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Archive for the ‘On Judges’ Category

Law 17A Vermont man, was dismissed from jury duty this month when he showed up at the courthouse jury assembly room wearing a prison-striped costume and matching beanie. After being noticed, the judge met with him privately and asked him to leave. The Vermonter, James Lowe, was only too happy to oblige.

Some jury-selection experts think being verbal, subtle and biased are good ways to avoid getting picked. And then there’s Lowe and his costume.

Not so fortunate by comparison was Henderson, Nevada lawyer Kurt Smith who spent a night in jail over his attitude. “Thanks a lot,” he said after being chosen to serve on the jury for a scheduled three-day trial. Unfortunately, it was loud enough for District Court Judge Ron Israel to hear. Judge Israel called it a breach of the peace and held him in contempt.

The judge then ordered that Smith either watch the rest of the trial from the gallery or spend a night in lockup. Smith apologized and chose the gallery instead of a night in the pokey. But when the following day Smith showed up half-an-hour late for the resumption of the trial, the judge ordered him jailed for 48 hours. He was released after serving 24 hours.

Bad Dog! | by http://www.petsadviser.com

Rare indeed apparently is the lawyer unconvinced of their professional indispensability. That stuff may sell someplace else. But in one Nevada courtroom, the judge wasn’t buying it.

Many called, few chosen, and even more try to evade.

Clearly, George Bernard Shaw was wrong when he said “only lawyers and mental defectives were automatically exempt from jury duty.” Lawyers obviously get called although I can’t speak for the “mental defectives.” On the latter, some may have their suspicions.

As for myself, I’ve been called several times. Each time I was obediently poised to do my civic duty — but I was never chosen. The last time was a year ago here where a local newspaper previously headlined, “Most People Don’t Show Up For Jury Duty in Maricopa County.” Since then the local courts have cracked down on no-shows with a “get tough” policy. I can’t say how well it’s working.

The Jury by John Morgan.jpg

Chief Justice in the Jury Box.

Earlier this year, I read “A Justice on the Jury” in the Nevada State Bar’s, Nevada Lawyer. It was Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Gibbons’ first person account of being called and picked for jury service. According to court records, it was the first time a Nevada Supreme Court Justice had ever been seated as a juror in a jury trial in the state. Judge Gibbons served during a criminal trial in Carson City.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/19/Jury_duty.jpg/320px-Jury_duty.jpgHe related how “waiting outside the courtroom, a newspaper reporter joked with me that I would probably be the first juror excused. To my great surprise, I was seated as juror number five, when the court resumed proceedings.” I don’t think he should have been surprised, though. After all, when you have the chief justice of the state supreme court in your jury pool, a lawyer is going to be hard-pressed to strike him with a peremptory challenge.

Courtroom 98Justice Gibbons said he learned a lot from the experience. And unlike some folks, he says he’d welcome a subsequent summons for jury duty.

And while he was gracious about how the proceedings were conducted, telling the judge afterward that he agreed with all of his rulings on objections during the trial, he nonetheless wasn’t shy about offering helpful tips and procedural improvement prescriptions for trial judges. These included creating “a checklist of all mandatory jury instructions that need to be submitted to the jury” and giving “special emphasis” to the juror admonishment instruction prohibiting independent research. Additionally, before commencement of deliberations, he would require jurors to re-read the jury instructions. And during the opening charge, he says he would acquaint the jury on basic courtroom procedures, including the use of expert witnesses and hypothetical questions.

So much for all those overly busy indispensables, including lawyers, if the chief justice can serve, well . . . .

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Photo credits: “The Jury by John Morgan” painted by John Morgan, uploaded to Wikipedia by Swampyank – The Jury by John Morgan.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Jury_by_John_Morgan.jpg#/media/File:The_Jury_by_John_Morgan.jpg; “Bad Dog!” by Pets Adviser at Flickr Creative Commons Attibution; “Jury Duty” by Steve Bott at Wikipedia via Creative Commons Attribution License.

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I had bats on my mind yesterday. First there was the report Thursday about bats causing pandemonium sending people screaming from an Arkansas courtroom. I’ve been in really old courthouses and know that rodents live there but this was a first concerning bats. Bats in the belfry Then also last night, I read not about bats but brickbats thrown by the Ninth Circuit over another case of prosecutorial malfeasance. Railing as I have over time, about the persistence of prosecutorial misconduct, for instance, here, here, here, here, here and here, all those posts have started to seem “like the [impotent] vaporings of the fellow with a large flock of bats in his belfry.”

