The Daily Judge
© 2008 Burton Randall Hanson
      Archives - 03.16.2008 - 03.31.2008
"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 (archived here), contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first campaign 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.

 "BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else, a Web Site produced by Burton Hanson, is part of the Library of Congress September 11 Web Archive and preserves the web expressions of individuals, groups, the press and institutions in the United States and from around the world in the aftermath of the attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. Date Captured: September 20, 2001 - December 17, 2001"

 The campaign to deprive MN voters of a role in judicial selection. I recently posted a detailed critical essay on this topic that has received some attention, and I link to it here for the convenience of our MN readers: Strib. urges longer terms for judges, no role for voters in their selection. There you will also find links to some of my other earlier relevant postings as well as links to more recent relevant postings.

Miscellaneous recent postings. a) Pawlenty fulfills Nostraburtus' 2005 prophecy. b) Pawlenty picks pal as new chief. c) Pal of judicial establishment questions motives of opponents of Quie's plan. d) Rose's Courthouse Cafe 2008 vs. Rose's Corner Cafe circa 1956. e) Herein of judicial ombudsmen. f) Retired judge speaks mind on Scot judiciary bill. g) Learned Hand on 'Liberty.' h) Protesters mock judges who claim a right to park in a park. i) Pawlenty says he's not sure re MO Plan; Quie says 'Tim' will 'come around.' j) Tales of the O.C.: Judicial candidate's claimed lineage is in question. k) Some judges actually do read the briefs. l) FLA C.J. talks of 'suicide,' 'murder,' & 'paralysis' over budget cuts. m) Many people are giving up on courts. n) What's 'wall sculpture' to your eye may be 'just colored blocks' to an attorney. o) WSJ on the 'why' of judicial elections -- with reference to Wisconsin. p) Justices tell Congress: keep the sun out, pay us a quarter million a year. q) Voters weigh in, and Pakistan's jailed judges finally taste freedom. r) Law prof weighs in against plan to deprive voters of role in judge selection. s) Most-experienced judge wants to keep judging; but 'the law' says no. t) Comparing UK/US judgments with those of EU Court of First Instance. u) 'Blue Ribbon Commissions' all over the place, saying the same thing. Hmmm.

 Imagining football -- or Department of the utter coincidence of great minds thinking alike.

a) "Imagine you're attending a football game and a referee's call in the last seconds determines the outcome of the game. Later it is revealed that the referee had accepted money and gifts from the winning team. The fans wouldn't stand for it." Judy Stuthman and Vivian Jenkins-Nelsen of the MN League of Women Voters in an op/ed piece in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (02.26.2008), supporting a plan to replace the populist "Minnesota Plan" of judicial selection with the "Missouri Plan," thereby depriving MN voters of a voice in judicial selection via the occasional contested election, substituting therefor retention "elections" in which sitting judges are allowed to run unopposed. (I explain my opposition to this proposal, on multiple grounds, in a detailed essay titled Strib. urges longer terms for judges, no role for voters in their selection.)

b) "Would we stand for a minute the notion that the officials in charge of that game had an interest in the outcome? This nation would go crazy if that were the case. And yet we stand here with the potential of having some of the most fundamental decisions, most important decisions about how we go forward as a society decided by people who have a stated voiced interest in the outcome." SCOMN Justice Alan C. Page, former pro football player, who gained his seat on the court in a contested election, speaking out in support of the plan to deprive MN voters of their voice in judicial selection via contested elections. (Aren't the voters as smart now as they were when they chose him?) More (KSTP 01.31.2008).

c) "After all, you don't want a referee in a football game to announce which side he will penalize before the game begins!" Chief Justice Michael A. Wolff of the Supreme Court of Missouri in his State of the Judiciary address to a General Assembly joint session on 01.25.2006.

d) "The idea of electing judges has an unsettling aspect that is almost self-evident. As Justice John Paul Stevens once said to the American Bar Association, the practice 'is comparable to allowing football fans to elect the referees.'" Mark Kozlowski in an op/ed piece in the Los Angeles Times (Brennan Center 08.09.1999).

e) "West Virginia's legal system should provide a level playing field for everyone, but citizens need to be alert to legislative candidates who may be in the pocket of the personal lawsuit industry...Imagine a football game where referees accept gifts from some players. Sound like foul play? Personal injury lawyers spent thousands in campaign contributions to defeat legal reform while they score financial touchdowns." From a radio ad by a self-labelled "civil justice watchdog" interest group in W.Va.

Earlier. Back in 2005 we posted a similar collection of pontifications by various judges on the subject of judicial independence. See, Department of the utter coincidence of judicially independent great minds thinking very much alike. Update. Quote-of-the-Day - on the fallacy of judges as umpires.

 One fellow we like didn't need to rely on specious football analogies. "[An] exemption of the judges from [election] is...dangerous....I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them [the people] not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it [power] from them, but to inform their discretion by education." -- Thomas Jefferson. Unlike Minnesota's judicial power elite, which has long wanted to replace Minnesota's populist system of voter participation in judicial selection, Jefferson had faith in the wisdom of ordinary voters. Of them he said: "If you state a moral case to a plowman and a professor, the farmer will decide it as well, and often better, because he has not been led astray by any artificial rules."

 An oldie but goodie on judicial elections & free speech. "Only in the eyes of the losers and dictators are free elections, free speech and open discussion a public threat. Just as our system didn't create judicial elections to be ignored, it didn't intend for our judiciary to exist in the shadows, nameless and unknown, immune from criticism. In the case of Southern Illinois' now notorious race, the underdog won, carrying the day with his reasoned arguments to the public in what would have typically been enemy territory. Today Justice Lloyd Karmeier is undoubtedly more recognized by his electorate than any other judge in Illinois. That's a goal and example to which our state should aspire, not reject." From an editorial in Madison County Ill. Record 08.14.2005).

 When a judge 'goes over to the dark side,' another judge laughs hysterically. "One of Canada's most experienced figure skating judges[, Jack Greenwood,] has shocked his Canadian peers by taking out Azerbaijani citizenship, two years before the Vancouver Olympics...'Holy cow,' said an American judge. 'It's like going to the dark side.' On hearing the news, another Canadian judge laughed hysterically across the phone...." More (Toronto Globe 03.29.2008).

 Did judge reveal jock strap at court staff X-mas party? "A 63rd District Court employee claims Rockford District Judge Steven Servaas sat in such a way that exposed his jockstrap at a 2007 court staff Christmas party, according to testimony introduced Friday by the Judicial Tenure Commission's prosecutor. The surprise allegation by Detroit-based Commission Director Paul Fischer, who is seeking to remove Servaas from the bench, had Servaas' defense attorney James Brady seeing red during the opening day of testimony in the state's case against the judge. 'It's a slime-ball tactic,' Brady said...." In 2002 Servaas reportedly disciplined the employee in question, when she worked for a brief period in the Rockford courthouse. Specifically, he banned her from the courthouse. But, she says, that "did not not color her decision to testify against the judge now." More and more (Grand Rapids Press 03.29.2008). Comments. a) There are, I believe, lawyers specializing in Jockstrap-and-Bra Law. See, my scholarly entry, BurtLaw on Jockstrap and Bra Law. Judge Servaas apparently had no reason to believe he needed a jockstrap-and-bra lawyer when he prepared for the disciplinary hearing. b) Without reference to this specific case, of which I know nothing, I merely observe that what happened here is not unusual. A judge gets accused of this or that. Suddenly, other people come forward with this or that complaint, not necessarily having anything to do with the matter that first caught the eyes of investigators. Or the original complainant adds to her original claim. I address these and related phenomena in my general comments following a posting titled Of 'insects coming out of the woodwork,' of 'piling on,' of Tom Jones, etc.

 Chimps as judges? "Chimps make judgments about strangers' actions and dispositions by observing their behavior and interactions indifferent situations...According to a new study, chimpanzees show an ability to recognize certain behavioral traits and make assumptions about the presence or absence of these traits in strangers in similar situations thereafter...." More (Times of India 03.28.2008). Further reading. "Animal rights law at Harvard Law School: Do animals have rights? Or what if the federal constitution were interpreted (5-4 by the U.S. Supreme Court?) or amended to give certain animals equal protection under the law? Might chimps, for example, become lawyers, legislators, judges, even governors?" at BurtLaw's Law and Animals (scroll down).

 SCOOH's C.J. says judge isn't cooperating in investigation. "Ohio Chief Justice Thomas Moyer has accused Cuyahoga County's top divorce judge of resisting an investigation into the court's inefficient handling of cases. Timothy Flanagan, administrative judge for the Domestic Relations Court, has for seven weeks refused to be interviewed by the Supreme Court's lead investigator, Moyer [said]...." More (Cleveland Plain Dealer 03.28.2008). Related items in series. a) Says the Plain Dealer in an editorial: Many in the court also seem to have forgotten that they are accountable to the families they serve and, indeed, to all other taxpayers who pay their salaries." More (03.28.2008). b) "Each year, the county's Domestic Relations Court subjects hundreds of couples to hours of waiting in gloomy halls for hearings destined to be canceled. Some have their cases passed from judge to judge. Many end up waiting years for their divorces. Candid lawyers warn their clients that contested divorces aren't trials of law but, rather, trials of attrition in which no one wins except the lawyers...." Divorces Drag on in Cuyahoga's County Courts (03.28.2008). c) Married 12 years, divorce took 4 more (03.24.2008). Comment. On my wish list: that those members of our supreme court in MN who are actively campaigning to further insulate themselves from public accountability, by promoting passage of a constitutional amendment depriving voters of any role in judicial selection, would instead spend just a wee bit more time in, say, getting certain trial courts to speed up contested divorce cases.

