Judicial Ethics Quiz: The Cranky Judge

Judge Clarke (L) and artist's representation (R)

Judge Clarke (L) and artist’s representation (R)

A three-judge panel in California found misconduct in Judge Edmund Clarke, Jr’s treatment of one or more jurors in a jury pool for a murder trial.

Your challengeGuess which of the incidents was found to be an abuse of judicial power and authority.

A. Judge Clarke also told a potential juror who wrote that she had only $25 in her checking account that “every one of these lawyers spent more than that on lunch today.” He excused the juror, and after she left, Clarke told everyone in the courtroom how much the juror had in her account. When a second potential juror disclosed he had only $33 in his checking account, Clarke again announced the amount and said that his savings put the other juror “in the shade with that big account.”

B. Judge Clarke reduced another juror to tears reprimanding her after she appeared to change a form to indicate that she did not speak English, which he found incredible. She said  had lived in the United States for 25 years. Clarke said,

“Most people that have been in this country for 10 years have picked up enough English. [Twenty] or so, they’re moving right along. And 25 years is—so you better have a different reason why you want to be excused than that.” 

After she began weeping loudly because, she said later, she was ashamed because she didn’t speak English, he dismissed her from the panel.

C. Finally, Judge Clarke became annoyed at a juror who had written on her hardship form, “Having Severe Anxiety!!” next to her drawing of a frowny  face. “I work as a waitress and make minimum wages, plus I’m planning a wedding in two months and all of these things, especially this courthouse are aggravating my anxiety terribly. On the verge of a meltdown!” Clarke  excused her from jury duty,  but when she added that the clerk who was checking in potential jurors was “really disrespectful” to everyone, he  told the woman that she could stay in the hallway and tell him more at the end of the day. When the dismissed juror insisted that she had to leave, he said,

“No, you’re staying. You’re staying You’re staying on. I’ve been a judge for seven years. No one’s ever complained about my clerk. But I’ll be happy to hear your complaint at the end of the day. So go to the hall and stay and come in, act like an adult and you can face her and tell me everything she did wrong.”

The woman did as she was ordered and apologized to Clarke after waiting for an hour court to be adjourned. The judge  asked her how she would have felt if he came to the restaurant where she worked and criticized her in front of everyone, saying, 

“If you came here thinking that this was going to be Disneyland and you were getting an E Ticket and have good time, I’m afraid you have no sense of what is going on in this building. Now, seven years ago the first clerk that was assigned to me, she’s still here. The only clerk I’ve ever had. One juror, in all that time, out of thousands, has ever complained about her. That’s you. You can leave now knowing that’s what you accomplished.”

D. All of the above.

Take the poll, and then go to the answers after the jump.

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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.) Continue reading

Introducing “The Hollinger Awards”…and the First Recipient, Susan Cole

The Original Hollinger

Every year, the Darwin Awards amuse us, in a blackly humorous way, with tales of people who improve the gene pool by getting themselves killed through acts of stunning stupidity, often seasoned by exquisite irony. To take a random example from 2011, Phil Contos was participating in a helmet-less high-speed motorcycle ride when he crashed and suffered fatal brain injuries. His brother was quoted as saying that Phil would do it again, too—and I’m sure he would.

A story out of Denver made me realize that faulty or entirely absent ethics alarms work in a similar way to ensure that the most shamelessly unethical among us get their just desserts. Such individuals are so lacking in comprehension of what is wrong with their conduct that they can’t resist publicizing it, thereby revealing themselves as blights on their communities and workplaces, and attracting appropriate treatment in response. Searching for an appropriate name for the ethics version of the Darwin Awards, I was irresistably drawn to Jeremy Hollinger, the Mobile, Alabama special ed teacher who last year mocked his challenged fourth graders on Facebook, and, for good measure, posted a photo of himself wearing one of his student’s protective helmets and making a moronic face. (Or, come to think of it, maybe that’s Jeremy’s normal face.) Thus I am dubbing the new distinction The Hollinger, and give the very first one to Susan Cole. Continue reading

The Saga of the Racist Juror and the Angry Judge, Chapter Two: “Never Mind!”


"Oh! You're REALLY a racist? That's OK then...I thought you were LYING about being a racist, and I just hate that!"

When we last left Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis, he had just sentenced a potential juror to jury duty for life because of her racist and anti-police answers on a jury questionnaire. Then many commentators, including Ethics Alarms, pointed out that punishing a woman for her views, however offensive, was an abuse of judicial power. I wrote:


“This was outrageous abuse of power by a judge, and a slam dunk First Amendment violation. Her opinions are ugly, but there is nothing illegal about having ugly opinions, and  government punishment based on a citizen’s opinion is a dangerous Constitutional breach. A judge can’t dictate how a potential juror thinks or what she believes. He can’t take vengeance on a woman who is hateful, either. She has a right to her hate.”

Today the judge released the woman from the lifetime sentence, saying that it really wasn’t her racist views that angered him, but rather that she had made an obvious attempt to get out of jury duty by putting offensive answers on the jury questionnaire. “My ruling was not based in any way upon whether or not you held any racist views. It was apparent you did not tell the truth,” Judge Garaufis told the woman. “You were the only juror who indicated that you had every form of bias imaginable. You were lying to the court in order to be excused.”

Ah, It wasn’t that she was a racist, but that she pretended to be a racist.

What a minute..huh? Continue reading

Alarm Failure! Racist Juror+Angry Judge=Jury Duty For Life

"You won't like me when I'm angry..."

Political correctness is now officially moving into places where it cannot be tolerated….like the courtroom.

In Brooklyn Federal Court, Juror No. 799, an Asian woman in her 20s who said she works in the garment industry, was up for jury duty in the death penalty trial of Bonanno crime boss Vincent Basciano. Asked to name three people she least admired on her jury questionaire, she wrote, “African-Americans, Hispanics and Haitians.” Elsewhere on the form she declared that all cops were lazy, and used their sirens to bypass traffic jams.

Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis read the questionaire, questioned the woman, and declared, “This is an outrage, and so are you!” After he dismissed her as a juror on the case, he announced that she was now, until further notice, on permanent jury duty until he let her off.

“She’s coming back today, Thursday and Friday – and until the future, when I am ready to dismiss her,” Garaufis said.

Just desserts for a racist?

Proper punishment for hate?

A lesson in citizenship for all? Continue reading