BurtLaw's Daily Judge is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, this is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal "web log" or "blog," one with a subjective, idiosyncratic, and eccentric sociological and social-psychological slant that focuses not on the latest judicial decisions of supposed great importance but on a) the institution of judge in the United States and in other countries throughout the world, b) the judicial office and role, c) judicial personalities, d) the great common law tradition of judging as practiced here and throughout the world, e) judges as judges, f) judges as ordinary people with the usual mix of virtues and flaws, etc. We link to newspapers and other sources in order to alert you to ideas, articles, stories, speeches, law books, literary works and other things that have interested us and that may interest you. In linking to another site or source, we don't mean either to suggest we necessarily agree with views or ideas expressed there or to attest to the accuracy of facts set forth there.
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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.
Phyllis Schlafly on removing jurisdiction from federal judges. "Conservative movement grand dame Phyllis Schlafly...reminded me that her current book urges Congress to pass legislation 'withdrawing from judges all authority in the areas where we don’t trust them… the Ten Commandments, the Pledge of Allegiance, marriage, and the Boy Scouts.' [Tom] DeLay is under attack because he stood up to the judiciary, she said. 'The liberals are going after him because of what he said about bringing out-of-control judges under control. That’s why they’re targeting him,' Schlafly said...." More (Lou DuBose, "Follow the Leader - The Right and its Big Night for Tom DeLay," The Texas Observer 05.27.2005). Comment. Ms. Schlafly's view that the political party in power ought to feel free to diddle around with the jurisdiction of federal courts in this blatantly expedient and utilitarian way is profoundly not "conservative" and would send the great conservative political theorists into paroxysms of rage.
'Your Honor,' a/k/a 'Chum.' "After being brought back to court, the pensioner [Phyllis Blakesley] looked bedraggled as Judge Chalk asked whether she wished to go on with the trial or face a contempt of court charge for absconding. Blakesley replied: 'Take your pick.' Asked whether she thought her actions amounted to verbal abuse, she said: 'I’ve had more verbal abuse and excrement thrown at me than you have had hot dinners, chum.'" More (Cumbria Online 05.27.2005).
Headline: "Selection of judges remains a 'bugbear.'" "Deputy chief justice-designate Dikgang Moseneke believes that in order to ensure a more equitable society, more judges should be women...[T]he judge implicitly criticised the government -- which is the nation's largest litigant -- for perpetuating briefing patterns that excluded women advocates and lawyers from gaining the necessary legal experience to see them eventually elevated to the Bench...." More (IOL South Africa 05.27.2005). Comment. A "bugbear" is "A fearsome imaginary creature, especially one evoked to frighten children." More (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition).
Judge appointments board a bunch of 'numpties'? "'I wonder if the minister has read an article in the Law Society Journal to the effect that lay members of the judicial appointments board are a bunch of numpties who have recommended appointments of judges and sheriffs which could devalue official office?' he said. 'I appreciate that the legal establishment, perhaps including Mr Alistair Bonnington, might like to return to a cosy system of appointment of their learned friends, for their learned friends, by their learned friends.'" More (Scotsman 05.27.2005) Comment. A "numpty" is "a fool, idiot." More (Dictionary of English Slang).
Ohio's self-appointed judicial watchdog. "The Ohio Elections Commission yesterday ruled that self-appointed judicial watchdog David Palmer will not face sanctions for bringing complaints against sitting state Supreme Court justices that were dismissed as unfounded. The commission found that complaints brought against Chief Justice Thomas Moyer and Justice Terrence O'Donnell were not frivolous...." More (Toledo Blade 05.27.2005).
Minimum age for judges? "I was a judge-beginner and I believed I could change the world. That is why I say today that judges should be aged over 30." Vlasta Formankova, whose nomination for the post of Constitutional Court Judge in the Czech Republic requires Senate approval. A controversy has arisen over a sentence of ten months in prison Fomankova, who was a 26 year old municipal judge, imposed on a pub keeper for breaking up a communist meeting in his pub before the fall of the communist regime. More (Prague Daily Monitor 05.27.2005).
Detroit judge likes the way he looks. "'I have never been around a man who looks better than me,' says Strong, a Wayne County Circuit Court judge and Motor City style icon. 'I don't want to look like everyone else. I like to be different....The quickest way to get where you're going is to look like you've already arrived.'" More (Detroit Free Press 05.26.2005).
Judge who viewed porn on work computer fights to keep job. "He told the seven members of the Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications that he had spread himself too thin -- between church obligations and judicial work -- and that the adult Web sites provided a diversion over a period of nine months...." More (Kansas City Star 05.26.2005). Comment. If he were alive, Nathaniel Hawthorne might be interested in stories like this, which appear every so often.
NAACP seeks inquiry into prankster judge's nondisclosure. We recently linked to a news report about a Florida judge who jailed a prospective juror for failing to disclose an arrest but who herself allegedly failed to disclose prior complaints against her by underlings in the D.A.'s office when she applied for a judgeship. More. Comes now the NAACP seeking an inquiry since one of the complaints alleged racial discrimination. More (Miami Herald 05.26.2005).
It helps to know this Texas judge. "In Denton County Probate Court, it helps to know Judge Don Windle. His court has authorized more than $2.4 million in fees to a small group of lawyers and other professionals whom Judge Windle has repeatedly tapped for work on estates, trusts and guardianships over the last 11 years. Among them are the judge's business partners as well as some longtime friends...." More (Dallas Morning News 05.26.2005).
Suspended judge & alleged mistress will get separate trials. "Judge Thomas Nurre refused to join their cases together in Common Pleas Court in the first significant action since Judge Dallas Powers, 70, and Libbie Gerondale Sexton, 34, were indicted in January following a state investigation into their alleged [on-the-job] sexual relationship...." More (Cincinatti Enquirer 05.26.2005).
British judge "moves" case to Cuba to hear witnesses. "[T]he case ground to a halt after six days when videolink technology, by which witnesses were to give evidence from Cuba, proved to be of poor quality or broke down entirely." What to do, fly the elderly Cuban witnesses to London or move the court temporarily to Cuba to hear them in person? The judge "chose the Caribbean option" and will fly there in September. More (Times UK 05.26.2005). Comment. Why not wait 'til January?
Judge conducts hearing in hospital room. "U.S. Magistrate Judge James P. O'Hara conducted the 30-minute hearing in the hospital room where Herring is recovering from multiple gunshot wounds that he suffered in last week's bank robbery and hostage-taking...." More (Kansas City Star 05.26.2005). Comment. Hmm. Two stories in one day about judges going where they're needed rather than making everyone come to them. Perhaps a trend? Perhaps a germ of an idea for a dramatic TV series -- about a proactive super-hero judge who rushes to the scenes of accidents, crimes, etc., insuring that justice is timely and true?
Swede judge who paid for sex still sitting. The Swedish supreme court judge who admitted paying a 20-year-old man for sex will not face removal from office. Chancellor of Justice Goran Lambertz said confidence in [Judge Leif] Thorsson, one of 16 supreme court judges, was damaged but the one-time offence was not serious enough to warrant his dismissal...." More (Iol.Co.Za 05.25.2005). Comment. As we emphasized in linking to the original report, the judge is Swedish, not Norwegian.
Did 'prankster judge' fail to disclose complaints? We recently posted a link to a story about a prank-loving Florida judge who sent a prospective juror to jail for failing to disclose prior arrests in answering a juror questionnaire. More Now we read a news report suggesting that the judge herself may not have been entirely forthcoming in applying for a judicial appointment by Governor Bush. Specifically, the Miami Herald reports today that in filling out a questionnaire she failed to disclose two discrimination complaints, one racial and one religious, filed against her by two prosecutors who worked under her when she was a federal prosecutor. More (Miami Herald 05.25.2005).
'Dragon lady,' ex-Judge Snyder, runs for Manhattan D.A. "[Long-time Manhattan D.A. Robert] Morgenthau could remind voters of Snyder's occasionally heated temperament (she once told a defendant convicted of murder that she wished she could personally give him the lethal injection) and that she is now employed at a law firm that represents tobacco companies among others...." More (Village Voice 05.24.2005). This race is getting lots of attention, including recently in a profile of Snyder in The New Yorker. More. Snyder once worked as an assistant D.A. under Morgenthau. There seems to be a trend in ex-judges running for D.A. (see, infra), but then, a disproportionate number of D.A.'s get appointed judge.
Snyder's campaign soliciting contributions from judges? "The chairman of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct improperly solicited a sitting judge for a contribution [to ex-Judge Snyder's campaign] in the hotly contested race for Manhattan district attorney, the judge charged yesterday...." More (NY Post 05.25.2005).
State judge resigns to run for Westchester D.A. "State Supreme Court Justice Janet DiFiore resigned from the bench Tuesday just in time to accept the Republican nomination for Westchester County district attorney...." More (Newsday 05.25.2005).
Vendor to sell hot dogs outside Iowa courthouse. "It's a scene that's played out so many times on television's Law and Order....Beginning this Friday, [Sue] Woods, owner of the Dog House, will be serving hot dogs outside the Pottawattamie County Courthouse from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m...." More (Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil 05.25.2005). Comment. Iowa enters the Big Leagues.
