BurtLaw's Daily Judge is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, this is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal non-profit pro bono publico First-Amendment protected "web log" or "blog," one with a subjective, idiosyncratic, and eccentric sociological and social-psychological slant that focuses not on the latest judicial decisions of supposed great legal importance but on a) the institution of judge in the United States and in other countthroughout the world, b) the judicial office and role, c) judicial personalities, d) the great common law tradition of judging as practiced here and throughout the world, e) judges as judges, f) judges as ordinary people with the usual mix of virtues and flaws, etc. We link to newspapers and other sources in order to alert you to ideas, articles, stories, speeches, law books, literary works and other things that have interested us and that may interest you. In linking to another site or source, we don't mean either to suggest we necessarily agree with views or ideas expressed there or to attest to the accuracy of facts set forth there. We urge you in every instance to click on the link and read the entire story or other printed source to which we link. We often use the linked piece as a springboard for expressing our opinion, typically clearly labelled "Comment."
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About Burton Hanson. Burton Hanson is a graduate of Harvard Law School, admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Minnesota. He 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.
Some of our current postings. a) The Iraqi Shiite solution to messy democracy -- and the Missouri Plan's alternative. b) Of bald eagles in Edina, calmly but warily eyeing the frolicking dogs below. c) On those nice laws protecting presumptively-ignorant voters from free speech. d) SCOTUS nixes ban on corporate campaign speech -- will the sky fall? [i. Why MN's great Senator, the late Eugene McCarthy, is smiling in his grave. ii. Is the decision, by the Court's conservatives, 'liberal'? What gives? iii. Will the sky fall as a result of the decision? iv. Citizens United and judicial elections.] e) POTUS disses the justices -- some duelling quotes. f) Should SCOTUS justices decline POTUS invites, stay away from State of the Union addresses, etc? g) An oldie-but-goodie: Laski says mandatory retirement of judges is bad. h) OMG! Fed judge hearing Prop. 8 case is homosexual. i) Judge resigns before hearing to remove him from domestic abuse cases. j) SCOTUS' Kennedy criticizes sentencing policy in U.S. k) When judicial conduct boards come under scrutiny. l) Judge Posner takes issue with proposed financial reforms. m) Judge is censured for ordering class action attorney be paid in coupons. n) 'Book him, Danno' -- election judge gets 'fired, maced, arrested' in... o) Why trial by ordeal may have 'worked.' p) Is BurtLaw on the path to sainthood? q) Who decides who should be chief justice? r) Annals of merit-based judicial selection: Guv appoints Senate leader's son. s) Staff attorney accused of selling term papers leaves appeals court. t) Another day at the gleaming new state-of-the-art Bronx courthouse. u) POTUS breaks promise of transparency on appointment of Edu-Judges. v) Commissioners vote to chop down legendary courthouse oak tree. w) Judge's ex-lover is convicted of stalking.
The Iraqi Shiite solution to messy democracy -- and the Missouri Plan's alternative. "An Iraqi panel issued a final ruling Thursday to bar two prominent Sunni politicians from running in next month's elections, a move that is likely to raise tensions between the Shiite-led government and Sunnis who claim they are being politically undermined...Ali al-Lami, head of the Shiite-led political vetting committee that drafted the blacklist, told The Associated Press he had been informed by the court of its decision against Sunni lawmakers Saleh al-Mutlaq and Dhafir al-Ani...." Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Iraqi panel bars 2 Sunni politicians from election (Huffington Post 02.11.2010).Comments. a)The Iranian-leaning Shiite-Muslim-controlled government in Iraq -- which owes its existence to our toppling of Sadam Hussein -- has figured out a neat little way to ensure its hold on power: stack the elections by screening out prominent Sunni Muslim candidates. In other words, the Iraqi Shiite solution (like the Iranian Shiite solution) to the messiness of democracy is to fix the elections by only letting beatable candidates file against their candidates. Trouble is, the neat little solution may well lead to unintended consequences, one in this case being civil war.. See, Former PM Iyad Allawi is saying the poll ban could lead to a civil war (Reuters 02.08.2010). b) What on earth does this "solution" to the messiness of democracy in Iraq have to do with the so-called "Missouri Plan," which Sandra Day O'Connor, Al Quie, Kathleen Blatz (Mrs. Wheelock Whitney), and others are proposing as a "solution" to the imagined messiness of judicial elections in Minnesota? In truth, their neat little plan goes a step beyond the Shiite's neat little plan by not allowing anyone to run against incumbent judges. What do they offer as a substitute? They offer "retention elections." But let's follow Holmes' advice to "think things, not words": these retention elections are no more elections than one-candidate elections in the old Soviet bloc countries were real elections.
Of bald eagles in Edina, calmly but warily eyeing the frolicking dogs below. I've been a fan of our God-blessed city's newest residents, American bald eagles, ever since I saw one a couple springs ago sitting high and motionless for hours on end in one of our creekside oak trees keeping a watchful eye on his nest-sitting mate a ways away. The other morning on a frozen marsh walk with my six-year-old black and white Scottish pal, the elegant, foxy and lithe Jane, I saw a bald eagle fly deliberately and purposefully into a tangle of oak branches and audibly break off a two foot twig, which he then carried with his talons 75 feet away to the largest nest I've ever seen, where he placed the twig down professionally, then joined his mate -- who had sat there in the nest proudly and calmly during the entire nonmilitary operation. The next day, as I was in the same creekside area chatting about the eagles with some other people walking their dogs, one of the eagles alighted on a branch high above us and peacefully monitored us for the duration of our conversation, while her mate patrolled drone-like but unarmed high above the creek. You ever wonder what those eagles think? Well, if you think they invariably support U.S. military adventurism, you're wrong. As reported elsewhere (The Onion 02.01.2010), a report based on interviews with American bald eagles in "the Oregon wilderness," they are neither hawk nor dove, neither Republican nor Democrat, and while they supported U.S. participation in W.W.II and the first Gulf War, they have opposed the current Iraq war and have doubts about the war in Afghanistan. And, to the surprise of some, they expressed irritation that "every time [they] try to explain [themselves] from atop a flag pole or the middle of a baseball field, no one wants to listen. The[ people] just cheer and chant 'U.S.A.! U.S.A! U.S.A.!'" How about our creekside eagles here in the suburban Minneapolis wilderness? What's their slant? Well, I asked them. It turns out, not surprisingly to me, that while neither Rapublican nor Democrat, they are "democrats" with a small "d." That is, they are egalitarians who believe in "true-blue American participatory democracy and in the capacity of voters to separate the small twigs from the big branches and make and sit in their own nests high above this exalted land and, exercising their First Amendment rights, make themselves heard." Want it clearer? Unlike Sandra Day O'Connor and the well-financed elitists who are campaigning to deprive voters of a say in judicial selection in Minnesota and other states, our American eagle neighbors trust the voters. Further reading. Sandra Day O'C is embarrassed by democracy, thinks voters are ignorant; Why SCOMN's new chief should listen to SCOWIS's more experienced chief; Justice urges preemptive strike against weapons of incumbent destruction; On politicians and the 'playing of cards'; Strib urges longer terms for judges, no role for voters in their selection; The Return of the Ancient Mariner -- or is it Minnesota Scariner? See, also, Dan Pero, Chief Justice Magnuson's insulting statements about the capacity of MN voters (American Courthouse).
