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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 (archived here), contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first campaign 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.
Why would Minnesota want to be like Missouri? Voters in MN and other states with judicial elections are being "courted" in similar ways by members of the power elite in well-financed campaigns to give up their distinctly-American role in selection of judges in exchange for the fake one-candidate "retention elections" promised by "the Missouri Plan." I've posted a detailed critical essay on this topic, and I link to it here for the convenience of not only Minnesota readers but also of voters in other states who are being so "courted": Strib. urges longer terms for judges, no role for voters in their selection. Following my essay you will find updated links to many of my earlier as well as later postings relevant to this important public policy question.
Justice Holmes' Memorial Day speeches -- and mine. In my opinion, few judges these days are capable of giving a speech that anyone will remember longer than five minutes. The great Justice Holmes probably would have laughed at the thought of a judge making a "public appearance," as some of our publicity-seeking judges do now. But he did occasionally give a speech. He gave around 45 of them in his 50 years of combined service on the benches in Massachusetts and then, starting at age 60, in Washington, D.C. They are collected in a wonderful slim little volume that I own. Many of them are just a few lines long. They are almost all memorable. Holmes gave two great Memorial Day speeches. The first, containing the famous line "In our youth our hearts were touched with fire," was delivered on Memorial Day, May 30, 1884, at Keene, NH. Excerpt:
Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing. While we are permitted to scorn nothing but indifference, and do not pretend to undervalue the worldly rewards of ambition, we have seen with our own eyes, beyond and above the gold fields, the snowy heights of honor, and it is for us to bear the report to those who come after us. But, above all, we have learned that whether a man accepts from Fortune her spade, and will look downward and dig, or from Aspiration her axe and cord, and will scale the ice, the one and only success which it is his to command is to bring to his work a mighty heart Such hearts--ah me, how many!--were stilled twenty years ago; and to us who remain behind is left this day of memories. Every year--in the full tide of spring, at the height of the symphony of flowers and love and life--there comes a pause, and through the silence we hear the lonely pipe of death. Year after year lovers wandering under the apple trees and through the clover and deep grass are surprised with sudden tears as they see black veiled figures stealing through the morning to a soldier's grave....
More. The second one, the 'Soldier's Faith Speech,' was delivered on May 30, 1895, at a gathering of the graduating class of Harvard University. "President Theodore Roosevelt's admiration for this speech was a factor in Holmes' nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court." By the way, "Memorial Day Celebrated" is not "Memorial Day." The true Memorial Day is, and always will be, May 30. I oughta know. I was born in Benson, Minnesota on Sunday, May 30, Memorial Day (a/k/a "Decoration Day") in 1943 and baptized exactly four weeks later in the Norwegian Synod Lutheran Church on Sunday, the Fourth of July (pronounced "Fort-a-Yuly" by Swedes but not by Norskies). Through my "great good fortune," in my youth my heart was touched not with Holmes' "fire" but with love and nurturing and opportunity -- provided by great parents, an older brother as a model, a warm extended family, the best of friends, good health, a wonderful church, multiple mentors, a terrific school system, and the amazing liberating freedom of growing up in a tolerant and caring and protective democratic community in a great state in a great country. If it sounds idyllic, that's because, my friend, it was....
Why are so many TV judges from Miami? "Miami now counts five former criminal court judges [Marilyn Milian, David Young, Cristina Pereyra, Alex Ferrer, and Karen Mills-Francis] with TV shows, two of whom were nominated for a daytime Emmy this year. South Florida has more than its share of high-profile court cases and colorful characters, and the combination seems to make for must-see TV...." More (IHT 05.30.2008). Comment. Q. Why are so many TV judges from Miami? A. Would you want a bunch of dour Norwegians from Minnesota judging people on national TV? Actually, you might want 'em if you're a Minnesota taxpayer and you've read my "modest proposal." Since I like to quote myself (perhaps I need to get out of my hovel and socialize more), I'll reprint here a relevant posting I made on 10.07.2005 titled "BurtLaw's 'Modest Proposal,'" about how we could save public money and teach law students and others and benefit the public by letting law schools run conciliation courts:
BurtLaw's 'Modest Proposal.' Here in the Twin Cities there are four law schools. Both as a cost-sharing/cost-saving measure and as a tool to improve legal education and the quality of justice administered by small-claims courts, we propose that maintaining metropolitan small claims courts here become a shared responsibility of the law schools and the court system, with students being encouraged to provide "representation" to low-income small claims litigants, other students being assigned to assist the small claims judges with research memos, and many of the contested hearings being held in the law school "courtrooms." Moreover, students in other disciplines could be part of the small-claims-court laboratory: a) students of TV production could videorecord the hearings, edit them and present them on cable TV and perhaps sell "best-of" compilations to commercial TV; b) students of computer science could help develop new software for use by the court system; c) students from paralegal training and court services programs could operate the filings and records aspect of the laboratory; d) students of business management and court management could work together to assist the program; e) students thinking of law as a career could get a taste of law-in-action. Finally, and this is the good part, Judge Judy, 63, who just signed on for another four years (at more than $25 million per year?!) after ten years presiding on the tube, could be invited to bring her production unit to town once or twice a year, perhaps make the schools some money, attract attention to the schools' unique program, and teach the students a few things (both by positive-example and by negative-example).
Is judge violating ruling against displaying 10 Commandments? "Richland County Common Pleas Judge James DeWeese brands a motion filed Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio an 'attempt to silence speech.'...A judge ruled in the ACLU's favor in June 2002 that DeWeese could not display the Ten Commandments in his courtroom[, a ruling sustained on appeal]. DeWeese said Thursday he isn't displaying the Ten Commandments...[He] said the current poster has a comparison of moral absolutes and moral relativism. He explained moral absolutes as fixed principles that can never change, such as the Ten Commandments, and moral relativism as the belief people should decide for themselves between right and wrong...'I put both sides up. People can make their own decisions.'" More (Mansfield News-Journal 05.30.2008). Comment. An equally-interesting test case might be installation on the courthouse grounds of a "Talking Abe" statue, like those seen in some amusement parks, with Honest Abe reciting "The Ten Commandments" ("More than four score and seven years ago, God told Moses not to kill, not to...."). Further reading. See, my posting titled Court o.k.'s Bush's '10 Commandments' & their own, but not all, and my 2001 posting titled The 'Ten Commandments movement' revisited.
Suspended judge is indicted on voter fraud charges. "A suspended Sunland Park, N.M., municipal judge [Horacio Favela, 48,] now faces six felony counts stemming from allegations that he voted twice in the last presidential election -- once in Texas and once in New Mexico -- and fraudulently ran for the bench...Court documents allege Favela voted by absentee ballot in El Paso, Texas, and Dona Ana County, N.M., in the 2004 election, and that he did not live in Sunland Park when he filed to run for municipal judge. The documents allege Favela lived in El Paso. The address on his candidacy form was a trailer, labeled 'Office' on the door and attached to a tortilla business in which he is a partner...." More (Houston Chronicle 05.30.2008). Comment. Could a hypothetical judge in a hypothetical case like this get off on the criminal charges by pleading ignorance of the law and then retain his seat on the bench?
