BurtLaw's Daily Judge is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, this is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal "web log" or "blog," one with a subjective, idiosyncratic, and eccentric sociological and social-psychological slant that focuses not on the latest judicial decisions of supposed great importance but on a) the institution of judge in the United States and in other countries throughout the world, b) the judicial office and role, c) judicial personalities, d) the great common law tradition of judging as practiced here and throughout the world, e) judges as judges, f) judges as ordinary people with the usual mix of virtues and flaws, etc. We link to newspapers and other sources in order to alert you to ideas, articles, stories, speeches, law books, literary works and other things that have interested us and that may interest you. In linking to another site or source, we don't mean either to suggest we necessarily agree with views or ideas expressed there or to attest to the accuracy of facts set forth there.
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About Burton Hanson. Burton Hanson is a graduate of Harvard Law School, admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Minnesota. He worked one year as Hennepin County District Court Special Term (Civil) Law Clerk, two years as law clerk for the late Justice C. Donald Peterson of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and over 26 years as Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Supreme Court. He was a nonpartisan candidate for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election in November 2000 and a liberal anti-war candidate for Congress in the Republican primary in the Minnesota Third District in September 2004. He was one of the first law bloggers (blawgers). He began planning his first blog, BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else in 1999 but delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. His campaign website, the no-longer extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first such use of a weblog or blog. In 2004 he also used the personal blog format in his primary campaign for Congress. That site, BurtonHanson.Com, has morphed into a personal political opinion blog and also contains the archives of his 2004 campaign web pages and blog postings.
The ritualistic cant of Senators & Supreme-wannabes. David Brooks of the NYT has a terrific piece -- Ready? Cue the sun... -- in today's (09.15.2005) paper that perfectly captures the ritualistic blather & cant of the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearings on the Roberts nomination:
Arlen Specter Welcome to Day 3 of the confirmation hearings of John Roberts. I'd like to take this opportunity to remind the nation of what a wonderful job I'm doing chairing this committee, and I'd like to let the ranking member tell me so.
Patrick Leahy Absolutely, Mr. Chairman! And let me kick off this morning's platitudes about the grandeur of our Constitution by quoting its first three words, "We the People." That means that here in America the people rule - except on issues like abortion, where their opinions don't mean spit.
Specter Very well put, Senator Leahy! And welcome Judge Roberts back before our committee.
John Roberts Jr. Aw, shucks. This has been a humbling experience, Mr. Chairman. To think that a boy from an exclusive prep school and Harvard Law could grow up and be nominated for the Supreme Court - it shows how in America it's possible to rise from privilege to power! That's the hallmark of our great nation....
Emerson's view of all the judicial and political cant. "A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates when he becomes a conformist....What folly...to say 'Let us examine,' & purse the mouth with the wrinkles of a judge....[T]his air of judgeship is mere affectation. Even so it is with...most politicians." (Journal, 03.22.1839). More at BurtLaw's Ralph Waldo's Laws.
Supreme court judge arrested on corruption charges. "A Serbian supreme court judge [Ljubodrag Vuckovic] has been arrested on suspicion that he received a bribe [$614,000] to overturn prison sentences for two crime gang members, officials said Thursday...." More (The China Post 09.15.2005).
Of courtyard apartments & 'courtyards.' "Built mostly in the 1920s and '30s, the Los Angeles courts, whose most direct historical precedents are the California Missions and the courtyard apartments of Seville, Cordoba and other Spanish cities, come in a remarkable variety of architectural styles. What they have in common is a remarkable combination of symbolizing Southern California living while at the same time suggesting a remove from its urban bustle...." Christopher Hawthorne, Courts with a new spark (L.A. Times 09.15.2005). This charming history of Melrose Place-style courtyard apartment developments in Southern California resonated with me, partly because I've been thinking lately of those evocative courtyards one encounters walking through the French Quarter in New Orleans. My mom & dad turned my 14-year-old brother & 10-year-old "mini-me" loose in New Orleans for a few days in late March in the early 1950s when they went about their business at an Independent Bankers of America Convention (would parents do that now?). Ever since seeing all those courtyards, I've wondered why so few architects and developers make use of courtyards in their plans. This morning I'm wondering: why do so few courts have "courtyards"? Maybe some architect commissioned to design an appellate court building ought to use the courtyard apartments approach, with the individual chambers ("residences" of judge, secretary, law clerk) grouped around an open-air courtyard. Perhaps the designer(s) of Hennepin County Government Center's twin court towers (with skylit courtyard center between the two skywalk-connected buildings) had this in mind, as perhaps did the designer(s) of the fortress-style Minnesota Judicial Center in St. Paul (a semi-circle or "catcher's glove" open to the capitol, with exterior "courtyard" between the two). Neither building works very well, in my opinion, for multiple reasons I may articulate some other time....