 

Prosecutor punishment rare.

So here I am back in the same belfry. The problem is that state judges rarely punish the misconduct by at the very least, referring the wrongdoing prosecutors to state disciplinary authorities or at best, by sanctioning the transgressors by reversing the convictions. Furthermore, state bars hardly ever bring disciplinary complaints on their own against prosecutors. Consequently, state supreme courts almost never disbar prosecutors for dereliction, lying, or for failing to disclose evidence to the defense that deprives defendants of a fair trial. Baca v Adams. Courtroom 93The Los Angeles Times’ always insightful Legal Affairs Reporter reported last night about a January 8, 2015 Ninth Circuit hearing and the stern admonishment from the 3-judge panel about prosecutorial lying and the heedlessness of watchdogs in bringing misconduct to heel. See “U.S. Judges see ‘epidemic’ of prosecutorial misconduct in state.” Citing Napue v. Illinois, 360 US 264 (1959), which held that “the failure of the prosecutor to correct the testimony of the witness which he knew to be false denied petitioner due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, the three judges were not amused in the unheralded case of Johnny Baca v Derral Adams, which was the subject of the hearing. Per Napue, prosecutors cannot suborn perjury — or lie as happened in the Baca case. 1152762_left_hand_silhouette-_womanAnd questioning why bad things don’t happen to people doing bad Judge Alex Kozinski declared, “You know it’s a little disconcerting when the state puts on evidence, the evidence turns out to be fabricated and nothing happens to the lawyer and nothing happens to the witness. So I have to doubt the sincerity of the State when it says it was a big mistake.” It was hardly a surprise, then, that given the findings of the state appeals court that the prosecutor lied and their own readings of the Baca file, that the judges wanted the State to back off. Judge Kozinski additionally noted that though the state appellate court found the prosecutor lied — since no discipline had been meted, then he opined that prosecutors “got caught this time but they are going to keep doing it because they have state judges who are willing to look the other way.” Watch the videotaped hearing below at about the 28:30 minute mark for equally biting criticisms, including Judge Kozinski questioning the absence of any inquiry or discipline by the state attorney general into the misconduct.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/36/Kamala_Harris_Official_Attorney_General_Photo.jpg/160px-Kamala_Harris_Official_Attorney_General_Photo.jpg

Calif Attorney General Kamala Harris

However, given the keen political shrewdness of California State Attorney General Kamala Harris who now aspires to succeed Barbara Boxer in the US Senate, she spared her office further embarrassment by timely accommodating the strong judicial intimations to stand down. Last Thursday when the bats were flying in De Queen, Arkansas, she and the new Riverside County D.A. filed the following motion: As for myself, unlike one optimistic commentator, who opined after the hearing, “Prosecutors who suborn perjury may finally have to pay the piper,” here in my belfry, I’m still skeptical.

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Photo Credits: New Bat, by Windell Oskay at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License; Bat in Belfry at The Phrase Finder http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/bats-in-the-belfry.html; Round Rock, TX: Mexican Free-Tailed Bats by Roy Niswanger at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License; Kamala Harris, by http://oag.ca.gov/about, official photo, California State Attorney General, Wikipedia Commons, public domain; kdjfdkjdkl.jpg by greyerbaby at morguefile.com license .

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Wisconsin lawyer Michael Cicchini dropped another provocative “truth bomb” this week at The Legal Watchdog entitled, “The lawyer job market.”

https://i1.wp.com/img.wikinut.com/img/buwi66ndxqe7rzbw/jpeg/0/Talking-with-Hands-Wikimedia-Commons.jpeg

Cicchini posted about how ridiculously difficult it still is for jobless lawyers who are forced to choose self-employment when they’re unable to find full-time paying law firm work. An advertisement he recently received for work at the pleasure of the Racine Circuit Court made his point.

Despite an improving economy, new lawyers face daunting challenges. Blame the continuing glut of lawyers as well as irreversible changes to 21st century client expectations impacting the legal profession’s cost, profit and pricing structures.

