BurtLaw's Daily Judge is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, this is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal non-profit pro bono publico First-Amendment protected "web log" or "blog," one with a subjective, idiosyncratic, and eccentric sociological and social-psychological slant that focuses not on the latest judicial decisions of supposed great legal importance but on a) the institution of judge in the United States and in other countries throughout the world, b) the judicial office and role, c) judicial personalities, d) the great common law tradition of judging as practiced here and throughout the world, e) judges as judges, f) judges as ordinary people with the usual mix of virtues and flaws, etc. We link to newspapers and other sources in order to alert you to ideas, articles, stories, speeches, law books, literary works and other things that have interested us and that may interest you. In linking to another site or source, we don't mean either to suggest we necessarily agree with views or ideas expressed there or to attest to the accuracy of facts set forth there. We urge you in every instance to click on the link and read the entire story or other printed source to which we link. We often use the linked piece as a springboard for expressing our opinion, typically clearly labelled "Comment."
About links. a) Links, like judges, eventually retire or expire, some sooner than others. b) Access to all stories via these links is free, at least initially, although some sites require free registration. c) Free access often turns to fee access after a day or a week or some such period. d) Entries, following the typical blog format, are in reverse chronological order.
Complaints? If you feel we have made a factual error or been unfair in expressing our opinion, please contact us (see, infra) and give us an opportunity to correct the perceived wrong.
Want to contact us? Send an e-mail addressed to "BurtLaw" at "The Daily Judge.Com" (we have deliberately not put the address in typical e-mail form, e.g., ABC@TheDailyClog.Com, because when one does so, the automated web-trollers used by spammers add such e-mail addresses to their lists). We trust you are smart enough to put "BurtLaw" together with "@" and "TheDailyJudge.Com," because you wouldn't be interested in this site if you weren't smart.
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.
Judge shopping in Madison County. "Lawyers have removed Madison County Circuit Judge Don Weber from 67 cases assigned to him since he was sworn in in November. On Wednesday, as he had done 66 times before, Weber agreed to step aside. But this time, he returned fire, accusing Collinsville lawyer Thomas Maag of 'a flagrant case of judge shopping' and asking state appeals courts to intervene...." More (St. Louis Post-Dispatch 03.10.2006). Earlier. Latest news from a judicial hellhole, with embedded links.
'Secret dockets' in courts in D.C. "A prominent news media group is reporting that about 18 percent of the federal criminal docket in the District of Columbia is shielded from the public through a dual or 'secret' docketing system...In a study released this week, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press says that, over a five-year period, D.C. defendants in more than 450 out of 2,600 criminal cases were indicted, tried, prosecuted and sentenced to jail in complete secrecy...." According to the story, by Molly McDonough, "The 11th and 2nd U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals have ruled that secret docketing is unconstitutional," but "the system has remained unchallenged in the nationís capital." More (ABA Journal eReport 03.10.2006). Comment. It's getting so that nothing the Government does these days -- regardless of how objectively shocking -- surprises me. The stream of sorry revelations, one after another, continues. I have no confidence anymore that our supposed representatives, Republicans or Democrats, or our supposedly-independent judges are up to the tasks we have delegated to them.
Attempt to require senate confirmation of judges in Kansas fails. "There were dire warnings and tough talk, but in the end the Kansas Senate couldnít muster the votes to alter the constitution to rein in the state Supreme Court. A proposed constitutional amendment to require Senate confirmation of justices was defeated Thursday, five votes shy of the necessary two-thirds approval. It was the latest attempt to go after the high court after controversial rulings that struck down the stateís death penalty and ordered more money for public schools. Judging by the comments of court critics, itís not likely to be the last...." More (Kansas City Star 03.10.2006).
Local judge will give "State of the Judiciary" address. "Judge Fred Schurger will deliver a report on Adams Circuit Court as a 'State of the Judiciary' Monday at a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored luncheon at Woodcrest. The luncheon will be held in the Woodcrest dining hall starting at 12 noon, with the program to begin at 12:30 in the Porter Auditorium. The luncheon price remains at $8 a person...." More (Decatur Daily Democrat 03.10.2006). Comments. a) So, the "state of the judiciary" trend has reached main street! I wasn't aware until now that it had. :-) Oh, well, as I've said before, judges are as prone to trendiness and fashion as so-called "ordinary people" are. I think it was Chief Justice Burger who gave the first "State of the Judiciary Address," sort of a judicial version of the President's "State of the Union Address." State chief justices then began giving their state versions, sometimes before joint sessions of yawning legislators, later before yawning lawyers at state bar conventions. For many reasons, I have viewed these speeches as one of the sadder of many primarily "p.r." developments in appellate courts in recent years. Supreme court chief justices, at least at the state level, typically rely on court administrators or court information types to write these annual speeches. The speeches, with some exceptions (we trust that Judge Fred Schurger's will be one of the exceptions), often read like bar association presidents' columns in bar journals read. That is, they tend to be written in clumsy, opaque bureaucratise seemingly designed to say little and offend no one. b) For a must-read piece on the trend toward greater involvement of chief justices in administrative matters, see, One Robe, Two Hats, by Judith Resnik & Theodore Ruger (N.Y. Times 07.17.2005). c) BTW, without intending to hurt anyone's feelings and without having anyone in particular in mind, I can't help adding, while we're on the subject of judicial fashions, that my favorite utterance on fashion is by Thomas Wolfe, the great novelist (1900 - 1938): "She who is whored by Fashion will be whored by Time." Tough words, but in my opinion, true.
Annals of judicial independence: Katutsi is 'Mohammad Ali of Judges.' "The verdict Justice John Bosco Katutsi delivered when acquitting Forum for Democratic Change President, Dr Kizza Besigye of Joanita Kyakuwa's rape allegation was not surprising to Ugandans. What is fascinating is how Justice Katutsi plays with Law like Mohammad Ali entertained people in a boxing ring. I have lived in the United Kingdom for the last 17 years and had no clue that Uganda had such skilled Judges like Katutsi, James Ogoola and their boss Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki. Gentlemen, you have demonstrated to Ugandans that despite cocked guns hanging on your heads..., you can stick to your professionalism without fear or favour...." David Basobokwe, Katutsi is Mohammad Ali of Judges [The Monitor (Kampala) via AllAfrica.Com - Opinion 03.10.2006]. Earlier. Uganda's chief opposition leader cleared of rape charge (Guardian Unlimited 03.08.2006).
NBA boycotts courts next week. "Lawyers nationwide have agreed to boycott the courts on Monday and Tuesday next week to protest disobedience of court orders by all tiers of government. The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) made the announcement in Lagos on Thursday in the hope that the populace would realise on those two days how impossible it is to live in a society without justice administration...." More (IndependentNG.Com 03.10.2006).
Parliamentary investigation of judge over child porn allowed to continue. "The Irish Supreme Court has ruled a parliamentary committee can proceed with its investigation into the alleged misbehaviour of a judge. Judge Brian Curtin's internet child pornography trial collapsed two years ago after it was revealed that a Garda search warrant was out of date. His lawyers contested the establishment of the committee and an order for him to give it his personal computer...." The collapse of the criminal trial does not preclude impeachment. More (BBC News 03.09.2006).
Annan names international judges for trial of Khmer Rouge. "United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has submitted a list of international judges and other legal experts to Cambodiaís Prime Minister to serve in the trial of former leaders of the Khmer Rouge accused of horrific crimes, including mass killings, during the 1970s, a spokesman for the world body announced today...." More (United Nations News Service 03.09.2006).
Fact-finder: chief judge didn't discriminate against black judge. "Ingham County Circuit Court Chief Judge William Collette didn't discriminate against Circuit Judge Beverley Nettles-Nickerson, an independent fact finder [retired Clinton County Judge Marvin Robertson] has concluded...Nettles-Nickerson alleged that Collette interfered in her court operations and questioned her work ethic because she is black...." More (Lansing State Journal 03.09.2006). Earlier. Judge claims she's victim of racial, gender discrimination by colleague.
