The Daily Judge
© 2009 Burton Randall Hanson
      Archives - 02.01.2009 - 02.28.2009
"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 has devoted his entire professional career to the public interest. 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 public interest 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. Dates Captured: September 20, 2001 - December 17, 2001"

Some of our recent postings.  a) Justice Stevens: Why he doesn't attend social functions, etc., at White House. b) SCOMN's timidity about letting the sun shine in on courts. c) Did SCOMN fumble the ball in the U.S. Senate recount case? d) The Minnesota Scariners are at it again, trying to persuade voters to give up their role in judicial selection. e) C.J. Roberts thinks his way to SCOTUS is the best way. f) Competency -- what mandatory retirement takes away, the big law firms restore. g) Held, SCOWIS' overbroad judicial conduct rules violate First Amendment. h) Annals of gender bias in the courts: are they unfair to men? i) Will they save the historic Seneca County, OH courthouse after all? j) Valentine's Day miscellany. k) OMG! Did judge have affair with bailiff? l) 'Anywhere consist this judicial romance.' m) Essential readings on law and love among judges, lawyers, etc. n) SOCWIS's C.J. tops $1 million in fundraising. o) Judge's trunk was harboring a fugitive. p) Judicial speech. q) Caught on tape: judge begging trooper not to arrest him for DWI. r) Virus shuts down Houston municipal courts. s) Judge Joseph and his many-colored robe. t) Annals of judicial transparency: MN board disciplines judge but won't give details. u) Annals of judges and their families. v) The Rumble at the Courthouse. w) Judge is charged with felony harassment. x) Ex-judge is acquitted. y) Quote-of-the-Day. z) Judge is censured for using secretary to do personal chores. aa) Who is policing the judges? bb) Annals of courthouse turf wars. cc) Judge gets reappointed after losing re-election bid. dd) Judge's wife fights off delinquent home invaders. ee) Rick Casey on Judge Samuel Kent's guilty plea. ff) It's raining mice in courtroom. gg) Lawmaker seeks impeachment of top criminal judge. hh) BurtLaw Daily Judge Judicial Courage Award. ii) Court administrator pleads guilty in PA corruption probe. jj) Court's audio-recording practices are questioned. kk) The influence of rabbit judging on the development of Holmes' jurisprudence. ll) Yet another judge is indicted in Mississippi judicial bribery scandal. mm) Annals of judicial relationships. nn) Did judge improperly interfere in cases involving school softball team he helped coach? oo) Judges plead guilty in profiting-from-harsh-juvie-justice scheme. pp) Elephantine courts resist effort to provide public free-and-easy access to public records. qq) Judge with ties to stripper resigns. rr) That 'sinister' object found near courthouse. ss) More courthouse shenanigans. tt) Judge charged with slapping wife told cops wife slapped him first. uu) Two soldiers are charged in shooting/attempted robbery of judge. vv) SCOFLA overrules electorate, bars suspended judge-elect from serving. ww) Annals of courthouse super heroes: judge and bailiff subdue litigant. xx) Crows 'invade' trees around courthouse -- interfering with Justice? yy) Headline-of-the-Day: 'Report Recommends More Discression for Judges in Drug Cases.' zz) Movie with Hilary Swank to be shot at courthouse. aaa) A 'turtle' is defining feature of new federal courthouse. bbb) Taliban gives warning to judges, lawyers: quit or die.

 Judge is charged with felony harassment. "[Michael Hecht, a] Pierce County [WA] Superior Court judge[,] was charged Friday with felony harassment and a misdemeanor count of patronizing a [male] prostitute...." More (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 02.28.2009). Comment. The judge's attorney says he's going to fight the charges and is confident he'll be vindicated. We assume he's innocent (as in presumption of innocence). Read on....

 Ex-judge is acquitted. "[Marcella Lipinski, a] former Cook County judge accused of becoming belligerent and using racial slurs following a south suburban traffic accident[,] has been acquitted of disorderly conduct charges...." More (Chicago Tribune 02.28.2009).

 Quote-of-the-Day. "Try not to let this sordid episode destroy your faith in the integrity of the Massachusetts judicial system. Never forget, it's that 98 percent of the courthouse hacks engaging in dodgy (if not illegal) behavior that give the other 2 percent such a bad name." -- Howie Carr in his column in today's (02.28.2009) Boston Herald, commenting on news that the feds have charged James "Jim" Burke, 41, an $85,000-a-year court clerk in Chelsea with "forcing a hooker to perform oral sex on him in a courtroom in exchange for brooming her case." More (Boston Herald 02.28.2009). Comment. We don't agree with Howie's "stats." But the quote is amusing, nonetheless.

 Judge is censured for using secretary to do personal chores. "The State Commission on Judicial Conduct has censured Monroe County Family Court Judge Dandrea Ruhlmann for repeatedly making her personal secretary perform personal services...." More (MSNBC 02.24.2009). Comment. Anyone with eyes who has worked in government has probably witnessed instances of this. It still goes on but not as much as it used to -- most "bosses" seem to have gotten the message.

 Who is policing the judges? "Who is watching over the judiciary? Why do we give our judges such extraordinary power over our lives and then leave them to police themselves, until and unless they break the law in hideous ways?" Dahlia Lithwick weighs in.... Lest Ye Be Judged -- Does America need protection from its out-of-control judges? (Slate 02.28.2009).

 Annals of courthouse turf wars. "A contentious turf battle is brewing between the state's 67 clerk of circuit court offices and the judiciary, thanks to a legislative proposal that would allow the courts to wrest control of duties performed for decades by elected clerks...." More (St. Petersburg Times 02.28.2009).

 Justice Stevens: Why he doesn't attend social functions, etc., at White House. Justice John Paul Stevens says a) he thinks it inappropriate for new justices to be sworn in at the White House and b) he doesn't attend ceremonies involving SCOTUS at the White House. Inappropriate in what way? "Inappropriate symbolism." More (Google.AP 02.27.2009). Comment. I agree with "J.P.," as those of us in the know call Justice Stevens. I also agree judges should not attend the President's State of the Union address or a governor's state of the state address (and state chief justices ought not bore us with their "state of the judiciary" addresses). Indeed, I'd go a step further than Stevens and recommend that if a SCOTUS justice sees a member of Congress or the Executive Branch approaching on the sidewalk in, say, Georgetown on a Saturday morning, he ought to scurry across the street to avoid improper contact (saying hello, etc.). Should a Justice accept a hypothetical invitation from #44 to play bucketball on the White House court? No -- it would be unseemly to take an elbow from the President and too close to reality to repeatedly block his shots. Plus, for the same reason judges exclude cameras from the courtroom, they ought never let anyone outside "the court family" see them sweat (it breaks the illusion of omnitpotence). Note to literalists: I jest, but only in part. I do agree with Stevens' practice.