Judge agrees to step down. "A part-time Binghamton city judge who was charged with allowing his law partners to practice in his court is leaving office. Under a deal reached with the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, Judge Robert Murphy agreed to step down from the bench when his term expires on June 14...." More (Newsday 05.30.2008).
Profile of a fiercely independent judge. The Austin (TX) Chronicle today (05.30.2008) has a long, detailed profile, worth reading, of District Judge Charlie Baird, Travis County's 299th District Court. Comment. Many judges yammer on about judicial independence and perceived threats to it. A brave few just are independent, regardless of the personal consequences or the political winds.
Historic first: three female Scottish judges sit as appeal panel. "Three women judges began hearing a case yesterday as the first all-female bench to sit on an appeal in the Scottish supreme courts. Scotland's first woman judge, Lady Cosgrove, became the first to loosen the male grip on the judiciary only 12 years ago, but yesterday three QCs who followed in her footsteps to become judges formed a unique trio of legal decision-makers for the hearing of a civil appeal in an Extra Division of the Court of Session in Edinburgh...." More (The Herald 05.30.2008). Comment. And a hypothetical American attending the hearing presumably didn't understand a word any of the judges said. More.
Board reveals details underlying judge's suspension. "The Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission has provided additional information on what led to District Judge Frank Wakefield II's suspension. The commission released an order Wednesday detailing specific incidents that led to Wakefield's 30-day suspension, which was issued Friday, and acknowledged that he had been issued private reprimands previously for his conduct...." More (Bowling Green Daily News 05.29.2008).
Panel recommends removal of judge of 28 years. "Justice Ted Matlow's 27-year judicial career lay in tatters yesterday after a Canadian Judicial Council panel concluded his 'inexcusable' misconduct in connection with a Toronto neighbourhood crusade rendered him unfit for office...The report now goes to the judicial council, which will decide whether to recommend to the federal justice minister that Matlow be dismissed...After suggesting city officials had been devious, stupid and dishonest in connection with the condo project [he protested], Matlow made no effort to remove himself from other cases involving the city...." More (Toronto Star 05.30.2008). Update. Two city council members who contended Judge Matlow erred in not recusing in a case involving the city have written a letter to the editor stating that they "do not see any benefit to removing Matlow from the bench. Ending an otherwise distinguished career serves no one well and would be an excessive punishment. The right thing for the Canadian Judicial Council to do is to demand an apology and end the matter there." More (Toronto Star 06.02.2008).
Have you ever 'retreat[ed] behind the figleaf of ersatz stare decisis'? "Unable to justify its holding as a matter of statutory interpretation, the Court today retreats behind the figleaf of ersatz stare decisis....." Justice Clarence Thomas, dissenting in CBOCS West, Inc. v. Humphries, 553 U. S. (2008) (empasis supplied). Helpful explanatory note. "A fig leaf is the covering up of an act or an object that is embarrassing or disagreeable. The term is a metaphorical reference to the Biblical Book of Genesis, in which Adam and Eve used fig leaves to cover 'their nakedness' after eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil... The expression fig leaf has a pejorative metaphorical sense meaning a cover for any thing or behaviour that might be considered shameful, with the implication that the cover is only a token gesture and the truth is obvious to all who choose to see it." More (Wikipedia 05.29.2008). Stated differently, a fig leaf is that which the participants did not wear in the "adult films" that Anita Hill testified her former boss, Clarence Thomas, described to her. Clarence Thomas Supreme Court Nomination (Wikipedia 05.29.2008). Further reading on figleafs and other materials used to cover, er, stuff. "Undoubtedly, a judge's wearing nothing but a swimsuit in the courtroom would be deemed to not only demean the judiciary but cause disrespect for the judiciary and interfere with the administration of justice. This is so despite the fact that some of the greatest artistic representations depict Justice as a scantily-clad (and blind) woman and Law as a scantily-clad (and all-seeing?) man. For example, there are two huge statues in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., one titled "Spirit of Justice," a woman whose flimsy toga-like garment reveals a bare breast slightly larger than 34B, the other titled "Majesty of Law," of a man whose main reproductive organ, presumably of large size (this being America), is covered by a cloth not much larger than a towel typically worn by an old retired judge sitting with his poker buddies in a communal Turkish bath. That Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Clarence Thomas could not get by wearing this sort of garb in the courtroom of the Supreme Court without being said by some to have demeaned the judiciary is made manifest by the fact that...our fundamentalist Attorney General, John Ashcroft, ordered the statues draped in blue cloth, at a cost of $8,000? Why cover them? To prevent the taking and publication of more embarrassing photos of him like the one at right." From BurtLaw's Law and Swimsuits - On judicial swimsuits and the Rules of Judicial Conduct -- part I. (scroll down) at BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else.
Do lawyers really take a 'hit' on pay when joining the bench? "Canada's federal judges are in a spat with the Justice Department for secretly accessing their personal income tax returns to find out whether there is truth to the claim that judges deserve a significant salary increase so they don't take a financial hit upon appointment to the bench. The verdict was that 71 per cent of new judges experienced pay hikes when they were elevated from practising law and one in five saw their salaries double...." More (Canada.Com 05.29.2008). Further reading. For a critical analysis of the standard arguments used by the judicial establishment in seeking pay raises (arguments that members of the media rarely subect to careful scrutiny), see, 'I could be making lots more if I were Michael Jordan' at BurtLaw's Law and Judicial Economics at BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else.
SCOWIS justices reprimand colleague. "The Wisconsin Supreme Court reprimanded its newest sitting justice for conflicts of interest during cases she presided over while a circuit judge in Washington County, marking the first time the court issued a decision disciplining one its own...'Judge Ziegler's conduct was a serious failing,' the court wrote...." More (Capital Times 05.29.2008). Text of decision. Earlier. Links to previous Daily Judge entries on Justice Zeigler.
Brit courts now have free Wi-Fi -- free for all. "Most Crown and Combined courts in England and Wales now have Wi-Fi facilities in place, according to Courts Minister Maria Eagle. BT Openzone wireless internet access has been installed in 67 courts in the past three months, allowing court attendees to access the web in between sittings. The system will allow jurors, victims and witnesses to access work, business and leisure pursuits in between hearings, and enable journalists to file copy during major trials...." More (VNUNet 05.28.2008).
