The Daily Judge
© 2006 Burton Randall Hanson
       Archives - 01.16.2006 - 01.27.2006
"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.

    Annals of judicial appointments. "The investigation of Jack Abramoff, the disgraced Republican lobbyist, took a surprising new turn on Thursday when the Justice Department said the chief prosecutor in the inquiry [Noel L. Hillman] would step down next week because he had been nominated to a federal judgeship by President Bush...The administration said that the appointment was routine and that it would not affect the investigation, but Democrats swiftly questioned the timing of the move and called for a special prosecutor...." More (N.Y. Times 01.27.2006). Comment. Back in 1946, when gambling was still called a racket, Luther Youngdahl resigned his position as a Minnesota state supreme court justice to run successfully for governor as a Republican, promising to clean illegal one-armed bandits out of country clubs, bars and other "establishments." On taking office in 1947, he did just that. (Minnesota did well without legalized gambling for many years but now one can't turn on the evening TV "news" without being reminded through the announcement of "today's lottery numbers" that the state sold its soul in legalizing gambling.) President Truman executed an adroit manuever in 1951, appointing the then-tremendously-popular Youngdahl, who was considered a possible opponent to DFL Senator Hubert Humphrey in 1954, to the federal district court in Washington, D.C., where Youngdahl was, both politically and geographically, safely out of Humphrey's way. Is President Bush's nomination of Hillman a somewhat similar maneuver? That's the question some Democrats are raising. I don't know the answer.

    Top judge says that until 1998 the judiciary was an arm of the executive. "Judge Omar Mora Díaz, president of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ), Thursday said that until 1998, when President Hugo Chávez took power, the Judiciary in Venezuela was illegitimate...'From 1830 to 1998, the Judiciary was zero percent legitimate in origin. It was always an appendix of the executive power or other branches of the public powers.' He argued that [until then]...judges were [not] appointed based on their academic, professional skills or transparent competitive examinations...[Diaz said] that the only ones who ever entered the judiciary were 'the people who followed blindly and mechanically orders from the political groups that appointed them.'" More (El Universal 01.27.2006).

    Problems with jurors. "[U.S. District Judge Vanessa] Gilmore delayed the opening day of the trial [of three people accused of human smuggling] after a juror phoned in sick and another had to stay home with a sick child. As attorneys prepared to begin trial the next day, Gilmore announced that an attorney for one of the jurors had sent a letter to her complaining that the juror's company would undergo a hardship if the juror were to stay away from work...." More (Houston Chronicle 01.27.2006). Comment. Interesting short piece providing insight into the difficulties experienced on a daily basis all around the country by trial judges trying to provide litigants with fair trials by juries.

    Under fire, judge imposes longer sentence. "A Vermont judge facing intense criticism for the 60-day jail sentenced he gave an admitted child molester changed his mind Thursday and increased the sentence to a minimum of three years. Judge Edward Cashman said he would have given the three-year to 10-year sentence to Mark Hulett at the original sentencing Jan. 4, but at that point Hulett was not eligible for in-prison sex offender treatment. He now is...." More (Boston Globe 01.27.2006). Earlier. Regarding embattled judge: what transcript shows he really said, and embedded links.

    Removed judge's bid for new trial on fraud charge is denied. "Two months after her conviction for fraudulently obtaining handicapped parking placards, former Harris County Justice of the Peace Betty Brock Bell lost her bid for a new trial Thursday. Her attorneys said they will appeal the decision...." More (Houston Chronicle 01.27.2006). Earlier. Judge convicted of tampering with a record. (A jury determined she improperly used her mom's name to obtain handicapped parking placards.)

    Judge withdraw civil rights complaint filed against chief judge. "Ingham County Circuit Judge Beverley Nettles-Nickerson withdrew a civil rights complaint against Chief Judge William Collette on Wednesday, just one week after filing it...." More (Lansing State Journal 01.27.2006). Earlier. Judge claims she's victim of racial, gender discrimination by colleague.

    Judge cleared of wrongdoing charge filed by fellow judge. "A state judicial ethics panel has cleared a Prattville municipal judge [George Walthall] of allegations brought by one of his colleagues [William Roberts]. The Judicial Inquiry Commission advised...Walthall] that it had cleared him...The commission...declined to release its report. But its letter to Walthall said the allegations included his use of alternative-sentencing programs...." More (Tuscaloosa News 01.27.2006).

    Top court rejects board's request for discipline of two judges. "The state Supreme Court has rejected a request for disciplinary action against two Las Cruces municipal judges. The state Judicial Standards Commission wanted Melissa Miller-Byrnes suspended and Jim Locatelli fined. The two judges had criticized city management in a letter published in 2004 [that] said they were forced to regularly dismiss cases because of incompetence by police and prosecutors...." More (The New Mexico Channel 01.27.2006). More detailed story (First Amendment Center 01.27.2006). Comment. The ACLU backed the judges. The board's position was that the judges' comments had a tendency to erode public confidence in the judiciary.

    Why some good people don't want to be High Court judges. "In his lecture, [to be delivered tomorrow,] Mr. [Michael] Beloff[, QC,] does not have the temerity to argue that a High Court judge, currently on £155,000 a year, is paid too little --though he does see some force in the suggestion, by an earlier writer, that lawyers are paid too much: last year, 30 barristers are said to have earned more than £1 million. There is not much that can be done about this, so long as the laws of supply and demand continue to operate. But Mr Beloff recalls from his time at the Senior Salaries Review Body that the cut in pay was seen by barristers as 'the single most important dissuasive factor,' though it was not the only thing that deterred them from seeking judicial appointments. Other factors were having to live 'on circuit' when conducting trials outside London; having less control over how their courts were administered; and 'the greater exposure of judges in the media.' There is now less deference and more outspoken criticism of the judges, Mr Beloff notes...The automatic knighthood carrie[s] less prestige when such titles were being given to chat-show hosts, he says pointedly...." Joshua Rozenberg, Counting the cost of recruiting judges (UK Telegraph 01.26.2006). Comment. This is a delightfully-written piece that's worth reading. For some of my views on the issues of pay of our "high court judges," see my comments and the link within the comments at The Chief Justice's Annual Report.

    When the trial judge falls for the defendant's girl friend. "[The judge] told her he wanted to bed her after they went out for dinner together during her boyfriend's robbery trial. But the woman turned on the judge when he sent her a text saying: 'I could lock him up for a long time, so that you can get some peace,' and she showed the messages to her boyfriend's lawyer...." More (Independent Online - SA 01.26.2006). Comment. We link to this news report but don't name the judge or the country because we're just not sure....

