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 "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 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.
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About Burton Hanson. Burton Hanson is a graduate of Harvard Law School, admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Minnesota. He worked one year as Hennepin County District Court Special Term (Civil) Law Clerk, two years as law clerk for the late Justice C. Donald Peterson of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and over 26 years as Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Supreme Court. He was a nonpartisan candidate for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election in November 2000 and a liberal anti-war candidate for Congress in the Republican primary in the Minnesota Third District in September 2004. He was one of the first law bloggers (blawgers). He began planning his first blog, BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else in 1999 but delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. His campaign website, the no-longer extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first such use of a weblog or blog. In 2004 he also used the personal blog format in his primary campaign for Congress. That site, BurtonHanson.Com, has morphed into a personal political opinion blog and also contains the archives of his 2004 campaign web pages and blog postings.
80 students take to junior judging. "Amost 80 students took part in the Gloucester junior cattle judging show on Friday. The students from local primary school and the high school were joined by visitors from Raymond Terrace in showing cattle, many of them for the first time...." More (Gloucester Advocate 08.17.2005). Comment. We hold it as self-evident that -- just as exposure of kids to a bad thing like marijuana leads them down the path to a worse thing like cocaine -- exposure of kids to a good thing like junior cattle judging will lead them down the path to an even better thing like, say, being a TV conciliation court judge earning $25 million a year.
Did judge let Limbaugh vent in his courtroom? "At least one defense lawyer will not be brokenhearted if senior Judge Thomas Moultrie, currently facing fourth-degree assault charges over an incident with his wife, does not return to the bench...Nothing too serious, if you want to know the truth, but it seems that the good judge had trouble tearing himself away from Rush Limbaugh in the mornings. And if no jury happened to be present, heíd continue to play the old pill-popper -- full blast, mind you -- while lawyers attempted to conduct business in his court...And then there was the time in chambers, when...." Phil Stanford's column (Portland Tribune 08.16.2005). Comment. You mean to tell us that not all judges are "liberals"?
Funny thing happens to acquitted justice on road to reinstatement. "After his acquittal Friday of bribery charges, the state's judicial watchdog agency was about to recommend Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. resume work on the state Supreme Court. But after hearing news Monday of Diaz's indictment on federal tax charges, the director of the state Judicial Performance Commission says he's unsure what will happen next. Even with its recommendation of allowing him back to work, Judicial Performance was planning to continue investigating Diaz...." More (Sun Sentinel 08.16.2005). Earlier story.
Judge punished for attempting to influence case of family member. "Metro Court Judge Frank Gentry has been formally reprimanded for trying to influence a child-custody case involving a family member. The reprimand, published in Monday's edition of the State Bar of New Mexico's 'Bar Bulletin,' states Gentry 'improperly used his judicial position to advance private interests' and 'attempted to influence child placement' in a case involving his nephew. Gentry was placed on six months of unsupervised probation for the violation, which came under investigation in July 2004...." More (Albuquerque Journal 08.16.2005).
Jail will serve as court. "Officials are setting up court at the Hudson County jail in Kearny to ensure that prisoners can make their first appearance before a judge and have bail set in a timely manner while the Hudson County Administration Building is closed...." More (The Jersey Journal 08.16.2005). Comment. Nothing like a jail to serve as a substitute for the neutral grandeur of a courthouse.
Supreme Court serves notice on Islamic courts. "Alarmed by a petition pointing out a parallel Islamic judiciary handling "Imrana" type cases, the Supreme Court today issued notices to the Centre, All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and Islamic seminary Darul Uloom. A Bench comprising Justice Y K Sabharwal and Justice C K Thakker also issued notices to Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Delhi, where, according to the petition, Islamic courts have been formed posing a challenge to the judicial system of the country...." More (Sify 08.16.2005). Comment. Of course, if two feuding Muslims want to submit their disagreement to an Islamic decisionmaker & both do so willingly, freely, intelligently, etc., then they should be able to do so. It's a little something we call "arbitration."
Court rules dissident parish, not diocese, owns property. "A conservative Newport Beach parish that severed ties with the Episcopal Church in a dispute over scriptural teaching and homosexuality is the rightful owner of its buildings and other property, an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled Monday. Judge David C. Velasquez's ruling in favor of St. James Church finalized a tentative opinion he announced last week that rejected the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles' claim that the local congregation held the multimillion-dollar property in trust for the diocese -- and that it forfeited any right to the buildings and other property, including hymnals, when it broke with the diocese and national church...." More (L.A. Times 08.16.2005). Comment. I suspect the last word hasn't been written on this. Complicated stuff. When I was a 1L in the fall of 1964 at Harvard Law School I took a required course called Development of Law & Legal Institutions from Mark DeWolfe Howe, Holmes' biographer (& former law clerk). I wish now I'd paid more attention to all his asides about Holmes, but I wasn't as fond of Holmes then as I am now. See, BurtLaw's Justice Holmes. In any event, we spent a lot of time on a unit of cases dealing with judicial decisions in cases involving disputes between churches & local congregations. I didn't pay much attention to that either. I was, you see, a "backbencher extraordinaire."
Judge announces she'll run for D.A. "Stressing her experience both in and outside the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, Superior Court Judge Dolores Carr formally declared her candidacy Monday to become the county's chief prosecutor. Carr, who was a deputy district attorney for 15 years before she was elected as a judge in 2000, joins at least two others who are hoping to succeed veteran District Attorney George Kennedy...." More (San Jose Mercury News 08.16.2005). Comment. More prosecutors are appointed or elected judges than members of any other subgroup of lawyers. And yet many of them seem to have a difficult time in the relatively passive role of judge. Once aggressive, I suppose, it's hard to stop being aggressive.
Court records found blowing in the wind. "The state Judicial Standards Commission director on Monday took possession of scores of Santa Fe Municipal Court documents found blowing down the street in front of the court building. The documents, which included personal information about court defendants and records detailing bank deposits in a Municipal Court account, stretched from a trash bin outside the Santa Fe Police Department, past the city court building and nearly a block to Airport Road...." More (The New Mexican 08.16.2005).