 'Blue Ribbon Commissions' all over the place, singin' the same tune. Hmmm. "A blue-ribbon panel voted 18-2 Wednesday for a plan changing the way Nevadans pick judges, from open races to appointments followed by elections in which voters would decide whether a judge should be retained...." More (San Jose Mercury News 03.27.2008). Comment. As we've been pointing out, there's a well-funded nationwide effort being waged in states around the country to deprive voters of any role in judicial selection. As in MN, the process used in most of these states is to appoint a 'blue ribbon commission' to study judicial selection (guess what, the commission recommends adoption of the "Missouri Plan"), to commission a poll (guess what, the poll says voters want to give up their role in judicial selection), and then use the commission's recommendation, the poll results, and lots of p.r., etc., to try get the legislature to propose a constitutional amendment for the voters' approval. Further reading.  I recently posted a detailed critical essay on this topic that has received some attention, and I link to it here for the convenience of our MN readers: Strib. urges longer terms for judges, no role for voters in their selection. There you will also find links to some of my other earlier relevant postings, including ones dealing specifically with "blue ribbon commissions," commissioned polls, and the big money behind the self-labelled nationwide "reform" efforts.

 Judge rules that 'Facebook friends' aren't real friends. "A British judge has made official what many of us have long suspected -- that being 'Facebook friends' with someone doesn't necessarily make you their friend...." More (SMH 03.27.2008).

 Comparing UK/US judgments with those of EU Court of First Instance. Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago Law School, has a good op/ed piece titled Anonymous Judging in the EU in Financial Times (03.26.2008), where he compares signed written opinions by UK/US judges with the anonymous, bureaucratic ones by the European Union's Court of First Instance (CFI):

Within the UK and US systems, all judges, with the exception of some Per Curiam decisions, sign their written opinions...[A] misguided opinion imposes a real cost on the judge who writes it, who therefore thinks twice about what he or she says. In addition, the knowledge that a signed concurrence or dissent is in the wings pushes the judge to put more work into a majority opinion than might otherwise be the case. And the judges know that well written opinions will find their way into casebooks and law review articles, where they will increase their influence and prestige....In the CFI, like many other European courts, opinions have no authors at all. No one knows for sure whether they are written by the judges themselves or their administrative staff. Good work generates no personal gain and poor work imposes [no] personal costs. The refusal to allowing dissenting opinions means that the judges do not face intellectual competition...A sterile and insular work is devoid of any effort to grapple with the rich scholarship in competition law or anywhere else.

 Undemocratic elections. "As the world is increasingly discovering, not all elections are equal, and some merely create the illusion of democracy...Elections, while easily manipulated, are the only system that offers any hope of holding leaders accountable." From Undemocratic elections (NYT 06.27.1999). Comment. So-called "retention elections" under the Missouri Plan, with its judicial selection controlled by "merit" commissions, are "undemocratic elections" that "merely create the illusion of democracy." They do not allow voters any role in judicial selection.

 First female judge 'ever.' "The emirate of Abu Dhabi has appointed its first ever female judge, WAM reported. According to WAM she is the first ever female judge in the history of the UAE...." More (Gulf News 03.26.2008). Comment. It's easy to read this and ask what's taken the UAE so long. It's also easy to forget, as I reminded people in a 2004 essay on Marriage and the Law, that "we" have had, and still have, our own "blind spots":

Looking back, we ask ourselves how we as a people could have been so blind as to: a) allow slavery to last as long as it did, b) wait until 1870 to extend the privileges of citizenship to black people, c) wait until 1920 to extend the vote to women, d) wait until 1954 in the Brown case to formally end so-called "separate but equal" segregation in public schools, e) wait until 1964 to end the poll tax, f) wait until 1967 to formally rule, in the Loving case, that state bans on inter-racial marriage were unconstitutional, and g) wait until 1971 to extend the vote to those old enough to be drafted and compelled to fight and die for their country in wars in far-away places like Viet Nam.

For reminding me of the dates of some of these collective blind spots, I acknowledge Professor Tribe's comments [in the Summer 2004 issue of my law school alumni magazine, Harvard Law Bulletin]. Just for the heck of it, I'll remind him of another blind spot, to wit, that my alma mater, that great but harsh, rigid old institution, Harvard Law School, despite the presence in its corridors of some of the greatest legal minds in the world, didn't admit women until 1950 (and even then and for many years thereafter in only small numbers). Moreover, in the early years after women were first admitted, including when I was present as a student, the atmosphere of that austere place was even more unfriendly to female than to male students.

Years from now I'm convinced we'll look back on what I believe is another blind spot, this one a current one, age discrimination. One example of this is in our state supreme court's embrace of mandatory retirement at age 70 of judges. Once again, our legal gyros, who should be able to recognize discrimination when they see it, in fact are proud supporters of it, just as they were staunch defenders of rules limiting the free speech of judicial candidates, rules that were correctly declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002).

 U.S. mistakenly kills Iraqi judge, four other civilians. "A U.S. airstrike killed five Iraqi civilians including a judge in the northern town of Tikrit on Wednesday, Iraqi police said. U.S. forces acknowledged that civilians had been struck during a battle with suspected al Qaeda Sunni Arab militants which included strikes from fixed-wing aircraft...." More (In.Reuters 03.26.2008).

 Judges don't want normal pension rules applied to their pensions. "The Rhode Island Bar Association is calling on legislative leaders to reject proposals that would scale back pensions for state judges, but Governor Carcieri and the sponsor of a House bill say the judiciary shouldn't be exempt from pension cuts already applied to other state employees...." The revised formula would apply to judges hired after 01.01.2008. More (Providence Journal 03.26.2008).

 Glorious spring day in Islamabad for deposed C.J., now free from home arrest. "If there is a place in the capital where bouquets of all kinds and sizes are to be found, it is the official residence of deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry where his admirers heaped blossoming flowers here on Tuesday to celebrate his freedom from detention of over four months. Fans of the deposed CJ from all walks of life including politicians with colourful flowers lined up since morning at his residence located at the footsteps of picturesque Margalla hills at the Judges Colony to pay the tribute to the rare courage shown by him and his family by braving complete isolation from the outside world for a considerable period of time...." More (Pakistan Dawn 03.26.2008). Comment. According to the newspaper, the detained judges plan to file civil suit for "billion of rupees" against "Musharraf and the people in the administration who detained judges on mere verbal orders," with the intent of recovering the damages "from their personal properties." Earlier. Voters weigh in and Pakistan's jailed judges finally taste freedom; Lawyers dancing in the streets at news of release of detained judges.

 Lawyers dancing in the streets at news of release of detained judges. "Jubilant and excited lawyers of the city danced on main roads suspending their appearances before the courts in order to celebrate release of deposed judges of superior courts by Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani soon after his election as leader of the house...." More (Pakistan Dawn 03.26.2008).

 Voters weigh in, and Pakistan's jailed judges finally taste freedom. "Last night, for the first time since Judge Chaudhry and his family were placed under house arrest by President Pervez Musharraf on Nov. 3, they were free. The country's new prime minister released all the detained former judges, shortly after being voted into office late yesterday afternoon...." More (Ottawa Citizen 03.25.2008). Comment. Guess what? These judges, improperly removed from office and jailed by Mr. Musharraf, owe their release to the ordinary people of Pakistan who voted in the recent Parliamentary elections, bringing about a change in government, and the judges will owe their eventual reinstatement to the same ordinary voters. Aren't MN voters as capable of protecting judicial independence (and ensuring judicial accountability) as the voters in Pakistan? Trust the voters, I say. Sure, they make mistakes, but no more so than do those who are members of the power elite. To paraphrase Lincoln, you can fool some of them all the time and all of them some of the time, but day-in and day-out and over the long haul they're the ones we've got to trust. Opposed to this view, of course, are those who think voters are easily fooled by campaign distortions, ads, etc., and that therefore not only does the content of campaign speech need to be regulated but in some areas, e.g., judicial selection, voters ought not have a role. Here's what I said about this sad mistrust of the electorate in a posting at my political opinion website titled Are 'campaign lies' free speech protected from government regulation?

I have always had a different view -- a perhaps naïve belief in the ability of ordinary people to distinguish the real from the fraudulent, if not immediately, then eventually. I take comfort in the fact that this "naïve belief" was shared by Thomas Jefferson, who said, "If you state a moral case to a plowman and a professor [or a prosecutor or judge], the farmer will decide it as well, and often better, because he has not been led astray by any artificial rules." Jeffersonian farmers and other voters can see through campaign rhetoric, lies and distortions without Big Brother, who is no more qualified than they are, serving as Authoritative Voter Guide. All such attempts to rein in and purify democratic elections in the hope of protecting voters from making "mistakes" will and ought to fail.

