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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 has devoted his entire professional career to the public interest. 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 public interest political opinion blog and also contains the archives of his 2004 campaign web pages and blog postings.
MN judiciary's grand money-saving idea: cut jurors' pay in half. "Jurors in state courts are now paid $20 each day they report. That will drop to $10 on Aug. 4. Facing a $19 million budget deficit, the state Judicial Council will reduce per diem payments to the thousands of residents who serve on juries. The move will save $1.1 million each year, State Court Administrator Sue Dosal said...." More (Pioneer-Press 07.18.2008). Comments. a) A cynic might say this sounds like Marie Antoinette's idea of fairness: "Cut the daily pay of members of royalty and plebs alike by $10, except -- darn! -- the law prevents us from cutting the pay of members of royalty." b) But we're not cynical. In fact, we generously assume that before doing something as drastic as this, the administrators instructed all the many judges and their many lawyer assistants that they no longer will be reimbursed for bar memberships and professional subscriptions, attending bar conferences and seminars, taking trips to conventions, engaging in unnecessary community outreach programs, etc.
Those SCOCLERK opinions. "[C]ertain Supreme Court opinions...seem evidently written by clerks and not much rewritten by the justices. There are exceptions, but too many opinions seem to speak in no one's voice...For a comparison, let me suggest you look through a volume of Supreme Court reports from 40 or 50 years ago. The difference is striking...." James Boyd White, Law, Economics and Torture (Michigan Law School Law Quadrangle Notes - Summer 2008). Further reading:
a) "No justice worth his or her salt should need a bunch of kids who have never (or barely) practiced law to draft opinions for him or her. Yet that is exactly what the Court now has -- four clerks in each chamber to handle the lightest caseload in modern history. The justices -- who, unlike lower-court judges, don't have to hear any case they don't wish to -- have cut their number of full decisions by more than half, from over 160 in 1945 to about 80 today. During the same period they have quadrupled their retinue of clerks...." From Stuart Taylor and Benjamin Wittes, Of Clerks and Perks - Why Supreme Court justices have more free time than ever -- and why it should be taken away (The Atlantic July 2006).
b) "Most judicial opinions nowadays are written by law clerks but signed by judges, without acknowledgment of the clerks' authorship. This is a general characteristic of government documents, CEO's speeches, and books by celebrities...." -- Judge Richard Posner. More (Becker-Posner Blog 04.24.2005).
c) Justice Brandeis famously said that one of the things that set SCOTUS Justices apart from others in the government in Washington, D.C. was that "We do our own work." Sadly, there are too many judges around the country these days who don't know what it is to read transcripts, research the law independently, write their own opinions, etc. Too many rely on law clerks, novice, inexperienced lawyers fresh out of law school to do their spade work. I remember reading an essay by Justice Frankfurter in which he said that Chief Justice Hughes was a scholar at heart and "could tear the cover off a book." When some opposition developed over Hughes' appointment as Chief Justice because of some of the people he represented in private practice, the great HLS professor and First Amendment scholar, Zachariah Chafee, remarked that, as Paul Freund paraphrased it, "it is less revealing to examine the list of clients in the nominee's office than to investigate the books in his library." Paul A. Freund, "Umpiring the Federal System," 54 Columbia L. Rev. 561, 574 (1954). Chafee, of course, had inside information: he knew that an investigation of the books in Hughes' library would confirm what Frankfurter later wrote. For more of my views on this, see my mini-essay following the posting titled Question the judgments but not the judges?
d) Judges in the U.S. typically use law clerks (a/k/a "research assistants") as "judicial valets," helping their judges in numerous ways, most typically, on an appellate court at least, in reading the briefs, reading the record, researching the law, writing memos with recommendations, writing draft opinions. There is nothing inherently wrong in an appellate judge using a law clerk to help him in this way, so long as the judge merely uses the clerk's labors as a supplement to, rather than a substitute for, doing these same tasks himself. Each judge has an obligation that comes with the office never to delegate the judicial functions. The ultimate judicial function is to decide contested issues in contested cases and controversies. But "deciding" is not, as some people, including judges, seem to think, the mere act of voting "yes" or "no" on contested issues on the basis of other people's (lawyers' and law clerks') arguments and work product and then turning it over to a law clerk to "write up" for the judge's editing, approval, and signature. No, the only way a judge can truly "judge" and "decide" is to do the dirty work himself, even as his assistant independently does the same work alongside him. Robert Trent Jones, Sr., the famous golf course architect, said that it was down in the dirt -- literally -- that he did both the prosaic spade work and the visionary creative work that helped him turn ordinary brown fields into championship-green masterpieces. Former Dean of Duke Law School, Paul Carrington, was getting at this when he wrote:
The primary work of the appellate court is not creative or even particularly intellectual. The personal quality most required for the work is not intellect but care. Care is what is required to read tiresome transcripts and to listen to tedious arguments based on the details of the record in order to ascertain whether a trial judge has strayed from the true path of the law so far as to rest a decision on a clearly erroneous factual determination. Or whether an administrative agency has committed a substantial error 'on the whole record' before it. The importance of this work has been sadly underestimated. It is the essence of the idea of a government of law.