 Judge gets reappointed after losing re-election bid. "A judge narrowly ousted in an election mired in controversy soon will be back on the bench through his second governor's appointment. Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced Thursday that William Baillargeon, formerly an Allegan County Circuit Court judge, will fill a vacant district court position...." He lost to new Kevin Cronin in November. Now they'll be fellow judges. More (Grand Rapids Press 02.27.2009). Comment. "Arnold" did the same thing out in California.

 Annals of gender bias in the courts: are they unfair to men? "[A] study, conducted on behalf of the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission, found that Hispanic defendants are given significantly higher fees and fines than white defendants. It also found that defendants who take their cases to trial instead of pleading guilty face steeper fines...The report [also] indicates [that m]en are given higher court fees and fines than women[, d]rug convictions result in higher fees and fines than violent felony convictions[, and...] court fees var[y] tremendously by county...." More (Seattle Times 02.25.2009). Comment. The results don't surprise me.

 Judge's wife fights off delinquent home invaders. "Ellen Basinski[, 70,] usually leaves dealing with juvenile delinquents to her husband, Lorain County Family Court Judge David Basinski. But on Tuesday afternoon, the judge's wife took matters into her own hands and fended off four would-be robbers who forced their way into her Columbus Street home...." Ms. Basinski called the judge when she spotted the four juvies acting suspiciously outside their house and was talking with him on the phone when they forced their way in. He called 911 and assembled a "posse" who drove to the house. Meanwhile, Ms. Basinski beaned one of the four with an Emeril Lagasse-brand cooking pan, causing another one of them to throw a bottle at her, hitting her on the leg. The boys fled on foot but were caught as hubby and fellow posse members arrived. More (Chronicle-Telegram 02.25.2009).

 Rick Casey on Judge Samuel Kent's guilty plea. "You may have thought the Judge Sam soap opera was over when he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice Monday and his lawyer announced in open court that he was retiring. It's not. Federal judges such as Samuel Kent, who is 59, can't retire until they are 65. They can only resign. With one exception: If a judge is permanently disabled and incapable of performing his duties, he can ask the president for early retirement...." -- Rick Casey's column (Houston Chronicle 02.25.2009). Comment. Apparently if a federal judge leaves the bench before he turns 65, he gets no pension, unless he's disabled, but if he waits until 65 he gets 100% of his salary at the time of retirement. I wasn't aware of this crazy no-pension provision or of the disability exception. According to Casey, the columnist, and a news story in the Chronicle, Kent will be asking the chief judge of the 5th circuit to certify that he's disabled on the ground he's been receiving psychiatric treatment for three years, etc. The Chronicle news story also reports that a leading congressman reportedly is seeking to impeach Kent.

 SCOMN's timidity about letting the sun shine in on courts. Earlier this month, on 02.12, SCOMN filed an order taking at most a very timid first step toward joining the many other states allowing cameras in the courtroom by authorizing a non-funded "pilot project." Justice Page made it clear in dissent he opposed even that. He says the news media tends to sensationalize and over-cover crimes committed by black people and other people of color, unfairly putting them in a bad light, and that allowing cameras will only exacerbate the problem. In his view, opening courts to cameras "will do nothing to assist in the elimination of racial bias from our judicial system and will, in fact, exacerbate the problem." Moreover, cameras won't promote participation by witnesses and victims and won't assist in ensuring fair trials. Comment.  Sadly, by its timid decision, SCOMN has underlined what I've been saying publicly since 2000, that it's good at faux openness but not at the real thing. What I wrote in 2007 specifically on cameras in the courts bears reprinting here:

 Minnesota is again asked to let the sun shine in on courtrooms, trials. "Media lawyer Mark Anfinson has petitioned the [Minnesota] Supreme Court for a rule change to allow video and photos to be taken in courtrooms. The court has sent the request to an advisory committee. Times have changed since the idea was shot down in the 1990s, Anfinson argues. For one thing, recording and photo technology is less obtrusive today. For another, other states have not experienced the problems that were foreseen here. And only a few states limit recording and photo devices as Minnesota does, Anfinson said...." More (Minneapolis Star-Tribune 08.05.2007). Comment. I hate to say it, because I love the institution of the Minnesota Supreme Court, which I served loyally as a trusted aide for nearly 30 years, but in recent years the ideas that have come out of the court (and in some cases followed by foolishly by courts in other states) haven't been ones we Minnesotans ought to be proud of, ideas that include:

     a) faux openness in the form of "community outreach" programs (such as taking the court on the road, what one justice described after leaving the court as "a dog and pony show");
     b) stifling the free speech of lawyers (like myself) who have had the audacity to do what the MN Constitution contemplates, run for judicial office (an anti-free-speech policy that SCOTUS decided was unconstitutional, a decision that in turn has met only grudging acceptance from the SCOMN);
     c) enthusiastically approved, in a terribly flawed decision, mandatory retirement of judges at age 70, a policy I began publicly criticizing in an essay in 2000 (a policy that is increasingly being seen by enlightened reformers for what it is, unjustified, antidemocratic, invidious discrimination);
     d) setting the national trend of requiring judges and lawyers to take, in partial fulfillment of their mandatory continuing education requirement, courses on eliminating gender, racial, and cultural bias/discrimination (but not age discrimination, see c), above) in the courtroom, a requirement that, although perhaps well-intended, in practice has had the effect of, as one commentator (Katherine Kersten) put it, "seek[ing] to dictate how lawyers think about complex political and moral questions" and has amounted to, as another commentator (Walter Olson) put it, instituting a "compulsory chapel" requirement;
     e) directly or indirectly encouraging the movement to deprive voters of their historic right to directly elect judges (the tried-and-true Minnesota Plan) and replace it with the plan long favored mostly by college political science professors, the commission plan with its yes-or-no style retention elections (the so-called Missouri Plan, which many in Missouri, which doesn't have a judiciary with near as fine a history as Minnesota's, are now saying isn't working and ought to be replaced) (see, my comments and many embedded links on both the Minnesota Plan and the Missouri Plan at Annals of judicial selection);
     f) spending taxpayer dollars to hire a court public information officer (a/k/a "p.r." person);
     g) inaugurating the "tradition" of the annual "state of the judiciary" speech (one of the sadder of many primarily "p.r." developments in appellate courts in recent years);
     h) shooting down ideas such as letting press cameras into the courtroom, ideas that would lead to greater real (as opposed to faux) openness and accountability.