    $60,000 missing in courthouse theft; employee sought. "More than $60,000 in cash, checks and credit-card receipts was stolen over the weekend from El Cajon Superior Court, court officials said yesterday...Sheriff's deputies investigating the theft are looking for [a] court supervisor...who disappeared Sunday after an outing...'We don't know that it's connected at all,' [a sheriff's deputy] said. 'We're interested in having a conversation with him.'" More (San Diego Union-Tribune 01.26.2006).

    Sex tourism and result-oriented jurisprudence. "A divided federal appeals court upheld a 2003 law Wednesday that makes it a crime for a U.S. citizen to travel abroad and pay a minor for sex. In a 2-1 ruling, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Congress had been acting within its power to regulate foreign commerce when it passed the law...The appeals court majority said a U.S. citizen conducts "foreign commerce'' by taking commercial transportation to another country, and remains engaged in foreign commerce by paying for sexual activity. The law is constitutional 'in light of Congress' sweeping powers over foreign commerce,'' said Judge Margaret McKeown. In dissent, Judge Warren Ferguson said [while] sexual abuse of children abroad is despicable [it] has nothing to do with 'commerce with foreign nations,'' calling it instead 'private conduct, fundamentally divorced from foreign commerce.'" More (San Francisco Chronicle 01.26.2006). Here's a link to the opinions in PDF format, which I dislike. U.S. v. Clark (9 Cir. 01.25.2006). Comment. I posted an opinion piece on this subject titled "'Sex tourism' now, 'abortion-tourism' later?" (scroll down) at BurtonHanson.Com, my political opinion journal/weblog, on 09.14.2005 in connection with a news squib about the prosecution of an ex-judge for "sex tourism." Here is my comment:

Federal statutes governing trafficking and sex tourism include 18 U.S.C. §§ 1591, 2421, 2422, and 2423. No one wants to criticize the federal government for trying to curb so-called sex tourism, but the statutes in question stretch the concept of territorial jurisdiction over criminal conduct far beyond traditional limits; moreover, the statutes are awfully broad & theoretically could be used to prosecute, say, your 18-year-old son for having consensual sex with a 17-year-old woman he meets while traveling abroad in, say, Sweden. If Roe v. Wade is ever overruled and replaced by a federal statute criminalizing abortion, there are those who undoubtedly will try to make it a federal crime for a woman to travel to, say, Canada to have an abortion. You heard it here first. Indeed, an effort has been underway in Congress for several years (click here for the House bill) to criminalize, under certain circumstances, the transportation (or aiding and abetting the transportation) of a minor girl across state lines for purposes of obtaining an abortion. Our own Congressman here in Minnesota's Third District, Uber-Bush-Loyalist Jim Ramstad (who I was proud to run against in the 2004 G.O.P. primary), has voted for this legislation, which passed again in the House this last spring.

    Review of trials finds pro-prosecution bias by many trial judges. "A [San Jose Mercury-News] review of five years of criminal jury trial appeals establishes a pattern of judicial conduct that favored prosecutors, with incidents occurring at nearly every step of the proceedings. Santa Clara County judges made missteps or questionable rulings in nearly one of every four of the cases...Experts say a variety of factors may influence judges to act in ways that favor the prosecution. There is the social culture: Defense lawyers for years have complained of the close ties between Santa Clara County judges and prosecutors...There is professional orientation: More than a third of the county's 79 judges spent the bulk of their careers in the district attorney's office...There is political pressure: Nearly 20 years later, the election that ousted California Chief Justice Rose Bird and two associate justices remains a powerful reminder of the risks of being perceived as lenient on crime...." Details (San Jose Mercury-News 01.25.2006). Comment. This is a good investigative piece that's worth reading. It could very well have been written about many, many jurisdictions.

    Group-think on judicial selection. Today's St. Paul Pioneer-Press has an editorial titled Revamp judicial selection process that illustrates the kind of group-think I spoke of yesterday in my critical comments (click here & here) on the predictable reaction by MN's new chief justice on the U.S. Supreme Court's declination of review of the 8th Circuit case holding that MN's restrictions on free speech by  judicial challengers and their supporters in judicial elections violate the First Amendment. We expect more such predictable group-think to come from the so-called Quie Commission formed by "the legal community" to address the "crisis" created by the 8th Circuit's upholding of First Amendment values. Why? a) Experience supports the opinion that most such "commissions" are formed to reach and support predetermined conclusions. b) The membership of these commissions is usually hand-picked to that end. c) The "legal community" has shown it is close-minded on the issues of free speech by judicial challengers and their supporters. (If some of the local judges who are so close-minded on these issues are as close-minded in deciding cases, they ought not be judges.) Our advice to ordinary people: Don't give undue weight to the views of "the legal community" on the subject of judicial selection "reform." As I like to say, Emerson knew what he was talking about when he wrote in his great journal, "[L]awyers...are a prudent race though not very fond of liberty." Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journal 04.1850).

    Speaking of lawyers... We're not among those who say that Senators, in the exercise of their judicial confirmation function, ought pay no attention to the recommendations by the American Bar Association. But, for reasons well explained by John Lott, Jr., in Pulling Rank in today's NYT, Senators ought not assume that the A.B.A.'s ratings are neutral, unbiased, and impartial. Some of the federal judges who now are universally recognized as "the best of the best" fared poorly when they were rated. Moreover, Lott detects a tendency on the A.B.A. raters' part to give favorable ratings to Republican appointees only when it's relatively obvious they'll be confirmed -- that is, when the Senate is controlled by Republicans. In deciding whether to confirm, a Senator ought to use the "test" beloved by judges themselves, the "totality of the circumstances test," which of course isn't really a test at all but simply a common sense approach of considering all relevant information -- facts and opinions -- in reaching a conclusion.

    SCOTUS declines review of USCA's case on judicial campaigns. "The U.S. Supreme Court declined on Monday to decide whether states can bar judicial candidates from soliciting campaign funds, seeking party endorsements, identifying themselves as members of political parties and attending and speaking at political gatherings. The justices refused to review a U.S. appeals court ruling that struck down the restrictions in Minnesota for violating constitutional free-speech rights under the First Amendment. Minnesota and other supporters of the rules appealed to the Supreme Court in urging the justices to hear the case and uphold the restrictions, but the high court rejected the appeal without any comment or recorded dissent...." More (Reuters 01.24.2006). Comment. We welcome the Supreme Court's decision. Of course, in the days ahead we'll be hearing more of the usual Chicken Little "sky is falling" arguments about the impact of the 8th Circuit's decision last summer. Perhaps anticipating the declination, MN's former Chief Justice, Kathleen Blatz, who quit effective 01.10.2006, again trotted out the usual warnings. See, Blatz again blazts judicial elections and my comments thereto and embedded links to a full explication of my differing views. Sometimes I think sociologists, those "scientists" of how people behave in and because of groups, might find fertile ground for study in the group-think that prevails among those who wield and those who influence the awarding of judicial power. The late C. Wright Mills (1916-1962), a great sociologist, wrote an influential book titled The Power Elite in the 1950s. I read it in a wonderful course taught at the U. of MN in the early '60's by the late Arnold Rose, a brilliant sociologist who was also a DFL legislator. For some of my early musings on whether there is an "invisible" power elite in Minnesota and, if so, the extent to which that elite gets its way in running the state judicial system, go to BurtLaw on Politics & scroll down to "'Power elite' in MN?" For a good introductory explanation of "group-think," including the typical "symptoms" of it, see, this excerpt from E. Griffin, A First Look at Communication Theory c. 18 (1997).

