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.
When judges get 'creative' in opinions. Concurrent with news that Judge Peter Smith encoded his ruling in the DaVinci Code case, the Times of London has a piece on some of the many other instances in which judges have tried their hands at rhyme, rap, humor, etc., in their rulings -- specifically, a) Judge Deborah Servitto's "rapp[ing] out part of a 2003 ruling which found that the U.S. hip-hop star Emimen did not defame a schoolboy rival in one of his songs," b) Alfred Thompson, Lord Denning's "deliver[y of] perhaps the most famous opening line in English legal history when he began: 'It happened on April 19, 1964. It was bluebell time in Kent' in a personal injury case," and c) N.Y. Trial Judge Robert Gigante's "ruling in the style of the George Harrison classic 'Something' as part of a case involving a doctor who once treated the Beatles legend and got him to sign a guitar on his deathbed." More (Times UK 04.27.2006). Comment. We expressed our views, with examples, of this sort of thing in a mini-essay titled "Judge Hardy-har-har -- or Dan Rather as judge" at BurtLaw's Law & Legal Writing. By the way, this entire blog is in code.
MA Supremes question judicial conduct board's authority. Since 1987 MA has had a statute that says the Commission on Judicial Conduct and judges who are the subject of complaints may resolve or settle those complaints by agreeing on ''conditions on the judge's conduct" -- this as an alternative to contesting the complaint and submitting to public hearings, etc., before the Supreme Judicial Court. "In an extraordinary hourlong hearing yesterday, where Supreme Judicial Court justices wore business suits instead of robes to emphasize their administrative role, they told the commission's lawyer that lawmakers never intended the panel to settle complaints by imposing harsh penalties without SJC approval...Justice John M. Greaney, who was appointed to the court shortly after the law took effect, said that provision was not intended to authorize costly fines, long suspensions, or limits on the kinds of cases judges could hear. It literally meant the commission could order a judge to curtail inappropriate conduct, he said...." More (Boston Globe 04.27.2006). Comment. Interesting issue, interesting article. It appears the Court is as interested in the Commission's authority to agree to light sanctions as harsh ones. Earlier. MA Supremes summon members of judicial conduct board.
Panel on judicial performance conducts review interviews with judges. "The New Mexico Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission will meet Friday to interview four appellate judges whose positions will be up for retention in this year's general election...." The panel also interviews trial judges who are up for retention votes. After the interviews the commission compiles some sort of "narrative" for a guide to the public. The interviews are closed to the public. More (New Mexico Business Weekly 04.26.2006). Comment. We're not big fans of the so-called Missouri Plan, with its retention elections. We might be wrong but we're guessing the "guides" for the voters are filled with "pablum," the sort of bland stuff one reads in voter guides produced by well-meaning but ineffective good-voter organizations.
Judge embedded a coded puzzle in 'DaVinci Code' ruling. "Justice Peter Smith's 71-page ruling in the recent Da Vinci Code copyright case here is notable for many things: the judge's occasional forays into literary criticism, his snippy remarks about witnesses on both sides, and his fluent knowledge not only of copyright law but also of more esoteric topics like the history of the Knights Templar. But there is more to it than that. Embedded in the first 13½ pages of the ruling is Justice Smith's very own secret code, one that when partly solved reveals its name: the Smithy Code...." More (N.Y. Times 04.26.2006).
Latest on uproar over C.J.'s deferring opinion's release. Yesterday we posted links and comments relating to the shocking revelations that the outgoing Chief Justice of the CT Supreme Court ordered staff to delay releasing a controversial 4-3 decision in the hope it would remove one potentially contentious issue from the confirmation hearing for his nominated successor. See, Outgoing C.J. admits holding up decision to help colleague succeed him. Before the revelations, the nomination was already controversial because of suspicions about the timing of the chief's announcement of his resignation and the governor's naming of her preference for his replacement. But it all gets curiouser and curiouser: Today's Hartford Courant reports that the case "took an odd twist after it was argued before the state Supreme Court Feb. 10, 2005":
The FOI commission initially prevailed at the outset of deliberations by a 3-2 margin of the five justices originally assigned to hear the case, with [C.J.] Sullivan and Zarella [the justice named to replace the chief] in the minority. The majority then consisted of Justices David M. Borden, Flemming L. Norcott Jr. and Joette Katz. Then Sullivan added two more judges to the panel to render an "en banc" ruling, which is not altogether unusual in close cases involving significant issues. Those two -- Justice Richard N. Palmer and Appellate Court Chief Judge William J. Lavery [rather than the seventh justice, Christine S. Vertefeuille] -- ruled with Zarella and Sullivan.
As a result of the addition of one of the two remaining justices and the chief of the Appellate Court, the result changed from 3-2, with the chief and his replacement in the minority, to 4-3, with the chief and his replacement in the majority. More. Comment. Whether this latest revelation warrants great concern depends on information about the CT Supreme Court's internal operating procedures (relating to setting cases for en banc consideration and appointing a replacement when a member of the court does not sit) that I don't have.
Department of curious coincidences. "All generalizations are false, including this one" -- Mark Twain. "No generalization is wholly true, not even this one" -- Justice Holmes. Questions. Who spoke first? Did one copy, consciously or unconsciously, the other? Did both copy, consciously or unconsciously, some predecessor? Did each independently create the same thing? Are they the same thing? Does it matter?
Mark Twain on "unconscious plagiarism" involving Justice Holmes' dad. From Mark Twain, "Unconscious Plagiarism," a speech on August 29, 1879, delivered at dinner sponsored by Atlantic Monthly in honor of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.'s 70th birthday:
[T]he first great man who ever wrote me a letter was our guest -- Oliver Wendell Holmes. He was also the first great literary man I ever stole anything from --and that is how I came to write to him and he to me. When my first book was new, a friend of mine said to me, "The dedication is very neat." Yes, I said, I thought it was. My friend said, "I always admired it, even before I saw it in The Innocents Abroad." I naturally said: "What do you mean? Where did you ever see it before?" "Well, I saw it first some years ago as Doctor Holmes's dedication to his Songs in Many Keys." Of course, my first impulse was to prepare this man's remains for burial, but upon reflection I said I would reprieve him for a moment or two and give him a chance to prove his assertion if he could: We stepped into a book-store, and he did prove it. I had really stolen that dedication, almost word for word. I could not imagine how this curious thing had happened; for I knew one thing--that a certain amount of pride always goes along with a teaspoonful of brains, and that this pride protects a man from deliberately stealing other people's ideas. That is what a teaspoonful of brains will do for a man--and admirers had often told me I had nearly a basketful -- though they were rather reserved as to the size of the basket.