Isn't it time for a Newfoundlander on High Court?! "After almost 60 years in Confederation without a Supreme Court judge being drawn from [Newfoundland, its Justice Minister, Jerome] Kennedy[,] said that it is time for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to rectify this omission with the vacancy he is expected to fill by early fall...According to convention, one of the nine Supreme Court of Canada judges comes from the Atlantic region, two are from Western Canada and three come from Ontario. Quebec is constitutionally entitled to three judges. Four judges have been drawn from Atlantic Canada since 1949. Two were from Nova Scotia and, most recently, two consecutive appointments went to New Brunswick judges." More (Globe & Mail 05.29.2008). Comment. We here at BurtLaw's The Daily Judge would urge Newfoundland to a) withdraw from the Confederation if its judges are passed over again and b) ask to be a U.S. protectorate, then territory, etc. Whatta the judicial elites have against Newfoundlanders?
Censured judge has five challengers in primary. "Five years ago, Norene Redmond had one challenger for the sole judgeship at Eastpointe's 38th District Court. This year -- one in which Redmond was publicly censured by the state's Judicial Tenure Commission -- there are five challengers in the Aug. 5 primary...." More (Detroit Free Press 05.28.2008). Earlier. SCOMICH disciplines judge for harshness, rudeness; Annals of raging judges. Comment. We have no opinion on who the voters should choose, Judge Redmond or one of the challengers. But this instance serves as an example of why true contested judicial elections are superior to fake one-candidate "retention" elections. In a Missouri-style retention state it is possible for a cabal of politicians, ideologues, lawyers and other members of the power elite who are in control of the appointment machinery to keep on selecting clones of those judges who are not retained by the electorate. In a retention state, the people can knock down an Energizer-brand bunny rabbit but the cabal can ensure the rabbit will be replaced by an identical Energizer-brand bunny rabbit. Not so under the Minnesota Plan, with its system of true contested elections. If an appointee in Minnesota is or morphs into an Energizer-brand bunny rabbit, candidates of a different disposition can step forward and give the people a chance to not only remove the Energizer-brand bunny rabbit but also select a more-appropriate replacement. Further reading. BurtLaw on the Campaign to Deprive Minnesota Voters of a Role in Judicial Selection.
Can judge try case if government's evidence says he's on defendant's hit list? "A lawyer for the reputed mob boss known as Vinny Gorgeous asked an appeals court Tuesday to order the trial judge to step aside from the case because the [name of the] judge himself...U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis in Brooklyn...appears on a hit list allegedly written by the mobster that will be included as evidence in the case...." More (Newsday 05.28.2008).
Death row chaplain, once a supporter, now opposes death penalty. Rev. Carroll Pickett, a Presbyterian minister who is now 74, is the focus of a new documentary movie, At the Death House Door. For 15 years he was the death row chaplain at the prison in Huntsville, in death-penalty-happy Texas. He witnessed 95 executions. He at first supported the death penalty, although, understandably, he "was anguished by his job." Finally he concluded that the death penalty "served neither justice nor morality." Indeed, he now "says he believes that some of the men he helped lead to death were innocent." More (NYT 05.27.2008). Further reading. In my unsuccessful 2004 anti-war primary campaign against incumbent GOP Congressman Jim Ramstad -- who, by the way, enthusiastically voted for the war and vigorously defended it but now, as he is quitting, says he was duped into voting for it -- I wrote and posted, on my personally-maintained campaign blog/website, a position paper with my unorthodox, out-of-the-GOP-mainstream views on crime and punishment, including reasons why I have always opposed the death penalty. See, Burton Hanson on Crime and Punishment.
SCOTUS: free speech everywhere but here? "At about the same time the Supreme Court was issuing decisions Tuesday morning, an important trial about the Supreme Court was getting underway at the D.C. Superior Court. Thirty-five anti-war demonstrators who were arrested inside and outside the Supreme Court on Jan. 11 went on trial for violating 40 U.S.C. 6135, which makes it unlawful to 'parade, stand, or move in processions or assemblages' in the Court building or grounds or to display a 'flag, banner, or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice a party, organization, or movement.' That unusual wording has been defended by the government as serving the goal of not giving the public the idea that the Supreme Court can be swayed in its decision-making by public opinion or protests...." More (Tony Mauro at Legal Times, via Law.Com 05.28.2008). Comments. SCOMN used to be housed entirely in the Minnesota Capitol. Its relatively new judicial center is right across the street and it still maintains a historic, working courtroom and conference room on the third floor of the capitol. All manner of protests and demonstrations have occurred there over the years, without any apparent adverse or improper effect on SCOMN's decision-making. Every year, for example, when the "pro-lifers" demonstrate on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the amplified sound of the old bagpipe version of "Amazing Grace" being played over and over and over penetrates the thick walls of the capitol and echoes up and down the mall -- all without swaying SCOMN in its decision-making one way or the other. C'mon, SCOTUS, don't be such a bunch of babies!
Has Tennessee's unconstitutional 'merit selection' plan expired? "It was sunny in Tennessee last week, when the state's controversial method of picking judges was allowed to expire amid high-stakes legislative wrangling. The change marks the first time a merit selection plan has been ousted in any state that has adopted it...The so-called merit selection plan will now go into a one-year wind-down, after which Tennessee will revert to its constitutionally mandated method of choosing judges by direct election. That means less influence from the coterie of lawyers groups that had controlled the Judicial Selection Commission and become a thorn in the side of even Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen, who balked at their manipulation of his appointments...." More (WSJ 05.27.2008). Comments. a) While this may be the first instance in which a state has abandoned the Missouri Plan, it probably won't be the last. As our readers know, at a time when some members of Minnesota's power elite want us to adopt the Missouri Plan, there is dissatisfaction with the plan in the relatively small number of states that actually are using it, including in Missouri. b) I call Tennessee's use of the plan unconstitutional because the state's constitution calls for election of judges. Notwithstanding that, the legislature awhile ago statutorily created a Missouri-type merit selection plan with retention elections, which the state's supreme court justices -- not exactly uninterested parties? -- held satisfied the state constitution's "election" requirement. Fortunately, the statute was governed by a sunset provision, which means that, absent re-enactment, the sort of real elections envisioned by the Tennessee constitution will once again occur. c) I've posted a detailed critical essay on the well-financed effort to persuade Minnesota's voters to give up their historic role in judicial selection, and I link to it here for the convenience of not only Minnesota readers but also of voters in other states who are being so "courted": Strib. urges longer terms for judges, no role for voters in their selection. Following my essay you will find updated links to many of my earlier as well as later postings relevant to this important public policy question.
How free are Israeli judges? "Judicial Ombudsman Tova Strasberg-Cohen has put an admonitory comment in the personal file of Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court President Edna Bekenstein, because the judge held an unauthorized meeting with journalists [researching the courts' caseload] and sent a strongly-worded [confidential] letter of protest to Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch [protesting the omission of a certain magistrate for promotion]." More (Haaretz 05.27.2008). Comment. In my experience, neither action by Judge Bekenstein would merit an admonition or other form of discipline in any U.S. jurisdiction.
Turkey, which want to be part of EU, falls short in judicial comparisons. "Courts in Turkey suffer from a shortage of judges, handle a larger caseload and lag behind the European Union in terms of salaries of judges, the number of courts serving the public, expediency and other factors...." More (Today's Zaman 05.27.2008).
