R. Fred Lewis

porno judge.JPGOkay, maybe he should be “Judge of Yesterday,” since this was in yesterday’s paper (and was picked up by How Appealing yesterday too). But it’s Saturday, and we’re still working hard to entertain you, so stop your quibbling.

A judge who repeatedly viewed pornography on the computer in his chambers apologized Friday after receiving a public reprimand from the Florida Supreme Court for violating judicial ethics.

Circuit Judge Brandt C. Downey III of Clearwater told the high court he was “sorry” after Chief Justice R. Fred Lewis called his conduct “truly shocking” and an embarrassment to his friends, his family, the judiciary and the citizens of Florida.

It may have been, er, somewhat imprudent for Judge Downey to check out porn in chambers. But at the risk of sounding like libertines, we have to ask: What’s the big deal? Millions of Americans enjoy pornography.
As for the workplace aspect, we say: If he’s keeping up with his judicial workload, who cares about de minimis use of his computer for, um, other activities? Is it that different from, say, making flight arrangements online for your Hawaiian vacation, while on your lunch break?
To put it another way: What’s wrong with a judge admitting he shares something in common with at least 14 percent of American men? (A figure that’s surely on the low side, due to the study’s reliance upon self-reporting.)
What’s next? Judges getting censured for banging their own gavels? What century are we living in? Or, for that matter, what country — a theocracy?

[At the hearing, Judge Downey] added that he believes God has forgiven him. He said his family and friends also have forgiven him and urged him to seek re-election, but he declined to avoid further embarrassment and publicity, Downey said.

So we don’t think judicial porn viewing is such a big deal. These allegations are far more problematic:

Downey allegedly showed inordinate interest in a young state attorney, asking her to approach the bench to tell her that she “looked nice today.”

He also was accused of asking another female lawyer to approach the bench for personal conversation and sending her an e-mail saying “it was nice seeing u in court looking so pretty.”

“What were you thinking?” Lewis asked.

Using “u” instead of “you” in an email? Now THAT warrants censure.
(Final observation: What is up with these Florida state court judges? See Wednesday’s Judge of the Day.)
Judge Apologizes, Gets Reprimand for Viewing Porn in Chambers [Associated Press via How Appealing]
Earlier: Judge of the Day: Richard Albritton Jr.

richard albritton judge.jpgAs we noted yesterday, federal judge Manuel Real (C.D. Cal.) is facing an impeachment inquiry (more details here). But when it comes to egregious judicial misconduct, state court judges win handily over their federal counterparts.
Check out this AP report about a recent disciplinary hearing for a Florida state judge:

A judge who admitted to 14 ethics violations, including unconstitutionally ordering a probationer to go to church, was scolded Monday by the Florida Supreme Court.

“Your behavior is unacceptable,” Chief Justice R. Fred Lewis told the accused, Circuit Judge Richard Albritton Jr. “It’s a stain on all of us.”

Accusations against Albritton include jailing a young mother because she was unable to remember her address; soliciting gifts and invitations to lunch; getting hunting trips from lawyers; and demeaning a Department of Children and Families staffer because of her young age.

Alas, the AP report omits some of the more colorful allegations against Judge Albritton. They can be found in this TSG report from last year:

A Florida judge is facing a disciplinary hearing for a host of allegedly inappropriate behavior on the bench, including the recommendation to one female defendant that she “needed to close her legs and stop having babies.”…

Among the commission’s many allegations is the claim that Albritton once demanded that a teenage mother identify the father of her baby. When the girl declined to answer, Albritton told her that he would “put her back in juvenile detention” if she did not give up the dad’s name.

Here’s our favorite quote from the disciplinary hearing for Judge Albritton:

During the reprimand, Lewis said Albritton had told a staff lawyer that he realized ordering a probationer to go to church was unconstitutional but that the defendant didn’t know that. The order violated the First Amendment prohibition against the government endorsing a religion.

“You abused your position by placing yourself above the law,” [Chief Justice] Lewis told him.

The Honorable Richard Albritton, Jr.: a judge after our own heart.
Florida Judge Scolded for Ethics Violations [Associated Press]
Injudicious Judge May Be Benched [The Smoking Gun]