "elevated cronyism" to Mt. Everest heights when, hours before he left office on January 20, 2001 he announced he'd granted 140 pardons (and several commutations), including controversial pardons to his own half-brother, old political cronies, former office-holders, and big campaign contributors. See, Bill Clinton Pardons Controversy (Wikipedia). d) Two trends, mong many others, have been apparent at least since the Nixon presidency: the politicization of crime, and the crimilization of politics. Here's a related one: the pardon power seems to be used primarily to pardon the politically powerful and/or influential or those whose cases have caught the attention of the politically powerful and/or influential.
Inmate temporarily holds people hostage in courthouse using 'paper gun.' "[Inmate] Andre David Leffebre, 44, took several hostages this morning at the Jefferson County Courthouse with the use of a paper gun, according the Sheriff's Department...." More (Port Arthur News - Texas 07.02.2007). Comments. a) Lest you think this is something new, see, Student is suspended for possessing paper gun made from folding sheet of loose-leaf paper (Newport Daily Press 11.02.2000); Inmate escapes using toilet paper gun (CNN 02.08.2004). b) One needs, I think, to distinguish between paper guns painstakingly made to look and feel like real guns, on the one hand, and those paper "pop" guns we made as kids out of paper which "popped" when given a quick tomahawk downward movement of the hand holding the "gun." Further reading. How to make a paper cracker - Free rubber band gun plans - Rubber band guns - How to make a paper-wad-shooting gun. Variations. Similar childhood toy guns that I recall making and/or using in the 1950's include: rubber guns, peashooters, slingshots, cap guns, squirt guns, pingpong guns, bb gun.
Advice from Emerson: Don't be fooled into thinking a popgun is real. "[I]t becomes [Man Thinking] to feel all confidence in himself, and to defer never to the popular cry. He and he only knows the world. The world of any moment is the merest appearance. Some great decorum, some fetish of a government, some ephemeral trade, or war, or man, is cried up by half mankind and cried down by the other half, as if all depended on this particular up or down. The odds are that the whole question is not worth the poorest thought which the scholar has lost in listening to the controversy. Let him not quit his belief that a popgun is a popgun, though the ancient and honorable of the earth affirm it to be the crack of doom. In silence, in steadiness, in severe abstraction, let him hold by himself; add observation to observation, patient of neglect, patient of reproach; and bide his own time, -- happy enough, if he can satisfy himself alone, that this day he has seen something truly. Success treads on every right step. For the instinct is sure, that prompts him to tell his brother what he thinks. He then learns, that in going down into the secrets of his own mind, he has descended into the secrets of all minds...." -- From Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar, An Oration delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Cambridge, August 31, 1837.
How's judicial independence doing in Hong Kong now the Reds are in charge? A good article on this appears today, 07.03.2007, in the UK Times. Click here.
Judge doesn't seem to like school's super-strict dress code. "Students seeking to knock out Redwood Middle School's strict dress code won the first round Monday, when Napa County Superior Court Judge Raymond Guadagni ruled the students and their families 'established a substantial likelihood' of winning their constitutional challenge to the code...[Plaintiffs argue that the] -- which bans denim, clothes with logos, stripes and articles of certain colors -- violates First Amendment rights and the state educational code...[O]ne of the students in the lawsuit charged she was disciplined for wearing socks with the Disney character Tigger from Winnie the Pooh stitched on them...." More (Napa Valley Register 07.03.2007). Comment. "Before I built a wall I'd ask to know/ What I was walling in or walling out,/ And to whom I was like to give offence./ Something there is that doesn't love a wall,/ That wants it down!" Robert Frost (1874-1963), Mending Wall, North of Boston (1915). Something there is in the soul of a freedom-loving American (be he a school kid or a boss or anyone else) that doesn't love a dress code. Too often we in the law get everything backwards. We say corporations have more rights under the First Amendment than school kids and we leave the kids with a sour taste in their mouths -- about education, about the law, about authority. Related reading. On courthouse dress codes and judicial fashions, see, Courthouse Fashion, part I: Another judge tries instituting courthouse dress code; Courthouse Fashion, part II: The Viking influence on judicial fashions; Courthouse Fashion, part III: Judges voice objection to some lawyers' attire. Note. Not content to just comment on courthouse dress codes and fashions, we've been trend-setters in designing new and more versatile BurtLaw Super-Privacy Robes, in marketing innovative BurtLaw Judge-Endorsed Bench Pants and BurtLaw Judicial Swimsuits, in identifying the need for judicial makeovers, in developing BurtLaw Gravi-Tox, in creating BurtLaw Judicial Hair Extensions...the list goes on....
Ye olde courthouse ice cream social. "The Henderson County Historic Courthouse Corp. is sponsoring an ice cream social, with free ice cream, music and a short program, at 2 p.m. Wednesday in front of the Historic Courthouse...." More (Times-News - NC 07.02.2007). Comments. a) If I come, will I be searched from head to toe and have my cell-phone confiscated? :-) b) Here's a fresh old idea that just came to me for the judicial outreach folks: Why not let the bar association types hold a court basket-social fundraiser at which judge groupie types, pro-se litigants, courthouse cranks, etc., can bid on baskets prepared by judges, lawyers in big firms, etc.? A good time will be had by all. For a contemporary newspaper account of the Long Creek Baptist Basket Social in 1892 on Prince Edward Island, click here. Might Anne Shirley have talked Matthew into driving her over from Avonlea to attend this? Perhaps hers was the basket that sold for a whopping $7.55.
Lord Wilson: 'We must leave our pomposities in the wig box.' "Insofar as we judges may come more frequently to see the children face to face, we must leave our pomposities in our wig boxes; file away our verbal conceits; take time; not patronise; and, above all, never mislead." - Lord Justice Wilson, the Association of Lawyers for Children annual Hershman Levy Memorial Lecture on 06.28.2007. Lecture text.
A bribe is not like a potato. "In a small room that looks like a prison cell, files stand in waist-high piles on the floor. An official explains there is no fixed price for a bribe to pick one out and send it moving through the courts. 'It is not like potatoes or rice,' says Hamidullah, 25. 'It depends on the case. There is corruption because the salaries are so low,' he explains, saying he earns 2,500 afghani (50 dollars) a month...." -- From an article on a conference being held on 07.02-07.03 in Rome on establishing the rule of law in Afghanistan. More (Khaleej Times 07.02.2007).
A reporter spends a couple hours at the courthouse. a) "If you put the wheels of justice on your car, you'd stall on the interstate entrance ramp and get rear-ended by common sense." b) "It felt like watching a team of lawyers tackle themselves in a football game while the opposition stared in bewilderment." -- Observations by reporter Mark Guydish, who spent a couple hours at the courthouse the other day. More (Wilkes Barre Times-Leader - Opinion 07.02.2007).
Judge feels bad about role in convicting man who may soon be executed. "'I knew right away that something was wrong with his confession,' said the former judge, Norimichi Kumamoto, after he finally went public with his belief that he had participated in sentencing an innocent man [Iwao Hakamada] to die. Kumamoto, 70, quit the bench six months after the 1968 trial, and says he has carried 'hurt in his heart' over his role in sending Hakamada to death row. 'I have always regretted that I couldn't persuade the chief judge' to acquit,' he says...." More (L.A. Times 05.12.2007). According to Kyodo News, Judge Kumamoto tried today (07.02.2007) to visit Hakamada, who may soon be executed, but was refused permission to do so. More (Kyodo News 07.02.2007).
Courthouse acoustics. "The small courtroom in Dothan's federal courthouse is ornate and imposing, but not particularly well-suited as a venue for litigation in issues of vital significance. The ceilings are high and sounds tend to waft upward rather than outward, so the few spectators who are able to squeeze into the shallow gallery have difficulty hearing the proceedings...." From a report in the Dothan Alabama newspaper of a hearing held in an old federal courthouse. More (Dothan Eagle 07.01.2007). Further reading. For some interesting links on courtroom acoustics, click here.
The joy of delegation. "Alarmed over the rise in the number of attacks on judges and violence in court premises across the state, a delegation of judges met Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan Saturday to voice their concern... Chouhan is reported to have directed the Principal Secretary (Home) Satya Prakash to look into the matter, ensure security of the judges and post adequate security personnel in court premises." More (Hindustan Times 07.02.2007). Comment. BurtLaw Rule: Fellow delegators in the body politic, always remember to delegate a task in as general, all-inclusive way as possible, thereby allowing you, when things inevitably go bad and the people (pronounced "peepull" by the Great American Railsplitter) complain, to fire the delegatee on the ground that he didn't comply with your directive.
County courthouse ownership transfers to state continue in CA. "Alameda County agreed last week to hand the title of three county courthouse buildings to the state as part of a five-year-old law created to lessen the burden the growing court system has on county budgets...The agreement stems from a state law passed in 2002 that mandated the state take full control of all superior court buildings and offices by June 30 of this year. The law was created to help counties deal with the increased costs of housing an expanding court system that is controlled by the state...[and] to ensure all courthouses were on equal footing...." More (San Jose Mercury News 07.02.2007). Comment. We have mixed feelings about this. Local ownership encourages local responsibility, local innovation. Just as the states may serve as laboratories of innovation in federalism, counties also may serve as laboratories of innovation. Moreover, putting everyone on an equal footing not only may be problematic when "everyone" includes disparate rural and urban counties but may mean the standard for all becomes that of the lowest common denominator. But, there's much to be said for the state's role in ensuring that county courts meet standards of fairness, that they not become dens of "hometown justice" (a/k/a "hometown prejudice"), etc.
Posner says Auusie news report of his speech to Aussie judges was a 'garble.' "An article in [an Australian newspaper Friday, 06.29.2007] said...Judge Richard Posner frightened Australian lawyers and judges meeting in Chicago last week by advocating 'secret trials' and other 'big brother' programs to fight terrorism...'The report...is a complete garble,' Posner wrote in an e-mail. 'I don't advocate secret trials, profiling, or the characterization of the conflict with terrorism as a war'...[The article] describes...Posner as 'a supposedly liberal-leaning jurist regarded by many as a future U.S. Supreme Court candidate.' Actually, Posner is a Republican-appointed, free-market-oriented jurist with a libertarian streak, regarded as too conservative to be nominated to the Supreme Court by a Democrat, but not reliably conservative enough to be nominated by a Republican...." More (Chicago Sun-Times 07.02.2007). Comment. Guys like Posner and Alex Kosinski are no longer considered appointable to SCOTUS because a) they're too old (the "thing" now is to appoint youngsters who'll serve until they croak, continuing an administration's effect on the law as long as possible), b) they've got paper trails of decisions and speeches and law review articles and blogs, and c) they're too independent-minded, too prone to surprise the ideologues who want robots programmed by the Party Central Committee to serve as party-line judges. See, my extended comments at New High Court Justice not a 'crazy feminist' and at A 'Farraginous' Supreme Court. In other words, they're the sort of judges we once would have labelled experienced, smart, open-minded and independent, the sort we would have been delighted to set free to do intellectual and moral combat with their co-equals. Stated differently, the only appointers who'd have the guts to appoint them these days would be -- you guessed it, the voters. That, of course, wouldn't work on the federal level and I don't advocate it there. But it works in good ol' Minnesota. See, my comments and many embedded links at Annals of judicial selection: stacking appointment commissions.
Judicial appointments stagnation -- part I. "The federal appeals court widely considered the nation's most conservative also has the most judicial openings, in part because of national politics, prompting concerns about its ability to continue resolving cases promptly. The four vacancies amount to nearly a third of the 15 slots authorized for the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals...The vacancies date back to 1994, when Judge J. Dickson Phillips Jr. took senior status, a sort of semiretirement. That's the oldest opening in the entire federal court system...." More (Washington Post 07.02.2007).
Judicial appointments stagnation -- part II. "Retirements have created seven openings on the Superior Court bench in Bergen County the past year and a half, but no new judges have been appointed to fill those vacancies since early 2006. Of the 37 judgeship positions created to handle tens of thousands of cases every year, nine are open, with an additional retirement coming in October... [T]hose involved in the process say most of the delay is actually caused by the practice of selecting candidates in 'packages.' In Bergen County, each of the five state senators...must agree on each nominee. That process ordinarily involves months-long, behind-closed-doors jockeying to produce a small list of nominees approved by all senators...." More (North Jersey News 07.02.2007).
The 'great' Missouri Plan in action. "Gov. Matt Blunt is preparing to put his stamp on the Missouri Supreme Court this summer, but he's concerned that the commission in charge of selecting finalists won't deliver the type of candidate he wants. It will be the first time in 15 years that a Republican governor has placed someone on the high court...What makes the process more intriguing is that Blunt's choice will depend on a Democratic-leaning nominating commission...Blunt...has appointed only one of its seven members. The other members are the chief justice of the Supreme Court, three lawyers elected by the Missouri Bar and two lay members appointed by former Gov. Bob Holden, a Democrat. The lay members and lawyers serve staggered six-year terms...." More (St. Louis Post-Dispatch 07.02.2007). Comment. No matter who they recommend, no matter who he appoints, it'll all boil down, in my opinion, to a judicial appointment of, by and for the judges, the lawyers and the politicians.
Buyers' remorse in Tennessee after adopting the 'great' Missouri Plan? "[The] process [used in Tennessee since adopting the Missouri Plan for selecting appellate judges] accurately portrays the 'fox guarding the hen house' analogy. The Tennessee Judicial Selection Commission does not remove politics from the equation, but rather empowers the very special interest groups that stand to benefit the most from this plan, such as the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association, the Tennessee Defense Lawyers Association and the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The only group not adequately represented at the commission's table are the citizens of this state. In other words, you can't take politics out of politics; you merely shift the power from one group to another. The Missouri Plan simply removes the power of electing our judges from the citizens and grants it to special interest groups...The Missouri Plan not only removed the citizens' right to vote on judicial candidates, it also moved part of the decision making process behind closed doors, so that citizens are not even privy to how a decision is made...." Op/ed piece by Sen. Paul Stanley, a Republican member of the Judiciary Committee in the Tennessee Senate. More (Memphis Commercial Appeal 07.01.2007).
Judge denies wrongdoing in giving probate cases to campaign treasurer. "Broward Probate Judge Mark Speiser helped his campaign treasurer earn thousands of dollars by appointing him to work in probate court cases. Court records show Speiser has appointed Charles Auerbach, the volunteer treasurer of his 2006 and 2000 re-election campaigns, to jobs such as trustee, personal representative and estate curator at least seven times since 2001...." More (Miami Herald 07.01.2007). Comment. When I ran in the general election in 2000 for the state supreme court, I refused to accept campaign contributions or endorsements. The press, if it really did its job, would run checks on judicial campaign treasurers and contributors around the country to see which ones, if any, personally benefited thereafter as a result, such as by appointment to jobs, court committees, boards, commissions, etc. Similarly, the press ought to regularly keep tabs on appointments by judges of attorneys and others to judicial positions, committees, boards, commissions, etc., to see which appointees, if any, have prior ties with the appointing judges and, if so, the nature of those ties. Even if appointees gain no direct financial benefit or pay for serving on boards, for example, they often do look upon such appointments as feathers in their caps, and benefit from them. All such appointments ought to be through open appointment processes with appointments based on merit and objective criteria.
Is judge's act as prosecutor coming back to haunt him now that he's a judge? "A former prosecutor who is now a Montgomery County judge did not disclose that the only witness in a 1994 homicide case sought and received money to cooperate in the prosecution, the defendant's attorney said in a motion. The motion also says that the prosecutor on the case, David A. Boynton, elicited false testimony about the payment from the witness, who was a police informant, and her police contact, who is now a captain overseeing criminal investigations. The defendant is scheduled to be retried this month...." More (Washington Post 07.01.2007). Comment. This sort of thing is less likely to happen in a state like MN. MN Rules of Criminal Procedure give the criminal defense bar open-file discovery (i.e., full pretrial access to the prosecutor's investigative file), making Minnesota's discovery-disclosure rules the best and fairest in the country. Guess who was the father of our approach? George Scott, a county attorney who later became an associate justice of the MN Supreme Court. If you want to see how things were done in MN before he championed this practice (and, sadly, how things are still done in many states and even in federal courts), read, Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Murder (1958), a fine legal-procedural crime novel set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. If you want to read more about Justice Scott, see, Obituary: MN Supreme Court Justice George M. Scott (1922 - 2006).
A state chief justice who actually believes the state has too many judges. "Chief Justice Clifford Taylor of the Michigan Supreme Court...has been speaking out recently, and quite publicly, about the problem of 'unneeded' judges in the state. He points to the 2005 Judicial Resources Report that concluded that certain communities in the state were 'overjudged' and he has suggested to the Governor that she not fill judicial vacancies in those communities. Unfortunately, in my view, the Chief Justice has now also suggested that perhaps the number of judgeships at the Michigan Court of Appeals, of which I am the Chief Judge, should be reduced...." From an op/ed piece by Chief Judge William Whitbeck. More (Midland Daily News - MI 07.01.2007).
'Mystery death notice' reveals judge had secret family with Maori princess. "One of New Zealand's most renowned and celebrated judges secretly fathered two children with a young Maori Princess -- claims that have come as a shock to his legitimate family. The claims came to light only when Sir Trevor Henry passed away last week, aged 105, and a group of the secret descendants, the Bay of Plenty-based Hall family, placed a mysterious death notice in the NZ Herald, alongside those of Sir Trevor's Auckland family...." According to people claiming to be descendants of his "other family," in the early or mid 1920's Sir Trevor, then a young barrister, met Hineiri Hall when he was in Rotorua for work. "Hineiri was a beautiful Te Arawa Princess [who] was working at the Lakeside Hotel at the time, which had a reputation as a gathering spot for public servants and lawyers...'They were just lovers, she was his port in a storm in Rotorua I guess,'" according to a member of his newly-revealed family. Princess Hineiri allegedly had two children by Sir Trevor, a daughter in 1927 and a son in 1928, both dead but leaving 30 or so descendants, all of whom, according to one, "thought of Sir Trevor as their patriarch." More (New Zealand Herald 07.01.2007). Comments. a) Sir Trevor, we didn't know you had it in you. b) The revelation, if true, remind us of a number of similar ones, including i) the claims/revelations after Charles A. Lindbergh's death about his long-time German mistress (mistresses?) and their three (seven?) children, and ii) the revelation after Sen. Strom Thurmond's death that when he was 22 he fathered a child with a 16-year-old black maid. c) Suppose you're a judge who's "fooled around" in his time and wants to protect his estate against false and/or real claims of paternity by people claiming to have been fathered by you -- whaddaya do? One option, which'll protect ya against false claims, is to "bank" your DNA for use in testing the accuracy of a posthumous claim of paternity. Another option, which will help protect against both false and real claims of paternity by estate claimants is to include in one's will a carefully-drafted clause disinheriting known or unkown illegitimate children.
Op-ed piece decries 'lawyers' and judges' lobby' in legislature. "The lawyers' and judges' lobby had its way at the legislature and democracy in Connecticut will continue to suffer. The state's judges have protected their own self-interests from state law by reinforcing the notion that the Judicial Branch is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act that applies to the legislative and executive branches. The lawyers and judges met secretly with the legislature's Judiciary Committee co-chairmen to block the move for more open courts... A state constitutional amendment now appears the only way to assure the FOI law applies to the Judicial Branch...For all the Judicial Branch's screaming about maintaining a separation of powers by leaving the courts alone, the truth is that the judges themselves have brought about this effort to check their power. The judges' pattern of improper behavior will continue to raise the issues of openness and fairness. And the advocates of open government will not go away...." From an op-ed piece by Morgan McGinley, a retired editorial page editor who is president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, "a watchdog group of editors and reporters who advocate for open government." More (The Day 07.01.2007). Comment. We've long publicly advocated greater accountability and transparency by the judiciary, which too often speaks only about the need for judicial independence without mentioning its twin, judicial accountability. See, as a starting place, my 2000 essay, Judicial Independence and Accountability.