Books for kids who sit and wait at the courthouse. "The siblings sit in a crowded waiting room at the Norfolk Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. It's noisy and tense, a room filled with people on hard benches waiting, sometimes for hours, to be called before a judge...It's not much of a place for kids. Until [Sherrill] Hurwitz arrives, clutching a pile of children's books and magazines, approaching every tyke in the room with a booming 'good morning' and a free book to help pass the time. Hurwitz began coming to the juvenile courthouse as a volunteer a couple years ago...'It's the first job I've ever had in my life that I felt appreciated,' she said...." More (Virginian-Pilot 05.27.2008). Comment. Hurwitz collects the books and magazines that she gives the kids, accepting donations from judges and other people, universities, children's magazine publishers, etc. Good program. For some of the kids, it may be the first book they've ever owned. It's good for kids to actually physically own books. I know from personal experience. I still possess -- and cherish -- some of the books I was given as a kid. Those books started me on a lifetime of reading. Most recent book I read? I just finished volume one (Pocketful of Miracles) of Gary Giddins' two-volume biography of Bing Crosby, a book rich in American social history. Last night I started Fellow Passengers, a novel by lawyer-novelist-social historian Louis Auchincloss, whose excellent Powers of Attorney, was a favorite of both my grandfather-in-law, the late John G. Rauch, and his son-in-law and my father-in-law, the late John M. Kitchen, both leaders of the Indianapolis bar.
Judge is also founder/curator of bicycle museum. "With so many bicycles on display, it's easy to overlook the framed, black-and-white photograph hanging on the back wall. Taken in 1954, the photo shows a young boy on a bicycle pedaling down the sidewalk. The bicycle has training wheels and plastic streamers on the handlebars, and the boy is grinning from ear to ear. The photo was taken of Ralph McClanahan II, founder and curator of the Little Congress Bicycle Museum, when he was 4 years old.... [H]e's [also] a district judge for three Eastern Kentucky counties north of Cumberland Gap...." More (Herald-Leader 05.27.2008). Comment. Is there a beloved bicycle (or perhaps a sled named 'Rosebud') in every person's past?
'Judge' admits he was a 'drag queen' and 'rent boy.' "Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood launched his showbiz career by becoming a £100-an-hour rent boy, we can reveal. The gay BBC1 star also worked as a drag queen to fund his way through dance school. Craig -- dubbed Mr Nasty on the primetime series -- is set to make the sensational confessions in his new autobiography, All Balls and Glitter: My Life...." More (News of the World - UK 05.27.2008). Comment. Oh dear, another volume to add to my collection of "judicial tell-all memoirs."
Should judges pick new judges? "The federal Government has chosen former chief justice Gerard Brennan to 'judge the judges' as part of its revamped judicial appointments process. Sir Gerard and former federal court judge Jane Matthews will help screen prospective members of the Federal Court and draw up a short list for Attorney-General Robert McClelland. They will join the deputy secretary of the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department, Ian Govey, and the current Chief Justice of the Federal Court, Michael Black, on a panel that has the right to interview candidates -- a first for the federal courts...." More (The Australian 05.26.2008). Comment. Sad to say, it's probably an improvement over the current method used there, but not by much, given who -- can you believe it? -- has the ultimate appointing power.
Bar leader laments decline in totals and percents of cases orally argued. "The declining trend in oral argument suggests the appellate courts of Alabama are abandoning, or have already abandoned, the practice of oral argument. Citizens should ask the appellate courts why oral argument has declined so significantly and how this is affecting Alabama's judicial system. In a state where our appellate judges are selected by popular vote, Alabama citizens are entitled to answers...The importance of appellate oral argument cannot be overstated in its role of conveying a semblance of visibility and accountability to an institution that can otherwise be perceived as closed to the very people who elect its members. Oral argument can and does provide and preserve the appearance of justice...." More (J. Mark White in Birmingham News 05.25.2008). Comment. Actually, "the importance of appellate oral argument" can be overstated. If one knew for sure that all appellate judges were doing their jobs -- reading the records and briefs, independently researching the caselaw, writing their own opinions, etc. -- the decline in oral argument wouldn't be such a serious matter, because, truth is, most oral arguments in most cases aren't very good. Given, however, that many state appellate courts decide many cases summarily or by way of boilerplate opinions that make it difficult for the parties to be sure the judges themselves actually read the records and briefs, considered all the arguments, etc., the corresponding decline in the percentage and number of oral arguments is a serious matter, both in terms of appearance and transparency. I've written extensively on these matters. Many of my relevant musings can be found by doing a complete Google search (rather than the intial partial search, which omits many of the search results) using three key words together "BurtLaw," "independence" and "accountability." (Hey, I've done it for you here.) My original essay on the subject, which I wrote and posted on the campaign website/blog that I maintained in my 2000 campaign for statewide judicial office, may be found in its original form here. For a specific example of my musings on oral arguments and judicial accountability/transparency, consider this, from a 2006 entry titled 'When a state supreme court justice is ill':
Oral arguments occasionally make a difference but their importance is often exaggerated by advocates. Moreover, it's not as if the parties aren't given a full opportunity to make all their points in their written briefs. I'm more troubled when a justice doesn't attend conference, but simply provides the other justices with his votes, in writing, in advance. Presence is especially critical at conferences on petitions for review, less so at conferences following oral arguments on a case being reviewed on the merits. Typically, the final decisions on petitions for review are made at conference, with the order granting or denying review being circulated shortly thereafter. If a judge votes in absentia on petitions, for all practical purposes he foregoes the opportunity to change his vote on a petition and to change the minds of others during conference. On the other hand, votes are temporary at conferences following oral arguments on cases being reviewed on the merits, with a justice being free to change his mind and to try change the minds of others during the opinion-circulation process. Incidentally, I believe strongly that the order denying or granting each petition for review ought to state not only each judge's vote on the petition but the names of any judges voting in absentia. There is no valid reason this ought not be a matter of public record as part of the court's obligation to be not just independent but accountable.
Profile of a judge removed from bench. "Months after he joined a select group of Virginia judges, James Michael Shull doesn't see himself as one of the gang. There is the judge who horse-whipped a preacher who insulted him. That was in 1903. There is the judge who skipped court because he refused to leave a brothel. That was in 1908. Shull's most recent contemporary was found in 1977 to be misappropriating firearms and drinking confiscated beer in his chambers. And now there's Shull...." This is the start of an excellent, detailed profile by Daniel Gilbert of a judge removed not for any high crimes or misdemeanors but for his "maverick" courtroom style. More (Bristol Herald-Courier 05.25.2008). Earlier. Judge is removed for coin-toss custody decision, etc.