 Do we support cameras? Yes. 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. As a starter, we believe that the U.S. Supreme Court (and all state supreme courts and federal appellate courts) ought to allow videotaping and live but unobtrusive TV coverage of all oral appellate arguments. Indeed, we believe these courts need to provide Internet video and audio streaming of arguments, both "live" and in archived form. More. Gratifyingly, some courts, including the MN Supreme Court, have taken this first step. Eventually, as costs come down, stationary webcams could be placed in all public courtrooms with internet video and audio streaming of all trial court sessions.
     Why do courts resist such ideas? Perhaps because it's human nature to resist changes. A great example of enlightened change in MN that at first was resisted took place back in 1994 when I was working at the supreme court. That was when the court, in the historic decision in State v. Scales, 518 N.W.2d 587 (Minn 1994), exercising its inherent judicial supervisory power, under the separation-of-powers doctrine, to insure the fair administration of the criminal justice system, prospectively ruled: a) that all custodial interrogation of a crime suspect -- including the giving of information about rights, the obtaining of any waiver of those rights, and all questioning -- must be electronically recorded when feasible or when the interrogation occurs at a so-called place of detention, and b) that suppression of statements made in response to interrogation is required if the violation of the recording rule is substantial under the surrounding circumstances. The Scales decision served three main purposes (as well as many other important ones). It served the prophylactic purpose of helping to ensure police comply with Miranda and other constitutional restrictions on police investigative techniques, thus benefiting at least arrestees. It also dramatically reduced the need for extensive pretrial evidentiary hearings to resolve suppression issues of a factual nature (and also provided an accurate record for appellate review), thus benefiting the entire court system. Finally, it gave prosecutors a persuasive record of defendants' confessions for use at trial, at least when the confessions were obtained during custodial interrogation. I've discussed this decision in great depth at BurtLaw's CaseLaw. Notably, for our purposes, when the court first released the decision, police officers and prosecutors literally howled like Chicken Little that the sky had fallen. Among the common fears was that police use of recorders would inhibit suspects and decrease the likelihood of obtaining statements. A year later these same officers were trumpeting the virtues of the case. Indeed, one St. Paul homicide detective has been quoted as saying, undoubtedly with some hyperbole, that the Scales decision is the best thing that ever happened to him. Not only were the officers trumpeting the virtues of the case, they found it was to their advantage to go beyond the requirements. Thus, now, many intelligently-run police departments in Minnesota routinely provide their officers with portable recorders for use in the field, thereby increasing the likelihood that in the future reasonable judges will be skeptical of any claim that recording of interrogation in the field was not feasible. Moreover, these same police departments have made it a practice to regularly record, often on videotape or on digital video media, all station house interrogations, custodial or not.
     What the court did in Scales was make the sun shine in on police interrogations. Everyone benefited. What the court needs to realize is that our entire justice system will benefit if the sun is allowed to shine in on courts as well. Further reading. See, in general, my 2000 essay titled BurtLaw on Judicial Independence and Accountability. Update. "In a state that has long prided itself on openness in government, it is a sad comment that one branch of government, a branch that should be consumer-oriented, is not only fearful of scrutiny, but is able to insulate itself from public accountability...." - From a fine op/ed piece by Bryan Leary, a public defender and outstanding former law clerk at the MN Supreme Court. More (Star-Tribune 08.16.2007).

 Did SCOMN fumble the ball in the U.S. Senate recount case? That's not only our view but the view of prominent constitutional law scholar Michael Stokes Paulsen, who is a law professor at the University of St. Thomas Law School and a former associate dean at the U. of M. Law School. His views were expressed first in an op/ed piece in the Wall Street Journal. Over the weekend, the piece was republished in the St. Paul paper. More (St. Paul Pioneer-Press 02.22.2009). For those of you who haven't read the court's 3-2 decision in the case, Coleman v. Ritchie, here's a link (PDF). Paulsen's views generally track those of the dissenters, Justices Alan Page and Paul Anderson.

 The Minnesota Scariners are at it again, trying to persuade voters to give up their role in judicial selection. I see by our local rags that the self-styled "reformers" and "good government types" are over at the MN legislature again using scare tactics in trying to get the legislators to ask the voters to give up their historic role in judicial selection and turn selection over entirely to an elite screening commission and the governor. The members of the elite commission will be picked by judges and other politicians and by bar leaders. For each judicial vacancy they will provide the governor with names of a few lawyers who are acceptable to them. The governor will then be required to appoint one of those lawyers to fill the vacancy. Eventually, perhaps sooner rather than later, the promoters of this drastic break with Minnesota tradition probably will get their way; but as readers of The Daily Judge know, for many, many reasons, I hope they don't get their way. Here's a reprint of one of many of our relevant postings, this from last November:

