The Daily Judge
© 2006 Burton Randall Hanson
      Archives - 10.01.2006 - 10.20.2006
"All the news that gives judges and lawyers fits."
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."

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About Burton Hanson. Burton Hanson is a graduate of Harvard Law School, admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Minnesota. He worked one year as Hennepin County District Court Special Term (Civil) Law Clerk, two years as law clerk for the late Justice C. Donald Peterson of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and over 26 years as Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Supreme Court. He was a nonpartisan candidate for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election in November 2000 and a liberal anti-war candidate for Congress in the Republican primary in the Minnesota Third District in September 2004. He was one of the first law bloggers (blawgers). He began planning his first blog, BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else in 1999 but delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. His campaign website, the no-longer extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first such use of a weblog or blog. In 2004 he also used the personal blog format in his primary campaign for Congress. That site, BurtonHanson.Com, has morphed into a personal political opinion blog and also contains the archives of his 2004 campaign web pages and blog postings.

    Number of openly-homosexual judges is on the rise. "When a case testing whether Oregon should allow same-sex marriages came before the state's Supreme Court in 2004, one of the court's seven justices quietly wrestled with a vexing question: Should he, a gay man, take part in the case? Or did part of Rives Kistler's identity -- his sexual orientation -- mean that he should sit it out, to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest?" From an interesting piece on openly-homosexual judges in the U.S. by Joan Biskupic. More (USA Today 10.18.2006). Comments. a) Biskupic says there are an estimated 75-100 openly-homosexual judges in the U.S. Who knows how many more are homosexual while in the proverbial closet (or is it "in chambers"?) but not in the courtroom or the conference room. b) Judge Kistler, by the way, "sat" and joined in the court's unanimous decision holding that same-sex marriage is not allowed in Oregon and any change must come from the legislature. Not surprising. See, How can men in long, flowing gowns uphold ban on gay marriage?

    Embattled ex-chief justice defends actions before disciplinary board. "Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice William Sullivan told a disciplinary council Wednesday that he still believes he had the authority to delay release of a court decision to shield a potential successor from controversy. Sullivan, 67, testified before the state's Judicial Review Council, which charged him in July with violating state law and the judicial code of conduct...." More (Boston Globe 10.18.2006). Earlier. The "scandal" involves, inter alia, retiring Chief Justice William Sullivan's deferring release of an opinion dealing with access to court records for the political purpose of shielding a likely successor from hard questions relating to the case during confirmation hearings. We've posted a number of entries on it, including: Latest on supreme court scandal; Legislators subpoena former chief justice; More fallout in CT court scandal; The 'Judges Protection Council'?; CT Supreme Court mess: lawmakers to ask justices to testify; Latest on uproar over C.J.'s deferring opinion's release; and Outgoing C.J. admits holding up decision to help colleague succeed him. BTW, we argued for greater real (as opposed to faux) openness of courts in an essay/position paper we wrote in 2000 in connection with our general election campaign for state chief justice in MN. See, BurtLaw on Judicial Independence and Accountability.

    The spoils of victory: Swede Democrats get to appoint 300 judges. "As a result of the party's electoral success the Sweden Democrats are now in a position to appoint [as] lay judges...about 300 people to the district and county courts...Daniel Poohl, editor of the anti-racist magazine Expo, told The Local[,] 'We see a risk that the Sweden Democrats will choose people who have a
problem being objective in cases that involve immigrants. When the party was founded in 1988 it was called Keep Sweden Swedish...Sweden Democrats' press spokesman Jonas Åkerlund...maintained...that the party would not have any difficulty being objective in cases involving immigrants...." More (The Local 10.18.2006). Comment. We Norwegians just shake our heads at "those Swedes" and say, charitably, "They just can't help themselves." Further reading. Those 'randy' Swede (not Norwegian) judges.

    Top judges threatened to resign if Tony Blair... "Britain's most senior judges threatened to resign if Tony Blair went ahead with plans to put David Blunkett in charge of the courts, according to the former Home Secretary's book. It reveals the depth of opposition to transferring the Court Service from the Lord Chancellor to the Home Secretary. Mr Blunkett admits that he lost what was a 'major constitutional issue' in 2001 to Lord Irvine of Lairg, the Lord Chancellor...."
More (Times UK 10.18.2006).

    Is there retaliation against lawyers who challenge sitting judges? "Huntsville lawyer Mike Seibert said he is going against the grain by challenging Circuit Judge Laura W. Hamilton for the Place 5 seat on the Madison County Circuit Court. 'No lawyer ever runs against a judge that is already on the bench because they are afraid of retaliation,' he said...." More (Huntsville Times 10.18.2006). Comment. If not retaliation, then surely shunning. But the possibility of retaliation or shunning doesn't scare off a brave man. One grows up, perhaps in a small town, being taught directly or indirectly to worry about "what the neighbors might think." As if they were capable of thought. After awhile, one learns not to care what the neighbor or anyone else thinks. It's called being an independent-minded adult rather than one of those sorry weaklings of whom W.H. Auden was thinking when he wrote The Unknown Citizen. (I first read "The Unknown Citizen" as a student in Freshman English taught by the wonderful & beautiful then twenty-something Elizabeth Breeland Rogers during the 1961-1962 school year at S.M.U.) Are you one of Auden's sorry ones? Most people -- including most judges, most members of Congress, most politicians -- are.

    Facing discipline, judge steps down. "A veteran Geary County district judge accused of misconduct[, Judge Larry Bengtson,] has agreed to leave the bench in January. [The] decision Tuesday settles a disciplinary case filed against him...He signed an agreement, along with Ed Collister, a Lawrence attorney who serves as the [conduct] commission's examiner. Collister filed a notice earlier this month alleging that Bengtson had filed expense vouchers for trips he never took. It also alleged that in March, he called a couple planning marriage before a judge, told them a judge wasn't available and persuaded them to reschedule, so that he could be paid for the ceremony...." More (Kansas City Star 10.18.2006).

    Ex-judge enters fray regarding allegations against Israel's President. "The same day on which the president [of Israel] didn't show up to the opening ceremony of the Knesset's winter session because of suspicions that he may have committed serious sexual offenses, former Supreme Court Justice Mishael Cheshin prepared an 'indictment' against the media. In an interview with Ynet, the former justice said: 'The media involvement has unequivocally damaged the judicial process. If you asked me, the president has already been convicted -- so much so that tomorrow his prosecutors can get up and ask that the indictment be erased because there has been a ruling and he is already convicted.'" More (YNet News 10.17.2006).

    Mistress of judge killed in explosion challenges inquest ruling. "The mistress of a judge who died in an explosion at his Somerset home is challenging an inquest ruling which said his death was accidental. Judge Andrew Chubb, 58, died in a fireball in a garden shed at his home near Chard in July 2001. Less than an hour earlier, he had asked his wife Jennifer for a divorce to end their 34-year marriage. His lover Kerry Sparrow rejects the accidental death verdict and is seeking a second inquest at the High Court...." More (BBC News 10.17.2006). Earlier. Dead millionaire judge's lover gets AG to review his death. Background. Nick Davies, How a judge's death in country garden exposed fatal flaws in system - part one and part two (Guardian Unlimited 12.13.2003). Comment. Sounds like the making of a plot for Mystery on PBS.

    Scalia of SCOTUS debates Strossen of ACLU. "Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia defended some of the opinions he has rendered while on the top U.S. court, arguing that nothing in the Constitution supports abortion rights or the use of race in school admissions. Scalia, a leading conservative voice on the court, sparred in a one-hour televised debate Sunday with American Civil Liberties Union president Nadine Strossen...." More (International Herald Tribune 10.16.2006). Comment. Nadine Strossen was a law clerk for Justice John Todd of the Minnesota Supreme Court during one of my 28+ years as an aide at the court.

    DA investigates ripping off of ex-judge. "The Brooklyn District Attorney's Office said yesterday it will investigate the alleged theft of $187,000 from the account of an elderly ex-judge by his court-appointed guardian. The announcement was greeted warmly by supporters of the former judge, John Phillips, 82, who lives in a nursing home...." More (N.Y. Post 10.17.2006).

    Frightened judges hide their own names. "Fears for their safety are believed to have pushed two Hawke's Bay Justices of the Peace into an unusual move -- suppressing their own names in court. The two JPs suppressed the media from reporting their names during a aggravated robbery depositions hearing and other cases in Hastings District Court yesterday...." More (New Zealand Herald 10.17.2006). Comment. A law school prof in NZ is quoted as saying he was stunned by the order, it runs counter to the idea of open government, and he knew of no statute authorizing it. Felix Frankfurter wrote, "Weak characters ought not to be judges."

    'Dirty' judge gets three-year prison term. "When[, as directed by him,] she called up the judge at 7 p.m....[the judge] told her that she would have to pay him a sum of Rs2,000 in addition to granting his sexual favours if she wanted an order in her favour. He also directed her to meet him at the Haji Ali bus stop with the bribe amount the following evening. [According to the FIR,] '[She] approached the [Anti-Corruption Bureau], which sought permission from the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court before laying a trap on the [judge].'" "The judge" is family court judge Ramrao Gangaram Bhise. He has now been convicted of attempting to "extract" sexual favours and money from a woman who appeared in court seeking an increase in monthly maintenance from her estranged husband. The court sentenced Bhise to three years "rigorous imprisonment" and a Rs55, 000 fine. More (Daily News and Analysis - India 10.16.2006).

    Judicial candidate dies. "The campaign signs are disappearing, and her law office is closed, but the memories of Mary Beth Black's hard work, caring attitude and love for her family still are resonating for those who knew her. Black, who dropped out of the race for 72nd District Court judge on Friday, had a long legal career and a dedication to the community. Black, 61, of Port Huron died Sunday...." More (Port Huron Times Herald 10.17.2006).