 Law prof weighs in against plan to deprive voters of role in judge selection. In a thoughtful piece, Marina Angel, a professor at Temple University law school, has weighed in against the national campaign, waged in each state with judicial elections, to deprive voters of a role in judicial selection. 'Merit Selection' means stealing my vote (Philadelphia Daily News 03.25.2008). Her specific focus is the "lobbying group [that] was founded in 1988 with the high-minded name of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts...[the] main purpose [of which] is to take away our constitutionally guaranteed right to vote for judges and give that right to a 14-member 'nominating committee.'" She argues that in reality the commission won't be nonpolitical, that it's more likely the "governor's good buddy" will be deemed "meritorious" by such a commission than "the solo practitioner -- who does a great job representing poor people in a rural area for minimal fees but doesn't make enough money to contribute to politicians or join bar associations." She also points out that "Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts" is "part of a nationwide consortium of similar groups seeking to take away our right to vote," groups that "are supported by large law firms and corporations and their highly paid employees" and by "out-of-state organizations dedicated to a national effort to take away our right to vote for judges." She finds the argument that voters don't know how to vote right "insulting." What it comes down to, she says, is that the "elitists" believe "We don't know what's good for us, so we should vote to amend the state constitution to let a 14-member committee decide what's good." And she ends with a powerful rhetorical question: "Why stop at taking away the right to vote for appellate judges? The same arguments can be made by a group to be called 'Pennsylvanians for Modern Democracy' for all elections. Voters don't know who they are voting for and elections are too expensive, so let's have the state and the country run by an elite group of the 'merit-selected.'" Comment. Good show, prof. It's refreshing to find a professor who doesn't support the Missouri Plan, which, as I've said, is beloved by political science profs.

 Most-experienced judge wants to keep judging; but 'the law' says no. "Hennepin County District Judge Allen Oleisky has been on the bench longer than anyone else in the state. Still sharp and healthy -- he's the captain and sometime pitcher on the court softball team -- he'd like to stay put. But the law requires he retire at 70, a number he hits on March 31. That day, for the first time since 1972, he won't don the black robe...." More (Star-Tribune 03.25.2008). Comment. Want to know why MN's discriminatory law requiring our best and most experienced judges to retire at age 70 is bad public policy? See, Mandatory Retirement of Judges.

 MN citizens's common law right of access to court hearings, files. "An upcoming trial that pits a lawyer against his former firm in a nasty dispute over fees will remain open to the public despite the firm's objections, Hennepin County District Judge Denise Reilly ruled Monday...[The judge] concluded that Minnesota courts have recognized a common law right of access to court hearings and files, which can be overcome only by demonstrating 'strong, countervailing' reasons in favor of secrecy. More (Star-Tribune 03.25.2008). Comment. We've said it many times, Let the sun shine in. Further reading. "Sunshine and fresh air as judicial disinfectants" and "Let the sun shine in" at BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else - Court Gazing V (scroll down). A Google search found these prior entries on 'sunshine' for judges at BurtLaw-coordinated sites.

 Judges are damned if they do, damned if they don't. "Britain's judges are feeling embattled. Only last week, the courts were told by Jack Straw, the Lord Chancellor, that they were sending too many people to prison and clogging up the system. Now they are being criticised by one of the country's top police officers for being too lenient...." More (UK Telegraph 03.25.2008). Comment. As Justice Frankfurter put it, "Weak characters ought not to be judges."

 Judicial delay in Kenya. "The issue [of judicial delay] came to the fore during the Judiciary Open Day on February 16 and 17, last year, during which the wananchi talked openly about their reservations with the judicial system. Many recalled their bitter experiences resulting from long battles in court that have cost them huge sums of money, time and distress. A 63-year-old widow broke down as she explained to the judges how her land case had been pending in court for 16 years...Mr Stanley Konana also told the judges that his case had been pending for 33 years and that he had spent more than Sh1 million in pursuit of justice...." What's being done? An article in the 03.25.2008 Daily Nation addresses the question.

 Imaginary news headline: Cost estimates for new courthouse were too high. "By the time the doors of a new Johnson County courthouse open, the cost to build it could be more than double the original tab. Early estimates to replace the crowded -- and some say dangerous -- seat of justice in Olathe put the tab at $192 million. But Stephen Carter, a South Carolina-based architectural planning consultant who has revised those outdated numbers, now puts the tab in a range from $305 million to $441 million...." More (Kansas City Star 03.25.2008).
Comment. This is news? Speaking generally and without respect to this specific proposed project, I take it as a given that the early figure given the public on costs of a new courthouse is best thought of as a "teaser" figure designed to "get the public in the store." Then the cost estimates increase, and, of course, once construction starts, the costs increase again. Have those in charge of public purse strings ever heard the words, "Just say no"?

 Some 'real live court cases' for kids to decide. Court for kids: it's your turn to be the judge -- You decide whose arguments are best in these five real-life court cases (Christian Science Monitor 03.25.2008).

 WSJ on the 'why' of judicial elections -- with reference to Wisconsin. "Judicial elections aren't always enlightening, but they are a natural public reaction when courts usurp the power of legislatures. They can also be a check on a legal elite who think they should dominate the bench. Justice Butler picked this election fight when he and four colleagues decided, by judicial fiat, to make Wisconsin a national mecca for the trial bar." -- From a WSJ editorial commenting on the reelection fight SCOWIS Justice Louis Butler is facing. The editorial notes that Butler, while serving as a municipal court judge, ran against an incumbent SCOWIS justice, Diane Sykes, but lost. The Democrat governor, Jim Doyle, then turned around and appointed Butler to replace Sykes when President Bush appointed her to the 7th Circuit. With Butler swinging the balance on the court, the court proceeded to (in the WSJ's words) dismantle the legislature's tort reform laws. Some have complained that the business community is supporting Butler's opponent, but the WSJ points out that trial lawyers are pouring big bucks into Butler's coffers. The WSJ also weighs in on the so-called "Wisconsin Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee," which has criticized the opponent's advertisements; according to the Journal, "Of the committee's eight members, seven are Democrats -- either political leaders or donors to Governor Doyle. Three are reported to have ties to Justice Butler's campaign." More (WSJ 03.24.2008). Comment. There's right-wing judicial activism and there's left-wing judicial activism. Judicial elections serve as a greater check on both than one-candidate no-opposition retention elections. It's rare in MN for an attorney to challenge a sitting judge. When it happens, there's often a good reason, e.g., the incumbent judge may have forgotten he's a judge and may have gotten "political" in his rulings. One of many problems with the retention system is the not-insignificant possibility of a spill-over effect, with the electorate blaming many incumbents for the perceived sins of one judge or a few judges, voting "no" on many or all of them. (This is what the electorate was urged by some disgruntled voters to do in PA recently -- "Just vote no.") Another fault of the retention system is that if the voters reject an incumbent, the powers-that-be (the so-called "better" people who inevitably are handpicked to serve on the so-called nonpartisan merit commissions) get to turn around and, if they so choose, appoint an ideologue just like the one that got ousted. If you think such commissions are truly representative of the electorate or that they don't tend to favor what I've called the "judicial establishment" or the "judicial power elite," think again. Further reading. On the bar's "integrity committees," see, Are bar association 'campaign integrity committees' neutral and unbiased? and my comments at Lawyers say no to bar association's attempt to regulate judicial campaign speech. For links to a number of critical postings on the well-financed bar association-backed campaign to deprive MN voters of a role in judicial selection, click here.

 What's 'wall sculpture' to your eye may be 'just colored blocks' to an attorney. "To the untutored eye, they are simply huge rectangular panels -- reds, yellows, blues, greens -- that have hung like oversized Post-it Notes on the walls of the cavernous federal courthouse since it opened a decade ago. Hundreds of people pass them daily; few seem to notice. In fact, the fiberglass-and-aluminum panels are among the most valuable works of art in Boston by a living artist, commissioned at a cost of $800,000 in tax dollars, and probably worth millions today...." Among the people who "don't get it" are, not surprisingly, some lawyers: "'This is a gorgeous building, and every time I come in here I think that they belong in a kindergarten,' said Mala Rafik, a Boston civil litigation attorney, shifting her gaze from the courthouse's breathtaking curved glass wall to a pair of blue and orange panels. 'They're just colored blocks.'" A criminal defense lawyer was asked by the reporter what he thought; he said "he would have preferred [-- you guessed it --] a statute of Lady Justice or busts of famous lawyers." More (Boston Globe 03.24.2008). Comment. I'm a fan of Ellsworth Kelly's work. He's a "less is more" minimalist, which appeals to my Nordic soul. Am I saying you're a 'philistine' if you don't like Ellsworth Kelly's art? No. But if the shoe fits, wear it. What William Carlos Williams (1883-1963), the great poet who also was a medical doctor to the poor people of Rutherford, NJ, said of poetry could as well be said of art: "It is difficult/ to get the news from poems/ yet men die miserably every day/ for lack/ of what is found there." 'Asphodel, That Greeny Flower,' Book I from Journey to Love (1955). Here's a link to the results of a Google image search showing thumbnail pics of some of Kelly's works. And here are links to a few interesting discussions of his work. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Harvard Gazette 03.11.1999); Focus: Ellsworth Kelly (NYT 01.04.2008).

 The 'Judge Factory on Wallace Street.' "Ralph Hutchinson[, 77], the retired Nanaimo B.C. Supreme Court Justice also known for mountaineering and supporting various causes in the Harbour City, has died...Hutchinson arrived in Nanaimo around 1960, said longtime friend and law partner Hugh 'Buzz' Heath...[Their] partnership...blossomed into what later became known as 'the judge factory on Wallace Street.' The term arose from not only Hutchinson but at least three other lawyers in the firm also earning seats on the B.C. Supreme Court. And it was Hutchinson who also gave the name to one of the best-known hiking trails on the mid-Island, the Judge's Route on Mount Arrowsmith...." More (CHEK - Canada 03.24.2008).

 The things a judge remembers (including being told he'll 'burn in hell'). "Judge Walter Kurtz was told he'd burn in hell after he ruled that the state could not make sex between consenting adults a criminal act, even if the adults were both men or both women...." From Judge Kurtz reflects on tough decisions as he retires (Tennessean 03.24.2008).