Paul Carrington, "Ceremony and Realism: Demise of Appellate Procedures," 66 A.B.A. Bar J. 860 (1980). Sadly, too many judges are busy "being" judges than "doing" the daily drudge work that is necessary to responsibly exercising judgment in a way that is consistent with the oath and office of judge. Too many of them are good at going on spring & fall "tours" outstate, holding court in high schools, attending bar functions, reading books to kids in primary school (a la President Bush on 09.11.2001), etc. This, of course, is all in contrast with the way things used to be, in the days before courts hired "press information officers," in the days when judges didn't mind their anonymity, when they read the records themselves, when they wrote their own opinions, and when they called them as they saw them without fear of or anticipation of the political or personal consequences. The late Justice Wm. O. Douglas said to Eric Sevareid in a CBS-TV interview, "We don't need law clerks." Despite what I've said thus far, I don't agree with him. I think judges do need them -- they just need to use them properly. And there are many ways to do so.
e) Further reading: Emily Bazelon and Dahlia Lithwick, Defending the Supreme Court Law Clerk (Slate 06.13.2006); Richard Posner, The Courthouse Mice (The New Republic 06.12.2006)[(reviewing Artemus Ward and David L. Weiden, Sorcerers' Apprentices (2006), Todd C. Peppers, Courtiers of the Marble Palace (2006)].
Judges go on strike over media criticism of judiciary. "Lebanese judges held a strike on Friday to protest against what the Higher Judicial Council has repeatedly described as 'unjustified attacks' against judiciary authorities in the country...." More (Daily Star 07.19.2008).
ARK. JP's can't charge fee but may accept 'small gifts' for hitching couples. The ARK. ethics commission has ruled that while JP's may not charge fees for hitching up couples, they may accept "small gifts," which the commissioners define as "$100 or less." More (NWA Online 07.19.2008). Comment. Is a "gift" to a judge a charitable contribution?
SCOTUS to decide if 2005 'check swing' was a strike. "The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in the case of Wright v. Dreckman, which calls into question professional baseball player David Wright's 2005 check swing against the San Diego Padres and whether or not the resulting strike call should be upheld...." Appealed Strike Call Taken All The Way To Supreme Court (The Onion 07.17.2008).
Courthouse Square is now a beach? "The event Sand in the City had Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square looking more like the Oregon Coast on Friday. More than 450 tons of sand were brought in from the Cowlitz River for the event Sand in the City...." More (KPTV 07.19.2008).
'Bull Moose' will lie in state in courthouse. "Atty. Don Hanni Jr., 82, nicknamed 'Bull Moose,' will lie in state from 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday in the Mahoning County [Ohio] Courthouse...." It's apparently a "first" in the county courthouse's history. More (Youngstown Vindcator 07.18.2008).
Two ex-judges are charged by feds. "Two former state-court judges--one of them, [Brooks Blitch III,] until recently, a chief judge--as well as an attorney and a court administrator have been indicted in Georgia, in a federal case over state judicial corruption...." More (ABAJ Law News 07.18.2008).
Sweep results in arrest of 31 courthouse workers. "Federal immigration agents on Tuesday night arrested 31 workers hired by two contractors for the [Rhode Island] state court system, Falcon Maintenance Co. and Tri-State Enterprises. Investigators say the employees are illegal immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Brazil...." More (Boston Globe 07.16.2008). Comment. When I first began working for the State of MN, the capitol janitors were government employees, and the supreme court had its own janitor. As part of the general outsourcing trend, the state long ago switched to contracting out the cleaning of state buildings. Although the outside cleaners I got to know were fine, upstanding people (and it wouldn't bother me if some of the ones then or now employed were "illegal immigrants"), I've always felt, for multiple reasons, that the outsourcing was bad public policy. It's not all that clear that going the cheap, seemingly-efficient route, as in outsourcing (or, for that matter, "automating"), necessarily is better in non-economic ways or even better policy using strict economic cost-benefit analysis. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that in outsourcing jobs like this in order to avoid having to pay employee benefits, etc., government -- Brandeis' "great teacher" -- sets a bad example.