When a small town in Texas becomes a hub of U.S. patent litigation. "Volkswagen AG, Europe's largest carmaker, asked a U.S. appeals court to set new guidelines on where it can be sued over allegations of defective parts. The...company is trying to avoid facing trial in eastern Texas...Today's arguments before the full 17-member 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans have generated the interest of companies and patent lawyers who claim the east Texas town of Marshall has become a hub of litigation because plaintiffs win in a majority of cases...." More (Bloomberg 05.22.2008). Related. "[L]awyers...flock from New York and Los Angeles to Marshall, 150 miles east of Dallas, to argue patent suits. The court has generated new office space, shops and work for local attorneys...[T]hanks largely to Marshall Division Judge T. John Ward, [the court] has become America's most sought-after venue for patent suits. Its popularity is causing a backlog, with trials now scheduled through 2010. The court's future as a local economic engine is also under attack by a proposal in Congress...." More (Bloomberg 05.23.2008). Earlier. So small a town, so many patent suits.
Governor Crist will get to 'pack' SCOFLA. "Besides picking four of the seven-justices by the end of 2009, [FLA Gov. Charlie Crist] will choose his appointees from a pool of names -- no fewer than three and up to six for each vacancy -- provided by a nominating commission whose membership will soon be majority-appointed by Crist. Six of the nine-member Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission will, by the time [two recent resigning justices] are replaced, be Crist's appointment." Then, next year, two more will be "'aged out' by constitutionally mandated retirement." So, Pensacola attorney Fred Levin is quoted saying,"He gets to pack the court." More (News-Press 05.5.2008).
'Re-colonization by law' and 'judicial coup' of Africa? Some Africans are complaining of what they refer to as "re-colonization by law" and a "judicial coup d'etat" by some non-African states "under the guise of 'judicial independence' and 'universal jurisdiction'" constituting a "'great affront to the sovereignty of states.'" More (Times - South Africa 05.25.2008).
Judge gets knuckles knocked for his little Christmas tradition. "[Fort Bend Justice of the Peace Gary Geick's] tradition of showing mercy as Christmas approaches has earned him the legal equivalent of a lump of coal in his stocking. While acknowledging that [his] heart was in the right place, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued a public admonition late Thursday, saying he was failing to follow the law. Geick, who for 20 years has chosen not to consider eviction requests during the Christmas season, responded that he will end that long-standing practice...." More (Houston Chronicle 05.24.2008). Update. The name of the judge's crime is compassion (Houston Chronicle - commentary by Lisa Falkenberg 05.29.2008).
Suspended judge is arrested on gun charge. "A suspended Clarke County judge facing firearms charges must stay in jail because he poses a danger to the community, a federal judge in Mobile ruled Friday. U.S. Magistrate Judge Bert Milling Jr. said he particularly was moved by testimony from defendant Stuart DuBose's brother, Jackson police Officer Lem DuBose. 'I don't want to see him go to jail,' Officer DuBose testified during a nearly three-hour hearing in U.S. District Court. 'But he needs to get help. He hasn't been right the last few years.'" More (Mobile Press-Register 05.24.2008).
Poll: SCOTUS doing okay but the individual justices rate poorly. "The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 41% of voters give the Supreme Court good or excellent ratings. Just 19% give it a poor rating. While over half (52%) of Republicans rate the Supreme Court good or excellent, just 39% of Democrats do the same. Among unaffiliated voters, 35% say the Justices are doing a good or excellent job." But the individual justices each had lower "favorables" and higher "unfavorables." For example, Thomas was rated favorably by 38% and unfavorably by 50%; Scalia, 27%, 40%; Ginsburg, 36%, 35%; Alito, 26%, 38%; Roberts, 26%, 30%; Stevens, 17%, 30%; Kennedy, 25%, 33%; Breyer, 18%, 28%; Souter, 16%, 31%. More (Rasmussen Reports 05.21.2008). Dahlia Lithwick opines. "[A] look at the individual rankings by justice suggests that the justices who have attempted to use the media to humanize and personalize the court have somehow achieved precisely the opposite effect. The justices with the highest unfavorable ratings here are the ones who have most avidly courted the public. Whereas the justices who have kept on keeping on under the radar remain unknown, but un-hated." More (Slate 05.22.2008). Comment. Except for Thomas's really high "unfavorables," I'm not sure the poll results show much about the individual justices, because the "don't have an opinion" responses are so high. I think the results for the court as a whole may be a tad more telling.
Report: incompetence, corruption, bullying in magistrates courts in Fiji. "Fiji must address a report that has found corruption, incompetency and bullying exist in its magistrates courts, the nation's top judge says. Acting chief justice Anthony Gates today welcomed a recent report by Justice John Connors that revealed problems in the courts and gave 27 recommendations...." More (Stuff.Co.NZ 05.22.2008).
Judge in 'chilli hot' blackmail and sex scandal will keep his job. "An immigration judge who had a 'chilli hot' affair with his illegally employed Brazilian cleaner is to keep his £110,000-a-year job, it emerged today. The decision follows an inquiry by the country's judicial watchdog into the conduct of Mohammed Ilyas Khan after a blackmail case involving him, the cleaner, a woman judge and allegations about sex videos...." More (Daily Mail 05.22.2008). Earlier. For extensive background on the "Chilli Hot Stuff" case, see, Annals of judicial internet dating, which includes links to earlier postings about this scandal (as well as to other postings on judicial romance, judicial dating, and judicial cyber-dating). Update. Interview with 'chilli hot stuff cleaner' (Daily Mail 05.25.2008).
Judge says 'Judging is a cushy job.' "Q. These days we are seeing a lot of Javed Akhtar - the judge in many reality shows. What is it in judging that interests you? A. Judging is a cushy job. You sit back, relax and comment or criticise others' performance. Jokes apart, by judging shows I get to meet so many talents with whom otherwise I would not have interacted. In the show Lead India I met some exceptionally talented intellectuals, in Indian Idol I heard some immensely talented singers." -- From interview of Javed Akhtar, screenwriter, lyricist and frequent TV reality show judge in India. More (NDTV 05.22.2008).
When traffic court judges get too chummy with cops. ""For each defendant who plead 'guilty with an explanation,' you heard the explanation and then turned to the officer and asked, 'W he/she polite and courteous?' The first couple of times you made this inquiry, I dismissed it as an offhand remark. But it became clear from your repetition of this question in every case that you believed the officer's subjective perception of the defendant's 'politeness' and 'courteousness' was somehow relevant to your decision on disposition. Candidly, I was offended by the question." -- From a letter a lawyer wrote but never mailed to a Baltimore traffic court judge. More (Baltimore Sun - Random Rodricks Blog 05.22.2008). Comment. The attorney, who gave a copy of the letter to blogger Rodricks, goes on to argue in the letter that the judge's "politeness" question "gives the perception that [the judge is] conferring on police officers even greater discretionary authority than they already enjoy by inviting their subjective input into the sentencing decision." The attorney adds: "I understand that judges may develop a certain kinship with officers that appear repeatedly before them and want to help them out by punishing the 'discourteous and impolite public.' But as a practicing attorney and as a private citizen, I have seen plenty of examples of police abuse of discretion...Perhaps you should more appropriately have asked me whether the officer was 'polite and courteous' when he stopped me and taken that into account in your disposition." Good letter; good points. It is not so much "discourteous," in my opinion, but offensive when judges appear to or in fact do get too chummy with or too deferential toward officers who routinely appear before them.