However, I thought the thing out, and solved the mystery. Two years before, I had been laid up a couple of weeks in the Sandwich Islands, and had read and re-read Doctor Holmes's poems till my mental reservoir was filled up with them to the brim. The dedication lay on the top, and handy, so, by-and-by, I unconsciously stole it. Perhaps I unconsciously stole the rest of the volume, too, for many people have told me that my book was pretty poetical, in one way or another. Well, of course, I wrote Doctor Holmes and told him I hadn't meant to steal, and he wrote back and said in the kindest way that it was all right and no harm done; and added that he believed we all unconsciously worked over ideas gathered in reading and hearing, imagining they were original with ourselves. He stated a truth, and did it in such a pleasant way, and salved over my sore spot so gently and so healingly, that I was rather glad I had committed the crime, far the sake of the letter. I afterward called on him and told him to make perfectly free with any ideas of mine that struck him as being good protoplasm for poetry. He could see by that that there wasn't anything mean about me; so we got along right from the start. I have not met Doctor Holmes many times since; and lately he said -- However, I am wandering wildly away from the one thing which I got on my feet to do; that is, to make my compliments to you, my fellow- teachers of the great public, and likewise to say that I am right glad to see that Doctor Holmes is still in his prime and full of generous life; and as age is not determined by years, but by trouble and infirmities of mind and body, I hope it may be a very long time yet before any one can truthfully say, "He is growing old."
Holmes' dad on unconscious plagiarism. From Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table (1858, 1891):
I think few persons have a greater disgust for plagiarism than myself. If I had even suspected that the idea in question was borrowed, I should have disclaimed originality, or mentioned the coincidence, as I once did in a case where I had happened to hit on an idea of Swift's.--But what shall I do about these verses I was going to read you? I am afraid that half mankind would accuse me of stealing their thoughts, if I printed them. I am convinced that several of you, especially if you are getting a little on in life, will recognize some of these sentiments as having passed through your consciousness at some time. I can't help it,--it is too late now. The verses are written, and you must have them. Listen, then, and you shall hear:
What We All Think
That age was older once than now,
In spite of locks untimely shed,
Or silvered on the youthful brow;
That babes make love and children wed.
That sunshine had a heavenly glow,
Which faded with those "good old days,"
When winters came with deeper snow,
And autumns with a softer haze.
That-- mother, sister, wife, or child--
The "best of women" each has known.
Were school-boys ever half so wild?
How young the grandpapas have grown!
That but for this our souls were free,
And but for that our lives were blest;
That in some season yet to be
Our cares will leave us time to rest.
Whene'er we groan with ache or pain,--
Some common ailment of the race,--
Though doctors think the matter plain,--
That ours is "a peculiar case."
That when like babes with fingers burned
We count one bitter maxim more,
Our lesson all the world has learned,
And men are wiser than before.
That when we sob o'er fancied woes,
The angels hovering overhead
Count every pitying drop that flows,
And love us for the tears we shed.
That when we stand with tearless eye
And turn the beggar from our door
They still approve us when we sigh,
"Ah, had I but one thousand more!"
Though temples crowd the crumbled brink
O'erhanging truth's eternal flow,
Their tablets bold with what we think,
Their echoes dumb to what we know;
That one unquestioned text we read,
All doubt beyond, all fear above,
Nor crackling pile nor cursing creed
Can burn or blot it: GOD IS LOVE!
MA Supremes summon members of judicial conduct board. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has summoned officials of the nine-member Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct to appear at a hearing to determine the scope of the Commission's authority to settle cases without the Court's approval. Heretofore, the Commission has reached settlements of disciplinary actions that included three months suspensions without pay. Recently, however, the Commission negotiated a one-year suspension in a matter involving sexual harassment by a judge. While the Court's summons apparently does not put that settlement in jeopardy, it calls into question the Commission's authority in future cases to reach settlements without the Court's approval where the sanctions are "more serious sanctions" than the three month ones previously negotiated. More (Boston Globe 04.25.2006). Comment. The Globe says lawyers-in-the-know are saying that "the confrontation exposes a fundamental rift between the court and the commission -- one that could have far-reaching consequences on how Massachusetts disciplines judges."
Outgoing C.J. admits holding up decision to help colleague succeed him. At the end of March we posted an entry titled Uproar over timing of chief's resignation, appointment of successor about the announcement by CT Governor M. Jodi Rell, "all in the same breath," of the sudden, unexpected resignation of the chief justice, William J. Sullivan, to take effect April 15, in the middle of the court's term, and of her appointment of Associate Justice Peter T. Zarella to take Sullivan's place. Suspicious minds "smelled a rat," as in a) the chief's resignation being part of a package deal involving the appointment of Zarella, and b) the timing of the resignation, appointment, etc., late in the legislative session so the legislators would not have time to conduct thorough confirmation hearings. Today we learn that the now-former chief justice, Sullivan, "delayed the release of a recent Supreme Court ruling in an attempt to help secure the appointment of [Zarella]...The decision was supposed to be made public on March 14, but was not released until April 21. Justice David M. Borden, who is leading the court until a new chief justice is confirmed, brought the incident to the attention of the committee...considering Zarella's nomination." Justice Borden wrote, "The intent and effect of Chief Justice Sullivan's conduct was to deprive the legislature of the timely knowledge of Justice Zarella's vote in that case." Sullivan now admits this and admits it was a mistake but denies he violated judicial conduct rules. Zarella, for his part, says he intended to bring the matter to the committee's attention during the hearings but Borden beat him to it. More (Stamford Advocate 04.24.2006). Comments. a) The decision that the chief justice delayed releasing was a controversial 4-3 decision, with both the chief and Justice Zarella joining the majority in holding that the "Judicial Branch has the right to deny public access to certain documents that track the status and history of legal cases." More (First Amendment Center 04.24.2006). Obviously, the chief didn't think the release of the decision, a blow to open-ness in government, would win Zarella friends in the legislature. b) As judges in California know, diddling around with the timing of a controversial decision's release with a judicial retention election in mind is a no-no. Similarly, we believe it would be improper for an appellate court to delay briefing and setting a controversial case for argument in the hope of postponing consideration of the case until after judicial elections. But the underlying principle is a broader one than "A court ought not delay filing an opinion in order to prevent the appointing or elective or confirming authority from seeing an opinion that might weigh for or against appointment, election or confirmation." Thus, we believe it would be improper for an appellate court to delay a controversial case until after the end of a legislative session in the hope of improving the judiciary's chances of getting more funding. But that's just us.... c) Might it be okay for a court to hasten release of a decision interpreting a statute or declaring a law unconstitutional in order to give the legislature, then in session, time to respond in some way? How about this hypo: Suppose the chief is in the minority in a case declaring a statute unconstitutional under the state constitution and he rushes the release of the opinion in order to allow the legislature, before going into rcess, to vote to place an amendment reversing the majority's decision on the fall ballot? If it's you think it's okay to do that, would it be okay for the chief, if in the majority in the hypo, to delay releasing the opinion in order to prevent the legislature from responding before recess? d) We offer a modest suggestion: a court ought to have clear, neutral, principled policies in place regarding the circulation and release of decisions and deviations from those policies ought to be allowed only with full approval of all members of the court. Moreover, if an opinion's release is hastened or deferred as an exception to policy, the opinion ought to explain so in a footnote.