While the good news is that the number of persons taking the Law School Admission Test has reached record lows, the transformative economic strictures continue to hold sway.

Preposterously penurious pay.

As for the advertisement Cicchini received, the County Circuit Court in Racine, Wisconsin is looking for an “advocate counsel” and the pay is an unbelievable $25,000 per year. Don’t expect expense reimbursement or job security. It’s terminable at-will.

The ad then goes on to state that “attorneys may be assigned any type of felony [including homicide], misdemeanor, juvenile, criminal traffic, and probate cases and any other action as the court orders . . . It is estimated that there will be about 70 – 80 assignments in 2015 per attorney.” Read the rest of Cicchini’s post here.

The quality of unfairness.

As an experienced criminal defense lawyer, Cicchini properly points out that this kind of caseload is “nearly impossible” for any lawyer — let alone a newbie hoping to do thorough, ethically unimpeachable legal work for clients.

Admittedly, there was more than enough in the court’s advertisement to annoy any lawyer — not the least being the overt professional discourtesy of lawyers trying to screw over other lawyers, i.e., those desperate enough to apply for such a demanding job at such penurious pay.

And who were the one’s being so discourteous? Cicchini speculates “this proposal was presumably authored with input from the Racine County judges themselves.”

But beyond exploiting economically hard-pressed young lawyers, there’s another even more disturbing consideration. What does this job say about exacerbating the continuing disparities of justice meted out to indigent defendants by overburdened, under-resourced public defenders? Studies have amply demonstrated that “public defenders do not have enough time to conduct thorough investigations, or meet with and provide quality representation for their clients – many of whom are low-income earners and people of color.” See, for instance, System Overload: The Costs of Under-Resourcing Public Defense.”

Ethical hazards.

But beyond the above-mentioned concerns, it was the potential ethical minefields created by the job that also got my dander up. As one commentator observed, “the deck is stacked” against solos as it is. Writing at “Ethical Hazards of Solo and Small Firm Practice,” Benjamin Cowgill axiomatically notes that nationwide, solos and small firms bear the brunt of most bar complaints. One reason, among many, arises from their chosen areas of practice, criminal defense being one of the riskier.

So what does this lousy job in Racine with its heavy caseload at rock-bottom pay say about how far ethical concerns are discounted in Cheesehead Land?

Politics Law & Finance 43Just a few years ago the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ran an excellent comprehensive investigative report about the sorry state of Wisconsin’s attorney discipline system. The newspaper reviewed almost 24,000 Wisconsin lawyers against state and federal court records and “found that lawyers who are convicted of crimes are then subjected to a slow-moving disciplinary system that operates largely behind closed doors.” It went on to underscore the patently obvious that “Wisconsin appears to be comparatively lenient in dealing with lawbreaking lawyers.

“Unlike many other states, where the licenses of lawyers convicted of serious crimes such as fraud are immediately suspended to give regulators time to determine the proper sanction, Wisconsin sometimes allows criminals to keep their law licenses even while they are behind bars.”

Hilariously hubristic hypocrisy.

So front and center comes this challenging low-paying job in Racine that just reeks of potential ethical hazard for the unwary and overburdened.

And yet, maybe I’m overstating the hazard? After all, it appears not much has changed since 2011, at least when it comes to lawyer discipline in Wisconsin. Indeed, earlier this summer there was a lawyer discipline case reported by “The Legal Profession Blog” ironically highlighting “Calls to Reform Wisconsin Attorney Discipline” made by none other than Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamsom and Justice David Prosser. Given the facts of that case, both expressed agreement on the need to study and reform the Wisconsin attorney discipline system.

But here was the irony and the not insignificant brass. Along with Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, the Wisconsin high court has hardly been an exemplar of professional comportment.
Some 6 months after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran its investigative series on the state’s embarrassing absence of meaningful attorney discipline, Justice Bradley made headline-grabbing allegations involving her purported physical altercation with Justice Prosser. See “Bradley says Prosser choked her.”

But after all the he-said/she-said, no criminal charges were ever filed although Justice Prosser did get charged with ethics violations. However, lo and behold and consistent with how things apparently roll in Wisconsin, multiple recusals led to no quorum, which meant no determination of discipline could be made against Justice Prosser. So, the charges were dropped. Later the same year, he eked out a 7,006 reelection win over Joanne Kloppenburg.

