Judges Gone Wild

     Here’s something for you to ponder: What’s the difference between admonishment and censure?
     And should you care?
     If you’ve been thinking about these issues like I have, that means you’ve read the State of California Commission on Judicial Performance annual report issued this month.
     It’s great fun: entertaining and mysterious.
     There’s even a lesson about the news business.
     It turns out that 43 judges were “disciplined” by the Commission last year – but only 10 of them were disciplined publicly – so whatever the other 33 did was so trivial it wasn’t worth letting anyone know about it.
     And no one was kicked off the bench.
     This didn’t prevent The Los Angeles Times from using this headline: “43 California Judges Were Reprimanded for Misconduct Last Year.”
     It’s an epidemic!
     The first line of the story is: “Two judges had sex with women in their chambers, one with his former law students, the other with his court clerk.”
     This is the classic definition of “man bites dog” – it practically never happens but when it does, we’re going to scare the heck out of you.
     There’s also a Twitter/Facebook “shareline” on the web version of the story that says: “Sex in chambers and delegating decisions are just some of the errant behaviors by California judges in 2014.”
     At this point I’m picturing Lady Justice in a remake of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” That explains the blindfold!
     Imagine my disappointment when I found that some of the other errant behaviors were threatening to report a lawyer to the State Bar and “a judge’s handling of an administrative matter gave rise to an appearance of impartiality.”
     Another judge left court early to “play sports.”
     Probably one of those ball/net games or something.
     Still, as I said, the report does have entertainment and educational value.
     For example, we learn that people complain a lot. Considering that, I’m guessing, most of those people were litigants and many (if not all) of them were insane, this shouldn’t be surprising.
     My favorite part of the “statistics” section is the note that 484 complaints were about matters and “miscellaneous individuals” over which the commission had no jurisdiction.
     I’m picturing people trying to return defective refrigerators.
     We also learn what the worst thing a judge can do is. You want to guess what that is?
     I would have said pulling out a shotgun to clear the courtroom.
     The answer, however, is: “The commission expressed the view that engaging in sexual intercourse in the courthouse is the height of irresponsible and improper behavior by a judge …”
     I’m assuming they mean on the bench during a trial with counsel for just one side.
     If not, this could explain why there are so many cranky judges out there.
     Then there was the case of the judge whose “misconduct was sufficiently serious to warrant removal from office.”
     But he wasn’t removed.
     Why?
     Well, he admitted doing wrong, apologized, “and expressed great remorse and contrition, indicating a capacity for reform.”
     Yes, judges know exactly what to say to get a light sentence.
     It hardly seems worthwhile prosecuting them.
     
     CORRECTION. Matthew Chan aka Valor, the anti-poetry-troll crusader mentioned here last week, has written to tell me that the website referred to in that Georgia Supreme Court ruling is actually ExtortionLetterInfo.com.
     There you can spend many hours reading thousands of posts about poetry trolling.
     Enjoy.
     And Matthew says he doesn’t have a secret identity – he has a lengthy explanation of his pen name at http://defiantly.net/about-matthew-valor/.
     It still sounds like a superhero name to me.

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