Justice minister pledges to deal with corrupt judges strictly - & secretly. "Justice Minister Charles Rizk admitted to 'flaws' within the Lebanese judiciary and said corrupt judges 'will be dealt with according to legal proceedings.' Rizk's comments came during a radio interview with the Voice of Lebanon radio station...Rizk [said] any corruption within the Judiciary body would be dealt with 'strictly.' 'I remind you that this minority of judges will be dealt with inside the walls of the Judiciary institution, secretly and according to legal procedures,' he said, adding: 'This allows the Judiciary committees to isolate the corrupt judges, all under the frame of the independence of the Judiciary and away from any slandering.'" More (Daily Star 08.16.2005).
'Westernizing' of litigation in Hong Kong? "A couple who launched a marathon lawsuit against their neighbors for the death of their Shih-Tzu dog were described as 'out of control' by a High Court judge who dismissed their claim Monday. In a 43-page statement, Deputy High Court Judge Ian Carlson said Grace Chin, a Hong Kong University psychologist, and Eugene Oh, a partner in a law firm lacked the notion of 'objectivity' or 'reasonableness' when conducting their litigation with a 'single minded obsessive determination which is quite irrational.'..." The couple sued for HK$20 million. The dispute took up 24 days of magistrate's court time over three months. More (The Standard 08.16.2005).
Judge's house burglarized fourth time. "Police will provide a 24- hour security for Justice John Connors and his family, it has been revealed. In a statement yesterday, police said they were reviewing security arrangements at the judge's house in Lautoka after it was ransacked. Missing were a laptop computer and assorted items worth more than $6000. This was the fourth break-in at Justice Connors house since January last year...." More (Fiji Times 08.16.2005).
Excellent op/ed piece on Tony Blair's assault on free speech. "[A]s Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter noted in 1951, speech that extols political violence is often 'coupled' with sharp 'criticism of defects in our society.' For that reason, Justice Frankfurter said, there is an important public interest 'in granting freedom to speak their minds' even to those who advocate the use of force to bring about political change. A democratic society must protect itself against violent attack, but it cannot do so by preventing its citizens from hearing even sinister criticism that defends the use of violence." Geoffrey R. Stone, What you can't say will hurt you (N.Y. Times 08.15.2005). Comment. Free speech is the jewel in the crown of American democracy, that little ol' crown that sits atop each citizen's head. The Brits, for all their claims of "ancient freedoms," don't really believe in vigorous free speech. They prefer a dainty kind, the sort served with tea & crumpets & jam.
Acquitted Mississippi Supreme Court Justice charged with tax evasion. "State Supreme Court Justice Oliver E. Diaz Jr. faces new federal charges of income tax evasion, according to an indictment unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court in Gulfport. On Friday, a jury acquitted Diaz of federal charges that he took bribes from Coast attorney Paul Minor. U.S. District Court Judge Henry T. Wingate unsealed the tax evasion indictment Monday because it no longer poses a risk of prejudicing jurors in the judicial bribery case, his order said...." More (Sun-Sentinel 08.15.2005). Links to stories about the acquittal. Comment. As the old advertisement for Morton® Salt goes, "When it rains, it pours."®
More on judge who killed wife, self. "[Gerald] Cole, 72, a retired state district judge and his wife, Nancy, were found dead in their northeast Albuquerque home Saturday by a pest exterminator who saw their bodies through the home's living room window, said Albuquerque police spokesman John Walsh...[Bob] Schwartz [a crime adviser to the governor] said Sunday he remembers...Cole as a calm, 'modulated man' who no matter what the content of a letter would always sign it 'have a happy day.'" More (Albuquerque Tribune 08.15.2005). Earlier story.
Did judge's role in judicial pay raises violate ethics rules? "The man suing to overturn pay raises for government officials asked the state Judicial Conduct Board on Monday to investigate what role state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy played in bringing about the raises. Political activist Gene Stilp accused Cappy of violating ethics rules that govern state judges by advocating for the raises[,] holding secret meetings with unidentified members of the state's executive and legislative branches [and] defending the Legislature's July 7 vote to increase its pay and that of judges, the governor and cabinet secretaries by saying it demonstrated courage and fortitude...." More (PennLive 08.15.2005). See, Public is upset over judicial pay raises in PA.
Slate's regularly-updated 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.
Judge reprimanded for using court office as family residence. "He may have saved on rent, but a judge in Misamis Oriental got reprimanded by the Supreme Court (SC) for turning his courtroom into the family residence. Judge Alfredo Cain of Balingasag-Lagonglong of the fourth Municipal Circuit Trial Court of the province was found guilty of violating Administrative Circular No. 1-99 by the High Courtís first division. The courtís three-page resolution cited circular 1-99 that prohibits all officials and employees of the judiciary 'from using their offices as residence or for any purpose (other than) that for court or judicial functions.'" The judge denied that his wife and he had "us[ed] the court and its facilities as their 'sleeping and living quarters' [but] admitted that he might have spent several nights in his courtroom." More (The Philippine Star 08.15.2005). Comment. I'm unaware of any courts in America that have a formal or even informal policy on this. But many judges in this great land have couches or sofas in their chambers & have been known to catch a little shut-eye, when needed. Back on 10.31.2001 I published a mini-essay titled "The Billable Nap" at BurtLaw's Law & Economics (scroll down) that justified this great American judicial tradition on multiple grounds. While we are unaware of any American judges who in effect have turned their offices into family residences, we did read in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune a week ago an investigative piece titled St. Paul school board member's night owl hours ruffle feathers that said that a member of the St. Paul school board is the lone occupant most nights of the district's headquarters and said he is suspected by some of sleeping there, an allegation he denies. (You know you're in Minnesota when your local paper's idea of a political scandal is that a school board member is in his office most nights.) We also occasionally read of some judge who is accused of having sexual relations with someone or other in his/her chambers. Just this last week I posted a piece titled Mom defends judge son, says he's innocent that dealt with an allegation that a Monterey, California judge had been accused of using his chambers for "romantic interludes" with a courthouse employee, an allegation that neither shocked nor offended me. But that's just me. :-) If, & I emphasize the 'if,' some American judge in fact is using his/her chambers as a de facto residence, I also urge restraint and understanding. As we all know, many judges around the country are paid so little that they not only are abandoning courtrooms in droves (or said to be likely to do so, absent pay raises) -- see, e.g., N.C.'s Chief Justice complains about $118,209 salary -- but are having difficulty paying property taxes on their suburban houses (or is it their vacation houses?), sending their kids to private schools, paying for gasoline for their SUVs, and even paying for the increasing price of a bag of candy ("You could buy a quarter-pound Baby Ruth for a nickel when I was a kid"). We should feel their pain.