And so he sits on the high bench in 2014 opining along with his chief justice who he previously disrespected about how Wisconsin’s attorney discipline system needs reform.

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Photo Credits: Talking with Hands, Wikimedia Commons; Half the pay, twice the work by Truthout.org at Flickr via Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License; Defense Counsel by Matt Freedman at Flickr, Attribution; bad jpg file in encrypted folder by Mike at Flickr via Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License.

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https://lawmrh.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/politicians-34.jpgOn Sunday, the local paper ran an editorial long on conceit but short on illumination. “Kick these judges off the bench” proclaimed the Arizona Republic’s Editorial Board. The Op-ed was a day ahead of its own news story declaring, “Arizona commission deems 2 judges unfit for bench.”

I reckon the paper’s commentators couldn’t wait to join the “Amen” choir hallelujahing two non-retention recommendations by Arizona’s Commission on Judicial Performance Review (JPR).

child silly faceAccording to its website, “The JPR Commission is responsible for developing performance standards and thresholds, and conducting performance reviews of justices and judges who are merit selected and subject to retention elections.”

So with early voting in full swing, the Commission’s judicial evaluations are supposed to help voters wade through a morass of some 50+ judicial unknowns on their ballots.

But what made news was that the Commission actually found two judges worthy of non-retention recommendations. They were Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Benjamin Norris and Pima County Superior Court Judge Catherine Woods — both deemed well below the Judicial Performance Review Standards used to evaluate judges.

Sure the newspaper editorial quoted the Commission’s Chairperson who called the two non-retention votes “historic.” But too bad the paper didn’t adequately explain how truly historic — as in rarer than a Phoenix snowball.

“Everyone’s special . . . .”

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/88/A_Rubber_stamp_stand.JPG/640px-A_Rubber_stamp_stand.JPGFor all its self-congratulated value during its 22 year existence, the JPR Commission has generally functioned as an election cycle rubber-stamp consistently grading judges with mean evaluation scores well above 98%. Everybody’s not just special — but really special.

And since like most of Arizona’s legal establishment, the Commission’s hardly a paragon of transparency1, it’s tough to nail down precisely how rarefied these two non-retention recommendations were. Depending on the source, it’s either been once or twice before that Commission members have found pluck enough to recommend a judicial non-retention. According to one source, it’s happened only once before — in 1998. Yet another source claims it also happened in 2008.

No matter, though, as in each case the public didn’t pay any mind. Regardless of the recommendations, voters retained the judges anyway!

Since Arizona merely requires “a majority of those voting” to retain a judge, newspaper Op-ed and Commission votes notwithstanding — I won’t be surprised if it happens again this year. So much for achieving its intended purpose with all the efficacy of a hamster on a broken wheel.

Nothing succeeds like self-congratulation.

Entertainment 606In September, in a laudatory Op-ed to commemorate this year’s 40th anniversary of Arizona’s judicial merit selection system, Arizona’s State Supreme Court Chief Justice self-interestedly explained “Why Arizona has some of America’s best judges.”

While passing praise all around, at least Chief Justice Bales parenthetically conceded that “Some have observed that Arizona’s voters do not often reject judges who are up for retention.” Talk about understatement.

In 40 years, the scorecard is 99% get retained. Since 1974, only two judges have lost a retention election in Maricopa County. Also see research cited at “Job security means working for the feds or sitting for judicial retention elections”

Additionally, a law review article recently noted that “A few have argued that the JPR program does not work to “weed out” bad judges, because the Commission rarely votes that a judge “Does Not Meet” standards, and when the Commission does issue such a vote, the voters nonetheless retain the judge.

“Although that is one way to evaluate the data,” the authors explained, “an alternative assessment is that the data demonstrate the merit-selection system’s success in appointing high-quality judicial applicants. That is, the data may instead show that the merit-selection system is attracting and retaining highly competent judges who are performing well and do not deserve “does not meet standards” votes or to be voted out of office.”2

Frankly, this “alternative assessment” is probably a stretch. The problem with drawing such conclusions is best summed up by the aphorism, “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”  Or in other words, we’re expected to accept the fallacious logic that X is true because there’s no proof X is false.