ABA Chief, a 'Bamian, decries AL's judicial elections, seeks 'summit.' "The president of the American Bar Association[, Thomas Wells, Jr. of Birmingham,] says enormously expensive judicial races, like this year's $5 million slugfest for a Supreme Court seat in his home state of Alabama, threaten the public's confidence in the judicial system...At his request, the bar association is urging judicial, legislative and executive branch officials from each state to gather in Charlotte, N.C., in May for a summit...." More (Boston Herald 11.09.2008). Comments. Note the generalizing from the specific. In logic, it's called the "myth of central position." Because the sky is falling in his home state, Mr. Little -- er, Wells -- thinks the sky is falling everywhere. Alabama may have a problem. I won't presume to tell my friends there how to run their show. But have you noticed how many times the folks who are arguing for "reform" in MN have to cite bad elections in other states? Instead of saying the sky is falling here, which simply isn't true, they say it likely will be falling soon unless we adopt the "reforms" they've proposed. What are the "reforms" they trot out? Same old, same old -- i.e., the plan beloved by college political science profs, the Missouri Plan (or, as I call it, the Ozark State Plan), the one Missouri saw fit to adopt to counteract the corrupt machine politics of our old friend from political science horror stories, Boss Pendergast. We, of course, don't have a Boss Pendergast in MN. And there are a few other teensy-weensy problems with their arguments. First, if our system is so in need of emulating that of the Ozark State, how come our state supreme court has been rated #5 in the U.S. and Missouri's #47? See, SCOMN #5, SCOMO #47 -- so let's adopt the Missouri Plan? (The Daily Judge 03.11.2008). Second, why are so many Missouri folks pushing to change or abandon the MO Plan? Third, why is it that despite the Chicken Little warnings, our judicial elections in MN continue to be clean? (What'd the candidates in the two mildly-contested SCOMN elections spend [in 2008] -- a combined total maybe of $1.98?) My view is that the one thing that leads to big spending on state supreme court elections in other states is the perception by either business (the chamber of commerce types) or labor (trial lawyers, the plaintiff's bar, etc.) that the decisions are out of balance. That can happen if the legislature blows it by unfairly favoring one side in its legislation or if the court stretches legislation by interpreting it unfairly to favor one side or the other. Hey, it hasn't happened here, and I see no signs it will. Moreover, the Ozark State Plan doesn't take politics out of judicial selection any more than the MN Plan has prevented Andersen, LeVander, Anderson, Quie, Pawlenty, Perpich or Carlson from appointing their pals or supporters. What the tried-and-true MN Plan does is provide a "check" (as in "hockey check") on the governor. Specifically, if the governor goes too far one way or the other and appoints incompetent or biased judges, public-spirited attorneys may come forward and challenge the incumbents, giving the voters a real choice (which they don't get in the fake one-candidate Soviet-style "retention" elections provided by the Ozark State Plan [proposed by the "reformers"]). Further reading. Why SCOMN's novice chief should listen to SCOWIS's more experienced chief (The Daily Judge 06.18.2008); Strib. urges longer terms for judges, no role for voters in their selection (The Daily Judge 02.05.2008); Election of judges as a check on corruption and as guarantor of judicial independence from other branches of government (The Daily Judge 04.01.2008); The Return of the Ancient Mariner -- or is it Minnesota Scariner? (The Daily Judge 04.06.2008); 'Reality check' on Missouri-Plan 'merit' selection commissions (The Daily Judge 08.23.2008); 'If you want to become a judge, go to law school with a senator' (The Daily Judge 04.01.2008); Annals of cronyism: MN's Pawlenty appoints another colleague to bench (The Daily Judge 06.25.2008); Gail Chang Bohr wins election to open seat on district court in MN (The Daily Judge 11.05.2008).

 C.J. Roberts thinks his way to SCOTUS is the best way. "Over the life of the Supreme Court, its members were quite likely to be former governors, legislators, cabinet members, law professors and practicing lawyers. That mix of backgrounds and expertise might strike some as valuable, but the chief justice suggested that it tended to inject policy and politics into an area properly reserved for the law." Now, "[f]or the first time in its history, every a former federal appeals court judge," and C.J. Roberts says he thinks that's, as Martha Stewart might say, a good thing. Why? He says the old way "tended to inject policy and politics into an area properly reserved for the law." More (NYT 02.17.2009). Comment. The NYT piece, by Adam Liptak, cites a soon-to-be-published study by some law/polisci profs that contradicts the Chief's opinion. According to that study, "Former appellate court judges are no more likely to follow precedent or to put aside their policy preferences than are justices lacking judicial experience." And another law prof is quoted citing psychological studies suggesting that "the more homogenous the group, the worse the quality of the decisions they make." And he quotes Justice Frankfurter as saying that "The correlation between prior judicial experience and fitness for the functions of the Supreme Court is zero." I like best FF's quote. It's my observation that FF forgot more about judging than Roberts, who couldn't even administer the Presidential oath of office without botching it, will ever know. But my views on this are well known to readers of The Daily Judge. Among my mini-essays on this, see, a) A farraginous supreme court ("My ideal state or federal 'final' appellate court would involve, as 'Sir T. Browne' (whoever the heck he was) put it, 'A farraginous concurrence of all conditions, tempers, sexes, and ages'"), and b) Burtlaw on Pied beauty, pied lawns, pied dogs, pied politics [and pied judges]. (BurtonHanson.Com - entry dated Sunday, 05.08.2005 - scroll down). BTW, I originally got the word "farraginous" to describe my ideal final appellate court from the late Austin Wehrwein (1916-2008), a Pultizer-Prize-winning journalist who wrote literate editorials for many years for the once-fine Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Back in, I think, the 1970's he wrote an op/ed piece titled "Our farraginous supreme court," describing the varied backgrounds & views of the then members of the Minnesota Supreme Court. I served the public as a trusted confidential aide at that ever-changing court for over 28 years, under six different chief justices and many more associate justices. They were indeed a farraginous lot. "What in the hell are you saying about them -- were they perverted?" No, "farraginous" does not -- should not -- denote or connote perversion in this context. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) defines the word as follows:

Farraginous \Far*rag*i*nous\, a. [See {Farrago}.] Formed of various materials; mixed; as, a farraginous mountain. [R.] -- Kirwan. A farraginous concurrence of all conditions, tempers, sexes, and ages. -- Sir T. Browne.

There never has been such a thing as "the" Minnesota Supreme Court. Every time a seven- or nine-member "final" appellate court loses & adds a member, it becomes a different court. My favorite & my vote for "best" of the many, many Minnesota Supreme Courts I observed up-close-&-personal was one in the days just before & after the creation of the intermediate appellate court, the Minnesota Court of Appeals, i.e., when the supreme court still consisted of nine, not seven, members. It was "best," I think, because it was "least homogenous" & "most farraginous" of all the courts I observed. It's too bad that the ideal SCOTUS of too many recent Republican Presidents seems to be one only with members whose opinions on various issues he believes he can predict with considerable certainty.

 Competency -- what mandatory retirement takes away, the big law firms restore. "After 25 years as a New York judge, the last 15 of them as the state's chief, Judith S. Kaye will return to private practice, joining the corporate law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.The hiring of Ms. Kaye is a coup for Skadden, one of the nation's biggest law firms...Last year Ms. Kaye reached the court's mandatory retirement age of 70." More (NYT 02.18.2009). Comment. "While in each case the law mandatorily presumes retirement is necessary, in many cases 'the market' doesn't agree -- thus, for example, we have observed case after case of retiring 69- or 70-year-old chief justices finding presumably lucrative extended employment with private law firms, law firms that presumably are not in the business of charitably hiring lawyers who are no longer competent." -- From BurtLaw on Mandatory Retirement of Judges, a widely-relied upon position paper opposing mandatory retirement of judges that I first published in 2000.