On those nice laws protecting presumptively-ignorant voters from free speech. "Leon County Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey was called on the carpet by the Florida Supreme Court today for improperly using the word 're-elect' in a 2008 campaign Internet posting and padding her legal resume...." At the time of the campaign, Dempsey was a sitting judge but she had been appointed to fill a vacancy and was running for her first full term. Since she had not previously been elected, she could not convey that she was seeking "re-election." The court also said Dempsey erroneously exaggerated in saying she had 20 years of legal experience when in fact she was admitted to the bar in 1994, 14 years earlier. Detailed story (Tallahassee Democrat 02.04.2010). Comment. Truth-in-campaigning laws -- like the rules restricting judicial campaign speech voided in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002), and the laws banning corporate campaign speech recently voided in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (No. 08-205, discussed below) -- undoubtedly have noble purposes, such as keeping campaigns clean, preventing voter fraud, etc., etc. But at root truth-in-campaigning laws are paternalistic, patronizing, and anti-democratic, revealing a deeply cynical distrust of voters. I have always had a different optimistic, idealistic view -- a perhaps naïve Minnesotan's belief in the ability of ordinary people to distinguish the real from the fraudulent. I take comfort in the fact that this "naïve belief" was shared by Thomas Jefferson, who said, "If you state a moral case to a plowman and a professor [or a prosecutor or judge], the farmer will decide it as well, and often better, because he has not been led astray by any artificial rules." Jeffersonian farmers and other voters can see through campaign rhetoric, lies and distortions without Big Brother serving as Authoritative Voter Guide. All such attempts to rein in and purify democratic elections in the hope of protecting voters from making "mistakes" will and ought to fail. Read on....
SCOTUS nixes ban on corporate campaign speech -- will the sky fall? "Overruling two important precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled[, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205,] that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections...." Details (NYT 01.21.2010). Comments. Some scattered thoughts a) on the regulation of campaign speech to stifle opposition to the two major political parties and protect incumbents, b) on the difference between the principled, libertarian, populist approach to free speech and the regulation/consequentialist model, c) on the hysterical response of the self-styled "good guys" and "reformers" to Citizens United, and d) on the paradoxically well-financed nationally-coordinated effort of certain self-styled "good guys" and "reformers" to use SCOTUS free speech decisions to try persuade certain states, of which Minnesota is an example, to deprive voters (who are assumed to be ignorant) of a say in judicial selection:
a) Why MN's great Senator, the late Eugene McCarthy, is smiling in his grave. As John Samples pointed out in a 2005 essay in Spectator, Clean Gene McCarthy's surprise showing in the New Hampshire primary in 1968, which eventually drove incumbent President Johnson to forego running for re-election, was the result of two main forces. First, McCarthy had the wits to sense that there was "an emerging public sentiment against the war" and he was brave enough and able to articulate the message that would energize those who were against the war. Second, Clean Gene knew that "to enter the race for the presidency, he needed more than a message, more even than the volunteers that flocked to him that spring...[He] needed money." And he got it -- a crucially significant part of it from "affluent individuals." The McCarthy phenomenon "threatened the political status quo," something that required a response. The response? Campaign finance "reform" that "complicated the lives of candidates and their supporters, increased the influence of special interests, and ultimately made lawbreakers out of people seeking to exercise their right to political association. Most of such laws, [McCarthy] said, violated the Constitution while upholding the privileged status of the major parties. His opposition to campaign finance law was, he explained near the end of his life, a 'free speech kind of thing.'" John Samples, A Free Speech Kind of Thing (The Spectator 12.15.2005 - reprinted at Cato.Org). Further reading. Burton Hanson, Clean Gene McCarthy (1916-2005), essay in tribute dated Saturday, 12.10.2005 at my political opinion weblog Sometimes Left, Always Right (scroll down).
b) Is the decision, by the Court's conservatives, 'liberal'? What gives? i) As background, readers of this blog know that it's long been my position that it ain't always clear what's liberal and what's not. See, e.g., my 06.23.2005 posting criticizing SCOTUS' decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which is reprinted at What's liberal, what's not? (The Daily Judge 03.22.2009). ii) Stanley Fish [What Is the First Amendment For? (NYT - Opinionator Blog 02.01.2010)] says the divide between the majority and the dissenters in this case is not so much between being "liberal" or "conservative" on free speech but "between two ways of thinking about the First Amendment and its purposes," with the majority decision representing so-called "principled" interpretation and the dissent representing "consequentialist" interpretation. The majority's "principled" or "libertarian" approach "reaches back" to both Holmes and Brandeis: "Both justices [and their followers] reject state manipulation of the speech market, [Holmes] because he is willing to take what comes...[and Brandeis] because he believes that what will come if speech is unfettered will be good." On the other hand, the consequentialists, i.e., the dissenters (the so-called "liberal bloc"), believing it appropriate to consider the consequences of speech in the political marketplace and the marketplace of ideas, conclude that a ban on corporate spending in election campaigns is okay because of the potential of such spending to corrupt the process.
c) Will the sky fall as a result of the decision? True civil libertarians have praised the decision, which isn't surprising since it reflects the approach that Prof. Fish, a consequentialist, describes as principled or libertarian. On the other hand, those who like to think of themselves as "good guy" liberals and reformers are decrying the decision as "judicial activism" (strange to hear coming from their mouths) and predicting that the sky will literally fall in consequence of it. Jan Witold Baran, writing in the NYT (01.25.2010), suggests that the hysterical predictions that the sky will fall are unjustified. She says that "There is...no factual basis to predict that there will be a 'stampede' of additional spending," noting that in the 26 states that "already permit independent corporate and union campaign spending...[t]here have been no stampedes...." She opines that "The greatest benefit of [the decision] is that it will restrain Congress from flooding us with arcane, burdensome, convoluted campaign laws that discourage political participation."
d) Citizens United and judicial elections. The paradoxically well-financed nationally-coordinated effort of certain self-styled "good guys" and "reformers" -- who used SCOTUS' "judicial free speech decision" [Minnesota v. White] to try scare certain states, of which Minnesota is an example, into depriving voters of their historic role in judicial selection and substitute the Missouri Plan, with its one-candidate Soviet-style retention "elections" -- is already using SCOTUS' decision in Citizens United nixing the ban on associational free speech to once again try stampede states into adopting the Missouri Plan. Query: If Citizens United is as big a threat in judicial elections in Minnesota as the well-financed "Minnesota scariners" say (and I don't think it is a serious threat), why isn't it an even greater threat to incumbent judges in Missouri Plan retention elections ("Just vote 'No!' to incumbent judges")? And if voters are too ignorant to resist silly campaign ads in judicial campaigns (and I don't think our Minnesota voters are ignorant), why doesn't that argument support letting "the experts" select all officeholders, including legislators? Further reading. On those nice laws protecting presumptively-ignorant voters from free speech; Sandra Day O'C is embarrassed by democracy, thinks voters are ignorant; Why SCOMN's new chief should listen to SCOWIS's more experienced chief; Justice urges preemptive strike against weapons of incumbent destruction; On politicians and the 'playing of cards'; Strib urges longer terms for judges, no role for voters in their selection; The Return of the Ancient Mariner -- or is it Minnesota Scariner? See, also, Dan Pero, Chief Justice Magnuson's insulting statements about the capacity of MN voters (American Courthouse). Update. Sandra Day O'Connor stops off in Mpls. on cross-country trip to urge legislators to support Amendment adopting Missouri Plan (MinnPost 02.11.2010).