 Judge aborts trial in order to leave on extended holiday. Justice Judith Potter (related to Beatrix?) of the High Court in Auckland had long planned to leave the country on Good Friday for "a conference in Panama, followed by a six-week trip around South America." As the departure date approached, it became clear that the attempted murder trial over which she was presiding was not going to be completed in time. According to a court spokesperson, "[C]ounsel under-estimated how long it would take to hear the case ran over into virtually double the time provided and still had not been concluded." Faced with delaying her departure or aborting the trial, Judge Potter aborted the trial. There is a division in opinion as to whether she did the right thing. A law prof says he hasn't heard of it happening before, "probably because in other cases judges have quite disgruntledly changed their plans," adding, "[m]aybe...she couldn't change them." More (NZ Herald 03.23.2008). Read on....

 Judge aborts criminal trial to serve in Iraq; double jeopardy bars retrial. SCONH has ruled that the Double Jeopardy Clause of the federal constitution bars reprosecution of a 40-year-old man accused of assaulting a teenager where the first trial was aborted over the defendant's objection after the original judge, who volunteered during a mid-trial continuance to serve as a judge-advocate with the National Guard, left for Iraq. SCONH said the result would have been different if trial judge had died or if jury had been unable to decide the case. State v. Solomon (NH 03.20.2008).

 Judge is jack-of-all-trades. "A lawyer's career can include stints at points along the legal spectrum -- defense counsel, prosecuting attorney and judiciary. Stan Glisson just happens to work in all three at the moment. By practice, the Bremerton lawyer provides defense for paying clients. By contract, he and his partner Ryan Witt have been hired by the city of Gig Harbor to prosecute defendants. And by invitation, he serves as 'pro tem,' or temporary judge in Kitsap's district and municipal courts when the elected or appointed judges aren't available...." More (Kitsap Sun 03.23.2008). Comment. All the cities mentioned are located on the Kitsap Peninsula in the heart of Puget Sound in Washington State.

 Many people are giving up on courts. "District court figures show the number of new civil defended cases launched each year has plummeted from nearly 3500 in 1998/99 to just 1701 in the past year. Lawyers are now routinely telling people with claims of less than $50,000 not to bother as their case will cost too much, and take too long. The result, say many top lawyers, is that civil justice is now beyond the means of ordinary people...[The president of the NZ Bar] blames overly complex and prescriptive court rules, grinding 'discovery' practices, a proliferation of paperwork and written submissions, judges' failure to confine litigators to the core of cases, the shift to lawyers billing by the hour, and a culture of litigators and judges paying little heed to achieving justice for a fair price...." More (Stuff.Co.NZ 03.23.2008). Comment. This is nothing new. In my campaign for MN C.J. in 2000, I said "Lawyers and judges have responded to the litigation explosion with, as Judge Posner put it, 'all the imagination of a traffic engineer whose only answer to highway congestion is to build more highways, or of a political establishment whose only answer to increased demands for government services is to print more money.'" I added, "I am not particularly proud of the profession. One commentator says billing clients is the main goal of large law firms. Others have aptly said that not even lawyers can afford to hire lawyers. Moreover, the profession has lost sight of Lincoln's ideal of lawyer as peacemaker, wise counselor." I've detected no improvement since then.

 FLA C.J. talks of 'suicide,' 'murder,' & 'paralysis' over budget cuts. "Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice R. Fred Lewis told lawmakers this morning that a suggested 10 percent budget cut -- $42.1million -- to courts throughout the state would effectively 'paralyze the judicial system.' 'When you ask a branch to commit suicide, we cannot. It may be murdered by others and we may not find justice but the judgment must rest on the plates of those public servants who have been elected to maintain Florida as the bright shining star that it is,' Lewis told the Senate Civil and Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee...." More (Palm Beach Post 03.22.2008). Comment. I'm always suspicious of over-the-top rhetoric and sky-is-falling overstatement. I guess it's just the fjord-blue Scandinavian blood that runs through my veins that makes me that way (hey, the blood in my arteries is USA red). The over-the-top rhetoric of some of the supporters of the Quie Commission's plan to deprive MN voters of any role in judicial selection exemplifies my point. More. I've made the same point when judges raise a hue-and-cry every time the judicial system is asked to share the pain caused by troubled economic conditions. Further reading. a) MN court cuts back customer service in response to budget cuts. b) BurtLaw's Law and Judicial Economics.

 Judge Alfonse?? "Al D'Amato, the former U.S. senator from New York, has his sights set on daytime television. A court show that D'Amato has been shopping to the syndication business for fall 2009 has drawn interest from major syndicators...." More (Reuters 03.21.2008).

 The shacklin' judge eats humble pie? "The D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure determined last week that D.C. Superior Court Judge John Bayly Jr. violated the code of judicial conduct when he ordered a Public Defender Service attorney to be shackled and detained after an argument...." The judge, an 18-year veteran of the bench, has agreed he violated the Code and has written a note to the attorney apologizing. More (The BLT - Blog of Legal Times 03.20.2008). Comment. As we said in our earlier posting on this matter in September of 2007, someone oughta teach new judges and remind old ones that one of the best ways for a judge to get in trouble -- with the public, with the press, with lawyers and/or with the discipline folks -- is to use the contempt power to jail someone for something like this. Here's BurtLaw Rule-of-Thumb #139 for avoiding judicial discipline: Avoid using the contempt power altogether. Further reading. Want more judges jailing attorneys? Read on...

 Judge jails attorney over alleged lewd gesture. "An Austin defense lawyer was jailed last week after being accused of making a lewd gesture at a judge while in court representing a client on charges of driving while intoxicated. Adam Reposa, 33, was held in contempt of court by County-Court-at-Law Judge Jan Breland for his 'intentional and contumacious conduct during the court's review of the plea bargain offer to his client before jury trial.'" More (Austin Statesman - TX 03.21.2008). Want more? Read on...

 Queens judge who threatened attorney with contempt is disciplined. The NYS Commission on Judicial Conduct determined that Supreme Court Judge Duane A. Hart of Queens County "engaged in several acts of misconduct between 2003 and 2005. The Commission found that the judge improperly threatened an attorney with contempt, presided over a case in which he had a relationship with an attorney, denied an attorney's request to make a record, granted a lengthy adjournment for a punitive purpose, and offered to testify on an attorney's behalf in a disciplinary matter if the attorney testified for him." The Commission rejected the Administrator's recommendation that Hart be removed; instead, it censured him. News Release (03.20.2008). Text of decision.

 Pawlenty says he's not sure re MO Plan; Quie says 'Tim' will 'come around.' "'We are proud of Minnesota's high quality judiciary,' Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said in response to a MinnPost email asking about the governor's position. 'The governor is not certain that our system of judicial selection and election needs changing. There's been no evidence yet suggesting that our system has been overly politicized. Most judges [in Minnesota] run for reelection without major challenges and the vast majority are reelected.'" Quie, who is sure he's right, is also sure his position will eventually prevail and says confidently that Pawlenty will "come around." -- Robert Whereatt, in MinnPost (03.21.2008). Comment. Eric Magnuson, Tim P's pick to succeed the outgoing chief, Russ Anderson, is paraphrased as saying he doesn't have a "complete grasp of the issue." That's funny. I think what he means is he's "punting" on the issue for now. From the standpoint of judicial politics, I can't say I blame him. That's why I like my "position" as "mere" citizen (which FF reminded us is "the most important office in a democracy") -- it gives me the freedom to speak my mind and heart straight to the point.

 Tales of the O.C.: Judicial candidate's claimed lineage is in question. "Michael Bartlett is a civil lawyer and former San Clemente city attorney. He's running against Deputy D.A. Nick Thompson for one of the four contested judgeships in the June 3 election. Thompson's political consultant, Brett Barbre, told me he was reviewing the official ballot statement Bartlett submitted to the Registrar of Voter's office and decided to check out Bartlett's assertion that '(m)y interest in public service comes from my great-great-great grandfather, Washington Bartlett, the 16th Governor of California.'" Are California histories wrong in saying the 16th governor was a bachelor? If he was a bachelor, did he have a child out of wedlock? These are questions columnist Frank Mickadeit asks. Thompson wants the Superior Court to remove the statement from the "ballot pamphlets" before they go to press on Wednesday. The judge who has the case reportedly says the burden is on Thompson to show the statement is wrong. Bartlett says his evidence comes from family lore and the memoirs of his great uncle. The hearing is set for Monday. Reporting by columnist Frank Mickadeit in the Orange County Register (03.21.2008). Comment. In my last run for public office, in 2004, I posted a page on my campaign web blog titled 'My Political Heroes.' I now confess not to any error in inclusion but to an error in exclusion: I failed to mention I am a direct descendant of -- dare I say it without calling in question a basic tenet of a major religion? -- ah, ahh....Whoops! the phone is ringing....

 Wisconsin judge was fined for poaching in Montana. "Calumet County Circuit Judge Donald Poppy was fined last fall for a conservation violation in Montana. The Post-Crescent has confirmed that Poppy, the only circuit judge in the county, paid $1,170 in fines for a poaching violation in Carter County, Montana. He was charged with possessing two deer when he had a license for only one. The P-C was told about the violation by an anonymous caller from Montana, and Poppy confirmed it Wednesday. Poppy said he had a license to take one deer each in Montana and Wyoming, and 'I was a little bit over the line.'" More (Appleton Post-Crescent 03.21.2008). Comment. Mm-mm-mm-mm, as that other man in black taught us, there's a difference between 'walking the line,' and "crossing the line," a difference made clear by the judge to 'the man who hollered Lawdy Lawdy, have a mercy on me': 'The judge he smiled as he picked up his pen/ 99 years in the Folsom pen.'