Retired federal judge, wife, neighbor found slain in luxury condo. "A retired federal court judge[, Alban Garon,] sits slain, bound to a chair and severely beaten in his east-end luxury condominium [in Ottawa]. Beside his lifeless body lies his murdered wife and elderly neighbour, both of whom had also been bound...." More (Winnipeg Sun 07.01.2007). Comment. Sounds like the opening scene in an episode of CSI or Law and Order.
What constitutes 'hard work' for a judge is relative. "Well, the Conrad Black trial is over, and the waiting for the jury's verdict is into its fifth day, if you count the weekend which is time-off for the jury. [U.S. District Court] Judge Amy St. Eve's general rule of a four-day week takes a bit of getting used to, but she's such a workaholic that one Canadian lawyer ruefully acknowledged he missed 'those gruelling three-hour days that Canadian judges prefer.' Judge Amy starts her court at around 8.30 a.m., hearing depositions and what-not, and ending her day at 5 p.m., with one hour for lunch and puny 10-minute breaks mid-morning and mid-afternoon...." More (Peter Worthington in Winnipeg Sun 07.01.2007).
More on C.J. Roberts' misleading argument for pay raise for federal judges. While arguing that federal judges deserve a pay raise, the editors of the Washington Post point out some of the flaws in some of the arguments used by C.J. Roberts in his rightly much-criticized annual report last January. Here's what the Post editors say, in part:
It's hard to claim that federal judges are in the poorhouse, and so Chief Justice Roberts shrewdly avoided naming specific salary figures (current pay ranges from $165,200 for district judges up to $212,100 for chief justice of the Supreme Court). He also didn't mention that judges can receive their full salary for life, even after retirement, without having to make any contributions to fund this pension. Instead, the chief justice argued for higher pay on comparative grounds, some of them misleading. He, and the Senate bill's supporters, have contended that compared with pay in 1969, real income paid to federal judges has declined 23.9 percent...A big raise was given in 1969, so the real salary any year since then will look small by comparison. Perhaps more meaningful is the median salary from 1969 to 2006, which, adjusted for inflation, is not much higher than what judges receive today....
Ex-judge is suspended from practice for using court staff to aid campaign. "The Louisiana Supreme Court has suspended former Orleans Parish Judge C. Hunter King from practicing law, a month after King pleaded guilty to goading his staff into raising campaign money for him in 2001...In late 2001, King forced his courtroom staff to sell batches of $250 tickets to a fund-raiser he was holding as he ran unopposed for re-election to Division M at civil court, and also hawked tickets himself at a funeral...." More (Times-Picayune 06.30.2007).
Will sentence discourage lawyers from helping to convict corrupt judges? "A judge's decision to disregard the prosecutor's recommendation for probation and instead impose the maximum one-year jail term for Paul Siminovsky, the ex-lawyer who played a key role in convicting former Brooklyn Justice Gerald P. Garson, could discourage potential cooperating witnesses in the future, several veteran defense lawyers said Wednesday...." More (N.Y. L. J. issue cover dated 07.02.2007 via Law.Com 06.30.2007).
Annals of new uses for old courthouses. "The landmark Bronx Borough Courthouse on Third Avenue in the Bronx has marble walls, high ceilings and plenty of space; but, it has been vacant since 1978. 'It was a building meant for public use, and we plan to restore it to such a use,' said the building's owner, Henry Weinstein. Weinstein has owned the property for close to ten years. Now he is having the old courthouse cleaned out, perhaps so students can walk the halls where lawyers and judges once roamed...." The plan? A charter school. More (NY1 06.30.2007).
Meanwhile, in another courthouse, judges meet in secret to discuss allegations. "The Council of Judges Administration, which makes local rules for the court system, went into executive session today to discuss allegations in an FBI public corruption investigation that the distribution of court cases [in El Paso County] had been rigged...[T]he council met privately to discuss the allegations made [in a guilty plea by]...John Travis Ketner...formerly the county judge's chief of staff...that county officials had rigged the distribution of cases by manipulating the computer distribution system...." The council of judges maintains that such a meeting need not be "open" to the public and press under the Texas Open Meetings Act. More (El Paso Times 06.30.2007).
Jazz on the courthouse lawn. "People might've been able to dance as Dog Talk performed on the courthouse lawn Friday night -- if it weren't for all the picnics, blankets and happy concertgoers filling nearly every inch of grass and sidewalk space. The Jazz Squared concert series has caught on, said Joe Arrowood, executive director of Noblesville Main Street, which sponsors the 3-year-old series of free music in downtown Noblesville. Friday's performance attracted the biggest crowd yet, doubling the average, he estimates, to around 300 people...." More (Indy Star 06.28.2007).
What's usurious, what's not? "A law capping annual interest rates at 36 percent on consumer loans will go into effect Sunday, a judge ruled Friday. Georgia-based Northwestern Title Co, which operates 17 car title loan stores in Oregon, asked for a 10-day delay of the law so that Marion County Circuit Court could review the company's challenge of the measure's constitutionality...The company makes small loans using car titles as collateral, often charging more than 300 percent annual interest. [Its attorney] said it was not economically feasible for the company to operate under the 36 percent interest rate cap because its borrowers have high default rates...." More (The Oregonian 06.30.2007). Comment. You know you're an old guy when you remember the days when interest over, say, 10% was considered usurious. And you know you're out of touch when your representatives conclude that 36% -- instead of, say, 12% -- is a reasonable cap on interest rates. The sad thing is that capping rates at 36% is considered "progress." And, relatively speaking and considering the industry practice, I guess it is. See, blog post at Credit Slip dated 09.29.2006 by Prof. Elizabeth Warren of Harvard Law School titled The Carp Survived (referring to the provision in the Talent-Nelson bill to cap interest rates on lending to soldiers at 36%). For an interesting and detailed entry on usury, see, Usury at Wikipedia.
When is a person living off of sex not a 'prostitute'? "Currently in British law, anyone who makes money off of a sexual act or display can be labeled as a prostitute...[As a]n example[, if]...an exotic dancer [is] brought to court on a speeding violation, her occupation would be listed as a prostitute since she [is] a person that [sells] a sexual display for money...Many British lawyers believe that it is time to update the terminology in the court system so that people who earned a legitimate living off of sex would not have to be labeled as a prostitute...." The proposed change under consideration would allow labeling a person a "prostitute" if he or she "sold a sexual act twice or more in three months." More (Associated Content 06.30.2007). Comment. It was Holmes -- OWJr, not Katie -- who counseled us to "think things, not words." See, inter alia, Holmes, the Tarzan of the law, at BurtLaw's Law and Swimsuits - Historic Collector's Edition. The tendency to find a single word to define or label a person based on a single act in a rich life or single aspect of a person's multifaceted personality -- as in calling a person who suffers from so-called schizophrenia a "schizophrenic" -- is something all of us, judges and plain old ordinary people, ought to stoutly resist. Thus saith Sir Burton.
Mercury spill in courthouse is being investigated as criminal act. "A mercury spill inside a courthouse is being investigated as a criminal act, authorities said. Employees returning from lunch discovered the poisonous substance Wednesday in a hallway of the Morrow County Courthouse, forcing an evacuation. No one was injured and no illnesses have been reported...." More (Akron Beacon Journal - Ohio 06.29.2007).
Explosion, fire at supreme court justice's home. "A three-alarm fire Thursday night destroyed much of a Texas Supreme Court justice's home in northwest Harris County. The same blaze gutted a neighbor's home. The fire may not have done so much damage, said some neighbors, had the emergency response been quicker. Judge David Medina's neighbors in the 3500 block Highfalls said they tried to call 911 but claim no one picked up. Before they saw flames, neighbors said they heard an explosion coming from the garage...." More (KHOU 06.29.2007).
Where 'speedy justice' may be anything less than ten years. "As of today, the backlog of criminal and civil cases in our courts is estimated at nearly three crores. Our high courts account for about 35 lakh of them, while the rest of them belong to the lower courts. With average litigation time stretching to well over a decade, we are well poised to have more cases in backlog in our courts than the rest of the world's backlog put together...." More (Economic Times - India 06.30.2007). Comment. As I've said, India may want to consider "outsourcing" its judicial system to retired judges, etc., in the U.S.
Meanwhile, in Zambia.... "Recent revelations that the Zambian Judiciary has become a breeding ground for corrupt practices are a major threat to the country's successful anti-corruption drive. According to the recently-launched Global Corruption Report for 2007, an annual analysis by Transparency International of the corruption levels among the nations of the world, 'About 40 per cent of households and 25 per cent of business managers (in Zambia) reported that bribes were paid to speed up legal proceedings.'" More (Times of Zambia via AllAfrica 06.28.2007). Comment. According to the report, cases sometimes take five or six years to be decided. Glad that never happens here in God's country. I jest, of course. It's my opinion that individual cases of outrageous delay that occasionally get publicized are just the tip of a very big iceberg called Delay. Much delay is hidden and much of it is attributable not so much to individual judges as to systematic problems. We know of a referee in a large metropolitan district where some divorces seem to take forever and cost a zillion who actually said "we" think a bit of delay is good in divorce cases. Certainly, there are some lawyers who share in the blame, knowing a cash-cow when they see one and using every trick in the book to drag things out to their own profit. I used to think the late Chief Justice Peter S. Popovich of the Minnesota Supreme Court was a bit cliched in repeatedly using in his speeches that old oft-repeated phrase "Justice delayed is justice denied." But as the years have gone by I am more and more proud that I was able to work closely with him and I believe more and more that he was one of the best to ever hold the office. He put his finger on a very real problem and, had his tenure not been cut short by our ridiculous mandatory-retirement law, might well have done something about it. Further reading. Burton R. Hanson, "The Voices of a Judge -- The Judicial Opinions of Chief Justice Peter S. Popovich of the Minnesota Supreme Court," The Judicial Career of Peter S. Popovich (MN. Justices Series No. 10, 1998), on file at the MN State Law Library, the MN Historical Society, and the Library of Congress.
Op/ed piece, in wake of Judge Manzanares' suicide. "To the legislature, a plea born of unnecessary tragedy: The next time a representative of the DA's council expresses the need to obtain greater power and discretion for prosecutors as the sole parties who can be trusted, remember the Jeffco DA's press conference as he detailed the salacious and the nonessential, remember the affidavit jam-packed with detail about sexually-explicit website visits, wholly unneeded as proof of a property crime, remember the face of a good man on page one having been earmarked for special humiliation and ridicule for no compelling reason. Please remember also a bridge and, down below, the cold bark of a gun." From Moral of judge's story, a superb guest commentary by Denver criminal defense attorney Frank Moya (Denver Post 06.29.2007). Earlier. Friends of judge who killed self pay tribute, express anger at press.
Judge keeps promise, takes honor roll students to lunch at Golden Corral. "Portsmouth Circuit Court Judge Johnny E. Morrison strode into the Golden Corral in Chesapeake Square during lunchtime Thursday...'I appreciate you all taking me to lunch,' Morrison joked. It was Morrison who actually footed the lunch bill -- all $347.56 of it. Last August, Morrison challenged about 300 students at the [St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church'] back-to-school youth extravaganza that if they made the honor roll, he'd buy them lunch. The destination would be their choice. In all, 70 students from the church made the honor roll. About 45[, a record number,] attended the lunch...." More (Virginian-Pilot - VA 06.29.2007).
'Gentle Ben' Haywood, Lighthouse Point judge, sails off into the sunset. "Being the captain of a 48-foot ketch called Vivid was the No. 1 job of Benjamin Vanderford Haywood, a former soldier, lawyer and Lighthouse Point judge. The 77-year-old Korean War veteran, who made Lighthouse Point his home, died on June 21 of cancer. Haywood, a native of Salem, Mass., spent a lifetime sailing with his family and bought his own boat in 1975. ''He had always sailed,'' said his wife, Elizabeth Nicholson Haywood, whom he met in 1951 while vacationing as a college student in Coral Gables. She lived across the street from his family's vacation house, and spent many evenings arguing philosophy with the New England boy...." The judge, who, according to one lawyer "had a way of defusing people's anger," was called "Gentle Ben" by his colleagues because of he courtroom manners. More (Miami Herald 06.29.2007). Comment. I've seen a lot of trial and appellate judges in action, in a public setting, i.e., in the courtroom. A couple of appellate court judges whose conduct in the courtroom could only be described as princely -- and I don't mean to suggest others' conduct wasn't -- were my main judicial mentor, the late Justice C. Donald Peterson, and my friend, still going strong, Justice John E. Simonett, who is retired from the court but not from law and life. I remember in particular listening to an oral argument by an attorney representing herself in a disciplinary matter. When she started crying, Gentleman John gently asked a question about a factual matter of low emotional content, allowing her to regain her compusure. It was the sort of gallant, generous, gentle act one associates with a true prince/gentleman. We never have enough of them.
Global Warming shuts down Justice in TN. "Dizziness, headaches and blurred vision -- employees at the Unicoi County Courthouse [in northeastern Tennessee] say that's how they felt working in 90 degree heat this week. For the second day in a row, the county shut down the courthouse early because of extreme temperatures. The air-conditioning unit is broken...." More (Tri-Cities.Com - TN-VA 06.28.2007). Comment. It's been hotter than normal for June here in the Twin Cities, with the temp exceeding 90 one out of every three days. I'm glad I've got air conditioning. But my parents lived without it all their lives and didn't feel deprived. In the summer of 1966 I shared a large house on Wendell Street in Cambridge, MA, with two fellows from Japan, two from Taiwan and one from India; it was terribly hot at night in my un-air-conditioned poorly-ventilated upstairs room but it was also one of the happiest summers in my life and I didn't feel deprived. When I began working at the MN Supreme Court in 1970 it was located in the then-un-air-conditioned state capitol; I didn't feel deprived. When....
Allegations are made against Judge Seidlin, the "Anna Nicole Judge.' "[O]ther than drag the country though a needless and absurd Anna Nicole hearing/screen test, what did Seidlin do? Well, as almost everyone at the courthouse can tell you, flying through dockets in the morning and playing tennis in the afternoon was his M.O. But what few know is that he also allegedly had time to wrangle gifts out of at least one lawyer working in his division and a small fortune from an elderly woman living in his ocean-view condo building on Las Olas Boulevard...." More (Broward-Palm Beach New Times 06.28.2007). Update. State attorney asks governor to appoint special prosecutor (Miami Herald 07.03.2007).
The Judge Roy Moore Field at Ten Commandments Park. "A Severn church [in Mitchellville, MD,] and a Pasadena-based group will host this weekend the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice who rose to national prominence when he refused remove a Ten Commandments monument from courthouse grounds. As part of a 'God and Country' pastors' conference calling for the United States to put God back into the government, Roy S. Moore will be on hand for an area dedication of a replica of the now-famous statue...." More (Baltimore Sun 06.29.2007).
Suit accuses court of race discrimination. "A Kansas City woman has sued the judges of Jackson County Circuit Court, alleging she was forced from her longtime position as a clerk because she is black. Patricia Thomas said that after 31 years with the court she was demoted and harassed to the point where her job became intolerable...." More (Kansas City Star 06.29.2007).
Ex-chief judge's granddaughter scores highest in prep school test. Meagan de la Bastide, 11, a student at St Monica's Preparatory School and a granddaughter of former chief justice Michael de la Bastide, has placed first in the SEA exam on the island, it was recently announced. More (Trinidad Express 06.29.2007). Comment. We've often linked to stories about children and spouses of judges getting into trouble, so, we thought, why not link to this simple story -- about an ex-chief judge's grandkid who's far above average.
The on-going two-hours-a-day court strike by lawyers. "Senior lawyers of NWFP stated on Thursday that they might extend, up to a year, their movement against the government for judiciary's independence, democracy's restoration and Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry's reinstatement...PHC Chief Justice Tariq Pervez Khan...asked [the lawyers] to [reconsider] their...[actions]...in order to dispense justice to hundreds of litigants, whose cases were being adjourned [as a result of the strike]...." More (Daily Times - Pakistan 06.29.2007).
Annals of South Dakota judicial history. "A portrait of Judge Gene Paul Kean, a circuit judge from 1981 to 2006, will be unveiled Friday...in the Minnehaha County Courthouse's atrium." More (Sioux Falls Argus-Leader 06.28.2007).
Scalis's got lip. "It's not every day that one Supreme Court justice, even one as rhetorically unrestrained as Justice Antonin Scalia, characterizes another justice, let alone the chief justice of the United States, as a wimp and a hypocrite. Yet Justice Scalia did something very close to that, not once but twice, in separate opinions on Monday. As a result, he has served to lift the curtain a bit on the differences within the powerful five-justice conservative bloc that has marched in lock step through much of the term, bent on reshaping the law...." From Linda Greenhouse, Supreme Court Memo: Even in Agreement, Scalia Puts Roberts to Lash (NYT 06.28.2007).
A puzzling sentence from a puzzling story. "Archbishop Paul Cremona, OP, will visit the law courts to meet and have a quiet word with court employees on Tuesday at noon." More (Malta Independent 06.28.2007). Comment. Maybe it's just me but I tend to go into defensive mode when someone says they want to have a "quiet meeting" or "quiet moment with me."
What if a judge testified falsely under oath at a confirmation hearing? "Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy on Wednesday sought a federal investigation into whether a White House lawyer turned appeals court judge testified truthfully to Congress about the Bush administration's detention policies for enemy combatants. Leahy also asked that Judge Brett Kavanaugh be prosecuted if it is determined that he misled Congress about his involvement in drafting the policies in testimony at his Senate confirmation hearing in May 2006...." More (Reuters 06.28.2007). Comment. Might Leahy's message be intended to reverberate inside the echoing halls of SCOTUS? Might he be saying to Roberts and Alito, "We remember your testimony, your reassurances, etc.?"
So much for our supposedly-great protection of the innocent. "A new study has found juries in the United States get the verdict wrong in one out of six [non-capital] criminal cases and judges do not do much better. According to an upcoming study out of Northwestern University, when they make those mistakes, both judges and juries are far more likely to send an innocent person to jail than to let a guilty person go free...." In the study, "juries sent 25 per cent of innocent people to jail while the innocent had a 37 per cent chance of being wrongfully convicted by a judge." The study will be published in the July 2007 issue of Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. More (ABC Online - Australia 06.28.2007). Comment. And yet jurrors and judges invariably go home at the end of the day with a self-satisfied sense they've done the right thing and presumably they sleep the untroubled sleep of those who presume themselves to be just people.
Israeli crime families target judges. "Many of our judges have been threatened and the threats are mainly directed at a judge who has handed down a heavy sentence to someone connected to crime families, a senior source in the court system [said] Wednesday...." More (Haaretz 06.28.2007). Comment. That sounds strange to my ears -- "Israeli crime families."
Judge's final cellphone call to wife after flood waters sweep his Volvo off road. "A judge has died after flood waters swept his car from the roadside as he made his way home from work [Monday afternoon, 06.25.2007]. Eric Dickinson, [68,] a county court judge, managed to telephone his wife to raise the alarm but drowned as the rising water overwhelmed him. Police found his green Volvo estate car submerged 210ft from where he is believed to have left the road between Pershore railway station and Drakes Broughton, Worcs. His body was inside...." More (UK Telegraph 06.28.2007). Update. Judge's final words in cellphone call to wife: "I have done something even more stupid than losing my wallet. I've driven into some water. I thought I could drive through it but the car's getting swept away. I will be OK. I'll swim. But you will have to make a call to help me here." More (Birmingham Mail 07.04.2007).