Did police treat ex-judge 'discourteously' during traffic stop? "Vernon Hills police used pepper spray on former Lake County Chief Judge David Hall during a traffic stop last month that sparked DUI and resisting arrest charges against the jurist, his attorney said Wednesday. Since the April 26 incident, Hall has contended that officers sprayed him for no reason... Though both squad cars involved were equipped with cameras and recording equipment, neither car's system took video of the incident, Mercure has said. One digital recorder's hard drive was full; in the other car, the videotape recorder malfunctioned, the attorney said...." The judge has pleaded not guilty. More (Chicago Tribune 05.22.2008).
Must all SCOCAN justices be 'bi'? "The Quebec National Assembly voted unanimously yesterday to demand that the federal government appoint bilingual judges to the Supreme Court of Canada. Premier Jean Charest insisted that the motion calling on Supreme Court judges to master the French language as an essential condition of their appointment wasn't just a simple request but a firm demand expressed by all members of the National Assembly...." More (Globe & Mail 05.22.2008). Comment. Is that a non-negotiable demand? Earlier. Can a unilingual anglophone do the job at SCOCAN? Update. "Imposing a bilingualism requirement on judges of the Supreme Court of Canada could deter some fine jurists from a bench that should have the top legal minds in Canada. The symbolism would be useful to the country, but not so useful as to make up for the absence of some first-rate judges...." Editorial (Globe & Mail 05.27.2008).
Rats infest courthouse. The courthouse that's reportedly been infested is in Duval County, FLA. More (First Coast News 05.21.2008).
Did judge's 'free speech' do him in with voters? "An appeals court judge who successfully battled an ethics panel for the right to criticize President Bush and the war in Iraq was voted off the bench Tuesday, six years after his remarks first attracted controversy. Wendell Griffen, a Baptist minister who joined the state's second-highest court in 1996, lost decisively to a juvenile court judge. His opponent did not discuss Griffen's comments during the campaign but credited them in part for her victory...." More (AP.Google 05.21.2008). Comment. Griffen is said to blame the result on low voter turnout in the primary. Earlier. Here are the results of a Google search linking one to our many earlier postings on Judge Griffen.
Judge apologizes for referring to 'thickness' of people from Tyrone. "[District Court Judge Sean McBride] has apologised for comments on the 'thickness' of Tyrone people during a sitting in Monaghan last week." According to the Irish Times, a young woman of County Tyrone was wrongly charged based on someone having mistaken her for a woman with the same name. Judge McBride "told [her] that because of legal procedural technicalities she could only have the case against her dismissed in the Circuit Court, and she needed 50 in bail monies to have the case deferred to that court. When she told the judge she had not got 50 with her...Judge McBride shouted: 'Yes, you are showing the typical thickness from Tyrone people, I am well used to it through football, growing up in Donegal and different things.'" More (Irish Times 05.21.2008). Comments. The judge in his apology excused himself, saying it had been a "long day" and he was trying to assist McGrath. He said his comment about Tyrone people was "totally inappropriate" but "was never meant to be offensive as I have nothing but regard for the people of Tyrone." He's sorry that "to those reading the articles it came across otherwise. For this I apologise." In other words, it seems like another one of those "sort-of apologies" we've gotten used to over the years.
Russia's new president says he wants true judicial independence. "President Dmitry Medvedev started a cleanup campaign in Russia's weak and often-corrupt courts, as one of his allies moved to unseat a prominent judge for ethics violations. Mr. Medvedev, a lawyer by training, has promised to make a stronger judiciary a priority since taking office May 7...." More (WSJ 05.21.2008).
SCOOH disciplines judge over poor case management. "Sandusky County Common Pleas Court Judge Harry Sargeant, Jr., yesterday became the first judge in Ohio to be disciplined for poor time-management skills. The Ohio Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Judge Sargeant for failing to decide a number of cases -- from 1998 to 2007 -- within the deadlines set by the state's Rules of Superintendence...The court could have further disciplined Judge Sargeant but decided to publicly reprimand him only, in part, because he has no prior disciplinary record and his judicial term ends in December, when he plans to retire." More (Toledo Blade 05.21.2008).
Science research upsets a basic premise of mandatory retirement of judges. In my 2000 campaign for statewide judicial office I posted on my campaign website/blog a position paper I wrote (click here) calling for abolishing MN's wrongheaded, stereotype-based, anti-democratic and discriminatory policy of mandatory retirement of judges. I said, in part, that "[A]lthough the stereotypes supporting the arguments advanced by the defenders wouldn't support the discriminatory mandatory retirement rule for judges even if they were founded on fact, they turn out to be unfounded. Indeed, it turns out that mandatory retirement is forcing the retirement of the wisest, most experienced and, in many cases, most productive, most reliable, even healthiest judges." More. Although my views were ridiculed at the time -- something that bothered me not in the least -- there has been growing dissatisfaction since then with mandatory retirement of judges, as readers of this blog know. Comes now scientific evidence further supporting my position. Today's Science Times (NYT 05.20.2008) contains a piece by Sara Reistad-Long titled Older Brain Really May Be a Wiser Brain, indicating that the minds of most older people experience a widening focus of attention making them better problem solvers and better at transfering information they've soaked up from one situation to another. In the words of one researcher, Lynn Hasher of the U. of Toronto, "We believe that this characteristic may play a significant role in why we think of older people as wiser." Another researcher, Jacqui Smith of the U. of Mich. reached a similar conclusion, "[saying] there was a word for what results when the mind is able to assimilate data and put it in its proper place -- wisdom. 'These findings are all very consistent with the context we're building for what wisdom is,' she said. 'If older people are taking in more information from a situation, and they're then able to combine it with their comparatively greater store of general knowledge, they're going to have a nice advantage.'" Comment. Once again, we wuz right. Sorry, but we just can't help ourselves. :-)
Annals of incivility: MP calls judge a 'dickhead' in Parliamentary debate. "MP Hone Harawira said...tougher sentencing was 'a path to nowhere' and there should be programmes that tackled the causes of crime. 'Look at that dickhead of a judge who sent that kid to jail for tagging [graffiti] because the judge thought it was culturally offensive,' he said. 'Is that part of the law now? What a bloody joke.'" More (Stuff.Co.NZ 05.20.2008).
