Now THIS Is An Incompetent Judge…


U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi was removed from St. Charles, Louisiana jury trial for criminal fraud in February, then her replacement declared a mistrial. Nobody knew why until the Associated Press got transcripts unsealed. They do not give one great confidence in the management of the justice system.

In one unsealed transcript (PDF), federal prosecutors and a public defender jointly called  U.S. District Judge Donald Walter ,who took over the case from Minaldi,  to ask him to grant a mistrial. The chief judge had assigned Walter to the case in an order that cited Minaldi’s inability to be present at the trial, but provided no additional explanation.

Minaldi was unable to be present because she doesn’t have the requisite awareness of the world around her or of the requirements of her job to be a judge. The botched trial included this ominous incident:

On the last day of the trial before it was suspended, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Moore was questioning a witness about the defendant’s grant application which had been filled out on a computer. Judge Minaldi interrupted the witness to ask what a “drop-down box” and “drop-down menus”  were.

“I have no idea what that means,” Minaldi said, regarding the reference to drop-down menus.  “No offense, but if I don’t understand it, I don’t think anybody else is going to understand it,” she continued. “I’ve been to law school. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I have no idea what y’all are talking about.” After another question—Minaldi didn’t understand references to “Y’s and yeses” in relation to the answers to yes or no questions on the application—the judge recessed the court for lunch.

“Get your act together. Okay,” Minaldi told Moore. “I have no idea what’s going on here. Get your act together.”

Because it was HIS fault she had no idea what was going on. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Journalism Ethics: The Washington Post Enables Disinformation Regarding Hillary’s Email Machinations”

"Hello, Dave. You have absolutely no clue how to deal with me, do you?"

“Hello, Dave. You have absolutely no clue how to deal with me, do you? Or even your email…

Much-abused Ethics Alarms commenter Beth, a D.C. lawyer with impressively thick skin, provided a real service with her comment on today’s post on the widespread obscuring of the Clinton e-mail scandal. Scandal is the right word, even if somehow a plausible and fair conclusion is reached that Hillary didn’t breach national security laws. The incident is shameful, and Clinton’s refusal to acknowledge that is  one of the many ways this episode indicts her character. Beth focuses on a systemic problem of which Clinton is a symptom: the government isn’t keeping up with the challenges posed by its increasing dependence on technology, and it can’t do that.

The public, most of whose interactions with technology is restricted to e-mails, games, social media and videos, if anything, has no idea the degree of competence and care complex organizations and the professions must devote to technology. The challenge is daunting, getting harder by the day, and may be hopeless, which is terrifying. The Obama Administration’s technology disasters, including the Edward Snowden affair, the OPM hack, the ridiculous failure of the Obamacare website and who knows what else they have managed to cover up, far exceed those of any previous administration. Most insiders I talk to are certain that far worse is on the way, and they know enough to be terrified. The public doesn’t understand how important the problem is, and therefore the news media ignores what it perceives as being uninteresting.

Here is Beth’s Comment of the Day on the post Journalism Ethics: The Washington Post Enables Disinformation Regarding Hillary’s Email Machinations:

What Clinton did was atrocious — our agencies need to lead this nation by example, and she was the head of the agency. But, all of our agencies are doing an awful job. There are policies in place that aren’t followed. And I can’t stress this last piece enough. Agencies draft policies, put them on a shelf, and never bother to hire people to update or actually enforce the policies. Further, there are insufficient protections in place — as demonstrated by the OPM data breach.

Continue reading

Journalism Ethics: The Washington Post Enables Disinformation Regarding Hillary’s Email Machinations


In an article for the Washington Post column “The Plum line,” Paul Waldman wrote, after noting that reports on the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified materials suggest that the F.B.I. has found no intent on her  part to violate classification rules,

“That point about her intending to break classification rules is important, because in order to have broken the law, it isn’t enough for Clinton to have had classified information in a place where it was possible for it to be hacked. She would have had to intentionally given classified information to someone without authorization to have it, like David Petraeus did when he showed classified documents to his mistress (and then lied to the FBI about it, by the way). Despite the enormous manpower and time the Justice Department has devoted to this case, there has never been even a suggestion, let alone any evidence, that Clinton did any such thing.”

This continued a process, begun and fed by Clinton herself, to mislead the public about the investigation, the law, and Clinton’s conduct. It is the insidious “narrative” tactic again, and it apparently almost impossible to fight. For example, an old friend, a smart and informed former journalist, recently posted on Facebook to the effect that he wondered if the F.B.I. would investigate Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, since they also used personal e-mail for official business while Secretary of State. He wrote this in good faith, because this has been a central defense from Clinton for more than a year. It is harder to kill than the Hydra, despite the fact that it is pure deceit, for two reasons.

The first is that what was considered responsible and acceptable use of technology nine years ago is not responsible and acceptable use of technology now. What was considered responsible and acceptable use of technology nine weeks ago is often not responsible and acceptable use of technology now. The acceleration of technology development was well underway when Clinton was appointed, and new security measures and best practices at all the major agencies reflected that. If she intentionally ignored this, she was irresponsible and reckless; if she negligently failed to follow them, she was incompetent. No matter how Rice and Powell handled their e-mail, it was a different time, and the comparison is invalid and misleading. No one who understands technology and the speed with which it evolves, with accepted practices becoming dangerous and incompetent virtually over-nigh, could hear Clinton’s “They did it too!” excuse without rolling their eyes. But of course, this spin isn’t intended for those who understand the issues involved. They are designed for people like my friend, who are relatively uninformed regarding technology, and can be converted into an effective disinformation agent without his consent or knowledge. Continue reading