When weighing in on cases, it’s best for judges to limit their opinions to their Opinions. They’ve been warned before to be careful on Facebook and on blogs they author. But the case of Ohio judge, Shirley Strickland Saffold, shows they should exercise caution with anonymous online commentary as well.
An online commenter named “lawmiss” registered on the Cleveland Plain Dealer website with Judge Saffold’s AOL e-mail address in 2007. Since then, Lawmiss has had some critical things to say on articles about cases that came before Judge Saffold.
In one, Lawmiss threw one of the attorneys defending a bus driver in a vehicular homicide case… well, under the bus. From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
“Rufus Sims did a disservice to his client,” the Nov. 21, 2009, post reads. “If only he could shut his Amos and Andy style mouth. What makes him think that is [sic] he insults and acts like buffon [sic] that it will cause the judge to think and see it his way. There are so many lawyers that could’ve done a much better job. This was not a tough case, folks. [The bus driver] should’ve hired a lawyer with the experience to truly handle her needs. Amos and Andy, shuffling around did not do it.”
Sims is now appearing before Judge Saffold defending, in the words of one of our tipsters, “the most notorious serial killer in Cleveland history,” Anthony Sowell. Sims is not pleased to see this evidence of possible bias against him.
When accused by the Dealer of making these comments, Judge Saffold threw her daughter under the bus. Sydney Saffold, 23, “a one-time law student” claims she made the comments associated with her mom’s account.
Judge’s children might lie, but a computer’s browser activity history doesn’t…
The Cleveland Plain Dealer is putting Saffold on trial. A public records request revealed that some of the articles involved were accessed on Saffold’s court-issued computer at the exact times and dates of three comments posted by Lawmiss.
Judge Saffold denies that she made any of the over 80 comments posted by Lawmiss on the cleveland.com website. Innocent until proven guilty and all that, but Lawmiss seems suspiciously knowledgeable, even for a judge’s daughter, showing “a familiarity with the inner workings of the Cuyahoga County government and Saffold’s courtroom, in particular.”
For example, here are some comments made by Lawmiss:
The judge didn’t drop it. She determined that the leak wasn’t from her office, then told the litigants to pursue their claim with the proper forum.
Had she not addressed this issue, then it could amount to another D’Ambrosio case, and none of us want that. She did the only thing she could.
The Shield law (reporters) is nnot absolute. It is a wonderful protection which allows reporters to exercise in presenting news, however, where that information can affect the rights of a defedant to a fair trial, then it’s allowed to be pierced.
Phillip used his relationship with his cousin to make a story for himself and try to establish a relationship and bit of respect with his reporter friends. He abused their relationship for his own fame. He ought to be ashamed.
He also calls her a lier, by indicating that she was part of the meeting when McGinty showed the documents to Baird. I know that’s not true. And, the hearing didn’t support that. They spent 20 minutes trying to figure out when this violation occured. She was not part of what McGinty did, and she didn’t know anything about it, nor about the time frame. He’s the lier.
Posted on Judge Saffold’s attempt to jail PD reporter was a judicial assault: Phillip Morris on March 19, 2010, 8:50PM
as i understand it, the plain dealer and the reporter are not innocent. However, they write the story and write it so you believe they are. If they were innocent, then why the need to personally attack Judge Saffold and how come, they haven’t done the same to Judge Mcginty. That crap from 20 years ago has nothing to do with this case, it was cited t attempt to turn the public against the Judge. There’s a reason, that the obit is the largest section of this paper. Go figure!
Posted on County judge reveals himself as source of leaked Sowell psychiatric evaluation on March 17, 2010, 5:28PM
Are we to assume that these three informations mean something? It’s taken forever, jurors ought to consider that when they cast their votes about innocence or guilty.
This method is clearly designed to poison the pool around these accusations. Now, everyone should stand on their heels and wait to see who’s next. Like a daily drama on t.v. or something like that. Well, might i suggest, this is not television, it’s real life and the government ought to act like it. Stop trying your cases in the media and start conducting yourself professionally.
Posted on J. Kevin Kelley, three others charged with conspiracy on June 12, 2009, 9:28PM
“Not trying your cases in the media” — that’s some good advice.
The desire to get into Internetz comments to defend yourself is understandable, but ill-advised if you’re a judicial authority and doing it anonymously.
In light of all this, we found this comment by Lawmiss especially ironic:
We will NEVER experience Privacy as a principle again. Access to a computer has totally desstroyued any efforts one can make to remain private…
Posted on Is there a path back to privacy?: Phillip Morris on May 14, 2009, 11:04AM
Indeed. How prescient.
Anonymous online comments are linked to the personal e-mail account of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold [Cleveland Plain Dealer]
Pitfalls of Social Networking for Judges and Attorneys [New York Law Journal]