Ethics Quiz: Butt Slap In Court!

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Once again the issue at hand is judicial restraint, as another unfortunate individual incurred judge’s anger with inappropriate courtroom conduct and paid a heavy price. The question is, was it too heavy?

The object of robed wrath this time  was the former NFL star Chad Johnson, better known as Chad Ochocinco,  in court for violating his parole arising from a domestic abuse conviction (he head-butted his wife—nice), which also ended his NFL career.  His lawyers had worked out a plea deal giving Johnson community service and requiring him to attend  counseling sessions, and the judge had approved it.  But then Broward County Circuit Judge Kathleen McHugh asked the athlete if he was satisfied with his lawyer’s performance,  and in response, Ochocinco slapped his lawyer on the butt. The entire courtroom laughed.

Judges don’t usually like to hear laughter in their courtrooms, unless they’re telling the jokes.

Judge McHugh proved to be no exception. “‘I don’t know that you’re taking this whole thing seriously,” she said. “I just saw you slap your attorney on the backside. Is there something funny about this? ‘The whole courtroom was laughing. I’m not going to accept these plea negotiations. This isn’t a joke.’’ Johnson tried to pacify her, but it didn’t work. She ordered him jailed, and the deal cancelled.

Thus, your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is:

Was Judge McHugh unfair?

I think so. This was the worst possible combination for Johnson: domestic abuse conviction, a female judge, physical contact, though obviously playful, and laughter from spectators. Remove any of those factors, and I think the ex-player gets his deal. The judge over-reacted.

I’m betting she lets him cool in the cooler while she cools off herself, and reinstates the deal.

Or do you think levity when domestic violence is involved is especially obnoxious, and deserves what Chad O got?

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Facts: The Inquisitor

Graphic: Adriatique

115 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: Butt Slap In Court!

  1. Perhaps female judges shouldn’t be allowed to work while their having their period? If my ex-wife was a judge, one week every month everyone would get the death penalty. 😉

    • I bet women just love the default resort to the menstrual cycle explanation every time they do something arguably harsh. What’s men’s excuse? I have to say, as omeone who has spent a lot more time working with women than men, I have never noticed he wild mood swings mythology warns us about.

  2. I had the same reaction as Michael – I wondered if the Judge couldn’t have accepted the deal, but in addition given him a day in the clink for contempt of court. Logically, the two things should be kept as separate issues. It also would have been a more proportional response.

    But I don’t know anything about contempt of court law; perhaps there is some legal reason she couldn’t have done that.

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