Judge Cass Timberlane of Grand Republic, Minnesota falls in love -- with a trial witness with fine ankles. "I would fall for a girl merely because she has fine ankles and a clear voice, I who have maintained that the most wretched error in all romances is this invariable belief that because a girl has a good nose and a smooth skin, therefore she will be agreeable to live with and -- well, make love to. The insanity that causes even superior men (meaning judges) to run passionately after magpies with sterile hearts. This, after the revelations of female deception I've seen in divorce proceedings. I am corrupted by sentimentality." Trial Court Judge Timberlane thinking about an attractive female witness in Sinclair Lewis, Cass Timberlane 5 (1945).
Once upon a time even old judges were young and in love:
"'We like John,' said her father. 'But I've seen better cowboys.'" Future Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's father's first impression of his future son in law, John Jay O'Connor III, quoted in Susan Gordon, Wedding Days 12.20 (1998).
"It didn't take Marty long to realize that Ruth did many things well...but cooking wasn't one of them." Referring to Martin Ginsburg's discovery that he would be doing the cooking for his new wife, Ruth Bader, then a future Supreme Court Justice. Id. 6.23.
"Oh, Nellie, I believe you can be happy with me." Future Chief Justice William Howard Taft to Helen Herron, his future wife. Id. 6.19.
"Her escort [to the dance] lost track of Josephine after Hugo got her attention, and they spent most of the evening 'hiding' behind a potted palm." Describing future Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black's courting of Josephine Foster, whom he had seen earlier walking up a very steep hill "in a close-fitting, eye-appealing dress." Id. 2.23.
Should there be an 'aboriginal seat' on Canada's Supreme Court? "Last summer, at its annual convention in Winnipeg, the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) scrapped at the last moment a resolution that appeared to call on the federal government to reserve one of the nine seats on the Supreme Court permanently for an aboriginal justice and to more aggressively seek aboriginal judges for the appeals courts in every province. Amid controversy over whether race should be a determining factor -- for or against -- any appointee to the country's highest court, the resolution's authors withdrew it rather than see it fail. But this year, they were back with another version, which, while watered down, still smacks of racial gerrymandering on the bench...." Editorial (National Post 08.15.2005).
Banishment of panty fetishist from Isles of Scilly. "Andrew Stephan, formerly of Telegraph Street, St Mary's, walked free from court after a judge ruled the offences were not serious enough for prison. In July the 42-year-old pleaded guilty at Truro Crown Court to 10 counts of theft over four to five years. He was sentenced to 150 hours of unpaid community service and £1,000 in costs. Judge Paul Darlow also gave Stephan an Anti-social Behaviour Order (Asbo) banning him from visiting the Isles of Scilly or entering a house without invitation for seven years...." More (BBC News 08.15.2005). Comment. The fellow's apparent crime of choice was taking women's underwear from "washlines." Practically every small town in the U.S. has had an incident like this at some point in its history. As an amateur historian of my hometown, I know that mine has had at least one. Panty fetishism is one of the so-called paraphilias discussed in DSM-IV. To understand how "common" Mr. Stephans' conduct really is, click here for the results of a Google search designed to uncover such cases. For a recent entry on the practice of banishment, with commentary, see, Canadian judge banishes two accused gang members.
Former judge, wife found dead - murder-suicide? "Former state District Judge Gerald R. Cole and his wife, Nancy, were found dead in their Northeast Albuquerque home Saturday morning -- victims of an apparent murder-suicide, police said...A state court Web site indicates that Nancy M. Cole, 65, filed a petition for divorce from Gerald Cole in June...." More (Albuquerque Journal 08.14.2005).
Two arrested for acid attack on female judge. "Hanoi police arrested Saturday two people for an acid attack on a woman judge late last month. The duo, Nguyen Tien Dung and Pham Ngoc Hai, confessed to intentionally throwing sulfuric acid at Judge Nguyen Thi Kim Loan July 25 in revenge for a verdict she passed in a land dispute trial...Hai threw 200ml of acid at the judge, completely burning her face, neck, breast and arms. She was admitted to the National Burns Institute where underwent a series of operations." More (Thanhnien News 08.14.2005). And, see, Person nabbed on suspicion of bombing judicial officialís house (Thanhnien News 08.12.2005).
Angled parking comes to FLA courthouse. "Restriping of the parking lot in the vicinity of the Jefferson County Courthouse in Monticello is scheduled to begin Wednesday. The work will create angle parking at the east, north and west of the courthouse square. Weather permitting, the project will take a week...." More (Tallahassee Democrat 08.14.2005). Comment. We give the planners in Jefferson County the benefit of the doubt & assume the restriping is not being financed using Dept. of Homeland Security grants. When I was preparing to take my driver's road test when I was 15, I practiced parallel parking at the test site used by the test examiner, just off the southside of the courthouse lawn in my hometown. I was driving my parents' big four-hole red Buick (my Dad always bought a new Buick, at cost, & it was always red; my Mom referred to each one as a "firewagon") with the 1950s-design "modern" tail fins. It was not easy. I think it's the even-bigger harder-to-parallel-park (ungodly?) SUVs that are prompting some municipalities to revert to the old angled parking wherever veasible.
More 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 didnít create judicial elections to be ignored, it didnít intend for our judiciary to exist in the shadows, nameless and unknown, immune from criticism. In the case of Southern Illinoisí 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. Thatís a goal and example to which our state should aspire, not reject." From an editorial in Madison County Ill. Record 08.14.2005). Related story: Free speech is a 'bad idea'?
Is the serial killer a judge? "R. Barri Flowers, who lives in the Portland [OR] area, is a criminologist and writer of true crime...His new novel is Justice Served, and it is a model of crime fiction. It deals with a [serial] killer who is beating men to death on Portland streets. Each victim has gotten away with domestic abuse. It seems odd to the detectives in charge of the case that each victim came before the same judge. That makes her a prime suspect...." From a review in Salem Statesman-Journal 08.14.2005).
