Judge of the Day

Judge of the Day: Stephen Belden

Duct Tape.JPGLet’s be honest. Whether it was that gunner in your 1L section, some douche from UVA Law, or Elie in his True/Slant race rants, we have all wanted to bind and gag someone at some point. But most of us understand that this practice is best left to consenting adults. In the bedroom. With a safe word.
Judge Stephen Belden from the Municipal Court in Canton, OH is not like most of us. Growing tired of a disrespectful defendant during a preliminary hearing last week, Judge Belden ordered the bailiff to duct tape the defendant’s mouth shut.
The Repository reports:

At the start of the hearing, [Defendant Harry] Brown told Belden that he wasn’t happy with his public defender, who he claimed hadn’t done enough work on the case.
Belden said he wasn’t going to appoint a different attorney. If Brown didn’t want the public defender, he could represent himself, although he would be a fool to do so, the judge said.
Brown and Belden went back and forth for about four minutes, at times talking over each other, until Belden told his bailiff, Jeffrey Smith, to get the duct tape.
“I’m gonna get some duct tape. If you keep interrupting me, I’m gonna have Mr. Smith put it over your mouth, OK?”
Brown said he would go back to the holding area for prisoners.
“No, you can’t go back there and sit. You’re staying right here,” Belden said.
Brown kept talking.
“All right, duct tape. Duct tape the defendant,” Belden said.

There are just… so many questions. Only a few of them are answered after the jump.

According to The Repository, Judge Belden learned this unusual trick of the trade from another judge at a training seminar, but this was the first time he actually tried it out. Although the article doesn’t tell us why there happened to be a roll of duct tape in the courtroom, we can only assume Judge Belden has been bringing it to the bench every day, just hoping for the chance to use it. Perhaps last week was his birthday and this was his present to himself.
In the interest of dignity and decorum (after all, this was a court of law, right? Right?), the defendant was given a second chance, but he just got mouthy again:

Belden told his bailiff to remove the tape and asked Brown if he had any questions for the [prosecution] witness.
“We’ll put some more (tape) back on if you decide to, uh, go back to your former, uh, disrespectful ways,” the judge said.
“I’m not being disrespectful, Your Honor,” Brown said. “I think you’re being more disrespectful to me, as, you know …”
He never got to ask a question, as the argument restarted.
“OK, that’s it, that’s it. Prelim is over. You’re bound over. I find probable cause. You can go back, down in the basement …,” Belden said.
“I want to ask him some questions…”
“Yoooooouuuuuuu … go ahead, take him away,” Belden said.

The defendant intends to file a complaint with the Supreme Court of Ohio.
Even though the article points out that the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct requires judges to be dignified and courteous, the comments on the original Repository article are overwhelmingly in support of Judge Belden’s actions.
What do you think? Is maintaining order in the courtroom just one of many creative uses for duct tape?
Canton judge orders silence in the court — with duct tape [The Repository]

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