    Speaking of the MN judicial system... On the same day the U.S. Supreme Court declined review, C.J. Blatz' successor, Associate Justice Russell Anderson, was ceremonially sworn in as her successor. He immediately began where she left off on the subject of judicial elections, saying the usual things -- "politics has no place in the judiciary," "justice is not for sale," and he "will support amending the state constitution to prohibit judge candidates from being able to solicit contributions and issue statements related to how they would rule in cases." More (The Forum 01.24.2006). Comment. C.J. Anderson has described himself as bland and lacking in charisma -- i.e., as a typical Norwegian. This might suggest to a wise acre that the way to distinguish him from the two other Anderson's on the Court is to call him "Blanderson." This might distinguish him from the more colorful and experienced (on the appellate level, at least) Paul Anderson, a kind Swede, but perhaps not from G. Barry Anderson, who may be, we fear, one of the dreaded and therefore automatically bland Norwegians. Anyhow, C.J. Anderson came off as anything but bland in his statements. Trouble is, he's off the mark. a) 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 do to influence the selection. Governors for generations have appointed people primarily from their own party to the judiciary. Our Populist state constitution says the voters, through elections, have the right to decide who their judges are if challengers come forth. The "rules" adopted by judges have been overly restrictive of the First Amendment rights of challengers and of political parties to provide voters with the same sort of relevant information available to governors when making interim appointments. Moreover, favored interest groups, including lawyers, as well as elected officials (i.e., politicians), have been allowed to make endorsements, but political parties have not. b) No, justice ought not be for sale. Until now, in MN, the "big" spenders have been the incumbents in those few instances in which there've been challengers and a good chunk of the incumbents' money has come from lawyers. When I ran against C.J. Blatz in 2000, her proxy collected a war chest of around $125,000-130,000 even though I promised to not spend more than $100 and in fact did not spend more than $100. Other states have had problems with moneyed interest groups trying to influence the voters. MN has not and I doubt that it will. If outside money comes in, the "good guys" -- i.e., candidates like me :-) -- can refuse the money and the voters, whom I trust, presumably will vote for the good guys. If they don't, well, then maybe they don't deserve better. But I do trust our "above average" voters. c) As for C.J. Anderson's promising to support amending the state constitution to in effect overrule the 8th Circuit's decision, I will simply say that it is elementary constitutional law that a state may not, through amending its constitution or otherwise, limit free speech rights based on the federal constitution. All of which prompts the question: Are we going to see yet more taxpayer money unnecessarily spent defending through litigation yet another version of what Justice O'Connor referred to during arguments in the White case as MN's "judicial incumbents' bill of rights"? Further reading. See, e.g., my extensive critical comments, posted last fall, at Blatz blazts politicization of judicial campaigns. See, also, Free speech is a 'bad idea'? and BurtLaw's Law & Judicial Elections.

    The cheap version of 'Judge Judy.' "Beloit [Wisconsin] Access Television is ready to launch its own version of 'Judge Judy,' 'Judge Joe' or the many other courtroom TV shows -- as soon as it rounds up some help to do behind-the-scenes work of running the program. Dave Knutson, director of the access cable channel, said he's looking for camera operators and others to get the show up and running...Plans call for starting to air proceedings of Municipal Court live in mid-February. The show will run on Thursday afternoons, when the court is typically in session, starting at 3 p.m., but the time may vary as the docket varies...." More (Duluth News-Tribune 01.24.2006). Comment. Since I like to quote myself (perhaps I need to get out of my hovel and socialize more), I'll reprint here a relevant posting I made on 10.07.2005 titled "BurtLaw's 'Modest Proposal,'" about how we could save public money and teach law students and others and benefit the public by letting law schools run conciliation courts:

 BurtLaw's 'Modest Proposal.' Here in the Twin Cities there are four law schools. Both as a cost-sharing/cost-saving measure and as a tool to improve legal education and the quality of justice administered by small-claims courts, we propose that maintaining metropolitan small claims courts here become a shared responsibility of the law schools and the court system, with students being encouraged to provide "representation" to low-income small claims litigants, other students being assigned to assist the small claims judges with research memos, and many of the contested hearings being held in the law school "courtrooms." Moreover, students in other disciplines could be part of the small-claims-court laboratory: a) students of TV production could videorecord the hearings, edit them and present them on cable TV and perhaps sell "best-of" compilations to commercial TV; b) students of computer science could help develop new software for use by the court system; c) students from paralegal training and court services programs could operate the filings and records aspect of the laboratory; d) students of business management and court management could work together to assist the program; e) students thinking of law as a career could get a taste of law-in-action. Finally, and this is the good part, Judge Judy, 63, who just signed on for another four years (at more than $25 million per year?!) after ten years presiding on the tube, could be invited to bring her production unit to town once or twice a year, perhaps make the schools some money, attract attention to the schools' unique program, and teach the students a few things (both by postive-example and by negative-example). For some thoughts on the risks of soliciting federal funds to fund such an experiment, click here.

    Is Supreme Court an Eden of Civility? "'I've never, in 11-and-a-half years, never heard a voice raised in anger,' he said. 'Not on affirmative action. Not on Bush v. Gore. We can disagree on the meaning of the law. But we're personable. No justice has ever said something insulting or slighting, he added. 'Not even as a joke. It is professional and calm. We don't have to agree. But we do have to discuss.'" Justice Stephen Breyer, quoted in a piece dated 01.23.2006 titled Breyer: 'Never Heard a Voice Raised in Anger' on High Court in The Legal Intelligencer at Law.Com. Comment. No comment.