Chief seeks investigation of fellow justice over lunch with senators. Here's the text of a letter Kansas Chief Justice Kay McFarland sent to the Commission on Judicial Qualifications asking for an immediate inquiry into possible misconduct by a fellow justice:
This letter is a formal request for the Commission on Judicial Qualifications to investigate allegations that Justice Lawton R. Nuss has engaged in inappropriate communications with members of the Legislature relative to Montoy, et al., v. State, et al, No. 92,032, pending before this court.
Due to the seriousness of these allegations, I urge the commission to conduct a thorough investigation as expeditiously as possible.
Source (Kansas.Com 04.24.2006). Why the letter? Read on: "[Justice] Lawton Nuss withdrew from further participation in the ongoing school finance lawsuit during a hastily called meeting of the court on Thursday after revealing he had talked to two senators about proposed school funding legislation...The Supreme Court is waiting for lawmakers to approve a plan to increase school funding. Once the Legislature acts, the court will decide whether the plan is acceptable...." More (Wichita Eagle 04.24.2006). Comment. MN's judicial conduct board was recently asked by two attorneys to investigate whether one or more members of the MN Supreme Court made inappropriate extra-judicial statements to a prominent state senator about the likelihood of the court reversing a previous decision that disallowing same-sex marriage does not violate the constitution. MN's he-said/she said controversy involving senator, justices.
Alabama justice defends low productivity. "Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker, who is running for chief justice, has the lowest productivity of the state's newest justices -- a factor he attributes to being a first-time judge and having to hire a staff...Between [January 2005, when he took his seat] and January 2006, he ruled on only one original appeal, but it was not one with a written opinion. Since [this] January, he has written only one decision for the court -- a 14-page ruling on Feb. 24 -- and handled three other original appeals that did not contain written decisions...Justices Mike Bolin and Patricia Smith, Republicans like Parker, also took office in January 2005...Bolin issued 38 opinions in his first year and Smith issued 28...." More (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer 04.24.2006). Earlier. See, our lengthy posting titled A dysfunctional 'court family.'
Aussie judge says NZ courts unfair. "The Federal Court in Sydney has ruled that the two men [facing child-sex abuse allegations dating to the 1970's] should not be extradited on the grounds that they may not receive a fair trial in New Zealand...On Friday, Justice Rodney Madgwick ruled that aspects of the New Zealand judicial system and the length of time since the allegations would make it difficult for the men to receive a fair trial...." More (Stuff.Co.NZ 04.23.2006). Cf., Rap star Cassidy has slammed the American judicial system as "crazy" (PR Insider 04.25.2006) and Judicial candidate says courts are run by rich and powerful (Marin Independent Journal 04.24.2006).
Lord Chancellor bans use of 'homosexual.' "The Lord Chancellor is facing accusations of political correctness after banning the word 'homosexual' from official documents in his department. Lord Falconer has ordered for the word to be removed on the grounds that it 'may be considered offensive.'" More (Pink News 04.25.2006).
Weeding out corrupt & incompetent judges - herein of the 'Four i's.' "More than 40 judges and court personnel have been suspended, fined or reprimanded for various offenses since December last year, Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban said here on Sunday...Panganiban said he wanted to see a judiciary characterized by independence, integrity, industry and intelligence...." A survey of over 400 lawyers last August showed nearly 50% were "aware" of judges who were "on the take" but only 8% of those lawyers took action. More (News.INQ7 - Philippines 04.25.2006). Comment. Surely you can think of some more "i words." How about "inclusiveness," "indelible inkiness," "insightfulness," and, here's a strange one, "impartiality."
Judicial protests in Cairo - one judge hospitalized. "Fifty judges [in Cairo] have been holding a sit-in at their headquarters to protest against the prosecution of two of their colleagues by the government. Police moved against demonstrators overnight and struck a judge who came out to defend them, witnesses said. Judge Mahmoud Hamza was taken to hospital but was not seriously hurt...." President Hosni Mubarak says he has clean hands, denies interfering with the judiciary. More (BBC News 04.24.2006). Comment. If Hosni says it, it must be so.
Annals of creative sentencing. "For non-English-speaking offenders in local courtrooms, language education has become a punishment -- or at least a common part of plea agreements -- as an increasing number of judges are sentencing them to learn English. Steuben County Magistrate Randy Coffey recently ordered a Hispanic man, charged with driving under the influence, to perform community service, with the stipulation that his community service be to take English classes...The concept isn’t without controversy...." More (Fort Wayne Gazette 04.24.2006). Comment. Might we some day read of judges sentencing offenders to attend law school?
Judge Nathan Koll. "[Judge Nathan Koll] always exuberantly pummels the lawyers from both sides with sly hypothetical questions aimed at undermining their positions. For Koll, each case, no matter what the actual subject matter, presents the same issue: proving that he is the smartest lawyer in the room. Or perhaps the universe...." From Scott Turow, Limitations (Ch. 1, serialized in N.Y. Times Sunday Magazine 04.23.2006).
Court orders judge to see psychiatrist. "A year after 36th District Court Judge David Bradfield's much-publicized confrontation with Detroit's deputy mayor over a parking spot, the Michigan Supreme Court suspended the judge indefinitely [without pay] Thursday, ordering him to undergo a psychiatric exam to determine whether he's fit to remain on the bench." The judge's attorney is quoted as saying, "I'm certain the exam will show that he's quite mentally fit, thank you very much." The Supreme Court has retained jurisdiction and will hear arguments this fall. More (Detroit Free Press 04.21.2006). Earlier. See, Intemperate judge's fate rests with supremes, and comment thereto. Comment. Sounds like a Catch-22: if the judge is deemed "mentally fit," then the court can say he has no excuse for acting as he did; if he's deemed "mentally unfit," then the court can say, "Bye-bye, Bradfield." There is a certain "lawless" quality about the judicial discipline jurisprudence in many states. Untethered by an real standards, the disciplinarians who judge judges don't always set a very good example in their rulings. Who is to judge the disciplinarians, who is to judge the judges who judge the judges?
This appellate courthouse has bedrooms. "The Appellate Courthouse for the Third District in Ottawa may not seem like an ideal place for accommodations but for the [seven] judges that serve the district it is a home away from home three days each month. Since the courthouse was built -- originally to house the Illinois Supreme Court -- in 1860, the first floor has been set aside for living quarters...five bedroom, each with its own full bathroom, two lounge areas with television sets, a formal dining room and a full kitchen...While judges are in town, a housekeeper prepares breakfast and lunch to be served in the dining room. But meals are not on the state...with each justice kicking in $25 per month to cover food costs...." More (MyWebTimes 04.22.2006).
