Ethics Dunce: Wisconsin Judge J.D. Watts

Nice guy, though.

Jury duty?

Ivana Samardzic, 20, took off for a long-planned Cancun vacation. The problem was that she was a member of the jury in a felony trial, and deliberations had already begun. Samardzic went AWOL after the presentation of the felony shooting case against the defendant, Spartacus Outlaw, calling the court clerk from the airport to say  that she had left her vote with the foreman. That’s gall. That’s also contempt. Rather than call a mistrial, the judge got the defendant to agree to allow the jury to continue with only eleven jurors, who found the defendant guilty of one of the charges against him. ( By the way, if you are named Spartacus Outlaw, I really think crime is a risky career choice.)

“I don’t know if this was worth it, but I did have a good time in Cancun,” Samardzic giggled after her contempt  hearing upon her return. “I am relieved. I’m just happy I’m not in jail.” Well, I’m not. She should be in jail, and the $300 fine levied by nice guy Judge J.D. Watts is an insult to all those who perform their civic duties as Americans when called to jury duty. It is called a contempt hearing for a reason: Samardzic displayed contempt for the court, the justice system, the institution of the jury and the Constitution, as well as both the defendant and the state. It is a judge’s job to uphold respect for the law, and to come down hard on citizens who defy judicial authority and neglect their duty as members of a democracy, of which the jury is a vital symbol. Instead, Watts gave this silly woman a light fine that was probably less than her liquor bill in Mexico,  giving other slacker citizens motivation to behave just like her.

He did more damage than she did.


Facts: ABA Journal

Graphic: Healthy Voyager

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at



One thought on “Ethics Dunce: Wisconsin Judge J.D. Watts

  1. Seems like a mistrial should be automatic in cases like this. Plus, a fine to the derelict juror equal to or greater than the court’s expenses paid to the other jurors. Plus, civil liability of the derelict juror to the other jurors for any income they may have lost as a result of their time being wasted.

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