Venango County, PA court system celebrates 200th birthday. Although the court was formally organized in 1805, cases arose in the county territory & were decided, in Allegheny County, before Venango County was formed & had its own court: "[In 1797,] the court deliberated a case in which boatman Marcus Hulings of Franklin contracted with Isaac Craig to ship provisions to troops at Fort LeBoeuf via the Allegheny River. Craig got as far as Franklin and found the water in French Creek was too low to continue the journey. Craig balked at finding an alternative, but the 1797 court ruled he was obliged to load up horses and move the cargo by hoof from Franklin to LeBoeuf...." Venango courts have seen their share of colorful characters, cases in 200 years (The Oil City Derrick 09.14.2005).
Jews & Muslims both want religious courts in Ontario. "Jews and Muslims in Canada's largest province pledged Wednesday to fight for faith-based tribunals to settle family disputes after Ontario's premier stunned their communities by announcing he would ban all religious arbitration in the province." More (Jerusalem Post 09.15.2005). "Rabbinical courts in Toronto heard only two cases of family law last year, according to a researcher who says proponents of faith-based arbitration are overstating the prevalence of the method of settling civil disputes...Of the approximately 100 cases referred to rabbinical courts in a year, about 30 are addressed in a formal sitting of the court. Most involve business disputes..." More (Globe & Mail 09.14.2005). Earlier: Fate of religious courts in Ontario in doubt.
Judge Barry Hollis won't run, but Barry Hollis will run. "LaFayette City [Georgia] Judge Barry Hollis will not seek re-election, instead passing the gavel to his son, Barry C. Hollis, who qualified Wednesday to run for his father’s position...Hollis will run unopposed...." More (Walker County Messenger 09.14.2005).
Judge, law clerk killed in car crash. "Edgefield County [S.C.] Coroner Thurmond Burnett said Judge Marc Westbrook, 58, died [Wednesday afternoon] at the scene of a car accident at U.S. Highways 378 and 25 in Edgefield County. Westbrook was riding in a car driven by his law clerk, James Randall 'Randy' Davis Jr. Davis died several hours after the crash at Medical College of Georgia, State Public Safety Department spokesman Sid Gaulden said...." More (The State 09.15.2005).
Catholic deacon takes leave to continue being judge. "Westchester County [N.Y.] Judge Charles Devlin is taking a leave of absence as deacon of a Roman Catholic church in Chappaqua to comply with Cardinal Edward Egan's ban on deacons holding public office. Devlin, 57, has been a permanent deacon at the Church of St. John and St. Mary since 2000. Gov. George Pataki appointed him to the county judgeship in the spring and he is now running for a 10-year term...." More (Journal-News 09.13.2005).
Slate's regularly-updated 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.
Letting the sun shine in courthouses. "Even when two companies fighting in court agree to keep all their written arguments and documents secret, judges should keep most documents in the public domain, a federal judge has ruled...'Public access to trials, pretrial hearings and pretrial motions practice is a long-standing tradition in the American judicial system, protected by the common law and implicating the First Amendment,' wrote Judge Steven McAuliffe, of the U.S. District Court in Concord [in Mangosoft Inc. v. Oracle Corp.]..." More (Boston Globe 09.14.2005).
College football game ducats = censure. "The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission is recommending that the [Michigan] Supreme Court censure [Michael Haley, a Traverse City] judge who accepted [University of Michigan] football tickets from a lawyer during a court hearing...." The judge says he passed the tickets on to a court employee. His attorney says the commission "retrofitted" the facts to fit its decision to censure him. More (Detroit Free Press 09.14.2005).