    Judges' stories amuse the JSC. "Litigants in the Pretoria and Johannesburg High Courts now have to wait 20 months for a trial date and could wait a further three years for a judgment. As the Judicial Services Commission sat this week in Cape Town, it was regaled with tales of the many woes of the judges in these divisions. The judges, it heard, were working as hard as was humanly possible for them to work...." More (Independent Online - South Africa 10.14.2006). Comment. I know nothing of the situation in the Pretoria and Johannesburg High Courts, but have you ever heard a judge say that he isn't overworked? Fact is, on any multi-judge trial court or appellate court, you'll likely find some judges who are always slow and not very good at what they do and, on the other hand, some who turn out first-rate work, on time and seemingly effortlessly. But, in general, they'll all likely tell the reporters, etc., they're overworked. Earlier. Judges slam poor appointments.

    Judicial bullying? "[Marvin Morten, 62, a] controversial Brampton judge[,] has been charged with an alcohol-related driving offence in Caledon, police sources confirm...Morten was the subject of a complaint...earlier this year...[in which f]ellow judges alleged Morten participated in angry outbursts and bullying of judicial colleagues at Brampton courthouse." More (Toronto Star 10.14.2006). Earlier. Judge faces probe over allegations he's not a 'team player.' Comment. Morten was once Brampton's "citizen of the year."

    'Hang Afzal, and some crook may kill judges.' "The debate over whether or not Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal should be hanged continues. Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah has warned that if the death sentence [scheduled for 10.20.2006] is carried out...some crook will come and murder the judges...Abdullah said that the hanging of Mohammed Afzal, convicted for the 2001 attack, would turn him into a 'a hero' and provide 'a massive weapon to the separatists.'" More (CNN-IBN - India 10.14.2006). Comment. Abdullah fears another reigniting of age-old Muslim-Hindu violence in India. Elsewhere. Illinois man arrested for threatening to kill Wisconsin judge (Chicago Tribune 10.14.2006).

    Inmates: top judge who went undercover stood out like sore thumb. Last week we posted two entries about Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice (most senior judge) in England and Wales -- the first about his having spent a day working incognito on a "payback project" to experience himself the form of non-custodial punishment that he favors as a cheaper and more-effective alternative in many cases to incarceration (see, How top judge turned convict), and the second about a remarkable speech he gave titled "Crime and Punishment" at the High Sheriff's Law Lecture in Oxford (see, Top judge says 5-year-term is a 'very weighty punishment'). The press got the bright idea of tracking down and interviewing some of the young men with whom he worked during his day as an undercover misdemeant and the resultant report makes for amusing reading. "They" say the judge arrived an hour late and was given special treatment (he was the only one given gloves to wear and a shovel to use in "litter-picking"). One said, "If we are late, we can be penalised by having more hours added to our order." He added: "He stuck out like a sore thumb...To be honest, we thought at first that he was a pervert because of his age and posh accent but then he said later he was a solicitor and that he'd got community service for a crime to do with drink." During the four short breaks, the young offenders looked at pics of topless women in the tabloids, but the judge went off by himself to read (the prize-winning novel The Sea, by John Banville) and to eat (a cheese-and-tomato roll prepared by his wife). More (This is London 10.14.2006).

    The judge and the auteur: revisiting the Polanski case. "Laurence J. Rittenband, who died in 1993, was the California judge who almost 30 years ago presided over the notorious case in which [Roman] Polanski pleaded guilty to having unlawful sex with a minor. Even after Mr. Polanski fled to France in advance of his sentencing date, the judge vowed to stay on the bench until he returned to the United States. Instead, Mr. Polanski, now 73 and a French citizen, remained a fugitive, and prospered as a film director...Judge Rittenband, who left the bench in 1989, died at 88 without completing his quest." Now there's a film in the works, as yet untitled, about Polanski and the judge. As the more cynical among us might have predicted, the filmmaker, a woman named  Zenovich, feels Polanski was treated unfairly by the judge. As she puts it, "That’s the bottom line." We're reserving judgment on the judge. But we note that Polanski pleaded guilty. More (N. Y.. Times 10.15.2006). Related. For a fascinating piece on how Polanski was able to use the U.K.'s notoriously plaintiff-friendly libel laws to obtain a judgment against an American writer and an American publication sold on newstands in the U.K., see, How the British courts do it. Graydon Carter, Roman Holiday -- How I spent my summer vacation in London being sued by Roman Polanski -- and what I learned about 'solicitors,' pub food, and the British chattering class (Vanity Fair 09.19.2005). Further reading on defamation. My view is that while it's harder for plaintiffs to prevail in the U.S., it's still too easy to use defamation suits as a form of legalized extortion or to harrass, and I believe the cause of action ought to be eliminated as inconsistent with First Amendment values. I express my views in greater detail at Court upholds dismissal of judge's libel suit against TV station.

    The death of a trial judge. "A former federal trial judge in Denver died this week...Sherman Finesilver...Federal trial judges are among the most powerful creatures on Earth...Some judges are light-handed when it comes to exercising this power. Some are not...Finesilver? His forte was strong-arming parties into settling cases before they went to trial...." From Andrew Cohen's blog, Bench Conference. More (Washington Post 10.14.2006). Comment. Cohen seems less troubled by the sort of tactics used by judges like Finesilver than I am.

    Korean divorce: quicker, cheaper than attending a movie. "Monday morning is the busiest time of the week at divorce courts in South Korea as couples queue to end their marriages after bouts of weekend bickering...The couples are given forms and clerks help them fill in the paperwork. The fee is just a few thousand won (a few dollars), a paltry sum often waived by the courts, and the divorce can take effect immediately, the moment the papers are signed...Getting a divorce can take less time and is cheaper than a night at the movies...." More (Toronto Star 10.14.2006). Comment. Which is worse, a quick, cheap, painless Korean divorce or an expensive, slow, never-ending American-style divorce in which the judge keeps dragging his feet and the lawyers get rich doing their thing, drinking the blood of their clients?

    Ex-judge looks forward to return to politics after release from prison. Garey Ballance, a former district court judge, was released from federal prison in August after serving eight months of a nine-month sentence for a misdemeanor income tax charge. Last Friday night "friends surrounded him at a reception in Raleigh held in his honor." His dad, a former Congressman, was in the same prison, "serving a four-year sentence for mail fraud and money laundering." They apparently spent some quality time together: according to the ex-judge, "As an adult, you sort of get away from your parents and you don't spend as much time with them. But I got to spend some time with him [there]." Any plans? a) "I'm looking forward to getting active in local politics in my community and maybe getting active in a state and national level." b) An appearance before the judicial conduct board, which could bar him from serving again as a state judge. His bar suspension ends soon. More (WRAL 10.14.2006). Comment. I hope they took me up on my suggestion when they entered prison to "keep journals" and to "read The Daily Judge." If any one at Hallmark productions reads this, the Ballances' story might make a great Father's Day Hallmark Hall of Fame made-for-television based-on-a-true-story movie. If they fictionalized (Frey-ed) the basic true story of father and son sharing an unusual adventure, the producers could add subplots, like father-son foiling a prison break by a male Martha Stewart-type, etc. Earlier postings. Judge and dad prepare to enter prison and Judge resigns after misdemeanor tax conviction.

    If you cry out for justice, a judge will appear: bus as mobile courtroom. The headline of the feature story by Rey Anthony Chiu reads: "Driving judicial justice to unimagined speed." It caught my eye. "Saddled with still many vacant courts resulting in the piling of unresolved cases, jam-packed jails, and the seemingly coming into reality the justice delayed; justice denied taunt, Bohol now sees a light in the end of the dark tunnel with the Justice on Wheels (JOW) program of the Department of Justice (DOJ)...With Bohol, the JOW comes in the form of mobile court in a reconfigured bus doubling as a courtroom, mediation room with an assisting judge complement, clerk of court, stenographer, clerk, a process server, a mediator, public prosecutor, a driver and a security guard...." More (Philippine Information Agency 10.13.2006). Comment. If it's o.k. for Justice Breyer & other members of the USSCt to cite foreign precedents (click here for more), we don't see why state supreme courts, as part of their judicial outreach efforts, can't take this "foreign" idea & run with it, adapting it as necessary in the great laboratories of the American experiment. The possibilities are endless. Indeed, one Philadelphia trial judge, perhaps not realizing what a path-breaking visionary he was, started holding mobile court at Philadelphia Eagles football games in 1998, as recounted in this excerpt from an item we posted at BurtLaw's Court Gazing in early 2002:

In Philadelphia, a former cop named Seamus McCaffery, who is now a publicity-seeking, Harley-riding, gun-toting highly-popular judge, adapted this idea to the trial bench in 1998, taking his show on the road to Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, where, during Eagles' football games, he provides summary, on-the-spot justice, Philadelphia-style, to hooligan fans arrested for "public urination, intoxication, throwing beer on people, that sort of thing." (UK Guardian Observer 01.20.2002).