Public closely divided over keeping judicial filibuster. "[A]ccording to a poll by TNS released by the Washington Post and ABC News. 43 per cent of respondents would eliminate the filibuster rule for judicial nominations, while 40 per cent would keep it...." More (Angus-Reid.Com 05.25.2005).
Two more judges face dismissal in Greece trial-fixing ring case. "Another two judges were added yesterday to the long list of members of the judiciary facing dismissal for alleged participation in a trial-fixing ring, or for a series of other colorful misdeeds...." More (Kathimerini 05.25.2005).
Last-minute agreement averts showdown on filibuster. "A bipartisan group of 14 senators struck a last-second agreement on Monday that defused - at least for now - a potentially explosive parliamentary showdown over eliminating Senate filibusters against judicial nominees...." More (NY Times 05.24.2005). The agreement preserves the right to filibuster a judicial nominee in "extraordinary circumstances," a phrase of convenient vagueness that Scalian minds delighting in textual certainty will not admire. And who will determine the meaning of "extraordinary circumstances"? "[E]ach signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether such circumstances exist." Text of agreement.
Teaching the Constitution in schools - who's teaching? "The Education Department outlined Tuesday how it plans to enforce a little-known provision that Congress passed in 2004: Every school and college that receives federal money must teach about the Constitution on Sept. 17, the day the document was adopted...." More (Fort Wayne News-Sentinel 05.24.2005). Comment. We can envision ideological battles within public schools over teaching the Constitution similar to battles over teaching evolution theory -- battles, e.g., between the proponents of Justice Scalia's "Dead Constitution" approach to interpretation (sort of akin to the "Creationism" advocated by religious fundamentalists?) and proponents of the school of Justices Holmes and Frankfurter, of an evolving or living or adaptive or flexible Constitution (sort of akin to Darwin's Theory of Evolution or, perhaps, Emersonian antinomian thought?).
Scalia on the 'Dead Constitution.' "[T]he only way to avoid [Supreme Court Justices deciding profound social questions] is to put aside these notions of the Living Constitution. Whether it's living in the direction you like or in living in some other direction, it's a bad idea. Come along with me and admire the Dead Constitution. I have to get a new term for it. That one; maybe the Enduring Constitution. That's a little better. Packaging is everything...." More ("On Interpreting the Constitution," unedited transcript of speech by Justice Scalia at The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research on 11.17.1997).
Justice Frankfurter on the Living Constitution. "[T]he Constitution ...'was made for an undefined and expanding future....' * * * American constitutional law is not a fixed body of truth, but a mode of social adjustment. Indeed, the Constitution owes its continuity to an uninterrupted process of changing....The Supreme Court's right and wrong are drawn most frequently from broad and undefined clauses of the Constitution. A few simple terms like 'liberty' and property'...are invoked in judgment upon the shifting circumstances of a dynamic society. Phrases like 'due process of law' are of 'convenient vagueness.'" Felix Frankfurter, "Social Issues before the Supreme Court," Law and Politics 48-49 (1939).
Lawyer fights rule banning possession of brochures in courthouse. "[A] Salt Lake City attorney has...filed suit challenging an unwritten rule that any nonlegal materials advocating a position on a court case cannot be brought inside the Matheson Courthouse. In his legal action, filed Friday at U.S. District Court, Breeze says the policy is a violation of his First Amendment rights and asks for an order allowing courthouse visitors to possess brochures...." More (Salt Lake Tribune 05.24.2005).
Mandatory retirement of judges. "Even as Sidley Austin Brown & Wood and the government battle over whether 31 attorneys should get damages resulting from the firm's mandatory retirement program, many law firms are sticking to their policies of ushering out partners once they hit a certain age...." More (Nat'l Law Journal 05.24.2005). Comment. I discussed the related but different issue of mandatory retirement of state judges in an opinion piece I first posted in 2000. More
What happens when a judge's cellphone rings at trial? "The judge at the Michael Jackson trial on Monday got a red card for letting his cell phone ring during proceedings, and promptly pretended to leave the courtroom in shame." The judge bars a reporter from the trial for several days if the reporter's phone rings. More (Sify.Com 05.24.2005).
Aussie judges, lawyers fail to file timely tax returns. "The nation's judges and lawyers are less than vigilant over their tax affairs, with one in three barristers and solicitors failing to lodge a return on time...." More (The Australian 05.24.2005).
Will Georgia's judicial elections be officially partisan? "Gov. Sonny Perdue said Monday that he could see himself supporting a constitutional amendment to turn future Georgia judicial elections into partisan contests because of the increasingly political nature of such races...." More (Atlanta Journal-Constitution 05.23.2005).
Female judges needed in Gulf states. "A leading Qatari legal expert has said that courts in the Gulf states need women judges to improve the judiciary...." More (ADNKI 05.23.2005).
Massachusetts C.J. speaks out on judicial independence. "I worry when people of influence use vague, loaded terms like 'judicial activist' to skew public debate or to intimidate judges. I worry when judicial independence is seen as a problem to be solved and not a value to be cherished....Individual rights and human dignity are vulnerable when they depend for protection on the will of the majority or the good faith of those in power..." C.J. Margaret Marshall, speaking at Brandeis University graduation. More (Boston Globe 05.23.2005)
Lengthen judicial terms? "Lengthening the terms in office for Ohio judges was a bad idea when it was proposed two years ago, and it's an even worse idea now. But that hasn't stopped Chief Justice Tom Moyer, of the Ohio Supreme Court, and his minions at the Ohio State Bar Association from turning their plan for what amounts to judicial sinecures into legislation before the Ohio General Assembly...." More (Toledo Blade 05.23.2005).
Should judges help public defender rate attorneys? "Pima County Superior Court's criminal bench judges are...being asked to judge the attorneys who appear before them. A month ago, Robert H. Hirsh, chief assistant Pima County public defender, submitted a form to Judge Michael J. Cruikshank listing 17 areas in which to critique attorneys...." More (Tucson Citizen 05.23.2005).
Reforming Georgia's courts. "[T]he EU Just Themis mission...which is staffed by judges and other experts in the field of legal issues, has been providing assistance to Georgia to transform the country's judicial institutions from post-Soviet structures into modern justice departments...." More (The Messenger 05.23.2005).
Benched judge charged with child sex abuse. "[Gary G.] Graham, an assistant public defender in Tampa in the 1980s, began grabbing headlines a year after becoming judge. At first, many applauded his brand of justice, but then came complaints about unconventional sentences, closed hearings and grandstanding that humiliated lawyers and others who appeared before him...." He was removed from office in 1993 for ethical violations and abuse of power. Now he stands charged with sexual misconduct involving two 10-year-old girls. More (Tampa Tribune 05.23.2005). Update. Prosecutor drops child molestation charges against ex-judge. "Child molestation charges against a former Citrus County judge have been dropped because one of the alleged victims recanted her accusation and there was no physical evidence to support the [second girl's] claims, prosecutors said Friday. Gary Graham, 58, pleaded not guilty in November 2004 to charges that he molested two 10-year-old girls. Authorities had alleged he abused the girls during a sleepover at his house in December 2003...." More (Bradenton Herald 02.10.2006).
False alarm leads to courthouse evacuation in Fargo. "Authorities evacuated five people from the federal courthouse here early this morning when a monitoring system malfunctioned and indicated the presence of deadly hydrogen cyanide...." More (Bismark Tribune 05.23.2005).
Bench bullies. "Attorneys around town have been watching the judicial campaigns carefully, as they and their clients will be affected by the results to a far greater extent than the general public. Lawyers hope we pick judges who will not become bench-bullies...." More ("Legal Whispers," Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 05.22.2005).
Annals of judicial appointment battles - the "women first" strategy. "It is not an accident that the Republicans have chosen to charge ahead with two female nominees....The assumption behind the strategy is that it's harder for liberals to oppose two women, one an African-American, than two white guys like William Pryor and William Myers. The assumption also is that it's harder for the public to see women as right-wing extremists...." More (Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe 05.22.2005). Comment. The nature of the strategy is apparent.
Judge grieves over suicide of driver he jailed. "The judge who sent death driver Scott Currie to jail sent a letter of sympathy to his family after hearing of the dad's suicide in jail. Lord Abernethy replied to a plea from Scott's mother asking for a review of the case...." More (Sunday Mail 05.22.2005).
Survey of compliance with open-records law in PA. "Representatives from 51 news organizations requested records in February from 155 district courts, nearly a third of the total, as part of a broader statewide survey of government compliance with open-records laws that was coordinated by The Associated Press. At district courts, surveyors regularly encountered questions from district justices and their employees before access was granted...." More (Scranton Times-Tribune 05.22.2005).
The judge who grew up as "princess" daughter of mobster. "Deborah Kaplan enjoyed a pampered youth as the 'princess' daughter of a mob-connected crook and drug trafficker, and loyally defended him even as she rose to become a Manhattan Criminal Court judge....Court spokesman David Bookstaver called her one of most 'straitlaced, serious and professional' women on the bench. 'We cannot blame the children for the sins of the parents,' he said." More (NY Post 05.22.2005). Comment. Good for her.