An appointment/election mess in California. "No one seems to know whether Salinas lawyer Tom Wills can accept the governor's appointment to a vacant judgeship and continue to campaign for another seat [on the same bench] in the June 3 election...On Friday, [Gov.] Schwarzenegger appointed Wills to a judicial seat vacated by Jose Velasquez's removal. Wills said Monday the governor's office told him he cannot be sworn in to Velasquez's seat until after results are in on the June election for retired judge Stephen Sillman's seat. In the meantime, however, Wills is not allowed to campaign...Wills prefers Sillman's seat because he...would not face re-election for six years, as opposed to two years if he takes the remainder of the term Velasquez held before he was removed for misconduct in April 2007...." More (Monterey Herald 05.20.2008).
When judicial humor ends in tears. "Last month the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice reprimanded Mr Justice Peter Smith...for his misconduct in angrily refusing to recuse himself from a case involving a law firm that he had unsuccessfully negotiated to join. A decision, also last month, from the California Commission on Judicial Performance shows that judicial levity may be as serious a wrong as Mr Justice Smith's acrimony. It admonished Judge James M. Brooks (and refrained from imposing a more severe sanction only because the judge agreed to retire from the bench) for failing to understand that laughter in court is not funny if it undermines the integrity of the proceedings...." More (UK Times - Columnist David Pannick, QC 05.20.2008). Comment. The column references other instances, including a judge's prodding an attorney with a dildo, a judge's using a toy toilet that made a flushing sound to inform counsel what he thought of their arguments, and a judge's daily use of a recording of Porky Pig saying "That's All Folks!" to announce the lunch break.
Judicial independence without accountability is 'unacceptable.' "While the independence of the judiciary is critical, independence without accountability is unacceptable. No institution should be allowed to operate without being answerable to society. Those who demean the dignity of the bench and behave in a manner which undermines the administration of justice and subverts the rule of law should be called on the carpet." More (New Straits Times - Editorial 05.19.2008). Further reading. BurtLaw's 2000 judicial campaign blog position paper on judicial independence and accountability.
Top TX jurists support innocence commission. "Top state jurists support a commission to investigate wrongful convictions, but the [GOP] governor[, Rick Perry,] believes such a panel would be a needless addition to state bureaucracy. State Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson endorsed the commission idea in 2005 and 2007 and says he hasn't heard a worthy objection yet. He wants state lawmakers to pay for a panel...This month, nine men who were exonerated of crimes urged lawmakers to study the causes of wrongful convictions and try to prevent them. Since 2001, 33 men have been exonerated, including 17 in Dallas County using DNA testing...." More (Houston Chronicle 05.18.2008). Comment. Back when he was Governor of death-penalty-happy Texas, George Bush never saw an Alberto-Gonzales-reviewed death warrant he wasn't gung-ho to sign. One wonders how many, if any, of the many executions over which he never lost sleep were of men who were factually innocent. Further reading. a) Burton Hanson on Crime and Punishment (position paper I wrote and posted as a liberal anti-war candidate for Congress in the Republican primary in the Minnesota Third District in September 2004); b) John W. Dean, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales's Texas Execution Memos (Writ 06.20.2003); c) Death Be Not Proud (Time Magazine 02.21.2000); d) 'You burn out fast when you demagogue' (Salon 09.13.2003 - Interview with Tucker Carlson).
Litigant asks, 'Will judge meet me in the restroom?' "[Sessler] left the courtroom a little while later. Eventually his case was called but Sessler wasn't there. A few minutes later the bailiff answered her phone. Sessler wanted to talk to the judge. He wanted to 'teleconference' in to the hearing. Judge Mel Flanagan said that wasn't going to work since she had just seen Sessler in the courtroom. He said he was sick. The judge said he didn't look sick 10 minutes earlier. She said he could have 10 or 15 minutes to gather himself together and show up. Sessler called back at least two more times. He tried to reschedule the hearing but the judge wouldn't allow him to. At one point he asked the bailiff if the judge could meet him in the restroom. She wouldn't...." More (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 05.19.2008).
Judge calls Judge Cherie 'petty' and 'spiteful.' "Cherie Blair has been 'petty' and 'spiteful' in her memoirs, making her unsuitable for the judiciary, a former judge said this weekend...Leo Charles QC, [who says] Blair's memoirs show she is ill-suited for promotion[, is] particularly aggrieved by her comments about Lord Irvine, the former lord chancellor, who gave Blair her first job as a barrister but is treated harshly in Speaking for Myself, which recounts tales of him being 'very drunk' and spoiling the Blairs' wedding...." More (Times UK 05.18.2008). Comment. The way I see it, the more that judges criticize Judge Cherie or her book, the more likely it is that people who otherwise might not buy it, will buy it. To all fuddy-duddy judges everywhere, I say, a) welcome to the new 21st century openness, when everything you do might be taped and broadcast on the Internet and b) lighten up and "Enjoy!" Or is it "Bon Apettit"? Further reading. Extensive exclusive extracts from book; interviews. And, read on...
Who or what is 'Pooter' in the expression 'combines Wag with Pooter'? "Diary of a Nobody, an English comic novel written by George Grossmith and illustrated by his brother Weedon, first appeared in the magazine Punch in 1888 - 89, and was printed in book form in 1892. It is considered a classic work of humour. The diary is that of Mr Charles Pooter, a lower middle-class man, a city clerk, with modest social pretensions. Other characters include his wife Carrie (Caroline), his son Lupin, his friends Mr Cummings and Mr Gowing, and Lupin's unsuitable fiancée, Daisy Mutlar. The humour derives from Pooter's unconscious gaffes and self-importance, as well as the snubs he receives from those he considers socially inferior (i.e., tradesmen). The book has spawned the word 'Pooterism' to describe a tendency to take oneself excessively seriously...." More (The Free Dictionary).
SCOMN justices, fading away into the æther? "Until about 50 years ago, when a state Supreme Court justice died, an account of his life would be read to the standing court and logged in the court record. These accounts were called testimonies. A collection of those life stories has been compiled and published in a book titled Testimony: Remembering Minnesota's Supreme Court Justices. Copies of the book were donated on Friday to seven libraries across the state, including the Rochester Public Library, to coincide with the current celebration of Minnesota's 150th anniversary of statehood...." More (Rochester Post-Bulletin 05.18.2008). Comments. a) The book is not yet for sale to the public, and may never be. However, if there is sufficient public interest -- as in a mini-groundswell of demand? -- the newly-formed Minnesota Supreme Court Historical Society may publish it for public consumption. Whether or not it does that, it ought to "publish" the material online, that is, make it freely available via the Internet, as the superb U.S. Supreme Court Historical Society does with its periodicals and other related matters. For a look at the way Massachusetts does it, click here.