Judge reprimanded for 'snide comments,' making witness cry. "The Nebraska Commission on Judicial Qualifications has publicly reprimanded Douglas County Judge John Huber for snide comments he made from the bench. The commission said in one case, Huber made a litigant cry and, after the case was resolved, told her, 'Stop it. Grow up. That doesn't make me feel bad for you in any way.' Huber also was accused of expressing doubt that a witness would tell the truth...." More (Sioux City Journal 08.14.2005).
Opinion piece on salaries of teachers, judges, legislators in TX. "Which came first, the teacher or the judge? The answer depends on which world you're talking about. There is the real world, where there would be no judges without lots of teachers, helping future jurists navigate everything from nap time and the three Rs to contracts and torts. And there is the Texas statehouse, where lawmakers, meeting in a so-called 'education' session, recently sent Gov. Rick Perry a bill giving judges a pay raise while continuing to reward teachers with compliments and promises. (Guess, in case you haven't heard, which profession's pay is tied, under a longstanding law, to legislators' retirement benefits. Yes, the bill that went to the governor will give those pensions a boost.)" More (Clay Robison in Houston Chronicle 08.14.2005).
Tale of a courthouse regular. "By her reckoning, [Mrs. Kent] has visited this courthouse at least 50 times, and the visits tend to take all day...The Kents, who are both in their fifties, were married in 1985; he left in 1989 and their divorce was final in 2000. At this point, 'my anger is towards the courts, not him,' Mrs. Kent said. 'If they had done their job, we wouldn't have been in court for the last 10 years.' As she tells her story, flipping through two big white binders full of documents, Mrs. Kent sometimes curses and occasionally cries...Tales like Mrs. Kent's are all too familiar to Karen S. Burstein, a former family court judge. In their seemingly endless court battles, litigants on both sides often become overwhelmed, depressed, or if they are going to be at all successful, obsessed. 'It becomes somebody's life,' she said." More (N.Y. Times 08.14.2005).
Other divorce tales. Walter Olson, of the Manhattan Institute, whose Overlawyered was really the first excellent law-related blog, wrote an excellent piece in 1993 titled At Law: Divorce Court New York Style for City Journal in which he summarized some of the abuses, mostly by attorneys, that he believed were making divorce such a horrible, expensive experience for so many couples. He said:
The biggest culprit, the report says, is New York's vague equitable distribution law, passed in 1980. It broadened judges' discretion to consider a great range of factors in splitting up a divorcing coupleís property. That gives the two sides plenty of handles to litigate. "The vast amount of money that can be made because of this new law has become an inside joke among lawyers," notes the report. "Court Referee Steve Liebman said a divorce that would have cost $6,000 in total fees for both sides before 1980 now runs Ďeasily' $50,000."
"Most lawyers will prefer to leave no stone unturned, provided, of course, they can charge by the stone," Deborah Rhode of Stanford Law School has commented. "Tracing" assets requires elaborate inquiries into bank and business records. Both sides can call in forensic accountants, value-of-a-professional-degree appraisers, and other pricey expert witnesses, along with child psychologists and social workers to help with the equally vague new legal standard on child custody ("best interests of the child" -- as if anyone could agree on what that meant). As this area of the law has become "hot", big law firms have launched divorce departments; some play marital splits like any other high-stakes litigation.
I suspect the figure would have doubled or tripled or quadrupled by now. The experience can be just as bad in courts in other states -- yes, including Minnesota, particularly in the metropolitan counties, especially Hennepin. In my own case, the divorce process, which was very expensive (& not just in monetary terms), dragged on for nearly five years, with the only issue being distribution of assets. A former judge told me that in a different county, Olmsted, where the Mayo Clinic is situated, the divorce would have been decided in six months. Olson noted that Mark Green, Head of the N.Y. Dept. of Consumer Affairs (later defeated by Michael Bloomburg in his bid to be Mayor), in 1992 had proposed treating divorce as a "consumer product" & regulating it. As Olson pointed out: "[I]tís no surprise to see Consumer Affairs taking an interest: For many families, divorce turns out to be the most expensive 'product' they ever buy. What's more, the customer dissatisfaction rate is undeniably high..."
If I remember correctly from reading it a few years ago, Green's report recommended considering the appointment of a court trustee/receiver of a couple's assets at the start of divorce proceedings as one way of dramatically cutting back on some of the abuses by lawyers that tend to drag out divorces & up the costs. One of the wisest lawyers I know, a former legislator, has long believed this. But then he's long been ahead of the curve.
Sturgis motorcycle rally justice. "The wages of sin at the [annual Sturgis, S.D.] motorcycle rally are usually 30 days jail time, suspended, and a $400 to $500 fine. The Meade County Magistrate's Court is where real life catches up with 50 to 60 rallygoers a day, some of them habitual criminals, but many regular folks whose costume party ran off the rails, like the fellow in the faded jeans and West Coast Choppers T-shirt standing manacled before Circuit Judge Randy Macy on Thursday...." More (Sioux Falls Argus-Leader 08.12.2005). Comment. It reminds one of Philadelphia Eagles Football Game Court, held in the stadium on game day -- discussed here (scroll down).
Dahlia Lithwick: Doctors & judges are the target of right-to-choose foes. "How is it possible, [proponents of parental notification laws] ask, for parental consent to be required when a teenage girl wants to pierce her ears, but not when she seeks to abort her fetus? This seems an eminently reasonable argument, but it masks a larger agenda -- these state efforts are aimed at decreasing the number of abortions, not ear-piercings...It's hardly surprising that the real targets in the new abortion wars are the same targets we saw in the Terry Schiavo tragedy: doctors and judges. The new political object has little to do with the stated claims; it's to override any physician or judge who won't halt abortions [when teenagers invoke the bypass provisions]." Judgment Day Are judges the new doctors? (Slate 08.12.2005).
Things move at slow pace in old Texas courtroom in Vioxx case. "The first trial of one of the almost 4,300 lawsuits claiming patients were hurt by the once-popular painkiller Vioxx was scheduled to last five weeks...[But t]hose attending the trial in the biggest courtroom of the older part of the Brazoria County Courthouse have long ago learned that time can be relative in court. Ten-minute breaks sometimes stretch for half an hour, jurors are sometimes sent to lunch and end up being sent home for the day...." More (Houston Chronicle 08.13.2005). Comment. The inefficiencies of our civil litigation system are reflected in the almost contemptuous way jurors are treated. If the big corporations are allowed to use up more than their share of judicial resources, maybe they ought to have to pay extra for it, including by paying dramatically extra compensation to jurors in trials lasting longer than a week.