Lawyer dies while arguing case - why no defibrillators in courthouse? "A day after a lawyer collapsed and died of a heart attack while arguing a court case, people are questioning why no defibrillators were in the Wake County [N.C.] Courthouse...County officials approved purchasing the $3,000 defibrillators last June, but they wanted to determine if they were cost-effective, where to put them and who to train before putting AEDs in place at the end of this June...." More (NBC 17 04.22.2006).
Judge not the play before... A bit of poetry-month advice by Renaissance poet Francis Quarles (1592-1644), an epigram titled "Respice Finem" (tr. "Look to the end"):
My soul, sit thou a patient looker-on;
Judge not the play before the play is done:
Her plot hath many changes; every day
Speaks a new scene; the last act crowns the play.
Judicial candidate sincerely regrets poorly-received joke. Paducah attorney Will Kautz is one of four candidates in the primary election for a district court judgeship in McCracken County. On 04.14 he appeared in court representing a defendant charged with felony possession of more than 8 ounces of marijuana, elevated from the initial charge of misdemeanor possession of less than 8 ounces. He suggested that police may have "added to" the amount seized, adding immediately that he was "being facetious." When the judge said she didn't think police would appreciate hearing that, he replied that "police 'will love my rap song' campaign jingle that included 'shoot a cop, kill a cop, vote for Kautz.' He immediately added that 'I'm obviously kidding.'" Word, of course, got out and now he's busy apologizing, etc. Details (Kentucky.Com 04.21.2006). Comment. Go ahead and "rhyme it with bazooka," if you want, but "you can't pooh-pooh Paducah...." More ["Paducah," from the movie-musical The Gangs All Here (1943), lyrics: Leo Robin, music: Harry Warren]. And, if you're a judicial candidate, you'd probably better not pooh-pooh the Paducah police, either.
Art show at ye olde courthouse. "[T]he annual Art in Bloom Spring Art Show...will be held from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Cambria County Courthouse in Ebensburg [PA]...More than 150 pieces of artwork have been accepted from throughout Pennsylvania...The display will feature five different categories: Painting, drawing, photography/computer-generated art, dimensional and mixed media...." More (Johnstown Tribune-Democrat 04.21.2006). Comment. I ask myself, What are the chances they'll exhibit someone's submission of a Cambria County equivalent of Francisco de Goya's Nude Maja?
Judge Richard Posner on the overconfident judge. "[O]verconfidence...is the occupational hazard of being a judge, especially a judge who is smarter than his colleagues." Richard A. Posner, "The Learned Hand Biography and the Question of Judicial Greatness," 104 Yale L. J. 511, 526 (1994). Comment. I agree that overconfidence is an occupational hazard of being a judge. I don't think it has anything to do with smartness. Some of the most overconfident people I've known have been dumb asses.
Annals of separation of powers. "A state law allowing probation officers to carry firearms and receive law enforcement training was ruled unconstitutional by the [N.J.] state Supreme Court on Wednesday. In their 6-0 ruling, the justices said that since probation officers are under the state's judiciary branch, the Legislature cannot pass laws that restrict the judiciary's authority to control its own employees...." More (Newsday 04.20.2006).
MP attacks judiciary. "Independent Member of Parliament for Bamboo Town Tennyson Wells, who served as AG in the Ingraham Administration, charged that some judges are making decisions not based on the evidence of cases, but based on who the lawyers are before them or what law firms they are from." But Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson came to the defense of the judiciary, saying Wells ought to either present evidence himself or keep quiet. Saying that "[a] practice has developed in this country where judges feel that they are beyond reproach [and y]ou can’t criticise them," Wells said if "the situation continues" he will produce evidence. Details (The Bahama Journal 04.20.2006).
A poem about the deplorable human costs of judicial elections! Believe it or not, there is a poem that might appeal particularly to the judge who doesn't like the idea of someone being able to run against him. It's by Edgar Lee Masters, who was once a law partner of Clarence Darrow, from his wonderful Spoon River Anthology (1916), in which the occupants of the Spoon River Cemetery take turns speaking from the grave:
I wanted to be County Judge
One more term, so as to round out a service
Of thirty years.
But my friends left me and joined my enemies,
And they elected a new man.
Then a spirit of revenge seized me,
And I infected my four sons with it,
And I brooded upon retaliation,
Until the great physician, Nature,
Smote me through with paralysis
To give my soul and body a rest.
Did my sons get power and money?
Did they serve the people or yoke them,
To till and harvest fields of self?
For how could they ever forget
My face at my bed-room window,
Sitting helpless amid my golden cages
Of singing canaries,
Looking at the old court-house?
A dysfunctional 'court family.' Judges are no less prone to cliched thinking than other mortals. One cliche oft heard in state supreme courts across the country is "the court family." The cliche is meant to suggest a number of things, including a) that despite disagreements in conference, etc., the members of the court are members of a collegial body who treat each other with respect, disagreeing without ever being disagreeable, b) that the members keep their disagreements and dislikes "within the family" and present a united front to the "outside world," i.e., the public, much as any family is expected to try to present a united front to the outside world, and c) that everybody within the "court family" -- regardless of title or pay or authority or place on an organizational chart -- cares for everybody else, treats everybody else with respect, etc.
I'm not sure if the members of the all-Republican Alabama Supreme Court have ever used the "court family" metaphor, but if so, it's clear that the family is more dysfunctional than most court families. Consider that one of its newest justices, Tom Parker, who is a protege of ousted Chief Justice Roy Moore, the so-called "Ten Commandments Judge," is running against the current chief, Drayton Nabers, in the Republican primary and that he has put together a "slate" of three candidates running in the primary against three other of his brethren on the court. One of the three on Parker's slate is Henry P. "Hank" Fowler, Parker's senior staff attorney, who is running against Justice Tom Woodall. All of which brings us to an interview Justice Woodall gave to the editors of The Decatur Daily criticizing Moore (who is running for governor in the Republican primary against the incumbent), Parker (who worked for Moore before Moore was removed from the bench), and Fowler (Parker's senior staff attorney).
