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Judicial accountability

May 15, 2023

It's easy to be cynical about judges these days but some of them are held accountable.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

Those of you out there who are upset that judges — Supreme Court justices, in particular — don’t get held accountable will be happy to learn that some courts do take judicial misconduct seriously.

The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia earlier this month issued a 59-page ruling imposing a suspension and sanctions on a state circuit judge.

No, there weren’t any kindly billionaires involved or interesting real estate transactions, but it’s nice to know that at least one court takes questionable behavior seriously — and discusses it at some length.

The offense: being a Karen.

Not literally and the court didn’t say that but that’s essentially what this was about.

A white judge was stopped by a Black cop in July 2021 (yes, this process has taken almost two years) for holding a cellphone in his hand while driving.

Can you guess what happened next?

That’s right — the judge called the cop’s supervisor. Later, he also called the chief of police to complain.

And after that, the judge drove (with an expired license) to the Moorefield, West Virginia, mayor’s house and complained there.

Things were said — i.e., the white judge may have referred to the Black cop as “your boy,” and the judge may or may not, depending on whom you believe, have implied that he might look askance at cases brought by the police to his court.

There’s more but you get the general idea. The state’s Judicial Hearing Board eventually held a three-day hearing during which it reviewed 85 exhibits and heard from more than two dozen witnesses.

The judge claimed he was having mental health issues and “likened himself to a powder keg that simply needed a bit of a spark to blow.” He also said his medication might have been the problem.

Should insanity be an argument for keeping a job as a judge?

Apparently, this was not a winning argument. The board ended up suspending the judge for three months, and the state Supreme Court upped it to six months along with a $5,000 fine.

I’m sure he’ll be perfectly unbiased when he’s back on the bench.

Ouch. I want to believe what I read in court rulings. Really, I do. But sometimes it’s hard.

Picture what is described here in a ruling from the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho:

“Video surveillance from within the patrol car showed Ingraham removing the bag of methamphetamine from inside her pants and attempting to place it in her mouth. When she failed to do so, Ingraham ‘sat up and rocked back and forth actively destroying the meth and baggie before she was finally removed from the vehicle.’ After she was transported to the county jail, detention deputies also found pieces of broken glass in Ingraham’s pocket and ‘a broken clear meth pipe up her anus.’”

I have so many questions.

I can buy the anus thing. (Is that the definition of a crack pipe?) But the rest seems impossible.

How do you destroy a baggie by moving back and forth? Was this a polite way of saying the defendant was so fat she could crush matter into oblivion?

How did the glass get from the anus to the pocket? Was the pipe in the pocket first and then moved to the anus after breaking? Didn’t this hurt?

I should note here that the defendant was handcuffed. Apparently, she is either a contortionist or a magician.

In case you’re wondering, the case was sent back down to the trial court to reconsider sentencing, I think they should just let her go — the butt pain is punishment enough.

Punditry. I have no quarrel with most of the lawsuit filed recently in federal court in Michigan against a school district for making a couple of kids take off “Let’s Go Brandon” sweatshirts. We probably shouldn’t be censoring speech we don’t like unless it’s causing a riot or projectile vomiting.

But I do have to point out one odd thing about the lawsuit.

After explaining the history of “Let’s Go Brandon” — which is that it really means “Fuck Joe Biden” — the suit then describes “Let’s Go Brandon” as “a form of political commentary and criticism of President Biden.”

So “Fuck Joe Biden” is political commentary and criticism?

Political punditry has seen better days.


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