Justice of peace rules judge's death a suicide. "A state district judge who died while facing a federal investigation committed suicide, a [justice of the peace] ruled today. Edward Aparicio was found dead in his home [of a gunshot wound] in April, a half-finished glass of wine, half-lit cigar, and newspaper clipping of his last election victory by his side...'An honorable man who has lost his honor does not deserve to live,' [his wife] quoted him as saying." More (Houston Chronicle 09.14.2005). Comment. In recent months I've been astounded at all the federal investigations & prosecutions of state & local judges & other elected officials around the country, including here in Minnesota, that I've read about while maintaining this site. Am I the only one troubled by the federal government's literally having taken over a function that traditionally has been left to each of the states, i.e., policing its own political system? It seems in many of these cases that the federal court's justification for taking jurisdiction -- e.g., that the state court system accepts federal dollars -- is flimsy at best. In so many ways, the Republican Administration seems to have abandoned its traditional commitment to the classic principles of federalism, one of which is that crime control is traditionally a matter left to the states. I think we as individuals, who need ever to be vigilant in protecting our rights, ought to be more than a little concerned about the increasing federalization of the criminal law and the increasing federal-regulation-through-prosecution of local government & politics.
Ex-judge on trial in federal court for traveling to Russia to have sex. "After a week of jury selection, opening statements in the [child pornography & sex tourism] trial of former state Superior Court Judge Stephen W. Thompson are expected to begin in federal court in Camden this morning. Thompson's attorneys plan to argue an insanity defense, saying Thompson suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from his Vietnam War injuries...In addition to possessing...child pornography -- including images on a laptop computer he kept in his courtroom -- Thompson has been charged with traveling to Russia to have sex with a boy. A video Thompson made of the hotel encounter could be played in court this week..." More (Philadelphia Inquirer 09.14.2005). Comment. Federal statutes governing trafficking and sex tourism include 18 U.S.C. §§ 1591, 2421, 2422, and 2423. No one wants to criticize the federal government for trying to curb so-called sex tourism, but the statutes in question stretch the concept of territorial jurisdiction over criminal conduct far beyond traditional limits; moreover, the statutes are awfully broad & theoretically could be used to prosecute, say, your 18-year-old son for having consensual sex with a 17-year-old woman he meets while traveling abroad in, say, Sweden. If Roe v. Wade is ever overruled and replaced by a federal statute criminalizing abortion, there are those who undoubtedly will try to make it a federal crime for a woman to travel to, say, Canada to have an abortion. You heard it here first. Indeed, an effort has been underway in Congress for several years (thus far successful only in the House) to criminalize, under certain circumstances, the transportation (or aiding and abetting the transportation) of a minor girl across state lines for purposes of obtaining an abortion.
Judge Roberts, do you think you have the right to marry your mother-in-law? "The British ban on marriage between parents-in-law and children-in-law is a breach of human rights, a European court ruled on Tuesday. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg delivered the verdict on a case brought by a father-in-law and daughter-in-law...." More (BBC News 09.14.2005). Comment. Another foreign precedent for Justice Kennedy to rely on? Just joking. :-)
Irish judge says men from Baltics can't hold their drink. "[Men] from the Baltic Republics [Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians] just [can't] hold their drink, Judge John Brophy remarked once again at Dunshaughlin Court last week when fining a number of defendants for being drunk...." More (The Meath Chronicle 09.14.2005). Comment. Is this now a proper subject of judicial notice? Interestingly, Minnesota's Bishop John Ireland was a strong advocate of temperance for his Irish immigrant flock in Minnesota because of strong anecdotal evidence (found in any local newspaper's reports out of the Irish settlements) that Irish men couldn't hold their drink. See, also, James P. Shannon, Catholic Colonization on the Western Frontier (Yale Press 1957).
President appoints five new Supreme Court Justices. The President, on a roll, appointed five more people to the Court. When told there was only one more appointment to be made at this time, he said, "But I'm the President. I'm from Texas." Actually, here's the real story: "President Pervez Musharraf on Monday appointed three permanent and two ad hoc judges of the Supreme Court (SC). The permanent appointments included Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Justice Raja Fayyaz Ahmed, Lahore High Court Justices Chaudhry Ijaz Ahmed and Syed Jamshed Ali. SC Justice Hamid Ali Mirza and Justice (r) Karamat Nazir Bhandari were appointed ad hoc Supreme Court judges for a year...." More (The Daily Times 09.13.2005).