 VT legislature votes to retain six judges, one by narrow margin. "The only one whose performance generated extensive debate was Judge Katherine Hayes, who came under fire from Bennington State's Attorney Erica Marthage and members of the area's legislative delegation. In a joint session, lawmakers voted by wide margins to reappoint District Judges Nancy Corsones, Walter Morris and David Suntag; Amy Davenport, the chief administrative judge of Vermont's trial courts; and Environmental Court Judge Merideth Wright...." The vote on Hayes was 95-73. More (Boston Globe 03.21.2008).

 Some judges actually do read the briefs. "Choosing what reading to take on a train or aeroplane is a decision that has always filled me with anxiety. Is there anything worse than settling down for a 13 hour flight and realizing you've brought the wrong book? This year, at least, that decision is out of my hands. I'm a judge for the Man Booker Prize and there is not a single journey or moment stuck on a train that will be wasted...I've just returned from a month-long trip to Australia...[M]y children are now old enough for planes and waiting rooms to provide acres of reading time. While they skimmed Malaysian Airlines film list and ate kilos of free peanuts, I could settle back in my seat with my reading. I read on the aeroplanes, I read while they slept in our various apartments and hotel rooms -- I read while they and my partner snorkelled in the Indian Ocean...." -- Louise Doughty, The Joy of Judging Booker (UK Guardian 03.21.2008). Comment. Doughty asks herself in this blog post whether one's geographical location at the moment has an effect on "one's attitude to the book being consumed": "Would the writer I consumed while sprawled beside the pool in Monkey Mia gain an unfair advantage by the fact that my partner had just passed me an ice-cold beer and the sun was beating down and it seemed, at that particular moment, that life could not possibly be any better? The answer -- I think -- is no. What came home to me more forcibly than ever on this trip is that there is something about good writing that transcends the physical situation in which it is absorbed." Any judges have insights on this? Does reading a respondent's brief while lounging poolside at Sally's Supreme Court Spa give a benefit to the respondent over the appellant, whose brief one read earlier while receiving colon hydrotherapy?

 Protesters mock judges who claim a right to park in a park. "A group of protesters Thursday heckled Brooklyn judges who are threatening to sue the city over plans to ban them from parking on a pedestrian plaza in downtown Brooklyn. The protesters, members of the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, donned fake judges' robes and mocked the jurists for refusing to move to an underground garage at the new courthouse just two blocks away at 330 Jay St. 'Two blocks is too far!' chanted the half-dozen hecklers...." More (N.Y. Daily News 03.21.2008). Earlier. Annals of judicial perks -- herein of choice parking spaces (includes links to some of our earlier postings on judicial parking and the law). Comment. One of the protesters is depicted carrying a sign with the word "Justice" crossed out and replaced by the words "Just Us," implying that the judges are "just" thinking about themselves. This is not exactly an original 'play' on the word "Justice." Here's a link to a Google search for web postings using the two terms ("Just us" and "Justice"). We've even used "Just us" a couple times: a) In a post we made relating that everyone in the courtroom had joined in singing "Happy Birthday!" to a judge during a so-called "mob trial," we commented: "We sense the plot of a feel-good Broadway musical coming on, in which there's a crowd-pleasing finale in which Mob defendants, judges, prosecutors, defense attornies, gun molls, flappers, court reporters, etc., form a chorus line, kicking up their heels in unison while singing, 'Just-Us, Just-Us,/ coming together to sing,/ 'Justice, Justice,'/ Spell it any way you want/ it's all the same to us/ Just-Us. Just-Us....'" See, Gotti sings 'Happy Birthday' to judge, mom sends praises to another judge. b) When I was a kid my dad's father, "Grandpa Bob," and his wife, Bertha, had a summer home at Starbuck, MN on Lake Minnewaska, about 20 miles north of my home town, where we all resided. Each cottage on the lake had a name, which was painted on a sign next to the lake road that passed by. Many of the names were "plays" on other words. Bob & Bert's cottage was called "Snor-a-Way," a "play" on "Norway." The sign outside the lake home of an attorney and his wife from my home town, Frank and Alice Barnard, said simply, "Just Us."

 When an angry crowd gathers outside a courthouse. "Dozens of armed police officers closed off gates to the Pinetown magistrate's court on Thursday as a growing crowd prepared to protest ahead of the appearance of five men accused of the gang rape of a 21-year-old Shallcross woman...." More (IOL - SA 03.20.2008).

 Those judicial signature stamps. "A court clerk in Ogden faces a forgery charge after using a judge's signature stamp in an attempt to evict her own tenant. Maria Gomez, 38, a 2nd District Court window clerk, was arraigned Monday on forgery, a third-degree felony. Prosecutors said she used Judge Parley S. Baldwin's stamp on a document in an eviction lawsuit in January...." More (SLTrib 03.20.2008). Update. Courthouses lock up judges' signature stamps (SLTrib 03.25.2008).

 'Law and Order' and 'libel-in-fiction.' "Ravi Batra, a Manhattan lawyer, filed a lawsuit in 2004 against Dick Wolf, the creator of the television series [Law and Order], arguing that the plot of a November 2003 episode included an unsavory character, Ravi Patel, who is modeled on Mr. Batra. [Now] Justice Marilyn Shafer of State Supreme Court in Manhattan [has] rejected a motion by Mr. Wolf's lawyers to dismiss the lawsuit...Mr. Batra filed his lawsuit under a doctrine known as libel-in-fiction...Mr. Wolf's lawyers argued that the similarities between Mr. Batra and the [unsavory] Patel character were 'abstract,' but Mr. Batra argued that...any viewer watching the episode and familiar with the news would identify the character with Mr. Batra...." More (NYT 03.20.2008). Comment. As I've said before, I believe the cause of action of defamation ought to be eliminated as inconsistent with First Amendment values. I express my views on that issue in greater detail in a posting on a different case, Court upholds dismissal of judge's libel suit against TV station. I wish the defendants had litigated the matter further.

 Probate judge vs. probate administrator. "New Canaan [Probate] Judge Russell Kimes spends about $20,000 a year on bookkeeping expenses, nearly double what Hartford pays and three times more than neighboring Darien, a court of nearly identical size. After warning Kimes two years in a row, probate administrator James Lawlor last fall ordered Kimes to reimburse the state probate fund $16,000 for the cost of New Canaan's latest audit. Kimes has refused. In a lawsuit filed recently in Superior Court, Kimes says the state sets no guidelines for what constitutes a reasonable fee. He also questions Lawlor's power to sanction an elected judge...." More (Hartford Courant 03.20.2008).

 Judge Heather Mills. "Despite her heartbreak [over the judge's property split (see, Heather v. Sir Paul)] Heather [Mills] has graciously accepted the invitation to be a judge in the Miss USA Pageant on April 11th. Really, you'd think she'd had enough of judges at the moment, but she soldiers on, relishing the opportunity to judge others at last. And it gives her the opportunity to work with hosts Donny and Marie Osmond, which is a step up from some old bass player, I'm sure you'll agree...." More (Holy Moly! - UK 03.19.2008). Comment. You know, I really think she might have what it takes to be a common law judge.

 Those 'evil judging tricks.' What columnist Cam Cole of the National Post refers to as "evil judging tricks" by figure skating judges supposedly were eliminated by reforms a couple years ago. But Cole, criticizing high marks given to an American duo in the ice dancing competition at the World Championships, argues not so: "There is still plenty of latitude in the second line of marks -- illogically called 'program components in the new system, presumably to give the illusion that there is some science to them -- and the judges used all of it yesterday, and then some, to keep American co-favourites Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto plausibly in the medal hunt after Belbin fell near the end of their Argentine Tango compulsory dance." More (National Post 03.19.2008).

 Retired judge speaks mind on Scot judiciary bill. The Brits don't have a written constitution. Recently Parliament passed legislation attempting to guarantee the independence of the judiciary. Now Scotland is following suit, with the encouragement of Lord Hamilton, the Lord President. The bill also would formally recognize the Lord President as head of the Scottish judiciary and adopt procedures for selection and discipline of judges. Enter retired judge and former law officer Lord McCluskey, who couldn't disagree more, calling it all "gesture politics." a) Judicial independence. He says the plan to guarantee judicial independence amounts to "slavishly cop[ying]...and plagiari[sing] English legislation" and isn't "worth the paper it's printed on"; he asks rhetorically, "[I]f an unpleasant government came to power, then do you imagine it would not behave like the governments in Zimbabwe or Pakistan?" Answering his own question, he says, "Just as this Parliament could pass it a week on Monday, it could repeal it a week on Tuesday." Echoing Judge Learned Hand's great lines about 'Liberty,' he adds, "Most countries in the world have a written constitution in which the independence of the judiciary is embedded in the constitution. Judicial independence lies in the hearts of men, not in constitutions and statutes of this kind, and I would rather it stayed there." (Emphasis supplied.) b) Judicial discipline. With respect to the proposed disciplinary mechanism, he says, "In my time there have been judges on the High Court bench who drank too much, who didn't do their homework, who didn't turn up. They were dealt with by the Lord President behind the scenes, and dealt with successfully, and that's the way it has to work." c) Appointments process. With respect to opening up the appointment process, he says he can see merit in enabling more people to acquire the skills to be judges but adds that he doesn't believe affirmative action has a place in judicial selection because "[I]f I'm going to be operated on by a brain surgeon, I want the brain surgeon to be the best brain surgeon. I don't want him operating because he's black, Jewish, Catholic. It's the same with judges." More (The Herald 03.19.2008).