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/43/Stick_figure_-_choosing.jpgThat the Commission almost always fails to muster “Does Not Meet” standards votes — or that it rarely votes to non-retain — or that an overwhelmed electorate has to play Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” on scores of judicial unknowns — hardly amounts to proof positive that merit selection cornered the market on the high performing and highly competent.

What it does mean, however, is that after 40 years, merit selection is tantamount to lifetime appointment.

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(1) Try searching for meeting minutes or judicial performance report data older than 4 years on the Commission’s website at http://www.azcourts.gov/jpr/NewsandMeetings.aspx?nt=4

(2) See Judicial Performance Review in Arizona: A Critical Assessment.
Berch, Rebecca White; Bass, Erin Norris // Arizona Law Review; 2014, Vol. 56 Issue 2, p353

Photo Credits: Rubber Stamp Stand, by Thamizhpparithi Maari at Wikimedia Commons;Robo Dwarf Hamster, by Sarah , Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; Stick figure – choosing, by Obsidian Soul by at Wikimedia Commons.

 

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Last week, the State Bar of Arizona launched an odd campaign. It’s a social media contest using the photo sharing, video streaming site Instagram.

Called Finish the Ballot!, the contest is supposed to promote voter information about judicial retention elections. Yeah, there’s a challenge — ginning up excitement for a dull but important topic.

Dangling all of a $250 Visa gift card as the sole prize, contestants vie by creating a 15-second Instagram video that must include the phrase, “Finish the ballot. Vote for the judges!”

Bar employees will pick the winner based on “creativity and originality as they reflect the contest’s theme.” Instead of “Just Say No!” think “Just Say Vote!” 

Undervoting worries.

The goal is to increase voter participation — at least on that really long part of the ballot with all the judicial names expecting retention.

Problem is that voters in Arizona and in other judicial retention states continue choosing not to complete their ballots. The phenomenon has a name. It’s called “undervoting” or “roll off.”

The worry is that for merit selection and judicial retention election proponents, all those non-votes undermine the argument that retention elections are supposedly great at ensuring judicial accountability.

And with ever longer ballots and so many judges listed, it’s not getting any better. In one recent Maricopa County election, for example,

Indeed, according to a June 2014 Arizona Law Review article, “Judicial Performance Review in Arizona: A Critical Assessment,” authors former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch and her former law clerk now attorney Erin Norris Bass, reference Professor Larry Aspin’s studies revealing that between 1964 and 2010, Arizona judges up for retention averaged an undervote of 42.9%.

In his report, Judicial retention election trends,” Aspin highlighted the undervoting increase in the state’s largest county, Maricopa, where it ran “an average 48.8% in the 1996-2006 period, peaking at 54.5% in 2004.”  And citing 2012 Maricopa County Election Results, Justice Berch and Ms. Bass noted more recently that “In the 2012 retention election, Maricopa County Superior Court judges on the ballot had an average 50.7% undervote.”

But besides undervoting, there’s another concern troubling the legal establishment. Justice Berch and Ms. Bass’ law review article, also cited findings that “approximately 30% of the electorate routinely votes ‘no’ in judicial retention elections no matter who the judge happens to be.” 

In Maricopa County, among those taking the time to vote for all the judges, the median affirmative vote in the 2012 county election was 69%. Anecdotally at least, one can speculate this may be a form of protest by restive voters dissatisfied with the present system.

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Photo Credits: 214/365, at Flickr by Morgan via Creative Commons attribution; Making Faces, at Flickr by a2gemma via Creative Commons-attribution license;My Kitty Boys Doing the Big Eye Stare, by joanna8555 at Flickr Creative Commons attribution license;Instagram-logo, uploaded by José Moutinho at Flickr Creative Commons attribution;DeMoulin’s Patented Hoodwink, at Flickr Creative Commons-attribution license uploaded by Arallyn!

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File:Laughing Fool.jpgLike Cher, Article III federal judges answer only to themselves and to God — assuming, that is, they aren’t atheists — otherwise they’re not answering to the Almighty either.