This poll says voters want state judges elected, not appointed. "American voters say state supreme court justices should be elected rather than be appointed by governors or commissions, a poll indicates...." More (LegalNewsline.Com 07.16.2008). Comment. Although I favor direct election of judges, at least as practiced in MN, I don't put much stock in this poll, anymore than I put any stock in the inconsistent results of the poll sponsored by those who want to deprive MN voters of a say in judicial selection. Similarly, I advise people not to pay much attention to the recommendations of so-called "Blue Ribbon" Commissions -- the power to select the membership of such a commission is the power to predetermine the outcome. Further reading. a) My views on advocacy or hired-gun surveys and 'Blue Ribbon Commissions' (click here, here, and here). b) My views on the campaign to deprive MN voters of a say in judicial selection.
Four men charged with plot against federal judge in Mpls. "A North Oaks man already in jail accused of felony fraud and tax evasion is now accused of conspiring [with three others] to prevent a federal judge[, Ann Montgomery,] from performing her duties, including a plot through his 'common law court' to have her arrested...." More (Pioneer-Press 07.15.2008). Comments. a) Many judges these days believe that violence against judges is on the rise. I'm not sure it's true. It may be one of those accepted truisms that won't hold up if subjected to legitimate scientific statistical and historical study. Even if it is true in some sense, that doesn't mean it makes sense to turn our courthouses into fortresses. b) Back in the 1930's there was a string of violent rural bank robberies. My late dad, a small-town banker for over 50 years, starting in the '30's, told me of the time back then when local authorities received a tip that the Swift County Bank, dad's employer, was going to be robbed on a certain day. Dad said a peace officer, armed with a loaded shotgun, hid in a locker near him all day, prepared to pounce out and fire away. "Boy was I nervous that day!" The robber never appeared. A banker in nearby Starbuck was killed in a robbery, if my memory is right. In any event, bankers didn't turn their banks into fortresses and armed bank robbery in rural MN became a thing identified with the '30's. In the 1980's, however, a group of banker-haters (they are always with us) convinced themselves that bankers were the cause of all their troubles. I still have copies of crazy threatening letters Dad received from members of that group. Dad could have had the sender prosecuted, but I suggested to Dad that that might stir the guy up, pushing him over the line between thought and action. Two southwestern MN bankers actually were murdered by a farmer and the farmer's son in 1983. See, Andrew H. Malcolm, Final Harvest (1986). Rural bankers took the threats and the murders seriously but didn't react by turning their banks into fortresses. c) For my views on what I see as judicial paranoia over courthouse security, see, my mini-essays titled Stealing the courthouse hostas; Prayer Day at the county courthouse; Building courthouses with security in mind; BurtLaw and Montaigne on courthouse security; How about a courthouse surrounded by and filled with flowers? Latest courthouse threat - students who want pop; Judge receives 'contagious' letter. See, also, Is this America? No, Cook County. Shooter targets judge leaving courthouse.
Judge recuses after attorney complains about his profanity. Superior Court Judge Tom Davis has voluntarily recused himself from presiding over a prosecution following a complaint by the defense attorney that Davis "used profanity and excoriated her" during a conference call when she requested a postponement of a bond hearing. One attorney is quoted saying he's surprised at the recusal, since the judge's statements were in effect statements "in chambers," where judges are freer in their choice of language than in open court. More (Atlanta Journal-Constitution 07.15.2008).
Ex-judge indicted in ticket-fixing scandal. "A former Jersey City judge[, Wanda Molina,] and a former court administrator have been indicted on charges that they fixed parking tickets...." More (NYT 07.16.2008).
Indiana judge may be disciplined for disrupting another judge's hearing. "On November 30, 2007, Judge [Kenneth R.] Scheibenberger suspended his court session and proceeded to the courtroom of Judge Frances C. Gull, Allen Superior Court, for the purpose of observing a sentencing hearing of a defendant in Judge Gull's court. Judge Scheibenberger sat in the gallery wearing his judicial robe while the man was sentenced for a weapons violation. As the sentencing hearing concluded, Judge Scheibenberger moved to the front of the courtroom, approached the deputy prosecutor, and created a disturbance during which he told the deputy prosecutor that the defendant was a drug dealer and declared, 'Upstanding citizen, my ass!' in reference to a comment he heard during the sentencing. Judge Scheibenberger then turned to the man's parents, who were seated in the front row. He said to them, 'Are you related to that piece of shit? Upstanding citizen, my ass! He'll get his!' or words to that effect...." -- From complaint filed against the judge by the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications. Complaint (07.15.2008).
A 'judicial revolution' in Thailand? "Several recent Thai court rulings suggest that the country's political landscape is being significantly altered by the judiciary, a rising trend some academics are referring to as a 'judicial revolution.'" More (Asia Times 07.14.2008).
