State Judges Are Clowns

Marian Shelton Bronx Family Court Judge Marian Shelton Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgOkay, she looks like a cross between Chelsea Clinton and your fourth-grade English teacher. But make no mistake about it: Judge Marian Shelton is a true judicial diva, and not to be messed with.
From the New York Daily News:

Bronx Family Court Judge Marian Shelton allegedly yelled at a lawyer to “shut up,” tossed a woman from court for wearing “inappropriate” clothing, told a Caribbean man to “take those stupid things out of your hair” and said a lawyer had “mental health issues.”…

“Go to therapy, but don’t act out in my courtroom,” Shelton allegedly snapped at one law guardian in a 2005 case.

In another instance, she allegedly mocked the accent of lawyer Mariana Toledo-Hermina.

“How is Toledo-Hermina an attorney when you cannot understand what she is saying?” Shelton allegedly said.

But Judge Shelton has her defenders. Like her husband:

In May, anticipating the [disciplinary] charges, Shelton’s husband, wealthy former Proskauer Rose lawyer Saul Cohen, took out a full-page ad in The New York Times to bash the commission.

Full-page NYT ads aren’t cheap. But then again, neither is chivalry.
Bronx judge scorn to be wild? [New York Daily News via Gothamist]

Larry Seidlin Judge Lawrence Seidlin Above the Law Anna Nicole Smith.jpgJudge Larry Seidlin is best known for tearfully presiding over the Anna Nicole Smith proceedings in Florida state court. But perhaps it’s the American people who should be shedding tears right now. From the Daily Business Review:

Broward Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin – the weeping probate judge who presided over the recent legal fight for custody of Anna Nicole Smith’s body – announced today that he is leaving the bench at the end of this month.

“It is now time for me to devote more of my daily life to my own young family and to pursue the many opportunities that have been offered to me outside the judicial system,” Seidlin wrote in his resignation letter to Gov. Charlie Crist.

So why should we shed tears over the departure of this fine jurist?

It has been rumored that Seidlin has a television show in the works.

Update: The rumors appear to be true. Seidlin reportedly has reached a deal with CBS.
Judiciary: Judge Seidlin resigns [Daily Business Review]
Anna Nicole Smith Judge Larry Seidlin Cuts Deal With CBS [Fox News]

Miami Beach Golden Girls Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgMake that EX-judges of the day, since they’ve both resigned from the bench — one after being arrested on drug charges, and the other after allegedly making inappropriate comments to a female prosecutor.
What is up with state court judges in South Florida?
(Remember this guy?)
Judge accused in pot-smoking case resigns [Daily Business Review]
Courts: Judge abruptly exits [Daily Business Review]
Resignation of Judge Klein [Rumpole via Southern District of Florida Blog]
Earlier: Bong Hits 4 Anna Nicole Smith Judge?

Wilbur Mathesius Judge Bill Mathesius Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgThere aren’t many two-time winners of ATL’s Judge of the Day award. The members of that distinguished group are true pieces of work — jurists like Judge James M. Brooks and Judge Elizabeth Halverson.
But we think that Judge Wilbur Mathesius, of Mercer County, New Jersey, richly deserves membership in the club. If you question this conclusion, just click here, to read what one tipster described as “a judicial hissy fit, with great footnotes.”
Some background. The New Jersey Supreme Court recently disciplined Judge Mathesius, suspending him from the bench for 30 days, and directing him to “reflect on his position of authority and the manner in which he exercises that position of authority.” So Judge Mathesius did just that:

I removed to a remote and undisclosed location to encourage contemplation and reflection. To provide further catalyst to my reflective capacities, I subsisted on a Zen macrobiotic vegetarian diet, an occasional leaf or two of organic radicchio and Evian water, foraging as best I could for native fruits and nuts. The occasional tuna sushi was like gold. I report herewith the product of that reflection…

That’s just the beginning. Check out the whole thing by clicking here.
In the words of a second source: “Shhhh, listen, that’s the sound of his judicial career going down the toilet.”
The Full Mathesius [New Jersey Lawyer]
Judge’s critique pounds system [Trenton Times]
Judge’s Words Cost Him A Suspension Of 30 Days [New York Times (TimesSelect)]
Earlier: Judges of the Day: Wilbur Mathesius and James Brooks

James Brooks Judge James M Brooks Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgThe Honorable James M. Brooks — a California trial judge and prior Judge of the Day honoree, with a history of getting himself into hot water — might want to leave comedy to James L. Brooks.
Judge Brooks’s attempts at humor didn’t go over too well with the folks upstairs. From On Point News:

A California judge’s jocular behavior backfired as an appeals court ordered a new trial in an employment bias case, ruling that he had created a “circus atmosphere” and “a courtroom is not the Improv.”…

Brooks’s performance in the bias case against Ricoh Electronics suggests the CJP let him off lightly. The jury returned a defense verdict after a 31-day jury trial during which, the 4th District Court of Appeal said, the judge “allowed, indeed helped create, a circus atmosphere, giving defendants’ lawyer free rein to deride and make snide remarks at will and at the expense of plaintiffs and their lawyer.”