During the county fairs season, the justices of a state supreme court could split up, each hopping on a bike, Lance-Armstrong-style, in nerdy tights and helmet, and head to a different part of the state, serving as Insta-All-Purpose-Judges at the fairs, judging rabbit competitions, deciding which jelly is best, and dealing -- quickly, on the spot! -- with carnie types and hooligans. Further reading.  'Mobile courts' as answer - Mobile food courts - Mobile Court: The T.V. Show - Mobile court program in India - Mobile courts in India - When a courthouse gets attacked - Traveling the country judging - India to establish 6,000 rural courts. And see, To Many in the Amazon, Government Comes on a Boat (N.Y. Times 09.18.2005). Related developments in the law. a) In August we posted a link to a piece about a trial judge who was admonished for delaying reception of a verdict in a murder trial in order to attend a ballgame. More. We there announced our new BurtLaw Porta-Courthouse. With the BurtLaw Porta-Courthouse, the judge could have had his ballgame and received the verdict. With our wireless digital technology and our instantly-inflatable, soundproof "courtroom," the judge could have set up shop on a ramp, received the verdict remotely, polled the jurors, thanked them for their service, and returned to his seat in under 15 minutes. The cost? Only $1,999.99. b) If a courthouse is a secular church, then a posting of ours titled "The Portable Church" at BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else - War on Terrorism IV in October of 2001 bears reprinting here:

 The Portable Church. In a somewhat boring class at Harvard Law School, a friend and I passed the time by passing notes (with-it students now use text messaging). The notes didn't necessarily relate to each other or to what was happening in class. They didn't necessarily make sense. Sometimes the best ones didn't. They were a diversion. One day my friend sent me a note that said, "           [a bright but obnoxious classmate] colors her hair with camel urine." I responded, "Portable playgrounds, mounted on trucks, are the solution to juvenile delinquency in South Boston." What might seem like another silly idea, portable churches, turns out to be more than an idea:

A little-known weapon in the United States Army's arsenal is a mobile house of worship that could be called the stealth sanctuary. The 'containerised chapel' can be dropped from a cargo plane and within six hours be transformed into a multi-denominational religious centre catering to Christians, Jews and Muslims. It's all in a day's work for Natick Labs, the scientific centre that develops high-tech products for the military, from chemical-proof battle garb to high-protein instant meals that last a decade to a portable tent city that can provide all the comforts of home to 550 soldiers stationed anywhere.

From Army puts faith in church in a box (SMH). (10.31.2001)

    Developments in the law of judicial conduct - Tennessee. a) Judge receives reprimand for participating in election betting pool. "Hawkins County [Tennessee] General Session Court Judge David Brand has received a public letter of reprimand for organizing a betting pool prior to the May 2 primary elections...Brand 'self-reported' the matter but a complaint was also filed by C. Christopher Raines, who challenged Brand for the judge’s post in the August election...." More (Rogersville Review 10.13.2006). b) Justices interview Attorney General. candidates. "Four of the state Supreme Court justices Thursday held public and private interviews for candidates seeking to serve as Tennessee's top attorney...." More (Robertson County Times - TN 10.13.2006). Comment. Make sure you get this straight: In Tennessee it's o.k. for state supreme court justices to select the A.G.. but it's not o.k. for a trial judge to participate in a betting pool?

    Judge is disciplined for setting bonds too low. "A judge who earlier drew a reprimand for expunging convicts' records was suspended after complaints that he set bonds too low for suspects in violent crimes, the state's high court said Thursday. The court said it found probable violations of the state's constitution and judicial conduct code, and it faulted Judge Charles Elloie for continuing to set low bonds even after 'heightened scrutiny and intense media attention.'" More (Washington Post 10.12.2006).

    Judge is accused of forcing guilty pleas, embarrassing clerks. "A [North Carolina] state commission that investigates and disciplines judges has accused [District Court Judge Mark Badgett, 49] of forcing guilty pleas from defendants, berating them in court[,] embarrassing court clerks[, and also] of not disclosing a business relationship with attorney Clark Dummit of Winston-Salem, who appeared before him...." More (Durham Herald Sun 10.13.2006). Comment. We like Attorney Dummit's response, which, according to the paper, was that a) the investigation is a witch hunt, b) most court officials knew he leased real property from Badgett, and c) "I won a few cases [in front of Badgett], but I win plenty of cases in front of plenty of judges."

    Refugee board judge is charged in sex-bribery scandal. "A refugee judge has been charged by the RCMP after a South Korean woman alleged he offered to assist her in her refugee claim in return for sexual favours. The woman and her boyfriend secretly videotaped a conversation she had with a man she said was 47-year-old Stevan Ellis, a Toronto-based adjudicator with the Immigration and Refugee Board. A copy of the tape was sent to IRB chair Jean-Guy Fleury, who suspended Mr. Ellis and forwarded the information to the RCMP...." More (Globe and Mail 10.12.2006).

    Black female judge wins racial abuse case. "When a legal messenger launched a torrent of racial abuse at a driver sitting in her car in Central London he certainly picked on the wrong woman. She was Constance Briscoe, one of Britain’s first black women judges and one who reached the top of the bestseller list with an account of how she overcame a violent and abusive childhood to get there. A court heard yesterday how Ms Briscoe, 49, pursued Lee Death in her car, stopped him from making a getaway in a taxi and, finally, led the police to a nearby pub, where they arrested him...." More (Times - UK 10.13.2006). Comment.
Mr. Death, who is 27, reportedly called Briscoe a "wog" (whatever that is) and a "black c---." Judge Briscoe "is being sued [for libel] by Carmen, her 73-year-old mother, over the claims made in Briscoe’s [best-selling] autobiography. In the book, entitled Ugly, Briscoe claimed that her Jamaican mother not only beat and kicked her but spat on her and deprived her of food...." More (Sunday Times 09.17.2006); Annals of judges' families - judge's mom sues her for libel.

    Coming soon to TV: 'Bad Judge.' "Former Saturday Night Live comedian Jon Lovitz has been cast as the lead in the unscripted courtroom U.S. TV series Bad Judge from NBC. The 49-year-old will act as the judge in the new Judge Judy takeoff, attempting to oversee real life court cases while interjecting humor when he sees fit...." More (UPI 10.13.2006).

    Random drug testing suggested for judges, court staff. "[Berks County District Judge Wally Scott] is suggesting that district and county judges and their staffs begin submitting to random, mandatory drug testing...." More (NBC 10 10.13.2006). Comment. Sound farfetched? Read on...

Supreme Court orders random drug testing of judges, staff. "The Supreme Court has created a special team to test members, officials and employees of the judiciary for illegal-drug use. Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. and two other senior magistrates of the Court issued a three-page memorandum creating the team that will supervise the drug test...." More (The Manila Times 07.31.2005).

In Board of Education v. Earls, 536 U.S. 822 (2002), our Supreme Court confronted the propriety under the Fourth Amendment of mandatory urine testing, i.e., the warrantless, non-probable-cause search, of every kid in middle school and high school participating in any extracurricular activity. By a vote of 5-4, the Court upheld the searches. At the time of the arguments in Earls, Dahlia Lithwick of Slate rhetorically asked, "If you could pick just one Supreme Court justice to spontaneously haul off the bench, say, in the middle of oral argument, and drag into a nearby bathroom, where they'd be forced to hike up their robe and pee into a Dixie cup, whom would you choose?" More (Slate 03.19.2002). She also suggested that the justices might have perceived the reality of such testing differently, might have felt differently about it, if they were subject to being hauled off the bench and forced to give urine samples. But maybe not... As judges are pilots of the vessel known as The Common Law, it follows, as the night follows the day -- doesn't it? -- that their health needs to be monitored. Perhaps daily checkups are in order, including the giving of urine samples for drug testing at the discretion of the Juristic Health Czar.

    One-eyed umps and the Rule of Law. James Filson has been a Big Ten Conference football ref since 1992. In 2000 he lost one eye in an accident. He continued to ref games and received even better performance ratings than before, good enough that he was selected to ref the Orange Bowl game one year. Then recently a reporter asked Lloyd Carr of Big Ten powerhouse Michigan if he was aware Filson was blind in one eye. Carr passed the info on to the Big Ten, which already had constructive knowledge, since Filson long ago had told his supervisor. Now Filson is without a job and is pursuing whatever legal rights he may have. More (Asheville Citizen-Times - NC 10.05.2006).

Comment.  One of the father figures of my youth was a great coach/world-history teacher named Leon Brockmeyer, who just happens to be a member of the Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame. Someday I'm going to write an essay on "Brock," but for now the only point that's relevant is that Brock was "one-eyed," having lost an eye in an accident in his youth.

In the early to mid-1950's Brock, whose legendary status stemmed primarily from his years as coach of the high school varsity football team (one of his great teams was unbeaten, untied, unscored-upon), ran the summer recreation program for boys (yeah, just boys) -- baseball in the morning, golf in the afternoon. Typically, there were three baseball games -- peewees, junior midgets, and midgets -- going on on different diamonds each morning, and Brock would walk between them, checking things out at each stop, umping for awhile at each stop. When he wasn't around, players would take turns umping, getting a chance to learn what it was like trying to be fair. One day a new kid in town came to bat during a morning choose-up-sides midget game. Brock was standing behind the pitcher, calling balls and strikes. When Brock called a strike three on the brash new kid, the kid questioned his call, threw his bat, etc. Brock wouldn't have any of that from anyone who played on his teams and, in so many words, told the stunned kid to take a hike and not come back until he was ready to play like a gentleman.

In addition to running the summer rec program, Brock made some extra bucks coaching junior high basketball in the winter and track in the spring. I had him for basketball in seventh grade, I think. One day during a practice game of skins vs. shirts, he was tossing a jump ball. A friend of mine pulled the old trick of pulling down the trunks of another friend playing on the other side as Brock, who couldn't see behind him, was tossing the ball. My victimized friend retaliated against my perpetrator friend. Brock saw only the retaliation, and, enraged, tore off my retaliator friend's tee-shirt in anger and, ignoring his protestations regarding who started it, angrily ordered him off the court.

Through episodes like those, we learned, inter alia, a) that Brock had what he called a "German temper," b) that like guys with two eyes, he sometimes got things wrong, c) that you always had to respect his judgment calls, even when you were sure he got them wrong, and d) that if you played hard but also played like a gentleman, you'd be treated fairly (by a fair man who happened to have the use of only one eye) and you'd learn how to win the right way. Brock with his monocular vision maybe saw them as they really were as often as other guys with normal vision saw them as they were; he called them as his monocular vision saw them, just as guys with normal vision did; and those of us who were lucky to learn golf or baseball or basketball or football or track from him learned also that "things were" -- at least for the purposes of the game -- as he with his monocular vision reasonably and fairly suspected them of being. It was said by Desiderius Erasmus (1465-1536) that "In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king" (Adagia 1508). In truth, the one-eyed man can be king wherever he finds himself. Brock was one of the kings of my life: I've never met a person -- not in high school, not in college, not at Harvard Law School, not at Hennepin County District Court, not at the Minnesota Supreme Court -- who was a better judge, or teacher, or coach, or man.

