BurtLaw's Daily Judge is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, this is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal non-profit pro bono publico First-Amendment protected "web log" or "blog," one with a subjective, idiosyncratic, and eccentric sociological and social-psychological slant that focuses not on the latest judicial decisions of supposed great legal importance but on a) the institution of judge in the United States and in other countries throughout the world, b) the judicial office and role, c) judicial personalities, d) the great common law tradition of judging as practiced here and throughout the world, e) judges as judges, f) judges as ordinary people with the usual mix of virtues and flaws, etc. We link to newspapers and other sources in order to alert you to ideas, articles, stories, speeches, law books, literary works and other things that have interested us and that may interest you. In linking to another site or source, we don't mean either to suggest we necessarily agree with views or ideas expressed there or to attest to the accuracy of facts set forth there. We urge you in every instance to click on the link and read the entire story or other printed source to which we link. We often use the linked piece as a springboard for expressing our opinion, typically clearly labelled "Comment."
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About Burton Hanson. Burton Hanson is a graduate of Harvard Law School, admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Minnesota. He worked one year as Hennepin County District Court Special Term (Civil) Law Clerk, two years as law clerk for the late Justice C. Donald Peterson of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and over 26 years as Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Supreme Court. He was a nonpartisan candidate for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election in November 2000 and a liberal anti-war candidate for Congress in the Republican primary in the Minnesota Third District in September 2004. He was one of the first law bloggers (blawgers). He began planning his first blog, BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else in 1999 but delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. His campaign website, the no-longer extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first such use of a weblog or blog. In 2004 he also used the personal blog format in his primary campaign for Congress. That site, BurtonHanson.Com, has morphed into a personal political opinion blog and also contains the archives of his 2004 campaign web pages and blog postings.
Ex-judge who caused drunken ruckus is enrolled as Oxford scholar. "A former provincial court judge[, Balwinder William Sundhu, 49,] arrested for causing a drunken ruckus at a Vancouver hotel is embarking on a new academic path as an Oxford scholar...The two-year program is largely conducted online with residency requirements in the summer...." More (The Province 01.06.2008). Comment. Oxford? Will the downward spiral never cease? :-)
Annals of judicial sex -- caught on tape! "In Morocco, 2008 has begun with a fresh stain on the reputation of the judiciary. An apparently respectable judge was caught with four kilos of chira, a kind of hashish. Recently the country has been avidly following scandals involving judges, not just because of drugs, but also sex. The most notable of them centres on a young Moroccan woman, Rkia Abouali...For years she filmed her intimate moments with four judges and a procurator general. The videos not only record the men's sexual adventures with Ms Abouali, but also show them revealing the details of their corruption. She made the videos public, partly via the media...." More (Radio Netherlands 01.05.2008).
Should judges be reminded to think before speaking out? "A task force recommending changes to the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct has proposed [adding a nonenforceable 'comment'] that judges 'consider the impact' of speaking out on social and political issues because such statements could suggest bias...." Some think even that goes too far. More (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 01.05.2008).
Ex-judge gets life in prison for corruption in office. "A court in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen sentenced a former judge [Pei Hongquan] to life imprisonment on Friday for taking bribes of more than 3.7 million yuan (507,000 U.S. dollars)...." An investigation into four colleagues is ongoing. More (China View 01.05.2008).
More on C.J. Roberts' arguments for increase in judicial salaries. "The Boston University Law Review will soon publish a study in which I estimated how much money a number of federal circuit judges gave up to become a judge. Some judges gave up a fortune; others gave up little. Regardless, the evidence shows that the financial sacrifice a nominee made to become a judge had no effect on his or her judicial performance. It did not affect how they voted in controversial cases, how fast they rendered decisions or whether those decisions were cited by other judges. A study by law professors Stephen Choi, Eric Posner and Mitu Gulati that focused on state Supreme Court justices reached a similar conclusion...." From an op/ed piece titled A Raise That's Hard to Justify in the L.A. Times today (01.04.2008), by Scott Baker, a professor at UNC Law School in Chapel Hill.
Panel recommends reprimand of newest SCOWIS justice. "Saying it must not bow to 'public clamor,' a three-judge panel recommended Thursday that Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler receive a public reprimand -- the mildest discipline possible -- for presiding over cases as a circuit judge in which she had a conflict of interest...The recommendation was immediately criticized by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which had filed a complaint against Ziegler. Citing its own analysis, the Madison-based group said the state Supreme Court routinely suspends lawyers who are found guilty of committing the same types of infractions as Ziegler...." More (Wisconsin State Journal 01.04.2008).
Appellate judge will use e-mail, teleconference while receiving out-of-state treatment. "Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Charlie Mikell disclosed Thursday he will continue his duties on the court even though he must receive cancer treatments in Texas over the next few months...On Sunday, Mikell, 66, will travel to the MD Anderson Clinic in Houston where he will continue his work as a judge through e-mail and teleconferences...." More (AJC 01.04.2008).
Rally for Pittsburgh Steelers at courthouse at noon. "A pep rally is planned at the [courtyard of the] Allegheny County Courthouse in anticipation of the Pittsburgh Steelers playoff game on Saturday...." A tree is being decorated with Steelers paraphernalia. More (Philadelphia Inquirer 01.04.2008).
Many state courts are stumbling online. "If you want to see a document from a case in Maine's court system, you have to visit the appropriate county courthouse, wait in line and review the hard copy. In some instances, you need a docket number or other information to find the file. It's a far cry from the federal courts, which let you search most documents from your home computer. Leaders in Maine's judicial branch hope to close that technological gap as much as possible, beginning this year...." More (Kennebec Journal 01.03.2008). Comment. It's amazing how slow our state court systems have been in going digital. A state will announce to the sound of trumpets that people can track the progress of a case online but then say quietly that of course you'll have to go to some courthouse to view the document. There's one thing too many of our over-bureaucratized courts are good at, and that's being slow, slow, slow.
Become a judge in just four (4) hours! "Enjoy watching youth learn and showcase their talents? Have an area of expertise you would like to share with young people? Attend the 4-H Judges Training to become a certified judge for 4-H exhibits at county fairs. The training will be from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, at Christ the King Church, 1040 South Grade Road, Hutchinson. Snow date is Tuesday, March 4...." More (Hutchinson Leader - MN 01.03.2008).