Judge's disturbed son roughs up cops; judge apologizes. "On duty policemen were manhandled in English Bazaar police station today but no action was taken against the accused...[T]he accused, Soumyadip Jha, [is] the son of Mr Pinaki Jha, additional judge in Siliguri Court...'The son of Mr Pinaki Jha is suffering from mental problem. There was a heated argument between the policemen and Soumyajit, which may have triggered the incident,' Malda SP Mr DK Mondal said. He further added that the police had not taken offense because his father, a judge, had come to the police station to extend apology, the SP said." More (The Statesman 06.28.2007).
Victim's mom spears effort to recall judge over lenient sentencing. "The mother of one of three young white women attacked by a group of black youths on Halloween night last year said today she is helping to spearhead a recall drive against the judge who sentenced the teens to probation. Barbara Schneider, mother of 19-year-old Laura Schneider, said supporters have launched an effort to gather signatures on petitions aimed at recalling Long Beach Superior Court Judge Gibson W. Lee, who presided over the trial of nine black youths who participated in the racially motivated attack...." More (Orange County Register 06.28.2007). Further reading. A good starting point for further reading and useful external links on recall, referendum, and initiative, collectively known as direct democracy, see, Referendum (Wikipedia).
Judge declines request to exclude. limit media in civil rights case. "A federal judge overseeing a lawsuit filed by six Muslim men, who were removed from a US Airways flight last fall has declined to limit media access to the case...In a letter dated Tuesday and addressed to [Omar T. Mohammedi, a New York attorney for the six men,] U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery noted that Mohammedi had requested that the court remove members of the media from an electronic distribution list, bar members of the media from attending hearings, and hold proceedings in closed session...." More (IHT 06.28.2007). Comment. It's ironic but not surprising that someone making a claim for damages resulting from alleged discrimination in violation of the constitution would request that the judge in effect ignore (and violate) the constitution by barring the media from access to lawful means to adequately cover the case.
Judge to jury: 'Don't do a Judge Deed.' "It's a TV drama that has audiences gripped with its entertaining mix of law, love and the rakish charm of a ladies' man. But the tables were turned on BBC1's Judge John Deed yesterday...Judge Paul Downes warned a crown court jury [in Norwich] not to follow in the footsteps of his fictional counterpart...[H]e said Deed had sat on a jury in one episode then carried out private internet research to discover back-ground details about the case he was hearing. 'If it ever came about that you had done that, the case would have to be stopped and started again,' said Judge Downes. 'So don't do a Judge Deed, if you don't mind. I don't know if you watch Judge John Deed. I think it is very entertaining television but it is terribly inaccurate.'" More (Norfolk Eastern Daily Press - UK 06.28.2007). Further reading. For more on Judge Deed, see, Using allegations of judicial bias as tactical ploy.
Australia's first fem top judges speaks on 'postmodernism and the law.' "[T]he aim of this paper is modest. It is to consider briefly certain cultural theories associated with Continental philosophers such as Jean-François Lyotard, Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault as they might interest practising barristers...." High Court Justice Susan Crennan, speaking in Chicago. Text of speech. Comment. The average reader will find the speech/paper tough going. But there's some good "stuff" in it if you're willing to give this highly intellectual judge's philosophical blatherings a try.
Judge is beaten, robbed. "A judge and former prosecutor was hospitalized after being severely beaten and robbed in his law office. Jesup's Recorders Court judge, Glenn Thomas Jr., was alone in his office near City Hall on Monday when he was attacked. Authorities arrested Bobby Rex Stribling, 45, at a Brunswick motel shortly after recovering Thomas' stolen pickup truck...." More (Access N. Georgia 06.27.2007). Update. Judge still in critical condition a week after beating (Columbus Enquirer-Ledger 07.02.2007). Judge dies; man he once prosecuted is charged (Guardian 07.10.2007).
Judges reaching out to Muslims in UK. "A group of nearly 45 judges in England and Wales are reaching out to local religious minorities, particularly Muslims, in a bid to build bridges and improve confidence in the system...With the minimum of publicity, the judges visit mosques, local centers and inner-city schools, meet with community groups and arrange court visits....." More (Turkish Weekly 06.27.2007).
New female chief justice in Jamaica starts things off with a cliché. "Zaila McCalla was yesterday sworn in as Jamaica's first female Chief Justice at King's House in St. Andrew. Far from overwhelmed, a beaming McCalla told the packed hall of dignitaries, family and friends that she planned to hit the ground running...." More (Jamaica Gleaner 06.27.2007). Compare and contrast. a) "Joe Johns, CNN Correspondent: 'That's right, Miles. The new chief justice [John Roberts] is expected to show up here at the Supreme Court, if only to start setting up his office. He will have to hit the ground running, of course....'" Transcript (American Morning, CNN 09.30.2005) b) "[Harriet Miers, newest Supreme Court nominee,] hit the ground running in blazing trails, becoming the first woman hired by the major Dallas law firm now known as Locke Liddell and Sapp, having practiced there for 30 years...." Archives (Black Press USA). c) "The appointment of Judge [Pat] Timmons-Goodson [to the North Carolina Supreme Court] brings not only diversity to the court but also a wealth of experience and legal scholarship...She will go to the Supreme Court and hit the ground running. She's the kind of justice that North Carolina needs on the court." Comment by Appeals Court Judge James Wynn (News-Observer 01.20.2006). d) "Acting Justice [Max] Gors will serve until a permanent replacement takes office. Acting Justice Gors 'hit the ground running' on this new assignment and we appreciate his willingness to undertake this additional responsibility...." Chief Justice David Gilbertson, State of South Dakota Judiciary Message 2002. e) "'[Justice Clarence] Thomas hit the ground running,' says University of Michigan law professor Yale Kamisar. 'He's in there mixing it up.'" More (Time Magazine 07.13.1992). f) "By all accounts, the transition from Kevin Burke to Lucy Wieland [as chief judge] has been seamless. After serving as the assistant chief, Lucy Wieland hit the ground running and has focused her time and energy on the issues facing the court system and the community." More (Hennepin Lawyer 12.21.2004). g) "Yes, Hennepin County's newest judge [Mark Wernick] has hit the ground running, which should come as no surprise given the breadth of his prior legal experience." Richard Kyle (Hennepin Lawyer February 2003). h) "[Amy] Klobuchar echoes the sentiment expressed by Governor Ventura in his announcement of [Kathryn] Quaintance's judicial appointment, that Quaintance will be able to 'hit the ground running.'" More (Hennepin Lawyer January 2001). i) "Newly sworn in Commissioners Court Judge Keith Self has hit the ground running." More (McKinney News 01.02.2007). j) "OMG i was in boots and i was buying something and all of a sudden Shaynes hit the ground running came on and i screamed as i was so happy.I love you Shayne. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx" Posting at Shayne Ward's music forum, 06.26.2007. k) "I turned to run and figured to a dot when he shot. As he cracked loose I jumped way up in the air and did a split, just like what these show gals does, only mine wasn't on the ground by six foot. The bullet went under me. I knew he had five more cartridges, so I hit the ground running and squatted low down when his gun barked a second time." 'King Of All The Liars' (The Evening News, 04.23.1895 via Phrases.Org.UK). l) "The cliché that landed on its feet and then took off like a bat out of hell is ''hit the ground running.'... I sent out a search party for the origin of this expression while on the Larry King Show, an all-night extravaganza for the nation's insomniacs, and several callers offered these explanations...Whatever its origin...this figure of speech has earned early retirement." More (On Language - NYT Wm. Safire/Kimble Mead 01.11.1981). Comments. a) What's always amusing is when the speaker utters the cliché with a certain emphasis that suggests he thinks he's saying something fresh. b) The cliché, even if it applies, doesn't necessarily constitute praise. I'd be irked if anyone ever said it of me. In my opinion, it's rarely wise for "the new kid on the block" (another cliché) to "hit the ground running." That's a good way to alienate your colleagues quickly and to demonstrate one's naivity quickly.
Annals of judicial bargaining: judge jumps from plane to keep a promise. "Just call her Jumping Judge Jill. Judge Jill Johanson, who oversees Drug Court, says she would do anything to motivate people to get off drugs. Drug Court allows inmates to defer jail time if they kick the drug habit. 'She said if I graduate, she'd come sky-dive with me,' Michael D. Martin of Kelso said Monday. 'It was inspiration for me....'[Johanson], Martin and his drug counselor, Dan Milliren, drove to Skydive Toledo on Saturday morning. Johanson, 48, chose a tandem sky-dive...They were in free fall to about 5,000 feet above the ground, when the instructors opened their parachutes. Free fall was 'a blast,' Johanson said." More (Longview Washington Daily News 06.26.2007). Comment. I wonder if she, ah (pause), hit the ground running.
Annals of judicial consistency. "In one [of the two free speech cases], five justices (John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito) struck down a key provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law as a violation of the First Amendment. That means any freely associating groups can run 'issue' ads, even those that mention a candidate's name, at any time...In the other case, the same five justices ruled that a principal was justified in suspending a student who displayed a banner reading 'BONG HiTS 4 JESUS' outside the school as the Olympic torch was paraded by. In the campaign finance case, Chief Justice Roberts held grandly: 'Where the First Amendment is implicated, the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor.' He is right. And would that he had been consistent and upheld his own lofty principle in the school case. But he didn't." More (Houston Chronicle - Cragg Hines op/ed 06.27.2007). Compare my comment at Has Rehnquist court's federalism boomlet fizzled? ("I've thought all along that application of the New Federalism approach of Rehnquist & the four who typically have joined him has depended, to a great extent, on whose ox is being gored by the federal policy in question. When application of the federal law impinges on a state's liberal approach to marijuana regulation or suicide, then the 'old' New Deal federalism applies & the federal policy trumps state policy. Judicial philosophy, whether that of Bill Rehnquist or Bill Brennan, ain't the same thing as philosopher's philosophy. It's more like Machiavellian political philosophy." See, also, my comment at N.J. beach access case -- best argument this summer for judicial activism?
Protesters want to keep portrait of Jesus in courthouse. a) "Standing in the shadow of the Slidell City Court, a swarm of protesters congregated Tuesday night for a rousing and at times revival-like demonstration, denouncing the American Civil Liberties Union and offering a show of unconditional support for the controversial portrait of Jesus that hangs on the wall just inside the courthouse...." More (Times-Picayune 06.27.2007). b) "The portrait has been identified by local clergy as 'Christ the Savior,' a 16th century Russian Orthodox icon. It depicts Jesus holding a book open to biblical passages, written in Russian, that deal with judgment. The only [other] portrait in the courthouse's main foyer [is] one of founding judge Gus Fritchie, for whom the courthouse is named[. T]he image of Jesus hangs above the court's billing window. Below the portrait are gold letters reading: 'To know peace, obey these laws.'" The judge said at a Saturday, 06.30.2007 news conference that he's decided not to remove the portrait. The ACLU will soon announce its plans. More (Times-Picayune 06.30.2007). Comments. a) Would there have been any protesters if some group had filed suit to require removal of the portrait of FDR in the common area of the Minnesota Court of Appeals during its early years? See, my comment on the early years of the Minnesota Court of Appeals at D. D. Wozniak, Chief Judge, MN Court of Appeals, dies at 82. b) How about if the image was of Christ upsetting the tables of the money-changers?
Judge is censured for procrastination, for filing false affidavits to collect pay. "A state judicial agency censured an Alameda County judge today but allowed him to keep his job after finding that he repeatedly took longer to decide cases than the law allows and signed false affidavits allowing him to collect his salary. Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman waited more than the 90-day legal limit to rule on 21 cases from 2000 to 2004...Throughout that time, Freedman signed affidavits every two weeks declaring that he had no cases under submission for more than 90 days and continued to receive his paychecks, the commission said...." More (San Francisco Chronicle 06.26.2007). Further reading. "An Alberta judge is being investigated for his tardiness in handing down a written ruling in a high-profile assault conviction that was overturned by the Supreme Court because of the delay. Alberta Justice Minister Ron Stevens said yesterday he filed a complaint this week with the judicial council against provincial court Judge Brad Kerby, who took 11 months to issue written reasons for the conviction...." More (Calgary Sun 06.29.2007).
C.J.'s lawyer says government is bugging judges' phones. "The lawyer for Pakistan's suspended chief justice Iftikar M Chaudhry today alleged that the telephones of judges are being tapped by intelligence agencies, and asked the Supreme Court to build 'firewalls' to prevent 'snooping.'" More (Indian Express 06.26.2007).
County board votes to demolish historic 1884 courthouse. "It hit No. 1 on Preservation Ohio's list of most endangered historic sites, and the Seneca County Courthouse is living up to that ranking. County commissioners voted 2-1 yesterday to move forward with razing the shuttered 1884 courthouse in downtown Tiffin...." More (Toledo Blade 06.26.2007). Compare and contrast. "Fannin County [TX] commissioners approved 5-0 a decision to go forward with a plan to restore the Courthouse to its 1888 condition during Monday's meeting in the building." More (Sherman Denison Herald Democrat 06.26.2007). Comment. Any naked grandmothers around in Seneca County, Ohio who are willing to pose for a save-the-courthouse calendar? See, Naked grandmothers save old courthouse from wrecking balls. The best depiction of what is taken when a beloved public building is taken down was a 1971 episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, They're Tearing Down Tim Reilly's Bar, which Serling said in his final interview was one of his favorite creations. Among the beloved buildings of my youth in a small town in western MN that have been demolished are the Carnegie library, the southside grade school, Our Savior's Lutheran Church, and the Great Northern Ry. Depot. Another such building, the Paris Hotel, was destroyed by fire. The old courtroom in the courthouse was, I believe, cut up to make smaller courtrooms, and a not-attractive-to-my-eyes jailhouse addition to the courthouse was built. The wonderful Railroad Park was diminished in size to provide more downtown parking. The destruction of each historic building is one more reason for me not to go home again -- except in memory. But the people of Appomattox have shown there is another way -- it's called creative recycling/reusing of old beloved public buildings and spaces. Any community that wants to save historic main streets, promote restoration rather than teardowns (& the obscene McMansions that replace them), etc., should contact former-Minnesotan & former-Mondale-aide Richard Moe and his staff at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a terrific organization. Too bad the folks in my hometown didn't have the wisdom to do that. But, wait! It's never too late to start afresh. I'm thinking of the historic second-floor Benson Opera House, which, last I heard, was used for storage by its private owners. Perhaps funds could be obtained to purchase and restore it.... Related. Old Lexington courthouse's new look, new use (Kentucky.Com 08.15.2006); Museum of Art eyes old courthouse (Tucson Citizen 08.16.2006). Updates.
Garrison Keillor, The Library Fix ("My old hometown Carnegie library with the columns and high-domed ceiling was irreplaceable, and so of course it was torn down by vandals in suits and ties and replaced with a low warehouse-looking library that says so clearly to its patrons, 'Don't get any big ideas. This is as good a library as you clowns deserve.'") (Salon 06.27.2007). And, see, Garrison Keillor, blog posting ("I...am deeply offended by the destruction of historic and graceful old buildings in St. Paul, and Minneapolis, and before that, in my hometown of Anoka. I can still get hot under the collar if I talk about the old courthouse and the old Carnegie library in Anoka that got busted by vandals in suits and ties forty years ago, and the old fire barn and the old St. Stephen's church.") (Post to the Host - PHC 06.28.2007). Update. Ex-prof calls courthouse that commissioners want to destroy 'heart of community.' "Retired Heidelberg College History Professor Kenneth Davison called Seneca County's 1884 courthouse 'the most important single building in the county' and said demolishing it would be a huge mistake. 'It's the very heart of the community. There's nothing else here that can match it and that is true in every county of the state,' Mr. Davison said while testifying in Seneca County Common Pleas Court yesterday morning. 'It's a cultural thing. It's not just political.'" More (Toledo Blade 07.26.2007). Update. "In what seemed like a marked change of tone on the future of Seneca County's 1884 courthouse, Commissioner Ben Nutter yesterday said the county ought to apply for state historic preservation tax credits to help pay for renovation of the old building." More (Toledo Blade 07.31.2007). Update. Seneca County Board votes to proceed with destruction of historic courthouse (Toledo Blade 08.07.2007). Update. Texas expert says courthouse is in remarkably good condition; pay $8 million to restore a building worth $30 to $50 million, and you may earn back the $8 million in heritage tourism, new jobs and tax revenues. More (Toledo Blade 09.18.2007).
Ad law judges don't like new rule -- or is it a new interpretation of old rule? "There are about 1,400 administrative law judges in the federal government...They hand down rulings on whether Americans are entitled to Social Security benefits, disability benefits and other federal services. They rule in regulatory disputes and determine whether admiralty, banking, trade and other laws have been violated...The jobs come with a lifetime appointment, and the pay is not bad, either...But the union that represents many of these judges is not happy about a new rule that requires them to be licensed and authorized to practice law. The union, the Association of Administrative Law Judges, has filed a federal lawsuit to throw out the rule, calling it 'arbitrary, capricious' and 'not rational.'" More (Washington Post 06.25.2007). Comment. The Office of Personnel Management says the requirement that the judges be currently licensed to practice law is not new, just a clarification of existing practice. But it appears that it's new to many of the judges: "The union's lawsuit noted that 'numerous incumbent' judges have not paid the annual fees to retain their law licenses and have dropped out of the bar in their states. The dropouts began around 1989, when an official at the Social Security Administration (where about 1,000 of the judges work) said they did not need to maintain active bar status after being appointed to their jobs, the lawsuit said." Id. Hmmm. Under the reasoning of the 5-4 majority in Bowles v. Russell -- see, Souter accuses Scalitertsian majority of 'bait and switch' - 06.15 -- the "bait-and-switch" case rejecting an appeal by a criminal defendant as untimely even though he filed the appeal within the time a judge told him he had to file it, sounds like these ad law judges may be in deep doo. :-)
Texas probate courts again come under scrutiny. "A Houston Chronicle investigation of hundreds of records and thousands of court-ordered payments, as well as interviews with judges and lawyers, found evidence of questionable billings and favoritism in Texas probate courts -- with the most troubling examples in Harris County...." This is a multi-part series, with this story linking to the others. More (Houston Chronicle 06.25.2007). Earlier. See, Probate courts under scrutiny, including comments and links. Comment. The Chronicle is doing some good work keeping an eye on the courts in TX.
All aspirants fail judicial officers exam. "All the 153 aspirants for Himachal Judicial Services have failed the final examination, following which Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission (HPPSC) has not made any recommendations for filling up 11 vacancies of judicial officers in the state. The examination was held in May this year. Sources said poor command of candidates over Hindi and English and lack of knowledge of law were the main hurdles for the candidates...." More (Chandigarh Newsline 06.25.2007).