Make offenders pay a courthouse construction fee? "Speeders, drunken drivers and other misdemeanor offenders soon may be helping Mesa build a courthouse....Offenders would pay a $15 construction fee in addtion to other fines under a proposed city ordinance expected to be approved by the City Council in June...." More (Arizona Republic 05.21.2005). Comment. And while we're at it, let's make 'em wash the judges' cars.
Indonesian courts rapped by Aussie. "The courts are notoriously corrupt and bribes are routinely paid, not only in commercial cases but also in criminal cases, especially those that involve narcotics...." More (The Australian 05.21.2005).
Thoreau on judges? From an entry I made in my journal on 01.20.2002:
In 1854, in Walden, Henry David Thoreau wrote, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." The other day, I was playing with this line in my mind, for no particular reason, when the following new line came to me: "The mass of judges lead lives of desperate moderation."
Judge seeks dismissal of ethics complaint over press interview. "A longtime Minnesota trial judge has asked the state Board on Judicial Standards to dismiss a formal complaint it filed against him last month for allegedly making an improper public comment on a pending case...." Questioned by a reporter after two prosecutors were charged with felony drug possession, the judge, who was not assigned to the case, apparently merely said that both had acted professionally when appearing before him. More (Mpls Star-Tribune 05.20.2005). Comment. Hmm. If I were a judge, I'd err on the side of not talking with reporters at all, letting my work speak for itself. But I find myself struggling to understand what exactly the judge did that violated any of the vague and overlybroad ethical provisions cited. And that's part of the problem, the standards are vague and overlybroad rules-of-thumb that tend to come into conflict with First Amendment free-speech values. I can't help doubting that the justices who decided Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, the judicial elections free-speech case, would be sympathetic to the Board's position in this case.
Judicial candidate worked as topless dancer. "The leading candidate for the newly created Henderson Municipal Court judgeship worked for a year as a topless dancer at a Las Vegas strip club...." More (KRNV 05.20.2005).
Senate confirmation of law clerks? "[T]he Senate no longer need bother about confirmation of Justices but ought to confirm the appointment of law clerks." Justice Robert H. Jackson, The Supreme Court in the American System of Government (1955).
Martha Stewart redux? - former judge convicted of lying. "A jury convicted former Franklin County District Judge Ben Richey of making a false statement to federal agents during a corruption investigation in the northwest Alabama county...." More (Birmingham News 05.20.2005).
Annals of judicial discipline. "A [Panama City, FLA] judge who told a woman to close her legs and stop having babies and ordered another defendant to attend church as a condition of probation could be disciplined by the Supreme Court. The actions were among a long list of inappropriate behavior by Circuit Judge Richard Albritton..." More (Tuscaloosa News 05.20.2005).
Judge to take break after mistakes at trial -- illness? "West Australia's Supreme Court Chief Justice is suffering from a medical condition and will take long-service leave from next week. Judge David Malcolm's departure from the bench comes days after he aborted a murder trial after making a string of mistakes in his summing up to a jury...." More (The Australian 05.20.2005). But see, Top judge denies health problems (The Australian 05.20.2005). But-but see, Judges worry over chief's health (Sunday Times 05.22).
On indifference. "Indifference that sits back and becomes 'aesthetic' doesn't appeal, but indifference from practical wisdom that is sensible of difficulties too great to be overcome at the moment has a hot center." William Carlos Williams, the N. J. medical doctor who was also a very good poet - from a 09.06.1924 letter, in Selected Letters of William Carlos Williams (1957).
Sniper threats made at AL courthouse. "Prosecutors claim Alfred Orames made a threat at one point to climb on top of a building across the street and fire shots at the courthouse with an assault rifle...." More (WAFF.Com 05.19.2005) Comment. The courthouse in question is "secured" with metal detectors. Will courthouse security officials around the country now have to anticipate sniper attacks from nearby rooftops in their planning?
One in two Turkish cases reversed on appeal? "[T]he Turkish Court of Appeals overturned over 112,000 decisions in one year, finding them against the laws....Nearly one out of every two court decisions are erroneous in Turkey while the proportion of similar cases in European countries does not surpass one in ten." More (Zaman Daily News 05.19.2005).
Claim that Vegas judge was bribed. "An FBI spy told a federal jury Wednesday that former strip club owner Michael Galardi paid bribes through a former southern Nevada lawmaker and another associate to a Las Vegas judge...." More (San Jose Mercury News 05.19.2005).
Government moves to reform coroner's inquest system in UK. "[I]t does seem bizarre that a statute passed in 1275 should still be the basis on which we investigate sudden or unexpected deaths in England and Wales. That is why the Government's commitment this week to reform the coroners' system is so welcome. The challenge now is to see it through...." More (UK Telegraph 05.19.2005).
Annals of judicial conduct proceedings - 'the sleep apnea defense.' "To the women that worked for him, he often used the F-word, told stories involving sex, and sometimes showed explicit photos, received over the Internet...." Appearing before the Pennsylvania Commission on Judicial Discipline, Allan Berkhimer, a district court judge charged with "acting like a foul-mouthed jerk," blamed, inter alia, "sleep apnea," a sleep disorder. He also cited "his sister's death and the end of a long-term romantic relationship." More (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 05.19.2005). Comment. This defense presumably will be used if the so-called "Judge Nodd," the sleeping Aussie judge, faces disciplinary proceedings. It should be compared and contrasted with the ADD defense to judicial conduct proceedings.
Ex-magistrate barred from judicial office for five years. "She was accused of taking parking tickets from the windshields of other cars and putting them onto her own windshield so she could park at expired meters." More (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 05.19.2005).
Fellow judge blasts S. FLA's chief federal judge. U.S. District Judge Daniel Hurley has gone public, "criticiz[ing] what he called a 'clandestine' effort to close Fort Lauderdale's federal courthouse without public input." The judge said the 18 judges in the district narrowly approved the decision a year ago. "We acted in a very clandestine fashion in a matter that is very significant for the people of this community...It is shameful what we're doing." More (Sun-Sentinel 05.19.2005).
Swedish Supreme Ct. judge admits paying 20-yr-old for sex. "A Swedish Supreme Court judge has confessed to paying a 20-year old rent boy for sex. The judge, who until now had denied the accusations, is now unlikely to be prosecuted, although he could be forced to leave his post...." More (The Local 05.18.2005). Note. The phrase "rent boy" apparently means "male prostitute." The prostitute in this case is 20 years old, according to the news story. Comment. We emphasize that the judge is Swedish, not Norwegian.
Judges won't tell courthouse security if they're armed. The sheriff of Clayton County, GA, is responsible for courthouse security. He knows some judges now are armed, but neither the judges nor the police in charge of issuing permits will tell him which judges are armed or how much training each judge with a gun has received. What to do? He's filed an open-records request for the info. More (Atlanta Journal-Constitution 05.18.2005).
1,282 (and rising) links - same subject. As I type this, Google lists 1,282 links to recently-posted "related" stories in the press about the Senate battle over President Bush's stalled nominations, the threat to the filibuster rule, etc. Click this link to access those links. Happy reading.
Ex-judge who battled alcoholism chokes to death. "Robert Bradley, a former Ventura County judge whose world came crashing down after a 1997 drunken-driving arrest, died Monday night after choking on food at his Santa Paula home...." The article contains links to archived articles reporting on his downfall and attempts to rehabilitate himself. More (Ventura County Star 05.18.2005).
When everything at the courthouse breaks down. "The judge in the Boeremag treason trial [in South Africa] on Tuesday complained bitterly that a lack of ventilation in the Pretoria High Court could result in yet another delay in the trial." More (IOL.Co.Za 05.17.2005). Air conditioner problems, it seems. One of the attorneys collapsed in court and had to be rushed to the hospital, apparently as a result, at least in part, of the heat. Meanwhile, there is a "dampness" problem in the courthouse resulting in files in the court archives getting damaged and judges are getting stuck in the elevators - among other problems.
Bad-luck judge hopes to return to work soon. First, the local juvenile court judge, Carey Garrett, hurt his back and was hospitalized in February. What could go wrong, did go wrong, and he suffered temporary leg paralysis, then pneumonia, then blood clots in his leg. Recently he lost his house after lightning struck it. More (Knoxville News 05.18.2005). Comment. Sometimes it doesn't just rain, it pours.
Norway's judicial system. May 17th, a/k/a "Syttende Mai," is the anniversary of the adoption of Norway's "new" constitution at Eidsvoll in 1814. It is Norway's "national day," the equivalent of our Independence Day. This year is special because this year the Norwegians are celebrating 100 years of independence from Sweden. LLRX.Com, an excellent legal site, contains a useful summary of online legal resources in Norway by Suzanne Thorpe. The summary includes links, including a gateway (Snakker du Norsk?) to the Norwegian courts' sites. Further reading: Constitution of May 17, 1814 (English, with amendments) - Aften-Posten (English).