 Learned Hand on Liberty. "Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it. And what is this liberty which must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty, and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check upon their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few; as we have learned to our sorrow. What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest." -- From a speech by U.S. Circuit Judge Learned Hand (18721961) at the "I Am an American Day Ceremony" in NYC on 05.21.1944; reprinted in L. Hand, The Spirit of Liberty 190 (1952).

 Herein of judicial ombudsmen. "Tova Strasberg-Cohen, who serves as the court system's ombudsman, yesterday rejected charges by judges that she has been exceeding her authority. Strasberg-Cohen aroused the judges' ire by conducting routine inspections in which officials from her office would attend hearings to see how judges were managing their courtrooms. The judges argued that by law, her staff has no right to visit a courtroom unless a complaint has been filed against the judge. However, Strasberg-Cohen believes she is legally entitled to visit any courtroom, even if there are no complaints against the presiding judge...." More (Haaretz - Israel 03.19.2008). Comment. You don't hear much talk about ombudsmen these days. Forty-two years ago, in 1966, I sat in the huge Austin Hall courtroom at Harvard Law School three nights in a row, starting on March 28, and listened to Professor Walter Gellhorn of Columbia University Law School deliver the Oliver Wendell Holmes Lectures on the topic of ombudsmen. The lectures, like all such gatherings at HLS back then, were well attended, and covered by the local papers. See, e.g., reports on each lecture in the Harvard Crimson on 03.29.1966, 03.30.1966, and 03.31.1966. The substance of the lectures is contained in two books published by Harvard U. Press: Walter Gellhorn, When Americans Complain (1966) and Walter Gellhorn, Ombudsmen and Others (1966), reviewed by Nicholas Johnson at 46 Tex. L. Rev. 305 (1967). I remember Dean Griswold's introduction of Gellhorn the first night. He said sometimes he liked to play a game of creating his all-time top ten law profs at various law schools. He said Gellhorn, who was an HLS grad, was one of the ten who always made the list. But I don't remember Gellhorn's saying anything about the possible use of the ombudsman idea by the judiciary in the way Israel apparently is now doing. I may do some further reading on its possible use in this way.

 Judge says he's 'discouraged' by removal from bench, loss of appeal. "A few days after the New York State Court of Appeals upheld the Commission on Judicial Conduct's recommendation to have him removed from the bench, [Ellenburg Town Justice Dennis] said he is 'discouraged and disappointed by all of this.'" More (Plattsburgh Press Republican - NY 03.19.2008). Comment. The Commission's decision, dated 12.12.2007, stated, in relevant part, that LaBombard "presided over the cases of his relatives and a former co-worker's son, changed his bail decision after an ex parte call from the defendant's mother, initiated an ex parte communication with the judge handling his relative's case, and asserted his judicial office after a car accident." The court of appeals' order dismissed the judge's request for review "for want of prosecution." According to the local paper, the judge says he submitted the proper paperwork did but it was returned because it didn't have the right binding. He says he thought his attorney was taking care of that. LaBombard also says that he treated his relatives (step-grandchildren) "'the same as anyone else. I personally don't feel that I did anything wrong. I am not going to bow my head and be ashamed.'" It's quite possible he didn't know it was wrong to act as he did. If you read the NYT series on the town judge system in New York State, you can't help concluding that much of the blame for things like this lies not with the town judges, many of whom are untrained in the law, but with those "higher-ups" who don't change the system, even though it's clearly broken.

 When it rains, it pours. We recently linked to an unflattering report about Chief Judge Nottingham of the federal district court in Denver. See, A top federal judge is reported linked to prostitution investigation. And see, Chief federal district judge admits he's human, ran up big tab at strip club. As the Morton Salt container used to (and probably still does) say, "When it rains, it pours." Now the judge, who presided over the highly-publicized insider trading trial of Joe Nacchio must feel some embarrasment over the fact that not only did the 10th U.S. Court of Appeals award Nocchio a new trial on the ground Nottingham prejudicially erred in excluding expert testimony that might have led to an outright acquittal but the court also specifically stated that a different judge should be assigned to preside at the retrial. More (Denver Post 03.19.2008).

 Pawlenty fulfills Nostraburtus' 2005 prophecy. a) In Month 12 of Year 2005 Nostraburtus wrote, "Is the appointment [of Russell Anderson as Chief Justice] in the nature of a caretaker appointment, with the idea being that Anderson will retire during Pawlenty's second term, to be replaced by -- need we provide a name?" So said the soothsayer. See, Is MN's new Chief a caretaker chief? b) And it came to pass in Month 3 of Year 2008 that Nostraburtus' prophecy was fulfilled. See, MN's C.J. will skip election, retire early ('Judicial Keep Away'?) and Pawlenty picks pal as new chief justice.

 Pawlenty picks pal as new chief justice. "The lawyer in charge of vetting Minnesota judicial candidates will soon become the state's top judge. Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Monday appointed Eric Magnuson, his former law partner and the chairman of the Minnesota Commission on Judicial Selection, as chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court...." More (Pioneer-Press 03.18.2008). Comment. For our assessment of Magnuson in 2005, see, Who will/should the governor appoint to fill MN's chief justice vacancy? In announcing the appointment, the "guv" said he was so sure that his pal was the best person for the job that he didn't consider anyone else before making the appointment. It's possible if I was governor that I would have picked Magnuson. But I hope I'd have done so only after a) letting any MN lawyer of any political party or gender or background apply and b) considering each applicant as fairly as I knew how. It is indeed curious, however, how often even after purporting to go through such a process, the governor will conclude that the "best person" for the job just happens to be a pal or political ally or ideological soulmate. I'll say this about Pawlenty: he didn't bother to make a false pretense of going through a fair and open process, wasting the time of everyone involved. There've been some among his predecessors who've done just that. Further reading. I've written extensively on various aspects of judicial selection, including on the curious frequency with which the executive is able to convince himself that the "best person" is an old pal. Here are links to some of my musings on this particular aspect and on the related and intertwining aspects of what I call "provincialism," "inbreeding," and "cronyism" in government. a) Monday, 06.20.2005 Provincialism in politics & government. b) Alito one of six best? c) Maureen Dowd on Bush's thing for women who dote on him. d) One of judges of big art competition is hubby of winner. e) Bush appoints Harriet (Miers) to join Ozzie (Roberts). f) A 'farraginous' Supreme Court.

 PWI (presiding while under influence). Former Municipal Court judge Richard Sasso has been charged with seven counts of judicial misconduct, including being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol while on the bench and disorderly conduct at Torpedo's Go-Go Bar in Bound Brook...." More (Courier-News 03.18.2008). Further reading. For more on PWI (presiding while under influence), JWI (judging while under influence), NWP (napping while presiding), LWSJ (leaking while secretly judging), MWP (masturbating while presiding), DOWD (Dictating Opinions While Driving), and TWD (Text-messaging While Driving), see, Fighting JWI (judging while under influence) with aftenoon BAC breath tests.

 Free federal case law! "Feb. 11, 2008, was a day that may forever change the course of online legal research. On that day, the nonprofit Public.Resource.Org published 1.8 million pages of federal case law online, free of copyright or other restrictions. The release included all U.S. Supreme Court cases and all federal circuit decisions since 1950...." Robert J. Ambrogi, Online Legal Research Revolution (Law Technology News via Law.Com 03.18.2008).

 Rudyard Kipling's Six Honest Serving Men. From Kipling's The Elephant's Child:
I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.

I let them rest from nine till five,
For I am busy then,
As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
For they are hungry men.
But different folk have different views;
I know a person small-
She keeps ten million serving-men,
Who get no rest at all!

She sends'em abroad on her own affairs,
From the second she opens her eyes-
One million Hows, two million Wheres,
And seven million Whys!

 You may not show the judges' faces? "As Nigerians react to the controversial judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal on the April 21 presidential election, I wish to call on the Nigerian media to let us see the faces of the judges who gave the tribunal judgment...[T]he television stations did not show the faces of the judges who presided over the case...[O]n the following day that newspapers said their faces must not be shown while delivering judgment. It is...suspicious that these judges themselves were eager to hide their faces from the public. Did this suggest that they knew a judgment that runs contrary to truth and their conscience?" -- From an op/ed piece in the Daily Trust. More (Daily Trust via All Africa 03.17.2008).