Gov. says he doesn't like to build bldgs. for judges and politicians. "Among hundreds of millions of dollars that [G]overnor [Bill Richardson] slashed with his [line-item] veto pen were about $1.9 million for the 1st Judicial District Court complex . [Santa Fe] county has identified land...for a new courthouse, but needs an estimated $54 million to get it built. Legislators trimmed the countyís [intial] $6 million request this session to less than $2 million...Many of the [other] vetoed line items were other bricks-and-mortar projects because the governor said his priorities were on people rather than buildings. 'I donít like to build buildings for judges and politicians,' he said...Richardson also vetoed furniture, equipment and staff allocations for other courthouses around the state...." More (Santa Fe Free New Mexican 03.09.2006). Comment. The "guv" used the line-item veto to cut $270 million in appropriations in order to balance the state's budget. He said he might support funding for the new courthouse in the future. Without commenting on this specific proposed building, I will say I think we've gone on a construction binge in this country. I see signs of it (the shameful "teardowns" of perfectly-fine houses and their replacement by ugly, ostentatious McMansions) every day on my neighborhood walks with one or another of my three dog friends -- but the signs aren't just in my overly-privileged neighborhood. One sees it in the requests for funding of three (count 'em, three!) new sports stadiums in Minnesota. And if one reads the NYT business pages one can't miss the more statistically-reliable evidence of what I'm talking about. Bubbles are made to burst, and when they do, nice people often suffer.
Jury deadlocks in trial of judge. "A jury in Franklin Circuit Court decided Wednesday night that it could not agree on whether former Judge William Stewart was guilty of theft for authorizing full-time pay for his wife when she worked only part-time. The jury also deadlocked on a theft charge against Stewartís wife, Sarah Dutton, who worked for the judge as a secretary from 2001 through 2004. The Kentucky attorney generalís office contended Dutton was overpaid $30,000 to $40,000. The jury had divided 8-4, according Scott C. Cox, one of the defense attorneys. Cox said three jurors told him the majority had voted to acquit Stewart and Dutton...." More (Louisville Courier-Journal 03.09.2006). Earlier. Ex-judge will go on offensive in trial for theft-by-deception.
Defense attorney known for "nasty quotes about judges" praises one. "Longtime local defense attorney Daniel Russo described [Retired Solano County Superior Court Judge Eric 'Rick' Raymond] Uldall[, who died Saturday] as a well-respected member of the local bench. 'I'm known for my nasty quotes about judges...but I had a lot of respect for Rick,' he said. 'I really liked him a lot.'" More (Vallejo Times-Herald - CA 03.09.2006). Comment. Presiding Judge David Power is quoted as describing Judge Uldall as "an experienced and no-nonsense judge." BurtLaw asks, "Have you ever heard a judge described in his obituary -- or anywhere else, for that matter -- as 'a nonsense judge'?" But read on...
May the state discipline an attorney for calling a judge 'a nonsense judge'? "The Michigan Supreme Court...heard arguments [Wednesday] about whether [Geoffrey Fieger,] the firebrand Southfield lawyer[,] should face a reprimand for unleashing a vulgar tirade against three judges who threw out a 1999 verdict decided in Fieger's client's favor. Fieger's comments, in which he likened the judges to Nazis, were broadcast on the talk radio show he hosted at the time, then repeated in the same forum a few days later. They echoed earlier insults Fieger had hurled at other political and legal opponents...." An attorney for the Attorney Grievance Commission proposed a public rebuke but not a loss of license, apparently reasoning that the lesser sanction would not infringe on the lawyer's free speech rights. Fieger's attorney argued that Fieger's statements enjoy absolute First Amendment protection, especially since they were made on his radio program and not in court or otherwise in his role as a lawyer. More (Detroit Free Press 03.09.2006). Comment. There's a great Pedigree dog food commercial that shows a number of cute dogs & has the punch line, We're for dogs (there also are ones that say, "We're for pups" and "We're for shelter dogs"). We here at the international headquarters of BurtLaw's The Daily Judge boldly state that we, too, are for dogs. We are also for love and a lot of other good things, including that quaint, old-fashioned notion that people ought to be free to have their say. No, we're not "for" over-the-top rudeness -- or, for that matter, for over-statement in general -- but the First Amendment doesn't just protect polite speech. Nor is there an exception when the speech is critical of the judiciary. Judges ought not be immune from criticism -- not even harsh, unjustified criticism. And, at least out of the courtroom, outside pleadings, etc., lawyers -- who, after all, get to know judges pretty well -- ought to be as free as the next guy to deliver that criticism. Not totally un-related. Journalist gets year in jail for 'libeling' Egyptian judge (Buffalo News 03.09.2006).
Part-time judge warned for 'affair' with client in law practice. "A York County lawyer and part-time judge has been publicly reprimanded by the state's highest court on charges of professional misconduct. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court reprimanded Robert Nadeau on two [other] charges, and dismissed with a warning a third charge that he had engaged in unethical behavior by having a sexual relationship with a divorce client. The client complained to regulators after the affair ended, but withdrew the complaint after she and Nadeau reconciled...." More (Boston Globe 03.09.2006). Comment. We know nothing about the facts of this case. But we note that there are some who take the position that it is "too easy for women to file false claims against men in the public eye." See, "Women suing men" at BurtLaw's Law and Women. See, also, "Crying Wolf" (and the linked-to article of the same name by Christie Blatchford) at BurtLaw's Crime and Punishment. For a suggestion as to how a judge who fears being falsely accused might protect himself or herself, see Annals of law clerk-judge relations (and insert the word "hug" after the word "kiss" in our Burtlaw Rule-of-Thumb). For a refreshingly different position on this hot-button topic, see, Lisa Zeidner, Seeking Carnal Knowledge - Ban all amorous intimacy between professors and students? - There goes one of the higher forms of education (LisaZeidner.Com, reprinted from GQ November 1997).
BurtLaw Rule-of-Thumb for Judges # 431. "For their experiment [the researchers] placed two identical spheres decorated with a checkerboard pattern in the front and rear of a receding brick hallway. In this kind of illusion, the more distant object appears to occupy a larger portion of the visual field. Using fMRI, the researchers examined how the brains of five people with normal vision registered this difference in perceived size. They found that the brain region known as the primary visual cortex, which is the first area in the cortex to receive input from the retina, showed a difference. Even though both spheres occupied exactly the same size on the retina, the rear sphere activated an approximately 20 percent larger area in the primary visual cortex than the front sphere. This difference closely matched a perceptual difference in size made by the subjects. Asked about the size of the two spheres, the people estimated the back sphere to be about 20 percent larger than the front one...." More (UWNews.Org 03.09.2006). Comment. Let's call it BurtLaw Rule-of-Thumb for Judges # 431: Things are not always as they appear; even judges make mistakes in how they perceive things, and sometimes ordinary people make mistakes in their perceptions of judges.
Did reversed judge exhibit judicial equivalent of poor sportsmanship? "[Justice Norman] Douglas showed 'alarmingly poor judgment' when he used his written decisions as a vehicle for attacking a Superior Court judge who had overturned his ruling in a drunk driving case, said a four-member [Ontario J]udicial [C]ouncil panel. He also exhibited poor judgment when he emailed Crown attorneys, urging them to appeal that judge's finding, it said..." The panel cleared the judge of wrongdoing but said his conduct went "very close to the line." More (Toronto Star 03.08.2006). Comments. a) I'm reminded of a small-town barber -- let's call him "Ben" -- who was run in by an attention-grabbing ambitious small-town prosecutor on an alcohol charge during the MN Prohibition era. He did the opposite of Justice Douglas. Instead of bad-mouthing his nemesis, he took his medicine without complaint. The prosecutor, later mayor -- who eventually had troubles of his own -- left him alone thereafter. Regardless of the results in a given election, "Ben" always would say to his regulars the day after, "Vel, ve von" ("Well, we won"). I admire a man like "Ben." But I also admire those who stir things up a bit. As one of the many father figures in my life used to say, "We need all kinds." b) Did Justice Douglas "go too far" even if he didn't "cross the line"? The panel thought so. But I think the panel not only "went too far" but "crossed the line" in failing to distinguish between publicly disagreeing with a decision and attacking the author of the opinion. It said, "[Judges] are not to take issue in public with the decision of the appellate court, nor in their rulings or reasons for judgment in other cases." Maybe that's how things are in Canada. But, in my opinion, thanks to the judicial free-speech decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, that's not how they are in the good ol' U.S.