Woodall told the paper that Parker enjoyed good relations with the other justices until Parker wrote an op-ed piece for a Birmingham paper criticizing his colleagues for following a U.S. Supreme Court decision in freeing a man from death row. (See, Another Alabama Supreme Court Justice is 'at it' and comment with embedded links.) Said Woodall: "I think I was the only (justice) who actually called Parker to cuss him out, but we all were mad. It was cowardly and deceitful, and a whole lot of other words that I guess I won't say here." And there's more: "[Parker] doesn't handle his cases; he just lets them pile up. He's apparently so busy conspiring against the rest of the court that he doesn't have time to be a judge." Woodall said Moore, unlike Parker, had a good work ethic, but he added: "Roy never had much interest in the law. I'd say he has an average legal mind. He's got enough of a legal mind to know that a lot of what he says isn't true." About Fowler, his opponent: "It irritates me that nobody respectable will run against me in the primaries. Instead, I get one of Tom Parker's flunkies running against me." More (Decatur Daily-News 04.19.2006).
Sisters in Law. "Men stupid, cruel or negligent enough to wind up in the courthouse swiftly find their idiot assumptions exposed in the light of constitutional justice: sorry, guy, your wife doesn't have to ask permission to leave the house. Patriarchal arrogance is knocked clean off their hapless mugs as the world's worst alibis crumble before the sisterly smackdown...." From Nathan Lee, Wheels of Justice, Grinding Fine, a review (N.Y. Times 04.12.2006) of the movie Sisters in Law. The movie, a documentary, follows Prosecutor Vera Ngassa and Judge Beatrice Ntuba as they dish out feminism and justice in a Cameroon village. Lee says the movie "positively soars."
Ethical lapses by federal judges. "A number of federal judges have violated ethics rules in recent years by presiding over lawsuits while having a financial conflict. Others have failed to disclose that they traveled to resorts on expense-paid trips. Interviews and documents reviewed by The Washington Post identified about a dozen such ethical lapses in recent years...." More (Washington Post 04.18.2006). Comment. Read on...
I'm not biased; you are. "Supreme Court justices are confident that their legal opinions are not influenced by their financial stake in a defendant's business... [C]itizens...can barely keep a straight face. They know that...judges are human beings who are pulled by loyalties and pushed by animosities...So who's right -- the decision-makers who claim objectivity or the citizens who roll their eyes? Research suggests that decision-makers don't realize just how easily and often their objectivity is compromised. The human brain knows many tricks that allow it to consider evidence, weigh facts and still reach precisely the conclusion it favors...And yet, if decision-makers are more biased than they realize, they are less biased than the rest of us suspect. Research shows that while people underestimate the influence of self-interest on their own judgments and decisions, they overestimate its influence on others...." From Daniel Gilbert, I'm O.K., You're Biased, an Op-Ed piece in the N.Y. Times (04.16.2006). Comments. a) Gilbert summarizes the research thusly with respect to judges and other decisionmakers: "[J]udges...strive for truth more often than we realize, and miss the mark more often than they realize." I personally believe our vaunted system is rife with error and that it is the most inexcusable of errors to delude ourselves into thinking otherwise. It is only by recognizing the chronic fallability of human judgment that we can improve upon it. b) Gilbert is a professor of psychology at Harvard. He has a new book, Stumbling on Happiness, coming out in May. I'm guessing it will be interesting. In January, David Colman of the NYT had a brief piece ("Possessed: Three Cheers for the Same Old Thing") on Gilbert and on his findings/views on what makes us happy. According to Colman, Gilbert's studies suggest that people tend to "overestimate how future successes and failures will affect their happiness, for the better or worse." Moreover, a "big payoff" is much less likely to promote one's essential happiness than "a routine of small delights." Gilbert "has found, for example, that one of the best things about being at Harvard is not the prestige of his position but that he can walk to work from his house in Cambridge." Gilbert's studies also indicate that people who are always chasing after variety are less likely to find happiness than those who stick to the tried-and-true. Gilbert sounds to me like a psychologist in the tradition of the great Harvard prof, William James (after whom the psychology building at Harvard is named). Gilbert also sounds like a kindred spirit to me. One of the things I miss about Cambridge is that it is a "walkable city," unlike, say, Minneapolis. I miss that so much that last fall, when my 17-year-old car gave up the ghost, I gave its carcass to charity (for research? for transplantation of its few good parts?) and resolved to make it through the winter walking (as in daily neighborhood dog walks, nearly daily walks to the grocery, occasional walks to other stores). I "made it," thanks in part to a mild winter, and I find myself greeting spring in apparent tip-top shape. My big "fear" now, as I contemplate getting a car, is that I'll rely on it too much and will walk less. One thing is sure: even without Gilbert's "findings," I know in advance the car won't buy me happiness or make my life significantly better. I learned that from Emerson, Thoreau, James, Holmes (father and son), and scores of other mentors to my spirit.-- all of them poets, in one form or another.
Commission says judges can't socialize with courthouse hoi polloi. "The chief judge of the Sedgwick County District Court has been cited by the Commission on Judicial Qualifications over another judge's relationship with an employee. The cease-and-desist order to Judge Richard Ballinger admonished him for not interfering with and even encouraging the relationship between Judge Warren Wilbert and an employee...On Monday, the commission said Ballinger 'had knowledge of that relationship and failed to intervene, even fostering that inappropriate activity.' The order also said that Ballinger also 'admittedly fraternizes with subordinate employees.'" More (Kansas City Star 04.18.2006). Comment. We know nothing about the specific facts of this case other than the socializing alleged and condemned appears to have been consensual, after-hours, and, as if it were our business, "non-sexual," whatever that means. Speaking generally and without regard to the specifics of this case, the biggest danger of "voluntary, consensual fraternization" from a judge's perspective is the practical one: it could end his career. We note in this regard 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. 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). All we can say is, if all fraternizing or after-hours socializing with "subordinates" (an offensive term we associate with a rigid class system, not with democratic, all-are-created-equal, egalitarian America) is deemed scandalous, what's an ordinary, romantically-deprived loving judge who'd like to find a mate supposed to do? Bay at the moon? Date only other judges (he can't date attorneys without risking trouble)? Use Match.Com (that's risky -- see, Annals of judicial cyber-dating - part I & part II)? Our view: It runs against human nature to bar on-the-job romantic relationships and it is elitist to say that a judge may not "date down" or "marry down." It is similarly elitist -- downright absurd -- to say a judge may not socialize in any way with the, what? -- judicial hoi polloi? (Who in hell do some judges think they are if they adopt such a prohibition?) Moreover, why do we assume that all relationships of judges with "subordinate" employees are coercive (at least in some theoretical way) rather than voluntary? To paraphrase Justice Holmes, even a dog can tell the difference between being kicked and being tripped over -- or the difference, say, between being loved and being used. Sometimes, it seems to me, we expect judges to be other than human. What kind of judges does such an expectation produce? BTW, that some great judges have been able to "socialize" with the hoi polloi without in any provable way endangering our system of government or our constitutional values is exemplified by the cases of Justices Brennan and Black. Read on...