Profile of a juror in judicial bribery trial - & other links. "Juror Shirley Griffin says she knew good and well that three judges and a lawyer accused of bribery were innocent and no amount of guff from fellow jurors was going to change her mind...Griffin, 64, a part-time hospital secretary from Bolton, was one of 12 jurors deciding the fate of Biloxi lawyer Paul Minor and three judges he was accused of bribing, including state Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr...'I heard from the defense and the government for three months,' Griffin said. 'I saw no intent. All that stuff the government brought back there was trash, all them boxes full of papers.What's wrong with helping a judge?' Griffin said. 'They were all friends. It was (Paul Minor's) money, not the government's money. It's his business what he does with it. (Minor) has done a lot of good things. I don't know him but I know of him, and he's done a lot of good. And his daddy used to have articles in the paper.'" Juror: 3 of us, 9 of them (Sun -Herald 08.13.2005). "For all four defendants in the federal judicial bribery trial of three Mississippi judges and a prominent attorney to be found innocent on Friday is rather an indictment of the state's system of justice...From the outset, it seemed that federal prosecutors had a weak case -- not from the massive testimony about loans, gifts and favors, revealing the ugly underbelly of justice in Mississippi but proving that anything illegal happened...The federal trial gave Mississippi a good enough whiff to know that our judicial system stinks." Editorial (Jackson Clarion-Ledger 08.13.2005). A timeline of the case (Jackson Clarion-Ledger 08.13.2005). "Many Biloxians know one or more of the defendants and some were on their side from the beginning. 'I just think the government has wasted our money,' said Ann Hager as she ate stuffed crabs at Desporte & Sons Seafood. The case never made sense to her, she said, because there was no need for a lawyer who tried international cases and was already a millionaire to bribe state judges...." Biloxians give their views of outcome (Sun-Herald 08.13.2005).
Judge sentences lawyer to prison for witness tampering. "U.S. District Judge John Coughenour on Friday sentenced a Canadian lawyer to a year and a day in federal prison after finding him guilty of tampering with a witness in a drug case...." More (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 08.13.2005).
Partial verdict in Mississippi judicial bribery trial -- we wuz right. "Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. is innocent on all judicial bribery charges against him, a federal jury decided [Friday]. But jurors were unable to reach a verdict on many of the charges against three other defendants, finding two of them innocent on some charges but not able to decide on others. Jurors were in their seventh day of deliberating the fate of Diaz and wealthy Gulf Coast lawyer Paul S. Minor, former Circuit Judge John Whitfield and former Chancery Judge Wes Teel...." Full story, including detailed summary of verdicts as to each charge against each defendant (Jackson Clarion Ledger 08.12.2005). Comment. Early this morning we posted a link to a story reporting that the judge had decided to give a "dynamite charge." We then commented: "It's Friday. As the day wears on & the weekend beckons, some of the jurors, who are sequestered, may become more flexible, 'in the interest of justice.'" Not to our surprise, we were right. Apparently the verdicts were delivered late this morning.
Female magistrate in India says former judge eyed her with lust always. Sudhansu Kumar Lal, a former district judge of Jahanabad, has been accused of "sexual harassment of a woman judge and irregularities like misuse of the office...Sushma Kashyap, a first class judicial magistrate under Lal during his four-year tenure at Jahanabad that ended just a few months ago, has accused Lal of...eying her with lust always and [of] ma[king] sexual advances whenever he got chances, even in the presence of other judicial officers." More (Calcutta Telegraph 08.12.2005).
Was that a gunshot in mob trial courtroom? "John A. 'Junior' Gotti's mob trial got a jolt Friday when a gunshot-like loud crackle from a malfunctioning sound system frightened those in the courtroom until they heard a smiling Gotti shout, 'I didn't do it!' Jurors, the judge [U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin] and spectators chuckled in relief as Gotti relaxed the tense courtroom where his trial has proceeded for the last week with testimony about murders, beatings, extortion and the day-to-day life of the Gambino crime family...." More (Newsday 08.12.2005).
Pelosi: 'DeLay's Vilification of Judges is Unworthy of a Leader. Here's the meat of a short press release by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: "Majority Leader Tom DeLay's participation in this weekend's Justice Sunday II is troubling. Mr. DeLay's vilification of judges is unworthy of a leader of a major political party. Our nation's leaders should cherish an independent judiciary -- a concept we promote around the world as the foundation for the rule of law and the protection of individual rights. Instead, Mr. DeLay has shown nothing but contempt, most notably when he crudely threatened the federal judges who refused to do his bidding in the Terri Schiavo matter: 'The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.'" More (U.S. Newswire 08.12.2005).
Judge in Mississippi judicial bribery trial to use "dynamite charge. "Jurors in a judicial bribery case, entering their sixth day of deliberations, will be given the option this morning of returning a partial verdict against an attorney and three judges facing 17 charges...." More (Sun Herald 08.12.2005). Comment. It's Friday. As the day wears on & the weekend beckons, some of the jurors, who are sequestered, may become more flexible, "in the interest of justice."
Former Cal. Supreme Court Justice wins big case in Cal. Supreme Court. "Ruling for a manager who refused to replace an employee with someone 'hot,' the California Supreme Court on Thursday [by a 4-2 vote] gave broad protections to workers who oppose orders that could be discriminatory...Former California Supreme Court Justice Joseph Grodin, who argued the appeal for the manager in the case, said the ruling 'is probably unique among state courts.'" More (Chicago Tribune 08.12.2005). Comment. Mr. Grodin is not alone among former state supreme court justices in appearing as an attorney before the court on which he formerly served. It does not violate any rule of judicial/legal ethics. Some former justices, however, impose on themselves a prohibition against doing it. A client may think a former member of the court has a greater chance of success arguing a case before his former court. I'd be surprised if this were so in fact. If anything, the sitting justices may bend over backward to avoid the appearance of favoring a former colleague. Moreover, they may not have liked the former colleague. Even if they seemingly did when he/she was a member of the court, they may no longer care very much one way or the other. Judges are human & as the object of an ordinary human being's affection loses power & influence, the degree of one's affection may decline accordingly. Lose the power, lose the halo. It's also true that the mere fact a lawyer was a supreme court justice doesn't mean he was any good at it or, if he was, that he's very good as a lawyer. I've seen good arguments by former judges, o.k. ones, and very bad ones. For that matter, I've seen the supposed best of criminal trial attorneys make pathetically-bad appellate arguments.