Judge greeted by protesters on return to bench after suspension. "[Samuel Kent, the] federal judge under investigation after being accused of sexually harassing a female employee[,] was greeted Wednesday by protesters objecting to his return from a four-month suspension...." More (Houston Chronicle 01.03.2008).
When lawyers' examinations of witnesses bore judges to sleep. "Peter Young, Chief Judge in the equity division of the NSW Supreme Court, [says] 'listening is a tiring business' for judges. But if the bench [is] having trouble staying alert, then verbose lawyers [are] to blame. Justice Young [says] it [is] 'no fun in listening to some barrister or solicitor droning on in a commercial case.' 'Sitting and listening for two hours at a time is not conducive to being wildly alert...unfortunately too, the majority of cross-examination one hears is boring, useless and asked in monotone.'" Justice Young's comments appear in the editor's column of the Australian Law Journal. More (The Australian 01.03.2008).
Differing accounts of incident at security checkin at courthouse. "The deputy sheriff in charge of the front door security [at the Venango County, PA Courthouse] asked [Attorney Neal] Rothschild to pass through security and walk through the metal detector. 'When Rothschild passed through the metal detector, he activated the detector. At this point Rothschild began running down the first floor hallway. Rothschild was directed to stop and became confrontational both verbally and physically with the deputy sheriff,' [Deputy] Morris said in [his] statement...." Attorney Rothschild, who stands accused by the sheriff's department of "terroristic threats, harassment and disorderly conduct in and about a courthouse or jail," has a different, entirely innocent, version of what happened. More (The Derrick 01.02.2008). Comment. I assume the attorney is innocent. How, you ask, can I assume that? It's partly because of a quaint little doctrine I like to call the "presumption of innocence." And it's partly because I'm a Norwegian Lutheran who doesn't like to prematurely assume someone -- no, not even an attorney or a judge -- is guilty when accused by an all-powerful government or a headline-hungry press or scandal-loving public of wrongdoing.
Or are we Norwegians not as nice as I've made us out to be? "Long a poor cousin in Scandinavia, Norway has surpassed Sweden to become one of the richest countries in the world -- to the point where it has become a magnet for young Swedes ready to work hard to make quick money, and lots of it. 'When I was young, Swedes had whiter teeth, clearer skin, Abba and Bjorn Borg. We had lots of fish, and not much more,' said Thomas Hylland Eriksen, a professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo. 'Today, Swedes have been cut down to size,' he said. 'And I would say that many Norwegians enjoy the fact that so many Swedes are here doing menial jobs.'" From Ivar Ekman, Young Swedes Flock to Newly Rich Norway for Work (NYT 12.30.2007). Comments. a) We Norwegians don't need affirmance from Swedes or anyone else for that matter, although the fact so many people -- including, now, Swedes -- want to convert to Norwegianism does tell us we're doing something right. We are a modest folk. We said, "Aw, shucks," when the Reader's Digest reported a couple years ago that Norwegians came out best in its "test" of the honesty of people in various cities and countries around the world. How honest are we? Well, the Digest folks dropped 10 wallets containing $50 in cash in and around Oslo, Norway. All 10 were returned to "the owner." The only other country to do as well was Denmark. In the USA 7 of 10 of the wallets dropped were returned. In one city in Mexico...none. But, I digress. We are, as I said and now repeat in a whisper, A MODEST LOT. We therefore don't run around blabbing that Jesus Christ was a Norwegian Lutheran, even though it's true. Because of our modesty about "stuff" like that, we are universally regarded as the most modest people in the history of the world. If you see one of us on the street, say hi. Introduce yourself. Get a taste of our great modesty. We won't shun you. It's not our style. We tolerate -- admittedly, sometimes with a chuckle -- everyone...even Swedes. b) With respect to Swedes seeking help from Norskies, it's nothing new. Swede judges have had to swallow their excessive pride and come to America -- well, actually, MinNORsota -- to get employment for generations. Indeed, in MinNORsota, "Land of 10,000 Outsourced Andersons," whenever the governor appoints yet another "Anderson" to the state supreme court, people just say, "Oh, another Swede named 'Anderson.' Swedes make good judges. Not too smart but not too dumb." (I'm kidding -- yah, sure -- but it is a fact that 42.856% of the judges currently on the MinNORsota Supreme Court are 'Andersons.') Further reading. Those 'randy' Swede (not Norwegian) judges; Annals of Clintonian constructionism -- held, Swede judge didn't pay for 'sex'; BurtLaw's Law & Norwegians; The scandalous Swedish past of Bill Rehnquist!
Lawsuit claims 'Judge Judy' TV show sends black litigants 'packin.' "An ex-producer for Judge Judy is claiming that he was canned for complaining that black litigants were being 86'd from the show...." He says his bosses wanted the black litigants sent to 'Judge Joe Brown,' which the company also produces. More (TMZ 01.01.2008).
Annals of courthouse desecration & restoration. "[In the mid-1930's FDR's WPA c]rews sheared off the Tyler County Courthouse's Victorian-style, Mediterranean-tiled gabled roofing, shaved the ornate clock tower into plain stacked boxes, covered the handmade brick walls with a thick layer of stucco and added a rectangular box to the back...Seven decades later, the county hopes the Texas Historical Commission approves its application for $6 million in grants to help turn the  courthouse back into the decorative showpiece it once was. If officials apply the grant toward the $9.5 million overhaul, the transformation could make Woodville a heritage tourism center of East Texas, Tyler County Judge Jacques Blanchette said...." More (Beaumont Enterprise 01.01.2008). Comment. On the dark side, Texas has the sorry dishonor of being the Death Penalty Capital of America, and for that we condemn it. On the bright side, it is the leader in saving and restoring old county courthouses, revitalizing cities in the process, and for that we praise it. I like Texas, having spent a year there at SMU, the "Harvard of the Southwest"; the free-enterprise atmosphere there brought out the competitor in me, and I worked at a higher level there than I'd ever worked before or than I've ever worked since.