 Lawmaker seeks impeachment of top criminal judge. "State Rep. Lon Burnam filed a resolution Monday calling for the impeachment of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' presiding judge, who in 2007 refused to extend the court's business hours while a condemned inmate's attorneys prepared an appeal. Michael Richard was executed Sept. 25, 2007, after Presiding Judge Sharon Keller closed the court at 5 p.m. despite his attorneys' request that the court stay open an extra 20 minutes...." More (Fort Worth Star-Telegram 02.17.2009). Earlier. Business as usual in Texas? (The Daily Judge 10.04.2007). Update. TX board files complaint against Judge Keller (Houston Chronicle 02.20.2009) (the link is to another good -- and really quite devastating -- column by the Chronicle's Rick Casey).

 It's raining mice in courtroom. "Of mice and men, there are tales aplenty at the Palm Beach County Courthouse. Mice falling from ceiling tiles, scuttling down corridors, munching papers and potato chips -- so many sightings that some staffers check their handbags for stowaways before leaving the building each day. Last week, a mouse scampered around a courtroom in the midst of a burglary trial. Circuit Judge Krista Marx contained her yelps as the critter roamed for an hour. Thank goodness the verdict ended up being a not guilty, she said...." More (Palm Beach Post 02.19.2009).

 BurtLaw Daily Judge Judicial Courage Award. "A Philadelphia judge has angered police officials by objecting to memorial photos of a slain officer in his courtroom, which doubles as a police roll-call room...Municipal Judge Craig Washington says the display is inappropriate when court is in session. When police refused to remove the pictures, Washington turned them face down...." The police want the judge transferred. The "president judge" has backed up Judge Washington. More (Evening-Sun 02.18.2009). Comment. The judge is right; the police are wrong. If a multi-purpose room in a public building is used by police one day and the judiciary the next, the judiciary has the authority and duty to make sure the room's atmosphere is judicial when court is in session.

 Held, SCOWIS' overbroad judicial conduct rules violate First Amendment. "U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb has upheld the free speech rights of judges. Crabb's decision (PDF) in Siefert v. Alexander found the state Supreme Court Rules prohibiting judges from engaging in political speech were unconstitutional...." More (Wisconsin Law Journal 02.18.2009). Comment. Sadly, the legal community's response to the U.S. Supreme Court's "judicial free-speech decision" in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002), and to its application by the 8th Circuit has been and continues to be, as Attorney Greg Wersal put it, "nearly hysterical." Obviously, the legal community's crabbed, grudging "compliance" is not in the same category as "the South's" post-Civil War reliance on doctrines of interposition and nullification in response to the Civil Rights Laws and Brown v. Bd. of Education, although I must admit the comparison has occurred to me. See, MN's 'establishment' still upset by S. Ct.'s judicial free speech decisions (The Daily Judge 07.19.2006). Further reading. Here are hyper-links to some of my critical entries relating to the Minnesota legal community's negative response to the U.S. Supreme Court's "judicial free-speech decision" in the White case: SCOTUS declines review of USCA's case on judicial campaigns -- Speaking of the MN judicial system... -- MN. Supreme Court reversed again on free speech -- Free speech is a 'bad idea'?

 Annals of judges and their families. "[Alexander Karpov, t]he deputy head of the Russian Supreme Court[,] has resigned after his son was arrested on suspicion of accepting a bribe from a suspect due to face trial...The judge, who oversees criminal cases, said he had not seen his son for five years and denied any impropriety...." More (BBC News 02.18.2009).

 The Rumble at the Courthouse. "A bloody feud between two uptown gangs spread downtown today when a wild melee erupted outside a Manhattan courtroom. Shooting victim Stephon Isaac had just finished testifying in an attempted murder trial when rivals pounced on him outside Courtroom 1111 at the Manhattan criminal courthouse. Officers rushed out of other courtrooms as more than 20 supporters of the two crews -- II Deep and Money Stacked High -- screamed and lunged at each other...." More (NY Daily News 02.17.2009). Comment. Sounds like a scene out of West Side Story 2.

 Will they save the historic Seneca County, OH courthouse after all? Looks like it. See, Almost too good to be true (Advertiser-Tribune 02.17.2009). Comment. We hope this is true. We've railed against the plans to tear down this historic courthouse. See, my extended comments on historic preservation at The failed campaign to save a historic courthouse from demolition (The Daily Judge 03.05.2008).

 Court administrator pleads guilty in PA corruption probe. "For a decade, Luzerne County Court Administrator William Sharkey used his position to steal money from county coffers, federal authorities say. On Tuesday it took him less than 20 minutes to admit to the crime...." More (Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader 02.17.2009).

 Court's audio-recording practices are questioned. "The chief judge of [FLA's] Tenth Judicial District Court...Judge J. David Langford said he will review the practice of having a back-up audio recording running continuously in courtrooms, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every work day, even when the court is in recess or not in session. Concerns have been raised whether the back-up recordings capture private conversations, particularly the privileged attorney-client communications...." More (Tampa Tribune 02.14.2009).

 Rabbit judging and the Rule of Law. Cindi Hinton has an interesting column in the Dallas Small Farm Examiner (02.15.2009) explaining some of the various terms used by rabbit judges in commenting on rabbits. She says that most contestants "are afraid to talk to a judge" but suggests that judges "are really nice people and if you have a question wait until the end of the class, show them your rabbit and comment card and ask away! Almost all judges are more than willing to explain their comments to help you better understand how to make your bunny better." One of the terms she explains is "chuffy," which she says means "beefy or fleshy around the shoulders and neck." Comment. If few legal aficionados know anything about Justice Holmes' background in "The Dance" (specifically, the world of tap dance) and its contribution to his jurisprudence, even fewer are aware that Holmes' interest in judging began with his childhood summer experiences tending the family's rabbits at Beverly Farms on the North Shore (Cape Ann) of MA. It was during professionally-judged rabbit competitions (the equivalent of today's 4-H competitions) that he first became interested in judging, and it was later as an apprentice or junior rabbit competition judge that he first experienced the joys of judging. Not surprisingly, given his love of the trope, his rabbit judging experiences provided him with a wealth of rabbit metaphors that he repeatedly used with laser precision in his nasty intra-court battles with his fuddy-duddy colleagues -- who, not surprisingly, had no idea what he was talking about when he used rabbit metaphors to deride them. Guess which one he referred to as "chuffy"? Further reading. a) Horror in the courtroom -- or the Ghost of Justice Holmes teaches John Roberts a thing or two; b) The unknown Holmes - or tap dancing & the law, at BurtLaw's Law & Justice Holmes.