    Latest on judicial term limits intiative. "Beyond the foolhardiness of stripping the judiciary of its most seasoned judges, the [judicial term limit] amendment is a blatantly political maneuver by former state Senate president John Andrews, a Republican who wants to punish judges whose opinions he disagrees with. One particularly telling provision of the proposal is that it would apply retroactively. The measure would take effect in 2009 and would strip the Colorado Supreme Court of five of its seven members -- all appointees of former Gov. Roy Romer." From editorial urging "No" vote on "Amendment 40." More (Denver Post 10.11.2006). Comments. Jean (Eberhart) Dubofsky, a former Colorado Supreme Court Associate Justice who was a classmate of mine at Harvard Law School, was quoted in a news story last May saying judicial term limits are a bad idea: "Term limits don't do anything (but) end institutional memory and the experience of judges. That institutional memory can be very important. You want people there that understand the development of particular areas of legal theory and know how the law has developed over a long period of time." More (Denver Post 05.23.2006). I, too, oppose term limits for judges. Sadly, most states have one specific kind of term limitation that I seem to be alone in decrying, specifically, mandatory retirement, typically at age 70. See, BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges. Term limits of all kinds are wrong, but particularly for judges. In general, one gets better at judging the more one does it, the longer one does it, and the older one gets. Justice Holmes began judging in Massachusetts, on its supreme judicial court, at around age 40, eventually becoming chief justice. After 20 years doing that, he was named by T.R. to the U.S. Supreme Court, serving it as an associate justice from around age 60 to around age 90. In my opinion he didn't become a great judge until his late 70's. With term limits and mandatory retirement, our country's greatest judge would never have achieved judicial greatness. Term limits, including mandatory retirement, are especially uncalled for in states like MN, in which judges are subject to challenge in popular elections every six years. Attorneys are free to run against sitting judges when their terms are up, and the voters are free to limit the terms of judges they feel have served long enough by simply voting for the challengers. Judicial term limits, including mandatory retirement, are -- paradoxically -- both undemocratic and anti-aristocratic. They are anti-aristocratic because they target our "elected aristocrats," i.e., judges (read The Federalist if you don't know what I'm saying). And they are undemocratic because they say to voters, "Although you are sovereign, you may no longer elect Justice Mini Holmes, no matter how good he is, no matter how good you think he might become, no matter how good in fact he might become, because our arbitrary term limits say you may not." And so we say, a) don't adopt judicial (or any other kind of) term limits, b) retain direct judicial elections of the Minnesota variety, and c) abolish mandatory retirement of judges.

    Will judge's e-mail rants get him in trouble? "A local federal judge's radio show diatribe about tactics in the war on terrorism is turning into a test of what members of the judiciary can say when they sound off publicly. Venting in an e-mail to National Public Radio, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Leif M. Clark last week denounced the recently passed legislation that limits the rights of terror suspects to challenge their detentions and see certain evidence against them. 'These are the tactics of the old Soviet Union, not of a country that stands for freedom and the rule of law,' Clark, responding to a NPR discussion of the legislation, opined in the message that was posted in full on the network's Web site and read aloud Thursday on Morning Edition. The result: Clark's e-mail now is under review by...the tribunal that disciplines federal judicial misconduct in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi...." More (San Antonio Express 10.11.2006). Comments. a) See, Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002). b) Judge Richard Posner, the prominent federal circuit court judge, has expressed himself on many controversial political issues in many books and articles. To our knowledge, he has not been disciplined for doing so. And rightly so. c) Unfortunately, the Democrats have no spine and have not provided any real opposition to President Bush regarding his tactics in the "war on terrorism." The bravest, most-principled opposition has come from career military lawyers, one of whom, a fellow named Swift, who successfully challenged the military commissions for Gitmo detainees in SCOTUS, is losing his commission as an officer and being forced to retire as a result of the military brass's "up or out" policy -- in reality, in retaliation for doing what good lawyers do when they represent the interests of their clients. d) Unlike Posner but like Swift, Clark, as bankruptcy judge, has no lifetime tenure, "just" a 12-year term. e) Text of Clark's letter.

    Top judge says 5-year-term is a 'very weighty punishment.' "Lord Phillips criticised media which said someone was able to 'walk free' despite five years in jail, in the High Sheriff's Law Lecture in Oxford...'I am inclined to think that to be confined in prison for five years is a very weighty punishment indeed,' he said. 'I sometimes wonder whether...people will be as shocked by the sentences we are imposing as we are by some of the punishments of the 18th century. That is not to say that I do not recognise that there are certain crimes which require a sentence of that length or longer to protect the public. But I detect on the part of such publications an incitement to the public to exact vengeance from offenders that is not dissimilar from the emotions of those who thronged to witness public executions in the eighteenth century.'" More (BBC News 10.11.2006). Text of speech: Crime and Punishment (PDF). Comments. Lord Phillips is a kindred spirit. Just the other day we posted a piece in connection with a report of his spending a day incognito working with offenders on an alternative sentence "payback project." See, How top judge turned convict (and comments with embedded links). As we noted there, we have advocated, as the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright did, sending all judges and legislators to jail -- if only for a night or two. See, Should we send all judges and legislators to jail? People who spend time behind bars or have a relative or friend behind bars tend to stop thinking of people in trouble with the law as "others" or as "them" but as "us." They also get a real sense of how long is even "a day" of incarceration. And they start to see the folly of our unnecessarily-harsh and counter-productive sentencing policies. Interestingly, the original members of the A.B.A. Committee on Standards for Criminal Justice, back in the late 1960's and early 1970's, agreed with Lord Phillips that five years is an awfully long time to spend in prison; they said: "Except for a very few particularly serious offenses...the maximum authorized prison term ought to be five years and only rarely ten." I haven't checked the third edition of the Standards on Sentencing but I wouldn't be surprised if the current version says that. That sort of talk doesn't make one popular. But former Attorney General Griffin Bell (under President Carter) bravely and wisely said at a symposium in 1997 at Cumberland Law School in Birmingham, Alabama (where a close law school friend of mine teaches), "After all my experience, I would say that unless someone is guilty of a violent crime and needs to be incarcerated to protect other people, 12 months is long enough to put anyone in prison....We have people in prison 7, 8, 10, 20 years for things that could just as well be for 12 months." Griffin Bell, Response to Remarks of Featured Speaker, 27 Cumb. L. Rev. 903, 935 (1997). Further reading. I've held views nearly identical to Lord Phillips' views all my life and I've never been ashamed of them, although I've not always been free to express them. Here's a link to a campaign position paper on Crime and Punishment I posted on my campaign website in my 2004 anti-Iraq-war primary campaign against entrenched incumbent follow-the-leader, paint-by-the-numbers Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad, who is one of the so-called "moderates," which tells you something about the sad state of politics in our country.

    When a gubernatorial candidate and a judge feud. In August we posted a link to a news report that a Ramsey County, MN district court judge, William Leary, had criticized Attorney General Mike Hatch, the DFL nominee for governor, of improperly telephoning him about two consumer cases being pursued by the AG. See, Sitting judge criticizes Democrat candidate for governor in MN. Hatch denied wrongdoing but admitted calling the judge, which is generally a "no-no" when done ex parte by a party concerning a case pending before the judge. Now the state supreme court has appointed a retired district court judge, Lawrence T. Collins, to serve as a special counsel for the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board in investigating two complaints -- one by the GOP and one by the judge -- that Hatch violated rules of conduct. Meanwhile, an attorney has filed a complaint asking the judicial conduct folks to investigate the judge. More (St. Paul Pioneer-Press 10.11.2006). Comment. We don't know anything about these complaints but, speaking generally and without reference to these complaints, we deplore the use of complaints to lawyer and judicial conduct boards, campaign finance boards, truth-in-campaign boards, etc., to try influence voters during political campaigns. Trust the voters. If they get fooled, they have only themselves to blame and maybe -- yeah, sure -- they'll learn from their mistakes.

    Judges slam poor appointments. "Two high court judges yesterday criticised poor judicial appointments and the increasing number of reserved judgments that drag on for months, and in some cases years, saying this was an increasing feature of court rolls...High court judges Azhar Cachalia and Peter Combrink expressed the criticism during their interviews with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for appointment to the Supreme Court of Appeal...Cachalia, a former safety and security official who has served as an acting judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal for the past 18 months, said he had been 'shocked' by what he called systemic failure in the courts...." More (Business Day - South Africa 10.11.2006). Comment. This story coming from South Africa, you might wonder if race has anything to do with it all. Here's what Cachalia is reported as opining: a) "that good black candidates with the seniority to be appointed to the bench were doing very well financially, and so becoming judges would mean a substantial reduction of income"; b) that "[w]hites...were afraid of being trapped beneath a glass ceiling where they had no career prospects as a result of their race."