Mom defends judge son, says he's innocent. "The mother of [Judge Richard Rutledge,] a traffic court judge[,] is speaking out in his defense after he was accused of romantic interludes [with a girl friend] in a Monterey [CA] courthouse and fixing tickets for friends...'They're not going to find anything because Richard did not fix any tickets, and he sure as heck wouldn't have sex in the courthouse,' [the judge's mom] said...." More (KSBW 08.11.2005). Earlier story: The woman, Crystal Powser, who says she quit her courthouse job after the judge broke off their engagement, "sent an e-mail to every judge in the county, laying out her allegations and sexual escapades, according to officials. Powser said she isn't looking for money or her job back. She said she wants revenge...." The judge's mom, by the way, says no way was Powser her boy's fiancee. More (KSBW 08.10.2005). Comment. We hope he didn't fix any traffic tickets. That's a clear no-no for a traffic judge. As for his allegedly having sex with his gf a few times in his office, well, any shock that the judicial censors register at that, if it's true, will remind me of what Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) said in Casablanca (1942): "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"
60,000 fans in arena boo judges. No, the judges of your state's supreme court haven't been holding court in a stadium filled with 60,000 people as part of the "judicial outreach" craze. We're talking about an arena filled with spectators who don't know the fine points of the great common law tradition of rodeo judging. As "Judge" George Gibbs, "a Wrangler pro official of 24 years," put it, "'Iíve been booed by as many as 60,000 people at one time...They donít understand what weíre looking for -- theyíre just coming out here for entertainment anyway.'" If you're interested in what the judge is looking for, read on: Judge explains rules of rodeo (The Standard Democrat 08.11.2005).
Judicial outreach Bangladesh-style: mobile food courts. "The government has decided to intensify the ongoing drive against food adulteration by increasing the number of mobile courts and also by expanding it to district level...'If we find in the second raid that the penalised food providers are not maintaining the expected standard, they will be sentenced to terms imprisonment along with the fine as per the DCC law,' Magistrate [Abdul Fattah] said...." More (The New Nation 08.11.2005). Comment. If it's o.k. for Justice Breyer & other members of the USSCt to cite foreign precedents (click here for more), we don't see why state supreme courts, as part of their judicial outreach efforts, can't take this "foreign" idea & run with it, adapting it as necessary in the great laboratories of the American experiment. The possibilities are endless. Indeed, one Philadelphia trial judge, perhaps not realizing what a path-breaking visionary he was, started holding mobile court at Philadelphia Eagles football games in 1998, as recounted in this excerpt from an item we posted at BurtLaw's Court Gazing in early 2002:
In Philadelphia, a former cop named Seamus McCaffery, who is now a publicity-seeking, Harley-riding, gun-toting highly-popular judge, adapted this idea to the trial bench in 1998, taking his show on the road to Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, where, during Eagles' football games, he provides summary, on-the-spot justice, Philadelphia-style, to hooligan fans arrested for "public urination, intoxication, throwing beer on people, that sort of thing." (UK Guardian Observer 01.20.2002).
Carcass judging. "The end of the livestock portion of the Morgan County Fair was marked by the Lamb, Goat and Swine Ultrasound Contests along with the Beef Carcass Contest. This year was the first year for the goat carcass contest, sixth year for the lamb and swine contests and the fourth year for the beef contest." More (Fort Morgan CO Times 08.12.2005). Comment. I was hoping this article might give some information about the great tradition of carcass judging. If all knowledge is inter-related, if the common law judicial mind can benefit from exposure to literature, art, music, sociology, psychology, etc., then why, I ask, might not common law judges learn something from carcass judges -- and vice-versa. Perhaps a good starting point might be for state supreme court justices to participate as guest judges at various carcass competitions, with their "verdicts" being made independently of those of the experienced, professional carcass judges. Then afterwards, the two groups of judges could meet & discuss the results, learning from each other in the process. Then, after the carcass competition season is over, the carcass judges could sit in the public section of the state supreme court's courtroom and listen to the arguments in appeals & render their decisions, later comparing them with the justices' decisions. Only good can come from the various kinds of judges reaching across the artificial divides of class, section and even prejudice that have historically separated them.
Attorney challenges judge's courtroom recording system. "A Rogers [ARK] attorney, worried a courtroom microphone system might be recording secret conversations between lawyers and clients, has filed a lawsuit against Rogers' District Court and its judge. Doug Norwood's complaint filed Wednesday alleges the system has been used to surreptitiously record private conversations between lawyers and defendants appearing in the court. District Judge Doug Schrantz acknowledged Wednesday he authorized the recording in February or March for security reasons in response to an incident in which a defendant in court to be arraigned 'cursed and threatened' the judge." More (NorthWest Arkansas Online 08.11.2005). Comment. Lots of charges by the attorney flying in this one. Worth a read.
Gov. withdraws judicial nomination. "Facing an almost certain defeat before the Governor's Council, Governor Mitt Romney yesterday withdrew Henry L. Rigali's nomination for a juvenile court judgeship at Rigali's request. The Springfield lawyer was the second judicial nominee in a week to hit a roadblock...." More (Boston Globe 08.11.2005). Earlier: Second judicial appointment embarrassment for Gov. in 2 weeks.
Canadian judge banishes two accused gang members. "Some Western-style justice was handed out yesterday when a Brandon judge ran two people with alleged Indian Posse street gang connections out of town. Associate Chief Judge Brian Giesbrecht gave Olga Cook and Robert Creasy 24 hours to get out of Brandon. 'You are both to find another place to live far away from Brandon,' Giesbrecht said. 'If you come within 100 miles of Brandon you are in breach of a court order and I will not hesitate to penalize you and that will take the form of jail terms.' Giesbrecht ordered the exile as part of peace bonds issued in connection with a May 31 beating of a man at the Beaubier Hotel...Crown attorney Rhian Opel told the judge she couldnít go ahead with a preliminary hearing set for yesterday afternoon because the accused both have Indian Posse connections and the alleged victim was too scared to testify...Itís the second time in three months a Brandon judge has run someone with suspected gang ties out of town...." More (Brandon Sun 08.11.2005). Want more on banishment as a judicial option? Read on....