 Yet another judge is indicted in Mississippi judicial bribery scandal. Judge Bobby DeLaughter, a hero in the civil rights struggle in Mississippi, has been charged in a federal indictment arising out of the bribery investigation there involving notorious plaintiffs' lawyer Richard Scruggs, who is now serving time in the federal pen. "Prosecutors say that in the incestuous, everybody-knows-everybody world of the Mississippi Bar, Judge DeLaughter carried coziness just a bit too far," specifically, in meeting ex parte with his old boss, a man allegedly paid $1 to influence the judge in those ex parte conversations. More (NYT 02.14.2009). The judge, whom we presume is innocent, apparently is well-loved in his community. See, this piece in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger (02.14.2009). Earlier. Latest on allegations of judicial bribery in Mississippi (The Daily Judge 01.18.2008).

 Annals of judicial relationships. "A federal judge who early last month threw out massive litigation against Medtronic Inc. didn't disclose that his son's law firm has long had the medical-device maker as a client. Judge Richard H. Kyle of the federal district court in Minneapolis said in an interview that he didn't realize the firm, Fredrikson & Byron, had represented the Minneapolis medical-device maker. Judge Kyle's son, Richard H. Kyle Jr., is a partner with the firm, which has represented Medtronic on multibillion-dollar deals...." More (WSJ 02.13.2009). Comment. We presume the good judge is telling the truth.

 Did judge improperly interfere in cases involving school softball team he helped coach? "A Nebraska county court judge[, Kent Florom,] has been accused of trying to influence cases involving a coach and a player on a softball team the judge helped coach...[The complaint] alleges Florom improperly involved himself in the case of Sharon Kramer, a North Platte teacher and softball coach accused of stealing from a high school booster club concession stand, and a softball player who was facing other criminal charges...." More (Sioux City Journal 02.14.2009). Comment. I couldn't find the complaint on the judicial disqualification commission's pretty bad website, but the above-linked article contains a detailed summary.

 Judges plead guilty in profiting-from-harsh-juvie-justice scheme. "[O]n Thursday...[Judge] Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., and a colleague, Michael T. Conahan, appeared in federal court in Scranton, Pa., to plead guilty to wire fraud and income tax fraud for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers...While prosecutors say that Judge Conahan, 56, secured contracts for the two centers to house juvenile offenders, Judge Ciavarella, 58, was the one who carried out the sentencing to keep the centers filled. 'In my entire career, I've never heard of anything remotely approaching this,' said Senior Judge Arthur E. Grim, who was appointed by the State Supreme Court this week to determine what should be done with the estimated 5,000 juveniles who have been sentenced by Judge Ciavarella since the scheme started in 2003. Many of them were first-time offenders and some remain in detention...." More (NYT 02.13.2009). Comments. a) Judge Grim, who in his entire life "never heard of anything remotely approaching this," apparently is not one of our readers. For our postings of several years ago relating to the prosecution of a traffic court judge who engaged in an analogous scheme, see, Caught on tape, judge pleads guilty, awaits sentencing; Ex-judge says wife's affair with woman left him distraught; Ex-judge pleads guilty to extortion; Judge to plead guilty in extortion case, resign; Judge charged in diversion program kickback scheme. b) What to do? Well, it's obvious. The sentences of those 5,000 juveniles are presumptively null and void. It's up to the state prosecutors to prove otherwise, if they can. And many of the kids arguably have claims -- certainly moral and maybe legal -- for big-time monetary compensation. Update. Two judges in kickback scheme are sued (Boston Globe 02.14.2009). Related. More courthouse shenanigans (The Daily Judge 02.04.2009).

 Elephantine court system resists effort to provide public free-and-easy access to public records. "[F]or [people] searching for federal court decisions, briefs and other legal papers, there is no Google. Instead, there is...the government-run Public Access to Court Electronic Records system designed in the bygone days of screechy telephone modems. Cumbersome, arcane and not free, it is everything that Google is not. Recently, however, a small group of dedicated open-government activists teamed up to push the court records system into the 21st century-- by simply grabbing enormous chunks of the database and giving the documents away, to the great annoyance of the government...." More (NYT 02.13.2009). Comment. The site to visit is WWW.Public.Resource.Org.

 Judge with ties to stripper resigns. "Judge Thomas E. Stringer Jr., accused of having financial dealings with a Las Vegas stripper and under investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission, resigned Tuesday from the 2nd District Court of Appeals...." More (Tampa Tribune 02.11.2009).

 That 'sinister' object found near courthouse. "The Des Moines police bomb squad found itself plunged into an investigation into what authorities say was a sinister looking object found outside the Iowa Judicial Building.The object was found by a state trooper about 4 a.m. Sunday. Officials say the object was ball-shaped with something sticking out of it. It turned out to be a toilet tank float ball...." More (Chicago Tribune 02.09.2009). Further reading. Security beefed up at Cedar Rapids Public Library (The Onion 10.02.2001) (reporting on Cedar Rapids, Iowa Library Director Glenda Quarles' expression of concerns about foreign terrorists attacking their library: "As caretakers of the most prominent public building in the second largest city in Iowa, this library can no longer afford to take chances"); Does courthouse hot dog stand present grave security risk? (The Daily Judge 12.12.2008); Clarke County, AL courthouse is insured against attack by foreigners (The Daily Judge 12.29.2005).

 Valentine's Day miscellany.

 OMG! Did judge have affair with bailiff? "A state committee on judicial conduct has filed an ethics complaint against a Jersey City Municipal Court judge [Wilson J. Campbell] after a bailiff working in his courtroom overdosed following the breakup of their "intimate relationship," officials said...." More (Jersey Journal 02.09.2009).

 'Anywhere consist this judicial romance.' "The inventions, petrols, and speculations are all intellectual and silly. Every equal intense spectacle admits voltages contrary to Tariq's hollow migration. My annual blue won't stay before I store it...." From a newsgroup posting titled 'anywhere consist this judicial romance' (WWW.Derkeiler.Com). Comment. What does this mean? I think it's encrypted writing but I'm not sure. Anyhow, Happy Valentine's Day to all who are experiencing the trials and tribulations of Judicial Romance. As Anna sang in the musical, The Judge and I, "Hello, judge lovers, wherever you are...."