For a specific example, here's a link to the excellent entry in 298 Mass. 575, dated 10.09.1937, for Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. b) I long ago called attention to the inadequacy of the Minnesota Historical Society's pathetically-meagre collection of the artifacts and photographs and papers relating to our court's history. The new specialized society is a sadly-belated start. Fortunately, no matter how weak the collections are with respect to ephemera, the public record is solid with respect to the main work of the court, specifically, the briefs filed by the parties on appeal (which should be digitized and made freely available over the Internet) and the published opinions (which are in bound volumes and which, along with a lot of other data, also should be digitized completely and made freely available over the Internet). Further reading. See, my 2000 essay, BurtLaw on Judicial Independence and Accountability, in which I advocated, inter alia, my own version of "Internet transparency" on the part of judges. See, also, "Sunshine and fresh air as judicial disinfectants" and "Let the sun shine in" at BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else - Court Gazing V (scroll down). A Google search finds these prior entries on "sunshine" for judges at BurtLaw coordinated sites.
Dahlia on Arnold on SCOCAL's same-sex marriage decision. Responding to SCOCAL's widely-reported 4-3 decision holding that the state's statutory-level ban on same-sex marriage violates the state constitution, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he supports the decision and opposes amending the state constitution to overturn the decision. Dahlia Lithwick praises Arnold:
My own vote today is with the governor, who's smart enough to realize both that activism is an empty label, and that when your citizens and/or their Legislature are racing around banning and legalizing the same thing at the same time, the will of the people is not necessarily the last word on what's constitutional. Moreover, he seems to understand the difference between judicial activism and judicial action, and the fact that the latter is not something for which a court needs to apologize.
Judge is fined, scolded for 'gross ignorance of the law.' "For gross ignorance of the law, a Regional Trial Court judge in Tagbilaran City was reprimanded by the Supreme Court and ordered to pay a fine of P20,000. RTC Branch 3 Presiding Judge Venancio Amila was found guilty by the high tribunal of gross ignorance of the law in connection with his decision in a criminal case involving bouncing checks...." More (Inquirer - Philippines 05.18.2008).
Brits won't say which judges were removed. "Two judges were removed from office for professional misconduct in 2005, the Ministry of Justice said yesterday...in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act...But the Office for Judicial Complaints...refused to identify the judges, their place in the judicial hierarchy or the behaviour that resulted in their dismissal...The Guardian understands the two removed were part-timers who had been disciplined by their professional bodies for misconduct in their main career as barristers or solicitors. Judges at high court level and above cannot be removed without a vote of both houses of parliament and none has been sacked within living memory...." More (UK Guardian 05.17.2008).
Judge Cherie Blair's ex-lover was NOT Judge John Higham! "A judge named in Cherie Blair's book as one of her ex-boyfriends has spoken out to say he was not the man she meant. John Higham QC was named in Mrs Blair's memoirs as a fellow Liverpudlian she went out with after meeting him at law school...Mrs Blair apologised for his having been wrongly named. The error arose when references on the same page to both the John Higham she met at law school and the John she was dating were confused...." More (The Mail 05.16.2008). Comment. Whew! Mistakes may have been made but, as the saying goes, "close enough for government work." Update. Judge calls Judge Cherie 'petty' and 'spiteful.'
Juvenile court judge is disciplined. "[Judge A. Andrew Jackson, a] Dickson County Juvenile Court judge has been reprimanded for his conduct in cases involving children who were illegal immigrants, children of illegal immigrants or children he thought might be in the country illegally...Jackson's reprimand stems from three hearings in 2007 in which the judge repeatedly asked about a child's legal status in the country. The disciplinary panel also noted that Jackson would consistently determine a child to be dependent and neglected despite the fact that it wasn't an issue before him...." More (Tennessean 05.17.2008).
Boston columnist takes on judge whose nickname is 'Ed in the Red.' Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr: "Roxbury District Court Judge Ed Redd...is...nicknamed 'In the Red' because of his 1996 bankruptcy filing, in which he listed assets of $680,985.12 and liabilities of $1,449,042.42...At the time the judge and his physician wife went belly up, they were scraping by on $263,000 a year. But that doesn't go that far when you have a summer cottage in Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard. So the Redds tried to raise some money. Three months before he officially filed, the judge unloaded his other vacation home, in St. Petersburg, Fla., to his daughter. For $6,500, records state...." More (Boston Herald 05.15.2008). Comment. Carr says he called "the flack" for the state judiciary and she told him only that the judge's bankruptcy has been discharged. Carr, in an aside, says, "The definition of 'Massachusetts judge' is 'lawyer who was starving to death until he made contributions to the right politicians.'" We don't know if that's even partially true in MA. We also don't know if Carr's attack on Judge Redd is merited. Offhand, it seems he's just dredging up old stuff because he doesn't like a comment the judge made the other day. We do know that, whether or not political contributions are a factor, all judicial appointments are "political," regardless of the appointment system used. It's all a question of "whose politics?" Massachusetts, for its part, has so-called "merit selection" of judges, with the merit commission being established by executive order. The governor also must seek advice and consent of the governor's council, an elected body. Unlike Minnesota, where judges must run in (sometimes contested) elections every six years, Massachusetts judges have "tenure" until age 70. We suspect if Massachusetts followed The Minnesota Plan, some attorney would have run against Judge Redd and the bankruptcy matter would have received a full airing before the electorate. He might have been reelected; he might not have -- who knows?
Your tax dollars, spent on courthouse PR. "The federal agency planning a new $130 million courthouse in Harrisburg has spent $197,000 to sell the community on its plans. In comparison, the U.S. General Services Administration spent less than one-fourth that much conducting economic research on potential sites for the courthouse...The agency continues to battle local officials over the proposed site of the courthouse. 'They're more concerned about their public image than they are the right thing,' said U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, D-Schuylkill County, who called the public-relations spending a waste of money. 'It is outrageous and unacceptable that a government agency would try to win the court of public opinion by hiring consultants,' he said...." More (Patriot-News 05.17.2008).
History of political campaign blogging. Some credit the Howard Dean presidential campaign in 2004 with maintaining the first campaign blog. Others cite as the first campaign blog one maintained by a congressional candidate in 2002. Actually, one has to go back earlier, to 2000. I was a nonpartisan candidate for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election in November 2000. I began planning my first law blog, BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else, one of the pioneering law blogs, in 1999, but I delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. My 2000 campaign website, the no-longer-extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign blog (weblog or web journal), i.e., a blog actually written and maintained by the candidate, not by some staffer. I like to think it was the first campaign blog (a/k/a weblog or web journal), although it's quite possible someone else independently came up with the idea and executed it contemporaneously in 2000 also. Because most "web archivers" were not in business in 2000, there has been no web record of my campaign website and campaign blog. For archival purposes and in the public interest, I have reproduced and reposted as near as I can, given software changes, the backed-up contents of what was VoteHans.Com as it appeared in 2000. Here are the links: Campaign Home Page; Campaign Journal; Earlier Journal Entries; Even Earlier Journal Entries; Earliest Journal Entries; Endorsements and Contributions; Mandatory Retirement of Judges; Judicial Independence and Accountability; Questions and Answers; BRH Speech; Emerson for Judges; Quotations for Judges; MN Const. Art. VI; About BRH.
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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.