'Old school' judge is 'retiring' to private practice. "Phil Howerton speaks his mind in his courtroom -- politically correct or not. When a suspected arsonist made his first court appearance last year, Howerton glanced up at the video screen and greeted him: 'So you're the guy who's been setting all those fires.'" More such episodes recounted in this profile (Charlotte Observer 01.01.2008).
Former chiefs say idea of mobile courts is good on paper but.... "Three former Chief Justices of India say the government's proposal to set up 6,000 rural mobile courts (Gram Nyayalayas) seems good on paper but there could be a shortage of trained judicial hands to head them. 'Where are you going to find so many trained Nyaya Adhikaris (rural court heads)? As such there is a shortage of judges in regular courts,' former Chief Justice of India V N Khare said. At a time when the authorities are facing problems in filling up vacancies in regular courts, finding 6,000 qualified persons to head the rural courts is not going to be easy, he said...." More (Sify 12.30.2007). Comment. Yo, India! BurtLaw, here. We have a surplus of people qualified to be judges in the U.S. Why not outsource those jobs to the U.S.? Call them Tele-Mobile Courts.
Latest on citizens' efforts to save old Seneca County Courthouse from destruction. "Debra Kaufman quietly supported her county commissioners' decision to tear down Seneca County's 1884 courthouse -- until she walked inside. 'It's just beautiful. I was in here many times before and I guess I never paid attention,' she said. 'I never realized how beautiful it was. It should be fixed.' Mrs. Kaufman and her daughter were among the more than 400 people who lined up in the cold yesterday afternoon to get a peek inside the building that has divided the county into two clear factions: those who want to save the landmark and those who don't...." More (Toledo Blade 12.30.2007). Update. More than 1,000 toured it over the weekend; more tours are planned (Toledo Blade 01.01.2008). Comment. We're with those who want to preserve, restore and improve the courthouse. It's a gem of a building. Any new one won't hold a candle to it.
A year-end review of some court cases in the bucolic 'Lakes Region' of New Hampshire. "In March, a Merrimack County jury convicted a former security officer for Franklin District Court on charges he offered a Franklin couple $20 an hour to have sex with each other while he watched...During the opening day of the trial, Prosecutor Wayne Coull told jurors that [the defendant] convinced the couple he was conducting surveys for an insurance company and that they would be testing bed sheets and condoms. The couple said they ultimately did have sex and allowed Theriault to watch although they never received the allegedly promised payment...." From Bea Lewis, The year in review -- A busy year in Lakes Region courts (Laconia Citizen 12.30.2007). Comment. Sounds like the basis of a good episode of The Bob Newhart Show II, the one set in that New England hamlet.
Pajama-clad judges parading about cattily at convention center. "The national champion cat lounged in his carrier at the Big Sioux Cat Fanciers show Saturday next to a friendly orange and white stray rescued from homelessness on Christmas Day in Orange City, Iowa. The young waif looked every bit a winner as Minnesota Spanky, the champ, minus Spanky's ominous softball-sized head and linebacker shoulders. Also, half the people around the cages and judging rings at the Oaks Hotel convention center were padding about in slippers and pajamas...." The sponsors of the cat show decided on a pajama-party theme; thus, the pj's. More (Sioux Falls Argus-Leader 12.30.2007). Comment. "Minnesota Spanky, with an "ominous softball-sized head and linebacker shoulders." Hmm. Oh! -- now I get which MN judge you're talking about! :-)
Judicial system as 'laundry' for criminals. "Prof Nikolay Vasilev said...Bulgarian society [in 2007] was being criminalized from the tops to the lowest levels...It was difficult to pick out a politician who was not in touch with organized crime groups...Bulgarian judicial system was a laundry for the criminals, Prof Vasilev added...." More (FOCUS Information 12.30.2007). Comment. I'm not sure what it means exactly but the sentence has a nice ring to it: "[The] judicial system [is] a laundry for the criminals."
'Truly a Judge' retires. Well, that's not exactly right. More accurately, "Truly a Judge" has been retired -- mandatorily, nonconsensually: "The popular 9-year-old gelding Truly a Judge, twice a graded stakes winner after being claimed for $20,000 in 2001, has been retired, Southern California trainer David Bernstein said... The Kentucky-bred dark bay son of Judge T C amassed earnings of $764,342 while winning 12 of 53 starts with eight seconds and 11 thirds. He was winless in four starts in 2007. The key to success for Truly a Judge, Bernstein said, was to allow him to run on the front end. 'We had him for six years and he leaves a big hole in the barn, because he was the favorite,' said Bernstein. 'He was honest and genuine and he was a character to be around. We're certainly going to miss him. It's hard to replace one like that because we got him so cheaply and he became a graded stakes winner. He was a poor man's Lava Man.'" More (Bloodhorse.Com 12.30.2007). Comment. What Trainer Bernstein said of "Truly a Judge" could well be said of a certain fictional common law judge we like: They got him cheaply, he was honest and genuine, he was a character to be around, they made a lot of money off him (he didn't know he was being used), but he outlived his usefulness and needed to move on, although he left a big hole in the old barn of a courthouse he left behind.
A profile of a MN 'DWI court' in action. I have mixed feelings about specialized courts like the "experimental" (not exactly) DWI court in Hennepin County profiled here in the Mpls. Star-Tribune (12.30.2007).
SCONEV rules new member of SCONEV abused authority as trial judge. "The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that Justice Nancy M. Saitta abused her authority when, as a Clark County District Court judge, she issued a gag order and sealed child-support proceedings involving a former judicial colleague...[who] at the time was seeking to return to the bench...Saitta was...among several judges who were found [by the Los Angeles Times in a 2006 investigation] to have routinely ruled in cases involving business associates or friends...." More (LAT 12.29.2007).
Making a judicial venue attractive to business disputes. "Judges must crack down on feeble cases and spiralling legal costs to protect London's reputation as a leading centre for commercial lawsuits, a senior judge has warned. Mr Justice Aikens said judges were 'going to have to be tough'...Without changes, London risked losing its status as a preferred venue for resolving business disputes to cheaper, more efficient international courts, the judge said...." More (Financial Times 12.29.2007).
