Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Saturday, March 2, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Four-Star Jail

Can't we all just get along?

Well, obviously not. There were two interesting (and opposite) examples of this last week.

The first was a surprising Twitter trend: #BadThingsToTellAJudge.

The other was In re: Hill, a ruling from the North Carolina Supreme Court in which a judge was reprimanded for telling some litigants they were idiots and threatening to send them to the Durham County Bed and Breakfast.

I admit I had a little trouble understanding that last part. According to the ruling, "Respondent's frequent references to the local jail facility as the 'Durham County Bed and Breakfast' were inappropriate for court."

It sounds like a delightful treat to me, but apparently the judge did really mean jail. I don't know what the North Carolina Supreme Court has against euphemisms.

Why would "Bed and Breakfast" be more inappropriate than "jail?" Jail seems a whole lot scarier to me.

The only explanation I can come up with is that the court thought the judge should have used the term "Durham Four Seasons Hotel and Resort offering Michelin Star food service and 800 thread-count linens."

Much classier.

Before we go any further with this topic, let's try a social media experiment. I've posted tweets with the hashtag #BadThingsAJudgeCanSay. You do the same - and retweet and like your favorites. Let's see if we can get this trending on Monday.

Anyway, as we all know, emotions can run high in court but we're supposed to repress them.


Wouldn't idiot litigants benefit from being told frankly of their incompetence?

Don't we get closer to the truth when we see how people really feel?

I realize things could get out of hand if we don't require forced politeness in court. Fistfights can be a distraction.

But isn't that what bailiffs are for? Most bailiffs are bored out of their minds. Let's give them something interesting to do.

This will also keep the jury awake.

Something to chew on. Strange as it may seem, news writing is actually taught in classes and one of the things you're taught to do when constructing a news story is to put the most important stuff in the first paragraph.

This is called being objective even though it's completely subjective.

Bearing this in mind, consider the first paragraph of a news story that appeared last week:

"A former law firm clerk pleaded guilty to stealing corporate secrets and passing them to a friend, who chewed and swallowed the written notes after showing them to a broker at New York's Grand Central Terminal."


So many questions.

He pleaded guilty to stealing secrets and giving them to a friend who ate them?

Is the eating part of the original charge or just an enhancement for sentencing?

And why exactly were these stock tips consumed?

Were there no alternative means of disposal? Were all the garbage cans in New York full?

There's no explanation in the story. My guess is that the defendants assumed they couldn't do insider trading unless the information was actually inside someone.

The story is accompanied by a picture of part of the inside of Grand Central Station, in case you don't know what a train station looks like.

But the photo does not seem to include "the large clock in the main concourse" where the stock tip meals took place (unless maybe it's that yellow thing way in the background).

My guess is that they didn't want to encourage any copycat criminals by offering too much graphic detail.

It's responsible journalism.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.