Knife crime and punishment in the UK. "Young people who carry knives will be made to visit hospitals where stabbing victims are treated, in a bid to shock them into changing their behaviour. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said seeing 'gruesome' injuries would be a tougher deterrent than sending all knife carriers in England and Wales to jail...." More (BBC News 07.13.2008). Comment. I normally sleep with my radio on low volume, tuned to the BBC World News Service (courtesy of Minnesota Public Radio). Often I'll remember when awake the details of a report I heard in my sleep. This one, which I heard early on 07.14.2008, is an example. Further reading. How common is knife crime in the UK? (BBC News 05.27.2008).
The courthouse wedding videographer. Some "staffer" at the Duval County Courthouse in FLA came up with a bright moneymaking idea a couple months ago: offer people getting courthouse weddings a video and digital pics of their ceremony for a fee of $125. More than two dozen couples have availed themselves of the service thus far. Employees in the "information technology" dept. take the videos and pics. More (Florida Times-Union 07.14.2008). Comment. Good organizations encourage employees to think creatively and they reward it. There are relatively few well-run organizations.
Bill to protect American authors from 'libel tourists.' Sens. Specter and Lieberman have introduced what they are calling "the Free Speech Protection Act of 2008." The bill "bars U.S. courts from enforcing libel judgments issued in foreign courts against U.S. residents, if the speech would not be libelous under American law. The bill also permits American authors and publishers to countersue if the material is protected by the First Amendment. If a jury finds that the foreign suit is part of a scheme to suppress free speech rights, it may award treble damages." More (WSJ 07.14.2008). Comment. For an eye-opening piece, see, Roman Holiday -- How I spent my summer vacation in London being sued by Roman Polanski -- and what I learned about 'solicitors,' pub food, and the British chattering class (Vanity Fair 09.19.2005), summarized here (Wikipedia). I've been railing against this for awhile now. See, my 2006 entry titled The U.K. as the U.S.'s 'judicial junkyard. My view is that while it's harder to prevail in the U.S., it's still too easy to use defamation suits as a form of legalized extortion or to harrass unfairly, and I believe the cause of action ought to be eliminated as inconsistent with First Amendment values. I express my views in greater detail at Court upholds dismissal of judge's libel suit against TV station. I also can't resist noting that in recent years our federal government has asserted broad claims of extraterritorial jurisdiction, even universal jurisidiction, of American courts over various people living and/or matters occuring outside the bounds of this country. See, e.g., Ex-judge on trial in federal court for traveling to Russia to have sex. It shouldn't surprise us that such assertions of jurisdiction offend others as much as the use of the concept of "libel tourism" by plaintiffs against Americans offends us. Thus, 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.'" When international justice is feared as colonisation by law (Times - South Africa 05.25.2008). While it is U.S. policy to reject claims of universal jurisdiction by other sovereigns over Americans, we seem to think our own claims of universal jurisdiction, etc., are justified and lawful, the theory apparently being that Might makes Right. It sorta reminds me of the view that when we use torture and otherwise mistreat "detainees" it's okay, but it's not okay when others do that unto us and ours. Further reading. Henry Kissinger, The Pitfalls of Universal Jurisdiction: Risking Judicial Tryanny (Foreign Affairs July-August 2001); Anthony J. Colangelo, Constitutional Limits on Extraterritorial Jurisdiction: Terrorism and the Intersection of National and International Law (48 Harv. Int'l. L.J. 121 (2007).
A judge's complete case files. "Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files - Volume 10 is a truly weighty tome. At well over an inch thick it takes up a decent amount of space on your shelves, and you won't read all 368 pages in one sitting either. Covering issues 474 to 522 of the weekly magazine, the stories were originally published from June 1986 to May 1987. And what amazing stories they are...." More (Den of Geek 07.14.2008). Comment. Ought every court law library purchase the full set?
Would a judge actually show up early to buy an iPhone on first day? "Del Norte Superior Court Judge William Follett was the first person in line to buy an iPhone Friday. He showed up at the store at 6 a.m., but no one was there so he went to work and returned at 7 a.m. Follett said he didn't care if he was the first person to get an an iPhone, he just had to be in court at 8:15 a.m. 'It's a fun toy to play with,' Follett told The Triplicate, his first completed call on his iPhone...." More (Triplicate 07.12.2008). Comment. We award Judge Follett The Daily Judge's first "Geekiest Judge of the Month Award."
b) Frank Rich, The Real-Life '24' of Summer 2008 (Re the Bush/Cheney White House's corner-cutting, use of torture, etc., etc.: "This time the crime is worse than the cover-up, and the punishment could rain down on us all");
c) Editorial: The Shame of Postville, Iowa (Re the shockingly "speedy" and out-of-the-public gaze federal criminal prosecution of nearly 400 illegal immigrants seized in a raid at a meatpacking plant in May).