Salaries of court employees - coming soon to a web site near you? Last fall I posted a piece on this topic. Click here. In 2000 in our failed general campaign for chief justice, we argued for greater judicial accountability, in general, and in specific for greater use of the web for posting of information such as detailed judicial branch budgets, individual calendars of judges, judges' and court employees' time-sheets, salaries of court employees, etc. It appears that our proposal with respect to salaries is coming to fruition, slowly but surely. "States like Iowa and Georgia provide the names, departments, job titles and salaries of government employees on their official Web sites...Other...provide names, salaries and other information to news organizations in their communities for posting on Web sites in searchable online databases." More (Lansing State Journal 06.24.2007). The states in which newspapers post the info are: Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and now, thanks to the Lansing State Journal, Michigan. See, LSJ's State of Michigan Salary Search. According to a story in Electric New Paper, many state workers in Michigan don't like it. But we do, and so apparently do many other people: "Web traffic to the database on LSJ.Com was so heavy [after the database was publicized] that it shut down the State Journal server." Id. As the executive editor of LSJ put it, "'The people of the state pay the bills. They have a right to know how government spends their money, where it spends the money and who it spends it on. It's part of open government." Update. Michigan court, by a vote of 4-3, posts salaries and titles of court employees but not names. More (Michigan Live 07.12.2007). Comment. As in a number of other controversial matters where the court in Michigan has split 4-3, the dissenters have it right. The names of public employees and their titles and salaries are a matter of public information that ought to be freely available to their employers. Who are their employers? Answer: The people who hold what Justice Frankfurter called the most important office in our democracy, that of citizen.
A judge's death is called 'suspicious' -- was it suicide...or murder? "Bagcilar Judge Eyüp Yilmaz went to Sinop in an effort to reconcile with his wife [of 2½ months], however, he died there. The wife claims suicide; the brother is suspicious his death could have been the result of murder...." More (Sabah - Turkey 06.25.2007).
Opinion: 'Enough is enough,' masturbating judge ought to be paroled. Last week the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board again denied parole to former Creek County District Judge Donald Thompson, who is serving four consecutive one-year prison terms for masturbating under his robes while in court. More (Cushing Daily Citizen 06.21.2007). When the sentence was imposed, we called it absurd. See, Annals of absurd sentences: judge gets 4 years in prison for MWP, including embedded links to previous postings about the case.
Now other sane voices are beginning to weigh in on the sentence. Read on...
"Enough is enough. Everyone involved in this case, from the grandstanding [Prosecutor Richard] Smothermon to Judge C. Allen McCall, and now the parole board, has made it clear that no one is above the law. [Former Creek County District Judge Donald] Thompson has been made an example. Prior to his retirement from the bench, Thompson served the citizens of Creek County for 22 years. He and his family have since been dragged through the mud. It's time for Smothermon to focus on more important issues and quit using his conviction of a former judge to catapult his career to the next level. Let Thompson get on with his life...." From a 06.22.2007 editorial in the Sapulpa Daily Herald, reprinted in the Muskogee Phoneix.
Adam Liptak weighs in on judges suing newspapers, etc., for defamation. Liptak's op-ed piece in the NYT focuses on the huge damages awarded to Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Thomas over two opinion pieces in a small-circulation newspaper that accused Thomas of letting "politics" influence the decision in a lawyer disciplinary case. Liptak believes, as we do, that "the paper has some pretty good arguments," and he adds that "libel cases are often overturned on appeal." More (NYT 06.25.2007). Earlier. See, When judges sue the press, claiming libel. For our postings on defamation suits filed by judges and an explanation of our minority view that the cause of action for defamation, regardless of who the plaintiff is, ought to be abolished, see, my comments and links at Court upholds dismissal of judge's libel suit against TV station.
Crown court judge dies in 50' fall from fourth floor flat. "A crown court judge fell 50ft to his death from his home in an exclusive block of flats last week, it was reported today. Rodney McKinnon fell from a window of his flat in Dolphin Square, central London, suffering fatal head injuries. He was declared dead after being found in the building's courtyard garden. Scotland Yard is not treating his death as suspicious, although it is not clear whether the 64-year-old had meant to take his own life or died accidentally...." More (UK Guardian 06.25.2007). Comment. The creators of Prime Suspect, starring Helen Mirren as Inspector Jane Tennison, could "rip this story from the headlines," modify it for fictional/dramatic purposes, and have the start of a potentially interesting, even educational, episode.
Judge's take on town-gown. "Jill Carr, [Bowling Green State University's] dean of students, said Judge [Mark] Reddin is unusual in the way he's gotten involved with the university, freshman orientation, and campus-community efforts. 'I truly believe he appreciates having a university in the Bowling Green community,' Ms. Carr said. 'He understands that students make mistakes, but he also understands that the university can work with the municipal court to not only hold students accountable when they make those mistakes but to allow the university to provide some of the education that goes along with that.'" More (Toledo Blade 06.25.2007).
Friends of judge who killed self pay tribute, express anger at press. "[Two hundred of t]hose who knew [Judge Larry Manzanares], even if it was only in passing, gathered Sunday afternoon in the park across the street from West High School. In the crowd were law students and 17th Street lawyers, judges, City Council members and city employees, members of the organizations he supported and prominent Latino leaders. His neighbors were there. So was his older brother, Stan. U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar stood at the makeshift podium and offered a prayer. 'Lord, make me an instrument of your peace...'" Tina Griego, Rocky Mountain News columnist, who wrote the above, writes also: "People are angry. At the prosecutors, at the media, at the Rocky [Mountain News] for, among other things, its decision to devote the front page on June 14 to Manzanares' police booking shot, the felony charges filed against him in the theft of a city laptop and the discovery of pornography on that laptop...." More (Rocky Mountain News 06.25.2007). Update. Council members decry media's role in events leading to judge's suicide (Denver Post 06.26.2007).
Following judge's suicide, lawyers express anger at the prosecution. "Several members of the Denver legal community Saturday condemned the tactics used by the prosecution in the computer theft case against Larry Manzanares, who took his life Friday. Jefferson County prosecutors never should have held a news conference and released an 80-page affidavit, according to lawyers Larry Pozner and Michael Canges. 'The release of an 80-page affidavit was unprecedented,' said Pozner, a veteran lawyer who practiced in front of Manzanares in Denver District Court...'The Jefferson County district attorney's office didn't need to take it upon themselves to ruin this man.'" More (Denver Post 06.24.2007).
A judge commits suicide. Last week former a special prosecutor in Denver filed three felony charges of embezzlement, theft and tampering with evidence (and a couple misdemeanor charges) against former District Court Judge Larry Manzanares in connection with his possession (discovered through a tracking device) of a government-owned laptop, which Manzanares maintained he bought from a man in good faith and without knowledge it was stolen. Apparently contemporaneous with the filing of the charges the prosecution team held a news conference releasing an 80-page affidavit detailing the "massive" amount of (apparently fully legal) adult porn discovered in a search of the hard drive. Some talk shows, as you might expect, had a field day with this bit of news. But not everyone. Diane Carman, a columnist at the Denver Post, introduced a bit of empathetic sanity into the ether, writing in part:
[E]ven if [Manzanares is] acquitted, recovering from the humiliation may be impossible. Never mind that the Internet has made free porn accessible to millions, that it is as ubiquitous on hotel room TVs as European chocolates are in the minibars, that it is a $12 billion-a-year industry, and that [well-known corporations] share in the healthy profits...The trick for the millions of people who watch this stuff is never to admit it. When it comes to sex, everybody's a hypocrite. Speaking of which, those self-appointed arbiters of morality -- talk-radio gasbags -- were in a full-throated frenzy over a discussion about sex at Boulder High school until the Manzanares porn story broke and provided them with breathless new material.
More (Denver Post 06.17.2007). And some friends stood by Manzanares, reminding everyone they could that whatever Manzaranes did or did not do, he was a good man. And Manzanares' attorney, Gary Lozow, doing his part, fought back and "blasted prosecutors" for holding the news conference to release the 80-page affidavit. Lozow claimed the news conference was in violation of a gag order and was held "to ensure maximum sensational press coverage." More (UPI 06.23.2007). On Friday, 06.22.2007, Manzaranes appeared in court to be formally advised of the charges. His attorney sought and obtained a formal, though interim, gag order. More (Rocky Mountain News 06.22.2007). On Friday afternoon Manzanares was found dead, of an apparently-self-inflicted gunshot wound, under a walking bridge in a Denver park. More (Denver Post 06.24.2007).
Are Coast Guard's courts 'stacked'? "Hundreds of tugboat captains, charter fishermen and other professional mariners face charges of negligence or misconduct every year under the U.S. Coast Guard's administrative court system, a forum established to be fair and impartial, like any other court. The stakes are high for mariners. Even a temporary suspension can often end a career. But a Sun investigation...suggests that the system isn't merely tough on mariners but is stacked against them...." More (Baltimore Sun 06.24.2007).
Annals of law and metaphors -- the 'emergency brake' metaphor. "Now that the renegade prosecutor in the Duke University lacrosse case has been disbarred, Floridians might wonder whether a similar case could happen here. It couldn't...In Florida, the 20 state attorneys work for the governor, and he can intervene...." From "Judicial emergency brake," an editorial in the Palm Beach Post. More (Palm Beach Post 06.23.2007). Comment. Oh, it can still happen, my friends.
Suspended judge is again on tour. "Pakistan's suspended chief justice carried his fight for reinstatement and the independence of the judiciary deep into the south of Punjab province on Sunday, milking support from towns along the way. Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has become a symbol of resistance to President Pervez Musharraf, since he refused to quit in the face of pressure from the country's military leader and intelligence chiefs in March...." More (Malaysia Star 06.24.2007).
The courthouse commode calamity. Wayne County Courthouse in downtown Fairfield, Illinois, has been experiencing a high number of apparently-vandal-caused toilet overflows of late. Last week it happened again, in a toilet just outside the courtroom:
"Some clown's shoved a few rolls of Charmin down the commode on purpose again," Shelly [Wodicker, the custodian,] exclaimed, as she notified Sheriff Jim Hinkle of the unfolding catastrophe. Nasty water had run into the next door probation offices, then downstairs into the treasurer's office. Workers were moving furniture and files as fast as they could. Shelly tried in vain to sop up the mess. Hours later, while officials were trying to figure out who among the suspected probationers had commited the foul deed, court security officer Ed Hinkle, the sheriff's brother, came forward and said they should have asked him what happened...Hinkle has a habit of checking the restrooms before court convenes each day, just in case some clown had clogged up a commode the night before. Checking the men's room, he was shocked when he opened the door and saw a visiting judge standing 'ankle deep' in gook....
Comment. When I drove my daughter out to start her third year at Harvard College in the fall of 1995, we stopped one night at a motel on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls so we could take the awesome boat tour right under the falls. As soon as I entered the room and flushed the toilet to see if it was working, it began to overflow. There was no shutoff valve and for some reason, even though I know how to do it with most toilets, I couldn't get it to stop (over)flowing. We called and a motel employee came and fixed it and cleaned up the mess. We tried to get switched to a different room but the motel was full. Next morning at checkout, the clerk asked the usual question, "Was everything okay?" My response, "Well, not really. The toilet overflowed and we wanted a different room but someone said we couldn't have one." Her straight-faced robotic response, which still cracks me up: "Other than that, was everything okay?"
The 'High Court Scam.' Apparently there's a scam known as the "High Court Scam" going on in Kuala Lumpur. The scammer calls a person and asks why she missed a court hearing. The scammer then demands her name and identity card number. Then a man claiming to be a policeman tells her she's involved in money laundering. Then a "lawyer" gets on the line and tells her her account has been compromised and she needs to transfer her funds to a safer account, in the name of a judge. In the most recent case, the woman scammed "withdrew all her money from four banks and deposited RM12,000 in an account at Hong Leong Bank." She then told a friend what had happened and realized she'd been scammed. More (Malaysian Star 06.24.2007).
Judge who retired following misconduct gets plum appointment. "The Parkash Singh Badal government in Punjab has handed out a prized government position to a former Punjab and Haryana High Court judge [who took] favours from the then chairman of Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) Ravinder Paul Singh Sidhu. Justice Amar Bir Singh Gill has been appointed chairman of the Punjab Law Commission...Gill's perks will be equivalent to those of a sitting High Court judge. Gill was accused of accepting Sidhu's help in getting his daughter Amol Gill clear the Punjab Civil Service (Judicial) examination...Gill had retired after being adjudged guilty of misconduct by a three-judge panel for accepting favours from Sidhu...." More (Indian Express 06.23.2007). Comment. As we've said before, realizing that we all regularly fall short of God's glory, we believe in forgiveness and redemption and rebirth, etc. -- yes, even of judges.
When SCOTUS justices give speeches and bar the press. "While the Marshals Service [which seized tapes of a speech by Justice Scalia in Mississippi in 2004] has changed its policy, we contend there is another policy change in order, by the justices of the high court. The idea that justices, with lifetime tenure and vast authority to interpret the Constitution, should ban reporters of any sort from their speeches and public appearances is ridiculous. If the justices don't want people to hear what they have to say, they should not give speeches...." More (2TheAdvocate.Com 06.23.2007). Comment. What does a judge's desire to ban reporters from his public speeches say about the judge?
Judges can't stay awake in court? "Modafinil first came to the public notice when it was suggested that this was the ideal pill to ensure that judges stayed awake in the court room and that it might have the additional advantage that it might make their already-keen brains even sharper...." From a medical briefing by Dr Thomas Stuttaford in the UK Times. More (UK Times 06.23.2007).
Comment. I wouldn't take it (or any other prescription drug) if I could avoid it, but that's just me. I didn't know this was how Modafinil first came to public notice. But then, who knew judges can't stay awake in court? Say it isn't so.
Was man about to push female attorney over fourth floor rotunda railing? "A man grabbed [a female] attorney near a fourth-floor courthouse rotunda railing, after which some witnesses said they feared he was about to push her over...'He was trying to grab her, and all I could do is start screaming,' Jan Ermel, a court staffer who saw the attack, told the Journal & Courier. 'He was trying to put her over that railing. Oh my God, I thought she was going to go over!'" The attacker was a disgruntled litigant in a civil suit. Good Samaritans (a/k/a ordinary citizens) intervened and saved the attorney. More (Indianapolis Star 06.23.2007).
Governor says judges should know better. "The judiciary would be bringing a 'frivolous lawsuit' if it takes political leaders to court to demand a raise for New York's 1,200 judges, Gov. Eliot Spitzer said Friday as legislators again prepared to leave Albany without voting judges a raise. 'The judges should know better,' Spitzer said...." More (NYLJ 06.23.2007). Comment. We've commented before on the nearly-hysterical whinings and threats by C.J. Judith Kaye and NY judges over the legislature's failure to increase judicial salaries. The guv, like me an HLS grad, is, like me, a friend of the judiciary and, of course, wants the judges to be fairly compensated. They'd be wise and judicious to take his advice and calm down. "All good things come in time to those who are patient," I hear myself naively but optimistically saying. :-)
NAACP wanted only black lawyers on list sent to Prez for judicial vacancy. "The head of the Arkansas NAACP on Friday challenged 3rd District Rep. John Boozman's commitment to diversity in the judiciary after the congressmen announced six candidates for a vacant federal judge position. Boozman, R-Rogers, forwarded the names of three whites and three blacks to President Bush, who will select one person from that list to replace the late U.S. District Judge George Howard, who was black. Dale Charles, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's state conference said he thought only blacks should have been on the list...." More (Springdale Morning News 06.23.2007).
How judges sidestep the state constitution in Idaho (and Minnesota). "Supreme Court judges in Idaho have taken in recent years to retiring early rather than serving out their final terms, so that their replacements can be chosen be appointment rather than by direct election, as our state constitution specifies. When a justice retires early, the Idaho Judicial Council, an appointed commission with no accountability to the voters, conducts screening interviews with all the candidates who apply, then picks two to four names to send on the governor, who then appoints someone from that list to Idaho's highest bench...[F]rom our very first day as a state, our [Idaho] constitution has always provided for the direct election of Supreme Court justices, and it is unconscionable for our state's leading jurists to engage in blatant judicial activism by deliberately circumventing a plain constitutional directive...." From an op/ed piece, "When judges think we're not smart enough to pick our own judges," by Bryan Fischer, a bright Stanford grad who is Executive Director of the Idaho Values Alliance. More (RenewAmerica 06.22.2007). Comment. While as a citizen exercising his right to select judges, I probably would vote for candidates Mr. Fischer wouldn't vote for, I am in accord with most of what he says in what is an excellent piece in support of what I call "The Minnesota Plan" (similar to the Idaho Plan) of direct election of state judges rather than the appointment model favored by those who Fischer correctly calls "the elites in [the] judicial establishment." For a case study of how so-called nonpartisan commissions invariably work, see, my comments and many embedded links at Annals of judicial selection: stacking appointment commissions.
Judge as crimefighting, fraudbusting superhero. "An alert Manhattan Housing Court judge [Civil Court Judge Gerald Lebovits] saved hundreds of public housing tenants from eviction this winter by blowing the whistle on a Bronx woman who never gave tenants formal notice of the legal proceedings against them. Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau disclosed the judge's intervention yesterday when he announced that process server Margarita Nunez, 51, has pleaded guilty to filing false documents and faces five years' probation...." More (N.Y. Daily News 06.22.2007).
Hugo Chávez ally calls judge who's standing up to him 'a clown.' "The Venezuelan government has launched a blistering attack on the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, calling him a coward, a mercenary and a clown, after he voiced concern about freedom of speech in the Latin American country. Judge Garzón, who rose to prominence by issuing an arrest warrant for the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, has been feted by human rights campaigners and the left. However he fell foul of President Hugo Chávez's socialist government this week by stepping into the row over the non-renewal of a broadcast licence for an opposition television station, RCTV...." More (The Guardian 06.22.2007).
Would Granny hire a hitman to kill judge? "A 73-year-old woman from Texas is accused of threatening to hire a hit man to kill the judge and prosecutor in a criminal case against her [43-year-old] grandson. Barbara Norman Davis of Roanoke told people she was hiring someone to kill Caddo District Judge John Mosely and Caddo Assistant District Attorney Laura Fulco, investigators said...." More (LubbockOnline 06.22.2007).
Judge 'names and shames' solicitor. "A High Court judge yesterday made a rare and blistering attack on a top solicitor for wasting court time. Lord Osborne effectively 'named and shamed' Spencer Kennedy of Balfour and Manson, one of Edinburgh's best-known law firms. The solicitor cancelled a three-day hearing before a panel of three judges just two days before they were due to sit...[leaving Lord Osborne] with an empty courtroom and two judges with nothing to do because two days is far too short notice to arrange a different hearing...." More (The Herald - UK 06.22.2007).
Judge once banned in Whitewater Affair may run for bench. "Former Little Rock traffic judge Bill Watt, once banned from the bench after being given immunity from prosecution in the Whitewater investigation, says he may run for a district judgeship...." The ban was lifted in 2004. More (Pine Bluff Commercial 06.22.2007). Comment. We here at BurtLaw's The Daily Judge believe in redemption and hope that if Mr. Watt is elected he will go on to achieve judicial greatness in his corner of the common law judicial world. Might that world expand? All we can say is that the idea that if Hillary Clinton becomes President she might appoint him to SCOTUS is pure rampant speculation.
When judges sue the press, claiming libel. "Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once said judges should adopt a 'rope-a-dope' posture when criticized, taking the hits passively until their adversaries wear themselves out. But with 25 judges suing for libel in 2005 alone -- nearly 10 percent of all libel suits filed nationwide -- that form of judicial restraint is fading, raising questions about the role, and the ethics, of judges and whether they have a right to be as litigious as everyone else. Last week the news media began to push back, questioning when and whether judges should be able to use their own court systems as a tool to retaliate against the media...." More (Tony Mauro in Legal Times via Law.Com 06.22.2007). Comment. For our postings on defamation suits filed by judges and an explanation of our minority view that the cause of action for defamation, regardless of who the plaintiff is, ought to be abolished, see my comments and links at Court upholds dismissal of judge's libel suit against TV station.