    Lord Chancellor speaks out. "Lord Falconer[, the Lord Chancellor, has] announce[d] details of an independent Judicial Appointments Commission, a new body that takes over from the [L]ord [C]hancellor the responsibility for appointing judges and magistrates in England and Wales. It has a statutory duty to diversify the bench and maintain the principle of appointments on merit. The commission, which comes into effect on April 3, will be chaired by a lay figure, Lady Prashar. She will be supported by a senior appeal court judge, expected to be Lord Justice Auld. Lord Falconer said he hoped its lay majority would 'lead to more women judges, more black judges and more disabled judges. There is a more profound difficulty about women staying beyond 40,' he said...." More (Guardian Unlimited 01.23.2006).

    Condemn Justice Souter's home? "Activists angered by a US Supreme Court ruling that homes can be demolished for [private] developments are trying to seize the home of one of the judges involved. About 60 people rallied in the small New Hampshire town of Weare on Sunday, where Justice David Souter has a house. The protesters say they have enough signatures from Weare residents to put their proposal to a town vote in March. They want a compulsory purchase order on the 200-year-old farmhouse, and say they will build a hotel in its place...." More (BBC News 01.23.2006). Comment. I was harshly critical of the condemnation decision. See, my 06.23.2005 entry titled "'Liberals' on Court approve taking from the poor to give to the rich" at my political opinion journal BurtonHanson.Com (scroll down). While seizing Justice Souter's home for private development might be poetic justice of a sort, I don't wish it on Justice Souter. I was interviewed by a representative of the ABA's "committee" on judicial nominations when Souter, a fellow Harvard Law alumnus, was nominated & I was happy to refer the interviewer to my then brother-in-law, who is a lawyer in NH and is a good friend and former colleague of Souter's in the NH AG's Office. I liked Souter then & still like him. But I didn't like the decision in the eminent domain case. BTW, I think it's rude and uncivil to picket the home of a judge or any other public (or private) figure (and also rude and uncivil for reporters to camp out outside a person's home). Picketing outside a courthouse ought generally to be permitted -- see, my comments at Limiting speech outside courthouse -- but picketing outside a judge's home ought not generally be permitted.

    Should judges be exempt from airport frisking? "The Supreme Court on Friday stayed a judgment of the Rajasthan High Court that directed the Union Government and airport authorities to exempt High Court Judges from security checks before boarding flights. A three-member Bench, comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Justice C.K. Thakker and Justice R.V. Raveendran, after hearing Solicitor-General G.E. Vahanvati, granted the stay while admitting a special leave petition filed by the Centre seeking quashing of the impugned judgment...." More (The Hindu 01.23.2006). Comment. No, judges ought not be generally exempt from screening but individual judges ought to be eligible to apply for any general exemption that is available to all regardless of status who meet certain safety-related conditions.

    Women courts? "Law Minister Jayakumar today said in the Assembly that Cuddalore and Perambalur districts would be provided with new women court complexes...Already women's courts in Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai were functioning in good stead...." More (News Today 01.23.2006). What are "women courts"? "Nari Adalats or Women's Courts [are] being set up [in India] which handle cases of Domestic violence. These function as alternative systems of justice because they do not have legal sanction but work solely on community approval. Decisions made at these courts are difficult for men to dismiss because they have community backing. these groups are indeed very strong and articulate and in control." Posting by "Akapoor" at SocialEdge.Org on 09.19.2003.

    Emergency award of $1.8 million to clean up courthouse bird doo. "Lack-awanna County’s majority commissioners have said that they awarded a $1.8 million cleanup of bird excrement from the courthouse without bids, and even without a contract to define the scope of the work, because the job is both an emergency and a professional service. There is no doubt that the tons of pigeon droppings, which accumulated over decades, had to be removed. But the assertion that the physical task of removing the material constitutes a professional service always was a thin veneer for the award of the project without bids or a contract. That veneer has become even thinner with the revelation that the work was done without protecting courthouse employees from dust carrying fungal spores that can cause a serious respiratory disease, histoplasmosis...." More (Scranton Times-Tribune - Editorial 01.23.2006). Comment. They don't teach courses in law school or at the NYU Institute for new appellate judges or at the Judicial College in Reno on dealing with pigeon doo, but every judge in nearly every courthouse in America eventually becomes aware of the problem. I recall as a new law clerk at the Minnesota Supreme Court in the fall of 1970 seeing layers of the stuff on the floor of the portico just outside the Court's conference room on the second floor of the east wing of the State Capitol in St. Paul. I remember early one morning in the 1980's when a pigeon entered my office on the third floor through a window I'd opened to get some fresh air. Pat Robertson (the excellent court employee, not the Yale Law grad with a penchant for getting his foot in his mouth) came to my rescue, grabbing it in his hands and releasing it outside.

    Judge reflects on career from courtroom in modular bldg. at fairgrounds. "Pat Watts leaned back in his chair in the small partitioned area of his temporary courtroom that serves as his office in a modular building at the Jackson County Fairgrounds. 'They're going to put up some walls,' he said. 'That'll give some privacy. You don't want the clients to hear their attorney talking about them.' But by the end year, Chancery Judge Pat Watts[, who is 64,] will no longer be talking with attorneys about cases. He's retiring, ending a legal career spanning more than 40 years...." More (Mississippi News 01.22.2006). Comment. Judge Watts' digs should be compared and contrasted with those of PA Supreme Court Justices, infra.

    PA Supreme Court Justices again come under fire. "Pennsylvania's judicial system is paying $3.42 million a year in rent for 43 appellate court judges. Some of the digs are the crème de la crème of office space. Our judges ride the circuit, hearing cases in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. This practice is defended as a way for the judges to stay among the people...Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph Cappy stays among the people by maintaining an office and staff for rent of $10,512 per month in Pittsburgh's One Oxford Centre. So does colleague Max Baer, at $12,515 per month. Several other judges occupy pricey digs there...It's time for our judges to pursue simple economy. If they remember what that is." More (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 01.22.2006). Earlier. In November angry voters in PA rejected one of two PA Supreme Court Justices up for retention and narrowly retained the other. The voters were angry over a) legislative pay raises for legislators and judges, b) the court's role in approving so-called garbage bills, and c) recent disclosures about the justices' expense account uses. See, my posting titled Justice loses retention election and embedded links. Some of my pieces on judicial economics are collected at BurtLaw's Law and Judicial Economics.