Breyer says justices are "debating" more -- and yet.... a) "Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said Tuesday the high court has more discussion and debate behind closed doors with its two new members." More (San Diego Union-Tribune 03.08.2006). b) "This term has gotten off to an unusually harmonious start. There have been 29 written opinions, 21 of which were unanimous. At this time last year, the court had handed down 21 decisions, and 10 were unanimous...." More (L.A. Times 03.08.2006). Comment. Are these stories contradictory? No. Justice Breyer made his comment during a press conference preceding an appearance at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock. He also said, "One thing that won't change is that we've all gotten along very well personally, no matter the outcome of cases." He added that "he didn't know if [the] flurry of recent unanimous decisions indicates that the newly formed court under Roberts was trying harder to agree. 'The more controversial matters tend to pile up by the end of the year,' Breyer said. 'Unanimity is often a function of what cases come along. If people see eye to eye, it works very well.'" He could have added (but it would have been surprising if he had done so) that senior justices are not necessarily above engaging in various stratagems in trying to influence, shape and otherwise socialize new members of the court. One such stratagem is for a senior judge to show a little restraint where it costs very little early on, as by not dissenting or concurring specially in early cases that don't mean much to the judge, hoping that this restraint might "pay off" in similar "cooperation" from the newer member(s) later on. Extra. Justice Breyer's statement there's more debating and discussing during conferences is good news, I believe. One of the great influences on my life was the late Prof. George Bryan Vold, from whom I took two classes at the University of Minnesota as an undergraduate: "Criminology" and a graduate-level course called "Functions of Social Conflict." Despite what you've heard about the crucial importance of colleageality on a supreme court, Vold would say, I'm certain, that creative conflict is even more essential. An appellate court on which everyone agrees with everyone else is a dead appellate court. Paraphrasing what I've said elsewhere, a court that is calcified and only about stability and collegiality is as bad as a court that tends to be too fluid and rambunctious and devoid of stabilizing forces. Extra, extra. The Union-Tribune story quotes Breyer as saying "it [is] 'almost inevitable' that the [C]ourt [will] televise its proceedings, saying he thinks the court could ease into it the same way it has with audio."
Delegates walk out in protest of resolution of impeachment of judge. "About two dozen legislators rose from their leather chairs and silently walked out of the House of Delegates chamber yesterday to protest a measure from an Anne Arundel County lawmaker calling for the impeachment of a Baltimore judge who ruled in favor of 19 gays and lesbians seeking the right to marry...." More (Baltimore Sun 03.08.2006). Earlier. Legislator seeks judge's impeachment over ruling on same-sex marriage. Comment. I'd have walked out, too.
Judge indicted. ChannelCincinnati.Com reports that Highland County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey J. Hoskins has been indicted on 16 felony and misdemeanor charges: "one count of tampering with evidence, four counts of tampering with records, one count of theft, four counts of falsification, one count of unlawful interest in a public contract, two counts of perjury, one count of failure to report a crime and two counts of money laundering." The theft, falsification and tampering charges apparently relate to an estate case he handled as an attorney.
Fugitive judge will be sentenced in absentia. "Fugitive Zimbabwean judge, Justice Benjamin Paradza will be sentenced tomorrow in absentia, a high court judge has ruled...Paradza, a high court judge, fled the country two months ago after he was convicted on two accounts of corruption. He was about to be sentenced when he failed to attend a court session in Harare...." More (ANDNetwork.Com 03.08.2006).
Inquiry ends, judge resumes hearing cases. "An investigation of a judge by Jackson County prosecutors [for andisclosed allegation] apparently has ended, and prosecutors once again are taking new criminal cases before him. Prosecutors threw court dockets into disarray in January when they started taking a change of judge for new cases assigned to Judge Vernon Scoville in Independence...Jackson County Presiding Judge J.D. Williamson said Tuesday [that t]he matter appears over...'Everything reverts to where it was before this folderol started,' Williamson said...." Details (Kansas City Star 03.08.2006).
Court likely to amend rules on court secrecy. "A Washington Supreme Court committee voted unanimously Monday for rule changes that would remove any doubt about how rarely court files should be sealed statewide....In more than nine of every 10 [sealed] cases The Times reviewed [in King County], the Superior Court judges or court commissioners failed to satisfy legal requirements for secrecy [already] established by the state Supreme Court. They didn't explain why secrecy was needed, use the proper legal standard or weigh the public interest in open courts. On Monday, The Times filed motions to open six of those lawsuits. The newspaper plans to file many more motions in the days, weeks and months to come...." More (Seattle Times 03.07.2006). Earlier. On Sunday The Times published the results of its investigation. See, our entry titled An investigation of judicial secrecy.
Legislator seeks judge's impeachment over ruling on same-sex marriage. "Since Baltimore Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock ruled in January that Maryland's 33-year-old definition of marriage was unconstitutional and discriminatory, Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr., an Anne Arundel County Republican, has pledged to seek Murdock's impeachment. Dwyer said yesterday he plans to call for Murdock's removal on the floor of the House of Delegates today...." More (Baltimore Sun 03.07.2006). Comments. a) Apart from one's views on the various issues underlying the controversy over same-sex marriage, this is inappropriate. b) To read a position paper I wrote & published on the issues underlying the same-sex marriage controversy during my anti-war campaign in the Republican primary for Minnesota's Third Congressional District in 2004, click here. c) See, also, How can men in long, flowing gowns uphold ban on gay marriage?
SCOTUS declines to review judge's decision to rule in contributor's case. "The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider whether an Illinois Supreme Court judge was wrong to rule in favor of State Farm Insurance Co. in a $1 billion case after accepting campaign donations from the company...." More (St. Louis Post-Dispatch 03.07.2006). The case is Avery v. State Farm Automobile Ins. Co. Comment. Slate has published an opinion piece on the declination of review by James Sample, who is associate counsel in the "Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law." The Brennan Center filed an amicus brief supporting review. When I ran against Minnesota's Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz in the general election in 2000, I devised a neat way of avoiding the problem of having to recuse from cases involving supporters and contributors in the unlikely event I was elected: I made it clear up front that I wasn't going to solicit or accept endorsements or contributions and I promised to not spend more than $100 of my own money. Ms. Blatz' proxy collected a war chest of around $125,000-130,000. How much of it her campaign spent is a matter of public record but I've never sought access to the figures. She won; I lost -- as V.P. Cheney would say, "bigtime." Further reading. a) SCOTUS declines review of USCA's case on judicial campaigns. b) Speaking of the MN judicial system... c) Blatz blazts politicization of judicial campaigns. d) Free speech is a 'bad idea'? e) BurtLaw's Law & Judicial Elections.
Judge may face inquiry after she changes her mind. "Judge Jane Stickels initially declared 9-4 favourite Welsh Dragon as winner of the littlewoodspools Handicap by a short head over 14-1 shot Miss Dagger. But after the weighed-in signal was given, she changed her decision and reversed the placings, forcing some bookmakers to pay out twice...." More (BBC News 03.07.2006). Comment. One bookmaker is threatening to sue the judge. Does she have "judicial immunity"? Further reading. BurtLaw on Dog Judging, Jam&Jelly Judging, Etc.
Judge is upset over lawyer's hiring p.i. to investigate judge. "A Connecticut developer who lost a lawsuit over the denial of his membership into an exclusive golf club, then hired a private investigator to probe possible connections between the judge's family and the defendants, has unsuccessfully moved for the judge, Westchester, N.Y., Supreme Court Justice Kenneth W. Rudolph, to reopen the case and recuse himself. The investigator's report listed numerous specific details about the personal lives of Rudolph's family members, including references to his daughter's former job and specific details about her upcoming wedding...." The judge is upset. :-) Details (N.Y.L.J. via Law.Com via Biz.Yahoo 03.07.2006).