POTUS disses the justices -- some duelling quotes:
a) "With all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court [in Citizens United] reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that's why I'd urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that corrects some of these problems." -- President Barack Obama, State of Union Address 01.27.2010.
b) "Not true." -- Justice Samuel Alito (sitting in audience, mouthing words, shaking head to signal disagreement).
c) "In the history of the State of the Union has any President ever called out the Supreme Court by name, and egged on the Congress to jeer a Supreme Court decision, while the Justices were seated politely before him surrounded by hundreds Congressmen? To call upon the Congress to countermand (somehow) by statute a constitutional decision, indeed a decision applying the First Amendment? What can this possibly accomplish besides alienating Justice Kennedy who wrote the opinion being attacked. Contrary to what we heard during the last administration, the Court may certainly be the object of presidential criticism without posing any threat to its independence. But this was a truly shocking lack of decorum and disrespect towards the Supreme Court for which an apology is in order. A new tone indeed." -- Statement of Randy E. Barnett, Harvard Law grad (major accomplishment), Professor, Georgetown University Law Center (minor accomplishment) (Politico 01.27.2010).
d) "Although I'm a Republican (of the Eisenhower variety), I started publicly praising Obama in 2006 and voted for him in 2008. But I've been increasingly disappointed in his conduct of the Presidency. He taught constitutional law at U. Chicago Law School, but you wouldn't know it from some of his legislative initiatives and executive directives. And, although I don't think criticism of SCOTUS decisions should be off-limits by the President and his team, I think his immediate response to the campaign free speech decision was way off the mark. His statement last night was not only inaccurate but showed bad taste. It was an indirect version of the direct rabble-rousing public dressing-down of judges one expects from Hugo Chavez of Venezuela after losing a case in its version of SCOTUS." -- Statement of Sir Burton ("BurtLaw") Hanson, Harvard Law grad (major accomplishment), former Deputy Commissioner of Minnesota Supreme Court (minor accomplishment) (The Daily Judge 01.27.2010).
Should SCOTUS justices decline POTUS invites, stay away from State of the Union addresses, etc? I believe Justice Thomas makes it a practice of staying away from the State of the Union Address. And last year I posted a link to a news story reporting that Justice Stevens thinks it constitutes "inappropriate symbolism" for new justices to be sworn in at the White House and for justices to attend ceremonies involving SCOTUS at the White House. See, Justice Stevens: Why he doesn't attend social functions, etc., at White House (The Daily Judge 02.27.2009). I commented:
I agree with "J.P.," as those of us in the know call Justice Stevens. I also agree judges should not attend the President's State of the Union address or a governor's state of the state address (and state chief justices ought not bore us with their "state of the judiciary" addresses). Indeed, I'd go a step further than Stevens and recommend that if a SCOTUS justice sees a member of Congress or the Executive Branch approaching on the sidewalk in, say, Georgetown on a Saturday morning, he ought to scurry across the street to avoid improper contact (saying hello, etc.). Should a Justice accept a hypothetical invitation from #44 to play bucketball on the White House court? No -- it would be unseemly to take an elbow from the President and too close to reality to repeatedly block his shots. Plus, for the same reason judges exclude cameras from the courtroom, they ought never let anyone outside "the court family" see them sweat (it breaks the illusion of omnitpotence). Note to literalists: I jest, but only in part. I do agree with Stevens' practice.
An oldie-but-goodie: Laski says mandatory retirement of judges is bad. Letter from Harold J. Laski to Mr. Justice Holmes, 01.03.1935:
I am having an amusing time with the Lord Chancellor just now trying to prevent him putting an age-retirement for judges into his new Bill. I note with amused pleasure that some of the best work in the law is done after 75; that as a rule the younger English judges have not been the most successful; that the older judges are not a whit less radical than the young. (It isn't so with statesmen).
Comments. a) I'm re-reading one of my favorite books, the two volume Holmes-Laski Letters (1953 Harvard U. Press), edited by Mark DeWolfe Howe, a former Holmes law clerk (they called them "secretaries") who was my teacher in "Developments in Law and Legal Institutions" at Harvard Law School during Fall Term 1964, when I was a 1-L. b) As readers of my blawgs know, I oppose mandatory retirement of judges. I first publicly stated my opposition to mandatory retirement of judges in Minnesota in a detailed campaign position paper I wrote in 2000. If you're interested in why I believe Chief Justice Amdahl's opinion in the mandatory retirement case, State v. Saetre, 398 N.W.2d 538 (Minn. 1986), is one of the worst decisions in the history of the Supreme Court of Minnesota, you can read my reasoning here. At the time I wrote the paper, I was pretty much alone in my opposition to mandatory retirement. But the tide of public opinion against this stereotype-based form of invidious discrimination is changing....
OMG! Fed judge hearing Prop. 8 case is homosexual. "The biggest open secret in the landmark trial over same-sex marriage being heard in San Francisco is that the federal judge who will decide the case, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, is himself gay...." Details (SF Chronicle 02.07.2010). Comment. Most are saying it's a nonissue, just as it would be a nonissue if the judge, who was randomly assigned the case, were heterosexual. The judge, btw, was appointed by Bush I in 1989. He's described as conservative and libertarian. Interestingly, "Many San Francisco gays still hold Walker in contempt for a case he took when he was a private attorney, when he represented the U.S. Olympic Committee in a successful bid to keep San Francisco's Gay Olympics from infringing on its name."
Judge resigns before hearing to remove him from domestic abuse cases. The petition to remove the judge in question, a county court-at-law judge, Reagan Helm, was based on his reportedly having told men accused of domestic abuse that "their accusers had them 'by the balls.'" Details (Houston Press 02.03.2010).
SCOTUS' Kennedy criticizes sentencing policy in U.S. "[Kennedy] criticized California sentencing policies and crowded prisons Wednesday night, calling the influence that unionized prison guards had in passing the three-strikes law 'sick.'" He also criticized, as excessive, the lengths of prison sentences elsewhere in the U.S. Details (LAT 02.04.2010). Comment. We typically urge less-harsh treatment of everyone from Minnesota kids who bring plastic Nintendo guns with them to school to judges who veer slightly off the boring straight-and-narrow path they are expected to follow. See, e.g., my comments on a judge's conduct at Judge charged with reprising Michael Douglas' role in 'Traffic'? I've held these "bleeding heart" views all my life and I've never been ashamed of them, although I've not always been free to express them. Here's a link to a campaign position paper on Crime and Punishment I posted on my campaign website in my 2004 anti-Iraq-war campaign against entrenched incumbent Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad. Related. Freed, Yale Law prof, prominent critic of Sentencing Guidelines, dies at 82.
When judicial conduct boards come under scrutiny. "A special panel on the Luzerne County juvenile-court scandal yesterday accused the state's judicial watchdog of failing to act on complaints about one of the judges at the center of the scandal. 'While the Judicial Conduct Board waited, 2,000 juveniles' rights were violated,' said panel member Kenneth J. Horoho said. 'You had red flags and you did nothing.'" Detailed story (Philadelphia Inquirer 02.03.2010). Comment. If true, we shouldn't be surprised. The officials-in-charge ignored warnings and tips that could have prevented 09.11. The military experts and our courageous chicken-hawk generals in Congress on both sides of the aisle allowed themselves to be suckered into two unnecessary wars. The experts at the Federal Reserve, who should know better, not only ignored evidence of an inflating bubble in the housing market but, by their cheap credit policies, encouraged it. And I could go on...but what's the use?