The chief justice is in the dock -- for taking on the power elite? "The tiny community of Gibraltar is embroiled in a bitter dispute between its chief judge[, Chief Justice Derek Schofield,] and the powerful establishment figures that run the British territory. At the heart of the row is the reluctance of the territory's chief justice to go along with legal reforms drawn up by the Gibraltar government...." The chief has been suspended and faces possible removal. The allegations "include a minor motoring offence, the judge's reluctance to greet the chief minister officially during Christmas visits to the Gibraltar courtrooms and complaints that the judge's wife was too outspoken." More (UK Independent 07.13.2008).
Governor as last-second hero in courthouse destruction flick? "Gov. Ted Strickland has asked Seneca County officials to hold off on demolishing the historic county courthouse in Tiffin...." The governor wants to help the City of Tiffin purchase the courthouse from the county, something the city council believes it cannot do without state assistance. More (Toledo Blade 07.12.2008).
Judge is sent to clinker for pocketing court money. "[Deborah Riga, a] former Schererville town judge was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison Thursday for pocketing thousands of dollars from her court driving school program...." She also has to pay $12,000 in restitution. More (Indianapolis Star 07.11.2008). Comment. The feds seem to believe they have a roving commission to clean up state government. With the federal government in such a mess, perhaps the feds ought to be devoting limited investigative resources to other matters, especially given that one of the basic premises of federalism is that states generally are capable of keeping their own houses in order. Further reading. See, my comments at Ex-judge is charged with mail fraud as judge.
Stars in court. "It takes only a few seconds to get from the courthouse to the curb outside. Depending on the day, time, weather, the severity of one's offense or one's prominence, they can be among the most arduous and downright irritating steps a person can take. It is often along this path that fame and curiosity collide with colorful consequences, as celebrities attempt to evade, or occasionally exploit, the ever-expanding hordes of gawking fans, reporters, microphones and cameras...." John Eligon, Facing Press Can Be Such a Trial, Stars Find When Leaving Court (NYT 07.09.2008).
Found guilty, he kills self -- in court. "An abusive father[, Anandakumar Ratnasabapathy,] who died after swallowing poison in front of a judge[,] is believed to be the first person in Britain to kill himself in a courtroom...." More (Daily Mail 07.08.2008).
Is Wisconsin's court congestion caused by Wisconsinites' love of booze? "[P]olice, judges and others say that Wisconsin's uniquely deep-seated and seemingly intractable love affair with alcohol is a significant driver of criminal justice costs across the board...A federal report released in April showed Wisconsin led the nation in the number of adult residents who reported driving while under the influence of alcohol in the previous year...." More (Manitowoc Herald-Times 07.08.2008).
Quote-of-the-Day. "When someone has been judged guilty and the appellate and collateral review process has ended, the legal profession seems to lose all interest. When a prisoner is taken away, our attention turns to the next case. When the door is locked against the prisoner, we do not think about what is behind it. As a profession, and as a people, we should know what happens after the prisoner is taken away. Out of sight, out of mind is an unacceptable excuse for a prison system that incarcerated over two million human beings in the United States. Our resources are misspent, our punishments too severe, our sentences too long." -- Justice Anthony Kennedy, American Bar Association's Commission on Effective Criminal Sanctions and the Justice Kennedy Commission, Second Chances in the Criminal Justice System: Alternatives to Incarceration and Recovery Strategies (2007). Further reading. For my views on punishment, see, Burton Hanson on Crime and Punishment (my 2004 congressional campaign position paper), and comments accompanying Former judge to serve year under house arrest.
'Sir Igor Judge' as top judge? "Sir Igor Judge is to be the new head of the judiciary in England and Wales. Sir Igor, 67, will take over as Lord Chief Justice when Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers steps down in October, Downing Street announced today...." More (UK Times 07.07.2008). Further reading. See, my entry titled Do we need a law barring parents from naming kids 'Judge'?
'The Judge,' a/k/a Beverly Bay Bowers. "You could have called him Judge Bowers, but to most Harrisonburg residents Beverly Bay Bowers was simply known as 'the judge.' Beth Bowers says her father, a former attorney and retired 26th District juvenile and domestic court judge, was the kind of man that couldn't walk down an aisle in Costco without being recognized...." "The Judge" died Saturday, July 5, at age 88. More (Daily News Record - Harrisonburg, VA 07.07.2008). Comment. Sadly, the days of doctors and lawyers and judges being well-known, even revered, figures in their communities have pretty much passed.