Academy for training of judges, prosecutors opens. "Academy for Training of Judges and Prosecutors will formally open on Monday in Macedonian capital, Skopje...The outmost objective of this institution is to provide a basic and continual training for judges and prosecutors. According to the law, there will be a five-year transitional period, after which, the graduates wishing to become judges must attend the lectures at the Academy and pass the final exam -- the main condition to work as judge...." More (MakFax 03.06.2006). Comment. Would-be defense attorneys must fend for themselves, no?
'Jungle justice' in Liberia? "Group killing of alleged criminals has become frequent in Liberia. These incidents are not accidental, but the product of a legal system that has proved itself incapable of dispensing justice objectively and a police force ignorant of the rule of law. When policing and judicial practices fail, jungle justice becomes a form of trial delivering instant remedy to appease the appetites of people made insecure. Without recourse to legitimate remedies, people resort to savage revenge...." From a piece by Joseph Sherman in RunningAfrica.Com, 03.05.2006).
Swords in court? "Schools across Canada must allow Sikh students to bring small daggers with curved blades in with them because of a controversial supreme court ruling that places freedom of religion above safety concerns. The ceremonial weapon, known as the kirpan, is one of five sacred symbols, known as the five Ks, that an orthodox Sikh must wear...Airlines do not allow kirpans to be to be carried on board, and last week's ruling will not change that. Sikhs can wear kirpans into the supreme court, but in some parts of the country, trial judges have banned them from courtrooms; visitors to the house of commons can wear them, as can Sikh MPs...." More (Guardian Unlimited 03.06.2006).
On judicial swimsuits and the Rules of Judicial Conduct -- part I. Canons or standards of judicial conduct -- e.g., Minnesota's -- typically include admonitions such as "A Judge Shall Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All of the Judge's Activities" and "A Judge Shall Conduct All Extra-Judicial Activities so as to Minimize the Risk of Conflict With Judicial Obligations." Undoubtedly, a judge's wearing nothing but a swimsuit in the courtroom would be deemed to not only demean the judiciary but cause disrespect for the judiciary and interfere with the administration of justice. This is so despite the fact that some of the greatest artistic representations depict Justice as a scantily-clad (and blind) woman and Law as a scantily-clad (and all-seeing?) man. Continued at BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else Collector's Edition Swimsuit Issue. (Note: We believe this just-referenced special edition, first published in February 2003, was the first swimsuit issue in the history of weblogging or blogging, certainly the first in the history of law blogging or blawging. Indeed, it may have been the first such issue of any legal publication in the history of Anglo-American law, nay, in the history of law! Although published in 2003, it continues to be one of the most-visited pages on any of our three weblogs. Needless to say, we're mighty proud of ourselves over this great, mind-boggling-blogging accomplishment.)
An investigation of judicial secrecy. a) "Since 1990, at least 420 civil suits have been sealed in their entirety, The Seattle Times found. That means everything -- from the complaint, which says who's accused of what, to the judgment, which says how the case wound up -- has been concealed...These sealed records hold secrets of potential dangers in our medicine cabinets and refrigerators; of molesters in our day-care centers, schools and churches; of unethical lawyers, negligent doctors, dangerous dentists; of missteps by local and state agencies; of misconduct by publicly traded companies into which people sink their savings. The Washington Constitution says: 'Justice in all cases shall be administered openly.' To this, many King County judges have effectively added: 'unless the parties don't want it to be.'" The cases your judges are hiding from you (Seattle Times 03.05.2006). b) "Richard Bathum became a King County judge in July 2000. Five months later, he was sued for legal malpractice. Bathum, by his own admission, had screwed up one of his last cases as a lawyer. The lawsuit accused Bathum of being 'gravely and seriously negligent.' For a judge, such language could be embarrassing, particularly come election time. But Bathum found a way to keep the public from reading it. He got the file sealed. It was easy to do...." Unsealed: A judge's secret, a therapist's odd methods (Seattle Times 03.05.2006). c) "Imagine trying to find a needle in a haystack if you don't even know where the haystack is. That challenge faced Ken Armstrong and Justin Mayo as they undertook today's Seattle Times special report, 'Your Courts, Their Secrets.'" Our battle against secrecy in county's legal system (Seatlle Times 03.05.2006). d) "For this project, we needed to do three things: Find the sealed files. Figure out who's suing whom. Find out who sealed the file, and why...." Your Courts, Their Secrets (Seattle Times 03.05.2006). Related. "Despite the Sixth Amendmentís guarantee of public trials, records are being kept secret for more than 5,000 defendants whose cases were closed over the last three years. Instances of such secrecy more than doubled from 2003 to 2005...." U.S. courts grow more secretive with records (Kansas City Star 03.05.2006). Comment. "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants" - Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis. Some of my views may be found in mini-essays titled "Sunshine and fresh air as judicial disinfectants" and "Let the sun shine in" at BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else - Court Gazing V (scroll down).
Update on PA Supreme Court Justices' expenses accounts. "The night before Russell Nigro made history by becoming the first Supreme Court justice that voters booted off the bench, he stuck taxpayers with a $318 bill for dinner at one of his favorite Philadelphia eateries, the Capital Grille. Losing his seat apparently didn't make him lose his appetite. He dined out the night after the election at Washington Square restaurant in Philadelphia on the public dime, running up a $124 tab. As part of an analysis of how taxpayers' money is spent, The Patriot-News reviewed expense records for the seven Supreme Court justices for the first six months of this fiscal year. Those expenses totaled $53,473. That is a third of the $164,212 in expenses the justices racked up in the last fiscal year...." More (Patriot-News 03.05.2006). Earlier. In November angry voters in PA rejected one of two PA Supreme Court Justices up for retention and narrowly retained the other. The voters were angry over a) legislative pay raises for legislators and judges, b) the court's role in approving so-called garbage bills, and c) recent disclosures about the justices' expense account uses. See, my posting titled Justice loses retention election and embedded links. Some of my pieces on judicial economics are collected at BurtLaw's Law and Judicial Economics. Comment. According to the linked story, "The latest charges include 95 meals; trips to conferences in Alaska, Puerto Rico and South Carolina; $5 tips to doormen; and $6 for snacks from an honor bar. Justice J. Michael Eakin charged taxpayers $5 for tolls to attend the October funeral of the husband of Justice Sandra Schultz Newman." When a justice attends the funeral of a colleague and friend, I don't think he ought to ask for reimbursement of mileage to and fro the funeral, toll charges, etc. But that's just me. As for junkets, here are links to our most recent expostulations on judicial junkets: Will Senator's response to junket exposé affect judicial junkets? and Judicial 'Educational' Junkets.
Chief Justice warns judges against 'overexposure.' "Chief Justice of India Y K Sabharwal has said that too much socialising and 'exposure' can compromise the public perception of a judge's integrity. The Chief Justice[, while] delivering the 2nd M C Setalwad Memorial lecture here recently...talked about pitfalls of a judge coming into contact with rest of the society -- outside his office -- too often. 'The tendency of inviting judges to various seminars is increasing,' the Chief Justice observed, and went on to explain the undesirable repurcussions of such exposure...." More (The Hindu 03.05.2006). Comment. While some judges I've admired greatly have been gregarious and social -- I'm thinking in particular of one of my favorites, the naturally-gregarious genuine people-loving former MN Supreme Court Chief Justice, A.M. "Sandy" Keith -- if I were a judge I would be more in the mold of Judge as Secular Monk.
Latest on those 'rigged' judicial elections. In late January U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson "struck down the system that has given state political party leaders a stranglehold over the way top trial judges across New York State have been elected for decades." The judge "found the system unconstitutional and ordered it halted immediately." See, Federal judge halts rigging of judicial elections, linking to NYT story. Now Judge Gleeson has stayed his order that party primaries must be used to nominate candidates to the 25 positions that are open in this year's elections. More (L.A. Times 03.05.2006). See, also, our earlier posting on the motion to stay the order. Update on federal judge's decision halting rigged judicial elections.