Which leads me to question why given how untouchable they are, some folks, granted mostly lawyers are nonetheless so exercised over Federal Judge Richard Kopf having told the U.S. Supreme Court it should ‘STFU.” One nose-out-of-joint conservative law school professor was so peeved at Judge Kopf he even went for the cheap ad hominem and called him “dummKopf.” I hope Steve Bainbridge doesn’t really think he’s the clever first one to think up that pun when he ranted it was the judge who should STFU.

The 68-year old Judge Kopf is retired but on senior status since December 1, 2011. This means he’s working at-large as a judge but assigned to any inferior federal court while receiving his retirement salary.

Hercules and the umpire.

But besides working as a senior justice, he also has a personal blog called “Hercules and the umpire” where he waxes either eloquent or inappropriate depending on your sociopolitical point of view.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s latest controversial decision involving a closely-held corporation’s personhood and its attendant religious beliefs concerning Obamacare-mandated contraceptives in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the very opinionated Judge Kopf invoked the acronym, STFU, to argue the nation’s high court is “causing more harm (division) to our democracy than good by deciding hot button cases that the Court has the power to avoid.” But it was that acronym that got people’s underwear in an uncomfortable bunch.

For the uninitiated, STFU is simply short-hand for shut the F-bomb up. Oh, my, that a judge would deign to use such language? At least it wasn’t in any judicial opinion.

Cebull didn’t blog.

https://lawmrh.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/judge-cebull.jpgMaybe if the now retired 70-year old Federal Judge Richard Cebull had blogged instead of emailing on his office computer, he might’ve kept his racist robes and his own senior status another day? Just kidding.

You’ll recall an investigation by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judicial Council revealed Judge Cebull had sent hundreds of “racist, sexist and politically inflammatory” e-mail messages over four years while serving as a federal judge in Montana. Parenthetically, Native American advocacy groups are still petitioning to see all the ex-judge’s racist emails but the 9th Circuit keeps saying ‘No.’ They’re supposedly confidential. Oh well, at least they’re just ‘secret’ and not ‘lost’ like Lois Lerner’s missing IRS emails.

“Dirty old man.”

https://i0.wp.com/static.someecards.com/someecards/usercards/MjAxMi01Y2Q5Y2I1MGRhMzg5M2Yw.pngIt’s not like Judge Kopf hasn’t been here before. A self-described “dirty old man ever since I was a very young man,” he got people worked up just a few months ago when he posted “On being a dirty old man and how young women lawyers dress.”

In that post, he wrote “I have three rules that young women lawyers should follow when considering how to dress for court: 1. You can’t win. Men are both pigs and prudes. Get over it. 2. It is not about you. That goes double when you are appearing in front of a jury. 3. Think about the female law clerks. If they are likely to label you, like Jane Curtin, an ignorant slut behind your back, tone it down.”

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a9/Hans_Conried_Uncle_Tonoose_Danny_Thomas_Show_1959.JPG/363px-Hans_Conried_Uncle_Tonoose_Danny_Thomas_Show_1959.JPGFilters? What filters?

Let me first inoculate myself against accusations of ageist stereotyping. I’m well past my middle-earlies. That said, perhaps age should at least, be discussed here.

Besides our own anecdotal evidence about crazy uncles ruining holidays “with outlandish behavior and boorish opinions,” studies support what some of us have long suspected, aging brains not only drive forgetfulness but blunt behavior.

In one study, “Aging, Executive Functioning, and Social Control,” researcher William von Hippel found that physiological changes such as aging-related atrophy of the brain’s frontal lobes, which he calls “the seat of executive functions” are associated with “age-related inhibitory losses.” This can lead to unvarnished prejudice, “off-target verbosity” and “socially inappropriate remarks.” For an unscholarly, inelegant take on the same topic, also see “Old People Saying Shit They Should Not.

Any wonder that 75-year old Federal Judge Richard Posner recommends judges after 70 be required to takea test of mental acuity every five years.”

Judge Robert Malcolm Kerr of whom it was said, “He administers a kind of rough and ready justice that irritates many and pleases few.”

But when it comes to the berobed, the combination of age-related inhibitory deficits with hubristic-minded ‘black robe disease’ also called “Judge-Itis” — why that’s downright pyrotechnic. In some quarters, judge-itis has morphed into Judge Judy-fication. For examples, remember King County, Washington’s real-life Judge Judy Eiler or the very recent Brevard County Florida Brawling Judge John Murphy. As historian Barbara Tuchman said, “A greater inducement to folly is an excess of power.”