Mayor, soldier and cop charged in ambush killing of judge. "A former town vice mayor, an Army corporal and a policeman were slapped with charges of murder and attempted murder of Friday over the 2005 ambush of the late Judge Nathaniel Pattugalan, according to the National Bureau of Investigation. Patuggalan, who was then serving at the Baggao, Cagayan metropolitan trial court, survived an ambush in October 2005 but his driver, Alfredo dela Cruz was killed. The judge was transferred to Metro Manila following that attack. But in January this year, Patuggalan was shot dead by motorcycle-riding men in Quezon City. Pattugalan was the father of journalist Lee Ann Ducusin...." More (GMA - Philippines 06.22.2007).
Judge is sentenced to prison for obstruction, plans daily blog from prison. "The defense attorney for former Elizabeth District Judge Ernest Marraccini yesterday said that the incident leading to his client's downfall came 'perilously close' to being entrapment. And, the attorney said, had Mr. Marraccini not been afraid to lose his pension, he'd have been happy to fight the charge at trial. Instead, the 62-year-old pleaded guilty in [federal court in] March to one count of obstruction of justice and yesterday was ordered to spend 16 months in prison...A district judge in Elizabeth since 1992, Mr. Marraccini accepted a trip to the Bahamas in July 2001 from a man hoping to develop an alternative housing facility for prisoners in the same complex as the judge's office...." More (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 06.22.2007). Comment. According to the Post-Gazette, the judge hopes to write a daily blog while in prison. Perhaps he'll also be able to read our blog, where he'll see that he's not alone among judges in trouble with the law. BTW, this is yet another instance of the feds getting involved, improperly we think, in what is really a state matter. As anyone who regularly reads our postings over the last two years, the feds seem to feel they have a "roving commission," to use Justice Cardozo's phrase, to clean up state and local government. With respect to the feds' pursuit of state judges around the country, I guess I'm more of a states'-righter than I thought I was, because I think the feds' claims of jurisdiction to prosecute some of these cases are a little contrived. It all seems so un-Republican, even to this liberal Eisenhower/Rockefeller Republican. But wait! As I wrote in 2005, long before the revelations about Alberto Gonzales' politicization of the Justice Dept. hit the fan, although I might bee wrong, I think the states where all or most of these investigations have occurred are historically Democratic, on the local level, at least. Hmmm
The judicial early disability retirement gambit. "A legislative provision is bolstering the pensions of judges taking early disability retirement, granting them full benefits regardless of how long they've been on the bench, so long as the governor signs off. The most recent jurist to receive the pension boost is former Cambridge District Court Judge Marie Jackson, who retired two weeks ago at 59 due to a heart condition. Gov. Deval Patrick signed off on the special disability retirement, which boosted her pension by $12,000 to a total of $97,000 a year...." More (Boston Herald 06.22.2007). Comment. According to The Herald, Mary Ellen Manning, a member of the Governor's Council, a unique Massachusetts institution, "said the spirit of the law is being 'perverted' to give judges inflated pensions and an unfair advantage over other state employees. 'This is an illegitimate loophole for a special class of privileged people,' Manning said. 'The public should be storming the State House with their garden tools over this.'" Amen. BTW, as we've pointed out before, those who whine about the difficulty of surviving on judicial salaries ought to include the hidden perks of office, including extraordinarily generous pension benefits, in making comparative analyses of judicial salaries with those of lawyers in private practice or academia. For some of the typical flaws and omissions in the standard group-think argument in favor of judicial pay hikes and for the kind of approach I recommend to legislators who consider requests by judges for pay raises, see, my earlier mini-essay from 01.01.2002 titled I could be making lots more if I were Michael Jordan. Further reading. Ten out of 10 pundits agree: Chief's Report on paltry pay was appalling. - The Chief Justice's annual harangue about his paltry pay.
Judge accepted loan from attorney to pay for hurricane damage repairs. "A Broward County judge needed money for hurricane-related repairs on his home so he turned to an attorney for a loan, according to the attorney and the judge's lawyer. Lawrence 'Chris' Roberts says he made the $2,500 'personal loan' to County Judge Robert S. Zack in March 2006. Zack, 64, a judge since 1988, earns $137,020...." More (South Florida Sun-Sentinel 06.22.2007). Comment. It's amazing, after all the reports over the years of judges getting in trouble doing it, that judges still do this. Update. State attorney asks governor to appoint special prosecutor (Miami Herald 07.03.2007).
Attorney who prosecuted Paris has (or ought to have) a red face. Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, who argued for and got a harsher-than-typical sentence for Paris Hilton's automotive misdeeds, turns out not to have had his own autos in order. Last week the L.A. Times reported that Delgadillo's wife had not appeared in 1998 to answer charges of driving on a suspended license, without insurance and in an unregistered vehicle and that there was an outstanding bench warrant for her arrest. She responded to the news report by appearing in court and pleading guilty to driving without a license and received, appropriately enough, a one-year summary probation, with fine and penalties of $431. There's more:
This week, Rocky Delgadillo admitted that his wife also had driven his city-owned vehicle with a suspended license. During one personal errand, Michelle Delgadillo damaged the city vehicle, which was repaired at city expense. On Monday, Rocky Delgadillo said he wrote a check to reimburse the city for the $1,222 repair, saying that it was 'the right thing to do.' Earlier this week, Delgadillo said he was embarrassed to learn that he had been driving his personal car without auto insurance from June 2005 to July 2006. He blamed the problem on his wife who was responsible for matters involving the car and said he has since taken over the task.
More (L.A. Times 06.21.2007).
Judge doesn't like seeing boobs. "I see a lot of boobs and butts...This isn't the beach or Wal-Mart. I don't want to have to turn away when I ask somebody to raise their hand when they get sworn in. It's nasty." -- Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper, quoted in a news story about her courthouse dress and conduct code that is designed to ensure "dignity" in the courtroom in which she presides. More (Gary Post-Tribune 06.21.2007). Further reading. For some of our views on individualism among judges in regard to judicial fashions as well as links to some of our penetrating postings on courthouse fashions, see, the comments to The use of the quick-scan technique in judging effectively.
Judge opts for leniency in case of lawyer's disrespectful comment. "U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Laurel Myerson Isicoff opted for leniency in the case of a prominent Chicago lawyer who told her she was 'a few french fries short of a Happy Meal.' She decided not to bar McDermott Will & Emery partner William P. Smith from practicing in South Florida bankruptcy court...." More (Daily Business Review via Law.Com 06.21.2007).
Case of the peeping courthouse security guard. "A private security guard at the U.S. Courthouse has been fired after allegedly using remote-controlled security cameras to peer into a nearby condominium...." More (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 06.21.2007).
Jet-setting judges. "Ulster's judges are still being transported across the border by private jet based on 20-year-old security advice...[A]lmost £200,000 of public money has been spent on the luxury flights in two years...[A] return trip to the Republic is costing just under £2,000 on each occasion. In comparison, a first class return train ticket from Belfast to Dublin costs £62 and a return taxi fare costs around £260. There are no direct flights between Belfast and Dublin but a return flight, connecting in Cork, costs from £165...." More (Belfast Telegraph 06.21.2007). Comment. The use of private jets by judges on trips between Belfast and Dublin was started 20 years ago when the IRA murdered the second most senior judge in Northern Ireland and his wife as they drove their car across the border into Northern Ireland.
Why every judge needs a dog. "Walking Howdy in Central Park while [his 26-year-old girlfriend] Polly is on vacation, [gruff 50-year-old] Everett interacts with local men, women and children, and their terriers, poodles and Labradoodles, shedding his standoffishness and unleashing his humanity. After five days, he notices that 'life had come alive for him. His street was full of people, and his city was full of streets. His park, once nothing more than a grand exercise track, was now a landscape, a lawn, a garden, a thicket, a boulder, a swamp.'" From Liesl Schillinger, "The Year of the Dog," a review of Catleen Schine's new novel, The New Yorkers. More (NYT Sunday Book Review 05.13.2007). Comment. I'm a normally shy, superficially misanthropic resident of a privileged suburb of Minneapolis. Twice a day or more on most weekdays, when she's with me, I walk with my pal, Jane, a 3-year-old B&W border collie around this God-blessed neighborhood of natural beauty and civilized people. A not-unusual recent walk: a) A trim female landscaper with great arm muscles unloading some bags of wood chips from a truck hails me and tells me she has a blue merl border collie. We talk briefly about border collies and Australian shepherds, including my dear Aussie dog friend, Mathilda, who died on March 25th. b) A woman is exercising her golden retriever in the enclosed area where there's an outdoor ice hockey rink in the winter. Her dog runs over to play with Jane, and she follows. We talk. c) As I leave the rink area and cross the bridge over Minnehaha Creek to the park, a bright little girl, accompanied by her pals in a small group of little kids participating in a supervised parks program, greets us and asks to pet Jane. As she's doing so, I tell them about Jane's prowess at tennis-ball soccer and say that Jane could star in a movie about a soccer-playing dog, sorta like the movie in which the golden retriever was a basketball star. She says she plays soccer and has a goldie. d) A woman and her dauchshound stop and we let the dogs sniff each other while we exchange pleasantries. e) A smart, verbally-adept, well-read contract groundskeeper mowing at the church down the block pets Jane and she licks his hands and arms while we discuss border collies, dog genetics, and a Basque sheepherder his uncle met one summer while sheepherding with a border collie in the Colorado mountains. The lesson-of-the-day: Dogs make their owners walk. Dogs bring people of all ages and walks together. Dogs make their owners better people. Dogs help turn a collection of nice houses into a neighborhood. Dogs rule. Thus endeth the Gospel According to St. Jane.
Teen suspect said he has the judges wrapped around his little finger. "A teenage suspected heroin dealer who told a Garda that he had 'all the judges in the Children's Court wrapped around his little finger,' was remanded in custody today...." More (Irish Examiner 06.21.2007). Comment. How does one wrap judges around one's little finger?
Another case of courthouse health complaints - somethin' bad in the air? "A city safety consultant[, Melissa Bartlett,] is conducting tests this week to determine the cause of Fredericksburg Circuit Court employees' health complaints...In the meantime, Bartlett said that the public should feel comfortable using the courthouse because tests have not indicated any dangerous conditions...." More (Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star - VA 06.21.2007). Comment. For many years The New Yorker published occasional pieces from the annals of medical & public health detection written by one of the many outstanding "Burtons" in the world, a deft writer named Berton Roueche; some of these pieces later were collected in a single volume by Roueche titled The Medical Detectives. Stories of complaints by workers about courthouse smells & about the resultant investigations pop up every now & then. The investigators always have to do a thorough investigation. Sometimes they solve the problem. In one of Roueche's cases, I think, they ultimately concluded that a sort of mass hysteria was at work & the bad air & the illnesses were "imagined." Needless to say, we suggest nothing in re the situation in Fredericksburg. Further reading. Michael Fumento, Scents and Senselessness (American Spectator April 2000).
Courts as lawbreaking breeding grounds for mosquitoes. "Those who uphold the law often end up violating the rule themselves -- and certainly so when it comes to mosquitoes in the Indian capital. The local authorities have sent notices to the Delhi High Court, Patiala House courts and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for breeding mosquitoes, the carrier of the dreaded dengue and chikungunya fevers. Health officials said that during their field visits they have found mosquito breeding grounds in the court premises...." More (NewsPostIndia 06.20.2007). Comment. Justice Brandeis in his oft-quoted dissent in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 485 (1928), wrote: "Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a law-breaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy." Quoted in my Campaign Journal on 08.17.2004. It appears that when government is the law-breaker, it doesn't just serve as a metaphorical breeding ground but as an actual one. Is your court a breeding ground?
Why the Supremes in WA ought to re-read Uncle Henry Hart's book. SCOTUS recently held, in a 9-0 decision, in Davenport et al. v. Washington Education Ass'n. (06.14.2007) that the Washington Supreme Court erred in holding that the Washington Education Association may not use nonmember dues for political purposes. Doug DeForest, a nephew of the famed late Harvard Law prof, Henry Hart, opines: "[P]erhaps the biggest loser of all was the Washington State Supreme Court...This decision...says very clearly (albeit not in so many words) that the six state supreme court justices voting to uphold the WEA did not understand and/or correctly apply the First Amendment to the Constitution. Perhaps those six former and current state Supreme Court justices (Gary Alexander, Bobbe Bridge, Tom Chambers, Faith Ireland, Charles Johnson, Barbara Madsen and Susan Owens) ought to go back and read Uncle Henry's book." More (The Olympian 06.20.2007). Comment. We've made similar points regarding the Minnesota Supreme Court's fumbling of the First Amendment issues in the judicial free speech cases. See, e.g., my extended comment at Court says judge's ad violated ethics code.
Presidents trying to influence judges. "CJP Aitrzaz Ahsan said step taken by the president was illogical and unjustified and was against the public interest. Referring authority has no right to pressurize the judge. Summoning a judge means to give him message either to remain compliant or resign or face a reference...." More (Pak Tribune 06.20.2007). Comment. Similarly, an executive who appointed a number of judges ought not write a letter to those judges giving him his views on one or more legal issues likely to come before the court in one form or another. But executives -- e.g., our President -- have a way of getting their way. They just make sure up front that their appointees know the party line. The proof, the old saying goes, is in the pudding. Witness the voting behavior of President Bush's picks, Roberts and Alito, during the current term.
Nine judges and one prosecutor (who's been keeping a 'black book' on them). "A log that Commonwealth's Attorney Harvey Bryant kept on the city's Circuit Court judges alleges that in 2002, a judge changed the blood-alcohol level on a certificate of analysis for a DUI suspect to .10 from .24 , allowing the defendant to avoid a mandatory jail sentence. The change, Bryant alleges, was made by Circuit Court Judge A. Joseph Canada Jr. and is one of about two dozen incidents Bryant has logged in his 'black book' enumerating what he thinks are questionable decisions by several of the city's judges...." More (Virginian Pilot 06.20.2007). Comment. The existence of the "black book" surfaced after the circuit judges filed a complaint against Bryant with the state bar over Bryant's publicly criticizing them at a Republican breakfast. Id. See, my remarks critical of the judges' complaint at Circuit judges request investigation of prosecutor for remarks in speech.
The sewage in the courthouse. "San Bernardino County Superior Court announced its Redlands District Courthouse will be closed for up to a month because a broken pipe flooded a portion of the building with sewage...." More (L.A. Times 06.20.2007). Comment. It takes a month to clean up the mess? It took me a couple hours to clean up the mess when the main drain backed up in the basement of my own personal courthouse (my home), and a half hour for the service man to clear the drain of tree roots.
'Judge Weepner' to be judge of higher (rated) court. "Judge Wapner was firm and fair, Judge Judy is tough as nails. But when Judge Larry Seidlin gets his own courtroom show, they better put a big box of tissues on the bench. Seidlin, the weepy Florida judge who presided over the fight over where to bury Anna Nicole Smith, has inked a deal to develop a 2008 show with CBS Television Distribution...." More (N.Y. Daily News 06.20.2007).
The power of shoes. "A suspicious package found outside the Westchester County Courthouse yesterday morning contained a pair of shoes wrapped in a towel, police said. Court officers found the package about 8:15 a.m. in front of the main entrance on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The building was kept closed -- most workers and visitors had not yet arrived -- and the street in front was blocked for about 90 minutes while the Westchester County police Bomb Squad investigated...." More (Journal News 06.20.2007). Comment. An old-timer I know sez, "Back in my day we weren't 'suspicious' -- or afraid -- of any packages. We opened 'em all and we did it ourselves. We didn't expect or want anyone else to open our packages. After all, they might contain...oh, you know, those vitamins for real men."
Let's save the courthouse angels. "Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley...said the county should do everything possible to preserve the four angel sculptures that adorn the old Civil Courts Building in downtown Fort Worth before it is torn down...." More (Fort Worth Star-Telegram 06.20.2007). Comment. We're for saving the courthouse angels, which are carved in limestone and are four stories tall. We're also for saving ordinary living, breathing mortals, people convicted of crimes, rather than scrapping them (as Texas and many other states do, in many cases).
Annals of specialized judging. "Six University of Illinois meat judging students and two coaches are getting ready to head Down Under. For the first time ever, an American university has been invited to compete in the Australian Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest. The U of I Meats Judging Team will take part in the July 6-7 contest at the University of New England, Armidale and Cargill Beef Australia at Tamworth, both in New South Wales...." More (Prairie Farmer 06.20.2007). Comment. Congratulations to the Fightin' Illini 6, who are on the verge of meat judging greatness. Perhaps they will consider law school and then common law judging after they graduate from Illinois. In our experience, great meat judges make great common law judges. Further reading. BurtLaw's Dog Judging, Jam&Jelly Judging, Etc. Update. Md. dairy judges off to Scotland (American Farm 06.20.2007).
What do Tennessee beauty pageant judges look for? One of the contestants in the state's Miss America Pageant, Miss Kingsport, Tyla Short, who is 19, told a reporter that she's "been studying pageants since her childhood. 'Miss America was my favorite pageant to watch,' said Short following the interview portion of the competition on Tuesday. 'Before I entered the Miss Kingsport pageant, I studied Miss Tennessee. I looked at how the judges would be scoring.' Short knew that historically many of the previous winners of Miss Tennessee were blondes. 'My natural hair color is a little darker,' said Short as she pointed to areas of her hair that had been highlighted. But where Short seemed to draw the line was at the suggestion of straightening her naturally curly hair for the competition. 'Someone suggested that I straighten my hair,' Short said. 'But this is me, naturally. I am who I am for a reason, and I didn't want to compromise that.'" More (Jackson Sun 06.20.2007). Comment. Two points. a) Like a good lawyer, Ms. Short boned up before going before the judges. Believe it or not, some attorneys arguing before state supreme courts don't even know the names of the judges and therefore can't answer a penetrating question from the judge on the far left with "Justice Hanson, the answer to that is no, for two reasons." b) Like a good lawyer, Ms. Short doesn't try to be someone she's not. True, she "highlighted" her hair (that's okay) but she didn't straighten her naturally curly hair, any more than I was willing to do when back in the 1970's an impertinent barber in downtown St. Paul suggested I do so. If I had done so, I never would have met any of the nice older women over the years who've approached me in parking lots, in grocery store aisles, etc., to say they wished they could have some of my curly hair. :-)
It takes a ruling by SCOLA to get judge to recuse in case Sis is prosecuting. "A judge whose sister is a prosecutor in a murder case stepped aside from the case following a ruling from the Louisiana Supreme Court...Earlier Monday, the high court declined to review a 1st Circuit Court of Appeal decision recusing Judge Doug Hughes from the case because his sister, Charlotte Herbert, is lead prosecutor in the Pender case...." More (Times-Picayune 06.20.2007).
Comparing apples and organges. "[F]ederal judges have cushy jobs featuring all sorts of fabulous benefits. They have bright young law clerks to do most of their work for them (including, in a startlingly high proportion of cases, the writing of the opinions the judges sign). As a practical matter federal judges can't be fired. They can retire at age 65 and continue to draw their full salary for the rest of their lives. And they have a lot of real power (I've known lawyers who wouldn't return a phone call from the Pope but would sprint out of a bathroom to take a call from a judge's clerk). By contrast, lawyers at top law firms have extremely annoying jobs that require working absurdly long hours, as well as dealing with highly aggravating people -- a group that includes, but is not limited to, clients, other lawyers, and federal judges." -- Paul F. Campos, who is a law professor at the University of Colorado, commenting in an syndicated op/ed piece on Chief Justice Roberts' complaint last January (and on other occasions) that federal judges' salaries don't compare favorably with those of "senior law professors at top schools," new associates hired by big corporate law firms, and senior partners at such firms. More (SIT News 06.20.2007). Comment. We've made similar observations in the past. For some of the typical flaws and omissions in the standard group-think argument in favor of judicial pay hikes and for the kind of approach I recommend to legislators who consider requests by judges for pay raises, see, my earlier mini-essay from 01.01.2002 titled I could be making lots more if I were Michael Jordan. Further reading. a) Ten out of 10 pundits agree: Chief's Report on paltry pay was appalling. b) The Chief Justice's annual harangue about his paltry pay.