The judge's secretary becomes his bride. Mary Fowler Brennan, who died in 2000 at age 83, worked for 25 years as Justice William Brennan's secretary, then became the chosen one, his second wife, in 1983 after his first wife died. Elizabeth Black, Justice Black's secretary and then second wife, said in 1986 that when Black proposed, "He spoke of love and the Supreme Court." That he was an extraordinarily-romantic guy can also be gleaned from two entries Elizabeth made in her diary. Entry of Tuesday, June 24, 1968: "Hugo and I had a big argument as to whether we could replace our thirty-year-old gas stove which has a semi-rusted oven and no thermostat on it. We stopped by Harris Plumbing to see if the old stove could be fixed, and Mr. Harris laughed heartily when Hugo was so insistent that our stove was perfect. Hugo said if people made stoves to last only thirty years they ought to be arrested." Entry of Thursday, June 27, 1968: "Hugo talked to me finally about the stove, reiterating his opinion that we do not need a new stove, but if it would make me happy he'd get it for me. I told him it would, and so he agreed, reluctantly." See Hugo L. Black and Elizabeth Black, Mr. Justice and Mrs. Black (New York: Random House 1986). Further reading: BurtLaw's Law and Legal Secretaries.
The risen Christ, on the courthouse lawn. "Ridgway Christians rose from bed, perhaps for many early, Sunday morning to celebrate the rising of Jesus Christ on the Elk County Courthouse lawn 'as the sun rises over the hill and shines down over the trees,' as Pastor Craig Duffield put it, with a sunrise service. The service, an annual tradition, was led by pastors Craig Duffield of Evangelical Covenant Church and David Roddy, Sr., of Trinity United Methodist Church...'Right here, we know the risen Christ,' Roddy said, gesturing to the courthouse lawn. 'We meet God right here, right here in Ridgway.'" More (Ridgway Record - PA 04.17.2006). Comment. I guess it doesn't bother me that the churches are allowed to carry on the tradition of holding Easter services on the courthouse lawn -- so long as the county board's policy allows for other religious and non-religious nonprofit groups to use the lawn for their special occasions on nondiscriminatory terms.
Firing up glass pipes at the courthouse door? "In the heart of downtown Eugene, Lane County has dedicated a plaza to free speech. On Saturday afternoon, across the street from Eugene's bustling Saturday Market, the free speech included: 'Morphine? Mushrooms?' 'Nuggets?'...This apparent drug-dealing chatter was overheard from a grungy group of teens and adults who collect on Saturdays on the plaza, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and smoking what appears to be marijuana, with general disregard for the law -- and, in some cases, firing up glass pipes while sitting literally at the door of the Lane County Courthouse. Whether this is a problem seems to depend on your point of view...." More (Eugene Register-Guard 04.17.2006).
Poetry month. Here's a poetic doodle I jotted off several years ago, not meant in criticism of the Norwegian Lutheran pastor of my confirmation years, Rev. Harold S. Nashiem, offered rather out of an affection for the whole man, including his expostulations....
'Happy Easter!' Rev. Nasheim should have said.
But the church was filled to the rafters, and
many of the folks hadn't been there since Christmas!
'Twice-a-year Christians!' he bellowed.
The sputrum flying forth from his red mouth
passed through a stream of sunlight and glistened
as it arced downward so gracefully.
'Happy Easter!' said the Sun....
(This poem is, of course, for better or for worse, copyrighted © by Burton Randall Hanson.) Click here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here for earlier poetry-month postings. Comment. What in heck does this have to do with judges? This: Rev. Nasheim ought to have looked upon the big crowd as an opportunity to "evangelize," not rant and rave and sour people on the church. It was a "teachable moment" and on this particular occasion he taught the wrong lesson. Every time someone steps into a courtroom, as into a church, it is an important moment -- maybe even a "turning point" -- for that person. To paraphrase Justice Brandeis, for better or worse, a judge -- like "government" -- is "the great teacher." What lesson are you teaching the people who appear in "your" -- how about "their"? -- courtroom? Are you souring people on the law? Are you making things worse rather than better? In this, as in most things, the Golden Rule applies: Treat each person as you would reasonably wish/expect to be treated if you were in her position.
Judge upholds kid's right to recite W. H. Auden poem in competition. My favorite Felicity episode is a beaut, the one originally aired on November 3, 1998. The script, by Ed Redlick, is called "Cheating." Felicity, who has a great heart, tries too hard to help the fellow she loves -- she cheats for him without his knowing it, by "editing" a paper of his before handing it in, in an attempt to help him get a better grade, and the "loving act" backfires. The episode ends with their relationship in doubt, with Heather Nova's lovely "Heart and Shoulder" playing in the background ("When the night just cuts you through...I will give you my heart...my shoulder"), and with a friend of Felcity's asking her if she knows a certain line ("If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me") from the late W.H. Auden's poem, "The More Loving One." Auden's poem is a terrific lyric poem that speaks to the romantic in anyone whose heart hasn't ossified. However, because the poem contains the words "damn" and "hell," a ninth-grade boy, Jacob Behymer-Smith, 14, who ought to be praised to high heaven for appreciating such a lovely poem, had to go to federal district court to get a TRO allowing him to recite it on 04.22.2006 during Poetry Out Loud, a contest sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. The judge, Brian Sandoval, ruled that the "terrible" words in question -- which his school's administrators deemed inappropriate -- don't constitute "vulgar, lewd or offensive language that could disrupt the school's educational priorities." More (Las Vegas Sun 04.13.2006). Comment. It doesn't matter if Brian doesn't win the contest, because he's already won a more important victory. There are judges, some even on Minnesota's highest court, who just don't "get" freedom of thought and freedom of expression.
Brit judge blasts plaintiff's counsel for wasting everyone's time. Playing on Dickens' Bleak House theme (as in the notorious never-ending fictionalized case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce), Jeff Randell has posted a Britty-witty piece in the UK Telegraph today, 04.14.2006, titled It looks Bleak for Deloitte as judge says case was a load of Pollock. The piece focuses on the "unbridled vituperation from a judge who is not regarded as one of Britain's most flamboyant," Mr. Justice Tomlinson: "By all accounts, Tomlinson's everyday manner is milder than a Co-op korma. On Wednesday, however, it turned into a vindaloo of vitriol, as he lambasted Deloitte and its leading counsel, Gordon Pollock QC." If you like Brit-wit, you'll like this piece. BTW, Pollock's initial remarks in the case in question, which lasted 256 days before collapsing, "went on for 86 days, form[ing] the lengthiest opening in English legal history." But wait: "In reply, Nicholas Stadlen QC, for the [defendant] Bank, addressed the court for 119 days." For a more factually-detailed, less-opiniated account, read this one in the UK Guardian. It looks like legal costs may exceed £100m. Under the Brit system, plaintiff is going to have to pay for defendant's huge legal fees.
