6th Circuit, Bankruptcy, Federal Judges, Gender, Judge of the Day, Legal Ethics, Minority Issues, Racism, Women's Issues

Judge Allowed To Belong To All-White Club (Because He’s Trying Really Hard To Make It Better)

Does this sign also mean no blacks or women allowed?

It’s the ruling that is splitting the Sixth Circuit apart. A federal bankruptcy judge, George Paine II, belongs to an all-white country club in Nashville. But there is a pesky judicial code of conduct that says that judges “should not hold membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin,” according to the New York Times (gavel bang: ABA Journal).

That seems cut and dry to me. An all-white, all-male country club sounds a hell of a lot like an organization practicing “invidious discrimination.” But I’m not on the Sixth Circuit.

And the Sixth Circuit essentially told Judge Paine: guys in my high school used to belong to discriminatory clubs all the time, it was no big deal.

In a 10-8 decision, the circuit decided to allow Paine to continue his membership in the club and on the bankruptcy court.

So that code of judicial conduct means what exactly?

For the record, I don’t have a problem with discriminatory clubs per se. I don’t belong to any, and I think that you’re probably a terrible person if you can’t be bothered to play golf with a person of a different race or gender. But if terrible people want to congregate together to bask in their similarities, whatever.

And, I’m not a huge fan of having your private life regulated by your job.

But there are some positions where you’d like the office holders to at least have the appearance of racial tolerance — and appearance is ruined if the person belongs to a discriminatory club. I don’t really care if my stock broker needs a place where he can escape from all the women and darkies. But I’d like to live in a world where my judge wasn’t doing that kind of thing in his spare time.

So, you know, add that to the list of reasons why I don’t want to live in Nashville or really anywhere under the jurisdiction of the Sixth Circuit. Because according to the majority, belonging to an all-white, all-male club is not tantamount to belonging to an “organization that practices invidious discrimination.” Why? Well, you’ll have to ask them:

Paine has tried unsuccessfully for 15 years to diversify the club’s membership, according to a memorandum by the Judicial Council of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati and obtained by The Associated Press. Paine sponsored an African-American for membership at least five years ago, but the club has never acted on it.

The Judicial Council, made up of circuit and district judges in the four-state 6th District, voted 10-8 last month to dismiss the complaint. The memorandum written by Chief Judge Alice Batchelder spends little time discussing the merits of the contention that the Belle Meade County Club discriminates, instead focusing on Paine’s unsuccessful campaign to diversify the club.

“The record clearly supports (the) finding that the judge complained of engaged in long and sincere efforts to integrate the club in question. In the majority’s view, those efforts preclude a finding that he has engaged in misconduct,” she wrote.

Wow, just wow. So Judge Paine’s best defense isn’t even that he has a black friend. It’s that he tried really hard to make a black friend.

If Judge Paine really wanted to make an effort to not belong to a discriminatory club, wouldn’t simply resigning from the club be more sincere than (unsuccessfully) trying to find a black person member? Surely after the other members refused to even act on the black person Paine dug up, that would have been an obvious time for a man of principle to resign.

Paine is retiring from the bench at the end of the year, so this issue of his continued membership is almost moot. I mean, the issue of his 15-year membership in this discriminatory venture is still open for anybody who cares, but going forward black people and women appearing before the Sixth Circuit should only feel unfairly prejudged for the rest of the year. Woohoo.

In any event, I’m really hoping the integrated flood and rescue teams in Nashville know to get to Judge Paine’s club last, but I’m vindictive like that. Maybe if a black or brown person had to save his ass, Judge Paine would examine his exclusionary motives.

Fed Judge Keeps Segregated Country Club Membership [New York Times]
Federal Judge’s Membership in All-White Country Club Not an Ethics Violation, Panel Says [ABA Journal]

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