So if media-celebrated ‘no nonsense’ ‘tough-talkers’ on the bench can gloss over Model Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 2’s sub paragraphs on courtroom decorum and demeanor, why can’t judges with personal blogs?

“Everyone was thinking it, I just said it.”

Not to say that 60-somethings and older have cornered inhibitory deficits. Take San Diego California’s Judge DeAnn Salcido, a member of Generation X who was reprimanded for using her courtroom to create audition tapes for a Judge Judy-style television show.

https://lawmrh.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/e15ef-filter.jpgUnabashed, she said, “I have a big mouth. I don’t know when to be quiet. I’m telling you everything I know. That’s just the way it’s going to be. I don’t know how to change that. It’s a defect in my personality.” Methinks she needs a blog, too.

And then over the weekend, I finally had enough. I’d been following an anonymous Millenial and once-upon-a-time wanna-be lawyer turned author/blogger. I once thought his blog was refreshingly funny even with all the profligate F-bombs. But then his profane posts kept crossing the line from witty real-world impertinence to nasty hyperbolic meanness. And after reading his last post describing what he’d be willing to do if someone paid off all his student debt, I finally said “No mas” and unfollowed.

No filters.

So when it comes to blurting out whatever pops in your head regardless of the consequences, I’m now inclined to think age is irrelevant. As a society, thanks to social media, online anonymity and no-longer-taught etiquette, we have no filters.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/72/The_Wounded_Angel_-_Hugo_Simberg.jpg/298px-The_Wounded_Angel_-_Hugo_Simberg.jpgWhich gets me back to Judge Kopf. In his latest post, “Please stop,” the blogging judge says he’s reconsidering his blog after all the fallout from his STFU post. In his post, he reprints a communication received from a Nebraska lawyer who he says has his “highest respect.” In his missive, the lawyer appeals idealistically to Judge Kopf’s ‘better angels of our nature’ and asks him to stop blogging — lest it bring discredit on the public’s understanding of the judicial system.

But from my quick unscientific review of the comments to this post, it seems most readers favor his continued blogging. So as Judge Kopf contemplates what he’s going to do, not to worry. It’s not like public confidence in the Supreme Court isn’t already at a historic low or that judicial irreverence means the public will think as Dickens’ Mr. Bumble did that “the law is an ass.” I think he should keep blogging.

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Photo Credits: Laughing Fool, source http://www.wellesley.edu/DavisMuseum/collections/provenance_research.htm at Wikipedia Commons, public domain;American magazine ad for the film Hercules (1959), HerculesMagazine.jpg, Wikimedia Commons, public domain;Hans Conried as Uncle Tonoose, Wikimedia Commons, public domain;Robert Malcolm Kerr, Vanity Fair, 1900-11-22m Wikimedia Commons,Public Domain; The Wounded Angel,Hugo Simberg, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.


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I love juxtapositions. It’s an odd personality trait. Or maybe, it’s the heat. Or it’s niggling sleep deprivation now that I’m up earlier than usual — before 4:30 AM to walk our dogs before the summer sun scorches paws and dehydrates lolling tongues. It clears 90°F before 8 AM.

Take, for instance, my frequent lumping together of ‘Old Skool’ rhythm and blues with otherwise unrelated substantive topics. Regular readers know, for example, I especially like Old Skool’ Riffing on Godfather of Soul James Brown.

So when news hit that Brevard County Florida Judge John C. Murphy was back but handling civil cases after less than 30 days of paid vacation leave for reportedly scuffling outside his courtroom with Assistant Public Defender Andrew Weinstock, you’ll understand why “Get Up Offa That Thing” started playing in my head. However, I’ll admit that this particular jurist doesn’t strike me as someone who’d channel Soul Brother No. 1‘s happy “I’m back! I’m back!” refrain.

Brawl in Brevard.

You remember the “Stop pissing me off . . . if you want to fight, let’s go out back”  ‘Brawl in Brevard.’ That’s when after ripping the public defender a new one in his court, Judge Murphy irascibly took matters out to the hallway for a more serious heart-to-heart with the surprisingly unintimidated Andrew Weinstock.