    Blatz again blazts judicial elections. Kathleen Blatz, the longtime Republican who announced last year that she was quitting her position as Minnesota's Chief Justice as of 01.10.2006, recently joined the board of RiverSource Funds, f/k/a the American Express Funds, which is chaired by her friend and political ally, former Republican Governor Arne Carlson, who appointed her Chief Justice. More (Business Wire - press release 01.12.2006). In an exit interview with Lori Sturdevant of the editorial page of the judicial-incumbent-loving Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Ms. Blatz, speaking from the judicial center, repeats her previously-issued dire warnings about the evils of judicial elections and the danger of politicization of judicial campaigns. She calls for enactment of a constitutional amendment adopting the so-called Missouri Plan (of gubernatorial "merit"-based appointments with retention elections only) and tells voters they should follow her default rule as long as the current system is in place: Vote for the judicial incumbent. Here's the way Sturdevant reports it: "Unless and until the Constitution is changed, voters should cleave to incumbents in judicial elections, unless they know that a judge has performed poorly. 'That's [in Blatz's words] staying the course.'"  Comment. Hmm, where I come from, we call that "pre-judgment." It's as silly as saying one should almost always vote for the challenger. As for political judging, is there anyone out there who wants to see judges act in a political way or decide cases according to their own personal biases? No one quarrels with the Blatz point of view on that. But I've long opposed many of the arguments of Ms. Blatz and others on the subject of judicial selection in MN and I invite the reader to consider my views. See, e.g., my extensive critical comments at Blatz blazts politicization of judicial campaigns. See, also, Free speech is a 'bad idea'? and BurtLaw's Law & Judicial Elections.

    Judge Posner on the inherently political nature of Supreme Court judging. "Of the 2004-05 Supreme Court term, [Judge Richard Posner] wrote [in the Harvard Law Review last fall], 'Almost a quarter century as a federal appellate judge has convinced me it is rarely possible to say with a straight face of a Supreme Court constitutional decision that it was decided correctly or incorrectly.' This was because the most important pronouncements of the Court were invariably political in nature, rather than strictly legal. Constitutional cases, Posner asserted, 'can be decided only on the basis of a political judgment, and a political judgment cannot be called right or wrong by reference to legal norms.' The Justices, guided only by the majestic generalities of the Constitution, and the malleable (and sometimes disposable) precedents of the Court itself, enjoy a degree of authority and freedom of action that is without parallel in our system of government...." Jeffrey Toobin, Unanswered Questions (The New Yorker - Issue dated 01.23.2006).

    Will Senator's response to junket exposé affect judicial junkets? MN's Senator Norm Coleman, a fellow Republican whom I have criticized countless times on my political opinion website, BurtonHanson.Com, was the subject of stories the other day identifying him as ranking second, behind Senator Joe Biden, D-Del., in the number of privately-financed trips/junkets since he took office in 2003: "All told, Coleman has taken at least 122 trips, 46 of which were privately financed...[Sen. Biden] has accepted 50 over that span." Some of the details are set forth in a story in today's Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which reports that he has taken "the unusual step of posting detailed records of his three-year travel itinerary on his website, saying 'sunlight is the best disinfectant.' His spokesman said he believes Coleman is the first senator to take such action, making it easier for the public to follow his many travels." As I noted yesterday in a piece titled Judicial 'Educational' Junkets, I've been publicly urging judges to post information like this on the web for a long time -- see, e.g., Judicial Independence & Accountability, an essay I wrote in 2000. I'll address a number of aspects of Senator Coleman's travels, including what it says about him as a man and as a Senator and whether I think he'd have posted the information but/for the expose, on my political opinion website. For purposes of this blog, however, I need say only that I think the Senator's posting of the info likely will strengthen the case I've been making for courts to post judges' trips, their expense account reimbursement requests, their timesheets, etc., on court websites.

   Judicial 'Educational' Junkets. "[Tom] DeLay's junket habit is something he has in common with the nation's judiciary...In 2000, the year of Mr. DeLay's lobbyist-financed St. Andrews [golfing] trip, nearly 100 federal judges engaged in distressingly similar behavior. These judges attended all-expenses-paid private seminars for judges held at resorts offering excellent golf, tennis, skiing and spa services. The trips were underwritten by monied interests out to influence judges to rule in favor of corporate interests on issues like environmental protection and liability for harmful products...." Dorothy Samuels, Tripping Up on Trips: Judges Love Junkets as Much as Tom DeLay Does (N.Y. Times 01.20.2006). Comments. a)  Should judges accept free trips? We have long opposed such junkets. In June, 2006 we spoke to the issue in a posting titled Should judge serve on board of advocacy group - another judge says it's okay:

Judges shouldn't serve on boards and shouldn't accept free anything except from family & long-time friends who aren't lawyers or politicians or parties involved in litigation. For a contrary view, endorsing such junkets, see Junkets for Judges (National Review 06.23.2005) ("Contrary to critics’ beliefs, privately sponsored judicial conferences broaden judges’ minds"), by Jonathan H. Adler, a law professor who has attended some of the privately-sponsored judicial conferences both "as lecturer and as a participant." His apologia for the junkets doesn't change our views.

b) How about if the government pays for the trips? I don't think government ought to pay for any out-of-state trips for judges or any other government officials to attend conventions, seminars, judicial meetings, etc., or, for that matter, for any in-state trips to such gatherings held at resorts, retreat centers, etc. But that's just me. I wrote a piece on this some time ago titled "Government-funded trips by judges to Hawaii, Disneyland, Squaw Valley." It's posted at BurtLaw's Law and Judicial Economics, along with other opinions & ideas of mine on judicial economics. c)  Any alternative to an outright ban? Short of banning use of taxpayer funds for such trips, citizens ought to insist on easier access to information bearing on judicial economics. For example, each individual judge's work calendars and timesheets and travel-and-expense reimbursement request forms are public documents readily obtainable by any citizen using the "sunshine" or openness-in-government law. They ought to be readily obtainable on court websites. To my knowledge, such information is not available in this way in any juridiction. There is, however, a searchable database showing which federal judges have accepted these freebie trips: Trips for Judges.

    Judge upholds libel verdict in judge's favor against newspaper. "A judge yesterday refused to throw out a $2 million libel judgment against the Boston Herald, rejecting a request that the verdict be set aside because of alleged misconduct by Superior Court Judge Ernest B. Murphy after he won a suit against the newspaper...." More (Boston Globe 01.20.2006). Earlier. Judge apologizes for using court stationery - Newspaper attacks $2 million libel verdict awarded trial judge. Comment. As I've said before ad nauseum, I believe the cause of action of defamation 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.

    Judge is reprimanded for illegally expunging criminal records. "The Louisiana Supreme Court publicly reprimanded [Judge Charles Elloie,] a judge in New Orleans Criminal District Court[,] for illegally expunging the records of two convicts without notifying prosecutors or recording the rulings in open court...." More (Times-Picayune 01.20.2006).