    Jurors packed in like sardines in a can? "Everyone says the Merrimack County courthouse is too small. But for dozens of people reporting for jury duty yesterday, the space crunch was obvious before they got out of their cars. 'We had one woman who was driving around for 45 minutes and called us five times on her cell phone,' said William McGraw, clerk of Merrimack County Superior Court. Once 100 prospective jurors found parking spots downtown, they packed into a courtroom that, on an ordinary day, has public seating for about half that number...." More (Concord Monitor - NH 10.11.2006). Comments. a) Small courthouse, big case: first first-degree murder case in awhile in buccolic NH. b) Speaking of sardines in a can, I had a close childhood friend whose mom used to give him one of those small cans of sardines to carry in his back pocket as a handy snack. He'd open the can with a "key" provided with the can that would roll back the metal top, revealing the rows of tightly=packed sardines from Norway. There was a radio commercial for sardines in those days -- circa 1950 -- that had the singing punch line, "Sardines from Norway!" I used to burst out singing it at strange times. Always good for a cheap laugh. One of my memories of this particular pal was the time his mom made a fresh fruit pie and when she wouldn't let him have an extra piece, he literally tied her to a kitchen chair with rope (she was laughing helplessly as he did so), and ate the rest of the pie right in front of her. I observed it all, with great respect, through the screen door leading to the kitchen. Further reading. BurtLaw's Law and Kids.

    Archbishop asks judges to stop taking bribes. "The Catholic Archbishop of Kumasi, Most Rev. Peter K. Sarpong, has called on Legal Practitioners to work efficiently in the discharge of their duties and look at corruption from every single angle, as these crimes are contemptuous before the Lord. The Archbishop made this call at a church service held for Legal Practitioners on the commencement of their 49th legal year. He advised judges not to take bribe from litigants and also refrain from incompetently giving distorted judgment...." More (AllAfrica - Ghana 10.11.2006). Comment. As self-appointed Bishop of the Secular Church of Lady Justice, I hereby similarly caution any judges within my domain against taking bribes.

    Main courtroom to be setting for theatrical production. "For the first time in the history of Calhoun, a theatrical production will be presented in the Gordon County Courthouse. Little Theater will be performing its third annual murder mystery, Witness for the Prosecution -- an Agatha Christie Murder Mystery -- in the main courtroom on Friday, Oct. 13 and Saturday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 15 at 2:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Oct, 21 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 22 at 2:30 p.m...." More (Calhoun Times 10.10.2006).

    Annals of judicial onamastics/anthroponomastics. Judge Beatrice Butchko looks after the kids (Miami Today 10.11.2006); Arnold S. appoints Dzintra Janavs to judgeship (Metropolitan News-Enterprise - CA 10.11.2006). Further reading. Onamastics - Anthroponomastics. Updates. a) As American as Varta, Luis and Na (N.Y. Times 10.12.2006) ("Plenty of immigrants still change their names to something easier for their new compatriots to pronounce...[But t]oday’s anglicizations are less likely to be forced by bosses or teachers and more likely to be the product of careful consideration about the tradeoff between fitting in and giving up a part of one’s heritage, immigrants and cultural experts say"). b) Guess what the name of Nevada's Democrat candidate for governor is: i) Dina Titus, b) Cari Foru, or c) Lena Buttowski? Answer: a) (N.Y. Times 10.13.2006) ("The name of the Democratic candidate for governor here, Dina Titus, is tattooed on the brain of most every Democrat who wants to be president, because of Nevada’s newly vaunted position in the 2008 election calendar").

    Judge wants his misconduct hearing televised. "A Mason judge, who is being investigated for alleged misconduct, wants his court hearings to be televised. Mason city council is looking into the possibility of televising Judge George Parker's proceedings...." More (WCPO - OH 10.11.2006). Earlier. Judge calls newspaper article a 'hatchet job' - Controversial judge keeps getting reversed in DUI cases - Judge's midnight hearing at request of prominent doc under investigation.

    Judge arrested for domestic violence. "Shelby County General Sessions Judge Lonnie Thompson and his ex-girlfriend, Rachel Hart, were both arrested recently on domestic assault charges after each accused the other of assault when police arrived at the judge's home, apparently in response to a 911 call by the judge. "Hart claims the judge pulled out her hair and sat on her until she threw up. The judge claims Hart struck him and threatened to cut him with a sharp object." More (WMC-TV - TN 10.10.2006). Comment. An accusation is not proof, an arrest is not a conviction....

    Playing the atheist card in judicial election campaign. The Texas Republican Party has sent out a newsletter saying that E. Ben Franks, a Democrat-endorsed attorney running for 6th Court of Appeals "is reported to be a professed atheist" and that he believes the Bible is just a "collection of myths." Franks denies it. A Texas poli sci prof is quoted as saying he's never seen the religious issue pushed this way before in Texas politics. More (Texas Lawyer via Law.Com 10.09.2006).

    An 'orange Judge hauling ass in the desert'? Did you read right? Yeah. It's a viewer's comment on a classic commercial for the 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge. "Judge! The special great one from Pontiac...G-T-O Pontiac Ram Air, 400 cubes for action/ Wide-Trac mag-type Polyglas shoes for traction." Here's the phrase in question, in the context of a blogger's description of the visual in the commercial: "Now picture...the band in full regalia and an orange Judge hauling ass in the desert. Goofy, clever, cool , and effective, this [commercial] is worthy of repeat viewing. You'll be humming the tune [by Paul Revere and the Raiders] to yourselves afterward." More (Jalopnik 10.10.2006).

    Oh my god, the chief justice won't sign the 'clean campaign' pledge! "In the race for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Democratic candidate Sue Bell Cobb has criticized Republican incumbent Drayton Nabers for not signing an agreement sent by [a campaign oversight committee]. The agreement asks candidates to run a campaign that 'reflects respect for the integrity and dignity of judicial office.'" More (Montgomery Advertiser 10.09.2006). Comment. I spoke of my aversion to pledges in my law-related weblog on 11.07.2001, less than two months after the events of 09.11:

Why won't you sign the pledge? Someone in the U.K., it's not clear who, has drafted a pledge committing signers to religious tolerance of Muslims as part of Islamic Awareness Week. Prime Minister Tony Blair and others in his party have signed the pledge. The Conservatives announced they were not going to sign declarations signed by other organizations. Instead, their leader issued a statement in his own words. His spokesperson said, "It is better for us to express our views in our own terms, rather than sign up to other people's messages." (This Is London). I've always felt there is something odious and coercive about pledge drives, whether conducted by churches to raise funds or by political and social organizations for other purposes. Call me a misanthrope, but if you come to my door with a petition, I'll come up with a polite (or, if need be, impolite) way of declining to sign it. The last petition I ever signed was one I drafted and circulated in eighth grade. It was a petition to the city council urging the city to establish a "teen center." It was easy getting people to sign it. And circulating it provided me, a shy guy when it came to directly approaching girls for certain purposes, with a legitimate shyness-neutralizing cover to talk to some of the more attractive junior high girls. Curiously, I never presented the petition to the council. At some point I decided there were flaws in my idea. Or was it that I didn't want to give up my precious collection of signatures, some by the coolest chicks in school. :-) On occasion since then, I've pondered whether in some way it was unethical of me to unilaterally decide not to go forward after soliciting and obtaining signatures of support on the understanding that I would go forward. It's not necessarily an ethical question with an easy answer. What has concerned me more, though, is that somewhere along the line I misplaced (or maybe even discarded) the old petition. It is one of the tokens or artifacts of the past I wish I had. (11.06.2001) Update: Archbishop of Canterbury & Chief Rabbi refuse to sign pledge (Id) (11.07.2001).

    'Exiled' judge is welcomed back. "The Auckland District Law Society is welcoming the return of a district court judge[, Martin Beattie,] who was re-assigned after being accused of mis-claiming travel expenses...." The judge was acquitted of the charge and now is back in his old haunts. More (Radio New Zealand 10.09.2006).

    Tycoon asks court to hear case in garden of her castle. "Bus tycoon Ann Gloag wants a Scots court to sit in the garden of her £4million castle...[She] is demanding a sheriff, legal teams, court officials and witnesses convene at Kinfauns Castle, overlooking the River Tay in Perthshire. Her plea was made at Perth Sheriff Court, where the Ramblers Association are claiming the public should have access to some of her grounds...." More (Glasgow Sunday Mail 10.09.2006). Comments. a) The story makes the "plea" seem like that only a spoiled rich person would make, when, given the nature of the suit, it seems not unreasonable or extraordinary. The court in its discretion will grant the plea and view the premises if the court deems a view helpful to a fair decision. b) What is the "Ramblers Association," you ask. Wikipedia says, inter alia:

The Ramblers' Association is the largest walkers rights organisation in Great Britain which aims to look after the interests of walkers (or ramblers). It is a charity registered in England and Wales, with 139,000 members. Its special concerns are the protection of public footpaths in England, Scotland and Wales, and the advocacy for establishing public access and the right-of-way to the countryside. There are 450 Ramblers' groups in about 50 areas, and around 350 other affiliated bodies, such as societies especially interested in the heritage of the countryside, the Footpath Society, and local councils. The Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act, granting the freedom to roam in the open countryside in England and Wales, was passed in the year 2000.

In other words, it's the kind of organization that would drive a property rights advocate in America to a state of chronic agitation.