Two bribed judges report to prison. "Two former [Miss. state trial] judges [John Whitfield and Wes Teel, both of Harrison County] report to federal prison Thursday to begin serving lengthy sentences [around nine and six years respectively] for their roles in a judicial bribery scandal that entangled one of the state's most prominent plaintiffs attorneys...." More (South Miss. Sun-Herald 12.28.2007).
Opinion: Alaska needs homegrown lawyers, judges. "It's time we started educating our own lawyers -- and our own judges -- here at home. Alaska is the only state without a law school...'Honey, I want to go to law school so I can battle for truth, justice and the American way. We'll quit our jobs, put your career on hold, uproot the kids and move Outside. We'll live off credit cards and student loans for three years, and spend $81,000 for me to learn the laws of some other state.'" -- From Kirk Wickersham, Alaska would benefit from homegrown lawyers, judges (Anchorage Daily News 12.27.2007). Comment. MN might benefit from fewer home-grown lawyers and judges. :-)
SCOKO increases membership to 14 justices. "The number of supreme justices is to increase to 14 from the current 13 from next year. Under the revision, the minister of the National Court Administration, which has been occupied by an ordinary judge, will be taken by a supreme justice who will be appointed early next year. The change came as part of efforts to separate the Supreme Court and its administrative body, resulting in guaranteeing the latter's independence in dealing with court-related matters...." More (Korea Times 12.26.2007).
Among the complaints by reporters about courthouses. "For members of the media, accessing court documents in a timely manner is paramount, so questions related to that topic garnered some heated responses. 'There are certain courthouses where historically it has been difficult to get files, particularly criminal files,' one respondent wrote before going on to list those courthouses: Danbury and Bridgeport, New Britain and New Haven. Others complained of unfriendly clerks and long waits in the clerk's office and said the clerks seem too focused on double- and triple-checking files to ensure everything within them can be released...." More (The Day - CT 12.26.2007).
Another attempt at impeachment of a judge in N.H.? "Conservatives in New Hampshire's House want Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Patricia Coffey to resign, be removed or face impeachment instead of being censured and suspended for three months. The House Republican Alliance announced Monday it is preparing legislation to remove Coffey if the state Supreme Court doesn't do so or she doesn't resign. Democratic Gov. John Lynch also has called for her to resign...." Judge Coffey's mistake was in helping her lawyer husband shield assets from creditors when he was disbarred. A committee has recommended she be censured and suspended for three months. SCONH is considering what discipline is appropriate. More (Boston Herald 12.25.2007). Comment. Are some legislators in NH impeachment-happy? We can see why some might think they are: back in 2000 articles of impeachment were filed against Chief Justice David Brock of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, and a trial was held in that state's senate, which resulted in the judge's acquittal.
The wacky year-in-review at the courthouse. "Edmonton's downtown Law Courts building hosted more than its share of the weird, wacky and simply out-of-this-world cases during the past year. And the ones making the list include a city pervert who gets turned on by fancy cars, a tongue-biting domestic assault case and a lovelorn fellow who barricaded himself in a local liquor store and threatened to 'drink all day.' As well, there was a creepy landlord found naked in a tenant's suite, a drug-crazed killer who believed he was 'the son of Satan' and his pregnant victim was carrying Lucifer's baby and a juror who was kicked off a murder trial due to his belief in the 'law of the jungle.'" Details (Edmonton Sun 12.24.2007).
New Delhi: case-info kiosks in city courts. "With a view to provide litigants easy access to information about their cases, the city's courts will soon have electronic information kiosks...." More (Times of India 12.24.2007).
Baton Rouge trial is postponed because of LSU-Ohio State game. "Justice can wait until after the LSU game. A state judge near the home of the Tigers has agreed to postpone a trial scheduled to start on the same day LSU plays Ohio State in the BCS national championship game...." All parties joined in the motion. The game is scheduled for the NOLA Superdome on 01.07.2008. More (AP 12.14.2007).
Judge is fired over sexual advances toward subordinates. "The Supreme Court has fired an executive judge in Gingoog City [Rexel Pacuribot] for gross misconduct and immorality, and for subjecting two subordinates to sexual advances and acts of lasciviousness...In its ruling, the Court adopted the findings of [an] Investigating Justice...that Pacuribot 'over long periods of time persistently solicited sexual favors [from his two female subordinates].' Both complainants alleged that Pacuribot had taken them to a motel on separate instances and took advantage of them there, making them perform sexual acts against their will...." More (Manila Standard 12.24.2007).
Nevada lets a little sun shine on judicial selection process. "The Nevada Commission on Judicial Selection has decided to open up its interviews and deliberations to the public. The seven-member commission voted Dec. 18 that the process of screening applicants for judicial appointment in Nevada should be done in the open. Until now, much of the process was conducted behind closed doors...[P]ersonal ID information about the applicants and health details will remain confidential as will letters of comment about the candidates and letters of reference...." More (Nevada Appeal 12.24.2007).
The courthouse Maui Wowi. "The manager of the new courthouse coffee shop wears a floral print shirt and passes out Hawaiian-style shakes in front of a blue painted wall. It wasn't always like that, said Dave Rose, who leases the room on the first floor of the Carson City Courthouse. 'It looked like the inside of a refrigerator,' he said. But the room had what Janice Wimer needed to expand her Maui Wowi franchise...." More (Nevada Appeal 12.24.2007).
SCOGA accepts case challenging banishment. "Under the Georgia Constitution, 'neither banishment beyond the limits of the state nor whipping shall be allowed as a punishment for a crime.' But some Georgia judges have done everything but banish defendants from the state -- ordering them to stay out of all but one county. In DeKalb County, for example, scores of defendants have been banished to Echols County in South Georgia near the Okefenokee Swamp...." More (AJC 12.24.2007).
It's Christmas at the specialized elder protection court. "[On a Friday morning] Alameda County's Elder Protection Court in Oakland...looks like a scene from a nursing home. White-haired men and women hunch over walkers...Others...drag green oxygen tanks on wheels. Those who can't get around under their own power use motorized wheelchairs. The old, sick and desperate have come to see Alameda County Superior Court Judge Julie Conger. Most have come to ask for civil restraining orders that they pray will protect them from people who have been abusing and harassing them...[typically] their own children, grandchildren, and other relatives...." More (Inside Bay Area 12.24.2007).