Annals of judicial sentencing alternatives -- 'accelerated rehabilitation.' "Superior Court judge is mulling over a request for special probation for a [suspended] University of Connecticut basketball player accused in a theft case. Marcus Williams has applied for accelerated rehabilitation on charges stemming from the theft of laptop computers from student dorm rooms...." (Emphasis supplied.) More (WTNH TV 09.13.2005). Comment. I'm one of the relics from what law-&-order types think of as the Age of Naivety: I still believe that quaint old notion, rehabilitation, ought always to be the goal & the possibility, no matter how awful the offense or terrible the offender. Thus, I am unalterably opposed to the death penalty & all mandatorily-long & all "no possibility of parole" sentences. But I'm not sure about this notion of "accelerated rehabilitation." I guess I need to know more about it before I form an opinion. In general, I think there may be a natural course to rehabilitation, with the length of time required depending on a lot of factors. In this day of accelerated everything, including acceleration of relationships (I knew one woman 15 years before it dawned on me she was special) & acceleration of everything else, with people thinking there ought to be a pill to initiate sexual feeling & another one to "cure" grief, I won't be surprised if one day there are "accelerated rehabilitation pills."
The Case of the Text-messaging Jurors - a Nancy Drew Mystery. "Two jurors who admitted text-messaging each other will be allowed to continue serving in the civil trial in which a family is suing Chicago police over an 8-year-old boy's arrest for murder, [Judge Randye Kogan,] a civil court judge ruled Monday... Kogan's latest ruling came after an anonymous letter last week singled them out for allegedly using their cellular phones to text-message each other. Last week she decided to keep the two on the jury while Cook County sheriff's investigators scoured their cell phones to ensure they did not discuss the case...." More (Chicago Tribune 09.13.2005). Comment. OMG, what if they actually had mentioned the case, something jurors standing in the hall during a recess surely have never done in the history of Anglo-American law!
The judge has a 'Napoleon Complex.' "In theory, a judge in Louisiana decides a case based on her own interpretation of the [Napoleonic C]ode, not those of prior courts. In the other states, judges are supposed to make decisions based exclusively on previous rulings. But in practice, the two systems often work the same...." More (Slate 09.13.2005).
a) "[Justice Denise Bellamy] who probed a computer-leasing scandal at Toronto City Hall has blasted those involved for [sex], disgraceful greed, lies and mismanagement...." More (Canoe 09.12.2005).
b) "Drugs campaigners have welcomed a former High Court judge's controversial call for doctors to provide heroin for addicts. Former Solicitor General, Lord McCluskey, entered the debate by suggesting both drug deaths and crime would be cut if substances such as heroin were offered to addicts 'in a medically controlled setting.'" More (The Scotsman 09.13.2005).
c) Federal District Judge James Robart has declared Seattle's ban on strip clubs as an unconstitutional ban on dance as free speech (the strip-tease, of course, being the functional equivalent, for free speech purposes, of the minuet and other dances popular in Justice Scalia's day, when the Constitution was ratified). More (Seattle Intelligencer 09.13.2005).
d) Houston Judge Randy Wilson in effect declared that President Bush's former sister-in-law, Sharon, didn't commit actionable slander in accusing her former hubby, Neil Bush, of fathering an illegitimate child. "The lawsuit by Robert Andrews of Houston had accused Sharon Bush of spreading rumors that his son, Thomas Alexander Andrews, then 3, was fathered by Bush while he was having an affair with Andrews' then-wife, Maria Andrews. She later divorced Andrews and married Bush." More (Houston Chronicle 09.13.2005). (It only stands to reason: if you can't ban the strip tease, you shouldn't be able to ban good ol' fashioned small-town, All-American slander.)
e) Judge Alex Ferrer, star of the newest court show, the only one featuring a Latino judge, declared in one of the first "sessions": "You don't tell her to shut up. I control the courtroom." More (TV Squad 09.13.2005).