Are female judges less likely to take bribes? The following is a brief excerpt from an interview with "Honourable Justice Dolapo Akinsanya of the Lagos[, Nigeria] State Judiciary" on her retirement:
How would you compare the ratio of female judges now to when you started?
They are very many now.
What would you attribute to this?
Two reasons. Either they think that a woman who has a good home with the husband contributing his little bit to the burden at home, thereís hardly room for temptation, because a woman is easily satisfied with what she has and there is not that propensity to take bribe. Am sure that is why they have more in this millennium, you know they have a name, these millennium judges, they have far more women this time than before because the temptation is minimal. But these days from my experience, the judges are so well taken care of that nobody, man or woman, should have even any temptation to take bribe.
More (The Vanguard 03.05.2006).
Profile of Marisa Tomei's uncle, the judge. "[Justice Albert] won election to the New York City Civil Court in 1977 and, as an acting justice of Supreme Court in 1982, foreshadowed his reputation in a law journal article titled 'Theater in the Court.' The young judge wrote that he had 'looked on in bewilderment at the farcical antics of an inept or inexperienced attorney,' but also 'marveled at the ingenuity of the prosecutor or defense attorney.' The stereotype of a no-nonsense judge hangs loosely on a man who has listed stand-up comedy as a hobby and has written that shame can be a more powerful punishment than prison. Still, Justice Tomei has embraced the role at times...." Case tests patience of no-nonsense judge (N.Y. Times 03.05.2006). Comment. Any judge who's an uncle of Marisa Tomei is a judge we're inclined to like. We feel about Marisa as George Costanza felt about her in the two-part episode titled The Cadillac during Season 7 of Seinfeld. BTW, how tall is she? A Google search yields no definitive answer, with estimates ranging from 5'3" to 5'6" tall. For reasons perhaps only Drs. Freud and Jung might understand, all my life a disproportionately high number of the women I've been attracted to have been women around 5'2" or 5'3" tall, that is, about a foot shorter than I; therefore, reasoning from that, I infer -- as a judge might -- that Marisa must be around 5'2" of 5'3" tall.
Judicial social notes from all over. "Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge Kendell Kelley will speak Sunday at Father's Night Out in the Frost Room at Titletown Brewing Co., 200 Dousman St...." More (Green Bay Press-Gazette 03.04.2006).
Judge separates church from state, physically. "Judge Stephen Hopkins QC ordered Canon Paul Vann to be escorted out of the proceedings at Cardiff Crown Court for causing a disturbance on Thursday afternoon. The priest of 30 years, who preaches in the Machen parish of Caerphilly, took offence as Judge Hopkins sentenced his son Nicholas to nine years imprisonment...." More (icWales 03.04.2006). Comment. Janet Bone, identified as a spokesperson for the Diocese of Monmouth, is quoted as saying that the priest had apologized and that "So far as we are aware, no formal complaint has been made and responding to his natural distress will be a matter for pastoral care rather than disci-pline." Id. The defendant son, 37 and a father of four, was working as a bus driver. The victim, 22, was a passenger one day. Defendant "chatted her up" and later persuaded her to accompany him to a seaside B&B for the weekend. The victim testified that everything went fine until after they returned to their room from a meal, when defendant turned violent, ordered her to read a Biblical passage about woman being submissive to man, then sexually assaulted her. More (Mirror 03.04.2006).
Complaint against judge for mixing church and state is dismissed. The Dept. of Public Relations at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has posted two related press releases announcing that the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct has dropped a complaint that was filed against Tarrant County Judge R. Brent Keis because a photo of him in his judicial robe appeared in advertisements in San Antonio and Houston for the seminary's study program for lay people after the judge had been given a private warning over another such ad published earlier in Fort Worth. It turns out the judge apparently was unaware of and did not authorize the subsequent ads. More and more (SWBTS 03.04.2006).
Tony Blair on God as Judge. "Anti-war campaigners today attacked comments by Tony Blair that God would be the ultimate judge of the Iraq war as a 'joke.'" More (The Scotsman 03.04.2006). Comment. I'm not unbiased on this. I think that Tony Blair is free to feel as he does, but I think I also was free to rely, in part, on my own religious sentiments in running (well, standing) unsuccessfully against the war in my 2004 Republican primary campaign in MN's Third Congressional District against Bush-War loyalist-enthusiast Jim Ramstad. I said at the time, and I still feel, that the war was unjustified, immoral, and, yes, un-Christian. The Bible, like the Constitution, is not nearly as clear in its meaning as Justice Scalia and other literalists would have us believe. No one of us -- Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Frankfurterian "reverent agnostic," Holmesean skeptic, etc. -- should ever be cocksure he's right with God.
Judge is acquitted of DWI after five-year battle. "A St. Clair County jury ended a five-year-old case against a retired judge [William B. Starnes, 71] Friday night, finding him not guilty of driving under the influence in Swansea in 2001. [He] was behind the wheel of a blue 1975 Chevrolet Caprice convertible when he was pulled over on Grimmig Road about 1:30 a.m. on March 3, 2001. Police said he had been driving erratically, did not use his turn signal, and then failed a battery of field sobriety tests. He declined to take a breath test...Starnes, who retired from the bench in 1994, has acknowledged having two drinks on the night [in question] at the Clinton Hill Country Club. But he has said he was not intoxicated when he was stopped hours later with a Clinton Hill waitress, Stephanie K. Mandrell, in the passenger seat. He has fought the allegations ever since, claiming that a speech impediment and an eye condition gave the arresting officer the false impression that he was drunk...." A doctor corroborated his claims, saying he suffers from Fuchs' dystrophy, which can result in eyes having a "glassy sheen" and from another condition, spasmodic dysphonia, which sometimes causes Stames to speak in a "raspy whisper." Judge is acquitted (St. Louis Post-Dispatch 03.04.2006). Earlier. You can take the judge out of the courtroom, but you can't.... Comment. The jury, however, found the ex-judge guilty of failing to signal his turn. Let that be a lesson or "BurtLaw Rule" to all judges who want to avoid a bigger mess, such as the one the good judge has been in for five years: always remember to signal your turns.
Judge congratulates jury on acquitting defendant. "A Rotorua District Court judge has taken the unusual step of congratulating a jury for "making the right decision" in acquitting a childcare worker accused of assaulting children in her care...'It is not normal for a judge to make this comment but I agree with your verdicts,' he said...." More (Daily Post - NZ 03.04.2006).
Brother, sister running for same judgeship. "A brother and sister have picked up qualifying papers for the same judgeship in Hamilton County General Sessions Court. Joey Warwick, an attorney in the law firm of John McMahan, earlier picked up qualifying papers for the Division II seat. Mary Sullivan Warwick Moore, a prosecutor in the district attorney's office, picked up papers for the same seat on Thursday. Attorney Warwick said when he qualified, his sister was leaning against a race. 'Then she called me this week and said she was running.'" More (The Chattanoogan 03.04.2006). Comment. In 1932, when my mom and dad were courting (they met in 9th grade in 1926 and married in 1936), their fathers (my grandfathers), Otto (NMN) Herfindahl and Robert Gornelius Hanson, ran against each other in a good-natured race for county commissioner in Swift County. They came in one-two in the primary, defeating four other candidates, and Grandpa Otto defeated Grandpa Bob in the general election. I also remember some spirited Norwegian Whist games involving the two of them during the Christmas Eve celebrations at our house in my youth. Two of Grandpa Otto's favorite expressions were "Philadelphia lawyer" and "That's one for Boston." Who knows but what he subliminally influenced me to go to HLS in Boston (well, Cambridge) and become a Philadelphia (well, Minneapolis) lawyer.