Banished from Benson - commentary. I grew up at an idyllic time, the 1950's, in an idyllic town, Benson, MN, 130 miles west of Minneapolis on the main line of the Great Northern Ry. and on U.S. Highway 12, both of which took people from Chicago to Minneapolis to Yellowstone and beyond. I once thought of doing a long essay, maybe even a book, called "Passers-through -- a Small Town on the Great American Prairie and the People Who Passed Through." It would have dealt with all the different categories of people who passed through from the town's earliest days -- the traveling vaudeville acts and theater companies that played at the Opera House, the circuses, the tourists, the Gypsies, the hoboes, etc. One chapter would have dealt with the criminals and other "undesirables." There were a number of ways the community dealt with these undesirables. One way was for the police to "escort them" to the city limits and tell them not to come back, perhaps wiring a warning ahead to the next town. Another way was to take them before the local judge. The judge could provide speedy justice, if needed. His sentence for more minor offenses might give the out-of-town defendants a choice: jail time or banishment. Why banishment? It saved the town the cost of keeping the defendants in jail and it passed on the problem people to other towns, where they'd probably have gone in any event after being released from jail. Banishment isn't used much in most states. (As originally published on 10.21.2001 at BurtLaw on Crime & Punishment at BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else.) Note: Banishment, e.g., in the form of limitations placed on residence as a condition of probation, is not entirely dead in Minnesota as a favored concept by legislators & some judges. Compare, State ex rel. Halverson v. Young, 154 N.W.2d 699, 702 (Minn. 1967), and State v. Franklin, 604 N.W.2d 79, 82 (Minn. 2000). For one point of view, see, in the context of restrictions on residence of sex offenders, Statement of ACLU-MN, Executive Director Charles Samuelson on Senate File 1140 - May 3, 2005. In Minnesota, as elsewhere, it would appear common-sensical that, regardless of the context, the more limited the geographical & durational extent of the banishment, the more likely it will be upheld. Consider the following:
Playground banishment upheld. "Falmouth school officials did not break the law when they denied a disabled home-schooled student access to a playground, Maine's highest court found on Wednesday. The court ruled that Jan Rankowski, a 9-year-old boy with Asperger syndrome, posed a threat to himself and other students when he played at the Plummer-Motz School, and that the school was right to ban him from the playground until a behavior plan was developed...." More (Portland Press-Herald 08.11.2005).
Banishment from Houston County, Georgia. "Recently there has been a heightened interest in an age-old punishment which my office has utilized in punishing certain criminals in Superior Court, that being banishment. I had not realized the enormous interest that this sentencing tool would generate, but I am pleased that the community has responded so favorably to how criminals are sentenced in our county. I thought it would be appropriate to explain banishment and how my office uses it as a sentencing tool...The Georgia Supreme Court has held that banishment is appropriate and legal, but that someone can not be banished from Georgia, only from a specific county...." From Kelly R. Burke, Banishment in Houston County. Comment. Why am I not surprised they still use old-fashioned banishment in Georgia? Here is a link to a collection of reader responses to a question posed by a NYT ethicist: Get Out of Town. And, see, Some Indian tribes bring back an old punishment: banishment (CNN 01.02.2004) ("Minnesota's Grand Portage Band of Ojibwe is one of the latest to revive the practice").
Annals of American provincialism - judicial variety. We've addressed before the ridiculous attempts by far-right-wingers to prevent Justices of the Supreme Court from even citing for illustrative purposes decisions of foreign courts in opinions. Justice Breyer, who is one of the Justices who has mentioned foreign decisions, addressed the topic in a speech to American Bar conventioneers the other day, as reported here in the Chicago Sun-Times. Justice Breyer's speeches typically are posted here on the Court's website but this one is not there yet. I see the whole to-do by the critics, including Justice Scalia, as saying more about them than about Justice Breyer & others who have cited foreign decisions. What it says is that the critics are a bunch of rubes in the sorry tradition of self-satisfied American provincialism.
State supreme court justice sues A.G. "State Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders, who is challenging his punishment for touring the McNeil Island sex predator center, is suing the attorney general's office to shake loose public records dealing with the visit that got him in hot water. The justice told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he firmly believes that the records will show that top officials of the attorney general's office and prosecutors colluded to 'set me up for this violation' and then deny him legal representation when he got in trouble...." More (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 08.11.2005).
Manufacturers organization supports Roberts, but... "Just moments ago, NAM President John Engler announced that the NAM would be supporting the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts to the United States Supreme Court. This is the result of the deliberations of the NAM's Judicial Review Committee. The JRC first established criteria, then evaluated Judge Roberts according to those criteria. Their decision, said Engler, was unanimous." More (Manufacturers Blog 08.10.2005). Comment. "Well, that tips the balance," the wavering Senator was about to say, when suddenly he received this alarming news: a conservative group, Public Advocate of the United States, is withdrawing its support because of the news that Roberts, as a private attorney, did pro bono work for a gay rights group. More (Detroit Free Press 08.10.2005). "Oh, dear, said the Senator. I'm in a bind."
Does Judge Roberts have a 'negative lustration certificate'? If not, why? "According to the law on courts and judges, a negative lustration certificate issued by the Interior Ministry is necessary for the proposal to appoint someone to the position of judge. The certificate confirms that the person has not been registered as a StB agent or any other kind of StB collaborator....." More (Prague Daily Monitor 08.11.2005). Comment. The StB is the former Communist secret police in what is now the Czech Republic. Certainly, and at a minimum, we ought to require Judge Roberts to produce the U.S. equivalent of a "negative lustration certificate" if he wants to be confirmed, No?
Top judge doesn't want a 'partial' courthouse. "The latest proposal for building a new Duval County Courthouse could be derailed, after the top judge said the whole process should stop until enough money can be found to build a full-service facility. Last month, Mayor John Peyton proposed a plan to build a 388,000-square-foot criminal courthouse on city-owned property west of downtown, but only lay the foundation for an adjoining civil courthouse to be built when more money is allocated." More (News4Jax 08.10.2005). Comment. I think it was all a matter of miscommunication between the judge & the mayor. I'm guessing that what the judge told the mayor was he wanted a "palatial" courthouse (see, photo accompanying story); the mayor must have thought he said "partial."
