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?
Facts: The Inquisitor