Among other things, Brooks flashed a hand-lettered sign saying “Overruled” when plaintiffs’ counsel Michelle A. Reinglass made objections. “It’s lightening things up,” he said when she objected to the sign.

The appellate court was not amused:

[A] courtroom is not the Improv and the presider’s role model is not Judge Judy. We can only imagine what was in the jurors’ minds as they endured a 30-plus day trial in this atmosphere or the impression of the judicial system they took away with them posttrial.

“[T]he presider’s role model is not Judge Judy.” Well, it depends. If the presider wants to be a respectable and responsible jurist, fine. But if the presider wants his own courtroom television show — a la Judge Larry Seidlin, of Anna Nicole Smith case fame — Judge Judy is a veritable Cardozo.
Court Finds No Humor in Joking Judge’s Trial Antics [On Point News]
O.C. judge rebuked for antics [Orange County Register]
Earlier: Judges of the Day: Wilbur Mathesius and James Brooks

Elizabeth Halverson Judge Elizabeth Halverson.jpgJane Ann Morrison, columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, had a column yesterday that put quite a smackdown on two-time Judge of the Day Elizabeth Halverson (see her previous honors here and here). Along with some catty renditions of some of the facts we already knew (like the fact that Judge Halverson’s pre-judicial legal experience apparently consists of 9 years as a state court law clerk, getting FIRED from that job, losing her first election, and then somehow winning her second), Morrison provides some of the juicy details of the hefty judge’s outrageous behavior that led to her needing her own security force in the first place.
From the column:

Halverson spent nine years as a fairly lowly law clerk. (I always assumed the 425-pound woman, according to her driver’s license, stayed as long as she could for the county’s health insurance coverage.)

Zing!

After she was fired, she ran for one judgeship, lost, but in 2006 won on her second try.
Before long, stories started coming out of the Regional Justice Center about her contemptuous behavior toward her staff, particularly her bailiff, Johnny Jordan. Halverson, who had never had real power, was relishing it, throwing a pencil on the floor and ordering him to pick it up. Jordan was ordered to give her foot rubs and back massages. He has since filed a complaint against his former boss alleging discrimination based on sex and race. He is black and says she treated him like a “house boy.”

Yikes.
Apparently the other judges in the courthouse felt the need for a judicial intervention with Halverson:

Court officials realized they were going to be slapped with multiple lawsuits alleging hostile work environment if no action was taken. Three judges were asked to help Halverson, Family Court Judge Art Ritchie and District Judges Stewart Bell and Sally Loehrer.
A memo details an April 6 meeting between Halverson and the three judges:
• She’s told it’s inappropriate to have staff rub her feet or her back. Her answer: She’d told the bailiff to stop that, that he’d become too familiar with her.
• She’s told she should not require staff to show up at 6:45 a.m. to wait for her arrival at 8 or 8:30 a.m. Her answer: She’d told the bailiff not to come early, but he wouldn’t listen.
• She’s told she should not have staff make her lunch. Answer: The bailiff wants to make her lunch.
• She’s told there are 20-25 orders missing. Answer: She’s shocked.
• She’s told it’s unethical to make statements showing bias against attorneys, particularly those who didn’t give to her campaign. Answer: Yes, she said it, but since nobody gave her money for her campaign, she’s not discriminating against anyone.
• She’s told the demeaning way she talks to her husband, Ed, referring to him as a “bitch” (and worse), is offensive to staff. Answer: She doesn’t know why that would upset the staff, but the solution is to have him not come to her chambers.
• Told she should treat people with dignity and respect, Halverson said she didn’t know specifically what she was doing wrong.
After she answered every allegation made against her, Judge Bell told her, “If you can’t see it, you can’t fix it. Get some psychological help.”
On April 12, the three judges tried to meet with Halverson again at 4:30 p.m. She was in a civil nonjury trial. The three judges waited until 6 p.m. before leaving. Later, the judges said they confirmed her trial was over, but she waited in the courtroom until she confirmed they had departed. The judges said Halverson will “falsely” claim she was in trial. Essentially, the judges called her a liar.

We also have it on good authority that she told her doctor she was just “big-boned.”
But despite all of this, Las Vegas voters will have to wait 18 more months to get rid of the behemoth they so nonchalantly voted into office. That is unless a complaint is filed with the Judicial Discipline Commission; the article says that investigators are working on putting one together.
Oh yeah, did we mention that she’s huge?