That 'magic word' of Israeli jurisprudence. "It is difficult to predict the upcoming ruling of the High Court of Justice concerning the matter of the plea bargain with former president Moshe Katsav and if that ruling will be unanimous. What is clear is that at its nexus will stand the magic word of Israeli jurisprudence -- reasonableness...." More (Haaretz 12.24.2007). Comment. "Reasonableness" has long been a "magic word" in our great common law tradition of judging, too.
No more poinsettias in halls of federal courthouse! "The past few weeks, visitors to the U.S. District Court building have been treated to a hapless display of irises, primroses and other spring flowers. Why spring flowers in the dark of winter? It was a rush replacement. For what has been there in winters past -- dozens of bright-red poinsettias...Yep, you guessed it -- some who work there complained about the poinsettias. Too Christian, they said. Too symbolic of one belief system. How would non-Christians feel walking past a bunch of poinsettias?...The landlord, the General Services Administration, felt it had no choice after hearing 'a series of complaints' that poinsettias were 'too Christmas-y,' says Bill Lesh, the agency's spokesman...." -- Danny Westneat, Deck the courthouse with irises? (Seattle Times 12.23.2007). Comment. We like to imagine that if the mighty Holmes were to arise from the dead and enter the Temple of Justice in Seattle, to reclaim his seat on his Olympian mount, he'd grape-wrathfully upset the tables full of irises and order his contemporaneously-arisen Civil War comrades in arms to bring in Washington-state-grown Christmas trees and poinsettias.
Jury trials in basement of judge's house, the judge sitting on barstool. "A jury trial in the basement of the judge's house -- today it seems comical, even illegal, but it wasn't that unusual when Justice Court Judge Mary Lee Toles took the bench 25 years ago. Sitting on a barstool, the veteran judge heard several cases from the basement of her Bluebird Drive home. 'The county didn't provide a courthouse back then,' she said. 'We had to have court somewhere.'" The judge is retiring; her last day in office is 12.31.2007. More (Natchez Democrat 12.23.2007).
Judge Bean's Bar-B-Que is moving. "Judge Bean's Bar-B-Que and Steakhouse is coming to Lascassas. The well-known barbecue restaurant is hitching up its saddle and settling in new territory in the former Brown's Store at 6605 Lascassas Pike. The business is scheduled to open Wednesday, said owner Aubrey Bean. The restaurant features Texas-style barbecue. Unlike traditional Southern barbecue restaurants, Bean's doesn't serve any pork...Bean said pork is 'too messy to cook'...The Lascassas restaurant will be open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m Wednesday through Sunday...Bean said it's...BYOB - bring your own beer, wine or whiskey." More (Murfreesboro Daily News Journal - TN12.23.2007).
Christmas greetings from your friendly judges! Pay up or else! "[C]ourts in West Mercia, Derbyshire, South Yorkshire and Humberside have sent thousands of greetings to persistent defaulters who they believe can afford to pay their fines but refuse to do so. 'We want defaulters to know that next time they hear a knock on the door, it is more likely to be from enforcement officers than carol singers,' said justice minister Michael Wills. Cards have jingles like: 'Tis the season to be jolly/ Thoughts of Santa and of holly/ But just because its Christmas time/ Don't forget to pay your fine.'" More (UK Guardian 12.22.2007).
After losing ruling, Maricopa sheriff's office wants to see judges' e-mails leading up to ruling. "Just hours after receiving an unfavorable ruling in Maricopa County Superior Court, the county Sheriff's Office demanded to see correspondence among the court's top judge and key court administrators. A judge had ordered that visiting hours at county jails could not be shortened for defense attorneys and other court personnel who need to visit inmates. The sheriff's public-information requests ask for all e-mails received and sent by Presiding Judge Barbara Mundell and her staff during the month leading up to that order. The request also asks for e-mails sent and received by the court's in-house lawyer and the head of probation; a subsequent request asks for those of the court administrator...." More (AZ Republic 12.22.2007). Comment. This shouldn't surprise anyone. The sheriff of Maricopa County is the notorious Joe Arpaio, the so-called "toughest sheriff in America." More (Wikipedia 12.22.2007). Being "tough" doesn't equate with being "good."
Top judge wants 65,000 more judges to reduce backlog. Yesterday Chief Justice of India, K G Balakrishnan spoke following a cornerstone-laying ceremony at Uttan for a judicial academy and mediation center and training institute. He said there are 38 million cases pending in the courts but only 12,000 judges, 2,000 short of the sanctioned number of 14,000. He said "We need one judge for 500 cases to clear the backlog -- that would mean 77,664 judges. At best, however, the judges' strength can be pushed up a few thousand more. We need more courts and more budget for the judiciary." More (Times of India 12.22.2007).
The 'Economy' of court scheduling. "[Lansing, MI] Family court Judge R. George Economy always makes a point of scheduling adoptions right before his holiday break. Bunches of adoptions. He started doing it 21 years ago, because he says it beats the heck out of ending the year on a divorce. 'And I wanted that smile in my heart when I went home to my own family for Christmas,' Economy said...." More (Steve Hartmann, CBS News Assignment America 12.21.2007). Read on...
A Classic BurtLaw It'll-Warm-Your-Heart Christmas Story for All Americans. This is one of our all-time favorite postings, from 12.24.2001 at BurtLaw's Law & Christmas, and we're pleased to reproduce it here for your Holiday enjoyment. We recommend gathering your law clerks and support staff in a circle, turning the lights down low, lighting the chambers tree, and reading it aloud:
A Very Short Christmas Story by BurtLaw
It was Christmas Eve. Judge Myron B. Fleshbacher was home alone eating some fried eggs and toasted Lunds English muffin bread lathered with butter and watching Ernest Saves Christmas.
The telephone rang, jolting him from his reverie. It was Jimbo, from bar headquarters, who never hesitated to call a judge ex parte when he needed a favor: "J-j-judge Myron, Christmas is in b-b-big trouble. Only you can save it."