Norwegian-American judges of note. The most famous, of course, is Earl Warren, the late Chief Justice. See, Earl Warren, Norwegian-American. I was fortunate to work closely with two of the best ones on the state level, both members of the Minnesota Supreme Court: Douglas K. Amdahl, an associate justice and later chief justice, and the late C. Donald Peterson, an associate justice. See, Burton R. Hanson, "A Profile of Justice C. Donald Peterson On His Retirement," The Hennepin Lawyer 6 (Nov.-Dec. 1985); Burton R. Hanson, "An Introduction to the Judicial Opinions of Associate Justice C. Donald Peterson," The Professional, Public and Judicial Career of C. Donald Peterson (MN. Justices Series No. 4, 1987); Burton R. Hanson, "Chief Justice Douglas K. Amdahl and the Minnesota Reports," Stepping Stones and the Judicial Career of Douglas K. Amdahl (MN. Justices Series No. 7, 1992).
But how about those Scottish judges? "Scotland's new independent system for selecting judges and sheriffs has led to some lawyers 'of less than average legal ability' being appointed to the Bench, it has been claimed. The stinging criticism of the Judicial Appointments Board [several members of which are lay people] comes from leading lawyer Alistair Bonnington in a magazine....Mr Bonnington, a visiting professor at Glasgow University, said: Lay people selecting who will be a good judge is just completely stupid. They don’t know.'" More (The Scotsman 05.17.2005). Comment. Maybe they need to import some Norwegians.
Blue courts, red courts. "In an effort to jazz up interest in professional tennis, the U.S. Open is undergoing an extreme makeover this summer, switching its playing courts from their traditional green to royal blue...." More (Washington Post 05.17.2005). Comment. Meanwhile, the battle continues in the Senate over how "red" the federal courts will be.
25 years of Caddyshack. "No game should [be] take[n] seriously the way people like Judge Smails in the movie did...Games are supposed to be fun, and golf is no different. If you can't poke fun and laugh, how much fun can a game be?" More (Athens Banner-Herald 05.16.2005)
Danny Noonan: I've always wanted to go to college.
Judge Smails: Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too.
Judge Smails: It's easy to grin / When your ship comes in / And you've got the stock market beat. / But the man worthwhile, / Is the man who can smile, / When his shorts are too tight in the seat.
'Jackpot justice' in Mississippi? "Th[e] culture of legal and political clubbiness hangs over the corruption trial under way here inside a downtown federal courtroom, where three judges -- including a sitting state Supreme Court justice -- are accused of taking bribes from one of the wealthiest lawyers in the state...." More (Atlanta Journal-Constitution 05.16.2005).
Overconfidence among judges? "[O]verconfidence...is the occupational hazard of being a judge, especially a judge who is smarter than his colleagues." Richard A. Posner, "The Learned Hand Biography and the Question of Judicial Greatness," 104 Yale L. J. 511, 526 (1994). Comment. I agree that overconfidence is an occupational hazard of being a judge. I doubt that it has anything to do with smartness.
Judges under the influence? "Prominent defense lawyers in Carteret, Craven and Pamlico counties help judges get appointed and elected. When those lawyers take DWI cases to trial, they rarely lose. Two judges have said they felt warned by attorneys: Play ball, or risk losing your job...." More (Charlotte Observer 05.15.2005). Letters to editor (Charlotte Observer 05.17.2005).
Annals of judicial conduct proceedings - "the ADD defense." The Judicial Qualifications Commission in FLA has filed charges against Seminole County Judge John Sloop, according to today's Orlando Sentinel, "for sending 11 people to jail simply because they were lost":
On Dec. 3, he ordered the 11 arrested when they went to the wrong courtroom because of botched paperwork or bad directions from courthouse personnel. After sitting in the wrong room, the defendants finally discovered the error and immediately went to Sloop's courtroom. But Sloop had adjourned for the morning, was eating lunch and refused to see them, according to a Seminole County Sheriff's Office report. Three deputies approached him separately, trying to explain the mix-up...But Sloop said it was too late, that their mistake was not his problem. Meanwhile, the 11 spent several hours in jail...."
Sloop's surprise defense? His attorney says he was suffering from "undiagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder," which he now has under control. More.
Judicial delay in India. "The entire judicial system in India is clogged and choked. Justice here is frayed: chronically delayed, expensive and uncertain. The consequences are gravest for the poor. Seven out of ten people in jails are undertrials, simply because courts do not have the time to hear their cases. The overwhelming majority of these undertrials are very poor -- Dalit, adivasi and minorities. Land disputes in villages are known to fester unresolved over generations. Survivors of communal and anti-Dalit violence fight for decades for justice, and even then convictions are rare...." More ("Backlog in SC: Should judges work extra hours?" Times of India 05.15.2005). Comment. It's tempting for one to point the finger, forgetting that when one does so three fingers on the same hand are pointed back at the pointer. Unjustified delays are all too common, even here in Minnesota, which, relatively speaking, justifiably is proud of its judiciary.
Annals of judicial campaigns. For several years an attorney in PA has supervised defendants sentenced to community service by a district court judge. Now that attorney is running for a judgeship and it appears some students sentenced to community service for underage drinking have been helping out in his campaign as part of their community service. The attorney-candidate in question denies wrongdoing: "It's lies. None of the kids under my supervision worked on my campaign, except those that did so voluntarily." More (Times-Leader 05.14.2005).
Augustus Noble Hand on the judicial vacuum cleaner. "[A] judge..., without any plan in mind, announced to a press conference that he was about to clean up the courts in his circuit. 'With what?' asked Judge Hand, 'The vacuum in his head!'" Charles E. Wyzanski, Jr., "Augustus Noble Hand," 61 Harv.L.Rev. 573, 581 (1948). More on Gus: "The talk of the average conservative about the movements of the day is distressingly ignorant and can hardly be exceeded in intolerance or stupidity by that of the liberal who advocates everything that involves change and has the imprimatur of the 'children of the dawn.'" Judge Augustus ("Gus") Noble Hand, "Lawyers in a Revolutionary Age," 18 Pa. B. Ass'n Q. 46, 47 (1946). To a number of different sources has been attributed this aphorism: "Quote Learned [Hand, his cousin] but follow Gus."
Judicial independence key to democratic reform in Arab world. "Many Arabs fighting for democratic good governance focus increasingly these days on the imperative of the supremacy of law and the independence of the judiciary...." From a commentary by Rami G. Khouri in The Daily Star (Lebanon, 05.14.2005).
Harassment of Judge Lefkow continues. "A man affixed a derogatory note about U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow to the window of a Gold Coast restaurant last night while the judge was dining there, police said early today...." She's the judge whose husband and mother were murdered in the family residence. More (Chicago Tribune 05.14.2005).
The fishing opener and judges who like fishing. It's that annual rite of spring in Minnesota, the fishing opener, when the governor is obliged to trek north and at least pretend to like fishing in what often is still cold and/or wet weather. I've known a number of judges who liked, even loved, fishing, regardless the weather or the politics of it, but none as devoted to it as the late John Voelker (1903-1991), the former Michigan Supreme Court Justice who, under the pen name, Robert Traver, wrote Anatomy of a Murder. Voelker also wrote several much-loved books on trout fishing in the Upper Peninsula. Here's his "Testament of a Fisherman," which I think gives a clue as to the kind of judge, and man, he was:
I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly; because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape; because, in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion; because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience; because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don't want to waste the trip; because mercifully there are no telephones on trout waters; because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness; because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there; because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid; and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant - and not nearly so much fun.
Annals of judicial elections. Judge Dana Fortinberry, a trial judge in Michigan, faces a number of misconduct charges in a formal complaint filed in the state supreme court by the state's judicial tenure commission. The main allegation is that, without first-hand personal knowledge, Judge Fortinberry sent a letter to a county law enforcement group implying that then-judicial-candidate Kelley Kostin, now a colleague on the bench, helped her husband cover up the circumstances of his former wife's death in 1989, which Fortinberry hinted may have been a murder, not a suicide. More (Detroit Free Press 05.13.2005).
Complaint: attorneys tried to get law clerk to bring down judge. The chief hearing officer of the Mass. Bd. of Bar Overseers has filed a 229 page document recommending disbarment of three lawyers for allegedly scheming to get the confidential law clerk of the judge trying a case in which they were involved to help them prove the judge was biased against their client. According to a story in today's Boston Herald, "Concealing their identities, they seduced [the clerk] with the promise of a phony, high-paying job with a high-flying international firm" and "secretly recorded [the clerk] revealing embarrassing information about the judge -- but nothing suggesting any prejudice against their client...." When the attorneys increased their pressure on the clerk, the clerk turned to the FBI, who "wired" him and recorded some of their meetings. The Boston Globe has a story on the Boston legal community's reaction to the recommendation, with some lawyers suggesting it is "draconian" and "a travesty."
Judge admonished for turning sentencing hearing into party. "The judge who celebrated the capture of a fugitive last year by serving cake at his sentencing hearing has received a public admonition from the state agency that oversees the conduct and behavior of judges...." More (Fort Worth Star-Telegram 05.13.2005).