 Rose's Courthouse Cafe 2008 vs. Rose's Corner Cafe circa 1956. "Rose Habermehl knows a captive -- and hungry -- audience when she sees one. That's why she invested $90,000 to gut and renovate the small cafe in the basement of the Greene County [Missouri] Courthouse. 'Rose's Courthouse Cafe' is slated to open today and becomes the only public eatery within a three-block area...'I knew it would be a captive audience and I figured there's hardly any room for failure for me,' Habermehl said. 'I've been in business for 30-some years. I like small, intimate places like this'...Habermehl signed a seven-year lease with the county at $50 a month...." More (News-Leader 03.17.2008). Comment. That'd make a good radio commercial: "We know you'll come on in when you've got business in the courthouse cuz we're the only public eatery within a three-block area. We know you're a captive audience and we'll treat you accordingly." Just joking, Rose. I'm guessing your food is good, even better than good, and next time I'm in Missouri investigating the Missouri Plan, I'll stop in for a piece of your pie. In fairness, I ought to tell you about another Rose's pie that I still remember over 50 years later. Back in the glorious 1950's, when Rock 'n' Roll was born, I used to deliver the Minneapolis Star, an afternoon newspaper. I still have my tattered yellow-canvas paper carrier's bag and my old collection book from those days, and a lot of memories. My route was the downtown business district of my hometown, Benson, MN, 130 miles straight west of Mpls. on U.S. Highway 12. I delivered 35 or so papers each day to the main floor businesses and second- and third-floor apartments up (east on) Pacific Avenue on the southside of the Great Northern Ry. tracks and then down (west on) Atlantic Avenue (a/k/a U.S. Hwy 12) on the northside of the tracks. I always thought it was the best paper route in the best small town in America. Sometimes, midway through the route, after delivering some papers at the doors of my subscribers at the Merchants Hotel Apartments, on the northeast corner of 13th Street N. (a/k/a Hwy 9) and Utah Avenue just a block north off Atlantic, I'd cross over to the northwest corner and enter Rose Duresky's Corner Cafe and order a piece of her home-made apple pie a la mode. A piece cost 20 or 25 cents, about a fourth of what I earned each day. Rose's pies were the best restaurant pies in town and well worth the price. Anyhow, one hot afternoon, circa 1956, I was walking south on 13th Street N., a half a block from Rose's, when I noticed a gleaming Cadillac (dark in color, not pink) pull up beside me to my left and wait for traffic at the intersection with Atlantic Avenue (a/k/a U.S. Hwy 12). I pride myself that I immediately recognized the passenger, who was sitting just a few feet from me with the window open, as Bill Haley of 'Bill Haley & the Comets' (whose Rock Around the Clock and See You Later Alligator were smash hits in 1955 and 1956 respectively). It was obvious both from who he was and the look on his face that he was just "passing through." Even though I instantly knew he was Bill Haley, I found it hard to believe my eyes. But a moment later a tour bus pulled up behind the Caddy with a sign on its side advertising 'Bill Haley & the Comets'! My otherwise "inherently unreliable eyewitness identification" had been confirmed, to me at least. Would any of my friends believe me? Ah, I learned then that people don't always believe the beautiful truths we tell them. But here's a tiny bit of corroboration from Chris Gardner's Bill Haley: "In 1954 they would drive to gigs in cars, with the equipment packed in with them. Then they bought this van for the equipment. Then in 1956, they bought several Cadillacs. Finally, they bought a bus, although Bill still often preferred to ride in his own, pastel pink, Cadillac (shades of Elvis Presley!)." Actually, I read somewhere that Bill, whose success pre-dated Elvis', owned a Caddy before Elvis did, so the parenthetical maybe should read "shades of Bill Haley!" Anyhow, it's too bad Bill and the boys didn't ask me where they could get a good piece of apple pie a la mode. I'd have told 'em to stop at Rose's, just a half a block behind them. They'd have enjoyed her home-made apple pie a la mode as much as I did. That's the beautiful truth that you ought to believe. Note. I'm not sure where Bill and the boys had been or where they were heading. State Hwy 9 connects to the north, from which he was coming, with State Hwy 23 in New London, which in turn connects with other cities, including nearby Paynesville and Hwy 55, an east-west state highway between Mpls. and North Dakota. US 12, with which Hwy 9 intersects at the corner near where the Caddy stopped, is "an east-west United States highway running from downtown Detroit almost 2500 miles (4000 km) to Grays Harbor on the Pacific Ocean in the state of Washington. As a thoroughfare, it has mostly been supplanted by I-94 and I-90, but remains an important road for local travel." US 12 followed, for much of the way, the Yellowstone Trail (the first transcontinental automobile highway through the northern tier of states from Boston to Seattle). I don't have a vivid memory which way Bill and the boys turned on US 12. For some reason, I like to think (and am guessing) they turned west on 12 -- i.e., in the direction of Hollywood, via the Pacific NW, via Yellowstone Park. Further reading. I reminisce about my "Rock  'n' Roll youth" in an essay titled Friday, 09.30.2005 Might this day, fifty years ago, have been the real day the music died? at my political opinion blog, Sometimes Left, Always Right at BurtonHanson.Com. See, also, When James Dean came to Benson, Minnesota at Rockin' Rand Recommends at BurtLaw's LawAndEverythingElse.Com.

 When a court changes from silk stockings to bobby socks (or bare feet?). "Just over 30 concerned citizens met on the courthouse square Sunday to voice their displeasure at the proposed use of the building by Destination Cleveland County...Brendan LeGrand, armed with a bullhorn and clad in camouflage and combat boots, led the gathering against the DCC's plans. DCC proposes a county history museum called The Earl Scruggs Center: Songs and Stories of the Carolina Foothills...." More (Shelby Star - NC 03.17.2008). Comments. a) ICYDKI (in case you didn't know it), my headline is a "play" on the immortal Frankie Avalon song from the late 1950's, When a Girl Changes from Bobby Socks to Stockings. b) A courthouse is part of a community's historical heritage. Any sensible use of a courthouse, even converting it to another community use, is better than the ab-use of a courthouse by demolishing it.

 Walter Mitty's 'Battle of Guilford Courthouse.' "The sound of gunshots and cannon fire could be heard ringing through the air in Greensboro this weekend as hundreds of revolutionary war re-enactors recreated the battle of Guilford Courthouse. As Greensboro celebrates its 200th birthday, this event held particular importance for its actors and spectators. 'We gave [Cornwallis] a devil of a whipping but he managed to slink off with his army and live to fight another day,' said William King, a re-enactor from Norfolk, Va...." More (News 14 - NC 03.17.2008). Comment. Don't you love that "we"? We do.

 SCOTUS as SCOTCC (Supreme Court of the Chamber of Commerce)? "The headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, located across from Lafayette Park in Washington, is a limestone structure that looks almost as majestic as the Supreme Court. The similarity is no coincidence: both buildings were designed by the same architect, Cass Gilbert. Lately, however, the affinities between the court and the chamber, a lavishly financed business-advocacy organization, seem to be more than just architectural...Though the current Supreme Court has a well-earned reputation for divisiveness, it has been surprisingly united in cases affecting business interests. Of the 30 business cases last term, 22 were decided unanimously, or with only one or two dissenting votes...." Moreover, "The chamber's litigation center filed briefs in 15 cases and its side won in 13 of them  -- the highest percentage of victories in the center's 30-year history...." -- From Jeffrey Rosen, Supreme Court Inc. (NYT Sunday Magazine 03.16.2008). Comment. The article suggests that neither the likely GOP nominee or either of the likely Democrat nominees will appoint justices who will challenge business' dominance at the Court.

 Judges join short labor strike over lack of security. "Judges and factory employees in the western Afghan city of Herat were back at work Saturday, ending a near week-long strike after the government pledged better security, representatives said. Hundreds of doctors, judges, factory workers and shopkeepers took part in the work stoppage to protest a wave of crime...." More (AFP.Google 03.16.2008). Comment. There's been a significant number of abductions for ransom in Herat in recent months.

 When judges swear to the wrong oath. "The All Pakistan Lawyers' Convention on Saturday declared that the judges that had taken oath under the provisional constitutional order (PCO) were in contempt of court. A resolution was passed in the convention stating that the lawyers would not recognise them as judges. The convention denounced the continued detention of former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Sardar Raza Khan, Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday, Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, Justice Shakir Ullah Jan and Justice Falak Sher...." More (Daily Times - Pakistan 03.16.2008). Comment. You gotta know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. Back in November, (in Why'd Musharraf do it?) I wrote, in part:

And what can you say about those who'd remain on the bench and swear fealty to Musharraf after their brethren had been wrongly removed? Oh, I'd say there are lots of judges -- there, here and everywhere -- who value their own position more than they value principle, men who, if the chips were down, would continue to play the old game. But then there are those who wouldn't. Ah, yes -- let us now praise such men by way of a poem my mom taught me: [reciting 'God, give us men!' by Josiah Gilbert Holland.]

Those who "bet" wrong may have to "fold 'em." Serves them right for being in the wrong.

 Pal of judicial establishment questions motives of opponents of Quie's plan. Lori Sturdevant of the Strib's editorial page writes that supporters of the Quie Plan (which would deprive MN voters of a role in judicial selection) "haven't been cheered by the state's district court judges, county attorneys, public employees unions or social-issue conservatives. It's obvious why some people on that list might not be terribly interested in an impartial judiciary." More (Star-Tribune 03.16.2008). Comment. Hmm. I wonder where I fit in. I'm not a trial judge, a prosecutor, a member of a public employees union or a social-issue conservative. I'm a civil libertarian anti-war Eisenhower Republican with nearly 30 years behind me as a court insider who's forgotten more than many of the blithe supporters of the Quie Plan, including Sturdevant, have ever known about the Minnesota judiciary. Sturdevant's dismissive aside says, in effect, that anyone who disagrees with the judicial establishment's little plan to further insulate the judiciary from public accountability is somehow in favor of a biased, purchased judiciary. The suggestion is not only gratuitous and grossly unfair, it's absurd. Also absurd is the suggestion that the voters can't be trusted to play a role in judicial selection anymore because there's a bogeyman (my word) coming to town (the bogeyman being the threat that outside interest groups will spend big bucks to try influence contested elections, something that has happened in some states that allow for direct election of judges but hasn't happened here). This is a quasi-aristocratic argument that betrays an underlying profoundly troubling mistrust of basic democracy and of Minnesota voters, who, after all, are not a bunch of rubes who base their decisions on silly TV commercials. It's because of those better-than-average voters, not because of any top-down quasi-aristocratic leadership class that knows what's best for us, that we're known and envied around the country for good government. What's not absurd is this: a recent study, based on which state supreme courts have been most influential since 1940 concludes that the Minnesota Supreme Court is the fifth most influential whereas, despite the great "Missouri Plan" that Quie, Sturdevant & Co. want us to adopt, the Missouri Supreme Court is very near the bottom, in 47th place. See, SCOMN #5, SCOMO #47 -- so let's adopt the Missouri Plan? As I said in my detailed posting titled Strib. urges longer terms for judges, no role for voters in their selection:

Minnesota, in fact, has one of the best trial court systems in the country, a generally outstanding court of appeals, and a historically better-than-average supreme court. We're clearly better, in my opinion, than Missouri, whose 'plan' the bar leaders and politicians and Strib editors -- who have long been hostile to voter participation in judicial selection -- now want us to emulate. This is doubly ironic in that there is currently much dissatisfaction with the Missouri Plan in Missouri, with many thoughtful people there suggesting it ought to be abandoned and replaced with a plan not unlike ours.