Judge Posner takes issue with proposed financial reforms. "In Posner's view, Bernanke and Geithner have chosen to put the blame on banks rather than take responsibility themselves and acknowledge the role that unsound monetary policy played...." He also says former Harvard prexy, Larry Summers, now a top Obama adviser, shares in the blame. He's concerned that "many of the people most responsible for the economic breakdown are people in high positions" are the architects of the "reforms." Details (Harvard Law Record 01.14.2010).
Judge is censured for ordering class action attorney be paid in coupons. "A retired Los Angeles County judge[, Brett C. Klein,] who ordered that a lawyer be paid in $10 gift cards from a women's fashion store as part of a legal settlement [in a class-action suit] was censured Tuesday and barred from presiding over court cases...." The judicial conduct board said the judge "show[ed] bias, abus[ed] his authority and 'grandstand[ed] to the press'" in ordering the agreed-upon $125,000 in attorney fees be paid in this way. Detailed story (LAT 02.03.2010). Comment. I'm not one to question the motives of any of the lawyers who prosecute class action law suits to benefit consumers, etc. I'm willing to concede that most, maybe all, of them are indeed chivalrous soldiers in a civil crusade for justice for ordinary folks who've been wronged (and may not even know it). But I'm always irked when the settlement they negotiate on "my" behalf a) entitles me to coupons I'll never use and b) entitles them to cash to pay them for their costs and effort (as well as to fund bigger houses, better cars, and campaigns for political office so they can continue to represent "my" interests in Congress). I guess I'm strange but I prefer cash rebates instead of coupons to use on my next hypothetical purchase from the folks who ripped me off. Some judges in recent days (presumably ones who weren't plaintiffs' lawyers or elected on contributions from plaintiffs' lawyers) have questioned, even rejected, proposed class-action settlements that give the plaintiffs' lawyers a pile of cash and the wronged consumers a pile of coupons. Back in 2001 I said in a posting at my original law blog that I was sure I wasn't the first to suggest the idea but that I proposed that if a certain part of the settlement supposedly benefiting the members of the class consists of coupons, an identical part of the amount set aside for the chivalrous plaintiffs' lawyers' compensation consist of coupons. I, of course, was speaking off the top of my nonexistent hat. I think the judge in this case was free to question the settlement or maybe even reject it but perhaps was unwise in acting as he did. Surely, however, the conduct board was equally unwise in barring the retired judge from presiding over any court cases in the future for what was, at worst, an erroneous decision outside the scope of his discretion. Further reading. For those of you who want to read more on the subject, I refer you to the archives on class action lawsuits maintained by Walter Olson of Overlawyered.Com.
'Book him, Danno' -- election judge gets 'fired, maced, arrested' in... "Tuesday's primary will not be affected by an incident Sunday involving a fired Homer Township election judge, who was sprayed with mace by an auxiliary deputy outside the county office building in downtown Joliet, Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots said. The judge...was then jailed after he allegedly tried to drive away with election materials, authorities said...." Details (Chicago Tribune 02.02.2010).
Why trial by ordeal may have 'worked.' One of the methods of "trial by ordeal" involved requiring the defendant who wouldn't confess to plunge his hand in a boiling cauldron to retrieve a ring. If his hand was found to be not significantly harmed three days later, he was declared exonerated. Peter Leeson argues that the method worked surprisingly well as long as defendants believed that God would allow the innocent to survive the ordeal unharmed. Believers who were guilty tended to confess, settle with their accusers or flee the realm. Believers who were innocent believed they would survive the ordeal unharmed -- and they generally did. But how? Says Leeson: "[C]lerics administrated ordeals and adjudged their outcomes -- and did so under elaborate sets of rules that gave them wide latitude to manipulate the process. Priests knew that only innocent defendants would be willing to plunge their hands in boiling water. So priests could simply rig trials to exonerate defendants who were willing to go through with the ordeal...If rigging failed, a priest could interpret the ordeal's outcome to exculpate the defendant nonetheless...." Detailed story (Boston Globe 01.31.2010).
Is BurtLaw on the path to sainthood? "A new book[, Why He's a Saint,] by Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the man leading the campaign for the late Pope John Paul II's sainthood, claims that the former pontiff whipped himself with a belt, even on vacation, and slept on the floor as acts of penitence and to bring him closer to Christian perfection...." Details (Cleveland Leader 01.27.2010). Comment. a) If I were a self-denying inner-directed Roman Catholic instead of a self-denying inner-directed Norwegian Lutheran, might I be headed for the Catholic version of sainthood? In the portfolio in support of the application, my hypothetical posthumous advocates might cite the fact that since my ex-wife moved to her own house nearly 14 years ago, taking her beds and other furniture belonging to her with her, I've slept in a sleeping bag on a wool carpeted floor in the master bedroom. As I see it, the problem with citing this fact in the application is that this has never seemed a sacrifice or hardship to me. Sleeping on the floor on a mat not only ain't necessarily bad, it's in fact good for my back. I sleep well. It suits my Norwegian appreciation of spareness. And I don't feel deprived. Neither did Mahatma Ghandi, who, like most people in India today, slept on a straw mat. b) In any event, we Norwegian Lutherans aren't so strict about who is a "saint." Naturally democratic and egalitarian to the core (which may be why we believe voters here in MN shouldn't be deprived of their historic populist role in judicial selection), we Norwegian Lutherans believe we're no better than Pope John Paul II but also no worse. If he's a saint, well, we are, too. And thus our creed speaks of our church as involving the "communion of saints." I expanded on this notion of sainthood in my discussion of Lettie Iverson's pies and "Christian charity/love" disguised as "pie commerce" among the saintly church ladies in the 1950's in my hometown in a 12.26.2002 "sermon" of mine titled "Annie Dahlen's rosettes" at BurtLaw's Secular Sermons for Lawyers & Judges (scroll down). See, in particular, my reference to the "Litany of the Saints" poems of the late great MN Senator Eugene McCarthy, a Roman Catholic, about the "saints" in his life. c) On the possibly-related issue of whether a lot of walking on the late Pope's part might strengthen the case for his canonization, see, my personal comments on my extensive daily walking at Fellow walks 25 miles to courthouse for DWI sentencing (The Daily Judge 06.10.2008).
Who decides who should be chief justice? "For more than a century, the five justices of the Utah Supreme Court have decided among themselves who should lead the state's judiciary as chief justice. But [the senate majority leader] says it's time for the state's governor to appoint the chief -- and many people are asking why...." A term as chief lasts for four years. The current chief, Christine Durham, is serving the final months of her second term as chief. Details (Salt Lake Tribune 01.29.2010). Comments. a) The senator apparently proposes to change the practice by legislation. Hmm... The Tribune reports SCOUT Justice Jill Parrish as arguing that the members of the court are more qualified to select their leader, adding that "if things are not going well, we can make a change." Using a "put yourself in our position"-type of argument, she asked whether it would make sense for the governor to selected a senate leader, particularly one without the support of the other senators. She also raised the judicial independence argument, suggesting that giving the selection decisiont to the governor might tempt a justice who covets getting and/or keeping the position to judge with an eye to pleasing the governor. b) It is not always clear from a state's constitution who gets to pick the chief justice. Arguably in some states that have assumed otherwise, the justices of the supreme court could decide amongst themselves who is chief. Another interesting question is the extent to which the associate justices may strip a chief justice of many of his/her duties -- say, to take a far-fetched, unlikely example, a chief justice who on his own installs a Ten Commandments monument in the lobby of the judicial center in the middle of the night.