Judge's view he was being 'codded' proves to have been wrong. "The family of a man who died four days after a Judge cast doubts on his claims to be ill and in need of care -- as he pleaded for his son not to be jailed for assault -- yesterday hit out at the comments made in court. They described as 'outrageous' Judge Raymond Groarke's description of Gerard Thornton as 'a fraud and a chancer.'" More (Connacht Sentinel - Ireland 06.19.2007). Comment. The father said he was seriously ill and that his son, about to be sentenced, was his caregiver; he pleaded for a probationary term. The judge characterized the father's behavior as a "performance" and said he refused to be "codded" (hoaxed). Four days later the dad died.
A movie for judges -- and everybody else. "In the movies, and unfortunately in life, we tend to accept the easy falsehood that someone who behaves badly in one respect must be bad in others, even if they're totally unrelated...In a black-and-white world, human flaws are not allowed. In order to do good, a person must himself be a paragon of goodness. Half Nelson, the miraculous movie by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, is about a junior high schoolteacher who smokes. Crack. And the thing is, he's a good teacher, even if (or, rather, because) he doesn't always stick to the district-approved syllabus...." More (RogerEbert.Com - Review by Jim Emerson 09.15.2006). Comment. I watched the movie on DVD with my kids over the Father's Day weekend. It stars Ryan Gosling, in a terrific performance as the crack-addicted teacher. One needs to "open oneself," suspending one's tendency to judge everything immediately and harshly, when watching this movie. Truth is, each of us, in some way, is as flawed as each of the characters in the movie. And each of us is a son or daughter of God. That person standing before you in court is, too.
Can judges really cast aside their self-interest in effects of their decisions? "[E]ven if individual [TV reality show] judges aren't following scripts from the network or cynically trying to make sure that what happens in Episode 2 keeps alive the possibility of great entertainment in Episode 6, can they really cast aside and ignore their own investments in making the series work? Can they really not let their own understandable desire to keep things interesting, for themselves as well as for viewers, inform the decisions they make?" Frank Bruni, Top Chef: Judging the Judging (NYT 06.19.2007). Comment. Is what is true of TV 'judges' also true of common law judges?
Judge courts new chick after court victory. "Clearly happy about his victorious day in court, [winning custody of his children,] David Hasselhoff decided to...celebrate with some busty arm candy...TMZ spotted an ecstatic-looking Hasselhoff strolling down Las Palmas Ave. in Hollywood on Friday night, hand-in-hand with a mystery brunette...." More (TMZ 06.19.2007). Comment. The Hoff is beloved, and not a tiny bit envied, by fellow common law and civil law judges the world over for his memorable performances as Chief Lifeguard Mitch Buchannon, nonjudgmental father figure to the likes of slow-motion-running Pamela Anderson, Yasmine Bleeth, and Alexandra Paul on the immortal Baywatch TV series.
Judge Jennifer Aniston? According to a report in The Gossip Girls (06.19.2007), The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has invited Jennifer Aniston to become a "judge." Comment. For a long time, we may have been the only one who thought she had it in her to become a judge. Nice, once again, to be proven prescient on an important judicial matter.
The 'power elite' revisited. "Among those contributing to the 373 pages of what thesmokinggun.com calls 'Scooter Libby Love Letters' are self-identified liberals and Democrats, a few journalists (including a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine) and a goodly sample of those who presided over the Iraq catastrophe or cheered it on. This is a documentary snapshot of the elite Washington mob of our time...." From Frank Rich, Scooter's Sopranos Go to the Mattresses (NYT 06.17.2007). Comment. It often seems to me that it doesn't matter all that much who the voters elect to serve them in Washington because the real rulers of the country are members of a less-than-clearly-visible "power elite" and that the members, Republicans and Democrats alike, for the most part stick together through thick and thin. The late C. Wright Mills (1916-1962), a great sociologist, wrote an influential book titled The Power Elite in the 1950's. I read it in a wonderful course taught at the U. of MN in the early '60's by the late Arnold Rose, a brilliant sociologist who was also a DFL legislator. For some of my early musings on whether there is an "invisible" power elite in Minnesota and, if so, the extent to which that elite gets its way in running the state judicial system, go to BurtLaw on Politics & scroll down to "'Power elite' in MN?"
Annals of judicial secrecy. "One judge sexually harassed an employee. Another pleaded guilty to drinking and driving. And a part-time judge heard a case involving a client of his firm. Those are some of the examples of misconduct cited by Colorado's Commission on Judicial Discipline. But the commission won't reveal the identity of judges accused of misconduct or what happens to complaints against them unless they reach the most serious level -- a recommendation to the state Supreme Court to discipline a judge. That hasn't happened in Colorado since 1986...." More (Rocky Mountain News 06.18.2007). Comment. Colorado is in the minority of states in pushing this aspect of judicial secrecy this far.
Judges upset over divisive salary plan. "South Africa's judges have reportedly slammed as 'divisive' plans to raise their salaries by only 17 percent while certain of their senior colleagues get pay hikes of up to 65 percent...." More (IOL 06.17.2007). Comment. "It ain't fair -- you like Sally more than me," cried Jimmy to his mom on learning that his older sister's weekly allowance included an extra $5 for clothing and beauty expenses.
Too much on-the-job socializing among courthouse workers? A "country club" work atmosphere? That's what a letter writer says about workers at one Florida county courthouse: "Re: Audit: 18 percent of county vehicles underused, article that was printed Saturday, June 9. Vehicles are not the only underused county asset. Excessive on-the-job staff socializing, face-to-face and by e-mail and cell phone, periodically is interrupted by work...." More (Hernando Today 06.17.2007). Comment. We know nothing about the atmosphere at the courthouse in question, but don't doubt that there are, oh, not a few courthouses around the country, even here in the hard-working upper midwest, where if "courthouse workers" were a tad more efficient, the court systems would hum.
Dancing with Congress. "When the long-awaited congressional subpoenas went out this week to former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and former Political Director Sara Taylor, it seemed safe to assume that weeks of legal wrangling would follow between the White House and Congress. That's OK. It will give Taylor and Miers a little time with their respective dance coaches. They'll need to bone up on the footwork required for government officials offering congressional testimony about awkward political scandals...." From Dahlia Lithwick, Testimonial Two-Step - Mastering the intricate dance of congressional testimony (Slate 06.17.2007). Comment. Lithwick, whose essays are always a must-read, summarizes some of the commonly-taught dance steps. For example: "Take a step to the left...[by] seiz[ing] ground as a member of some protected constitutional class" as when "Former White House liaison to the Justice Department Monica Goodling, who was a central player in the U.S. attorneys purge and a 33-year-old law-school graduate to boot, called herself a 'girl' in her written testimony to the House judiciary committee." :-)
New judicial academy comes under fire in book-buying spree. "Chandigarh Judicial Academy, set up early this year for training of judicial officers of both Punjab and Haryana, has in its inaugural year been caught in a serious controversy over the purchase of books from a local bookseller for its library. The academy has been on a buying spree, purchasing books worth several lakhs of rupees for its proposed library, allegedly either without the prior approval or sanction of its executive board or beyond the financial powers of the board...." More (The Tribune - India 06.17.2007). Comment. According to the story, "Some of the law books purchased in bulk include 'Cattle Trespass Act of 1871,' 'Partition Act,' and 'Exhaustive Guide to Slum Areas.'" The titles of law books are sometimes more revealing of a country's history and culture than one might have imagined.
A French voyeuristic peep-hole view of American sentencing. "Two years in jail for parents serving beer at their teenager's birthday party. Ten years in prison for oral sex. Fifty years for stealing a bunch of videos. US courts have been handing lengthy sentences recently as lawmakers have raised minimum sentencing for drug trafficking, child abuse, recidivism and moral turpitude...The Justice Department recently put the 2005 US prison population at 2.19 million, or one inmate for every 136 inhabitants. In France, by contrast, the prison population is one inmate per 1,000 inhabitants." From a report by Agence France-Presse in The Nation (Thailand 06.17.2007). Comment. I've stated my views on America's uncivilized mania for punishment on numerous occasions, including in my failed anti-war primary campaign in 2004 against an entrenched GOP congressman who was a gung-ho supporter of our uncivilized, unjustified invasion of Iraq.
Judges who refuse to shake hands with other judges... "It is not required of a female judge, neither that she shakes hands with her male colleagues, nor that she shows her hair, says the president of the Danish Supreme Court. The Danish PM, Mr. Fogh Rasmussen agreed that open mindedness should include women with headscarves, an article published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on June 5 carried...." More (Radiance Weekly 06.17.2007). Comment. One might ask, Do these women need to wear their headscarves in order to perform their judicial duties duties effectively? On the other hand, one might ask, Do British judges need to wear ridiculous wigs and red robes in order to perform their duties effectively? My property law teacher at Harvard Law School, the late W. Barton Leach, acknowledged world master of the intricacies of the Rule Against Perpetuities, liked to toss out little nuggets of practical wisdom. Like this one: "When your opponent asks a rhetorical question, answer it! It's usually very easy to do." And so, I will answer these rhetorical questions. Yes, some judges maybe do need to wear those ridiculous wigs and red robes in order to perform their duties effectively. We just don't know. We do know that the British migrants in North America & their common law descendants clearly do not need to wear them. You see, North America was discovered by the Vikings, who had their own distinctive style of dress. See, Viking Men's Clothing. When their style of judicial garb (horned helmets, etc.) was crossed with the British style of judicial garb (scratchy wigs, ridiculous red robes, etc.), the result was something entirely fresh, new and North American -- specifically, in the case of the United States, naked rather than wigged heads (symbolizing openness to light, air and ideas) and stark, simple but flowing black robes (symbolizing the common-ness of the common law with a nod, in the flowing nature of the robe, to the feminine quality of mercy as a countervailing force to the otherwise unwavering blackness of justice). What ultimately ought the free-loving (woops, that's the Swedes) and freedom-loving Danes do? We believe in giving the Danes a reasonable period of time to decide this issue in their own way before we preemptively invade them (or, better and cheaper, simply annex them) and decide the matter our way. Further reading. For some of our views on individualism among judges in regard to judicial fashions as well as links to some of our penetrating postings on courthouse fashions, see, comments to The use of the quick-scan technique in judging effectively.
Junior G-Man Nino Scalia's hero? Jack Bauer. "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles...He saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Are you going to convict Jack Bauer? Say that criminal law is against him? You have a right to a jury trial? Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don't think so. So the question is really whether we believe in these absolutes. And ought we believe in these absolutes." Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking at a legal conference in Ottawa. More (Globe and Mail 06.16.2007). Comment. What!?#*
Judge's son gets prison term for stealing dad's identity. "The son of a county judge was sentenced [in federal court] to 27 months in prison Friday for a bank fraud and money laundering scam. Lee Mazur Jr., 38, of Pittsburgh, is the son of Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lee J. Mazur...The scheme the younger Mazur concocted included applying for several loans using his father's name, Social Security number and other credit information without his father's consent...." More (Penn Live 06.16.2007).
Judge refuses to take away dog's reason to live. "A Brooklyn judge ordered a city animal shelter yesterday to release a runaway mastiff it's been holding since last month because the facility demanded that the owner agree to the pooch's sterilization first. 'What he was brought in with, he leaves the center with,' the judge, Arthur Schack, added as he announced his decision in Brooklyn Supreme Court...." More (N.Y. Post 06.16.2007).
Judge was wrong to order secretary to rubber-stamp plea deals. "The state Supreme Court has reprimanded Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court Judge Wayne Griego. The reprimand comes in a 2005 incident in which he directed his secretary to sign off on traffic case plea agreements when he was delayed returning from a vacation...." More (KOB 06.16.2007). Comment. Say that a judge or higher-up in the court system is supposed to sign time-sheets of employees under his supervision. Might the judge or higher-up get in trouble for authorizing a secretary to sign the judge's signature to the time-sheets when the judge or higher-up is on vacation or out of the office? We think so.
Courthouse surveillance camera captures courthouse ghost. "A surveillance camera at the First Judicial District courthouse downtown captured a strange image Friday morning that left sheriff's deputies, lawyers, clerks and judges scratching their heads as to what it might have been. Some thought it was the ghost of a man killed at the courthouse more than 20 years ago after bringing a rifle to the building and taking several people hostage...." More (Santa Fe New Mexican 06.16.2007). Update. Professional 'ghostbuster' checks courthouse, doubts ghost was there (Santa Fe New Mexican 06.21.2007).
Annals of judicial innovation -- herein of 'strike teams' and 'surges.' "[CA] Chief Justice Ronald George assigned a strike force of a dozen judges Friday to relieve the backlog of criminal cases that has almost paralyzed Riverside County's court system. The active and retired judges with extensive criminal law experience, led by their own assigning judge, could be working in the county by the middle of July. The group is expected to work for four months...." More (Press-Enterprise 06.15.2007).
Souter accuses Scalitertsian majority of 'bait and switch.' "A narrow Supreme Court majority [including Scalia-Alito-Roberts, thus, 'Sacalitertsian'] on Thursday agreed that a lower court properly dismissed the appeal of a man who missed a federal filing deadline by three days because of a federal district judge's erroneous instructions...Justice David H. Souter, writing for the four dissenters in the case, Bowles v. Russell, No. 06-5306, objected that 'it is intolerable for the judicial system to treat people this way.' He added, 'There is not even a technical justification for condoning this bait and switch.'" More (New York Times 06.15.2006).
Judge envisions web-friendly openness for high-profile trial. "The Fort Dix Six trial may be like the second coming of the O.J. trial -- at least when it comes to dealing with a media mob. A trial-court Web site. Simultaneous transcription of testimony. A wi-fi courtroom. Auxiliary courtrooms for the media -- and one for the defendants' families -- with live video and audio. A possible live feed to Fort Dix. And when evidence is entered into the court record, it will immediately be put up on the Web site for all the world to see...." More (Philadelphia Daily News 06.15.2007). Comment. For all this, the judge, U.S. District Judge Richard Kugler, is hereby awarded our prestigious, much-coveted "BurtLaw Judicial Transparency and Accountability Award for the Middle of June, 2007."
Packet for Anna Nicole found in trash bin at judge's condo. "An envelope marked 'X-rays' and addressed to the starlet was inexplicably discovered in a trash room at Broward Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin's condominium building, an attorney for the condo association said...A maintenance worker found the envelope on March 26, said condo association attorney Gary Poliakoff. For now, the unopened envelope remains in a safe at his law firm...'There is absolutely no evidence that Judge Seidlin was associated with it,' Poliakoff said. 'The actual contents of the envelope have never been examined. Who knows what's in there. It could be an April Fool's joke for all I know.'" More (South Florida Sun-Sentinel 06.15.2007).
Judge caught smoking pot quits. "Broward Circuit Judge Lawrence Korda[, 60 on 06.27.2007,] announced his retirement this week, three months after he was caught smoking pot in a Hollywood park...." More (Miami Herald 06.15.2007).
Judge may be disciplined for behaving 'no better than lowlifes and hoodlums.' "A district judge who punched an off-duty police sergeant at a birthday party violated the state constitution by casting the judiciary in disrepute, the [PA] Court of Judicial Discipline said. The ethics panel recommended that Willow Street District Judge Maynard A. Hamilton Jr. be punished for the June 10, 2006, altercation at the Cross Gates Golf Course in Lancaster County. 'If a judicial officer conducts himself -- on or off the bench -- no better than the lowlifes and hoodlums who sometimes pass through his court, then the public's confidence in the judiciary will be diminished and its authority threatened,' the judicial ethics panel said...The eight-member Court of Judicial Discipline will consider what punishment to impose during a hearing in Harrisburg on July 18. Hamilton could face a reprimand, suspension or removal from office...." More (Centre Daily 06.15.2007). Comment. The Brits have a term, "git," that is defined online thusly: "A person who is deemed to be despicable or contemptible -- rotter, dirty dog, rat, skunk, stinker, stinkpot, bum [N. Amer], crumb, lowlife, scum bag, so-and-so, bugger, scuzzbag [N. Amer], scuzzball [N. Amer], scuzz [N. Amer], slimeball, scuzzbucket [N. Amer], sleazeball, slimebag, sleazebag." The use by the "Court of Discipline" of the phrase "lowlifes and hoodlums who sometimes pass through his court" itself arguably tends to bring the judiciary into disrepute. Judges ought to leave their tendency to call people names at home and ought to make a considered effort to look upon all the people who pass through the court system as fellow citizens entitled to be treated with civility. As this very case proves, even those who are privileged to wear robes sometimes do bad things. To call someone who does a bad thing a "lowlife" reduces that person to a single term, a stereotype. But every man is a tumultuous mixture of good and bad, none more worthy of redemption than the other. "Put them in mind to...speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another...Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration...." The Epistle of Paul to Titus (A.V.) (1611).
Annals of creative sentencing. "Mr. Justice Rhys Morgan told a 24-year-old, characterized as having a dependent personality disorder, yesterday he could not have a girlfriend for the next three years. The unusual order was added to Steven Cranley's probation order after he pleaded guilty to six charges relating to an argument he had with his former girlfriend and a roommate Jan. 17...'You cannot form a romantic relationship of an intimate nature with a female person,' Morgan said. 'That is the only way I can see the protection of the public is in place until you get the counselling you need.'" More (Peterborough Examiner 06.15.2007). Comment. Does this mean he may have non-romantic sexual intercourse with a woman?
Corporate attorneys don't think highly of Illinois courts. "Corporate attorneys rank Illinois the fifth-worst state in the union when it comes to handling business lawsuits fairly, while Chicago/Cook County is the second-worst local jurisdiction...The state scored a rating of 51 on a scale of 100 as ranked by corporate lawyers surveyed on behalf of the U.S. Institute for Legal Reform. Illinois finished ahead of only Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia...Harris Interactive polled 1,559 attorneys by phone at companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million." More (Chicago Daily Herald 06.15.2007). Comment. Here's a link to the study, Lawsuit Climate 2007: Rating the States - 2007 U.S. Chamber of Commerce State Liability Systems Ranking Study. Who did the corporate attorneys at companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million like best? Delaware -- followed by Minnesota in second place. Maybe if the judges in Minnesota emulate the folks at Avis Rent-a-Car and try a wee bit harder to please the corporate types, Minnesota will be #1 next year. Let's all hope so. We in MN always love to be #1 in these national surveys. We're not sufficiently self-satisfied.