Myron didn't need to think long and hard (or, as most judges do, to feign thinking long and hard). Applying that most precise of judicial tests, the "totality-of-the-circumstances test," with genius speed, he replied, "Christmas ain't worth saving, Jimbo. Besides, it's cold out and I've settled in for a long winter's night in a warm house watching a Christmas classic." "O.K.," stuttered the ever obsequious Jimbo, "I just wanted to check."
Myron sat down, feeling the warm glow that a sanctimonious judge always feels after making a decision he's sure is right, and Myron was always right. "I could have played to the crowd and saved Christmas," he said to himself. "It would have gotten me a lot of votes in the next election. But what good is judicial independence if it's wasted on simpletons who aren't willing to be independent and do the right thing."
Just then, as he scooped another forkfull of egg into his mouth, he sensed a presence. It was ye olde Holy Ghost. Judge Myron wasn't terrified. The Holy Ghost and he were old pals.
"Hi, Ho," said Myron, getting up to pour him some glog. "You did the right thing," said Ho. "All these years 'the Son' has had His big days, but I've had none, even though we're three co-equal branches o' the same thing. You did the right thing." "I know," said Myron, belching from the glog and feeling blessed by the presence of the Spirit.
From thence forward, Judge Myron was known ironically and revered as "The Christmas Judge" -- for not saving that which wasn't worth saving. (Copyright (c) 2001 Burton Randall Hanson)
Want more? We recommend, from 2002, "The Best Christmas Ever," a very short, heartwarming Christmas story by BurtLaw for all Americans, at BurtLaw's Law & Christmas.
Newspaper circulation statistics and court caseload statistics. "A federal judge delayed the sentencing on Thursday of seven people charged in a scheme to boost circulation figures at Newsday and the Spanish-language publication Hoy, saying the stiff prison time sought by prosecutors would be inappropriate. U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein called the defendants 'underlings' and suggested they had taken the fall for higher-ups. 'The publisher of Newsday has always had a hands-on approach to Newsday,' Weinstein said in federal court in Brooklyn. 'Why wasn't the publisher prosecuted along with the underlings?'" More (IHT 12.21.2007). Comment. I have often thought that our high schools and colleges could do a better job introducing students to the various ways in which advertisers, politicians of all types (including judicial politicians and court administrators intent on getting more money from the legislature), and other seducers lie or otherwise distort reality in their use of statistics, logical fallacies and loaded words. If you missed out on all that in high school or college, a good place to acquaint yourself with the way these seducers misuse statistics is Darrell Huff's How to Lie With Statistics, a classic little paperback that has been in print since the 1954. A good place to acquaint yourself with logical fallacies is at the Index to the Logical Fallacies, which is a section at Fallacy Files. See, also, my posting of Thursday, 09.24.2004 titled "Love is a Fallacy" (scroll down) at my political opinion weblog, Sometimes Left But Always Right at BurtonHanson.Com.
Memo to bouncers/doormen/stewards everywhere: Don't butt head of judge's sons or daughters. "A doorman at an Edinburgh nightclub head-butted the son of a High Court judge, breaking his nose and damaging his teeth. Rhys Ferguson, 26, of Logie Drive, Larbert, was found guilty at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in October of assaulting 22-year old Jamie Menzies -- son of High Court judge Lord Menzies -- in Hanover Street on March 24 last year...." More (The Scotsman 12.22.2007). Comment. Ferguson reportedly testified that the butting was accidental and that after it happened Menzies said, "Do you know who my father is? You will get 12 years for this." Ferguson in fact was sentenced by the sheriff/judge to 240 -- not years but -- hours of community service. The sheriff/judge also "instructed the clerk of court to write to the authorities 'to ensure he never worked in this type of industry again.'"
First step taken that might lead to impeachment of federal judge in NOLA. "Gambling debts, false statements under oath, bank fraud and secret gifts from lawyers form the heart of an extraordinary impeachment referral that was lodged Thursday against U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous Jr. An administrative panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans...sent its findings to the Judicial Conference of the United States...If the conference agrees, the case would go to the U.S. House of Representatives to consider steps to remove Porteous from office...." More (Times-Picayune 12.21.2007).
Judge tosses test results, acquits judge of DWI charge. "A Baltimore County judge accused of driving drunk in Harford County in October was acquitted after the judge hearing the case threw out the results of a breath test on technical violations. Baltimore County Circuit Judge Lawrence R. Daniels apologized in court Wednesday for his actions on the evening of his arrest, defense attorney Raphael J. Santini said yesterday...." The judge's breath test reading was 0.09. More (Baltimore Sun 12.21.2007).
State seeks removal of judge for favoring relatives. "A state disciplinary panel wants to remove [Ellenburg Justice Dennis LaBombard]...LaBombard is appealing the recommendation. The panel says LaBombard gave his step-grandchildren lenient sentences, tried to get another judge to go easy on one of his step-grandsons, changed bail after a defendant's mother asked for it outside of court and asserted his judicial office after he was involved in a minor car accident...." More (Plattsburgh Press-Republican 12.21.2007).
Judge who doesn't think much of ratings of lawyers& judges says First Amendment protects them. A Seattle attorney sued an online attorney rating service on behalf of other attorneys claiming its ratings were a scam, that bad lawyers got better ratings than good lawyers, and that the ratings could harm consumers. But a federal judge, Hon. Robert Lasnik, dismissed the suit, citing the First Amendment. Lasnik wrote that the ratings are merely "subjective opinions": "To the extent that [plaintiffs'] lawsuit has focused a spotlight on how ludicrous the rating of attorneys (and judges) has become, more power to them. To the extent that they seek to prevent the dissemination of opinions regarding attorneys and judges, however, the First Amendment precludes their cause of action." More (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 12.20.2007). Comment. In the suit "Lasnik also questioned why [one of the plaintiffs] would use his rating as a 'Super Lawyer' by Washington Law & Politics magazine as evidence against his sub-par Avvo rating, noting that the court did not want to determine if one system was better than the other." Good point. I wouldn't want to determine if either was better or, for that matter, if either was in any objective way reliable. I've noted that many of the attorneys given high ratings by one for-profit ratings publication I've glanced at are attorneys whose services I wouldn't recommend. Hey, it's just my First Amendment-protected opinion -- which is the good judge's point.