Annals of merit-based judicial selection: Guv appoints Senate leader's son. "Gov. Martin O'Malley has appointed nine lawyers, one of them the son of state Sen. President Thomas V. Mike Miller, to be trial judges...[The son's] nomination for a District Court judgeship in 2008 led three members of the Anne Arundel County judicial nominating commission to resign in protest. [He] initially was not nominated by the judicial panel but showed up on its list when O'Malley told the commission to recommend more candidates, leading opponents to charge political meddling...." Details (Baltimore Sun 01.29.2010).
These days, it's considered a-okay for a judge to sign her name to an opinion that is ghostwritten by a clerk, or permanent staff attorney, as part of his job -- it's called "judging." On the other hand, when a college student signs his name to a term paper that is written by a moonlighting staff attorney or someone else, it's called "plagiarism." The difference? The "rules" say it's okay for a judge to put her name on a law clerk's work but not okay for a student to put his name on a ghostwritten term paper. Who writes these rules? Judges write the rules for judges. The no-ghostwriting rules for students are written by those who rule academia, professors who avoid "perishing" by "publishing" lots of papers and books written with the "assistance" of graduate research assistants.
Another day at the gleaming new state-of-the-art Bronx courthouse. "The gleaming Bronx County Hall of Justice is a nine-story, two-block long building made of glass and aluminum that points to the future more than the traditional Greek-revival past. It opened in 2008, three years behind schedule, at a cost of more than $400 million...." Details (NYT City Blog 01.27.2010). Earlier. Annals of courthouse cost overruns (The Daily Judge 01.25.2008).
POTUS breaks promise of transparency on appointment of Edu-Judges. "Late last week, word leaked out that the Obama administration has selected the 58 reviewers for state applications to its $4.35 billion Race to the Top (RTT) fund -- and has no intention of revealing their names. It appears that the 'disinterested superstars' that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan promised last September will remain hidden until after the RTT winners are announced in April. This despite the president's commitment to 'unprecedented transparency' and RTT chief Joanne Weiss's pledge that the program would feature an 'unprecedented level of transparency.'" Frederick Hess, Obama's Secret Edu-Judges (NR 01.28.2010).
Commissioners vote to chop down legendary courthouse oak tree. The tree, which has a 26-foot circumference, is said to date from the time of Abe Lincoln, stands outside the courthouse in downtown Ft. Myers. The county has spent $60,000 since 2001 trying to save it. Now the county has decided to chop it down. Artists/craftspeople by the score have asked for pieces from the chopped-down tree, and "there are plans to slice cross-sections for preservation...The county has also collected hundreds of acorns dropped by the tree and is trying to sprout seedlings to pass the tree on." Story (Naples News 01.26.2010).
Judge's ex-lover is convicted of stalking. "Days after D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Janet Albert broke up with her girlfriend, [Taylar Nuevelle,] the judge found her former companion unconscious in her attic, above her bedroom, with some food and an ice bucket fashioned into a makeshift toilet...." After Nuevelle filed an ethics complaint against her, the judge complained to police about the unlawful entry and about being stalked. Criminal charges were filed and the judge testified for the prosecution. Details of case (Washington Post 01.26.2010). Now we learn Nuevelle has been convicted. Details (WJLA 02.02.2010).
Judge is removed over improper relationship to nonprofit probation program. "[SCOARK has] ordered Pulaski County Circuit Judge Willard Proctor removed from the bench...[It] concluded Proctor violated canons of judicial conduct in his relationship with a nonprofit probation program run from his courthouse office...[and broke] the law by requiring probationers to pay 'civil fees' with the threat of jail time...Proctor admitted giving probationers rides to meetings, hosting them at his home, letting one stay at his home and baptizing some at his church...." Details (Fort Smith Times-Record 1.26.2010). Earlier. Did God tell judge to create program? (The Daily Judge 04.28.2009).
Ex-judge pleads guilty to misdemeanor, resigns as mayor in plea deal. "Roosevelt F. Dorn, who earned acclaim and criticism as a juvenile court judge and was an equally polarizing figure in more than a decade as Inglewood mayor, pleaded guilty Monday to a public corruption charge...." Details (LAT 01.26.2010).
Quote of the Day. "People will point at and discuss the name in the future. They will talk about who was faithful, who was deceitful, who was righteous and who was not." -- Sima Guang, The Life of the Advisor to the King. Comment. This was quoted in an interesting op/ed piece titled Judicial reform starts with the judges, by Ho Moon-hyuk, former dean of the Seoul National University School of Law, in Joongang Daily on 01.26.2010. He wrote, in part:
A long time ago, my academic adviser from Germany visited the Seoul Central District Court. The professor shook his head when he saw the courthouse, and I asked him if he disliked the building. He answered that the court represents authority, and it is not good for authority to look so oppressive. Another time, I visited the Seocho-dong Court with an elder professor from the University of Zurich. When he looked at the building, he said it looked like a missile launcher, though the judge who came out to meet us explained it was made in the image of an eagle. I learned a good lesson from the professor when he said with a serious face, "Why does a court think of flying? A court should have its roots deep in the ground and never shake even in the strongest storm."
Judge who opposed Mussolini-mandated courtroom crucifixes is removed. The judge's name is Luigi Tosti. We've posted a number of entries describing his saga. Now The Superior Council of Magistrates has removed his name from the professional rolls, "essentially removing him from office." Details (Washington Post 01.23.2010). Comment. After WWII my Norwegian-Lutheran dad's wedding suit was among clothes my mom sent to Italy to aid the post-war relief effort. Mom put dad's name and address in one of the suitpockets. Dad later got a thank you note from an Italian man who wore the suit in his Roman Catholic wedding. Judge Tosti, who's apparently Jewish, has been bravely waging this battle for religious neutrality in the courtroom for several years. Perhaps he ought to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights. We're disappointed in Italy and won't be traveling there if they don't shape up to our personal, idiosyncratic satisfaction. Nor will we be sending them any of our hand-me-down traditionally-styled natural-shoulder, center-vent three-button suits, which will fit tall (if there are any) Italian men of all religious beliefs or no religious beliefs. That'll teach 'em.
Judge admits he molested boy over 30 years ago. "Standing in front of the building where William C. Bradley Jr. had been a judge until last week, attorneys Thursday handed out a one-page, two-sentence statement from the former jurist admitting he molested an 11-year-old boy more than 30 years ago...The statement was released as part of a settlement by Bradley of two lawsuits...." Detailed story (News-Journal 01.22.2010).
SCOWIS adopts new judicial campaign donation rules. "[SCOWIS] adopted rules Thursday that say campaign donations from people and groups with cases before the court are not, by themselves, enough to force judges off cases...The 4-3 vote again exposed fissures on the court, with one group saying the rules protected the judiciary and the others saying the rules tarnish the image of the court...." Detailed story (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 01.21.2010). Comments. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who is both the best judge on SCOWIS and a strong supporter of judicial elections, "said [in dissent that] the rules needed to account for the timing of donations, the size of donations and the context of recent federal decisions that affect judicial campaigns.
Freed, Yale Law prof, prominent critic of Sentencing Guidelines, dies at 82. "His writings influenced the passage of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, which called for a federal commission to establish sentencing guidelines. But he soon became a critic of how the remedy was used. In practice, Professor Freed said, the guidelines imposed a mechanistic rigidity on sentencing...[and] shifted discretion from judges to others in the system, notably prosecutors, who could control sentencing by choosing which criminal charges to bring...." Details (NYT 01.22.2010). Comment. Minnesota adopted its much-touted state sentencing guidelines before the feds adopted theirs. I was SCOMN's resident specialist on the state sentencing guidelines appeals during the early years following the adoption of the guidelines. As readers of my blogs know, I long ago became disenchanted with MN's guidelines. My assessment? They create the illusion of uniform treatment of similarly-situated defendants and a superficial mathematical precision while giving cover to virtually-uncontrolled prosecutorial discretion.