Obituary: Judge Robert Forsythe - former Gov. Quie is satisfied in made right choice in appointing pal. "Al Quie remembers the dilemma he faced in deciding whether to make Bob Forsythe a judge in Hennepin County in 1982. On the one hand, the Republican governor was making a point of turning his back on cronyism. An independent panel had given him the list of finalists, including Forsythe. On the other hand, Quie had known Forsythe since college, and both men had been major figures in Republican politics for decades. 'I really struggled with that decision,' Quie said Thursday. 'But I finally said to myself, 'You can't hold friendship against people. I'm going to pick the best, even though he's a friend.'" More (Minneapolis Star-Tribune 06.15.2007). Comment. Judge Forsythe, who was 85, died this week. By all accounts, according to the newspaper, he was a good judge. Without regard to his objective qualifications or his virtues as a judge and person, which we don't doubt, we merely point out that a) so-called "independent panels" seem to have a way of picking people the governors want them to pick, and b) when governors appoint friends to the bench, they always maintain that they picked the best of the lot and you can't hold friendship against people, etc. On the subject of appointing friends, here's a comment I posted in early October, 2005:
In many small towns in America, where everybody knows everybody else, it's hard to pick jurors who aren't biased in some way. In small isolated communities like Hafslo i Sogn og Fjordane in Norway, where some of my ancestors came from, there was a lot of "in-breeding," the marrying of cousins, etc., what many of us now think of as almost a form of incest. In many art & literature prize competitions in the U.S. & elsewhere, it's not uncommon for some of the judges, artists & writers themselves, to vote for friends out of friendship or against foes. "In-breeding" is something all the laws against incest can't put to an end. There are "in-breeders" and there are "in-breeders." The "inbreeders" I detest are those who prate about equal opportunity and so on but literally always wind up finding "the best person in America (or Minnesota, as the case may be) for the job" right inside their own little incestuous circle -- e.g., the "liberal" judge who blathers on about the need for more diversity, more opportunity-for-all, etc., then turns around and hires as a law clerk the kid of a friend. As Billy Joel's song says, "And so it goes, and so it goes...." Further reading. Inbreeding at One First Street (Underneath Their Robes 06.14.2004) (about in-breeding among the 35 law clerks at the U.S. Supreme Court); Justice Anthony M. Kennedy (SupremeCourtHistory.Org) (his dad was a friend of Earl Warren and Roger Traynor was best man at his dad's wedding); etc., etc.
Annals of judicial discrimination against the rich and famous. "The [L.A.] Times analyzed 2 million jail releases and found 1,500 cases since July 2002 that -- like [Paris] Hilton's -- involved defendants who had been arrested for drunk driving and later sentenced to jail after a probation violation or driving without a license...Hilton will end up serving more time than 80% of other people in similar situations...." More (L.A. Times 06.14.2007). Comment. Judges ought to treat the wealthy no better -- and no worse -- than anyone else. See, Burton R. Hanson, "The Voices of a Judge -- The Judicial Opinions of Chief Justice Peter S. Popovich of the Minnesota Supreme Court," The Judicial Career of Peter S. Popovich (MN. Justices Series No. 10, 1998), on file at the MN State Law Library, the MN Historical Society, and the Library of Congress. Sadly, some judges like to play to the crowd in sentencing -- and it can cut either way when they do that.
Bork v. Bork. "There are many versions of the cliché that 'a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged,' and Robert Bork has just given rise to another. A tort plaintiff, it turns out, is a critic of tort lawsuits who has slipped and fallen at the Yale Club...[Bork] has filed a suit that is so aggressive about the law that, if he had not filed it himself, we suspect he might regard it as, well, piratical...." More (NYT - Editorial 06.14.2007). Comment. One who unsuccessfully advocates change in the law of negligence that arguably makes it too easy to recover for personal injuries allegedly caused by another person is not barred from suing on the basis of the law as it is. And no one is barred from highlighting the superficial inconsistency of advocating tort reform, then blaming someone else and seeking punitive damages when one slips and falls.
Former judge charged in theft of court laptop. "Former Denver District Judge Larry Manzanares has been charged with three felony crimes of embezzlement, theft and tampering with evidence along with other charges related to a stolen, state-owned computer that was found in his home. In addition to the felonies, Manzanares also was charged with two misdemeanors of first-degree official misconduct and computer crime. The charges were filed by a special prosecutor...." More (Denver Post 06.14.2007). Comment. For an interesting piece on the effect of criminal proceedings on other Colorado judges, read on....
Judges on trial in Colorado - a retrospective view. "Criminal allegations and even convictions don't necessarily mean the end of a judicial career. One-time Denver District Judge Raymond Dean Jones went on trial in 1986 charged with shoplifting a pair of bear paw slippers, was acquitted and went on to be appointed to the Colorado Court of Appeals...[But Defense Attorney Phil] Cherner said the Jones case is an example of the long life that [mere] allegations of misconduct by judges have. 'Here it is, 20 years later, and you're doing a story that dredges it all up again, and I think that's wrong,' he said...." In support of the notion that any controversy can have a negative impact on a judge's career, the author offers the following example: "In 1978, Jefferson County District Judge George Priest was shot at by his disgruntled colleague, County Judge E.A. Howard Baker Jr., who then took his own life. Although Priest was the victim of the shooting, it was believed to play a role in his removal from the bench in a subsequent retention election later that year...." More (Rocky Mountain News 06.14.2007). Comment. Good piece of explanatory reporting that provides needed context to the allegations -- and they are just allegations -- against Mr. Manzanares.
Former GOP majority leader's counsel is nominated by Bush to federal court. "Gus Puryear, who served as counsel to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, has been nominated to become a U.S. district judge for the Middle District of Tennessee...." More (Biloxi Sun-Herald 06.14.2007). Comment. It always amuses me when the robed and not-robed politicians who want to take away MN voters' rarely-exercised-but-still-important right to directly elect judges have the chutzpah to argue with a straight face that the MN Plan potentially improperly politicizes judicial selection.
Lawmaker seeks to raise age for mandatory retirement of judges. "[Michigan] Rep. David Law (R-Commerce, West Bloomfield, Wolverine Lake) said he his spearheading a campaign in support of a joint resolution to amend the state Constitution of 1963 to raise the forced retirement age of judges. Currently, judicial candidates can't run for a bench seat after they reach 70. Law wants to increase that threshold to 75 years of age...." More (Waterford Spinal Column 06.14.2007). Comment. Judicial mandatory retirement laws, which are outrageously discriminatory, ought to be abolished, not modified. Further reading. BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges.
Retiring judge wants to keep his chair. but it's complicated. "It's not 'a no-brainer.' It's not 'a done deal.' Trying to give the judge the chair isn't as easy as it sounds. For sentimental reasons, retired Red Willow County Court Judge Cloyd Clark would like the high-backed, cushioned chair from his private chambers. Commissioner Leigh Hoyt -- often exasperated by government rules, regulations and red tape -- said Monday morning, during the commissioners' weekly meeting, he thought it would be 'no big deal to get this done. As far as I'm concerned, he can have the chair, and we'll replace it.' However...." More (McCook Daily Gazette - NE 06.13.2007). Comment. The judge ought to be able to keep the chair if he (or private parties who want to give it to him) pay the reasonable cost of obtaining a replacement. But, alas, in government the simple-possible is often complicated-impossible. I worked at the state supreme court for 28+ years. Despite protestations from administrators, I never took a cotton to fancy, expensive office chairs. I preferred toiling away with transcripts, briefs and stack of books while sitting in an old oak Remington Rand-brand armless ladderback side (or typist's or library patron's) chair that the state law library let me take to my office when it got new library furniture and got rid of the old. The chair was good for my chronically-bad back. When I resigned and left the court I tried to buy the unpopular, previously-discarded chair, but, as I said and as Judge Clark is finding out, government has a way of making difficult or impossible that which ought to be simple and possible. We wrote a mini-essay on this sort of thing back in 2001 at BurtLaw's Law and Judicial Economics; it's titled "Reining in those wild-spending judges" (scroll down).
Op/ed piece on C.J.'s threat to sue legislature over lack of pay raise for judges. "[I]t's hard to see who would hear this case -- every state judge would have a clear conflict of interest, yet there's no issue that would allow federal court jurisdiction. In any event, the fact that the chief judge of the state's highest court would threaten to go to court to get her own and other judges' salaries increased shows just how skewed our jurists' views on litigation and the separation of powers have become...Chief Judge Kaye's suggested lawsuit is indicative of the flawed mindset of our legislators-in-robes...." Jim Copland, A judge cries 'Sue!' (N.Y. Post 06.13.2007).
Governor, citing budget crunch, opposes spending $71 million on courthouse. "Governor Carcieri is criticizing legislators for authorizing up to $71 million in borrowing for a new state courthouse in Lincoln when the state is trying to close a $300-million budget gap...." More (Providence Journal 06.13.2007).
Still working his courthouse shift at 101. "[Willie Brandon] started working at the Rutherford County Courthouse about 30 years ago, beginning at an age[,71,] when most people are retiring...[W]ell-wishers, gathered at the courthouse Tuesday to wish...Brandon a happy birthday -- his 101st. When he walked in for his afternoon shift of maintenance, the crowd called out 'Happy Birthday,' and Brandon froze at the door...." More (Murfreesboro Daily News Journal - Tennessee 06.13.2007). Comment. Yet another bit of evidence supporting our view that mandatory retirement of judges, whose job ain't half as hard as Willie Brandon's job, is not only bad public policy but invidiously discriminatory. See, Judge is still going strong at 100. Further reading. BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges.
Stolen identities used by criminal defendants to shield criminal histories. "Collier County Judge Mike Carr is on a mission. He and other judges have been confronted with defendants...who are coming before them with lenient plea bargains that the judges are then tossing out after fingerprint checks show the defendants have criminal histories under other names and aliases. In the past few weeks, Carr tossed out two plea bargains after showing defendants who lied to him a day earlier he had proof they had records under aliases...." More (Naples News 06.12.2007). Comment. What if a guy steals the identity of someone with a worse criminal history, gets a harsher sentence than he otherwise would have received, then complains his sentence is unfairly long?
Judge wearing dress shoes plays basketball with kids at shelter, proving he's just plain folks. "San Bernardino County (Calif.) Judge Joseph Brisco was a bit hesitant at first to play basketball in his dress shoes and tie. When he got out on the [court] on Tuesday afternoon, he missed one basket by a few feet. He was joined by Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith and Kirby Burgess, WestCare senior vice president...But the officials weren't playing to win. Their opponents were five residents of the Colorado River Region Youth Shelter (CRRYS), a facility that provides services to runaway, homeless and exploited children. And although some CRRYS residents might have met judges and attorneys before, the officials hoped a game of basketball would get the children to see them in a friendlier light...." More (Mohave Daily News 06.13.2007). Comment. Hey, it's okay to wear dress shoes & tie while playing bucketball. Dick Nixon liked to walk on the beach in a suit & tie & dress shoes. See, BurtLaw's Law and Swimsuits Collector's Edition (scroll down).
Going backwards to catch lying witnesses. "I noticed that The Times had a story last week explaining how researchers have found that if you ask people to recount their story backwards it's easier to catch out the liars. Today I thought I'd test this out in court. My client was a thief and the witness I was wanting to trip up had identified him leaving the scene of the crime. What I kind of figured was that asking even an honest witness to tell his story backwards might cause some difficulties. What I hadn't counted on was the assistance of a certain eccentric district judge who I shall not name...." From Day 177, Week 37 of BabyBarista, "a fictional account of a pupil barrister undergoing the trials of pupillage at the English Bar." Who is BabyBarista? "BabyBarista was educated at Oxford University and is a member of the Inner Temple and is in a mixed common law and criminal set of Chambers in London." More.
Using allegations of judicial bias as tactical ploy. "Judge John Deed has much to answer for. How is it that a judge can sit on a case while his mistress acts for one of the parties? Of course, in Deed all is well since Martin Shaw's character is invariably on equally familiar terms with both sides. But, in reality, are the courts now veering too far the other way? A recent case, ironically involving the BBC, suggests they may be. Are we now in danger of letting allegations of judicial bias become a tactical ploy for litigators?" Andrew Howell and Jonny Isaacs, Judicial bias ruling could encourage others to try their luck (UK Times 6.12.2007).
Comment. Who is Judge Deeds? Read on...
Judge John Deeds. "Judge John Deed is a series about a High Court Judge, seen in both his private life (mostly: sleeping with the women he meets in court) and in his court life. The protagonist is nicely played by Martin Shaw, whose pronunciation of English is a wonder to behold, but most of the other characters are one-dimensional cardboard types. Even more, a court presided by a judge where his ex-wife, his daughter and his mistress plead, accompanied by sinister government schemes in every episode is wholly unrealistic, alas...." From a review posted by a viewer at IMDB's page dedicated to this long-running BBC TV series.
Court rules justice not entitled to reimbursement of costs defending self. "A state appeals court has ruled against state Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders in his bid to have the state pay for his defense before the Judicial Conduct Commission...." More (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 06.13.2007). Comment. It isn't often a first-level appellate court gets to rule against a supreme court justice with superior status/power.
Impossibility defense by judge accused of exposing self? "One of Britain's top judges brandished a pair of black Calvin Klein briefs in court today to defend himself against a charge of flashing a young woman on a busy commuter train. Sir Stephen Richards, [56,] a Court of Appeal judge, held up the designer briefs -- more often associated with the footballer Fredrik Ljungberg than the judiciary -- and explained that they were similar to the ones he usually wears. He told the court that it would have been difficult to expose his penis while wearing them as it usually required both hands...." The flasher, I guess, used only one hand. More (UK Times 06.12.2007). Comment. If the briefs fit, you must acquit? Update. Magistrates acquit judge of twice flashing same woman; evidence idntifying him as culprit deemed insufficient (BBC News 06.13.2007). Judges and their briefs (UK Independent 06.17.2007) ("Only one thing is funnier than a PM in package-exaggerating pants, and that's a judge in his budgie smugglers. Nice one, Sir Stephen. Next week: the vicar's knickers." - Katy Guest). Judge, just cleared of flashing, is to be quizzed by cops over claims he exposed himself to two other women on trains (The People 06.17.2007).
Paper sues ILL S. Ct. in federal court, claims it can't get a fair hearing. "A case that saw the rare move of an Illinois Supreme Court chief justice suing a newspaper took an unprecedented turn today as the newspaper sued the entire court -- along with the trial judge and appellate justices. The Kane County Chronicle, which lost a multimillion dollar lawsuit to Illinois Chief Justice Robert Thomas, contended in federal court that it can't receive a fair appeal in a system headed by Thomas. And because other Supreme Court justices were called as witnesses in the case, the paper argued, it can't appeal to the court...." More (Chicago Tribune 06.12.2007).
Annals of creative sentencing. "Ozzy has been spared the death penalty, with a sentence of life behind bars without chance of parole. But instead of solitary confinement, the 7-year-old German shepherd could be allowed to hold a sort of jail trusty's job...." More (Houston Chronicle 06.12.2007). Comment. The dog bit a girl, and the judge ordered the dog "put down." Then the owner came up with an alternative that the judge found acceptable: the dog will "patrol the perimeter at the privately run George W. Hill Correctional Facility near Media, Pa."
Judicial Strategy 101. "Some prominent [MO] state judges will gain about $5,000 annually in retirement because they picked a departure date that comes just days after a pay raise. Supreme Court Judge Ronnie White and Western District Court of Appeals Judge Edwin Smith both plan to step down from the bench July 6 -- five days after a pay raise kicks in for judges...." More (Rolla Daily News 06.12.2007). Comment. Is it called "the Missouri Plan"?
Court workers to strike over 7 p.m. closing time. "Court workers are due to begin a 48-hour strike today in opposition to the Supreme Court's plans to extend the working hours at courthouses in an effort to speed up the judicial process and clear up a growing backlog of cases. The employees are mainly opposed to the plans for courts to close at 7 p.m. instead of 4 p.m. because they believe that the real problem lies in the shortage of staff at courthouses...." More (Kathimereni - Greece 06.12.2007).
Feds allege conspiracy to manipulate assignment of court cases. "The court document describing the charges against John Travis Ketner, former chief of staff to County Judge Anthony Cobos, alleges a broad conspiracy to illegally manipulate El Paso County district courts. The document, known as an 'information' and filed in U.S. District Court, says county officials connected to the investigation found a way to rig court cases by assigning judges to particular cases and 'had exploited a computer system in the office of the El Paso District Clerk.'... Ketner, 32, pleaded guilty Friday to [four conspiracy counts]." More (El Paso Times 06.10.2007). Comment. And why, we once again ask rhetorically, is this a matter for the feds to investigate and prosecute rather than a state matter?
Laid-off paparazzi sue judge who ordered Paris Hilton back to jail. "Now that Paris Hilton is back in jail and out of the public eye, 100 paparazzi who have been laid off due to lack of work are suing the Los Angeles judge who returned her to prison...." More (Dateline Hollywood - Satire 06.11.2007).
Should letters to judge relating to sentencing of defendant be made public? "When representatives of the news media asked that the letters [from friends of 'Scooter' Libby] be released, Mr. Libby's lawyers argued against that, saying it 'needlessly risks undermining the fair administration of justice.' Then, alluding to the sometimes combative world of online media, they added there was 'the real possibility that these letters, once released, would be published on the Internet and their authors discussed, even mocked, by bloggers.'" More (New York Times 06.11.2007). Comments. a) The judge properly released the letters. The senders had no reasonable expectation of privacy in them. b) The bloggers properly have been having a field day with the letters, bursting the bubbles of pomposity of some of the senders. c) Letter-writing campaigns in support of leniency in sentencing rarely help the defendants and sometimes backfire. d) The Libby investigation/prosecution/sentence together constitute a gigantic waste of taxpayer money, yet another sorry example of the criminalization of politics -- nay, the criminalization of nearly everything.
Hillary names impeached judge as co-chair of campaign. "Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has appointed two national co-chairs for her presidential campaign -- including a former U.S. District Court judge who was impeached. U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Alcee Hastings, both Florida Democrats, will be two of several co-chairs who will help direct Clinton's effort to win the White House in 2008...." More (NewsMax 06.10.2007). Comment. Hillary seems to have a thing about men and impeachment. First, Dick (she was a key Democrat staffer to the House during its impeachment inquiry), then Bill (you know...), and now Alcee (who was removed as judge for corruption/perjury, then elected to the House). BTW, we're believers in forgiveness and redemption, even of judges. :-)
OMG! Man is arrested for urinating on courthouse steps. "A Cincinnati man is under arrest for allegedly unrinating on the steps of the Hamilton County courthouse. 61-year-old Garry Dykes was arrested just after 8 a.m. Friday for the offense...." More (WCPO 06.09.2007). Comment. We can think of a couple theoretically-possible defenses, including a) the defense of necessity, b) the defense of involuntary expression, c) the First-Amendment defense of Free Expression. As to the latter, see, Judge dismisses indecency charge against nude protester. For some thoughts on how "the law, in its majesty" should deal with public urination, see, Herein of public urination and the law.
Aftermath of 1989 massacre of judicial workers. "Colombia must pay US$7.8 million (euro5.8 million) in damages to relatives of 12 judicial workers killed in a 1989 massacre by army-backed paramilitaries, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered...." More (China Post 06.10.2007).
Courthouse bee ecology. "The honeybees at the Washoe County Court House were on the move Friday afternoon. A beekeeper and the facilities manager moved two of their hives onto the roof...For years, a large bee nest has been at the courthouse on the left-hand side of the portico at the Virginia Street entrance...An annual bee swarming in late May and early June produces another annual occurrence: The courthouse employees come out to watch during lunch breaks...The main nest is...not being removed...." More (Reno Gazette-Journal 06.09.2007). Comment. Reminds me of that old song from my youth: "When it's springtime at the courthouse/ And it's honeybee swarming time/ It's you that I'll be buzzing/ In hopes that you'll be mine/ Together we'll make honey/ While the judges drink cheap wine...."