    How top judge turned convict. "We begin with the day he caught an early train to Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, to be picked up by Thames Valley Probation Area staff. His supervisor and his medium to high-risk workmates, who included a fraudster and a burglar, had no idea of his real identity. Nor have they since been told. 'My cover had been arranged,' he said. 'I posed as a shipping solicitor convicted of driving with excess alcohol and sentenced to 150 hours' unpaid work and 18 months' disqualification.'" From a story about Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice (most senior judge) in England and Wales, who spent a day working incognito on a "payback project" to experience himself the form of non-custodial punishment that he favors as a cheaper and more-effective alternative in many cases to incarceration. He is quoted as saying, "It's madness to spend £37,000 a year [on keeping someone in jail] when by spending much less on services in the community, you can do as good a job. Statistics show there is not much difference on re-offending rates, but even a 10 per cent improvement is a start." More (The Observer - UK 10.07.2006). Comment. We typically urge less-harsh treatment of everyone from Minnesota kids who bring plastic Nintendo guns with them to school to judges who veer slightly off the boring straight-and-narrow path they are expected to follow. See, e.g., my comments on a judge's conduct at Judge charged with reprising Michael Douglas' role in 'Traffic'? As to the boy with the plastic Nintendo gun & our schools' stupid zero-tolerance policies, see entry dated 04.27.2002 titled Zero-tolerance nonsense (scroll down) at BurtLaw's Law & Kids. We even urged probation with home-confinement rather than prison for Judge Amundson when he was convicted, of a property offense -- see, entry dated 06.08.2002 titled Wish list (scroll down) at BurtLaw on Crime & Punishment, an opinion that subjected us to national ridicule (a slight exaggeration) by an extremely popular conservative blogger (whom we nonetheless like). (We can take it -- & we can dish it out.) Judge Amundson now thinks, as we do, that our lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-keys sentencing laws are a big, costly, counter-productive mistake. Memo to Lord Phillips: We like the idea behind your spending a day working hard on a "paybreak project," but we also have advocated, as the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright did, sending all judges and legislators to jail -- if only for a night or two. See, Should we send all judges and legislators to jail? Like Judge Amundson, people who spend time behind bars or have a relative or friend behind bars tend to stop thinking of people in trouble with the law as "others" or as "them" but as "us" and they start to see the folly of our unnecessarily-harsh and counter-productive sentencing policies. Further reading. I've held these views all my life and I've never been ashamed of them, although I've not always been free to express them. Here's a link to a campaign position paper on Crime and Punishment I posted on my campaign website in my 2004 anti-Iraq-war campaign against entrenched incumbent Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad.

    Judge talks about his 'bad date.' "After news articles appeared last week talking about a 'date' that resulted in his wallet being taken and an extortion attempt made against him, Wayne Pederson, current District Court judge and candidate for a new two-year term, did not shy away from that issue at a candidates' night event Tuesday in Smith Valley...." More (Reno Gazette-Journal 10.06.2006). Earlier. See, our posting titled Judge attending Nat'l Judicial College is victim of extortion in sex case].

    Judge loses license and seat on bench because of swindling case. "A North Carolina judge lost his law license Friday evening after the State Bar determined that he was dishonest and deceitful when he took the home and life savings of an elderly, senile woman. The bar's decision to strip former District Court Judge James Ethridge of his law license ended his 30-year career as an attorney and judge...." More (Charlotte Observer 10.07.2006).

    Should judge be removed because of after-hours sexual liaisons in chambers? "District Judge Wendell Miller, in his second six-year term,] should be removed from the bench for presiding over divorce and child support hearings for a secretary with whom he was having an affair and whose child he thought was his, the Louisiana Judiciary Commission says. More (KATC-TV - LA 10.07.2006).

    O'Connor to sit on appeals panel. "Sandra Day O’Connor, the former Supreme Court justice, will wear the black robe again next week when she joins a federal appeals court panel in Manhattan to hear arguments in five cases...She remains a senior judge eligible to hear cases." More (N.Y. Times 10.07.2006).

    The rats and cockroaches in the courthouse. "Cynics might say that the Orange County Courthouse has always had rats of the two-legged variety, but the four-legged ones have been causing their fair share of problems lately...." More (WESH 10.06.2006).

    Seething over silk rejection. "Frankly, Margaret Cunneen should tell the NSW Bar Association to take their silk and shove it. After her application for senior counsel status was rejected for the fifth time without explanation last week, the deputy senior crown prosecutor reacted with remarkable restraint...But privately she is seething, as are plenty of her supporters around town, who include prominent barristers and judges -- though obviously not those judges reported to have blackballed her selection...All the drama could have been avoided if the NSW Bar Association had a more accountable and transparent method of appointing senior counsel...Theories abound as to why Cunneen was rejected by this process yet again, some wild and personal, others pure conspiracy, and none of them helpful to the reputation of the legal profession. But people's imaginations run riot in the face of official secrecy...." More (Sydney Morning Herald 10.07.2006). Comment. For some of my views, with links, on "selection commission politics" as well as on other methods of judicial selection, see, my recent posting titled A judgeship as a patronage job.

    Judge is reprimanded over 'moron' remark. "The Court of Judicial Discipline reprimanded...Allegheny County [District Judge Ernest L. Marraccini, of Elizabeth] Tuesday, saying he called defendants in the court's waiting room 'morons' two years ago, when he was filling in for another judge. The case...stemmed from a day in May 2004, when he dismissed 30 traffic cases and told the defendants in his waiting room to leave. He then belittled defendants when they hesitated to depart, officials said...." More (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 10.05.2006).

    Court won't let judge give back controversial pay raise. "Superior Court Judge Joan Orie Melvin wants to turn down the 11 percent pay raise reinstated by a [PA] Supreme Court ruling last month, but was told by the court system she has to take the money. The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts informed Orie Melvin on Sept. 27 that she can return a portion of her salary -- but indicated that she'd have to pay taxes on it and would receive a pension benefit...Duquesne University law professor Bruce Ledewitz, who has been highly critical of the Supreme Court pay raise opinion, sympathized with Orie Melvin, but agreed that the court has limited options about her pay. 'Their business is to pay the salary set by law,' Ledewitz said...." More (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 10.05.2006).

    Judges go potty over church loos. "The new toilet block at St Nicholas Church, in Hedsor, has won the Ibstock Downland Prize for Architects 2006 for the South and South East of England in the historic context section. Tony Mealing, of Tebbot and Wells Architects, in High Wycombe, was the man responsible for the restroom fit for a reverend...St Nicholas' Church perches on a promontory overlooking the River Thames. It is one of the smallest churches in Buckinghamshire, with parts of the building dating back to the 12th century. Any new facilities on site were not permitted to interfere with the church's fabric, or to disturb previous burials or archaeological remains...." More (Buckinghamshire Free Press - UK 10.04.2006).

   Order en la Corte: Latino judges take over daytime TV. "We can't get a Latino judge onto the Supreme Court but if you watch daytime television you can watch a whole roster of Latino judges dole out justice in English. While the Cuban Dra. Ana Maria Polo continues to mediate disputes on Telemundo's Caso Cerrado, you can take your pick of four Latino judges on mainstream English language networks [Judges Marilyn Milia, Alex Ferrer, Cristina Perez, and Maria Lopez]. Three out of the four of the judges are Cubanos, and three of the four are mujeres...It's a sad state of affairs when we can see more Latino judges on television than in the real halls of justice. Maybe life will imitate really lowbrow art...." More (VivirLatino - NY 10.04.2006). Further reading. Cristina Perez, The First TV Judge Ever to Cross-Over from Spanish (Hispanic PR Wire - FL 10.04.2006). Comment. Four "Latino judges" on "mainstream English language networks" -- but not one Norwegian-American, no, not even one Scandinavian American! Do I suggest fewer "Latino judges"? Nay. I merely propose that "mainstream English language networks" make room also for Norwegian-American judges, Canadian-American judges, French-American judges, Russian-American judges, Chinese-American judges, etc. I see an America in which....

    Geography shapes judge debate. "[A] seemingly obscure November ballot measure...would require Oregon appellate judges to run in geographic districts instead of statewide. [Various] interest groups are squaring off over Measure 40, which would require Oregon's 17 Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges to run from geographic districts instead of statewide. Supporters include business interests that want to reduce jury verdicts, property rights advocates and conservative initiative activists who complain that the Oregon Supreme Court has overturned their ballot measures. Opponents include plaintiff attorneys, unions and most of the state's legal establishment...." More ( 10.04.2006). Comment. "Conservatives" are behind this very unconservative idea. See, Conservatives want Oregon's top judges elected by district. In 2002 Oregon voters narrowly rejected this initiative. Now its proponents are back again. Proponents apparently are saying it will bring geographic diversity to the court, but opponents say that it will politicize the courts in a partisan way by making it easier & cheaper to elect agenda-driven candidates. According to The Oregonian, "Russ Walker...who is running the Measure 40 campaign, says the system already is partisan: Most judges resign before the end of their terms, allowing the governor to appoint a replacement who runs as an incumbent -- typically without opposition. With Democrats holding the governor's office for 20 years, Oregon courts are dominated by liberal judges, Walker said." Id. Minnesota's court of appeals (but not its supreme court) has a hybrid membership. Six but only six of its members must come from specific congressional districts & can be opposed in the election only by lawyers from the specific districts; however, all MN voters get to vote in any of the contested elections. The system is a foolish one that, I seem to recall, was the price of support of some outstate legislators for establishing a court of appeals. The idea of mandated geographical representation on top state appellate courts is based on a flawed understanding of the proper role of an appellate judge, which is not to "represent" this region or a particular group of voters nor to simply "vote" yea or nay on issues that come before the court as a legislator does when considering issues in the context of legislating. Further reading. See, e.g., my 2000 essay, BurtLaw on Judicial Independence and Accountability.

    Judge's cyber-dating profile. The judge's online "profile" states: "I am young at heart. I am a professional in full time employment and have spent my life fighting injustices of all kinds -- mainly unsuccessfully. I am told I have a very good sense of humour and am good company." The judge in question is British blackmail scandal judge Mohammed Ilyas Khan. More (This is London 10.05.2006). Further reading. Annals of judicial internet dating (which includes links to earlier postings about the scandal as well as to other postings on judicial romance, judicial dating, and judicial cyber-dating).

