How to Goof Off

If you have nothing better to do and/or you need some summertime reading, you might want to take a look at a Notice of Formal Charges issued the other day by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission. Feel free to base a novel on the many fascinating tidbits in the 150 pages of exhibits detailing the frantic life of a jurist who doesn’t quite seem to have his act together.

The judge in question, however, may soon have his own novel out because one of the things we were being notified about was using his judicial assistant to work on his manuscript.

I don’t know what’s in that book but there are hints that this is a classic. For example: “If it’s more interesting so as not to lose the reader, should these chapters be first, BEFORE the fat bobby trial?”

There’s a Fat Bobby trial? You know this has got to be good.

And there’s so much more. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wonder why the heck an adult can’t figure out how to book a flight or stop an automatic payment.

There’s some amazing creativity, too. My favorite is this passage (page 110): “And then after the eclipse (which means 3 dots) add the phrase: before that person could legally be considered a ‘fugitive.’”

Well, I guess if you stared at an eclipse you might see three dots in front of your eyes.

I was also really intrigued by this snippet (page 124): “in the parenthesis that has the name Jessie, have it say (also posthumously Jessie after he was deceased at birth)”.

Is this science fiction?

All this, entertaining as it is, is not what the formal charges were about. It seems, at least according to the commission, that, among other things, the judge/author, John P. Contini, had his assistant make up fictional cases and hearings to make it seem like he was working.

Obviously, everyone wants to pretend they’re busy at work. This judge, however, clearly did this the wrong way. Using an assistant who will be happy to turn over evidence, and making up cases that can be checked on the public records is not the way to safely goof off. There are much better and safer ways of doing this.

For example, pretend to do research. Judging isn’t supposed to be easy. No one is going to complain if you take a day or two to ponder legal issues.

It’s also simple to hide a laptop at your bench. You could be writing your novel or playing a video game while lawyers drone on in front of you. If you get caught, you can claim you were taking notes.

It’s also useful to encourage settlements. Inform the parties before you that you think their case be resolved with a little will power, good faith and honest negotiation and tell them to come back in a few days. Then take a vacation. Everyone will think you’re an amazing mediator.

To say nothing of the dog. I see a lot of pretty horrible sexual harassment lawsuits almost every working day but there was one recent filing that really got to me. It began describing the usual boorish male behavior and then there was this:

“Yurchenko made constant unlawful remarks directed not only at Plaintiff, but also directed at Lily (Plaintiff’s female dog). For example, Yurchenko made comments about Lily’s small size. He implied that Lily was not worthwhile because Lily could never pull Plaintiff out of a burning building like a ‘master’ (male) dog. Komiyama also directed multiple insults at Lily per day.”

Workplace dog harassment is one of the most underreported crises in our nation today.

Oddly, Lily was not a plaintiff. I’m guessing she’s seeking her own representation.

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