Diabetic judge's suit against Coke fizzles. "A German judge who suffers from diabetes failed yesterday in an attempt to sue soft-drink giant Coca-Cola Co. for causing his condition...." More (Globe and Mail, 05.13.2005). Comment. The judge reportedly blamed the "considerable burden" of his job as the reason he drank a liter of Coke a day and said he didn't realize the risks. Maybe he should apply for workers comp & claim his job drove him to drink.
Candidate for judge uses beer mugs to promote campaign. The candidate, Linda Carpenter, running for a spot on a PA common pleas court, has gotten some "conversational pubs" to use them. "The pint glasses give the address of her campaign Web site, where she has information about her legal background and endorsements." Her husband, part-owner of a micro-brewery, "has been ordering custom pint glasses to promote his beer for years, so it wasn't a big stretch to use the same tactic to promote his wife." More (PennLive 05.13.2005).
High court judge in India caught on surveillance tapes. "Delhi High Court ex-judge Shamit Mukherjee, already facing corruption charges, has now been caught openly asking for call girls. The former judge's bungalow in Delhi's Zakir Hussain Marg was raided by the CBI in April 2003 in one of the biggest land scams. He was accused of changing his verdicts to favour land developers in return for bribes in terms of both money and women...." More (New Delhi TV 05.12.2005)
Did R.I. Chief Justice "forfeit" his office? A Providence attorney has filed suit contending that "Chief Justice Frank J. Williams surrendered his post by accepting a spot on a federal military review panel." The Assistant A.G. representing the chief moved to dismiss for lack of standing but that motion has been denied by a three-judge panel appointed to hear the matter. More (Providence Journal 05.12.2005).
Is judge's dad a mobster? "An imprisoned Luchese crime family associate who suddenly agreed to turn into a stoolie has been hiding another surprise: His daughter is a Manhattan Criminal Court judge...." More (NY Daily News 05.12.2005).
Congress vs. courts -- South African version. In an op/ed piece today in Business Day, Rhoda Kadalie, who is described as a South African human rights activist, argues that the African National Congress's various judicial reform bills constitute an assault on judicial independence and result from ANC dissatisfaction with a number of high-profile court decisions in recent years. Her piece ends with a reference to the Zimbabwe experience: "President Robert Mugabe [of Zimbabwe]has taught us that a compliant judiciary will fail to protect us from a hostile government." More. Contrary opinion: goal is to streamline, not undermine, courts. See, also, this previous entry.
Sleeping defendant vs. sleeping judge vs. sleeping juror. "Marques Lott, an Oakland man on trial for his life in the slaying of a St. Mary's College student in 1997, dozed at the defense table this morning as a homicide investigator testified for the prosecution...." From yesterday's (05.11.2005) Contra Costa Times. The trial judge denied defense counsel's motion for adjournment but extended the lunch hour to two hours to give counsel time to get some legitimate rest; he also instructed the jury not to draw adverse inferences from defendant's drowsiness. More Comment. Lots of reports these days of sleeping going on during trials -- sleeping by defendants, sleeping by judges, sleeping by jurors. Also highly impermissible yawning by jurors.
He's a son-of-a-judge. "The businessman father of Lea (Lee) Weingarten Fastow is taking shots at the judge who sentenced her to prison -- while campaigning against the judge's son, who's running for city council...." More (KLTV7 05.11.2005)
Former Chicago Bears player new Ill. Chief Justice. "Former Chicago Bears football player Robert Thomas was chosen on Tuesday to become the new chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court...." More (Chicago Tribune 05.11.2005). Comment. Alan Page, who some believe is the best justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court, no longer is the only NFLer on a state supreme court, though some might argue Thomas, a "mere" place-kicker, was not a true rough-and-tumble football player, which Page, a defensive lineman with a bent finger to prove it, was. Page, the pro football Hall of Famer, is a former Bear, too, but played his best football with the Vikings, where he was league MVP one year. The story indicates that Thomas was picked by his fellow justices for a three-year term. It is not always clear from a state's constitution who gets to pick the chief justice. Arguably in some states that have assumed otherwise, the justices of the supreme court could decide amongst themselves who is chief. Another interesting question is the extent to which the associate justices may strip a chief justice of many of his/her duties -- say, to take a far-fetched, unlikely example, a chief justice who on his own installs a Ten Commandments monument in the lobby of the judicial center in the middle of the night.
Judge ordered to repay elderly aunt $163,000. "Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Michael Garson has been ordered by the Appellate Division, First Department, to return $163,000 to his elderly aunt although the judge maintains that his aunt gave him power of attorney to “spend down” her money so that she could qualify for Medicaid...." More (Empire Journal 05.11.2005) Update. The NYT reports that a grand jury in Brooklyn has indicted the judge on felony charges of grandlarceny and forgery. More (NYTimes 05.12.2005).
The judge, his secretary & her hooker friend. As a sort of post-Secretaries Week cautionary tale about the perils of a judge getting too close to his/her secretary, we'd like to introduce you to Judge Bruce ("Turn 'em Loose Bruce") Dobbs, his "administrative assistant," Jolene Secretary, and a friend of hers from high school, Wanda, a $150 hooker -- from the racy "criminal law and procedure" part of the July, 1999 Arkansas (where else?) bar exam.... More
More on judges and their secretaries. A judge's secretary becomes his bride. Sounds like a fairy-tale story from an old 1950's copy of True Romance, right? Wasn't it every judicial secretary's dream to marry his/her boss? The stereotypical secretarial dream sometimes really did (maybe still does) come true. Mary Fowler Brennan, who died in 2000 at age 83, worked for 25 years as Justice William Brennan's secretary, then became the chosen one, his second wife, in 1983 after his first wife died. Elizabeth Black, Justice Black's secretary and then second wife, said in 1986 that when Black proposed, "He spoke of love and the Supreme Court." That he was an extraordinarily-romantic guy can also be gleaned from two entries Elizabeth made in her diary. Entry of Tuesday, June 24, 1968: "Hugo and I had a big argument as to whether we could replace our thirty-year-old gas stove which has a semi-rusted oven and no thermostat on it. We stopped by Harris Plumbing to see if the old stove could be fixed, and Mr. Harris laughed heartily when Hugo was so insistent that our stove was perfect. Hugo said if people made stoves to last only thirty years they ought to be arrested." Entry of Thursday, June 27, 1968: "Hugo talked to me finally about the stove, reiterating his opinion that we do not need a new stove, but if it would make me happy he'd get it for me. I told him it would, and so he agreed, reluctantly." See Hugo L. Black and Elizabeth Black, Mr. Justice and Mrs. Black (New York: Random House 1986).
Do Dot.Com companies sense a S.Ct. victory? "If you grew up out in the country like I did, you know animals often react to impending weather that you and I cannot yet see coming...When Amazon.com and Wine.com announced their partnership last week to sell wine on Amazon.com, I had the feeling I was watching the same sort of thing. They're not even waiting for the Supreme Court to come back this week (or next) and make direct-to-consumer wine shipments fully legal, I thought, that's how confident they are...." Jonathon Alsop, Talking Wine: Here Comes the Judge, (MetroWest Daily News 05.11.2005). Comment. Another example of the wisdom of the crowd, in this case the business crowd anticipating which way the court will rule in the as yet unannounced decision of the cases involving states' power to prevent interstate sale of wine over the internet? See, In Vino Gravitas, Dahlia Lithwick's 12.07.2004 Slate report on the oral arguments in the cases.
Courthouse fashion event to aid assault victims. "Gwinnett is blessed with a most fashionable courthouse crowd. If you've ever strolled through the Gwinnett Justice & Administration Center in Lawrenceville you've probably taken note of prominent attorney Walt Britt's flowing tresses, prosecutor and Marine reservist Jim Cavin's chiseled physique, or the snappy red shirt Chief Magistrate Warren Davis wears on Valentine's Day...." More (Atlanta Journal Constitution 05.11.2005) Comment. It's the latest in robe fashion that interests us.
Nathaniel Hawthorne on the Dead Man as judge. Notebook entry of Nathaniel Hawthorne:
To represent the influence which Dead Men have among living affairs -- for instance, a Dead Man controls the disposition of wealth; a Dead Man sits on the judgment seat, and the living judges do but respect his decisions; Dead Men's opinions in all things control the living truth; we believe in Dead Men's religion; we laugh at Dead Men's jokes; we cry at Dead Men's pathos; everywhere and in all matters, Dead Men tyrannize inexorably over us.
Comment. Then again, Nathaniel, sometimes Dead Men's love sustains us, Dead Men's books inspire us, Dead Men's buildings shelter us, etc., etc.
Republican: We need "Inspector General" of Judiciary. "Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Monday that the committee was considering the creation of an 'office of inspector general for the federal judiciary' to watch over the courts...." More NYTimes 05.10.2005) Comment. What we really need is a better-informed, more-responsible electorate to "watch over" the Congress (and to elect independent-thinking, intelligent representatives rather than the typical representatives, programmed robots who always follow the party line).