Short judge of Syrian extraction by-passes airport security! "[Judge] Paula Abdul was allowed to board a plane at the Las Vegas airport without passing through a security check point, prompting all passengers and luggage to be screened when they landed in California, officials said Friday...." More (Cleveland Plain Dealer 03.04.2006). Comments. a) Judge Abdul, who is 5'2" tall, describes her nationality as American. However, according to AnswerBag.Com, "her ethnic background includes Syrian, Brazilian and French Canadian." The breach of security is under investigation! What do the profile-happy security people have to say for themselves? b) Malcolm Gladwell, Canadian-born author of The Tipping Point and Blink, both best-sellers, has a useful essay in the 02.06.2006 issue of The New Yorker titled Troublemakers - What pit bulls can teach us about profiling. (Note: The essay presumably will make its way eventually to Gladwell's website, where he posts his New Yorker articles.) In the essay he examines, inter alia, the rationality of the Ontario legislature's banning in early 2005 of the ownership of "pit bulls" five days after three dogs identified as pit bulls viciously attacked an Ottawa, Ontario family. The essay deals with the use of profiling and generalizing (a/k/a "painting with a broad brush," a/k/a stereotyping) in decision-making and with the flaws in reasoning that often underlie profiling and generalizing.
Judicial election issue: Did justice lift quotes in applying for judgeship? "Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett has defended his use of unattributed legal statements in his application for the job, saying the document didn't require the meticulous citations found in more formal law articles. Willett, a Republican, in August was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to fill a vacancy on the state's highest civil court. He now faces former Texas Supreme Court Justice Steve Smith for the job in Tuesday's GOP primary election. Smith said much of the writing in Willett's application to Perry mirrors comments made by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and former U.S. Circuit Judge Robert Bork...." More (Dallas Morning News 03.03.2006). Comment. Willett, the judge accused of failing to attribute his statements, is President Bush's former faith-based intiatives adviser. He's not the first judge alleged to have improperly presented sentences, etc., of others as his own. For example, a Florida circuit judge, Gregory Holder, faced but was cleared last year of judicial misconduct charges that he plagiarized a research paper he submitted in seeking a promotion in the Air Force Reserve. Judge Holder cleared by panel (Tampa Tribune 06.24.2005). Back in the 1970's The New Yorker, in one of those "strange coincidence" fillers, posted excerpts from a speech/article by a Hennepin County Minnesota trial judge next to nearly identical statements from a previously-published piece. To my knowledge, no ethics charges were brought against the judge. In my opinion, there was no need to do that -- the embarrassment of being "caught" by The New Yorker was punishment enough, if punishment was needed. One of the most-famous cases of plagiarism in politics occurred in 1987, when Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, then a candidate for the Democrats' Presidential Nomination, "was publicly humiliated after it was alleged he had pilfered parts of a speech from the then British opposition leader, Neil Kinnock. A Biden speech had gone: 'I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? Why is it that my wife who is sitting out there in the audience is the first in her family to ever go to college?' All of which sounds eerily similar to Neil Kinnock's very public musing: 'Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university?'" The Plagiarism Plague (BBC News 02.07.2003). Further reading. On Plagiarism - In the Wake of Recent Scandals Some Distinctions Are in Order, by Judge Richard Posner (The Atlantic Monthly, April 2002). Judicial Plagiarism: It May Be Fair Use but Is It Ethical? by Jaime S. Dursht, Vol. 18 Cardozo L. Rev. 1253 (1996). And consider this excerpt from a posting by Judge Posner on his blog in 2005:
The idea that copying another personís ideas or expression (the form of words in which the idea is encapsulated), without the personís authorization and without explicit acknowledgment of the copying, is reprehensible is, in general, clearly false. Think of the remarkable series of 'plagiarisms' that links Ovidís Pyramus and Thisbe with Shakespeareís Romeo and Juliet and Leonard Bernsteinís West Side Story. Think of James Joyceís Ulysses and of contemporary parodies, which invariably copy extensively from the original -- otherwise the reader or viewer would not recognize the parody as a parody. Most judicial opinions nowadays are written by law clerks but signed by judges, without acknowledgment of the clerksí authorship. This is a general characteristic of government documents, CEOís speeches, and books by celebrities. When unauthorized copying is not disapproved, it isnít called 'plagiarism.' Which means that the word, rather than denoting a definite, well-recognized category of conduct, is a label attached to instances of unauthorized copying of which the society, or some influential group within it, disapproves. In general, disapproval of such copying, and therefore of 'plagiarism,' is reserved for cases of fraud.
President invites judges to lunch. Is this okay? "President Bingu wa Mutharika has invited judges to a luncheon at New State House next Wednesday but the invitation has been received with mixed feelings by some senior members of the bench who question the motives...This is the second time the President has invited judges to his residence within a year. He feted them to dinner last year and promised to buy them vehicles, among other things. At the time the Judiciary was handling the controversial Elections Case involving MCP-backed UDF who claimed the 2004 elections was rigged. Judges now drive 4 by 4 latest Prados valued about K15 million each...." More (NationOnline - Malawi 03.03.2006).
What is a 'puisne judge'? "Ms Vaucrosson told Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons that Smith has no previous criminal record, and recommended a prison sentence of four to five years...." More (The Royal Gazette - Bermuda 03.03.2006). A puisne judge is a judge inferior in rank. More (Merriam-Webster Online 03.03.2006). Its precise meaning varies depending on the jurisdiction in which the term is used. The term has sometimes been applied -- methinks wrongly -- to referees, court commissioners, even court law clerks.
When a state supreme court justice is ill. "California Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin, who's recovering from skull surgery, won't take the bench during oral arguments next week, making it the third month in a row he's been absent, causing delays and prompting lower court judges to take his place in two cases...He's eligible to participate in decision-making even if he's not present during arguments, and has done that in all but two of the 14 cases the high court has heard since January...Under high court rules, attorneys on both sides must agree to Chin's absence. If either side doesn't agree, George, as chief justice, can delay oral arguments or assign a state appellate court judge to fill in for Chin. The U.S. Supreme Court has different rules. Lower federal court judges do not fill in for absent justices." More (San Jose Mercury News 03.03.2006). Comment. One attorney who did not agree to Chin's absence from oral arguments is quoted as saying, "This practice of relying on the justice listening to a tape of the argument is good, but not the same as the justice being able to ask his own questions when they come up during oral argument." I have mixed feelings about that. Oral arguments occasionaly make a difference but their importance is often exaggerated by advocates. Moreover, it's not as if the parties aren't given a full opportunity to make all their points in their written briefs. I'm more troubled when a justice doesn't attend conference, but simply provides the other justices with his votes, in writing, in advance. Presence is especially critical at conferences on petitions for review, less so at conferences following oral arguments on a case being reviewed on the merits. Typically, the final decisions on petitions for review are made at conference, with the order granting or denying review being circulated shortly thereafter. If a judge votes in absentia on petitions, for all practical purposes he foregoes the opportunity to change his vote on a petition and to change the minds of others during conference. On the other hand, votes are temporary at conferences following oral arguments on cases being reviewed on the merits, with a justice being free to change his mind and to try change the minds of others during the opinion-circulation process. Incidentally, I believe strongly that the order denying or granting each petition for review ought to state not only each judge's vote on the petition but the names of any judges voting in absentia. There is no valid reason this ought not be a matter of public record as part of the court's obligation to be not just independent but accountable.
Judge halts trial after two jurors accuse him of bias in favor of prosecution. "neE of the most senior judges in Wales was accused by [two] jurors of being biased in favour of the prosecution during a rape trial. Judge John Diehl immediately halted the case and ordered a retrial [before a different judge]. Yesterday, Dean Jenkins, 33, walked free after the new jury took 40 minutes to unanimously agree on a not guilty verdict...." More (IC.Wales 03.03.2006).
Case illustrates need for backup of court computer files. "A computer crash that erased part of a trial transcript is insufficient reason to order a new trial in a criminal case, a sharply divided Florida Supreme Court decided Thursday. The 4-3 decision [held that the defendant had the burden of providing] sufficient proof to demonstrate reversible error in his trial [even though the] court reporter was unable to provide a transcript of what happened...The reporter's computer hard drive malfunctioned and she was unable to read her written notes...In dissent, Chief Justice Barbara Pariente argued [that] ''The majority's requirement imposes an almost insurmountable burden on the defendant.'" More (Miami Herald 03.03.2006). Comment. Trial courts need automatic hard drive backup of computer files and also ought to consider, as an additional safeguard, audio recording of all trials.
