Laura Taylor Swain

Yesterday, Judge Laura Taylor Swain issued a curious evidentiary decision. In the fraud trial of several aides to Bernie Madoff, the judge ruled that prosecutors will have to Photoshop out a decoration from pictures of Madoff’s office. Lawyers for Daniel Bonventre argued that photos of the decoration, a four-foot statue of a screw, would be unduly prejudicial.

A Ponzi scheme operator flaunting a statue of a giant screw sounds a lot more probative than prejudicial, actually.

In any event, the art is not coming into evidence and is coming out of any pictures of the office. There may not have been a good reason to introduce the piece into evidence, but introducing Photoshop to the legal process creates a whole new wrinkle in the fabric of the “reality” put in front of juries….

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Jed Rakoff Jed S Rakoff District Judge SDNY Above the Law.jpgWe’ve solicited funny holiday party stories from you. We haven’t received much thus far.
But from the legendary Southern District of New York, probably the nation’s most distinguished district court bench, we did get this account of its celebrated “Courthouse Follies” (which took place on the evening of Friday, December 15):

Item: The Southern District of New York’s “Courthouse Follies,” tonight.

Showstopping performance: A boisterous musical number by Judge Jed Rakoff (at right), Judge Laura Taylor Swain, Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis, and Chief Magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith. Sung to the tune of “There Once Was a Man” from Doris Day’s “The Pajama Game,” with additional lyrics and dialogue by Judge Rakoff, the act featured Judge Rakoff in a blond fright wig, Judge Swain in a Groucho mask with cigar, Judge Ellis in an oversized red polka-dot bow tie, and Judge Smith in what I can characterize only as a goofy black hat.

Was that a woman’s blond fright wig? If so, Judge Rakoff can kiss any elevation hopes good-bye. Senator Brownback opposes all judicial nominees who have appeared in drag.

Highlight: A musical shoutout to Underneath Their Robes! The patter leading up to the song was about changes in the courthouse under the new chief judge. One of them was (I’m paraphrasing slightly), “I get all my case info from www.underneaththeirrobes.com.”

Less a joke than a name check, but it suggests that Judge Rakoff is a fan.

Interestingly enough, the new chief judge of the Southern District is none other than Kimba M. Wood — the reigning Superhottie of the Federal Judiciary, per UTR.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, yes, we will be holding a new Superhotties of the Federal Judiciary contest. Look for it in 2007.