 Essential readings on law and love among judges, lawyers, etc. For links to some of our many postings on Judicial romance, see, Annals of Judicial Romance: Lawyers for death-row inmate allege judge-prosecutor affair. On the related subject of Judges and internet and computer-match dating, see, a) Annals of judicial cyber-dating and 'judicial hellholes.' b) Annals of judicial cyber-dating, part II. c) Annals of judicial cyber-dating, part III -- Which judge named to Supreme Court was a computer dating pioneer? d) Annals of judicial internet dating. On the subject of Options for a lovelorn judge, see our extensive comments at a) Judge publicly admonished for 'inappropriate' relationship with employee and b) Commission says judges can't socialize with courthouse hoi polloi. More on judicial romance. a) Internet-dating judge resigns. b) Annals of Judicial Romance. c) Valentine's Day links. d) Want another post-Valentine's Day downer? e) Judge scolded for romance with lawyer. f) Annals of judicial romance revisited. g) Judge resigns and prosecutor is fired over 'romantic relationship.'

 SOCWIS's C.J. tops $1 million in fundraising. "Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson's campaign for re-election today announced that it has raised $245,466 in contributions in January...." The total raised to date is $1,068,070.84. More (Wisconsin Politics - Press Release 02.09.2009). Further reading. Why SCOMN's novice chief should listen to SCOWIS's more experienced chief (The Daily Judge 06.18.2008); SCOWIS' Chief leads the way -- herein of experienced judges, judicial elections and judicial independence (The Daily Judge 04.05.2008). Update. Convicted cop killer endorses C.J. Abrahamson's opponent. "In a letter from prison, notorious cop killer Ted Oswald is endorsing Judge Randy Koschnick's candidacy for the Wisconsin Supreme Court...against Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson...." More (MSNBC 02.15.2009).

 Judge's trunk was harboring a fugitive. "A Michigan judge says he's learned a lesson about locking his car doors after a 16-year-old prisoner who escaped from a holding cell at the Macomb County courthouse was found inside his trunk...Sheriff's deputies searched about an hour before a security officer became suspicious after seeing a picture on the ground next to the judge's 2002 Lincoln Continental. A deputy found the boy in the trunk. Macomb County Circuit Judge Peter Maceroni says the teen likely opened the trunk of the unlocked car with an interior button...." More (Chicago Tribune 02.07.2009). Comment. Could the judge on these facts be prosecuted for harboring a fugitive in his car? No. Take, for example, illegal drugs found by police in the trunk of one's car. The law insists not just on mere physical possession to convict a car owner of criminally possessing illegal drugs in her car. Specifically, it insists on knowing and intentional possession. And no, one can't presume knowledge and intent from mere physical possession/ownership of the car. (One sometimes can infer it, however, from the circumstances surrounding and accompanying the physical possession.) The same is true in regard to harboring (or "possessing") a fugitive in one's car -- the law would require more than discovery of a fugitive in one's trunk to support a harboring conviction.

 Judicial speech. "Racially charged comments Solomon Osborne made in 2006 to the Greenwood Voters League were protected free speech and he should not be punished for making them, according to three Mississippi Supreme Court justices. The majority of the court, however, voted last week to have the former Leflore County judge publicly reprimanded for the comments. 'Osborne's speech, offensive though it was, constitutes protected political speech and this court, in my view, is powerless to punish him for it,' Justice Jess Dickinson wrote in a dissenting opinion...Osborne, who is black, told the Voters League crowd in 2006, 'White folks don't praise you unless you're a damn fool. Unless they think they can use you. If you have your own mind and know what you're doing, they don't want you around.'" More (Greenwood Commonwealth 02.07.2009). Comment. The dissenters, of course, are right.

 Caught on tape: judge begging trooper not to arrest him for DWI. "A Warren County judge accused of drunken driving berated the state trooper who pulled him over, according to video footage shot by police. The arrest took place in October, but recently released videotape showed Common Pleas Court Judge James Heath urging the trooper not to arrest him...." More (MSNBC 02.07.2009).

 Virus shuts down Houston municipal courts. "Houston shut down part of its municipal court operations Friday, cancelling hearings and suspending arrests for minor offenses after a computer virus infected hundreds of its machines...The compromise of the city networks dealt another blow to the municipal court computer system, which has been beset by problems [since] it went live in April 2006. The $10 million effort by Maximus Inc. to bring the court's activities online was immediately troublesome to judges, clerks and prosecutors and delayed court proceedings in 2006. After threatening litigation, the city reached a $5 million settlement with Maximus and may seek another vendor...." More (Houston Chronicle 02.07.2009).

 Judge Joseph and his many-colored robe. "In Broward County, Judge Kathleen Ireland wears green, of course. Judge Steven Shutter opts for blue. Judge Jeffrey Streitfeld has a taste for traditional puffy bell sleeves and Judge Ilona Holmes often accessorizes her robe with a traditional African kente-cloth stole. But for the majority, tradition reigns...[F]or Shutter, there's logic behind his blue robe. 'Black is too severe,' he said. In County Court he presides over small-claims cases and wants litigants at ease. 'So I went to blue, blue being a calmer color, hopefully a more user-friendly color. I want people to talk to me. I don't want people to be scared.'" From an interesting piece on robing trends among judges in South Florida (South Florida Sun-Sentinel 02.06.2009). Further reading. Here are links to only a few of our essential postings dealing with judicial and courtroom fashions: a) Annals of Courthouse Fashion, part I: Another judge tries instituting courthouse dress code. b) Courthouse Fashion, part II: The Viking influence on judicial fashions. c) Courthouse Fashion, part III: Judges voice objection to some lawyers' attire. d) On judicial swimsuits & the Rules of Judicial Conduct. e) Judge-endorsed BurtLaw Bench Pants. f) BurtLaw Super-Privacy Robes. g) Durham courts follow lead of NBA. h) Judge Hlophe speaks out on courtroom dress & decorum. i) Contemptuous courtroom attire? j) What's so bad about shorts & tube tops in courtroom? k) A nostalgic look back at another instance of judicial stickling. l) Judges allowed to go bare-headed during U.K. heat wave. m) Should you beware of a judge who dresses up as a clown or Santa Claus? (scroll down). n) Judicial style -- herein of lime green suits.