    Prank raises ruckus at courthouse. "A man who wore an ogre mask to pay his criminal fines Tuesday at the Franklin County Clerk's Office alarmed the staff and had courthouse officials renewing calls for tighter security. Ralph B. Hacker, 43, told police he was just playing a joke on an employee. But his suspicious actions led several clerks, including two pregnant women, to duck for cover behind desks, and prompted a stern warning to him not to do it again." The county commissioners are considering a number of options to beef up courthouse security. One is "[building] a perimeter fence around the courthouse campus that would allow freedom to move from building to building once clearing an access gate," and "[installing] secured doors to parking for judges, commissioners, the sheriff and the prosecutor." Another is "limit[ing] access to two entrances -- the front door of the newly renovated courthouse and the side door to the public safety building -- with X-ray machines at both." More (Mid Columbia Tri City Herald 10.04.2006). Comments. According to the news report, the prankster "was warned that if he tries it again, he could be shot by officers who think he is participating in criminal activity or could face a harassment charge." a) We're assuming that the warning, which is for our benefit as well as Mr. Hacker's, applies only to latex masks, etc., not to the wearing of makeup, the alteration of facial appearance by cosmetic procedures, etc. In other words, authorities presumably won't shoot or charge with a crime i) women whose facial cosmetic procedures make them look like freaks or ii) judges who have had judicial makeovers at Klara's Kut 'n' Kurl. b) We also assume the authorities, consistent with constitutional mandates, will treat everyone equally -- i.e., if they shoot people with Halloween masks in October, they'll shoot people dressed up as Santa Claus in December.

    Judges see politics in court audit. "An audit launched by Justice Minister Štefan Harabin of the case assignment systems at select Slovak courts has been attacked by one chief justice as revenge for the support of these courts for an electronic case assignment system to reduce corruption...Harabin was an opponent of the Court Management program, which stopped judges from choosing which cases they would rule on, a practice that invited corruption as it allowed judges who took bribes to pick likely candidates. He refused to introduce it as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and tried to have the head of the pilot project, Jana Dubovcová, fired for 'reducing the credibility of the court system.' Cases are now assigned at random...." More (Slovak Spectator 10.04.2006). Comments. A truly random assignment system, with each judge getting a roughly-equal caseload, is the only way to go. Such a system should be tamper-proof so no functionary can diddle with it. Moreover, reassignments based on conflicts, etc., ought to be random.

    Review of book on the judicial branch. Ken I. Kersch of Princeton U. reviews Jeffrey Rosen, The Most Democratic Branch: How the Courts Serve America (Oxford. 256 pp. $25.00). More (Commentary).

    Performance reviews for judges proposed. "Judicial veterans led by [Rebecca Kourlis,] a former Colorado Supreme Court justice[,] on Monday weighed in on the nation's multiplying battles over judge accountability with a balm: [a think tank report recommending] job performance evaluations for all. This is meant as a practical move as judges face ballot initiatives -- in Colorado, South Dakota, Georgia, Montana[, Oregon] and elsewhere -- that many regard as assaults on judicial independence...Among model programs, [the report] cites Alaska, where trained court-watchers drop unannounced into courtrooms in the manner of newspaper restaurant critics." More (Denver Post 10.03.2006). Supporters of judicial term limit referendum question timing of report (Rocky Mountain News 10.03.2006). Comments. See, a flurry of postings on judicial independence and accountability.

    Blogs reveal judge's chat-room profanity. Four years ago Justice of the Peace Sam Harris "blew the whistle"on colleague Mike Smartt for viewing gay porn websites using a court computer. Smartt resigned after being given a suspension, then committed suicide a year later. Michael Smartt obituary (The Montana Lawyer November 2003). Now Justice Harris, who faces opposition in next month's election, has been "caught" by bloggers -- see, Electric City Weblog and Firefly -- "using profanity and graphic language in an online chat room." He did not use the court computer. Less clear is whether he visited the chat room during work hours; Harris denies it. More (Great Falls Tribune 10.03.2006).

    'Outside group' to study judges' workload. "For the first time, Missouri's court system is bringing in a national organization[, the National Center for State Courts,] to study the workloads of judges across the state...Michael Buenger, state court administrator, said Monday that the study will cost $180,000, and the court system plans to seek extra funding from the Legislature next year... 'What will come of this is a much clearer picture of not just caseload but the true workload,' Buenger said. 'I think what it will reveal is the system is under some strain and some pressure.' A steering committee led by two judges will meet in coming weeks to help tailor the study, and the center's report is expected next September...." More (Kansas City Star 10.03.2006). Comment. Is the choice of the phrase "tailor the study" unintentionally revealing? We don't know and we imply nothing. We just ask the question. We do know that when institutions want support for something, they often create a commission or they commission a study, and -- whoa! -- they often get the report or the advice they were seeking. Here's a possibly-relevant critical piece we posted at BurtLaw's Court Gazing in 2001 that bears reprinting here:

 More taxpayers' money spent on consultants.  The St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports today (07.24.2001) that Washington County, MN, with help from the state, is spending $40K in consulting fees to help judges and administrators try figure out what they apparently haven't been able to figure out themselves after two years' of study: why it's taking them way too long to decide cases. One should not be surprised if the consultant, from the National Center for State Courts, recommends (at least at the bottom line) that the state solve the delay problem by spending more money hiring more judges and support personnel. I think taxpayers should ask (the lame press won't) a) why our highly-paid appellate and district court judges and administrators, with their recent raises, can't figure out things like this and come up with solutions without spending even more money hiring outside consultants, and b) how much, total, has the judicial branch paid to consultants from the National Center for State Courts over, oh, let's say, the last five or six years. I'm one who is of the opinion that there is a lot of waste in government in Minnesota, as well as elsewhere, and if you ask me for examples, I'd start with hiring consultants like those from the National Center for State Courts to tell those in charge what they should know -- or is it, as some suspect, to tell those in charge what they want to hear, so they can make a better case with the legislature and the governor for taking yet more money from the taxpayers' pockets?

    U.S. Senator Norm Coleman's father pleads guilty to indecent conduct. "Getting caught having sex in a pizzeria parking lot will cost Sen. Norm Coleman's father 24 hours of community service, a $128 fine and his ability to dine at Red Savoy Pizza for a year. Norman Coleman Sr., 81, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct Monday, two months after St. Paul police cited the elder Coleman and a 38-year-old woman for having sex in a vehicle behind the restaurant on East Seventh Street...." More (St. Paul Pioneer-Press 10.03.2006). Comments. a) This sort of thing has been going on since the automobile was invented. The only difference is that now, thanks to Viagara, etc., people in their 80s are doing it, too (and, no, we're not implying that the Senator's good father needed or was using Viagra). b) Compare and contrast, Judge says hot-tub sex was not 'indecent.' My comment to that posting includes a brief recounting of how Warren Burger once got the MN Supreme Court to throw out a client's indecent exposure conviction, a case that conceivably could have helped Coleman and his young female friend if they'd chosen to fight the charge. However, they'll get the same result if they stay out of trouble: that is, if they complete the terms of the stay, they won't have a record. Which is pretty standard stuff, connections or no connections. Read on...

    Federal judge to enter pre-trial diversion program. "Senior U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom was expected to sign papers this week for admission into Lancaster County pre-trial diversion services. Lincoln police ticketed Urbom for misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide in connection with the traffic death Sept. 8 of Fred McEntarffer, 74, of Lincoln...." More (Lincoln Journal-Star 10.03.2006). Comment. Again, standard stuff, regardless of one's station. Earlier. Federal judge charged in vehicular homicide case.

    Department of coincidences: Bush nominates judge's son to replace judge. "The nomination of William Osteen Jr. to the federal judiciary marks the second time in the past year that an area judge's son has been picked to replace him on the bench. In this case, President Bush nominated Osteen to replace his father, William Osteen, as a judge for the Middle District of North Carolina. Late last year, Gov. Mike Easley appointed then-district attorney Stuart Albright to the state Superior Court judgeship being vacated by his father, W. Douglas Albright...." In the article, Elizabeth Gibson, a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill's law school, is quoted saying, "How anybody gets nominated for these positions depends on who you know." More (Greensboro News Record 10.03.2006). Comment. Everybody knows that "the W" was the best person for the job and would be President even if his dad had been manager of a Target store, and everybody knows "the W" wouldn't have picked the judge's son to succeed the judge unless the judge's son was the best person for the job -- just as, you know, Harriet Miers was the best person, etc., etc. I jest, of course -- but only partly. Bricklayers' kids tend to learn the craft early on, and lawyers' kids grow up thinking like lawyers. Hey, the father who won the Nobel prize in medicine some years ago didn't do the work for his son, who just won the Nobel in chemistry in his own right. For more on primogeniture, including that involving office, and other types of inheritance, click here.

    Chambers computer caper - accusations fly. "Suspicion that a burglary in the chambers of [Judge John Collins,] the top criminal judge in Bronx Supreme Court[,] was pulled off by a felon assigned to sweep the floors is raising questions about whether the city should rehabilitate convicts in sensitive areas of the building. 'It's the wolves working in the hen house,' one courthouse source said. Investigators suspect that one of the convicts in the Center for Employment Opportunities' Neighborhood Work Program...stole [the judge's] laptop from his locked sixth-floor chambers at 851 Grand Concourse...But Ron Younkins, chief of operations for the state Office of Court Administration, [said,] 'I think it's a knee-jerk reaction that it's a person with a criminal background. I don't think it's appropriate'...." More (N.Y. Post 10.02.2006). Comment. When I was a Minneapolis Star and Minneapolis Sunday Tribune newspaper carrier in the mid-1950s in my hometown, I had to drop off a daily afternoon Star in an enclosed second-floor porch to an apartment located behind a business. One day the old woman who lived there with her husband called my mom and said her purse was missing and accused me of taking it. I denied it to my mom but wasn't sure she believed me. A half hour later the old bag customer called and said sorry, her bad, she'd found it, ha-ha. I had a couple other occasions in my youth when I felt the sting of being wrongly suspected of wrongdoing. I'm glad I had them. Based on experience, I therefore always am suspicious of quickly-made accusations, especially when made against kids and others who are on the lower rungs of the power ladder. Interestingly, in two of the instances I refer to, the hasty accusers were people who were low on the ladder and jealous of my banker dad. Ah, jealousy by others, too, is a thing I'm glad I experienced. It is an emotion I can honestly say I've never felt.