Comment. We like it when judges "declare," "blast," "lecture," "fulminate," "ridicule," "expostulate," etc. We urge them to keep it up. It's entertaining & usually a little revealing. And occasionally, a judge's fulminations reach the level of "art," or so a reader of Judge Bellamy's report on sleaze in Toronto City Hall -- see indented paragraph a), above --seems to think:
Judge Bellamy's 82-page executive summary is an interpretive masterpiece that anchors every bold assertion -- who lied, who cheated, when and why -- with a mountain of evidence supplied by 156 witnesses over 214 days of hearings. But none of that gets in the way as she sails from peak to peak, mapping out an incredibly convoluted geography with stunning new clarity.
Like any good storyteller, she revels in delicious details and metaphor. Every chapter and subheading begins with a catchy title and ends with a genuine cliffhanger. She interweaves her account with engaging speculations about the psychology and habits of liars -- it becomes a theme -- and advances more than one insightful solution to enduring puzzles, such as what Mr. Lyons was really after in his alleged "shakedown" of certain leasing executives. (Judge Bellamy deconstructs "this study in carefully constructed ambiguity" as an attempt by Mr. Lyons to seek a bribe for Mr. Jakobek, not himself.)
More (The Globe and Mail 09.13.2005).
Fate of religious courts in Ontario in doubt. "Ontario, the most populous province in Canada, has allowed Catholic and Jewish faith-based tribunals to settle family law matters on a voluntary basis since 1991. The practice got little attention until Muslim leaders demanded the same rights. Now officials must decide whether to exclude one religion, or whether they should scrap the religious family courts altogether...." Details (YnetNews 09.12.2005). "[Premier Dalton] McGuinty said he would introduce 'as soon as possible' a law banning all religious arbitration in [Ontario] province...." More (BBCNews 09.12.2005).
Judge launches forums on teen traffic safety. "Three fatal car crashes involving teens in Johnson County [Indiana] this year made a Greenwood judge wonder what he could do to help prevent the deaths...[Now] Judge Lewis Gregory is organizing a series of community forums to help educate families about the dangers teens face while driving...." More (Johnson County Daily Journal 09.12.2005).
Justice Breyer takes on Scalia -- sort of. "Readers be warned: When the 67-year-old Clinton appointee turns to actually applying his interpretive approach to recent Supreme Court cases, his dry-minded administrative lawyer side takes over...." From Emily Bazelon's review in Slate (09.12.2005) of Breyer's new book, Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution, an assemblage of three lectures he delivered in 2004.
Dr. F. Lavoris Pusso, Ph.D., SuperNintendent of Schools, on John Roberts. Excerpts:
"John Roberts will be the first graduate of the Federalist Society's version of the old East German Olympic Medal Machine (substitute 'Romanian,'
'Russian,' or 'Chinese' for 'East German,' if you want) to make it to the Supreme Court. Guys like former Solicitor General Ted Olson have been mentoring him & nursing him along the Path to Judicial Righteousness ever since they first spotted him at former Attorney General Edwin Meese's Future Judges of America Junior Judges Camp...
"There's no doubt he's met the so-called 'objective' qualifications to serve as a Justice of the Supreme Court, but then you could randomly pick five names from the graduates of any class of Harvard Law School in the 1960's or 1970's or 1980's and perhaps three of them, maybe all of them, would meet any 'objective' criteria you could fairly come up with...
"Just as President Bush ought not be overly praised for coming up with an objectively-qualified nominee who also satisfies all the President's subjective criteria (as Olson & Meese have made sure Roberts does), no Senator ought to be criticized for using his or her own subjective criteria to vote to reject the President's objectively-qualified nominee...
"That said, what do I, Dr. F. Lavoris Pusso, Ph.D., SuperNintendent Expert on Everything, think about Roberts personally? I see a man who's been flying higher & higher on an ever-ascending path toward the Sun. Perhaps his wings aren't made of wax & he'll reach the Heights without ever crashing. Personally, though, I like a guy who's...."
The trifecta: judge dishes out money, praise & sentence. Terry Bearpark, 20, was keeping an eye out for neighbor, Frances Falshaw, 55, who'd been burgled. He saw a couple dodgy fellows, then heard scream from her place. He broke door down & saw one of two dodgers attacking her with hammer. He picked up a spade & bonked one of the two, later nabbed. The other got away. For his heroics the good Terry got a hundred pounds & praise from judge ("I wish you'd hit him harder"), & bad dude, Heath Randall, 39, got seven years. More (Mirror 09.12.2005).