Annals of courthouse turban snatching. "Forty-seven year old truck driver Sachdev Singh entered the State of Connecticut Superior Court on June 18, seeking to contest a traffic violation when he was arrested for wearing a kirpan, a blade that is a Sikh article of faith, and his turban was forcibly removed from his head. The incident occurred soon after Sachdev Singh entered the courthouse as he was passing through security, handled by the Connecticut Judicial State Marshals...." The kirpan blade in question is described as being five inches long and dull, not sharp. More (India Post 07.07.2008). Further reading. ACLU sues judge over his no-turban policy; Swords in court? Kirpan (Wikipedia); Sikh (Wikipedia).
Major changes in judging process. "With quarter-finals for the calypso competition over, the Carnival Development Committee (CDC)...is attempting to introduce a greater measure of integrity and increase the efficiency in the judging process for all the shows, particularly the calypso shows. To this end, the CDC set about transforming the judging process in four major ways...." Details (Antigua Sun 07.07.2008). Comments. a) How does the old song go? Something like this, if I recall correctly: "Daylight come and de judge?/ He wan' go home!/ BurtLaw come and he make him go!/ Day-o, day-ay-ay-o!" b) Trivia buffs, a little-known fact may interest you: Sandra Day (n/k/a Justice Sandra Day O'Connor), whose nickname is "Day-O" to those of us who are not in her inner circle, decided to marry her hubby, Mr. O'Connor, partly because (or so we have always wrongly assumed) she liked the idea of being called "Day-O." (For the future justice's father's initial view of the Day-O'Connor or "Day-O" Alliance, see, BurtLaw on Law and Love (scroll down to "Once upon a time..."). Further reading. Calypso judging; Antiguan says, 'No Trinidadian judges, please'; Lay off the Calypso judges; More on Calypso judging controversy.
SCOMN judge facing opposition will be keynoter at courthouse opening. "Beltrami County caps a decade-long, $30 million building program with an open house and ribbon cutting on Thursday...Keynote speaker is Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice Lorie Gildea, appointed to the high court by Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Jan. 11, 2006...." More (Bemidji Pioneer 07.06.2008). Gildea, a former prosecutor and trial court judge elevated by GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a McCain V.P. wannabe, is facing opposition by Rick Gallo, an attorney with 20 years' experience in the appellate division of the state public defender's office, which, in my opinion, is one of the best in the country. More (Mark Cohen in Minnesota Lawyer Blog 07.03.2008). Comment. Is it mere coincidence that Judge Gildea, known to be up for election this year, was selected (by whom we don't know) to represent SCOMN at the ceremony in this capacity? I'm guessing if you look back you'll see that in previous years other SCOMN incumbents facing opposition found themselves beneficiaries of similar "coicidences," including, say, being featured speaker at the well-attended Annual Criminal Justice Institute, sponsored by Minn. CLE. Will Gildea's campaign pay her travel expenses to Bemidji -- or is the trip considered official business and paid for by the state? I don't know the answers. I'm just curious. I raised similar questions in my campaign blog when I ran for the state supreme court in 2000. See, entry dated 10.22.2000, titled 'What's the difference between judicial 'outreaching' and 'campaigning? And who pays? And is the court web site a de facto campaign site? And what about joint campaigning?' (scroll down). The archives of my campaign blog and website may be found here. For my extended essay, with links, on the importance of judicial elections and voter participation in the judicial selection process, see, Strib. urges longer terms for judges, no role for voters in their selection.
And the award for 'Worst Judge' goes to.... "Lord Hardie, the former lord advocate, is today revealed as Scotland's worst judge in a league table of judicial performances. The peer, who was appointed to the bench in 2000, had 84 sentences and two convictions successfully overturned in the past five years -- more than any other High Court judge and 10 times the average...." More (UK Times 07.06.2008). Comments. a) I don't know if Judge Hardie is a good or a bad judge, but the statistic doesn't prove he's "the worst." The newspaper's use of the single statistic to label the judge "the worst" arguably does say something about the state of journalism. b) I have often thought that our high schools and colleges could do a better job introducing students to the various ways in which politicians and advertisers and other seducers -- yeah, including judges and journalists and advocacy pollsters and advocacy commissions -- "lie" with statistics and use logical fallacies and loaded words to persuade. If you missed out on all that in high school or college, a good place to acquaint yourself with the logical fallacies is at the index to the logical fallacies, which is a section at Stephen's Guide to the Logical Fallacies. A good introduction to the way these seducers misuse statistics is Darrell Huff's How to Lie With Statistics, which has been in print since 1954.