Judge accused of defamation. "A senior Cape High Court judge [Siraj Desai] has been accused of defaming members of [an] asset management company...by calling them 'a bunch of thugs,' 'scum' and 'bastards.' Judge Desai made these comments to one of the group's main shareholders...in November 2001 in response to a proposed development by the group in University Estate, where Judge Desai lives...." More (Cape Times 05.10.2005). Comment. Needless to say, a judge has no "judicial immunity" against suit for making defamatory statements outside of the judicial process. I personally favor abolishing the tort of defamation. Justice Black's view, which has not prevailed, is that the First Amendment protects all speech, including that which might be proven to be defamatory.
Retiring judge facing sanctions for supporting wife. "A Lehigh County [PA] district judge should be punished for misconduct that included a push to have his wife appointed to the job, the state Judicial Conduct Board will argue next week...." More (The Morning Call 05.10.2005). Comment. In Minnesota and elsewhere it used to be not uncommon to appoint an officeholder's widow to serve the unexpired portion of his term. Once in a small town in the Midwest a probate judge "took up" and then ran away with a female court employee; his wife was appointed by the county board to succeed him. The impulse to look out for the surviving spouse, which was more understandable in the days before public pensions with survivor benefits, still survives with the electorate. In this case the judge presumably could have resigned, effective immediately, then "campaigned" for his wife's appointment to succeed him. Should it make a difference that he did so while still judge? Maybe so, although it is common in many jurisdictions for a retiring judge to try influence the governor to appoint someone favored by the judge, often a friend. Sitting judges also commonly "lobby" for the appointment of friends to join them on the bench. Witness Chief Justice Burger's using his influence with President Nixon to get his childhood friend, Harry Blackmun, appointed. See, e.g., reviews (here & here) of Linda Greenhouse's recently-published bio of Blackmun. Update: The board "reprimanded" the judge. More (MCall.Com 05.18.2005).
The judge and those free football tickets. A retired judge acting as fact-finder for Michigan's Judicial Tenure Commission has found that a sitting judge did not violate judicial standards in accepting tickets to a U. of Mich. football game in 2003 from an attorney who formerly was a judge. The hearing judge found, in the words of the Traverse City Record-Eagle (05.10.2005) that "although Haley's actions were inappropriate and a display of 'poor judgment,' it 'does not rise to the level of impropriety' or its 'appearance.'" Comment. It would be interesting to know what per cent of judges, state and federal, have accepted free tickets at some point during their tenure. I'd bet the per cent would be high rather than low.
Is Nehru jacket inappropriate attire for attorney in court? Earlier this year the Chief Magistrate at a civil court in Port of Spain, Trinidad, ordered an attorney, Israel Khan, who was dressed in a so-called Nehru jacket, to wear an ordinary jacket and tie if he wanted to represent his clients. Khan complied but is now challenging the order, saying a magistrate doesn't have authority to specify what attire is appropriate for an attorney appearing in court. More (Trinidad & Tobago Express 05.09.2005) Comment. If you've never seen a Nehru jacket or if your memory needs refreshing, click here. They were briefly popular, at least among celebrities, in the 1960's. Johnny Carson wore one on his show occasionally -- and looked sort of ridiculous.
Constitutional law according to James Dobson. In an April Focus-on-the-Family Action newsletter to "Friends," James Dobson, after railing against the "immoral Florida court judge named George Greer [who ruled in the Shiavo case]," had this to say in his attack on some federal circuit judges whose decisions he doesn't like:
Many Americans do not know that Article 3, Section 1 of the Constitution clearly gives to Congress the responsibility to establish every court with the exception of the Supreme Court. These lower federal courts serve at the pleasure of the Congress, which can abolish or create them at will. For example, the troublesome Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which consistently issues off-the-wall rulings, (including the Pledge of Allegiance decision in 2002) could be abolished and then staffed by different judges immediately.
Comment. Res ipsa loquitur.
Public service as a gift: A.M. ("Sandy") Keith. A.M. ("Sandy") Keith was still going great guns when he "voluntarily" retired from his position as Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the face of onrushing mandatory retirement at age 70. Like most of the justices of that court who leave it at or around age 70, he didn't really retire. Sandy rejoined Dunlap & Seeger, his old law firm in Rochester, the city where his dad was a prominent Mayo Clinic physician (and the city that he represented as a legislator in the 1950s, before being elected Lieutenant Governor and before running unsuccessfully in the DFL primary for Governor). [On the latter race, see How to Get Mangled in Minnesota Politics - Sandy Keith Succumbs to Sympathy Vote (Harvard Crimson 11.01.1966).] Today's Star-Tribune, in a section titled Political Talk, reports that these days Keith is busy at the legislature as a registered lobbyist representing "the city of Rochester and an association representing vending-machine operators":
Keith jokes that his sterling résumé gives him "no power at all" as a lobbyist and that he's commonly referred to as "the formerly honorable Sandy Keith." Noting with hometown pride that Olmsted County was one of only three of 87 he carried when he got stomped in the 1966 DFL gubernatorial primary, he said, "What I enjoy most about it is representing Rochester."
Comment. As the court's deputy commissioner, I worked closely with "the Chief" during his years at the court as an associate justice and then chief justice. In my opinion, he's one of the finest men ever to grace the public stage in Minnesota. Some politicians feign cheerfulness and interest in individual people. The Chief is the real thing. He's naturally gregarious and loves people. And, as the story suggests, he loves Rochester and loves public service in any capacity. I recall that in one of his annual speeches at the Criminal Justice Institute, held each year in late August, he said he looked on each day he was allowed to serve the public as a gift from the public. All good relationships are mutual: The Chief's service to the public has been a gift as well.
Selecting & training new judges in South Africa. "[T]he general practice has been to appoint judges from the ranks of advocates because of their court experience." So says a piece titled State moves to train more black judges in today's Independent Online. It is the opinion of some "that there 'should not be one point of entry into the system.'" One reason: using the traditional approach has failed to redress race- and gender-imbalances. The piece lists some of the possibilities, including specialized colleges to train people, presumably lawyers, to be judges.
Is historic Arkansas courthouse haunted? Adam Wallworth of the Northwest Arkansas Times has a piece in today's paper (click here) recounting strange happenings at the historic Washington County Courthouse:
[Lawrence] Guist [,courthouse groundskeeper,] related [a] tale of a former employee of a judge who had been working late one night and watched as a door opened and shut on its own. He said the woman told him never to attach her name to the story. She also told the judge she would never again work late. The woman’s desk faced the door, which was shut securely while she worked, Guist said. The door, however, came unlatched and swung completely open and paused for a moment before swinging closed and latching securely, he said.
Comment. I could tell a few "stories" about late-night, early-morning, and off-hour sounds and happenings that I "witnessed" during the 28+ years I worked as an aide/adviser to the Minnesota Supreme Court at its home in the Minnesota State Capitol and later in the Minnesota Judicial Center. Some other time....
Judge's "tacking" to result in $268K. "Damien G. Murray's salaries from eight municipal judgeships will total $268,284 this year - a paycheck that will easily exceed those of the chief justice of the United States, U.S. senators and New Jersey's governor...." More (Cherry Hill Courier-Post - South Jersey, 05.08) (discussing how private-practice lawyers in N.J. are able to "tack" together salaries from separate part-time positions as municipal judges for different municipalities). Comment. Might part of the problem be not so much the "tacking" but that individual municipalities are paying too much to the part-time judges?
Blair's friend in running to be top judge. The Sunday Times reports that a close friend of Prime Minister Tony Blair and Blair's wife, Cherie, is in the running to be appointed Britain's top judge, an appointment that is "officially in the gift of the Queen" but one that "in practice...will be [determined by] Blair’s recommendation..." One senior lawyer is quoted as saying, "Everybody knows he’s Blair’s friend. I think there would be a lot of concerned judges if he was given the job." More
Another review of Blackmun bio. Tomorrow's N.Y.Times Book Review, online now, contains another review, this by Laura Kalman, of Linda Greenhouse's Becoming Justice Blackmun. Kalman writes that "[i]f there is a special place in heaven for those considerate of the claims of history, Justice Harry Blackmun deserves a spot" -- mainly because a) he was a pack rat, keeping literally everything that might be of interest to historians, including hotel receipts, and b) he donated the collection to The Library of Congress.
The Blackmun whom Greenhouse paints in this page turner is a modest Minnesotan, who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. He drives his Volkswagen to the court daily for breakfast with his clerks. A man of civility and compassion, he has a twinkle in his eye. He is kind to almost everyone, which makes his lack of sympathy for Burger as their friendship fades startling. Greenhouse's Blackmun is endearingly quirky, the justice from Lake Wobegon. Garrison Keillor himself called Blackmun ''the shy person's justice.''
Former law clerk's appreciation of Justice Stevens. Cliff Sloan, Newsweek columnist, who once clerked for Justice Stevens, has written a piece titled In Praise of John Paul Stevens:
With his bow-tied, Midwestern demeanor and perpetual air of genial bemusement, he is the quintessential nice guy, the sort you’d bump into on an airplane or at the corner store. He loves to tell of moving to Washington, and, on a bank application, listing “Justice” as his occupation. The skeptical bank clerk replied, “OK, last week, I had a guy who said ‘Peace’.”