SCOTUS is disturbed by 'unusual events' behind the scenes at '93 trial. "The Georgia judge in the [1993 murder] case spoke outside court to jurors who had gathered at a local restaurant. And after [the defendant, Wellons,] was convicted and sentenced to die, jurors presented the female judge with a gift of 'chocolate shaped as male genitalia,' as the Supreme Court recounted it. If that were not enough, they gave the bailiff a chocolate gift 'shaped as female breasts.'" Now, thanks to a 5-4 decision by SCOTUS, it looks like the defendant may finally get a hearing to determine what exactly happened and why. Details (LAT 01.20.2010). Comment. The Court should have ordered a hearing rather than directing the lower court to reconsider whether defendant should receive a hearing.
House panel recommends impeachment of Judge Porteous. "A House task force Thursday recommended that U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous be impeached because of a 'long-standing pattern of corrupt conduct.'" Details (NOLA 01.21.2010).
Latest on judge who shut door on death penalty appeal. "[Sharon Keller, the] Texas judge who refused to keep a courthouse open to receive a last-minute death penalty appeal[,] did not engage in serious wrongdoing and should keep her job, according to a [hearing] judge reviewing ethics complaints against her...." The State Commission on Judicial Conduct is not bound by the judge's findings or recommendation. Details (NYT 01.20.2010).
SCOTUS says judge erred in clearing courtroom during jury selection. "The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside the cocaine trafficking conviction of a DeKalb County man because the judge in the case ordered the defendant's uncle to leave the courtroom during jury selection...." It was a 7-2 decision, with only Thomas and Scalia dissenting. Detailed story (AJC 01.20.2010).
Acquitted ex-judge is running for state senate. "Less than three months after he was acquitted of sex abuse charges, former judge Herman Thomas announced Wednesday that he will run for office. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the office he is seeking -- state Senate District 33 -- is being defended by incumbent Vivian Davis Figures, who testified for the prosecution in Thomas' trial and whose son is one of men whom prosecutors said Thomas victimized...." Detailed story (Mobile Press-Register 01.21.2010).
Courthouse Harry Truman made famous gets makeover. "The nine-story [former U.S. C]ourthouse at 811 Grand Blvd. opened in 1939. Over the years, it witnessed the successful prosecution of legendary Kansas City political boss Tom Pendergast, future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall integrating the pool at Swope Park and Truman hanging his hat there after leaving the White House." It's been closed since 1998 when the feds moved their operation to a new courthouse. Finally, it's being redeveloped -- "into 109 one-bedroom apartments and 67 two-bedroom units," with the units "being described as 'work-force housing'" The four courtrooms will be preserved. Detailed story (Kansas City Star 01.18.2010).
Top judge gets life in prison in bribery scandal. You've undoubtedly hear of him...Huang Songyou, former "vice-president" of China's supreme court (SCOCHI). He now stands convicted, in a municipal court of charges involving receipt of "nearly £500,000 in bribes." His sentence? Life in the clinker. Details (UK Guardian 01.19.2010).
Another judge is accused of domestic assault. "Former Perry County [Pennsylvania] president judge C. Joseph Rehkamp had been drinking Saturday night when he pushed his wife down 'and started to choke her, leaving red marks,' court documents say...." Details (Carlisle Sentinel 01.18.2010). Comment. Carlisle, PA, home of the Carlisle Sentinel, is also home of the old Carlisle Indian Industrial School, which Jim Thorpe, All American, made famous.
Are Irish judges bearing fair share of pain during budgetary crisis? If you've been listening to BBC News, you know that the economy of Ireland -- like that of other European countries, including Portugal, Spain, and Greece -- is in terrible shape, much worse than ours. Last year the Government in Ireland exempted judges from a proposed public service pension levy of around 15%. A public protest led to talks between the chief justice and the revenue chair that resulted in judges agreeing to make voluntary payments toward the levy. Sadly, nine months after the agreement, it appears "[m]ore than 20 per cent of the...judges have yet to make a contribution towards the pension levy...." Now there is talk of a referendum on reducing judges' pay. Details (Irish Times 01.19.2010).
Bulletproof courthouse windows keep bullets out -- and fleeing defendants in. A fellow tried to escape from police in a Chicago area courthouse by jumping through a bulletproof glass window. "The bulletproof glass did not give way and [the fellow,] clearly staggering after hitting his head and shoulder, took two steps back and laid down on the floor with his hands spread over his head, and waited to be arrested...." Details (Chicago Daily Herald 01.15.2010). Comment. Want bulletproof robes? Try our line of BurtLaw-design bulletproof robes, including, for female judges and cross-dressing male judges, the special-edition BurtLaw Ultra 6-B (a/k/a, our BurtLaw Basic-Black Bullet-Proof Bullet-Bra Robe), a slightly daring judicial-conduct-board-taunting black robe/gown with the "'It' Girl" (a/k/a Marilyn Monroe-like) tight-cashmere-sweater look featuring a built in "bullet bra," the conical/cone-shaped bra-with-inserts (these inserts were known in my All-American midwestern hometown in the 1950s as "falsies" or "the great equalizers") that's enjoying a distinctly-pointed lift in sales thanks in part to the popular TV series, Mad Men, with two differences -- a) the Ultra 6-B 9 will easily double as a "basic black" evening gown, and b) the built-in bra is not only a bullet bra, it's bullet-proof! For details, see, The Erin Andrews episode and its relevance to judges, at home, in chambers, and on the road -- Should judges wear their robes even while showering?
She 'rose from' legal secretary to federal judge. "U.S. District Court Judge Florence Marie Cooper[, 69,]...who rose from a legal secretary to judgeships in state and federal courts, died at a Santa Monica hospital where she was being treated [for lymphoma], Chief Judge Audrey B. Collins announced...." Details (LAT 01.15.2010). Comments. a) Sad news. b) It's interesting that news stories like this always assume that one "rises" from a position such as secretary to a position such as judge, the underlying assumption being that a secretarial position is a lesser position. Further reading. In our several blogs we've made a number of postings over the years on legal secretaries who became judges, judicial secretaries who were de facto judges behind the scenes, secretaries who knew more about the law than the judges they worked for, secretaries who knew more about the judges they worked for than the judges knew about themselves or about them, secretaries who "knew" their judges in the "Biblical sense," etc., etc. Here are the results of relevant Google searches pointing one toward some of these masterful postings: a) postings at BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else;
Quotes of the day -- herein of cameras in the courtroom.
a) "Has anyone noticed that now that lesbians and gay men have left the closet to assert their equal rights as citizens, their adversaries seem to be running for a closet of their own?" -- Linda Greenhouse, Into the Closet (NYT - The Opinionator 01.14.2010). Greenhouse writes that her observation "is, of course, prompted by the success that opponents of same-sex marriage had this week in persuading the Supreme Court to bar cameras from the San Francisco courtroom where Proposition 8 is now on trial."
c) "If they want to say that unelected federal judges cannot subvert the will of John Q. Voter, then they cannot also insist that John Q. Voter be banned from witnessing federal judges at work." -- Dahlia Lithwick, Public Enemies
d) "It seems to us that surveillance cameras, in the name of security, are everywhere in courthouses except where they are most needed. Surveillance cameras are hidden all over our courthouses these days. But 'surveillance' cameras are most needed in the courtrooms, cameras that specifically are needed so that the press, and the people, who own the courthouse, may 'suveil' those who are ultimately accountable to the people in the people's pursuit of fair, even-handed, open justice." -- Sir Burton Hanson (a/k/a "BurtLaw"), SCOMN's timidity about letting the sun shine in on courts (The Daily Judge 02.22.2009).