Judge is still going strong at 100. "Just before stepping into his robe and climbing the steps from his chambers to his courtroom, the Honorable Wesley Brown explained why, at nearly 100 years old, he had not yet retired. 'When I was appointed, it was for life or good behavior -- whichever I lost first, the senior federal judge said, with a quiet chuckle. Brown, a Hutchinson native, will celebrate reaching the century mark June 22. For 45 of those years, he's served as a District Court judge for the District of Kansas in Wichita after being appointed by President John F. Kennedy in 1962...." More (Hutchinson News 06.10.2007). Further reading. BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges. Update. Rhubarb pie is served at birthday reception for federal judge, still going strong (and using computers and cellphone) at 100 (Wichita Eagle 06.30.2007).
Judge who served one-month suspension blasts state judiciary. "If anyone thought a monthlong suspension without pay would cure Mercer County Judge Bill Mathesius of his irreverent outspokenness and sarcastic courtroom demeanor, they were wrong. Six months after the state Supreme Court ordered Mathesius to take time off to ponder his caustic judicial manner, the self-proclaimed 'impolite and impolitic' jurist has published his reflections in a scathing critique of the state judicial system...." More (Trenton Times 06.10.2007). Comment. The essay, which is worth reading in full, is titled "Reflections of a Disreputer" (New Jersey Lawyer 06.09.2007). Here's a brief excerpt from a section titled "Summoned to the Mount":
Sometime thereafter in December, 2005, in what I initially attributed to the Christmas/Chanukah Spirit, I received an invitation to "tea with the Chief" in the Conference Room of the Supreme Court. I was looking forward to, maybe, a chilled chardonnay and a hummus hors d'oeuvre or two followed by a discussion of Camus and his sense of the absurd...My memory of the rest of the meeting is hazy...I do, however, vividly recall the setting: the Chief swept in, clad in diaphanous tulle and a high-fashion shahtoosh....
Woman named Butts is charged in Iowa courthouse toilet paper caper. "A Marshalltown woman faces charges of stealing three rolls of toilet paper from the local courthouse and could get prison time..."[Courthouse employees] said they seem to go through a lot of toilet paper at the courthouse,' said Marshalltown Police Chief Lon Walker. Marshalltown police said one of the employees caught Suzanne Marie Butts, of Marshalltown, taking the two-ply from the women's bathroom and called police...." More (KCCI 06.09.2007). Comment. A person who uses courthouse toilets has implied permission to use a reasonable amount of government-provided toilet paper necessary to the purpose for which permission is impliedly granted. What is a reasonable amount? We are not aware of a single case in the history of the common law deciding this issue. Suppose a courthouse employee, instead of walking to the bathroom to blow her nose every time she needs to blow her nose, picks up one of the rolls and uses it, reasonably, at her desk every time she needs to use it. Theft? How about a judge who regularly takes oodles of judicial work home. Ought not he be allowed in fairness to take a roll home in his briefcase every now and then for strictly-limited use -- i.e., only when he uses the toilet during a break in doing the people's business? To ask the question is to answer it. But what about Butts? We won't comment on that, because she's presumed innocent and therefore in our eyes is innocent until the state in all its majesty.... But those who still think like law students might consider hypothetical fact variations on the fascinating story by a woman who discovered after her grandmother's death that she had a secret collection of toilet paper samples taken presumably on her European travels:
As far as I know, she never breathed a word about her toilet paper collection to anyone...[A]s with many covert collections, the issue of theft stole its way in...Did she surreptitiously hit WCs for which she had no immediate need, solely for the purpose of acquiring a new and unique sample for her collection? Did she rationalize it by telling herself that, after all, it was only a small amount? Or did she make a little deal with herself when visiting toilets for "legitimate" purposes: "I will tear off X amount of paper, which I would have used for myself anyway, and then from that amount, 'save' a bit for my collection," thus side-stepping the theft question? One sample is quite clear about proprietorship -- it's stamped "Government Property."
Judge/hubby accused of wrongly trying to shield selves from any judgment. "Superior Court Judge DeAnn Salcido and her husband are being sued for fraud for allegedly selling real estate assets to shield themselves from paying a woman who was badly injured while on a motorcycle ride with the judge's husband in 2004. In a lawsuit filed May 24, lawyers for the injured woman...[claim] the judge and her husband...have sold two properties...taken on debt and transferred assets in an effort to avoid paying [any judgment]...The lawsuit [also] contends that the [judge's application for] divorce is an attempt to protect her share of their community property from any judgment against [her husband]...." More (San Diego Union Tribune 06.09.2007).
SCOTUS justices seem to be doing okay. "[SCOTUS] justices are generally well off financially and a number of them spent the past year jetting to such exotic locales as Malaysia and South Africa, according to financial disclosure reports released Friday...At least six of the nine justices report investment income of more than $1 million...[T]he 'Most Traveled Award' goes to Scalia, who made 25 expense-paid trips in the past year, including ones to Switzerland, Israel, Italy and Puerto Rico. Domestic destinations included Milwaukee, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Chicago, twice...." More (CNNMoney 06.08.2007).
Tale of a gray-haired judge and a gray-haired woman. "After the procession of jeans-clad young people, the judge saw me coming and did a double-take. He consulted his papers to verify that, indeed, I did belong there, then looked up again at the lady in lavender who quaked before him. His manner changed from gruff to gentle as he leaned forward to question me. I realized we two were the only gray-haired people in the room...." More (Contra Costa Times 06.09.2007).
Former Minnesota trial judge is charged with terroristic threats. "Harvey Ginsberg, who became only the third judge in state history to be removed from the bench, has run into trouble again, after St. Louis Park police said he threatened and hit a boy with a baseball bat in a city park...." More (Star-Tribune 06.08.2007). Comment. We presume he's innocent. We learned that in ninth grade civics.
Judge claims litigant is harassing him and wife. "A Stoneham divorcee has allegedly been terrorizing Middlesex Probate Court Judge Spencer Kagan and his wife Donna with bizarre accusations of adultery and by jotting the couple's names and Social Security numbers on her weekly $535 alimony checks. Kagan, 61, granted Diane O'Brien's and Stephen Gobron's divorce in November 2004 based on the 'irretrievable breakdown' of their 32-year marriage, but found no basis for O'Brien's claim that her ex-husband had been unfaithful...." More (Boston Herald 06.08.2007).
Angry litigant kills judge, attorney. "A man who was apparently angered by a ruling in a property dispute shot and killed a judge and a lawyer in northern Serbia on Friday, police said...." More (IHT 06.08.2007).
Former judge pleads guilty to theft. "A former Tega Cay municipal judge pleaded guilty Thursday to taking more than $17,000 from a law firm where she once worked. Judge Lee Alford gave Deborah Ann Koulpasis, 36, a two-year suspended sentence and ordered her to pay $20,000 in restitution...." More (Rock Hill Herald -SC 06.08.2007).
Annals of judicial DWI prosecutions. "A visiting judge dismissed an indictment Thursday against state District Judge Rodolfo 'Rudy' Delgado, potentially ending years of legal machinations and a paid suspension that stretched two years and cost taxpayers about $250,000...." More (Houston Chronicle 06.08.2007). Comment. Some judges who are accused of DWI find it prudent to plead guilty immediately and take their punishment. A judge might be less inclined to do so if he believes himself innocent or if he knows, as is the case in some states, that the conviction likely will result in removal from office. We know nothing about the relative merits of the instant case other than that the judge in question fought the charge, as was his right as a citizen to do, and ultimately got the charges dismissed. Good for him.
Annals of hysteria over internet porn. "It was a remarkable occurrence in New London Superior Court Wednesday when a judge threw out the conviction of a 40-year-old Norwich woman who had allegedly exposed seventh-graders to pornography on a classroom computer...." More (The Day - CT 06.08.2007). Comment. Turns out the porn appeared in "pop-ups" over which the teacher had no control. Computer "geeks" came to her rescue and a judge vacated the conviction. According to the news report, the defendant, a substitute teacher named Julie Amero, "has lived with this tragedy since 2004. Her reputation has been ruined and the anxiety of the thought of spending years in jail has likely weighed on her." It shouldn't have taken this long for "the system" to "work." And maybe "the system" ought not respond hysterically every time some kids get exposed to porn or some judge gets caught viewing it. Many of us who were teens in the 1950's got exposed to "porn," in one form or another, and it doesn't seem to have destroyed our lives.
'Sources' reportedly call judge in Tom Sizemore case 'a real prick.' "Sources inside the Sizemore camp say they fear the Saving Private Ryan star will 'have no chance in court' and will most likely end up with 'a very long prison term,' calling the judge in the case, 'a real prick.'" More (TMZ.Com 06.07.2007). Comment. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words...."
'Politically-incorrect' judging from a coffee house window table. "During the winter, my buddy Bill and I played chess every evening after work before taking the subway to Silver Spring. Now, we sit in a coffee shop and watch people. The only people we pay any attention to, though, are women. Since Bill and I are pretty competitive, simply 'watching' wasn't enough of a challenge. We quickly began 'judging.'" The court's "hours of operation" and venue? "Our pageant is held every weekday between 6 and 7 p.m. The location varies, but usually, it's a coffee shop close to a downtown Metro stop." The competitors in the nightly beauty pageant? The women who walk by the window. The rules the two "judges" follow? They assign points on a 10-point scale. The piece ends: "I haven't told Bill that, looking out the coffee shop window one evening, I saw our reflections in the glass and thought: If the tables were turned, we'd each be very lucky to get a 2 or 3 on our 10-point scale." From In his cafe society, who's to judge? by Anthony Harris in "Scene and Heard" (Washington Post 06.07.2007). Comment. The editor of "Scene and Heard" comments, "Someone is bound to send us a blistering e-mail demanding to know why we keep publishing Anthony Harris's pieces. The answer is quite simple: We find his life more interesting than our own." I suppose I'm foolish to confess it, but I find the piece amusing. And it brings back happy memories. Two specific ones. a) It is 1956, one of the best years in my life, and every day on my afternoon route delivering the Minneapolis Star to businesses and over-the-stores apartment residents in the downtown section of Benson, the small town on the Minnesota prairie where I was born and raised. Each afternoon, six days a week, I had occasion to enter the National Tea grocery store and walk back to the meat counter to deliver one of those papers (and each Thursday to "collect"). The store always had the radio playing over a speaker system. One song I identify with the store from that year is the happy hit version by The Four Lads of 'Standing on the Corner (Watching All the Girls Go By)' from Frank Loesser's hit Broadway show Most Happy Fella. I bought a 45 rpm recording of the song. I still have it. On the reverse side is "My Little Angel," a song I also liked. b) Fast-forward to the 1965-1966 term at Harvard Law School. Some buddies and I, all 2L's, started the practice one day as we ate our noon meals at the graduate school cafeteria at Harkness Commons of "judging" the female law students and graduate students who walked by our centrally-located table with their trays. Our innovative rating system? We assigned them points on a 10-point scale -- proving, I guess, that great men think alike wherever they are and at whatever period in history.
The latest on Pakistan's suspended chief justice -- are his hands clean? "The case against Pakistan's suspended Chief Justice Iftikar M Chaudhry took a sensational turn today with chiefs of the country's intelligence accusing him of using the country's spy agencies against fellow judges. Hitting back at Chaudhry, who in an affidavit before the apex court accused Musharraf, Premier Shaukat Aziz and heads of intelligence agencies of restraining him from leaving the president's office after he declined to quit, chiefs of military intelligence and IB filed a counter affidavit in the court today making counter charges against the judge...." More (Zee News - India 06.07.2007). Comment. Then there are the chief justices of state supreme courts who simply (and purely hypothetically) use master keys to gain access to their fellow justices' chambers at night and rifle around looking for juicy stuff.
Psst, ya wanna buy a courthouse computer case management system cheap? "A new computerized case management system that went online at the county Justice Center last year was supposed to save money and time, but now the system could end up costing the cash-strapped county up to $1 million extra...." According to a story in The Chronicle-Telegram, the county judges in Elyria, Ohio hired a company in 2003 to design a new case management system, expecting it to be operational in 2004. The cost? $235,000, a probable savings of $400,000, because the company agreed to lower its rate if it could sell the system to other counties (which it since has done). The system still isn't fully operational and the county's judges are looking into hiring other programmers to replace or design supplementary software, something that could cost the county "an additional $200,000 to $1 million." More (Chronicle-Telegram 06.07.2007).
Judge is criticized by appeals court for antics during trial. "Orange County Superior Court Judge James M. Brooks has again been [criticized] for misbehaving, this time by a state appeals court that found he acted more like a circus ringleader than an officer of the court during a job discrimination trial that he let devolve into one sideshow after another. The 4th District Court of Appeal ...ordered a new trial...'It is obvious that much of the judge's conduct was not malicious but rather a misguided attempt to be humorous, and defendants' lawyer played into it, often acting as the straight man,' the three-judge panel ruled. 'But a courtroom is not the Improv, and the presider's role model is not Judge Judy.'" More (L.A. Times 06.07.2007). Comment. Q - So what'd the judge do that was so bad? A - "Among the gaffs by Brooks during the proceedings, according to the panel: holding up a homemade sign reading 'Overruled' to the jury when the plaintiffs' attorney made objections, and using soccer-like red cards to keep score of objections from both sides."
Annals of judicial education: flying high. "The Washington State Patrol often uses planes to catch speeding drivers. It is a practice that is sometimes challenged in court. Tuesday afternoon two state troopers/pilots took judges from around the state up in the air to demonstrate the procedure at the Bergstrom Airport in Pasco to give them a better understanding the process...Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Matt Elich said the experience provided everyone in the plane with a better understanding of what goes on when a driver receives a ticket while plane surveillance is in progress...." More (KNDO 06.06.2007). Comment. And those loop-de-loops while dropping the tickets on the cars were not just educational but exciting. Further reading. I flew with the Red Barons and boy are my arms tired.
Lincoln log courthouse. "Decatur's Lincoln Log Courthouse will get a face lift in preparation for the nationwide celebration of the former president's 200th birthday in 2009. The Macon County Historical Museum and Prairie Village secured an $11,000 bicentennial grant Tuesday to improve the structure where a young Lincoln practiced law. Work will include major roof repairs...." More (Herald and Review 06.07.2007).
Armed 1967 raid on courthouse is commemorated. "The man who led a small band of armed land grant activists on a raid of the Rio Arriba County Courthouse 40 years ago no longer wants to talk about it. Reies Lopez Tijerina, 80, said he now focuses on spiritual matters. About 30 people turned up at his family ranch Tuesday in Rio Arriba County to commemorate the June 5, 1967 raid in Tierra Amarilla...." More (KOAT - Albuquerque 06.06.2007).
Judge denies rumors she's an illegal immigrant. "Ever since she was appointed as magistrate for the city of Douglas in 2002, Alma Vildosola has been hearing the rumors. She's heard them whispered through the local grapevine, she's read them as blog posts, and she's confronted them during court challenges to her 2006 election as justice of the peace in Cochise County's Precinct 2...." The rumors are that she's not only not a citizen but is an illegal immigrant. The rumors are false. She's been a citizen for 10 years. More (Douglas Daily Dispatch - AZ 06.06.2007).
Bench warrant is issued for judge's former secretary. "Fayette County Judge Gerald Solomon issued a bench warrant Tuesday for a former magistrate's secretary[, Barbara S. Shaffer, 52,] who failed to appear for her trial on charges she stole almost $47,000 in public funds, court officials said...A state police organized-crime task force alleges Shaffer took $46,858.08 from the office of Bullskin District Judge Robert W. Breakiron between June 2003 and January 2005...." More (Connellsville Daily Courier 06.06.2007).
Son of judge is held in rape investigation. "Pieces of torn slippers, a bottle of whisky and glasses reeking of liquor were found in the car in which Amit Bhadauria, son of an additional district judge, and his friend Akhilesh Singh allegedly raped a 38-year-old mother of three on Monday night...." More (Times of India 06.06.2007). Comment. It's still just in the investigative stage. Moreover, a charge, if one is filed, is just that, a charge.
Judge Judy Kaye now has 'independent' report to support her plea for raise. "A grim Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye said Tuesday that a finding in a study [by the National Center for State Courts] she initiated -- that state court judges' pay is 48th lowest in the country when adjusted for New York's high cost of living -- is further confirmation of the 'miserable situation' the judiciary finds itself in after more than eight years without a salary increase...The national center's report was one of the steps Kaye had promised in April... She said she wanted to demonstrate, through an independent expert on courts, that state judges in New York had fallen seriously behind inflation, their colleagues in other judicial jurisdictions and professionals in other fields since their last raises in 1999. Kaye has long been active in the national court organization...." More (Law.Com 05.31.2007). Comment. It's just my opinion but 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. It may or may not make sense for New York to substantially increase judges' salaries; my guess is it does. But the 'independent' report that Judge Kaye commissioned, which I downloaded, reads like an advocate's legal brief and is filled with same sort of flaws and omissions that typically are contained in arguments/reports by other advocates of big judicial pay raises -- flaws and omissions that "press-release journalists" never perceive or mention. For some of the typical flaws and omissions and for the kind of approach I recommend to legislators who consider requests by judges for pay raises, see, my earlier mini-essay from 01.01.2002 titled I could be making lots more if I were Michael Jordan.
Judge is a tad bit irked over lawyer's comment. "A Chicago lawyer's comment to a bankruptcy judge in court has gotten him in some hot water, or perhaps more appropriately, hot oil. 'I suggest with respect, Your Honor, that you're a few french fries short of a Happy Meal in terms of what's likely to take place,' William Smith, a partner with Chicago-based McDermott Will & Emery LLP, said during a hearing May 7 in Miami in front of Judge Laurel Myerson Isicoff, according to court documents...." More (Chicago Business 05.31.2007).
Judge quits so she is free to speak about her court. "This month, Phoenix Municipal Court Judge Karyn Klausner did something that no one in her position had done for decades. She quit. Didn't retire. Didn't get pushed out by the city council, and didn't leave for an appointment to another court...." Why'd she quit? According to reporter Sarah Fenske, so "she can tell the true story about the dark secret that the court allowed to fester for more than a year: a story about cowardly decisions, bad leadership, and Phoenix City Council." More (Phoenix New Times 05.31.2007).
Bush's immigration judges. "Over the last two years, U.S. Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales has appointed more than two dozen individuals as federal immigration judges. The new jurists include a former treasurer of the Louisiana Republican Party, who was a legal advisor to the Bush Florida recount team after the 2000 presidential election. There is also a former GOP congressional aide who had tracked voter fraud issues for the Justice Department, and a Texan appointed by then-Gov. George W. Bush to a seat on the state library commission. One thing missing on many of their resumes: a background in immigration law...." More (L.A. Times 05.28.2007). Comment. I'm less disturbed by the lack of prior specialized experience (anyone who'd be a good judge in general can quickly become a good immigration judge) than I am by the cronyism. But cronyism in judicial appointments (as in a governor appointing advisers or old law firm partners or campaign supporters/contributors to the trial bench or appellate court) is nothing new. Sadly, it's as traditional and American as Decoration Day (the traditional one is May 30th) and the Fourth-of-July (pronounced "Fort-a-Yuli" by immigrant Norwegian-Americans).
Those merit-based judicial appointment screeners and panels. Former Chief Justice S. S. Sodhi of Allahabad High Court has written a book, The Other Side of Justice, in which he holds senior judges, who are responsible for judicial appointments, responsible for the "oft-heard remark...that appointments to the Bench are now more a matter of having the right contacts at the right time or fulfilling quotas, rather than merit." Sodhi "takes potshots at the surreptitious manner in which appointment of judges to higher judiciary takes place, often at the cost of merit" and "holds senior judges, at the helm of the selection process, accountable...." More (Times of India 05.28.2007).
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