Annals of the Pope's Judiciary and the Case of the Fake Priest. Supreme judicial authority (as well as executive and legislative authority) in Vatican City (which is an independent "city-state") rests with the Pope but the Pope has delegated it to a judicial tribunal. One of the judges is Judge Gianluigi Marrone, who just the other day revealed that the tribunal had dealt with a man wearing clerical garb and possessing fake clerical documents who was caught trying to take confessions in St. Peter's Basilica. News reports quote the judge as saying, "It was a case of usurping an ecclesiastical title, and thus he was tried by our tribunal." Marrone said that pickpocketing is the prototypical crime committed on Vatican grounds and that if the Vatican authorities catch the pickpockets, they turn them over to Italian police. More (IHT 07.05.2008). Comments. a) Judge Marrone wouldn't say what punishment the tribunal administered to the fake priest. Perhaps the church should treat cases like this (there must be others) not as a problem but as an opportunity. Given the shortage of men wanting to be priests, the church shouldn't have much difficulty in taking this highly-motivated man (and other like him -- see below) under its wing, schooling him a bit, and making him "official." (An even better way of dealing with the shortage would be to open the doors to the priesthood to women.) b) I'm a Norwegian Lutheran. I subscribe to the notion that no one needs a priest to stand between him and God, that everyone is not only his or her own priest but also is free to consult with or confess to other such priests. Moreover, a man ought to be free to hold himself out to others as such a priest (but not on the physical grounds of Vatican City) and take confession from anyone who wants to confess. Call me Father Burt (or, if it's your broken heart and not your soul that "should need repair," call me Your Handyman).
Further reading on priestly -- and judicial -- fakery. a) See, Faking it as priest in Japan (BBC News 11.02.2006) ("With a rise in the popularity of Christian-style weddings in Japan, some Westerners are finding they can make a lucrative living by acting as priests"). The offense of "faking it as a priest" should be distinguished from the offense of using one's priestly office to perform "fake" marriage ceremonies. See, Priest held 600 'fake marriages' (BBC News 09.08.2004) ("South African police have arrested a priest in the capital, Pretoria, for allegedly conducting at least 600 fake marriages in the past year...weddings...held so foreigners can acquire South African nationality"). b) i) Conned by a fake judge, fake orders, fake verdicts, etc. ii) Was Moscow judge involved in some way in U.S. fake passport scheme? iii) Judge denies sending e-mail -- did someone try to 'set her up' with fake e-mail? iv) Glare on judge with fake caste papers. v) Judge speaks out about fake resignation. vi) Courts rethink security of judges' signature stamps. vii) Fake judicial stamp racket is uncovered. viii) Paralegal accused of stealing judge's stamp to clear self in forgery scheme. Comment. I'm not a big fan of fake priests, fake judges, etc. Go with the true blue, I say. Thus, for example, I oppose the Minnesota power elite's well-financed campaign to persuade Minnesota voters to give up their distinctly-American role in selection of judges through real, contested judicial elections in exchange for what I have called the "fake" one-candidate "retention elections" promised by "the Missouri Plan" (which, for obvious reasons, I sometimes refer to as "the Ozark State Plan"). I've posted a detailed critical essay on this topic. Since I don't have any big bucks supporting my opposition to the so-called Quie Plan to follow the Ozark State Plan, I link to my essay as often as I can for the convenience of not only Minnesota readers but also of voters in other states who are being similarly "courted" to give up their role in judicial selection: 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.
Guardian is ordered to repay $400,000+ to 'Kung Fu Judge's' estate. "[Emani P. Taylor, a] Brooklyn lawyer and a onetime legal guardian to John L. Phillips Jr., the so-called kung fu judge and the owner of the Slave Theater in Bedford-Stuyvesant, has been ordered to repay the Phillips estate $403,000 that she improperly kept for herself or misused, according to a judge's ruling...." More (NYT 07.05.2008).
Can't wear campaign tee shirt inside courthouse? "A man was stopped by Saginaw County Sheriff's deputies when he tried to enter a courthouse Thursday. But what makes the story is why the deputies stopped him. He was wearing a political T-shirt for Sheriff Candidate William Federspiel...." More (WNEM 07.05.2008). Comment. Federspiel is running against the current sheriff, Charles Brown, who says there's some county policy (I'd like to see its precise wording in writing) against campaigning in the courthouse. Gotta keep the old courthouse pure, I guess. Well, I think the "policy," at least as applied, violates that obscure little assemblage of words I like to call "the First Amendment."