JP courts as city cash cows. "Traffic tickets can help pad a city's budget when a community runs its own justice court -- hence the perception, justified or not, that cops and judges tag-team to create cash flow rather than to dispense justice. The state's Judicial Council, headed by Utah Supreme Court Justice Ronald Nehring, has proposed legislation to sever that tie and put to rest that perception...." More (SL Tribune 12.18.2007).
New justice court judge hopes to retain job as school police officer. "David Myers, 37, has worn many hats since beginning his professional career. The former Forrest County deputy sheriff of 10 years and former constable now serves as the Forrest County School District's sole resource officer and newly elected justice court judge. Resource officers are essentially school police officers... In regards to juggling his career as resource officer and justice court judge, he said he hopes he will be able to retain both positions and perform both effectively and efficiently." More (Hattiesburg American - MISS 12.20.2007).
Madison-based group wants Catholics' Nativity scene outside Manitowoc courthouse removed. "It's interesting. We always look forward to hearing from the Freedom From Religion Foundation about anything to make sure we're doing things correctly in Manitowoc County. They are an important commentator on the happenings in Manitowoc. We're happy the people in Madison, from their lofty view, pay attention to us in Manitowoc." -- County Executive Bob Ziegelbauer's comment on a request by the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation citing SCOTUS precedent in asking the county to remove a creche that the Manitowoc County Catholic Women's Club and the Knights of Columbus have erected outside the entrance to the courthouse since 1946. The county board chairman vows the creche will be up the rest of this year and next as well. More (Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter 12.20.2007). Comment. Here's a relevant posting from 2005:
How Huntington almost 'lost' Christmas - or, judge as hero. "Huntington [CT] officials worked all night readying staff for the coming snow, but instead they woke up to a different storm Friday: a local lawyer [Mitchell Pashkin, 39] sued [in federal district court] to remove a nativity scene from the town's public lawn and stop Friday's Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. [Pashkin claimed] the nativity scene, Christmas tree and two signs on the Village Green that read 'Peace on Earth' violated his constitutional rights because of their religious overtones. The display [also]...included a menorah, which Pashkin [said] was 'dwarfed in significance and stature' and 'appears as nothing more than a token attempt to be inclusive to the Jewish population.'" Enter a hero: "Judge Leonard Wexler helped broker a compromise between Pashkin and the town Friday afternoon...The deal calls for the town to put up large signs stating the nativity scene was donated by Huntington's Knights of Columbus[,]...that the menorah came from the Chabad-Lubavitch in Melville...[and] that the nativity scene and the menorah are not town property." More (Newsday 12.10.2005). Comment. And there descended, along with the fluffy light snow, a sighing calm, covering the entire city, which from that day forward never again knew turmoil of any kind. Further reading. BurtLaw's Law and Christmas.
Former judge, who served time for money laundering, dies at 60. "Robert Flahiff, [60,] a former Quebec Superior Court justice who was convicted of laundering $1.7 million in drug money between 1989 and 1991, has died of cancer...Flahiff ended up serving about one-sixth of his three-year sentence...." More (Canadian 12.19.2007).
'Judicial Hellholes' - the 2007 prize winners. "With today's release of its annual Judicial Hellholes® report, the American Tort Reform Foundation named as "Hellholes" for the first time Clark County, Nevada and Atlantic County, New Jersey. They join perennial Hellholes South Florida, Rio Grande Valley and Gulf Coast, Texas, Cook County, Illinois and West Virginia among the nation's most unfair civil court jurisdictions. 'Besides naming two new Judicial Hellholes this year, the biggest headline may be the fact that Madison County, Illinois is no longer a Hellhole,' noted ATRF president Sherman 'Tiger' Joyce...." More (ATRA Press Release 12.18.2007). Update. Adam Liptak of the NYT has a critical assessment of the annual "hellhole" report. More (NYT 12.24.2007).
Lawyers smash cabin of judicial appointee. "Lawyers are so angry with anyone becoming a 'PCO judge' that they recently attacked the chambers of a fellow advocate who agreed to become judge of the Peshawar High Court...Mardan lawyers reacted instantly to Alam Khan's appointment as judge. The very next day they staged a protest and attacked the cabin...The district bar's office-bearers made it clear they would never accept the judges who took oath under PCO and would not appear before them in their courts...." More (News International - Pakistan 12.19.2007).
Grand jury declines to indict judge on charge of official oppression. "A Montgomery County grand jury on Tuesday declined to indict a state district judge[, James H. Keeshan,] on a charge of official oppression...Keeshan was accused of abusing his judicial power when he ordered Houston attorney Norm Silverman arrested in December after the lawyer missed a court hearing because of an ankle injury...." More (Houston Chronicle 12.19.2007). Comment. This means the g.j. didn't find probable cause to proceed. While we're glad the judge wasn't charged criminally, we not only don't condone use of the contempt power in this way, we advise against using it in any situation. Indeed, BurtLaw Rule-of-Thumb #139 for avoiding discipline provides: Avoid using the contempt power altogether.
Visitor logs are public documents. "The White House must release its visitor logs and cannot hide behind a shield of privilege, a federal judge [Royce Lamberth] ruled Monday. The Bush administration has resisted public disclosure while it fights a lawsuit over alleged political influence by conservative Christian leaders...." More (CNN 12.18.2007). Comment. Perhaps judges ought to be required to keep logs of visitors to their chambers, and perhaps those logs ought to be deemed public documents under freedom-of-information laws. That way, the public might know, for example, when a prominent lawyer visits in chambers with an appellate judge right after presenting an oral argument to the judge and his/her associates. Background. BurtLaw on Judicial Independence & Accountability.
Two judges nabbed in DUI incident keep robes, get reprimands. "Two St. Clair County[, ILL,] judges involved in a drunken-driving accident last year won't be stripped of their black robes. The two, Jan V. Fiss and Patrick M. Young, stood before a seven-member judicial discipline board Monday afternoon and apologized for their roles in a drunken-driving case that threatened their jobs and reputations...." More (St. Louis Post-Dispatch 12.18.2007).
