This episode gives new meaning to the term “flip phone.” A cell phone that went off during court proceedings caused one judge to, well, flip out. From the NYT’s City Room blog:
The next time you pass through the city court system in Niagara Falls, N.Y., remember to turn your cellphone off.
Today, the Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended the removal of a judge in Niagara Falls City Court who had, what the commission’s chairman, Raoul L. Felder, called, “two hours of inexplicable madness” when a cellphone rang in his courtroom.
Specifically, on the morning of March 11, 2005, the judge, Robert M. Restaino, was presiding over a slate of domestic violence cases when he heard a phone ring in his courtroom. He told the roughly 70 people in the courtroom, according to the commission’s report, that “every single person is going to jail in this courtroom” unless the phone was turned over.
Look, we hate cellphones ringing at inappropriate times as much as the next guy. But was Judge Restaino’s reaction a tad over the top? We suggest — with respect, Your Honor — that you’re a few beeps short of a ringtone.
Read what happened next, after the jump.
Back to the proceedings:
After a brief recess, Judge Restaino returned to the bench and asked the defendant who had been standing before him when the phone rang — from the back of the room — and if he knew whose phone it was.
“No,” the defendant, Reginald Jones, said. “I was up here.”
Nonetheless, the judge scrapped plans to release Mr. Jones, set bail at $1,500 and sent him into custody. He was the first of 46 defendants to be sent into custody because of what could be called the case of the ringing cellphone.”
Almost 50 people sent to the pokey, over an unsilenced cell phone? Kinda awesome.
Let’s look at the situation from the judge’s perspective:
“This troubles me more than any of you people can understand,” Judge Restaino said, adding: “This person, whoever he or she may be, doesn’t have a whole lot of concern. Let’s see how much concern they have when they are sitting in the back there with all the rest of you. Ultimately, when you go back there to be booked, you got to surrender what you got on you. One way or another we’re going to get our hands on something.”
One defendant, according to the report, told the judge, “This is not fair to the rest of us.” To which the judge replied, “I know it isn’t.”
Another told the judge, “This ain’t right.” The judge responded: “You’re right, it ain’t right. Ain’t right at all.”
But in a courtroom, things don’t have to be “right”; they just have to be “so ordered.”
So go on with your bad self, Judge Restaino. Even if you get stripped of your robes over this, pursuant to the Commission’s recommendation, you’ll always be our #1 Judicial Divo.
P.S. This is not the first such episode we’ve heard of. Remember Judge Diane Boswell, who found three people in contempt of court for refusing to own up to who had a ringing cell phone?
A Judge’s ‘Inexplicable Madness’ Over a Cellphone [City Room / New York Times]
Earlier: Judge of the Day: Diane Boswell