Judge in trouble for cuffing/holding girl friend of no-show defendant. "Las Vegas Municipal Court Judge George Assad was hit Thursday with a Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission complaint for having the girlfriend of a traffic court defendant handcuffed and held [in a holding cell] for nearly three hours when he didn't show up for a hearing...[Anne] Chrzanowski came to court to ask for a continuance of the case against her boyfriend, Joshua Madera, who had $310 in traffic citations pending in the court. She said Madera wasn't able to be there because he had just started a new job...." Judge Assad maintains he acted properly. More (Las Vegas Sun 04.14.2006). Comments. Two comments: a) One might argue that the fact the judge still maintains he acted properly is more troubling than the spur-of-the-moment mistake committed way back in 2003. b) Why has it taken the commission so long to file a formal complaint? Perhaps the commission itself ought to be subject to a disciplinary inquiry.
Good Friday and the courts. "Less than two days before Good Friday, the [West Virginia] State Supreme Court told [Harrison] county it had to remain open. Thursday, the commissioners had a different idea. The courthouse will close Friday. The state says Good Friday is not an official holiday, but the courthouse has closed on that day for years. The commission and its legal counsel decided that a 20-year-old state statute is too ambigious. Commissioners say many employees had already made plans...." More (The State Journal 04.14.2006). Comment. When I was a kid in the 1950's, most business in my hometown, Benson, MN., closed from 12-3 on Good Friday, a/k/a "Long Friday" to some of us Norwegian Lutherans. One year my friend Paul and I sat through the entire 2.5 hour "Seven Last Words" service at Our Redeemer's Lutheran. My memory may be wrong, but I seem to recall that when I first worked for the state supreme court, beginning in 1970, government, including the supreme court, shut down on Good Friday. It may be, however, that the clerk's office remained open for filings and most workers were allowed to take the day off. In any event, that time -- and properly so, I'm inclined to think -- has passed.
Powder in letter to judge = evacuation of Philly federal courthouse. More (NBC10 04.14.2006). Comment. For a probing analysis of the powder-letter problem as it relates to the broader problem of judicial hemorrhoids and for the reasoning behind our proposed ban on judges bringing talcum powder with them into the courthouse as well as our innovative judicial-hemorrhoid-preventative, click here.
Judge orders insane man to take antipsychotics so he can be killed. "A judge who halted an execution because the inmate was mentally ill has agreed to force the man to take anti-psychotic medication so he can be put to death...." More (Houston Chronicle 04.13.2006). Comment. This is pretty much an identical fact situation to one dramatized on David E. Kelley's The Practice several years ago. I think it casts light on the absurdity of capital punishment and its tainting of the judicial process. Tomorrow we Norwegian Lutherans observe Long Friday, the day on which Jesus was judicially tried, convicted, and executed according to the laws of the realm. As a Norwegian Lutheran, I am always amazed that so many people who claim to be followers in one way or another of Jesus support the death penalty. In his plea to the court for Leopold and Loeb, Clarence Darrow, an admitted agnostic, said, "This is a Christian community, so-called, at least it boasts of it, and yet they would hang these boys in a Christian community. Let me ask this court, is there any doubt about whether these boys would be safe in the hands of the founder of the Christian religion? It would be blasphemy to say they would not...." More at BurtLaw's Law and Capital Punishment.
Can a judge be a blabbermouth and still be a good judge? "Recent comments by former and sitting Supreme Court justices range from incendiary to inscrutable, unvarnished and unpublished to unpublishable, and raise all sorts of questions about the proprieties and boundaries of extrajudicial speech. Who should Supreme Court justices speak to, and is it a matter of public concern what they say? Are justices saying more controversial things than they used to, or are their speeches more readily snatched up by an omnipresent media? Would it be better for justices to say nothing in public or only tell amusing anecdotes? Can and will what a justice says be held against him in a court of law?" Dahlia Lithwick muses on the topic Can We Talk? - Decoding the Blabbering Supremes (Slate 04.08.2006). Comment. This is also of local interest in MN, where we've been witnessing a he-said/she said controversy involving a powerful senator and state supreme court justices over who said what, if anything, about the court's likelihood to declare unconstitutional a state statute banning same-sex marriage -- a controversy that is far from over.
Justice's son's e-mail to primary opponent embarrasses dad. "An angry e-mail from the son of [Alabama] Supreme Court Justice Champ Lyons to Lyons' opponent offers a rare glimpse into the rough and tumble political maneuvering that goes on behind the dignified black robes." In the e-mail the son tells his dad's opponent, Attorney Ben Hand, that "if he's not out of the race by 5 p.m. Tuesday [the deadline for withdrawing], the 'coal miners will begin the campaign against you.'" The e-mail also predicts that the trial lawyers won't contribute any money to Hand's campaign. The dad says he had nothing to do with the e-mail. The son has apologized. More (Columbus Journal-Ledger 04.13.2006).
Judges detained on corruption charges. "Police have detained a group of Serbia`s Trade Court judges and lawyers as part of an investigation into alleged involvement in corruption and organized crime...." More (Monsters & Critics 04.13.2006).
Should money for education get cut while judges get big pay raise? "A House budget plan that would jack up judges’ pay 15 percent while effectively imposing cuts for school kids has some fuming over misplaced priorities in the House spending plan released this week. 'Before they start giving raises to anybody over there, we should be back to where we were before they cut us in fiscal year 2004,' said Paul Schlichtman, past president of the Mass. Association of School Committees. Trial judges would see their $112,777 annual pay hiked to about $130,000...." More (Boston Herald 04.13.2006).
Courts to close in honor of matinee idol's death. "In the wake of Kannada matinee idol Rajkumar's death, the Karnataka High Court and all its subordinate courts will remain closed on Thursday, an official release said." More (The Hindu 04.13.2006). Comment. I guess if you have only a few such "idols," the courts can justify this. But here in America, we have so damn many celebrities that the courts would be closed every other day if they closed whenever an "idol" died. But, hey! - at least the courts coulda shut down when Elvis died. C'mon!