Woman pleads guilty to mailing poison to Supreme Court Justices. "A Connecticut woman who mailed threatening letters and food laced with rat poison to Supreme Court justices and other federal officials has agreed not to oppose prosecutors' request for a 15-year prison sentence...The typed letters mailed in April said either 'I am going to kill you' or 'we are going to kill you, followed by the sentence 'This is poisoned.' Inside each envelope was a smashed piece of candy or what appeared to be crumbs from a baked item. Seven of the letters to Supreme Court justices contained rat poison, according to the indictment...She was convicted in 1985 of mailing poisonous bottles of wine to several relatives." More (Newsday 03.03.2006). Comment. In simpler times, one could write a letter to a Supreme Court Justice and he could open it himself without fear. Back when I was courting the woman who is now my ex-wife, I sent a copy of a volume of opinions of Justice Hugo Black along with sufficient return postage and a return envelope and asked him to inscribe it to her on the anniversary of his appointment, the same day of the month as her birthday. I explained I was "using" him in my courtship of her. He inscribed the book in courtly fashion and returned the excess postage with a note in his own pen.
Judge rules public entitled to names of lawyers who lent judge money. "A federal judge today ruled in favor of The Kansas City Star and reversed a bankruptcy order sealing the names of lawyers who lent money to a municipal judge...The case centers on the names of attorneys who loaned money to now-former Municipal Judge Deborah Neal. Neal pleaded guilty last year to accepting loans from lawyers and not disclosing the loans on financial disclosure forms...She later filed for bankruptcy and asked that the names of her lawyer-creditors be sealed...." More (Kansas City Star 03.03.2006). Comment. This strikes me as a no-brainer.
Judge beats Holy Ghost. "Holy Ghost Prep led Father Judge three times in Thursday nightís opening game of the Commissioner Cup finals at Grundy Recreation Center. However, the Firebirds were unable to lead when it mattered most. The Crusadersí David Kapral scored with just 3:41 left in the third period to give Father Judge its first lead of the game. Judge scored three unanswered third-period goals, including an empty-net goal, to earn a 5-3 win...." More (Bucks County Courier-Times 03.03.2006). Comment. Some but not all American Indians object to the use of names such as "Braves," "Chiefs," "Fighting Sioux," "Seminoles," etc., as sports team nicknames. When schools comply with directives from athletic associations and conferences to drop such names, why don't some of them look to our judicial system for ideas? A school named Highcroft might, e.g., do well to name its basketball team the "Highcroft High Court Judges." Florida State might drop "Seminoles" and name its team the "Fighting Scalias."
Judge's aide's courthouse computer is seized in investigation. "The Miami-Dade state attorney's office on Wednesday seized a courthouse computer used by Juan F. D'Arce Jr., judicial assistant to County Judge Ivan Hernandez.
D'Arce, 34, who has a side consulting business called Pericles International Enterprises, is under investigation for allegedly doing private political consulting on court time, and using heavy-handed tactics to solicit clients. He has denied any wrongdoing...The Miami-Dade state attorney's office is interviewing judges and judicial candidates whom D'Arce solicited -- or for whom he did consulting work...." More (Miami Herald 03.02.2006).
Judge blasts sheriff, attorney for statements in motion to recuse. "A federal judge fired back Wednesday at Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan, saying the sheriff had unfairly smeared him in an affidavit that charged the judge had 'utter disdain' for law enforcement. 'How can any responsible attorney say that?' U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo asked Sheahan's lawyer...Castillo asked Michael Hayes Sr., attorney for Sheahan and several other defendants in a civil lawsuit, whether he and his clients knew that Castillo had been a federal prosecutor...Hayes insisted in court that the affidavit represented his client's view and not his own...Castillo said he would give Sheahan and other sheriff's officials a week to consider whether to amend their motion to recuse...." More (Chicago Tribune 03.02.2006).
Killer of ex-wife and judge gets sentenced to death. "A military tribunal in the East Java town of Sidoarjo on Thursday sentenced to death a Navy colonel who murdered his ex-wife and a judge at a religious affairs court in the province. Presiding judge Col. Burhan Dahlan said Col. Irfan Djumroni had been found guilty of murdering his ex-wife, Eka Suhartini, and judge Ahmad Taufik...." The tribunal also gave him a dishonorable discharge. More (Jakarta Post 03.02.2006).
California Senator blocks Bush's appointment of Idahoan to 9th Circuit. "Sen.Dianne Feinstein of California announced Wednesday she will block the nomination of an Idaho judge [Randy Smith] to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals because she contends the seat should go to someone from California...Smith was picked by President Bush in December to replace Judge Stephen Trott, who moved to Idaho from California after his appointment to the court in 1988...Feinstein and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said the seat should go to a California judge because tradition holds that judgeships remain in the same state...." More (San Francisco Chronicle 03.02.2006).
Judge says no karakia while court is in session. "A Gisborne District Court judge has refused to allow two defendants in an assault and trespass case to perform a karakia in court. Judge Mark Perkins yesterday warned Ross Ariki Hongara and Nicola Margaret Wilson that no karakia (prayer) would be allowed before entering the dock. Both requested that they be allowed to pray over the dock before entering it. Hongara, 31, told the judge that the ground on which the courthouse now stood was ancestral and that his tipuna used to go there to pray. It would dishonour their memory if he were to go in the dock without first saying a karakia. Judge Perkins said he would allow the prayer to be said but during the lunch break when he retired to his chambers...." More (Stuff - NZ 03.02.2006). Comments. a) Is there such a thing as "silent karakia" akin to the Christian tradition of silent prayer? I can "get away" with praying anytime I want, without judicial or other interference, because I pray in private and, in fact, loathe communal prayer. b) Apparently if the proceedings had been in Maori Land Court rather than Gisborne District Court, karakia would have been okay: "At the Maori Land Court, these transactions are dealt with in a traditional and appropriate manner. For example, court sittings may be conducted in te reo Maori (the Maori language) and may begin and end with a karakia (prayer)." - From About the Maori Land Court (New Zealand Ministry of Justice). c) Consider also: Te Kenehi Robert Mair v District Court at Wanganui AP15/95 HC Wanganui, 18 December 1995. Heron, Judge (Maori Law Review Juanuary 1996), where the court, in upholding a contempt citation based on a defendant's failing to comply with the judge's refusal to allow karakia, said:
While some judges have allowed karakia and participated in them, this is a decision for each particular case and judge and undoubtedly there would be times where such a ritual would be considered inappropriate. The judge here was to some extent 'set up.' While there may be room for greater emphasis on matters like karakia, courts are 'secular institutions who have to deal with litigants of various races and creeds, and to emphasise one particular culture creates its own imbalance.' One view is that 'there is something slightly disturbing to the Courts appearance of impartiality to make a concession to the cultural mores of one group when sitting on a case which may be determining the rights and obligations of members of other groups as well as those of Mäori.' When the subject matter of a case involves entirely Mäori interests judges have unhesitatingly allowed karakia, while reserving the right to attend in person or not. The use of an independent person to deliver the karakia may be desirable also. Experience from the Court of Appeal and the hearing of important Treaty cases are no precedent. District Court judges deal with many cases and order and predictable procedures are essential. This does not preclude judges 'from recognising the occasion when a karakia can be said with goodwill on all sides and as a helpful gesture to the resolution of a case.' However, involving any person in a karakia against their wishes is 'insensitive and unacceptable.' The appellant was well aware of his course and could have backed down but did not....
d) Might the judge in the instant case have simply called a brief recess so that the defendants could "perform" their karakia before entering the dock?
Judge to plead guilty in extortion case, resign. "A Roane County judge [General Sessions Judge Thomas A. Austin] reached agreement with federal prosecutors Wednesday to plead guilty to receiving kickbacks from a driving school where he sent offenders...." More (Southern Standard 03.02.2006). Earlier. Judge charged in diversion program kickback scheme.