    MN Governor names yet another Anderson to bench. "Longtime Princeton attorney Steven A. Anderson, of rural Princeton, has been appointed a district judge [by Gov. Tim Pawlenty] to fill the Seventh Judicial District opening at the Mille Lacs County courthouse in Milaca...." More (Princeton Union-Eagle 01.19.2006). Comment. Anderson is a former law partner of G. Barry Anderson, one of three Andersons on the seven-member state supreme court. Pawlenty's wife, Mary, who is also an Anderson in this Land of 10,000 Andersons, is a district court judge. Is there something about being named "Anderson" that makes one more qualified to be a judge? We ask the question in the naive belief that perhaps there is. Just as a boy named "Jack" perhaps tries to fulfill the qualities of "Jackness" thought to be embodied in the great "Jack's" of history, perhaps a young boy or girl named "Anderson," at least in Minnesota, somehow senses that judging is part of his or her manifest destiny, something "expected" of an Anderson. Perhaps in the future, the only way non-Andersons can be assured of equal consideration by the governor is for all judge applicants to be interviewed behind a screen (a la The Dating Game), with all identifying information on their applications being blacked-out. Or perhaps any lawyer who wishes ought to be able to change his or her professional name to Anderson. If women are allowed to use one name as a professional name and another at the P.T.A. and in signing checks, maybe all lawyers ought to be able to use professional names different from their domestic names. (Consider, in this regard, the distinction Yale Law School Professor Charles Reich makes in his 1976 autobiography, The Sorcerer of Bolinas Reef, between a lawyer's "professional" or "public" self and his "real" self.)

    Judge arrested on international warrant in Paris; extradition sought. "[Prosecutors are seeking] the extradition to Greece of former [J]udge Konstantina Bourboulia[,] who was arrested in Paris yesterday based on a pending international arrest warrant against her issued by the Greek authorities. Mrs. Bourboulia was wanted by the Greek police accused of involvement in a trial-rigging ring...." More (Macedonian Press Agency 01.19.2006).

    Hysteria over judge's sentence continues. Here's a link to the latest in the Boston Globe ("House committee told demanding judge's resignation inappropriate") on the hysterical public response to the VT judge's stay of execution of a long prison term in a sex case and placement of the defendant on probation, conditioned, among other things, on 60 days in jail. Earlier. Regarding embattled judge: what transcript shows he really said - Outcry over judge's sentence prompts governor to suggest he resign - Supporters rally to defense of 'soft' Vermont judge. Comment. Justice Frankfurter said once (while vacationing in England), "There are, as you well know, periodic newspaper crime waves in the United States. Popular feeling is excited to fluctuate between being sentimental and being harsh." Our papers have long experience in creating "newspaper crime waves" and in manipulating popular feeling. We should expect more from them and, particularly in the case of the Boston Globe, we're getting more. We don't expect more from TV "journalists" and right-wing radio & TV talk show hosts -- and we haven't gotten more.

    Justice Breyer's six factors. "All judges, [Justice Breyer] said, have six sets of factors available to them in assessing the constitutionality of a statute or situation. He listed those factors as the legal text itself, the history of the language, the tradition behind it, the legal precedents, the purpose of the law, and the likely consequences of striking it down or leaving it alone. 'Some judges say, 'Don't look at those last two,' or 'Look at them as little as possible, therein the road to perdition,' Breyer said. 'I and others will say, 'Look at them a lot.'" [From a report of an address at the National Constitution Center.] More (Philadelphia Inquirer 01.18.2006).

    S.C. Guv calls for more black judges. "[Republican] Gov. Mark Sanford’s call for the Legislature to elect more black judges could be a boost for the state’s lag in appointees, some legislators said. Ultimately, though, it’s up to legislators, who last year didn’t elect any of the black candidates who came up for selection.
'I applaud him for having the courage to touch on it,' said Rep. Leon Howard, D-Richland, who sponsored a bill last year to enlarge the pool for electing judges...." More (The State 01.19.2006). Comment. My ex-wife's cousin, Bill Rauch, is married to the governor's sister. Bill, who is Mayor of Beaufort, S.C., was co-author of the best-selling memoir, Mayor (1986), with Mayor Ed Koch of NYC and is also author of Politicking - How to Get Elected, Take Action, and Make an Impact in Your Community (2004). I have no inside information but believe Gov. Sanford is a possible surprise pick for Vice President on the Republican ticket in 2008. You heard it here and thus won't be surprised if it happens.

    Judicial independence in Tasmania. a) "The Law Society of Tasmania is worried the State Government's decision to appoint temporary judges is threatening the independence of the state's judicial system. Law Society president Leanne Topfer says it could become tempting for some judges hearing a case involving the Government to rule in its favour so they are in line for another appointment...." More (ABC.Net AU 01.19.2006). b) "Tasmania's Chief Justice has written a letter of apology to Attorney-General Judy Jackson...In an unprecedented public outburst, Chief Justice Peter Underwood described Ms Jackson as 'a loose cannon.' He was expressing his concern about the appointment of temporary judges by the Attorney-General and how that might compromise the independence of the judiciary...." More (ABC.Net AU 01.19.2006). Of related interest. Judicial independence in Swaziland.

    Courts so slow they're dangerous? "Roger Federer agrees with Lleyton Hewitt that the courts are too slow at this year's Australian Open. But he disagrees with Hewitt's belief they are dangerous. The controversial Rebound Ace surface has been the subject of much debate, with American James Blake on Wednesday concurring with Hewitt's assertion on Sunday that the courts were a health hazard. Blake was commenting after Czech Hana Sromova injured her ankle when her foot stuck to the Rebound Ace during a rally against Justine Henin-Hardenne...." More (The Age AU 01.19.2006). Comment. The Luddite in me says this is what happens when you use technology to try to speed up our "courts."

    Judge censured, suspended. "A state panel decided Wednesday to censure a Fallon justice of the peace and suspend him for 30 days without pay for various ethics violations, including using his influence to interfere with a drug case involving his son. Daniel Ward was sanctioned by the Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission after admitting to facts outlined in a dozen charges that were filed last summer...Three other counts were dismissed...." More (Las Vegas Sun 01.19.2006).

    Board to hold hearing on forcing judge with "brain disease" to retire. "The Commission on Judicial Performance has slated a Feb. 6 hearing on whether to force the retirement of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rodney Nelson...The commission said it had taken the rare step because Nelson suffers from “degenerative brain disease” which is, or is likely to become, permanent and which prevents him from performing his judicial duties...Nelson [is] a Minneapolis native who earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota and his law degree at Columbia University...Gov. Pete Wilson appointed him to the court in 1995...." More (Metropolitan News-Enterprise 01.18.2006).

    Judge McMillian dies. "Judge Theodore McMillian, who grew up among racism and then broke the color barrier as the first African-American on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here, died this morning. He was still serving on the bench after 50 years. He would have been 87 this month...." More (St. Louis Post-Dispatch 01.18.2006).