Another case of an attorney forging judges' signatures. The attorney in question, whose name is so common I've decided not to use it, pleaded guilty to forging judges' signatures to phony court documents in order to obtain limited driver's licenses for some clients whose licenses had been revoked. When caught, he admitted guilt and checked into a treatment program to treat his addiction to pain pills. He pleaded guilty without a plea bargain. The sentence? Sixty days in jail and 10 months of house arrest, five years of probation, 100 hours of community service. And he's lost his license to practice law. Details (Smoky Mountain News - Western NC Week of 01.13.10).
Ex-judge, acquitted of bribery 16 years ago, is sentenced to prison for fraud. Ex-Miami-Dade Judge Phillip Davis has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for stealing government grant money intended to help poor people. Details (Miami Herald 01.09.2010). Back in 1991 Davis was "caught on tape" in an FBI sting operation discussing a $20,000 payoff from a lawyer. At his 1993 trial he "admitted snorting cocaine in his chambers and tearfully blamed the bribes on his addiction with the Hollywood line: 'I could have been somebody!'" The jury surprised everyone by acquitting him. Not this time....
Judge resigns in face of alleged Facebook relationship with defendant. "The e-mails began with the judge contacting [the woman] on Facebook, saying he noticed she worked for a hair salon and was thinking of finding someone new to give him a haircut. She responded that she did not cut hair, but offered to make him an appointment with a colleague, and then gave him her work and cell phone numbers. In subsequent e-mails they discussed her [theft] case and [a drug case] of her friend, and eventually agreed to meet. After their first meeting, the woman asked the judge later in the day to loan her money to pay rent...." The Georgia judge in question, a 17-year veteran of the bench, was "Mountain Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Ernest H. ['Bucky'] Woods III." The judge has resigned, effective 01.15. Thus ends "inquiries" being made by the GA JQC. Detailed story (Fulton County Daily Report via Law.Com 01.07.2010). Comment. We wish the judge well as he reenters private practice. Further reading on judicial romance. Links to many of our earlier postings on judicial romance, judicial internet dating, etc., may be found at: Annals of stat-measured, performance-based legal secretarial selection plans (The Daily Judge 10.21.2009).
Annals of inappropriate judicial blatherings -- Minnesota style. "A Hennepin County judge[, Jay Quam,] compared Denny Hecker's decision-making to that of Tiger Woods and found the former auto dealer in contempt Thursday, sentencing him to 90 days in jail unless he coughs up just over $125,000 to replace money he spent without permission in September during his bitter divorce...." Details (Star-Tribune 01.07.2010). Comment. Here's what Quam said: "In doing the wrong thing in the wrong way and getting caught doing it, Mr. Hecker's actions were much more similar to those of Mr. Woods. First, both took deliberate actions. Secondly, both Mr. Woods and Mr. Hecker knew, or certainly should have known, the actions they were taking were wrong." Id. I think Judge Quam "did the wrong thing in the wrong way" in comparing, in Entertainment Tonight-style, Mr. Hecker's conduct with the reported conduct of a sports celebrity. A judge in court is a judge, not a blogger.
The course of true justice never did run smooth in (outstate) NY.
Ay me! for aught that I could ever read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth....
-- Lysander to Hermia, Wm. Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream Act I, Scene I.
N.Y. changes rules to encourage retired lawyers to volunteer their services. New York has "add[ed] a new category of lawyer, attorney emeritus, that will free lawyers of some burdens of full-time practice, like paying for malpractice insurance, while channeling them to dozens of legal programs around the state that represent low-income people without charge. Until now, lawyers were required to register with the state as either active or retired...." William Glaberson, Courts Seek More Lawyers to Help the Poor (NYT 01.07.2009). Comment. Back in 2008 I wrote a mini-essay proposing use of retired judges and lawyers as volunteers to help troubled courts in the current economic crisis. See, my commentary at Retiree's been doing pro bono courthouse duty for 21 years (The Daily Judge 12.06.2008). The mini-essay includes a number of ideas on how what I call Thoreauvean (or Thoreauvian, if you prefer) Economics can be used to rethink court expenditures. See, also, my more-recent posting, Retired judges as superheroes, saving the day during budget crisis -- a morality play (The Daily Judge 09.08.2009). One way not to respond to the budget crisis is the way our state supreme court in Minnesota did recently. See, When a supreme court acts in a lawless manner -- the Minnesota example (The Daily Judge 12.31.2009). Want more outside-the-box commentary on judicial economics? See, Herein of SCOMN budget woes, 'p.r.' specialists, and Thoreauvian economics (The Daily Judge 08.08.2008); One-judge courthouse to go the way of one-room schoolhouse? (The Daily Judge 05.20.2006); BurtLaw's Modest Proposal (The Daily Judge 10.07.2005). For some of my other musings on judicial economics, see, BurtLaw's Law and Judicial Economics. Consider, also, many of my other "daily postings" on the subject of judicial budgeting, indexed here. And, getting down to basics, I refer you to Henry David Thoreau, Walden (especially the chapters on "Economy") (1854).
Judge as domestic assault victim. "In the fall, Philadelphia police found a Common Pleas Court judge bleeding and bruised at her Old City townhouse. Leslie Fleisher -- then mired in controversy over her courtroom management -- told police that her boyfriend had choked her and pushed her against a wall in the home with enough force to cut her scalp...As she fled her home...her boyfriend...a detective...chased her, Fleisher told police. Outside, he pushed her against a brick wall and kicked her after she fell to the ground, according to an affidavit of probable cause...." Her boyfriend's attorney says he's confident his client will be acquitted. Sam Wood, Affidavit details alleged beating of judge by boyfriend (Philadelphia Inquirer 01.07.2010).
Judge is acquitted of obstruction-of-justice charge. Back in December 2008, shortly after being selected for the LaPorte County bench, Jennifer Evans Koethe and her husband got into an argument during an evening of drinking and watching football on TV. According to Koethe, the argument related to family finances. Koethe says she wrote a note to her husband about the matter, because he wasn't paying attention, and got out a loaded handgun in order to get his attention. Police got involved when they received a 911 call from the husband saying she'd accidentally shot herself. At the hospital, where it was determined she wasn't seriously injured, she asked an officer to get rid of the note she'd written. That request led to the filing, by a special prosecutor, of a felony obstruction charge. Now a jury has found her not guilty, apparently crediting her testimony that the shooting was accidental and she wasn't trying to impede the investigation in making the request to the officer, only to prevent the public from learning about their financial difficulties. Details (South Bend Tribune 01.06.2010). Update. Judge still faces judicial misconduct charges (Herald-Argus 01.07.2010).
Board severely censures judge over mishandling of divorce case. "California's judicial disciplinarians pounded a Sacramento jurist just about as hard as they could Tuesday, slapping him with an order of public censure over his 'manifestly unjudicial' handling of a 2006 divorce case...." The judge ended the divorce trial before all the evidence was in, improperly threatened an attorney for one of the litigants with contempt, demeaned the attorney, and otherwise improperly insinuated himself into the litigation. The board also wasn't pleased with the judge's "self-serving" statements to the board, his "inaccurate" testimony and what it termed his "arrogant indifference toward the proceedings.' Details (Sacramento Bee 01.06.2010). Comment. Other than that, was everything about his handling of the case okay?