Cleaning out the courthouse cellar. "Because of unhealthy conditions in the [Clay County, ILL] courthouse's basement the county began looking for ways to cut down on mold. The solution is to get rid of paper that is stored in the basement and auction off anything from the basement that the county does not use...." More (The Daily Clay County Advocate Press 08.10.2005). Comment. We assume that in saying "paper" & "anything from the basement the county does not use," the story is referring to musty old outmoded laws, silly old judicial precedents, antiquated so-called "historic records," legal papers signed by some illiterate named "A. Lincoln," etc. If that is so, we fully support the county's decision.
State judge owes nearly $250K in back taxes, penalties, interest. "A state court judge [Jack Carney of Pembroke] in coastal Georgia owes nearly $250,000 in back taxes, interest and penalties, and the state Revenue Department is seeking to garnish his wages...." More (Access North GA 08.10.2005).
Judge denies wrongfully altering records. "A Santa Fe judge accused of altering records of people convicted of drunken driving has issued a formal statement repeating what she said earlier -- that she fixed clerical errors and wants the state Judicial Standards Commission to look into the allegations. Municipal Judge Frances Gallegos, in a statement Tuesday, said she amended records sent to the state Motor Vehicle Division to correct sentencing information 'clerks had not reported accurately.''' More (Albuquerque Journal 08.10.2005).
Flap over judge's use of courthouse as address for voter registration. Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Betty Fletcher and her husband, a law prof, have used her courthouse address in Seattles for voter registration purposes. A "conservative" election-reform project manager for the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a so-called think tank, challenged the registration as invalid. The judge explained they used the courthouse address because of death threats related to her work and to avoid publicly revealing their residence. "'One of the reasons we changed our address is that we are in a condominium,' she said. 'Bombs have been mailed to judges, and I felt that we should protect the people who live around us as well.'" Now she & her husband have submitted a new address in order to avoid the flap. More (Seattle Times 08.10.2005). Comment. One more victory for "conservative" election reform.
'Bonnie & Clyde' courthouse shootout; wife kills guard, escapes with hubby. "George Hyatte, in handcuffs and shackles, was headed back to prison from a court appearance Tuesday when Jennifer Hyatte drove up and fired at the two corrections officers escorting her husband, said Kingston [Tennessee] Police Chief Jim Washam said." Mrs. Hyatte met her husband while working as a prison nurse & was fired when prison authorities learned they were having a relationship. More (Washington Post 08.10.2005). Comment. I'm always amazed at the number of women who develop relationships with prisoners & marry them & even more amazed at the things they'll do for them. Men don't seem as interested in developing relationships with female prisoners. When men do develop such relationships, it seems they do what it takes to keep the woman in prison: see, e.g., Episode 20 ("The Little Jerry") of Season 2 of Seinfeld ("George dates a convict from a woman's prison and finds it is the perfect relationship as he knows where she is, doesen't have to worry about the pop in, and has little competition. The woman comes up for parole and George speaks [to the parole board] of her 'getting back with the gang' in the hopes that she will be turned down for parole.").
Judicial complaints at record high in Utah. "A record number of complaints were filed against Utah judges -- most likely because of two high-profile cases -- in the past year, officials with the Judicial Conduct Commission said Tuesday...." More (Deseret Morning News 08.10.2005).
Judicial conduct board weighs in on cleared judge's request for $1.77 million. "Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Gregory P. Holder was not acting as a judge when he wrote a military research paper he later was alleged to have plagiarized, and therefore he should not be paid for his attorney fees. That was the response this week of the Judicial Qualifications Commission to Holder's request to the Florida Supreme Court last month for $1.77 million he says he owes three law firms that handled his successful defense...." More (Tampa Tribune 08.10.2005). Comment. I'm continually amazed at the fees some attorneys charge for their services. Even if Judge Holder is entitled to reimbursement for reasonable attorney fees, I fail to see how any public body would be justified in paying $1.77 million.
The judiciary in India -- some problems. In an interesting piece in News Today titled Judging the judiciary, Chief Justice Markandey Katju of the Madras High Court is quoted as saying in a recent speech that the public has the "right to criticise us and take us to task if we do not function properly; so we should not take offence when the people [do] criticise us; our authority rests on public confidence, and not on the power of contempt." This, apparently, is in reference to the oversensitivity of some judges to criticism & their inappropriate over-reliance on the contempt power to stifle criticism. The piece, which has that delightfully open style that some journalists in India are known for, also refers to the tendency of some judges to "play to the gallery." It quotes the following from a report by The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution:
[A] few Judges, with an eye on populism, are showing injudicious liberalism in admitting almost all cases and liberally granting interim relief. This not only contributes enormously to the work load in the High Courts but also causes grave prejudice to public interest and administration of justice. In such a situation, it will be unreasonable to be astonished if affected parties, be they private litigants or public bodies, raise eyebrows and even voice muted suspicion on judicial motives. There are some complaints that some judges, even Chief Justices, are not seen to keep a distance from centres of political powers which would be conducive to the image of the neutrality. It is well to remember that judiciary ceases to be an effective instrument if its image and reputation for integrity and independence suffers.
Republicans in Alabama oppose bar plan for judicial selection. "The chairman of the Alabama Republican Party said Tuesday the GOP will oppose a plan proposed by the Alabama Bar Association to have appellate judges appointed rather than elected in partisan contests. The plan is 'a Democrat-led effort' to take away the right of voters to select judges, said Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, the GOP head...." More (Tuscaloosa News 08.10.2005). Comment. It is not surprising the Republicans oppose the plan. According to the story, "Republicans hold 21 of the 22 positions on the appellate courts." It appears Alabama voters like "Alabama-style Republican justice," whatever that is. Or maybe there are just more Republicans in Alabama. Just because Republican voters elect a judge, doesn't mean the judge necessarily will behave in a different way as judge than a judge would if a Republican governor made the appointment or if anyone else made the appointment. Anyone who becomes a judge is required to abide by his/her oath of office; most do. Moreover, their decisions are not unreviewable and their conduct in office is not free from oversight. If the people of Alabama like selecting judges this way, who are we to complain? BTW, we are amused by the first name of the "GOP head." Such an "Alabama" name to our Minnesota ears, & yet we once had a neighbor with that name.
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