Judge Anderson dies. "As a boy growing up in Lee County, Isaac Anderson Jr. couldn't sit where he wanted or drink from certain water fountains. But that boy would later become the first black judge in Lee County and the 20th Judicial Circuit, which also includes Charlotte, Collier, Glades and Hendry counties...." The judge, age 61, died a few days ago of cancer. More (Charlotte Sun-Herald - FLA 12.18.2007).
Rude and officious judges. Some people in central China have been bold enough to complain about rude and officious behavior by judges. Now the High Court of Henan province has released a conduct code for judges that lists "55 behaviors" that will no longer be tolerated, including "opening a court session after drinking alcohol, arbitrarily switching the dates or times of hearings, using foul language and interrupting the lawyers during court proceedings." Moreover, the code forbids the use of certain statements while sitting in court, including, "'Stop saying any more!'; 'Is it you or I who knows the law?'; 'Your case is sure to lose!'; 'Annoying!' and 'I'll judge this case as I like....'" More (UPI Asia 12.18.2007).
Judge Wulle's not-so-good weekend with colleagues. "Clark County Judge John P. Wulle was frustrated with the discussion. It's time for the group to move to the next topic, he announced. But unlike his position of authority about 900 miles away, Wulle was not at the top of the legal pyramid. The Washington jurist was in Los Angeles as an equal, brainstorming with seven colleagues from the county about setting up a juvenile drug court. 'No, Judge,' Keith Pereira told Wulle. The group needed to work through this topic because it was important, said Pereira, who was the specialty court program coordinator for Clark County. That was it. The judge erupted with an expletive directed at Pereira, threw down his pen and walked out the door -- leaving behind his stunned, embarrassed and frightened colleagues...." What exactly happened? Details from the judge's colleagues who were witnesses to his out-of-character behavior are provided in this long report by Allan Brettman and Holley Gilbert in The Oregonian. (OregonLive 12.18.2007).
The 'kangaroo tribunals' at Gitmo. "One also needn't believe that every man at Guantánamo is entitled to the host of procedural protections we afford Americans to be aghast at the kangaroo 'tribunals' established for the detainees. In the most gripping section of the book, Stafford Smith details the topsy-turvy legal procedures his client Binyam Mohamed faced in a single pretrial hearing...." From a review in the NYT Sunday Book Review on 12.16.2007 by Dahlia Lithwick of Clive Stafford Smith, Eight O'Clock Ferry to the Windward Side -- Seeking Justice in Guantánamo Bay (2007).
Three chambers per judge? "[U.S. District Court Judge Scott] Wright [of Missouri] made few friends among his colleagues when he went public about the opulent courthouses being built for judges. In 1993, Wright wrote then-Vice President Al Gore about a 'terrible waste of funds' in the construction of new courthouses that contained duplicate chambers for judges from the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A year later, Wright testified before the U.S. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee that many courtrooms go unused when there is one courtroom built for each judge. 'There isn't any reason why courtrooms shouldn't be shared by judges,' Wright testified. He also pointed out that each of the judges of the Eighth Circuit had three taxpayer-financed chambers, one in St. Paul, Minn., one in St. Louis and a third in the individual judge's hometown. He said he was making the statements not to criticize the judicial system but to save money in the face of a federal deficit...." -- From a review of Never in Doubt, Memoirs of an Uncommon Judge, written by Senior Judge Wright with the aid of Larry Schumaker, a former personal law clerk. More (Columbia Tribune 12.17.2007).
Chief Minister Dikshit talks about judicial activism. "With her government having been at the receiving end of judicial activism, especially during the court-ordered demolition and sealing drives, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Saturday said it caused a lot of problems for the people and for her administration...." More (NDTV - India 12.15.2007). Comment. I'm not sure why this comes to mind and I'm certainly not hinting at anything to anyone, but I recall a fellow with the surname of "Jonk" (pronounced "Junk") who legally changed his name. I might have done so, too, if it'd been my name.
France's 'Barbie Doll Minister of Justice.' "By posing in a Dior dress and high-heeled boots, President Sarkozy's glamorous Justice Minister has fuelled a revolt by judges and lawyers who are accusing her of destroying the fabric of the French justice system. As Rachida Dati, 42, defended herself yesterday over supposedly frivolous pictures for Paris Match magazine, 37 lawyers chained themselves to a courthouse in the southern town of Bourgoin in protest against her decision to close 300 tribunals across France...." More (UK Times 12.13.2007).
Comment. The Times says "Nick," as I like to call President Sarkozy, has referred to her as "ma beurette," meaning "my little Arab girl," and has defended her "fiercely, admiring the way that she stands out from the traditional justice world, 'those grey-haired men all ranked together like peas in a pod.'" The Times piece reproduces a fetching photo of her. Want more pics of her, including an apparently-doctored one of her wearing a black merry widow torsolette and wielding a fetischist's whip? Click here.
The last courthouse pay phone. "The pay phone stays. That's the last word of Kane County officials, who agreed last week to keep the last remaining pay phone at the Judicial Center in St. Charles -- even if it means paying a monthly fee to do it. A public phone at the sheriff's office in Geneva is the only other one available in county buildings...." More (Chicago Tribune 12.17.2007). Comment. It'll cost you 50¢ a call.
Judge as marriage counselor. "Stern and gavel-hammering judges are increasingly turning marriage counsellors, telling bickering couples the way to marital rapprochement -- go for a movie or dinner or even a long drive...." More (Khabrein - India 12.16.2007). Comment. Two points. We hope the judges will show restraint in the specificity of their suggestions. We also hope they won't get into closely supervising the execution of their suggestions. Putting these two points together in the form of an illustrative example: We hope the judges will not suggest ways in which the couples may improve their physical lovemaking or closely supervise them in their attempts to do so.
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Slate's list of Judge Roberts resources. Slate has created a John Roberts Roundup, a regularly-updated page of links to some of the better web postings relating to Judge Roberts. Click here.