Bar association boycotts courts. "Members of the Bidar [India] Bar Association, on Friday, boycotted the courts in protest against the suspension of Principal and District and sessions judge G Narahari...." More (NewIndPress 09.12.2005).
'Sittin' in the dock of Malay' no longer? "The cardinal principle is that a person is innocent until proven guilty. And seating him in the dock when the case is in progress, argues the Chief Justice [Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim], is inconsistent with this principle...[L]awyer Datuk Param Cumaraswamy agrees with the Chief Justice. Having sat in the dock himself when he was charged with sedition 20 years ago, he said it was a most uncomfortable experience. ..." More (The Malaysia Star 09.11.2005).
Married pair of judges get handsome price for house in quiet deal. "The Supreme Court's Judge Adrian Hardiman and his wife, Circuit Court Justice Yvonne Murphy, are in the money after the quiet sale of their house at 19 Palmerston Park in Dublin 6...for a figure believed to be upwards of 4m [4 million pounds]...." More (Irish Independent 09.11.2005).
New Orleans regional legal system in shambles. "Along with the destruction of homes, neighborhoods and lives, Hurricane Katrina decimated the legal system of the New Orleans region. More than a third of the state's lawyers have lost their offices, some for good. Most computer records will be saved. Many other records will be lost forever. Some local courthouses have been flooded, imperiling a vast universe of files, records and documents. Court proceedings... will be indefinitely halted and when proceedings resume lawyers will face prodigious -- if not insurmountable -- obstacles in finding witnesses and principals and in recovering evidence...." More (N.Y. Times 09.09.2008). The state's supreme court, which is physically located in New Orleans rather than in Baton Rouge, the state capital, relocated quickly to Baton Rouge. However, its building in New Orleans was flooded and many records were destroyed. "Judge Patrick Higginbotham said his formerly New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will be back in business in Houston by next week." More (Salt Lake Tribune 09.09.2005).
Judge gets speeders to make 'voluntary' contributions to hurricane relief. "Driven to help Gulf Coast residents ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, District Judge Marcia Morey found a novel way this week to turn speeding tickets into disaster relief. Presiding in Durham County traffic court on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, she waived fines for offenders who agreed to write checks to the Red Cross or other relief agencies...." More (Durham Herald-Sun 09.09.2005).
An American 'provincial' discovers Europe. In Swing Set (New Yorker - Issue dated 09.12.2005), Jeffrey Toobin interestingly explores the question "How Anthony Kennedy’s passion for foreign law could change the Supreme Court." Comment. I'm not quite sure he's right, but Toobin says that "[f]ew Justices in recent history have arrived at the Supreme Court from a more provincial background than Anthony Kennedy." He seems to think that Justice Kennedy's having spent most of his professional life in his home town, Sacramento, California after graduating from Harvard Law means he was a provincial -- in the same way, I guess, that some people out East think we're all a bunch of "rubes" here in Minnesota. In any event, Toobin presumably emphasizes that "fact" about Kennedy in order to suggest that one never knows when a provincial rube -- or, for that matter, a so-called judicial "conservative" -- is going to surprise you. BTW, we've addressed before the ridiculous attempts by far-right-wingers to prevent Justices of the Supreme Court from even citing for illustrative purposes decisions of foreign courts in opinions. In our opinion, they're the real rubes. Click here.
The WB's new 'Just Legal.' "On Monday, Sept. 19, at 9 p.m., the WB will premiere 'Just Legal.' Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, the current home-run king of TV, this is no 'C.S.I.' clone, but rather a one-hour drama with occasional comic moments that is about the beauty, the promise, the reality and the heartbreak that is the American legal system...." This is the one you've seen promos for, starring Don Johnson as a down-&-out attorney who "operates out of a Venice office, a block from the circus-like boardwalk, and for whom the Santa Monica Courthouse is home base." Jay Baruchel plays a lawyer version of Doogie Howser, an 18-year-old law school grad who Johnson mentors. Tom Teicholz's review (Jewish Journal of Greater L.A. 09.09.2005) makes it seem worth a look.