Trial fixing ring in Greece? "The first round of investigations into a suspected trial-fixing ring made up of judges, churchmen and lawyers came to an end yesterday with the questioning of a middle-ranking judge thought to have been at the heart of the scandal...." More (Kathimerini 05.07.2005)
More complaints about sleeping judge (and jurors). We've twice referred to the news reports coming out of Australia about a judge named "Dodd" who has been dubbed "Judge Nodd." Click here and here. The latest is that in at least two cases the issue will be raised on appeal. The mother of a man the judge sentenced to prison in a drug importation case is quoted today by The Daily Telegraph as saying: "It is horrendous. The first day I saw him fall asleep, on the first day of the trial proper, I complained to my legal representatives...I was told it was common with this judge and that nothing could be done." More
Judge removed -- claimed other judges plotted to kill her. The North Carolina Supreme Court removed an emergency district court judge named Harrison who, during a 2002 judicial election campaign, "claimed two District Court judges and seven attorneys from Roxboro, Yanceyville and Greensboro conspired to hire someone to kill her in 1998. Harrison also accused the judges and six lawyers of hiring an attorney to file 200 false complaints against her." More News14Carolina 05.07.2005).
Review of book about Justice Blackmun. A Pivotal Justice Less Than Supremely Confident by Jeffrey Rosen (NYTimes 05.06.2005) favorably reviews NYT Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse's new book, Becoming Justice Blackmun. If the review is right, the book devotes considerable attention to Blackmun's relationship with his childhood pal, C. J. Warren Burger, which deteriorated as Blackmun asserted his independence:
Justice Blackmun's diary recording the deterioration of his relationship with Chief Justice Burger reads like that of an emotionally needy high school student ("CJ for the first time very cool," he wrote in 1980. Five years later: "CJ picks on me at conference.")
Greenhouse is a nuts-and-bolts kind of reporter, accurate and fair but, or so it has seemed to me, somewhat too deferential in her reporting to the Justices she covers on her beat. Compare her, e.g., with the wild-and-witty Dahlia Lithwick of Slate. But, according to Rosen, "she has produced something unexpected: one of the most intimate and revealing portraits of the relationship between two justices ever achieved."
Congress vs. Judiciary. Ron Chernow has a useful piece in today's NYT titled Chopping Off the Weakest Branch, in which he provides historical context to the "evangelical conservatives'" recent threats to use "the [Congressional] power of the purse" to "unset" the courts, as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay puts it. Writes Chernow: "[W]e are witnessing a re-enactment of a historic drama that unfolded two centuries ago, shortly after Thomas Jefferson's election as president...." More
Special shelter from storm for judges? Recently, the St. Petersburg Times, which covers the local judiciary better than most newspapers, reported that "Chief Judge David Demers wants to keep the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court running during a hurricane and has asked officials in both counties to set up emergency shelters as temporary courtrooms." Counties balk at judge's wish for 5 storm shelters for court (SPT - N. Pinella ed, 04.28.2005). According to the story, by Michael Sandler:
The five shelters would serve as a base for emergency response teams with a judge, prosecutors, public defenders, court clerks, bailiffs, a court reporter and other court employees. The shelters also would welcome the families of court personnel, allowing up to 60 people - and pets - in each location. Demers has asked that each shelter be fully equipped for a major disaster, with generators, food and kitchen equipment, a link with the court's computer network and video teleconferencing capabilities with the county jail.
As the judge should have expected, the columnists and writers of letters to the editor have taken advantage of the easy target with which the judge, wittingly or not, provided them: see, e.g., C.T. Bowen, Judge not if shelter is needed (spoof memos), SPT - Pasco (05.01.2005), and letters published today from people who appear not to have realized the memos in the column were spoof memos.
Federal District Judge Harry MacLaughlin (MN) dies. Judge MacLaughlin was a Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court from 1972 to 1977, when President Carter appointed him a federal district judge. More (Minneapolis Star-Tribune 05.05.2005) Comment. I was a law clerk at the court from 1970 to 1972, then served as deputy commissioner for 26 years, and got to know Justice MacLaughlin well during his years as an associate justice. He was a close friend and classmate at the University of Minnesota Law School of Vice President Mondale, but I believe he would have succeeded without any political friendships. Like one of his classmates who later served on the supreme court, Justice Mary Jeanne Coyne, he was one of the smartest judges with whom I worked. (Indeed, all the members of that particular class at the U. Law School seem to have been, in true Lake Wobegone-style, "above average.") He also always was extraordinarily well-prepared. Though he had his views, as we all do, he was always open-minded and willing to listen to other viewpoints. It's just my personal opinion, but I would place him high on the list of outstanding members of that court. As an added note, there is what I like to call a Benson Connection -- specifically, his father, who once worked for the Great Northern Railway, lived in Benson with his family for several years in that connection, before being transferred to Wahpeton. Links: Judge MacLaughlin's bio at the Federal Judicial Center's site -- List of Justices and Judges of the Minnesota Appellate Courts -- Videotaped interview -- St. Paul Pioneer-Press obituary - Detailed obituary submitted by family
Judicial independence in South Africa under assault? There's controversial legislation pending in South Africa that some fear will interfere with judicial independence and further extend the power of the ANC (African National Congress). One of the critics is John Kane-Berman, C.E. of the South African Institute of Race Relations, who has written an opinion piece titled Alarming Lack of Concern Over Threat to Judges, which was published in Business Day and has been distributed on the Internet by AllAfrica.Com (05.05.2005). Here's an excerpt that articulates why we need to value judicial independence:
Judicial independence is not a privilege for judges. Nor is it the plaything of the government or the ruling party. It belongs to the public. It is essential for the fair trial of offenders and also for the fair settlement of civil disputes -- in which government may often be an interested party, given its vast regulatory and taxing powers and the fact that it owns almost half the economy. Judicial independence is also a shield to protect citizens from possible abuses of power. Without judges independent enough to enforce it, if necessary against a hostile government, the bill of rights is weakened.
More on sleeping judge, dubbed "Judge Nodd." The judge in question, an Aussie named Ian Dodd who has sleep apnea, was dubbed by some jurors "Judge Nodd." Said a juror at a 2003 drugs trial:
[He slept] every day. We called him Judge Nodd. I think he was snoring at one stage too. He was asleep for most of the day. He'd have a sleep, then we'd go on a break and, when we'd came back, he'd nod off again. He was asleep the whole way through and they just continued on. It is surprising that nobody said anything or did anything.
But the juror added that it didn't seem to affect the judge's comprehension:
I was impressed that he still knew what he was doing. We had quite a few questions and he completely knew what was going on. I don't know how he did it.
Judge with gambling problem pleads guilty to mail fraud. Deborah A. Neal, a former Kansas City, MO, trial judge with a gambling problem, has pleaded guilty to federal mail fraud charges for sending false financial disclosure forms through the mail. In pleading guilty, she "acknowledged using her official position to obtain loans from lawyers who appeared before her. Some of those loans were made in her chambers and she admitted giving some lawyers unescorted access to a secure area leading to the chambers of municipal judges." She provided authorities with the names of 14 lawyers who loaned her money; she also admitted receiving money from a bonding company whose clients appeared before her. Prosecutors contend, but she did not admit, she dismissed traffic tickets for one lawyer and changed computer records to make it appear a court employee made the changes. More (Kansas City Star 05.04.2005) Comment. Judges who file false state financial disclosure statements would be well-advised to deliver them in person rather than via the U.S. Postal Service.
Judge accused of campaigning for spouse's election. "In Gulfport, [Mississippi,] poll watchers at Lyman Elementary called officials after they saw Justice Court Judge Bruce Roberts holding a campaign sign and wearing a T-shirt with a picture of his wife, Teresa, a Republican candidate for the Ward 7 council seat. The judge was not wearing his judicial robe when poll watchers noticed him in front of the school...." More (Sun Herald 05.04.2005) Comment. There are numerous ethical issues raised when a judge is married to or romantically allied with another politician, robed (another judge) or unrobed (a non-judge running for judicial office or a candidate for or holder of an executive or legislative office). It would be difficult to formulate rules dealing with all the possibilities. Minnesota's Governor, Tim Pawlenty, is married to a district court judge: she did not participate in his campaign and has been careful not to cross the ethical line in her other role as First Lady. One of the earliest and still one of the best articles on ethical issues raised by a judge's spouse's activities is Andrew L. Kaufman, Judicial Ethics: The Less-Often Asked Questions, 64 Wash. L. Rev. 851, 862 (1989). See, also, "When good relations can be a potential problem" at Court Gazing II at BurtLaw's LawAndEverythingElse.Com.