 Annals of judicial perks -- herein of choice parking spaces. "A group of Brooklyn judges who park in a downtown public park are plotting to sue the city to keep the controversial perk, the Daily News has learned. The move comes as Parks Department officials move to kick out some of the cars as early as next month and turn the flagstone patch back into a pedestrian plaza...The possible legal action sparked outrage from advocates who have sought for years to push all cars out of Columbus Park...Local leaders say the judges promised to leave the park back in 1999 when they pushed for the new criminal and family courthouse at 330 Jay St., which was slated to have a garage with at least 150 spots for judges. But after the new building opened in 2005, court administrators said the garage was too small to accommodate all the judges...." More (N.Y. Daily News 03.16.2008). Further reading. See, Annals of judicial parking: Brooklyn judges who park on walkways. For those "judicial parking fetishists" who are totally obsessed with the topic of judges and their parking (and/or parking lot) problems, back in 2006 we provided convenient links to some of our relevant earlier entries. These links may be found in the body of our posting titled Sessions judges ask parking spaces for secretaries.

 In re residency of judges in CA. "A San Bernardino County judicial candidate lists a Grand Terrace address on her election materials -- a rented $182 post office box inside a Mail Mart U.S.A. store. Los Angeles County election records show that Bridgid 'Briye' McCann, 42, lives in San Dimas, about 25 miles west of the Fontana courtroom where she works as a San Bernardino County deputy district attorney. 'Nobody is being deceptive,' said Kimberly Davidson Morgan, McCann's campaign manager. 'Deputy district attorneys are very protective of their addresses'...Unlike other elected offices in San Bernardino County, such as the Board of Supervisors, Superior Court judges hold state-level posts so they can live anywhere in California...." More (Press-Enterprise 03.15.2008).

 Some judges are not familiar with the word 'acquittal.' "'There are judges who are not familiar with the word acquittal. As soon as they see an indictment they can already write the verdict,' says Judge Shelly Timan. 'Once I told a judge on a panel that I saw certain problems with the evidence in the case. I didn't even mention an acquittal. He said, Do you have any idea what they will do to us if we acquit? Timan, 64, retired last week after 27 years on the bench, 13 of them in the Tel Aviv District Court...." More (Haaretz 03.16.2008). Comment. Worth reading in full. Judge Timan also is quoted saying: "When I studied criminal law, I was taught the sanctity of the defendant's rights. Nowadays there are no rights in sex offenses. Anyone who is accused of sex offenses will almost certainly land in prison, his family destroyed. And if, heaven forbid, the accusation is false, that will not help him. That is the atmosphere today. Every acquittal is assailed."

 Justices tell Congress: keep the sun out, pay us a quarter million a year. C.J. Roberts and J. Thomas appeared before a House Appropriations subcommittee asking Congress a) to enact a 30% pay raise -- if they get their way, associate justices will get $267,900 a year and the chief $279,900 (not counting the perks) -- but b) to defeat "the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2007 [S 352 text] which would permit the Supreme Court to televise all open sessions, unless there is a majority vote amongst the justices that coverage in a particular case is determined to be a violation of the due process rights of any party." More (Jurist 03.15.2008). Further reading. a) On judicial pay, see, More on C.J. Roberts' misleading argument for pay raise for federal judges, i) my earlier mini-essay from 01.01.2002 titled I could be making lots more if I were Michael Jordan, along with ii) Ten out of 10 pundits agree: Chief's Report on paltry pay was appalling, and iii) The Chief Justice's annual harangue about his paltry pay. b) I've long publicly advocated greater accountability and transparency by the judiciary, which too often speaks only about the need for judicial independence without mentioning its twin, judicial accountability. See, as a starting place, my 2000 essay titled Judicial Independence and Accountability. With respect to cameras in the court, see, Do we support cameras? There I stated, in part:
It seems to us that surveillance cameras, in the name of security, are everywhere in courthouses except where they are most needed. Surveillance cameras are hidden all over our courthouses these days. But "surveillance" cameras are most needed in the courtrooms, cameras that specifically are needed so that the press, and the people, who own the courthouse, may "suveil" those who are ultimately accountable to the people in the people's pursuit of fair, even-handed, open justice. But we don't just want press cameras in the trial and appellate courtrooms. We want "people's surveillance" cameras.

c) Although I generally advocate "cameras in the courtroom," I think any attempt by Congress to mandate their use is, or ought to be, problematic under the separation-of-powers doctrine. See, Thomas Reed Powell, Vagaries and Varieties in Constitutional Interpretation 25 (1956). Some states (Minnesota is one), but not all, have held that propounding rules of evidence and deciding issues relating to the management of trials, admissibility of evidence, etc., are inherently judicial functions under the applicable state constitutions. SCOTUS, in my opinion, has been too deferential to Congress with respect to certain functions that are inherently judicial, such as propounding evidentiary and other procedural rules for the federal courts.

 Prominent lawyer pleads guilty to conspiracy to bribe judge. "Richard F. Scruggs, the Mississippi lawyer who built a fortune off asbestos litigation and went on to wring billions from cigarette makers,...pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring to bribe a Mississippi state judge...." More (NYT 03.15.2008).

 Judge, out of prison, still maintains his innocence. "[Former Cook County Judge] Thomas J. Maloney[, now 82,] reads books and writes letters, takes walks around the block and spends time with his wife and grandchildren...After serving more than a dozen years in prison for taking bribes to fix murder cases, Maloney still claims his innocence and...maintains that he was a victim of 'overreaching' prosecutors and 'scumbag' witnesses who 'were from the bottom of the barrel'...The charges originally grew out of a federal sting code-named Operation Greylord that led to the conviction of 15 corrupt judges...." More (Chicago Tribune 03.15.2008).

 New gangland weapon is called 'The Judge.' "People in Toronto are talking about a new shotgun-shell-firing revolver called The Judge, saying it could be the next big bad thing in the gangland arsenal. Manufactured by Taurus, a Brazil-based international company, it holds five .45-calibre Colt slugs or .410 shotgun shells and sells for about $500US...." More (Edmonton Sun 03.15.2008).

 A top federal judge is reported linked to prostitution investigation. "One of the country's top federal judges has been linked to an investigation of a Denver-based prostitution ring, according to federal officials. Edward Nottingham, the chief federal judge in Denver, Colo., was 'implicated as a customer' in an ongoing IRS and Denver police investigation of an alleged prostitution operation called Denver Sugar/Denver Players, according to officials...Several 'professional athletes,' lawyers and businessmen are also involved, officials said...." More (ABC News 03.15.2008). Earlier. Chief federal district judge admits he's human, ran up big tab at strip club.

 Stogie-chewing judge to hang -- from wall in old courthouse. The county board in Kane County, ILL has approved the hanging of a portrait of the late stogie-chewing judge, Charles Seidel, in the Old Courthouse in downtown Geneva. Seidel, the 16th Circuit's first chief judge, "always had a cigar in his mouth. Not that he smoked. But [he]...would chew the stogie constantly down to the nub, then discard it toward the nearest garbage can. 'There were stains all around the walls and floors where he missed,' said Kane County Board member Jan Carlson, who worked as a clerk for Seidel and later worked with him as Kane's circuit clerk. 'I never saw him light one.'" More (Courier News 03.15.2008).

 History of political campaign blogging. I was a nonpartisan candidate for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election in November 2000. I began planning my first law blog, BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else, one of the first of the law blogs, in 1999 but delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. My campaign website, the no-longer-extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign weblog, which I believe to be the first such use of a weblog or blog. Because most "web archivers" were not in business in 2000, there has been no web record of that website. For archival purposes and in the public interest, I am reproducing, as near as I can given software changes, the contents of what was VoteHans.Com as it appeared in 2000. Here are the links: Campaign Home Page; Campaign Journal; Earlier Journal Entries; Even Earlier Journal Entries; Earliest Journal Entries; Endorsements and Contributions; Mandatory Retirement of Judges; Judicial Independence and Accountability; Questions and Answers; BRH Speech; Emerson for Judges; Quotations for Judges; MN Const. Art. VI; About BRH.

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

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Adv. -  In response to the "makeover craze" that's sweeping the nation, Klara's Kut 'n' Kurl announces that it will be setting aside Saturdays for judicial makeovers. Many judges, we find, have an image problem in the courtroom. They do not project authority or wisdom or gravitas or experience - whatever. Klara Fribund Kollevitz can help. For example, if you're an obviously-young judge or an older judge cursed with a Dick Klark youthful appearance, Klara can use state-of-the-art aging technology -- Gravi-Tox -- to add gravitas to your look. Judge-appropriate konfidentiality assured. Kall Klara's at Local 536 for a free konsultation.

   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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