Judges: If you keep track of our time on bench, we'll hold you in contempt. "Some of the city's elected municipal court judges are spending less than 90 minutes a day on the bench hearing cases, despite a large backlog, according to city clerk records. And because that issue has been raised at City Hall, the five municipal judges signed an order Tuesday warning that anyone who keeps track of their time will be held in contempt of court. The El Paso City Council, at a special meeting Thursday, responded by giving the judges 24 hours to rescind the order or face legal action by the city attorney's office...." More (El Paso Times 09.09.2005). Comment. You should read this one. It's like something out of Mayberry R.F.D. The judges are part-time judges who are elected. They receive salaries of $30,000 a year plus car allowances (the presiding judge gets several thousand more). The judges apparently believe there's a separation-of-powers issue & that, since they're elected, they're answerable only to the voters. Seems to me the city might be better off having one full-time judge at a salary of, say, $90,000.
Big Brother in the courthouse? "Be careful what you say when you enter the Ventura County Hall of Justice, especially if you work in the building and have loose lips. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department recently installed more digital monitoring equipment to take better images of people going through the three screening stations where metal detectors are located and security guards posted. The new equipment...includes audio, which means conversations, even sensitive ones, can be picked up by the audio recording mechanism...." More (Ventura County Star 09.09.2005). Comment. Osama bin Laden must get a lot of chuckles out of all the money we're spending on things like this in government buildings in every little Podunk County in America.
Board seeks removal of judge over 1984 conviction. "The state Judicial Conduct Board is seeking the removal of a Philadelphia Municipal Court judge [Deborah Shelton Griffin] because of the jurist's 1984 felony conviction [in Georgia of credit card fraud]...[She] was elected to the bench in 2001...." More (Philadelphia Inquirer 09.09.2005).
Horror in the courtroom. "The Exorcism of Emily Rose melds a horror film and a courtroom drama with a lot on its mind, including the nature of demonic possession and the rite of exorcism...Laura Linney plays Erin Bruner, a high-powered and ambitious criminal attorney assigned to defend Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson), a rural priest charged with negligent homicide...The prosecution, headed by a devoutly humorless Baptist (Campbell Scott), maintains that the priest should have insisted on continuing medical treatment for the girl during the week that several exorcisms were performed. By advising her to stop taking medication, argues the district attorney, Moore contributed to her death...." More (San Jose Mercury-News 09.08.2005). Comment. The director, Scott Derrickson, claims it's the first horror film set in a courtroom. I'm not a big fan of horror films. If he wants to meld other genres with the courtroom genre, I'd suggest a courtroom golf drama/romantic comedy. Or -- here's a "treatment" for you -- how about a time-travel movie in which a young Harvard College student, John Roberts, struggling over whether to study history or law, travels "backward" to 1905, where he finds himself competing in a vaudeville-reality dance competition (predecessor to today's TV-reality dance competitions) against a relatively-new U.S. Supreme Court Justice, the notoriously light-footed Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who tells him, "Sonny boy, there is no conflict between history and law, or, for that matter, between law and dance. All of life is your oyster, experience is the life of the law, & the whole world is a stage. As a judge, I tap dance my way through the legal thicket and make history from history. Where lesser minds see a 'Dead Constitution,' and ask 'why,' I just do a soft-shoe, sprinkle a little magic wuffel dust on the dead words, & bring them to life. I ask, 'Why not?'" Young Roberts then time-travels to the future and, to the surprise of those who supported his nomination as Chief Justice, does battle with Justice Antonin "Nino" Scalia, who has turned Cass Gilbert's Supreme Court Building into a gloomy museum for the Dead Constitution. Roberts, as the new Chief, teaches him to dance & makes the dead old words sing again. The film ends with a surreal Zigfield Follies-Busby Berkeley dance & music production number in which Danny Escobedo, Ernesto Miranda, Jane Roe, Dred Scott & scores of other history-making litigants join hands with past & present Justices in a memorable dance tribute to the "Living Constitution." Further reading: The unknown Holmes - or tap dancing & the law, at BurtLaw's Law & Justice Holmes.