Norwegian judicial "knowledge" of striptease: it's "art." The issue for the Norwegian judge was whether striptease at "Diamond Go Go Bar" in Oslo is "art" and therefore exempt from VAT (Value Added Tax). The wise Norwegian judge said, "To the court's knowledge...in certain places...one can see incredibly beautiful artists move gracefully to music, with sensual movements and gradually taking their clothes off, which gives many clients a very nice experience." More (Mail & Guardian, Zanzibar 05.04.2005).
Higher court judges in India to be sent packing, too? Several days ago the Allahabad High Court in India "sent 28 trial judges packing" for various deficiencies, including "frequenting houses of few mischief-mongering lawyers and goondas of the city." More Now this item: "Looks like an exercise to purge the Uttar Pradesh judiciary of corruption could claim the top brass as well, with leading lawyers doubting if even '50 percent of judges were honest.'" More (WebIndia 05.03.2005) Comment. Maybe India ought to consider "outsourcing" some of these vacant or soon-to-be vacant judicial positions to the U.S. With video-conferencing via the Internet, U.S. judges who are underpaid could earn some extra money by taking on second jobs at night (which is day in India) getting India's courts in shape.
Judge sent down to minors. "A Manhattan judge scolded for handling a lawsuit brought by a personal friend has been demoted to a lower court, her attorney said yesterday...." More (N.Y. Daily News 05.03.2005) Comment. I never knew demotion was an option among punishments for judges found guilty of ethical violations. There is something Chinese about this option, sort of like sending Deng Xiaoping to the country to be re-educated during the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution."
The "American Idol" judge controversy. From The Scotsman (05.03.2005): "A scathing behind-the-scenes report about television show American Idol is causing mounting tensions and controversy in the United States surrounding judge Paula Abdul...[A]n ABC News report, Fallen Idol, to be broadcast tomorrow night, promises to be 'explosive' and is rumoured to contain allegations that Abdul seduced a contestant and secretly coached him...." More Comment. We have always operated on the assumption that the judges on all the reality shows, including American Idol, follow the Code of Judicial Conduct, even though there is no law requiring them to do so. One of the Code's "Canons" requires, in part: "A judge shall not allow any relationship to influence judicial conduct or judgment." This is a subsection of the Canon that more generally provides: "A Judge Should Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All Activities." We like Paula Abdul. We assume she's always conducted herself as anyone calling herself "judge" -- whether of a pie contest or a figure skating competition or a dog show -- would do. We will continue in that assumption unless someone proves our assumption is false. Even then, we'll be inclined to stand by her. Why? Because, as we said, we like her. But in order to clear up any ambiguity and in order to reassure trusting viewers, we believe the entire reality industry ought to make clear that all such judges -- including, among others, pie judges, skating judges, dog judges -- are obliged to follow the Code. If the television industry, county fair boards, exclusionary dog clubs, etc., fail to do so, we believe Congress ought to conduct hearings with an eye to enacting broad all-encompassing legislation on the subject. This is the sort of thing we elect and pay our representatives to do, isn't it? For further reading, including "Cheerleading Competitions and the Rule of Law," click here.
Profile of a court-watcher and some grinning judges. Winston Smith, 68, retired, has made a hobby out of watching criminal trials in his local courthouse. A piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quotes Smith as saying, "I love my judges...I've been there long enough that they let me know that they know I'm there. They kind of just nod their head or look at you and grin." Smith is quoted as saying that Judge Billy Ray is "one of my better ones," Judge Debra Turner, whom he calls "the lady," is "tough, but really, really nice," and that Judge Michael Clark is "a real super guy." More ((05.02.2005) Comment: Nearly every metropolitan courthouse has its corps of retirees who regularly attend trials. Some get so good at it that trial lawyers consult with them during recesses for input.
Pat Robertson says federal judges are "out of control. According to The Virginian-Pilot, he said "that Democrats prefer judges who would attack Christian culture" and that "he would place only Christians and Jews [not Muslims] in the President’s Cabinet." He also "accused Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of consorting with communists." More (05.02.2005)
High Court in India sends 28 trial judges packing. The Allahabad High Court found the judges guilty of "various charges of doubtful integrity, alcoholism, moral turpitude and professional incompetence." One was found guilty of "frequenting houses of few mischief-mongering lawyers and goondas of the city." One was found guilty of "immorality and impersonation," another of having "visited gambling dens," another of "drinking during the court hours." More (Times of India 05.01.2005) Comment. Wondering what it means to be a "goonda"? William Safire, take note: It's all explained by D. Murali, Get to know the goonda, here and now (Hindu Business Line 02.02.2005).
Master gardeners unhappy with courthouse landscaping. "The landscaping plans for Winona's newly renovated courthouse have some green thumbs out of joint. Some master gardeners who put together the landscaping plans are unhappy after discovering that their plans have been modified...." More (Winona Daily News 05.01.2005) Comment: I worked closely for a number of years at the Minnesota Supreme Court with Justice Glenn E. Kelley, among others. Justice Kelley was from Winona, where he served as a district judge for many years. He was a gentle giant of a man. I remember his soft chuckle well. Regardless of who is in the right or wrong with respect to the modification of the plans, I'm thinking he'd chuckle over this story.
Judge fines juror for yawning. A California trial judge fined a prospective juror for yawning loudly & contemptuously. The juror said he was sorry, adding he was bored. The judge first imposed a $1,000 fine but reduced it to $100; he also ordered the juror confined to the prospective jurors' waiting room for two hours. More (Philadelphia Inquirer 05.01.2005) Comment: Last year only 41% of the 2.1 million Los Angeles residents who received a jury summons reported for duty. It is not clear what per cent of those yawned.
Stacking the so-called nonpartisan nominating commissions. "Under [Gov. Jeb] Bush, the [judicial] nominating commissions have become the functional equivalent of Republican patronage committees. Nearly 80 percent of their members are registered Republicans, as best as can be determined from the state's voter database. That's more than twice the party's share of the electorate...." More [St. Petersburg Times (editorial), 05.01.2005) Comment: The answer often given to the problem of "politics" in judicial selection by governors is not direct election of judges but use of "judicial commissions." But that, of course, just transfers the "politics" of selection to the commission members, who typically aren't political eunuchs. In practice, deciding what method of judicial selection is "best" all boils down to whether you want the political or quasi-political selection to be done by one politician (the governor, who generally will pick cronies or party members), by several politicians (the governor picking from the list of "best qualified" -- often either cronies or friends of cronies -- given him by the political shakers & movers who generally make up the commissions), or by the voters (who are not dumb, as the members of the power elite sometimes seem to think they are). For an interesting analysis, see, Caleb Nelson, A Re-evaluation of Scholarly Explanations for the Rise of the Elective Judiciary in Antebellum America, American Journal of Legal History (April 1993) (via PBS). There are problems with every selection system for state judges , and what works fairly well in one stay may not work as well in another.
On "nuclear brinkmanship." Gene Healy, a senior editor at the Cato Institute, argues in an opinion piece first published in Reason on 04.27 that "There's a chance that the G.O.P.'s nuclear gambit [with respect to Democrats' filibustering judicial nominations] could eventually lead to the death of the filibuster as a whole," something that could prove to be "disastrous" to conservatism because "the filibuster is an essentially conservative instrument." More (Cato Institute 04.30.2005)
Prankster judge sends lying juror to jail. Broward County Judge Eileen O'Connor, who sent a juror to jail for lying, "appear[s] to be hurt by [subsequent] reports [that]portrayed her as 'cold' and 'mean.' In person, she is engaging, earthy and funny. There's a twinkle in her eye. When she tells a story, it comes with hand gestures, impressions and guffaws. She comes across as the polar opposite of mean, cold or uptight. 'That's not my personality,' she said. 'I can't be deadpan. It's not my makeup. I'm not 'Miss Stiff and Serious' all the time. I joke around with people.' As a prosecutor she was a notorious jokester...." Still is? More (Sun-Sentinel 04.30.2005)
Judge's last bottle of vodka. The judge, a New Mexico District Judge, was down to his last bottle of vodka. Before throwing it at a roadside rest stop, he says he decided to take one last swig. But that led to another...and another.... "By the time he drove [the state-owned van] off the road in Santa Fe at [a] little after noon, he was drunk and his judicial career was over." More (E. Mountain Telegraph 04.29.2005) Comment: They seem to be tougher on judges who drink and drive in New Mexico than in many other places.
Sleeping Aussie judge warns jurors: stay awake! "A judge, who snored while hearing an alleged rape case here has warned a newly sworn-in jury at the start of a criminal drugs trial to remain alert....Documents have been produced to show Dodd snored while he slept for 15 minutes at a time, causing laughter and comments from the jury. The judge has a record of serial slumber on the bench...." More (Mid-Day Mumbai 04.29.2005)
Tough judge who served time criticizes penal policy. Joseph Jaffe was a tough PA judge before he was caught and convicted of extortion and sentenced to 27 months in federal prison. In a profile in Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (04.28.2005), he is quoted saying, "I had an entrenched personality of intolerance and arrogance." Prison changed that. Prison wasn't fun: "The physical conditions there, I believe, were unfit for any human habitation." "Free" now, he has filed formal complaints about the conditions and says there are many people in prison who don't belong there. More
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