In January, we brought you word of a Florida state-court judge who posted a sex ad on Manhunt. We covered the news, first broken by JAAblog, since we are fond of stories about sexy judges. But we did not judge. Instead, Staci Zaretsky wrote of Chief Judge David Audlin, “more power to him if [the photos are] real. Everyone needs to get some, even judges.”
Last week, Judge Audlin resigned from the bench, apparently because of L’Affaire Manhunt. With all due respect to the judge, this strikes me as a bad decision….
Here’s a report from the Miami Herald:
Judge David Audlin was serving as Monroe County’s chief circuit judge in late April when he announced via an open letter to friends and colleagues that he was retiring with four years left in his second six-year term.
The well-respected Audlin, 56, who was elected in 2006 and again in 2012, did not give a reason at the time for his sudden and unexpected departure from his $145,000-per-year judgeship with the 16th Judicial Circuit Court.
On Friday, his last day as a judge, Audlin said his voluntary decision was based on an “inappropriate invasion of my privacy.”
I’m not sure this is a true “invasion of privacy,” since Audlin had voluntarily injected himself into the public space that is Manhunt. Nobody hacked into his private email account to pull his photos; he maintained a public profile that was viewable by anyone on the site. But anyway….
On Jan. 16, a blogger found a profile of Audlin on Manhunt, which bills itself as the world’s biggest gay hookup site with a slogan: Any guy. Any time. Anywhere. JAABlog posted the profile under the headline: “Let’s Get Sweaty.”
The next day, a website called Above the Law posted a story about the blog with the headline: “Judge’s Sex Ad Found on Internet Hookup Site.” While Audlin deleted his Manhunt profile, a screen grab of it is readily accessible now and likely indefinitely will be in cyberspace.
Yes, that’s right. In case you’re curious, here is Judge Audlin’s Manhunt posting.
Audlin did nothing illegal. No one publicly has called for his ouster. And Audlin is not apologizing for the posting of the profile, which he said was made on a private website for people 18 and older and was supposed to remain private.
Audlin did nothing illegal, and nobody was calling for his ouster — which is exactly why he shouldn’t have resigned. Even though he tells the Herald that he’s “not apologizing,” his actions speak louder than his words. He didn’t do anything wrong; why is he leaving the bench?
Instead of stepping down, Audlin should have told his critics to, in essence, suck his gavel. I’m inclined to agree with JAAblog’s view of Audlin as “a quitter who should have stood up and fought for what he believes in.”
His claim of being a privacy martyr is spurious. He posted a request for sex in a public place — to wit, the internet. Audlin’s reference to Manhunt as a “private” website is misleading. It might be privately owned, but profiles are available to anyone who signs up for the service — and pretty much anyone can (and does) sign up. As one JAAblog commenter said:
For a sitting judge not to understand that if you publicly (yes, Virginia, the Internets, as W would say, is/are a public place) advertise for random sex and then, when this public solicitation becomes known to members of the public whom you would like not to know, you claim that your “privacy has been wrongly invaded, then what you raise is serious, reasonable, valid concerns about whether you possess the legal analytical tools to even be on the bench.
In other words, Judge Audlin wasn’t wronged; he was just stupid. As Kashmir Hill noted when covering the Congressman Christopher Lee scandal, you should never include your face in your pics when trolling the web for sex. Here, Audlin should have a non-obvious screen name — instead of “DavidKW,” he could have tried “Gavelbanger” — accompanied by some photos of his body, “face pics available upon request.” That would have greatly reduced (although not eliminated) the likelihood of his being discovered. And it would have made his claim of privacy violation more legitimate, if his photos had been released by a single individual to whom he sent them via private message.
Audlin also seems to be trying to “play the gay card” here, claiming that he was mistreated on account of his sexual orientation. From the Herald:
Audlin contended that a judge’s personal life should be kept off limits if it does not interfere with his ability to be a good judge, be fair to people and have a proper, professional demeanor.
“I think some people look at a gay judge’s personal life as being interesting or salacious. I suppose it’s the times we live in. This whole matter has nothing to do with my service to the people or my work as a judge.”
Sorry, Your Honor, but this wasn’t a gay thing. We write all the time about judges’ sexual misadventures; click on some of the links in Staci’s original post about you for examples. If a sitting judge, gay or straight or bi, goes on the internet and announces his penis size, rest assured that Above the Law will be there.
You know how you should have responded to discovery of your Manhunt profile, Judge Audlin? You should have quoted the wise words of former judge Wade McCree, when he was accused of sending shirtless photos of himself to his bailiff: “Hot dog, yep that’s me. I’ve got no shame in my game.”
There was no shame in David Audlin’s game — until, well, Audlin acted like there was. If he really wanted to take a stand for the privacy rights of public officials, he should have returned to doing the people’s business, ignoring the critics, and staying in office until the bitter end.
Let’s hope that Audlin resigned not in a fit of pique but to pursue another opportunity — namely, so he could follow in the footsteps of many other Florida judges and become a television judge. As it turns out, Fox is looking for a current or former judge for a new reality show.
Please, Judge Audlin, respond to that casting call. Don’t make Fox go on a Manhunt to find you.