Courtroom as national stage -- 80 years ago. "[I]n July 1925 the [Scopes] Monkey Trial became a national obsession and a media circus. Partisans and reporters invaded Dayton. Horse-drawn carriages, mule-led wagons, and Model T Fords choked the small town's narrow streets. Owners of chimpanzees and monkeys hurried downtown for photo opportunities, while flappers sparked a short-lived fashion trend by donning simian stoles. Radio, rapidly spreading into American homes, brought the trial to people's firesides, and newsreels showed it to moviegoers...." David Greenberg, The Legend of the Scopes Trial (Slate 09.08.2005).
Excerpts from Rehnquist eulogies. "'To say that family came first with my Dad is to say there was competition. There wasn't,' said Nancy Spears, his daughter....Natalie Ann Rehnquist Lynch, [his granddaughter] spoke of Rehnquist's passion for croquet games with his grandchildren and his taste for bologna sandwiches with jelly and mayonnaise. He would offer a 'shiny quarter' to any child who could memorize all 50 state capitals, and he taught them that they could sometimes improve their chances at cards by looking at a reflection of their opponent's hand in a window, Lynch said. Rehnquist's son, James, said...that, during Rehnquist's time in Washington, he made it home for dinner with his family by 7:15 p.m...." More (Washington Post 09.08.2005). Comment. "Nobody on his deathbed ever said, 'I wish I had spent more time at the office.'" Paul Tsongas (1941-1997). Many a person in public life prates about the importance of his or her family but it sounds like the Chief actually showed it. Good for him.
A.C.W.O.L. = Abandoning Courtroom Without Leave. "The state wants to remove a town justice [54-year-old Glenn Fiore] who kept the Ten Commandments posted in his courtroom, then abandoned his part-time post, but not his [$10,000-a-year] paycheck, to take a job driving a truck in Iraq for a Halliburton Corp. subsidiary...." More (Newsday 09.08.2005). Comment. Fiore has already resigned, but the state is seeking the sanction of removal in order to prevent him from later becoming a "judge" again. Fiore says, "They took the view that I just up and left. I really don't care. New York state is out of control and pathetic."
Prominent barrister found guilty of courtroom rudeness. "Controversial Auckland [N.Z.] barrister Christopher Harder has been found guilty of professional misconduct for being rude to a judge...Mr Harder was convicted of failing to rise to his feet for the judge and failing to wear a suit jacket at all times....Mr Harder has appeared before the disciplinary tribunal in 1991, 1992, 1994, and 2000, costing him $150,000 in fines and costs. Following a courtroom scuffle last year he was fined $1750 and ordered to pay $4602 in costs...." More (N.Z. Herald 09.08.2005).
Justice Stevens' 'announcement' on Letterman Show. Tuesday night's Late Show With David Letterman "replayed" one of the imaginary "announcements" or "advertisements" Letterman had seen while watching TV -- this one being an "announcement," with professional announcer voice-over, purporting to come from a miffed Justice John Paul Stevens:
Announcer: So President Bush has nominated John Roberts to be Chief Justice even though Roberts hasn't even sat on the bench yet? Well, Justice John Paul Stevens would just like to say, "I've been humping my ass on this court for 30 years and if you think I'm just gonna sit here and watch some pretty boy take my gig, I got 4 words for you: 'I'll cut you, bitch!'" Judge John Paul Stevens - Let's Dance.
Review of new British production of 1989 courtroom drama. "[Aaron Sorkin's] A Few Good Men is best known in the slick and highly entertaining 1992 movie version that starred Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore, but it began life as a stage play, opening on Broadway way back in 1989 when it ran for almost 500 performances. I'm surprised it didn't make it across the pond [to the U.K.] then, for it is a dramatic, witty and thought-provoking piece of popular entertainment at its best. But its story of what is acceptable - and what is not - in the military world seems even more resonant now in the wake of 9/11, the recent Iraq war and the harrowing pictures from Abu Ghraib...." More (The Telegraph 09.07.2005).
Part-time judge censured for mixing justice with business. John Voetsch, who for 22 years has worked as a part-time "town judge" in Harrison in Westchester County, N.Y., has been censured by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct for acting as a seller's real estate agent for people who recently had "won" cases in his court. Details (Newsday 09.07.2005).
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