It’s time for a quick update on Judge Elizabeth Halverson. As you may recall, Judge Halverson — a Nevada state court judge, with her chambers in Las Vegas — was recently named our Judge of the Day. She achieved this honor after being banned from the courthouse by the chief judge.
Anyway, we’re pleased to report the Honorable Elizabeth Halverson is now back at work. Congratulations, Your Honor!
Also, she is still really large.
P.S. Speaking of Las Vegas, we’re going to be out there over Memorial Day weekend, to attend the wedding of a friend (no, not Britney).
If you’ll be in Vegas at the same time, and would be interested in shooting craps grabbing drinks with us, please drop us a line. If there’s enough interest, maybe we’ll hold another ATL happy hour, or office hours. Thanks.
Halverson returns to court [Las Vegas Review-Journal]
Earlier: Judges of the Day: Elizabeth Halverson and Fred Axley

Roberto Rivera Soto Justice Roberto A. Rivera-Soto Judge Above the Law blog.jpgOn the heels of our recent post about Judge Noel Hillman (D.N.J.), here’s another shout-out to our home state and its judges. It concerns Justice Roberto A. Rivera-Soto, of the New Jersey Supreme Court, who is ATL’s Judge of the Day.
From the New York Times:

[Justice] Rivera-Soto is a New Jersey Supreme Court justice, and he now faces an ethics complaint charging that he abused his position when he contacted several local officials in an attempt to help his son, who was having trouble with a teammate on his high school football team.

In a rare action against a member of New Jersey’s highest court, the state’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, which filed the complaint on Friday, accused Justice Rivera-Soto of violating court rules, including engaging in conduct “prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute.”

So what’s the basis for the complaint? More discussion, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge of the Day: Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto”

Elizabeth Halverson Judge Elizabeth Halverson.jpgState court judges are like bratty kids, or pets that aren’t housebroken. You can’t take them anywhere.
Because they’ve probably already been banned from where you were planning to take them. Even if the place in question is the courthouse.
Consider the Honorable Elizabeth Halverson (at right). From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

The District Court chief judge on Thursday banned District Judge Elizabeth Halverson from the county courthouse.

In an administrative order, Chief Judge Kathy Hardcastle said Halverson jeopardized security at the courthouse this week by bringing her own two bodyguards into the courthouse and allowing them to bypass security checks.

As for why Judge Halverson needs two (2) bodyguards — and no, we won’t make the obvious joke — there’s quite a backstory, full of juicy judicial infighting. You can read all about it here.
Fred Axley Judge Fred Axley Above the Law blog.jpgAnd Judge Halverson isn’t the only state judge getting banned from public places these days. Meet the Honorable Fred Axley.
From the Legal Reader:

A Memphis judge is banned from a Florida resort. He is accused of sexually harassing an employee. Eyewitness News Everywhere uncovered this is not the first time Criminal Court Judge Fred Axley has been accused of sexual harassment….

Now he has been banned from a resort in Destin, FL, after an employee there says he sexually harassed her last week….

When we called the resort, an employee who asked not to be named, told us Axley had propositioned a massage therapist there for oral sex.

We commend the resort employee for having the courage to turn down the judge (and report him). Because saying “no” to a judge isn’t easy — even if the request involves sucking his gavel.
You can read more about Judge Axley’s history of alleged harassment, including incidents that led his law clerks to file lawsuits, by clicking here.
Judge Halverson banned from courthouse [Las Vegas Review-Journal]
Memphis Judge Banned From Florida Resort For Harassment [Legal Reader]

Grafton Minot Biddle Judge Grafton Biddle Above the Law blog.jpgWow, that’s quite a ways to go just to get your way on a motion to suppress. A 57-year-old Douglas County, Colorado judge and a 29-year-old female prosecutor in the same county have admitted to having sex on multiple occasions in the courthouse. From the Rocky Mountain News (via How Appealing):

As rumors of their romance became fodder for courthouse gossip, the complaint said, [Judge Grafton Minot] Biddle encouraged [prosecutor Laurie] Steinman to permanently delete messages they exchanged using their e-mail accounts at work.

“If people read this stuff, we’re dead,” Biddle told Steinman, according to the complaint.

The pair is accused of other ethical lapses, including Steinman prosecuting two cases in Biddle’s court without disclosing their relationship. Biddle gave Steinman feedback following one of the trials, which ended in an acquittal, the complaint said.

The judge resigned, the prosecutor was fired, and both face disciplinary action from the Bar. Here’s hoping that was some good, worth-losing-my-career-over lovemaking.

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