Nino: Judicial experience shouldn't be prereq for appointment to SCOTUS. "U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Monday he's concerned there aren't more people with varying professional backgrounds being nominated to the nation's highest court...." He made the remarks "to about 600 people at the First Baptist Church of Jackson during a luncheon sponsored by the Mississippi College School of Law." Details (Jackson Clarion-Ledger 01.04.2010). Comment. Several years ago I made the same point in an of-course-now-classic mini-essay titled 'A 'farraginous' Supreme Court.' See, also, my classic mini-essay titled 'Pied beauty, pied lawns, pied dogs, pied politics' (scroll down to Sunday, 05.08.2005 entry) at my political opinion weblog, BurtonHanson.Com. Ah, it's nice to be right so often, even when I'm left.
He used a what?! Donald A. Williams, a prosecutor, was ceremonially sworn in as Ulster County Judge on 01.02, although he officially became judge on 01.01. In what is reported as a "lighter moment," he used a dictionary instead of a Holy Bible because a Holy Bible wasn't readily available. More (Daily Freeman 01.03.2010). Comment. Don't be surprised if some people make hay of the fact he used a dictionary. I won't do that. See, May a witness in court swear on any old book? (The Daily Judge 07.06.2005). But I do note what is a far more serious matter -- the fact that the number of prosecutors appointed judge, whether by governors or the people, vastly exceeds the number of defense attorneys appointed. Then again, one of the fairest judges I worked for was a former county attorney. See, my tribute to the judge in question at Obituary: MN Supreme Court Justice George M. Scott (1922 - 2006) (The Daily Judge 05.26.2006).
China will try top judge for accepting bribe of four million yuan (£365,000). The now-ex-judge's name is Huang Songyou. I assume you've heard of him. He was "deputy head of the Supreme People's Court (SPC)." A "leading figure in the reform of the Chinese justice syste," he's alleged to have taken the bribe "in order to arrange a favourable ruling in a property development case." More (UK Telegraph 01.04.2010). Comment. I sure am glad we don't have any judicial corruption in the U.S.A. Seriously, I worked as a trusted aide in the Minnesota judicial system for nearly 30 years, 28+ of them at the supreme court, and never witnessed or even heard rumors of any acts of judicial corruption.
Security check delays leave courthouse patrons standing in line in the cold. "The turnstiles of justice crept along this morning, leaving patrons to face long lines in bitter cold to enter the Hillsborough County Courthouse...More than 3,500 people went through the three screening stations in the first two hours today...." More (Tampa Bay Tribune 01.04.2010). Comments. a) Everything is relative. While the "low 30's" may constitute "bitter cold" in FLA, it was 70 degrees colder in parts of MN the other morning. b) The sheriff's office closed one entrance to the public last week but, if you're a judge, lawyer, a court employee, or a member of the media, not to worry -- you're entitled to get in pronto through a separate entrance. Do you wanna know how to prevent delays like this? Don't give special treatment to judges, lawyers, etc. The courthouse belongs to "the people," and if judges and lawyers are required to pass through the same weapons screenings you can bet that there won't be long delays, with people being required to stand in the cold. Consider the following:
Should lawyers get 'free pass' at courthouse security screening? "Attorneys will be able to bypass security screening at the Lackawanna County Courthouse under a new policy in place at the facility...." Details (Scranton Times 10.12.2009). Comments. a) The lawyers must be in good standing with the local bar and pass a background check. They won't get keys to open doors but will be able to walk past the checkpoint without standing in line with the hoi polloi. Their clients and staff will not get to tag along as the lawyers sail on by. b) We've dealt with this issue before. See, Should lawyers be allowed to skip courthouse security screening? and Lawyers will be screened at courthouse. We generally oppose "judicial privilege" in matters like access to flu shot, exemption from rules against smoking in the courthouse, etc. See, Judicial privilege, Judges ask to smoke despite smoking ban (and comment), and Should judges, other political officeholders get HiNi flu vaccine priority? There are multiple factors involved in deciding whether to allow certain people -- say, all pre-screened courthouse workers, judges, lawyers, etc. -- to bypass screening. If I were a judge, I would feel more secure -- and more comfortable as an egalitarian -- if everyone were screened, but that's just me. One the subject of whether only judges should be exempt, see, Who gets to use courthouse side doors, who gets fined? and Editorial: courthouse screening should be required of everyone (Decatur Daily 08.17.2006). c) On the apparent irrelevance of traditional cost-benefit analysis in the context of courthouse (and most other kinds of) security post-09.11, see, my posting titled Clarke County, AL courthouse is insured against attack by foreigners and The Onion (10.03.2001) (Security Beefed Up at Cedar Rapids Public Library, reporting on Cedar Rapids, Iowa Library Director Glenda Quarles' expression of concerns about foreign terrorists attacking their library: "As caretakers of the most prominent public building in the second largest city in Iowa, this library can no longer afford to take chances"). d) For some of my eccentric views on courthouse security, see, i) How about a courthouse surrounded by & filled with flowers? ii) Prayer Day at the county courthouse. iii) Building courthouses with security in mind. iv) BurtLaw and Montaigne on Court Security. v) Should judges be exempt from airport frisking? vi) Woman 'forced' to remove bra to gain entry to courthouse?
Judge is nabbed abusing his parking permit perk. "[Manhattan Supreme Court Justice A. Kirke Bartley] has admitted acting like he's above the law when it comes to parking in his Upper East Side neighborhood -- dodging tickets with the help of NYPD traffic agents who turn a blind eye to His Honor's brazen violations...[The judge] told The Post he was 'wrong' to routinely park his black Ford Expedition at un-fed meters -- which he got away with thanks to a police placard, which is available only to a privileged few. Even though the placard declares, 'This vehicle is on official police business,' Bartley displays it in his windshield when his car is at home...." Details (N.Y. Post 01.04.2010). Further reading. For those "judicial parking fetishists" who are totally obsessed with the topic of judges and their parking and/or parking lot problems, back in 2006 we provided convenient links to some of our many relevant earlier entries. These links are parked in the body of our posting titled Sessions judges ask parking spaces for secretaries.
The 'Zuma Solution' to marital infidelity by judges and other politicians? "Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, married his third wife today in a traditional Zulu ceremony -- but not without a hitch. Zuma, 67, reportedly slipped and fell during a traditional solo dance at the wedding at his homestead in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal province...." Details (including a picture of the hefty Zuma "dancing" with a hefty woman) (UK Guardian 01.04.2010). Comments. a) South Africa doesn't have just one "First Lady" but three! And it may soon have four, because The Guardian says he has his eye on a fourth wife. There've been five wives so far, but one ended in d-i-v-o-r-c-e and another of his wives "killed herself in 2000, after describing her marriage to him as '24 years of hell.'" b) Do you object to this? "Zuma once told an interviewer: 'There are plenty of politicians who have mistresses and children that they hide so as to pretend they're monogamous. I prefer to be open. I love my wives and I'm proud of my children.'" Id. Might he be on to something? Might the "Zuma Model" be the solution to the disturbing and widespread problem of marital infidelity by judges and other politicians -- and everyone else?
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.
Our Motto - "Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat" (Horace). Loose translation: Does anything prevent telling the truth with a smile?
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