Griefs vs. grievances - of poetry, politics, law, life. In one of her many astounding poems, Emily Dickinson wrote: "I measure every Grief I meet/ With narrow, probing, Eyes – / I wonder if It weighs like Mine – / Or has an Easier size." Robert Frost used to say that politics is about Grievances, a subject best left to prose, whereas poetry is about Griefs and ought to be allowed to "go its way in tears." One might say that our society is in massive denial about grief, preferring to think of it as a manageable "stage" in the process of "moving on." "Moving on," of course, is a form of Freudian repression, and repressed things have a devilish way of insinuating themselves back into one's life, not always in the way one wishes. For me, grief ought to be thought of as part of the woof and warp -- the beautiful Harris Tweed weavings -- of life, something to be experienced fully in its context, not isolated, treated as illness or escaped from. Like dreams, our griefs require our attention. And as James Hillman, the wise depth psychologist, puts it, "Attention means attending to, tending, a certain tender care of, as well as waiting, pausing, listening." If politics is all about yammering about grievances and poetry is about grieving (as well as experiencing joy and all the other emotions), where is judging? Judging, it seems to me, is more akin to poetry than politics. It involves "attending to," in the Hillman sense, but it also includes something I don't associate as much with poetry, the "passing of judgment on" after -- but not without -- the "attending to." What they share is that neither poetry nor judging ought to involve yammering. My yammering over, I offer two poems I've written about grief:
Griefs so many:
civilized ones you wear in public
like a three-piece suit,
like an old wool shirt,
and wild ones, seen only in dreams
walking through the wilderness,
new species that flee at dawn.
Griefs at night and day, griefs so many,
always a sack of them upon your back
as you climb the mountain.
At night in camp while others frolic
you watch it closely,
and when you sleep, use it for your pillow.
Your friend, it almost carries itself.
When you reach the top
and open it
perhaps you'll find it filled
with plans for other treks.
* * *
It is in this tweed
and in the colors of your dress.
Open your eyes
or close them
and you'll see it.
With us always
this shadow partner
to the palest light.
(Both poems are, of course, for better or for worse, copyrighted © by Burton Randall Hanson.) Click here, here, here, here, here, here and here for earlier poetry-month postings.
In judge's courtroom, George Washington gazes, demonically. "Lawyers have made it a practice to comment about the seal behind [Superior Court Judge Neal] Rielly, on which 'Old George' sports three unexplained scars on his chin and has crossed eyes. 'It looks like a demonic George Washington. It really does,' Rielly said. 'The first time I saw it, I just laughed.'" From an amusing piece on the lack of uniformity from courtroom to courtroom of the State of Washington seal hanging behind the bench. It turns out they weren't all bought at the same time. Some are old, some are not. Each one is handed down from judge to judge. "Judge Robert Austin said his state seal isn't very good. The likeness looks like it was modeled in a windstorm because Washington's hair is off center to the right. His nose is strong, but one of his pupils looks like it came from a cat." More (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 04.12.2006). Comment. It's okay to hang on to the old ones rather than rushing out and buying new ones (@ $600 each). It's okay that one looks a little different from the next one.
Incumbent judge loses primary runoff. "Assistant County Attorney Maria Salas-Mendoza handily defeated incumbent Luis Aguilar in the Democratic primary runoff Tuesday night to take the 120th District Court judgeship. Salas-Mendoza...faces no challenger in the general election...She will take office in January...Aguilar...received a judicial reprimand in 2004 from the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct for use of derogatory and sexual remarks in his courtroom -- a reprimand his opponent turned into an issue...." More (El Paso Times 04.12.2006).
Juvenile courts are failing poor kids, study says. "Poor children in Indiana's juvenile courts don't get adequate legal representation and are more likely to be incarcerated than wealthier peers, according to a report that calls the state's public defender system 'seriously flawed.' Taxpayers pick up the bill: $40,000 to $100,000 annually per incarcerated child. 'If this were happening in any other country, Amnesty International and our government would be there condemning it,' said Larry A. Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council, 'but we do it every day.'" More (Indianapolis Star 04.12.2006).
Judge under fire for saying dog rescuer should have shot dogs. Janet Lane is a 45-year-old Herriman, Utah woman who "fosters homeless pets for local shelters." Last December she pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors for violating a city ordinance against having more than two dogs on her premises. She had seven, five too many. On Monday she came before Judge Stephen Henriod, still not having rid herself of the dogs. Judge Henriod got angry with her and not only jailed her but said she should have shot five of the dogs rather than continue to violate the ordinance. Word got out, and now "Wasatch Humane, an animal rescue group, is encouraging its members to ask the Utah State Bar's Judicial Conduct Committee to remove Henriod from the bench." Henriod released Lane after she spent a night in jail, a release made possible after Lane's supporters took five of the dogs to the Humane Society of Utah. Henriod says he never meant Lane should have shot the dogs but was angry at her for not getting rid of them. More (Salt Lake City Tribune 04.12.2006). Comment. You can criticize me all you want but when you attack my kids or my little dog Fala (Mathilda or Jane or Alice), then you make me mad. Back in the last century, a publisher, who knew that books about Lincoln or dogs or medicine typically sold well suggested that the perfect title for a book would be Abraham Lincoln's Doctor's Dog. I'm going to offer a perfect recipe for a judge to use to avoid "bad press" in dog cases. It's called BurtLaw Rule-of-Thumb for Judges #530: "Always remember: Dogs rule."
Suspicious powder in letter to judge = courthouse evacuation. "Lab tests are being conducted on a white powder that fell out of an envelope sent to [Sullivan C]ounty courthouse [in Monticello, N.Y.] from a local prison. The discovery of the suspicious powder shut down the...courthouse for about 90 minutes yesterday...The letter was addressed to the late Judge Lawrence Cooke...." More (WCAX-TV 04.12.2006). Comment. In cases like this, it's usually talcum powder. We can take judicial notice of two facts: a) that many trial judges, who must sit on the bench (well, technically on a hard oak chair) all day, develop hemorrhoids, and b) that doctors sometimes tell their patients with hemorrhoids (sorry, but there's no point in mincing words), "Keep the anus and hemorrhoids as dry as
possible, using talcum powder and a pad of soft tissue to absorb moisture." This may not be the best advice: although we have always been hemorrhoid-free (!!), we recall reading somewhere that some formulations of so-called talcum powder may be carcinogenic. But that is beside the point. This being a teachable moment, the point is that judges (or, for that matter, lesser staff -- the courthouse hoi polloi) ought to think twice about taking ye olde can of talcum powder with them to the courthouse for personal (or other) use during the day. Suppose a judge were to spill a little and suppose a security officer were to spot it and mistake it for some dangerous substance. Well, we're talking evacuation. Accordingly, we at this time remind all judges of BurtLaw Rule-of-Thumb for Judges #07: "Leave the talc at home!" But, wait! - we're not just negative! We also offer this positive tip: wear a pair of our judge-endorsed BurtLaw Bench Pants with the specially-designed sculpted foam-cushion insert, guaranteed to help prevent irritation of "the judicial derrière." Our motto is: "An irritated judge is not a fair judge." The sculpted insert, BTW, is available in several designs, one of which "enhances" the "buns" of the judge who wishes to appear virile as well as wise. Note: other custom inserts are also available and may be combined with the sculpted foam-cushion insert: e.g., the scented or unscented charcoal-filter insert, particularly popular with vegan judges.
Our Motto - "Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat" (Horace). Loose translation: Does anything prevent telling the truth with a smile?
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.