    The state of the judiciary in the Big Easy. "Almost five months after the hurricane, judges remain displaced while the criminal courthouse is closed for repairs and experts try to restore mold-covered evidence that sat in flood water for more than a week. Criminal court judges are working in two courtrooms in the federal court building, in an area that didn't flood. They hope to get a third room there for trials, which Chief Judge Calvin Johnson wants to start soon...." More (Houston Chronicle 01.18.2006).

    Judge at center of scandal contemplated suicide, now feels vindicated. "World skating has paid me homage. I saw it at the Trophee Bompard (in November) when the judges came to see me and said: 'Marie-Reine, the new scoring system is so great, thank you Marie-Reine because without you there would not have been a new scoring system.'" -- Marie-Reine Le Gougne, the figure-skating judge at the center of the judging scandal at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. She says she contemplated suicide at one point but now feels her suffering was not in vain because it helped the world of competitive figure skating improve. More (TSN Canada 01.18.2006). Earlier. Judging the judging.

    Lawyer who faked judge's signature gets probation. "A disbarred attorney from Baltimore County who cut and pasted a judge's signature on a document was sentenced to three years' probation in federal court yesterday. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake also ordered Bruce L. Richardson, 44, of Reisterstown to complete 200 hours of community service and to pledge not to try to regain his law license during his probation...." More (Baltimore Sun 01.18.2006).

    Judicial independence in Swaziland. "President of the Law Society of Swaziland Jerry Hlophe says it was disturbing that a majority of judges were employed on contract and acting basis...He remarked that the appointment of judges on acting basis or on contract for a long time tended to compromise them in their independence when faced with matters of a political nature or those involving the powerful and influential...." More (The Swazi Observer 01.18.2006).

    Judges will earn science 'merit badges' at Johns Hopkins. "From the DNA profiling of a murder suspect to brain scans presented in head-injury cases, the use of medical-based evidence has exploded in the nation's courts in recent years. In an effort to better prepare judges for cases involving advanced science and medical issues, the School of Medicine in conjunction with the Maryland Judiciary will host a three-day workshop for judges this week featuring some of Johns Hopkins' most renowned researchers...." More (Johns Hopkins Gazette 01.17.2006).

    Court clerk tampered with records. "A former municipal court clerk accused of paying employees for hours they did not work pleaded guilty Monday to a felony count of tampering with records. Michael Pirik, 46, who lost his re-election bid for Franklin County Municipal Court clerk in November, could be sentenced to up to 18 months in prison and $5,000 in fines...An investigation began in August after five managers from the clerk's office hired an attorney and presented evidence to authorities, including bank records from [Mary] Enright's finance department and records from the county garage that showed when she arrived at work and left...." More (Akron Beacon-Journal 01.18.2006). Comment. There are courts all over the country in which at any time the hours worked by judges and court employees could become a subject of controversy. All it takes in an individual case is a tip from an insider and a little footwork by an I-Team reporter. Under a proposal I have made, timesheets of judges and their employees -- and a lot of other public documents -- would be available on courts' internet websites:

Each individual judge's work calendars and timesheets and travel-and-expense reimbursement request forms are public documents readily obtainable by any citizen using the "sunshine" or openness-in-government law. These and similar documents can be made more easily accessible to ordinary citizens by placing them on the court's internet web site. Similarly, the court should put online for public scrutiny any statistical reports that the chief justice receives. Ultimately, I believe anyone who is interested ought to be able to type in any trial court or appellate court judge's name and obtain public information that will aid one in assessing that judge's work habits, productivity, expenditures of public money, etc. Moreover, after the fact one should be able to type in the name or number of any case and follow that case from start to completion, viewing, for example, at the supreme court level, the path and accompanying timeline as an opinion circulated through the supreme court, with the public given access to the dates the majority opinion and any separate opinions were put in circulation, the name and how much time each judge spent on the case before passing it on, etc.

More at Judicial Independence & Accountability, an essay I wrote in 2000.

    Manhunt launched for fugitive judge. "Zimbabwean police have launched a manhunt for High Court Judge Benjamin Paradza who was convicted of corruption last week, that country's Herald newspaper reported on Tuesday. Its website said indications are that the fugitive judge skipped the country to London via South Africa soon after he was convicted last week...." More (Mail & Guardian - SA 01.17.2006).

    Limiting speech outside courthouse. "In a move that some claim tramples their free speech rights, officials have banned a range of activities at and around Los Angeles Superior Court, from proselytizing to anti-red light camera activism. The new order, as it stands, prohibits demonstrating, picketing and solicitation, as such so-called general orders have historically done. But it goes further and outlaws 'education and counseling.' In addition, it expands the area in which these activities are prohibited from 10 feet of the courthouse entrance to 100 feet, and includes all walkways, sidewalks and parking lots surrounding the building...." More (Daily Breeze 01.17.2006). Comment. "[L]awyers...are a prudent race though not very fond of liberty." Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journal 04.1850). For more of Emerson on law and lawyers, see Ralph Waldo's Laws at BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else.

    Wife of late judge 'engulfed by emotion' at Chief's lamenting of his passing. "The wife to a late Judge of the High Court was engulfed by emotions when acting Chief Justice Jacobus Annandale lamented the passing away of her husband and another judge. Gladys Nkambule wept uncontrollably while the acting C.J. made his remarks during the official opening of this year’s High Court session yesterday. More (The Swazi Observer 01.17.2006). Comment. It appears that the Chief's lamenting the passing of the two judges is based in part on the increase in work for him and his two colleagues resulting from their departure: "The acting CJ said the two judges, Nkambule and Alex Shabangu's absence was sadly noted as the remaining three judges (Justice Annandale, Justice Stanley Maphalala, Justice Josiah Matsebula) were being overworked."

    Need a Godfather to be appointed judge? "...Chief Justice of India Y K Sabharwal has complained that some people are trying to apparently influence the process of selection of judges to get their own men on the Bench. 'A kind of atmosphere has been generated that without a godfather you cannot be a member of the Judiciary. If this is not halted what kind of Judiciary we will have?' Justice Sabharwal asked in the presence of Law Minister H R Bhardwaj...." More (Outlook India 01.17.2006).