Judge and deputies trade allegations in Houston. April Jill Walker is a part-time Houston municipal court judge; she's also African-American. Early on New Year's Day she called 911 to report suspicious activity in her neighborhood. Sheriff's deputies who showed up arrested her for impersonating a public official after she identified herself as a judge. The charge was dropped, and she joined a federal lawsuit against the sheriff's office. This Wednesday deputies arrested her again, claiming she sped away from an investigation they were conducting and failed to stop after being signaled to do so. She claims they physically abused her when they arrested her and that the arrest was retaliatory. The deputies deny the allegations. More (Houston Chronicle 07.04.2008).
Ex-judge is disbarred. The disbarred judge is Jeffrey Jay Hoskins of Hillsboro, Ohio, judge of the Highland County Court of Common Pleas. SCOOHIO's opinion summarizes the misconduct underlying its disbarment decision, including that Judge Hoskins "made a misleading public statement about his employee's indictment to defend his decision to continue her employment, concealed his purchase of a building to avoid a conflict-of-interest claim, withdrew estate assets before the preparation of the final account and without prior approval to pay his personal expenses, and tried to resolve his financial problems by selling the building he claimed not to own in exchange for money he knew to be stolen...." Disciplinary Counsel v. Hoskins (Slip Opinion No. 2008-Ohio-3194, filed 07.03.2008).
When is it okay for a judge to judge himself? "Judging yourself has been allowed in some cases in England but only if you're a judge. In 1846, Mr Justice Maule was an appeal judge in a civil case that he had presided over in Northampton as the trial judge. Looking back at his own trial judgment, he said, 'I think I was wrong.' But the other appeal judges disagreed with him. They said his original judgment had been right, so it stood as it was...." Gary Slapper,Weird Cases: judging yourself (UK Times 07.04.2008).
Should bad behavior by judge be a 'cognizable offense'? A teenage girl in India reportedly was hospitalized for depression after being humiliated by judges in a TV show talent competition. One writer to the Times of India expresses shock that the judges "did not even visit her," prompting the opinion that "such behavior and treatment" by TV reality show judges "ought to be" -- you guessed it -- a "cognizable offence." More (Times of India 07.04.2008).
Holmes on judicial transparency and accountability. "It is desirable that the trial of causes should take place under the public eye, not because the controversies of one citizen with another are of public concern, but because it is of the highest moment that those who administer justice should always act under the sense of public responsibility, and that every citizen should be able to satisfy himself with his own eyes as to the mode in which a public duty is performed." Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Cowley v. Pulsifer, 137 Mass. 392 (Mass. 1884).
Caught on tape! Trial of high court judge includes embarrassing tapes. Pretoria High Court Judge Nkola Motata crashed his Jaguar into the wall around a businessman's home on 01.06.1007. After a delay of a year-and-a-half resulting from legal wrangling over the admissibility of five on-the-scene audiotapes of Judge Motata made by the businessman using his cellphone, the resulting prosecution of the judge for DWI and resisting arrest is now in the pretrial stage, with the magistrate judge complying with a Pretoria High Court ruling requiring him to listen to the tapes before deciding on their admissibility. Judge Motata in his own f***ing words (Times 07.03.2008). Transcript. Audio 1. Audio 2. Earlier. Annals of High Court Judges caught on tape. Comment. We are fast approaching the day when everything will be "caught on tape."
Judge tells shoplifter to imagine himself in prison shower 'with all the boys.' The judge told the 17-year-old boy that if he continued shoplifting he'd likely wind up in "Waikeria" prison; he cautioned the boy to "Just think hard about what it would be like lining up in the shower with all the boys with a bar of soap in your hand." More (NZ Herald 07.03.2008).
Demoted judge sues chief judge over 'banishment.' "Former Broward County Judge Jay S. Spechler says Chief Judge Victor Tobin overstepped his bounds and sullied Spechler's reputation when he banished Spechler from the Central Courthouse last spring. Now, Spechler is suing Tobin...." Detailed story (South Florida Sun-Sentinel 07.03.2008). Earlier. Judge is banned from majors, sent to the minors.
Penurious pensions for new judges? "Judges [in MA] currently can retire at age 65 with a pension that pays them up to 100 percent of their pay. But judges hired beginning next year will get 90 percent of their former salaries and 3-percent annual cost of living increases in retirement...." More (Boston Globe 07.02.2008). Comment. If you believe some bar association shills for increases in judicial pay, judges are so poorly paid that a) they're retiring early in order to take jobs in the private sector and b) it's getting awfully hard to persuade lawyers from silk-stocking law firms to condescend to accept, much less apply for, judicial appointments. Now, with new judges being eligible only for measly 90% pensions and 3-percent annual COLA's, no lawyers other than "ambulance chasers," "bottom-feeders," public interest lawyers, and lawyers of great wealth will consent to serve the public interest as judges. Right? Yah, sure, you betcha. Further reading. Do most lawyers really take a pay cut when they become judges?
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.