I prognosticated then, “I don’t expect much to happen to Judge Murphy.” So he’s back already. Also see “Judge who hit public defender returns to bench, less than a month later.”

People 7442Sure the Judicial Qualifications Commission reportedly opened an investigation. But seeing how the wagons have already circled around Judge Murphy, I still predict, if anything, the gentlest of admonitions. Besides, according to news reports, no criminal charges were filed in the incident.

 

Boy with his hands on his face uidOpen Letter Contrition — but not for all.

In an open letter released “To the Residents of Brevard County,” Judge Murphy has moved to put the embarrassing episode behind him. “I am happy and relieved to be back at work serving the people of Brevard County and I thank [Chief Justice] Judge Harris for his support and the confidence he has shown to me,” he wrote.

Not to worry, I guess, if the Judicial Qualifications Commission happens to make a probable cause determination and the whole thing’s sent for adjudication to supportive Chief Justice Harris and the Florida Supreme Court.

In his letter, Judge Murphy expressed “regret” for his actions. And he “committed to continuing personal improvement” and to “win back” public trust and confidence. He offered “my personal apology” to each of his 18th Judicial Circuit colleagues and to “judges everywhere.” Curiously, he made no mention of Weinstock, the object of his ire, nor did he apologize to him. But at least he left out the standard non-apology apology.

Yet as the New York Times reported a few days ago, voters can expect more judicial contrition in Florida. See “Here Comes the Judge, in Cuffs – In Broward County, Fla., Spate of Judges in D.U.I. Arrests.” Yeah, I know — let he who is without sin hide behind the nearest rock pile.

Dominick/Flickr

And to reassure the county electorate that he hopes will again reelect him, Judge Murphy also added, “I seek to ensure that this sort of unacceptable behavior will never happen again.” The words “seek to ensure” reminded me of that scene from “The Outlaw Josey Wales.” It was where Dan George as Lone Watie described his visit with the other Chiefs of the Five Civilized Tribes to the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary nonsensically tells them “Endeavor to persevere.” I imagine the judge will likewise “endeavor to persevere” not to spar, biff, or poke public defenders on premises.

1158073_paper_emotions_-_hateNot the last angry man.

To assist those aspirations, while on his taxpayer-paid leave, Judge Murphy took part in a favorite bureaucratic fix — anger management. The courts may not have them but I have my doubts about anger management programs and whether they even work.

Of anger management classes, the Health Journal at the Wall Street Journal said, “It’s not clear if the programs work, as few studies have analyzed their effectiveness. There are no licensing requirements for anger-management trainers — anyone can open a business. And since participants don’t usually sign up voluntarily, trainers say it’s possible to complete a program without changing one’s behavior.” Also see NPR’s “The Anger Management Industry – Calming Courses on the Rise, But Do They Work?”

Now really, is there such a thing as curing a propensity to be an angry jerk? Or can counseling graft a nice personality on an overbearing putz? Or can it fix what one blogger hilariously calls HUAD – Head Up Ass Disorder?

Take, for example, that serial biting soccer footballer Luis Suarez who after two previous biting incidents during a game was recommended anger management treatment. Suarez’s now up to three bites with the latest administered on an Italian Player at the current World Cup. He’s been fined and banned for 4 months. Still the psychologists keep recommending anger management instead of bicuspid restraints.

https://i0.wp.com/media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/5f/e6/84/5fe684ecb7261693a426fe41022db7c1.jpg

Fortunately, even if anger management doesn’t work, there’s always Dr. Seuss. How about carrying around “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?” in your pocket?

Truthfully, when it comes down to it, some people just don’t have the requisite people skills, civility and infinite patience to handle life stresses.

I’m all for reinvention — but as Clint said, “A Man’s Got to Know his Limitations.” If you can’t handle on-the-job anger, find another line of work.

Which to conclude, of course, reminds me of another ‘Old Skool’ golden oldie ditty.

It’s from my East Los Angeles Barrio days: “Are you angry?” So when all else fails — there’s always a song.

 


Photo Credits: James Brown Live Hamburg 1973 by Heinrich Klaffs Heinrich Klaffs – at Wikipedia Commons, originally posted to Flickr as James Brown Live 1702730029; Pin by Debbi Kassin on Anger Management & Conflict Resolution Dr. Seuss, Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?

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