    Judge saves job by vowing to come up to speed. "Six months ago, state Court of Appeals Judge William Koch Jr. was one step away from sitting on the Tennessee Supreme Court. Yesterday, he was pleading his own case after a commission that evaluates the state's highest-ranking judges took the unprecedented step [in December] of recommending that he not be retained. Under state law, the vote by the [commission] would have opened his seat on the appellate court to an opponent...Koch, 58, persuaded members to retain him by vowing to fix the issue that prompted the panel's discontent. They believe he takes too long to write opinions. It was the same criticism the commission had of the judge eight years ago...." More (Tennessean 01.17.2006). Comment. According to the report, "During [the meeting with the commission], Koch acknowledged that he took too much time writing opinions, citing '$20,000 opinions for $10,000 cases,' and agreed that he had too many other commitments in the community, such as volunteer work." a) I'm not sure what he means by "$20,000 opinions." Is he saying he was writing long opinions in cases that didn't merit them? If so, what's so good about long opinions? In my view, most opinions of appellate judges in this country are way too long, sometimes because a) they tend to hire clerks who picked up bad habits writing for law school law reviews and b) they rely on these long-winded novices to write opinions. Writing longer is generally easier than writing shorter, except that the master of the short opinion (the master of us all), Holmes, made writing the short ones seem easy: he wrote his quickly, typically right after conference, and without significant help from his clerks. His clerks, some of whom were my law school profs, were an exceptional lot, but he used them primarily as legal valets, never as ghostwriters. b) I do know what he's saying about having "had too many other commitments in the community, such as volunteer work." On this subject, see, "BurtLawQ&A - wherein BurtLaw asks questions of Dr. F. Lavoris Pusso, Ph.D., SuperNintendent of Schools" at BurtLaw's Law & Kids (scroll down).

    Judge responds to criticism by vowing to improve. "County Judge Judy Goldman, who is up for re-election this year, is changing the way she schedules her cases after members of the Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto county bar associations gave her low marks this month for punctuality. 'Clearly, punctuality has been an Achilles' heel for me in the past,' Goldman said. 'I think it's important to listen and make a positive change in response.'" More (Sarasota Herald-Tribune 01.17.2006).

    Judge Harry Smith says a good judge judges quickly. "A good judge, [Harry] Smith said, understands the breed and judges quickly. 'You need to be able to stand up and make a decision and stick to it,' he said. 'I'm a decision-maker and I like dogs -- and I'm very knowledgeable about dogs -- so it's something I do well.' The other essential quality for a judge, according to Smith, is integrity. 'No one can get to me,' he said. 'I'm not susceptible to bribes.' Which isn't to say underhanded attempts aren't made to subvert the judging process. Owners and professional handlers will 'go to any extent' to win, Smith said...." More (Durham Herald-Sun 01.16.2006). Further reading. Ethics 101 - May a common law judge serve as judge of beauty pageant? BurtLaw's Dog Judging, Jam&Jelly Judging, Etc. - BurtLaw's Law & Swimsuits.

    Your tax dollars at work: $3.5 million courthouse cafeteria. "The Antelope Valley Courthouse will acquire an international flavor when a $3.5 million cafeteria opens Feb. 1 with a wide-ranging menu. The menu at the LunchStop cafeteria will feature traditional fare such as hamburgers, fries, hot dogs and soup, but also more exotic-sounding selections like a Thai peanut wrap, spicy Indian curry with lemongrass and basmati rice, and a grilled eggplant, arugula and pesto sandwich...." The firm under contract to operate the cafeteria "will pay the county $700 a month or 5 percent of its monthly gross receipts, whichever is greater, bringing in to the county a minimum of $8,400 per year in revenue." More (L.A. Daily News 01.16.2006). Comment. Looks like a pretty good return on the government's investment -- to use the old expression, "close enough [to market rates] for government." Just kidding. You really can't use ordinary measures to assess the value of the $3.5 million expenditure in helping improve government. According to the story, the courthouse opened in 2003 but without a functioning cafeteria, so staffers, the members of the public, etc., "had to make do with a catering wagon parked outside the courthouse doors or drive elsewhere to get lunch." One, of course, can also "make do" eating most of one's lunches out of a paper bag -- which I did for nearly 30 years, even though the court buildings in which I worked had cafeterias -- but undoubtedly one's work suffers as a result. I think it was Emerson who said, "Good eating makes good bureaucrats." Further reading on courthouse eating. Did hotdog stand create 'circus-like atmosphere in the courts'? - Chief judge grills burgers for construction crew - Vendor to sell hot dogs outside Iowa courthouse.

    The greatest gourmand in judicial history? Abraham Lincoln once did not say, "A judge without a full tummy of good hot food is an unhappy judge." We might add, "A hungry judge is not a very good one." Moreover, the reverse is presumably also true: "The more a judge eats, the more successful he'll be in his career." Witness the convincing example of the greatest gourmand in U.S. Supreme Court history, William Howard Taft, who, following his Presidency, was named Chief Justice. Justice David Josiah Brewer of the U.S. Supreme Court reputedly said that "Taft is the politest man in Washington; the other day he gave up his seat in a street-car to three ladies." William Howard Taft: Fat Jokes (DoctorZebra.Com). While others poked fun at him for his weight, Taft's Track, the Supreme Court, was and is, to paraphrase President Nixon, the Fastest Legal Track in the World.

    A Burger as a gourmet? Perhaps in Freudian rebellion against his name, Chief Justice Warren Burger apparently was a gourmet, as distinguished from a gourmand. Witness this: "Burger was both something of a gourmet and a better than average amateur chef. He came out into the kitchen of our Paris apartment, where Vera and my wife were chatting as a pot of red cabbage simmered on the stove. Warren started discussing in detail his own recipe for red cabbage until my wife said impatiently: "Vera, please inform your husband that no one in this kitchen has asked for his opinion!" --  from Burnett Anderson, My Best Friend, Warren Burger (Minnesota Law & Politics May 1999).

    Katrina: first flooded courthouses, now flooded court dockets. "Thousands of Katrina victims are suing over flood damage, insurance settlement disputes, alleged wrongful deaths, oil spills, ruined oyster beds, eroded wetlands, evictions and arguments with contractors involved in rebuilding efforts. The growing pile of litigation is hitting a court system that is still struggling to recover from the disruptions caused by the flooding and evacuations that followed the Aug. 29 storm...." More (USA Today 01.16.2006).

    Appeals court 'chastises' judge for making same mistake as before. "When a midlevel appeals court last month overturned the conviction of a North Country teenager who murdered his parents, the judges sternly noted it was a decision they should not have had to make. In its ruling, the panel of judges...said [that] Clinton County Court [J]udge [Patrick McGill] should have automatically dismissed a prospective juror who said media coverage had biased his opinion of the accused. It was, the court noted in its sharply worded opinion, the third time in 2005 it had to reverse a decision on the same grounds...." The judge's ruling forced defense counsel to use one of the defense's limited number of peremptory challenges. More (Newsday 01.16.2006).

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Affiliated Web sites

   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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