    Judge is censured for 'deplorable' behavior. "A state panel on Monday recommended censuring a city court judge for reportedly leaving the bench to confront a defendant and saying, 'You want a piece of me?' The state Commission on Judicial Conduct said in its ruling that Albany City Court Justice William Carter's behavior was 'deplorable.' But the panel of lawyers[, by a vote of 8-2, with two voting for removal,] said he shouldn't be removed from office as the commission's staff had recommended...." In addition to the above-cited incident, the judge, when told by a police officer that a defendant had made an obscene gesture to a court officer, told the police officer he hadn't seen it and wasn't going to do anything about it but the officer could "just thump...him outside the courthouse" if he wanted. More (Newsday 10.02.2006). Comment. It might help judges, who presumably want to avoid such troubles, to always assume -- even if it ain't true -- that there may be a hidden camera or a hidden mike recording their every move or utterance while in court. And you know what? It might be true not only in court but out of court. Hope that helps.

    Judge kills self. "He lost his appetite. He lost weight. People began complimenting him, but then his clothes weren't fitting. She asked him if he would like to take time off. He said he couldn't. She asked him if he was having coffee with his friends. He said he had not had coffee with them for some time...." And then the judge killed himself. The judge's name was Lee Anderson and he was only 54. He "was a First Circuit Court judge, Sunday school teacher, nice guy and best friend to many." More (Sioux Falls Argus-Leader 10.02.2006). Comment. No one is immune. And it's not a sign of weakness. Strong people facing a perfect storm of circumstances sometimes just give in or give up. See, my comments on the death by self-inflicted gunshot wound of a great childhood friend of mine at Judge sics police on son, where I suggest that in some deep sense each death by suicide may be thought of as an "act of nature" much like an April storm. Further reading: BurtLaw's Law & Death.

    A judgeship as a patronage job. "[Mr. Justice J. D. Bruce McDonald, o]ne of the judges recently appointed by Justice Minister Vic Toews to sit on the superior trial court in Alberta[,] has a long history of support and service to the Conservative Party [and its predecessors]. The Liberals say that 's...a blatant example of party patronage and runs contrary to accountability promises made by Stephen Harper during the federal election. The Conservatives respond that Judge McDonald is eminently qualified for the position...." More (Globe & Mail - Canada 10.02.2006). Comment. In addition to his party loyalty, the new judge may or may not have been helped by his daughter's being a special assistant in the Prime Minister's Office. Then again, it's possible she was helped by virtue of his party loyalty (and it's possible she wasn't). One looking in from the outside just never knows about these things. One thing I'm sure of: you can't and shouldn't take politics out of judicial appointments. Politics has always had a big part in judicial selection in MN and elsewhere. The issue is who does the selecting and what may people properly do to influence the selection. Governors in MN for generations have appointed people primarily from their own party to the judiciary: traditionally the DFL governors have been more inclined to appoint as judges DFLers who have ties to organized labor, while Republican governors have been more inclined to appoint Republicans who are perhaps more sympathetic to business interests. Nominating or screening commissions, of course, have their own biases -- often they favor "bar association types." You can attach the word "commission" to a any agglomeration of people but, as the saying goes, you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Call it what you want, a commission merely substitutes one kind of politics for another. Our Populist state constitution says the voters, through elections, have the right to decide who their judges are if challengers come forth, but it's a rare day when a challenger comes forth. While the Minnesota Plan might not work in another state, it's worked well here. Further reading. a) Those 'blue-ribbon commissions' and 'task forces.' b) Sorry, bar association, but.... c) The 'Citizens Committee on the Preservation of an Independent Judiciary. d) MN's 'establishment' still upset by S. Ct.'s judicial free speech decisions. e) Group-think on judicial selection. f) SCOTUS declines review of USCA's case on judicial campaigns. g) Speaking of the MN judicial system...

   Judge's mysterious death. "France has issued arrest warrants for two top Djibouti officials in connection with the mysterious death of a French judge in 1995. Djibouti Chief Prosecutor Djama Souleiman and security chief Hassan Said are accused of interfering with witnesses in the investigation. The burnt body of Bernard Borrel was found in just a T-shirt and underpants. Djibouti authorities initially said his death was a suicide, but his widow says he was assassinated...." More (BBC News 10.02.2006). Comment. Djibouti, a French ally, is located on the Gulf of Aden north of Somalia and east of Ethiopia.

    Nuremberg courtroom, still in use, to become memorial/museum? "Only a few makeshift signs in the stairwell of Nuremberg's Palace of Justice direct visitors to the courtroom that 60 years ago was the venue of the trials of the main Nazi war criminals. History buffs who come to Courtroom 600 had better do so on Sundays. It is closed to the public on weekdays, when jury trials often take place there. That could change, though. A committed citizens group...wants to turn Courtroom 600 into a national memorial and museum...." More (Monsters and - UK 10.01.2006). Comment. Chief Justice Stone referred to the Nuremberg Trials as "a high-grade lynching party" and at least four members of the U.S. Supreme Court "particularly Stone, Black, Murphy and [Douglas] thought [the trials] were unconstitutional by American standards." Remarks of Chief Justice Rehnquist at ALI Annual Meeting 05.17.2004 (quoting Justice Douglas). We ought not be proud of the trials. They used the trappings of fairness to provide a gloss to "winner's justice," just as the trials of Saddam Hussein are doing.

    Is the judiciary a rule-free class -- or are we too tough on judges? "It was the sinister Captain Segura, in Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana, who pointed out that citizens divide into two classes -- those you can torture and those you can't. In the same way in this country there are those who have to abide by the rules and those who don't. There are those who feel that regulations and tax and laws are for other people -- for 'the little people' as the American hotelier Leona Helmsley once notoriously said. It is irritating for the rest of us, which is why there was so much glee about the downfall of two British judges in a blackmail case last week...." -- Minette Marrin, commenting on the judicial-love-triangle trial of a Brazilian immigrant housekeeper for blackmail in an opinion piece titled Judges, police: two of the rule-free classes (Times - UK 10.01.2006). Comment. In fact, judges are not members of a "rule-free class." We don't just expect them to abide by the normal rules we all are expected to follow -- we unreasonably expect them, like ministers' kids, to be better than the rest of us. Our expectations aren't always met. Readers of The Daily Judge regularly read stories about judges whose conduct, if videotaped, might fill a Judges Gone Wild video sold on late-night T.V. Why is this? I think most judges make a good-faith effort to meet our overly-high expectations. But "being better" than the rest of us all the time not only ain't fun, it leads to harmful repression of the old Freudian fun instinct. All that repressed fun builds up and eventually erupts, with societal or at least judicial consequences similar to those that occur when the proverbial Protestant minister's daughter goes wild, hooks up with the local rebel without a cause and stands on the steps of the local Catholic church late at night baying at the moon and mocking the Pope as he lies dying of hiccups. What's worse is that when the repressed fun doesn't erupt in some violation of "the code," it manifests itself in various, arguably more harmful, ways. Witness the straight-and-narrow goody-goody judge who lawfully takes it out on some poor sap who negotiates a check with insufficient funds or who monitors his secretary's lunch and coffee breaks with a stop-watch. What to do? We think a "Judicial Mardi Gras" is one answer and the related concept of a "judicial safe haven" (in the interest of increasing MN tourism we recommend St. Paul, MN, as the location and urge that the plan be called "the O'Connor layover plan"). See our coordinated proposals in "On judicial swimsuits and the Rules of Judicial Conduct -- part II" (scroll down) at BurtLaw's Law & Swimsuits.

    Ex-judge must pay $587,000 in legal fees. "A former Franklin County judge must pay $587,000 in legal fees connected to her failed defense against accusations of misconduct, a federal judge ruled. Former Common Pleas Judge Deborah O'Neill, 51, owes the money because the insurance policy that covers all Ohio judges only pays fees if a judge is cleared of wrongdoing, U.S. District Judge Edmund Sargus said Wednesday. O'Neill had sued Kemper Insurance Cos., saying it should pay...." More (Cleveland Plain Dealer 09.29.2006). Comment. Without speaking directly to this case, I'm continually amazed at the fees some attorneys charge for their services. Even if a judge were entitled to reimbursement for reasonable attorney fees, I fail to see how any public body or its insurer would be justified in paying half a million for attorney fees in successfully defending against a misconduct petition.

    Judge is killed in Acapulco. "A judge and four jail guards were killed in separate attacks on Friday in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, which has suffered a recent wave of violence blamed on drug traffickers. Three assailants gunned down the guards about 100 yards outside the local jail...[I]n a separate incident, Judge Mario Moreno was stabbed numerous times as he left his house in the center of Acapulco, located about 185 miles southeast of Mexico City. He died later at a hospital. Acapulco has been besieged for months by a wave of shootings, stabbings and grenade attacks on police stations...." More (Washington Post 09.29.2006).

Our Motto - "Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat" (Horace). Loose translation: Does anything prevent telling the truth with a smile?

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   U. Mich. L. Library's Alito links. The University of Michigan Law Library has compiled a webpage devoted to links to information about and writings by Samuel A. Alito, Jr. They are categorized and are arranged in reverse chronological order within each category.

   U. Mich. L. Library's Roberts links. The University of Michigan Law Library has compiled a webpage devoted to links to information about and writings by John Glover Roberts, Jr.  They are categorized and are arranged in reverse chronological order within each category.

   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.

   U. Mich. L. Library's Miers links. The University of Michigan Law Library has compiled a webpage devoted to links to information about and writings by Harriet Ellan Miers.  They are categorized and are arranged in reverse chronological order within each category.

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