 Annals of judicial transparency: MN board disciplines judge but won't give details. "A judge in Dakota County was reprimanded Thursday for behaving disrespectfully in court. But the agency issuing the discipline isn't saying exactly what Judge Richard Spicer said to get himself in trouble...." More (Star-Tribune 02.06.2009). Comment. It's the 21st Century. We're talking about public matters, and in such matters our society's default position ought to be "Let the sun shine in." See, "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). If the board believes there are grounds justifying discipline, then it ought to tell us -- and tell it straight -- what those grounds are.

 More courthouse shenanigans. "Luzerne County Court Administrator William T. Sharkey Sr....has agreed to plead guilty to pocketing more than $70,000 seized in illegal gambling cases over 10 years, federal prosecutors said Tuesday. Mr. Sharkey is the third high-ranking court official snared in a wide-ranging, ongoing federal probe of the county court system. Former President Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and his predecessor, Michael T. Conahan, are expected to plead guilty next week to accepting $2.6 million in kickbacks in connection with a detention center that housed county juveniles. They've agreed to serve 87 months in prison...." Details (Scranton Times-Tribune 02.04.2009).

 Judge charged with slapping wife told cops wife slapped him first. "A federal judge charged with slapping his wife hired a big shot defense attorney as he faces a misdemeanor charge that could land him in the clink. James Peck, 63, the bankruptcy judge overseeing the breakup of Lehman Brothers, hired Barry Bohrer, a prominent criminal defense lawyer whose clients have included Sam Israel, the hedge fund swindler who went on the lam last summer after faking his own suicide to avoid a 20-year jail term...." Details (N.Y. Daily News 02.03.2009).

 Two soldiers are charged in shooting/attempted robbery of judge. "Two Fort Drum soldiers have been charged with wounding a county judge with a pellet gun while trying to rob him in the parking lot of a northern New York mall...." More (Newsday 02.04.2009).

 SCOFLA overrules electorate, bars suspended judge-elect from serving. "Suspended attorney William Abramson should not be allowed to become a Palm Beach County circuit court judge, the Florida Supreme Court ruled today. In a decision that paves the way for Gov. Charlie Crist to appoint yet another judge to the county's bench, the high court found that...[Abramson] shouldn't be allowed to become a judge even though he defeated incumbent Judge Richard Wennet in a problem-fraught August primary. While Abramson defeated Wennet, his license to practice law was suspended for 91 days in December, less than two weeks before he was to assume the bench...." More (Palm Beach Post 02.04.2009). Comment. Doesn't seem right to me. But then SCOFLA's recent decisions diminishing the free speech rights of judges don't seem right to me either. I think I'm starting to see a pattern....

 Annals of courthouse super heroes: judge and bailiff subdue litigant. "A Lillington man is in a lot more trouble now than he would have been after having to be physically subdued by both a bailiff and a judge in domestic court yesterday...." The bailiff's name is Dean Hewitt, a sheriff's deputy, and the judge is newly-elected Juudge Paul Holcombe. More (The Daily Record - NC 02.04.2009). You can view a video of the incident at the paper's website.

 Crows 'invade' trees around courthouse -- interfering with Justice? "It's almost a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds in Rochester[, IND] ...Hundreds of crows have moved in to the grounds of the Fulton County Courthouse and it's the first time this has ever happened...The crows actually leave during the day and return just as the sun is going down...Bird dropping are on signs, the trees and even the lights. Fulton County maintenance supervisor Randy Grundrum says, 'They're making quite a mess on the side walk.'" Details (FOX28 02.03.2009). You can watch a video of the crows interfering with Justice at the station's website.

 Headline-of-the-Day: 'Report Recommends More Discression for Judges in Drug Cases.' That's an exact copy&paste of the headline to this story (WNYC 02.04.2009).

 Movie with Hilary Swank to be shot at courthouse. "Producers of the Hilary Swank movie Betty Anne Waters got the green light Monday night to shoot a scene outside the historical Livingston County Courthouse in downtown Howell...According to the Internet Movie Database, Betty Anne Waters is a movie based on a true story that focuses on a working mother, Swank's character, who 'puts herself through law school in an effort to represent her brother, who has been wrongfully convicted of murder and has exhausted his chances to appeal his conviction through public defenders.'" More (Livingston Daily - MI 02.03.2009).

 A 'turtle' is defining feature of new federal courthouse. "The skyline of Great Falls got an addition Tuesday morning, as construction crews hoisted a steel dome to the top of the federal courthouse under construction on the west bank of the Missouri River. At 36 feet across and 120 feet around, the dome is a focal point of the building, said Jeremy Beadles, assistant project manager for general contractor Sletten Construction.'It's kind of the defining feature,' he said...'Our guys were calling it 'The Turtle' when we were working on it,' said John Harding, owner of S&H Aluminum...." More (Great Falls Tribune 02.04.2009). Comment. The turtle, I take it, symbolizes the pace of the law.

 Taliban gives warning to judges, lawyers: quit or die. "Militants in Swat on Tuesday warned that all lawyers and judges, being part of an 'infidel judicial system,' would be killed if they did not quit their profession. Announced on their illegal FM radio, the threat from insurgents -- intent upon forcing their ideology on residents of the restive valley -- has obviously scared the legal fraternity. The Swat Bar Association president confirmed the lives of 300 of his co-professionals were under threat and he was trying to contact the fighters in an effort to assure them that the lawyers were ready to work under an Islamic judicial regime...." More (The News - Pakistan 02.04.2009).

 History of political campaign blogging. Some credit the Howard Dean presidential campaign in 2004 with maintaining the first campaign blog. Others cite as the first campaign blog one maintained by a congressional candidate in 2002. Actually, one has to go back earlier, to 2000. 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 pioneering law blogs, in 1999, but I delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. My 2000 campaign website,  the no-longer-extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign blog (weblog or web journal), i.e., a blog actually written and maintained by the candidate, not by some staffer. I like to think it was the first campaign blog (a/k/a weblog or web journal), although it's quite possible someone else independently came up with the idea and executed it contemporaneously in 2000 also. Because most "web archivers" were not in business in 2000, there has been no web record of my campaign website and campaign blog. For archival purposes and in the public interest, I have reproduced and reposted as near as I can, given software changes, the backed-up 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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