You can take the judge out of the courtroom, but you can't.... "William B. Starnes last sat on the judge's bench in St. Clair County a dozen years ago. Years of habit die hard, though, and there's a part of Starnes that still acts as if a courtroom is his kingdom. Even if this time he's sitting at the defendant's table...
Trial of alleged terrorist tests courthouse's neighbors. "As Zacarias Moussaoui was thrown out of a federal courtroom in Alexandria one recent Monday, police blocked off streets surrounding the courthouse that will host his long-awaited death-penalty trial. Just outside the blockade zone, traffic crept along in single lines. A bevy of television trucks sat along Eisenhower Avenue, part of the worldwide media contingent covering the highly publicized case. The federal courthouse itself resembled an armed camp. Snipers patrolled nearby roofs, while bomb-sniffing dogs inspected bags...." -- From an interesting piece in The Washington Post today, 03.02.2006, on the effect of a high-profile trial like this on people who live and work in the neighborhood of the courthouse.
Judge, in trouble, agrees to resign. "Troubled Pleasant Hills District Judge Mary Grace Boyle agreed to retire Wednesday as part of a deal with the state Judicial Conduct Board. The board had been investigating claims that Boyle, 56, of Jefferson Hills, had used her office for campaign work during the May  primary. County officials also found a backlog of undecided cases and financial problems [but no money stolen] at her office...." More (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 03.02.2006).
Another I-Team-type report: Judge caught on tape away from bench! "Morning after morning, the Troubleshooters found State District Judge Mike Wilkinson's bench empty. By 10:30 a.m., families began to whisper about missing work or wondering if the judge would show up at all. But as people lined up each day to get to court on time, the 9 a.m. hour is the time for chores at Wilkinson's home in east Harris County. The Troubleshooters' hidden cameras found him carrying bags of feed or hauling buckets to his barn...." More (Click2Houston.Com 03.01.2006). Comments. a) We always urge readers to click on the link and read the item linked to in full. This one is especially worth reading in its entirety. The judge's comments on the investigation are particularly amusing: i) Shown the "hidden-camera video," the judge is quoted as saying "he's never held a regular 9 a.m. docket call, and the lawyers and people waiting in his court should know that"; ii) "'I've been doing the same thing for 18 years and no one brings this to my attention -- that it's a real problem,' Wilkinson said; iii) "'Is that the measure of somebody being productive in your view -- somebody wearing a black robe? That's your idea of work getting done? There's a lot of work that gets done that doesn't involve me sitting on the bench and Ö,' Wilkinson said"; iv) "He said he works late a lot and other lawyers and prosecutors told the Troubleshooters that he's fair and thorough, even 'brilliant' when he is on the bench." b) In the Jimmy Hatlo "They'll do it every time" Department, I can't help noting that when I ran for the state supreme court in Minnesota in the general election in 2000 the local TV "news" businesses (not surprisingly to me) showed no interest in covering my thoughtful campaign. To my knowledge, not 30 seconds of air time on all the stations combined was devoted to my candidacy. But if I'd been elected and caught doing something amusing or shocking, the reporters from the stations would have been camped outside my house and/or the court trying to "ambush" me. :-) c) For some of our other thoughts on local TV "news" businesses and their sweeps "journalism," see, More on the judge caught playing hooky and Annals of TV 'sweeps' and judges 'caught on camera.'
Politicians seek to add ban on judicial activism to constitution. "Courts would be barred from using 'any powers properly belonging' to other government branches, under a proposal that advanced in the [KY] Senate on Wednesday. Senate Bill 236 seeks a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment that also would bar state courts from engaging in 'judicial activism' by issuing orders or opinions on policies that 'properly belong' to other government branches...." More (Louisville Courier-Journal 03.01.2006). Comment. In my opinion, it is sad to see politicians pander to the public on this issue. It is also sad that such cliched thinking resonates with so many people. I wish Justice Holmes were around to cut the pygmies down to their real size. See, Sound familiar? Update. Senate Democrats block the bid to amend. (Louisville Courier-Journal 03.03.2006).
Judge's ticket-fixing conviction upheld. "In a 20-page ruling late Monday, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco upheld [former Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge William] Danser's felony conviction for obstructing justice and eight misdemeanor convictions related to a scheme to fix court cases and tickets for friends and pro athletes, including members of the San Jose Sharks...." More (San Jose Mercury News 03.01.2006).
Judge Alan Parker returns, triumphant. "We throw ourselves on the mercy of the court! Judge Parker's court, specifically. After a two-month absence from The Des Moines Register's comics pages, 'Judge Parker' will return April 3. Messing with the funnies is no laughing matter. We learned that after dropping 'Judge Parker on Feb. 6 for 'Mutts.'" More (Des Moines Register 03.01.2006). Earlier. Iowans take to streets to protest firing of 'Judge Parker.' Further reading. BurtLaw's Law and Comics.
Bouyant at learning he'll run unopposed, judge gives everyone a break. "A Metro General Sessions Judge [Casey Moreland] summarily retired dozens of traffic tickets [on Feb. 16], including one for House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, the judge confirmed today...Moreland says he doesn't think he did anything wrong...[He says] he was in a buoyant mood after learning he would be running unopposed in this yearís election. 'It just happened to be 30 minutes after the qualifying deadline, and he was dealt with like everyone else in there,' said Moreland...." More (Dickson Herald - TN 02.27.2006). Comment. This reads like a story from The Onion, the weekly that specializes in fake new stories.
Latest on those specialized ethnic courts for drunk drivers. "Attacking what he called racial and ethnic segregation, the Phoenix district attorney filed a federal lawsuit yesterday against Arizona court programs set up to provide treatment for Spanish-speaking and Indian drunken-driving offenders. Andrew P. Thomas, the Maricopa County attorney, whose office serves the fourth-most-populous county in the nation, said the 'race-based courts' violated the Constitution and federal laws barring discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity...." More (N.Y.Times 03.01.2006). Earlier. Prosecutor threatens lawsuit to stop Spanish-language courts - County attorney assails 'race-based' DUI courts.
Judicial candidate may not use 'Madame Justice' as nickname on ballot. "The state elections director has rejected the request of a North Carolina Supreme Court candidate who wanted to appear on the ballot with the nickname 'Madame Justice.' Elections director Gary Bartlett wrote Cary lawyer Rachel Lea Hunter on Tuesday to tell her that the name would mislead voters [into thinking she is a current member of the court]...'I've never misrepresented myself,' Hunter said...adding that she adopted the nickname in 1998 for use on the Internet...Under state law, a candidate must sign an affidavit stating the nickname has been in use at least five years. Hunter used the name on her campaign Web site when she first ran for the court in 2004...." More (FayettevilleOnline 03.01.2006).
Our Motto - "Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat" Loose translation: Does anything prevent telling the truth with a smile? (Horace)
Click here for DMCA Digital Millennium Copyright Act Claim Notification Info pursuant to Subsection 512(c)
Advertisers - Please consider patronizing the advertisers, including today's featured advertiser, Bob's Perpetuities, Ltd., a multinational boutique law firm specializing in all facets of the arcane Rule Against Perpetuities. Founded in 2004, Bob's is already the leading firm in the field. You may not know you have a perpetuities problem. That's why the motto of Bob's Perpetuities, Ltd., is: "Whatever your situation in life, better contact Bob's."
Adv. - In response to the "makeover craze" that's sweeping the nation, Klara's Kut 'n' Kurl announces that it will be setting aside Saturdays for judicial makeovers. Many judges, we find, have an image problem in the courtroom. They do not project authority or wisdom or gravitas or experience - whatever. Klara Fribund Kollevitz can help. For example, if you're an obviously-young judge or an older judge cursed with a Dick Klark youthful appearance, Klara can use state-of-the-art aging technology -- Gravi-Tox -- to add gravitas to your look. Judge-appropriate konfidentiality assured. Kall Klara's at Local 536 for a free konsultation.
Affiliated Web sites
Slate's list of Judge Roberts resources. Slate has created a John Roberts Roundup, a regularly-updated page of links to some of the better web postings relating to Judge Roberts. Click here.