Or maybe not, thanks to two
pesky vigilant police officers.
P.S. Don’t get your hopes up: the toker in question was Judge Lawrence Korda, who played a secondary role in the Anna Nicole Smith case. Judge Larry Seidlin, who handled the bulk of the proceedings, was not caught smoking pot. ‘Cause to get THAT crazy, you need to use the harder stuff.
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up [Concurring Opinions]
Anna Nicole judge cited for pot in park [Associated Press]
ANS Judge Busted For Smoking Weed [dlisted]
Or maybe not, thanks to two
Is trouble brewing in Paradise? And no, we’re not referring to the computer and wi-fi problems that are causing us to blog at a somewhat
sluggish leisurely pace today, here in sunny Miami.
We now bring you a bit of local color, about allegedly procrastinating court reporters in south Florida….
Remember the Michigan Supreme Court benchslappery that we wrote about earlier today? We left out the best part.
Justice Maura Corrigan argues that it would be embarrassing, petty, and just plain silly for a justice to explain each and every recusal decision. She employs a little “reductio ad absurdum” to make her point:
WOW. And you thought YOUR mom was embarrassing!
P.S. As for Daniel Corrigan Grano being “very handsome,” you don’t need to take Justice Corrigan’s word for it. As a city councilman, Daniel Grano is a public figure, and his picture is readily available on these internets.
We’ve posted it at right — what do you think? He’s not a bad-looking fellow, in our opinion. But maybe he could do something more interesting with his hair?
Earlier: Back to the Sandbox: The Michigan Supreme Court
Forget about the proverbial “Girls.” The justices of the Michigan Supreme Court have “Go[ne] Wild,” according to the Detroit News (via How Appealing).
It’s a long and tortured saga. The upshot is that Justice Elizabeth Weaver believes that when a Michigan Supreme Court justice recuses herself from a case, she is obligated to explain the reasons for her recusal. A number of Justice Weaver’s colleagues disagree — vociferously. And they have traded benchslaps over it.
You can read their dueling statements here (PDF). Some highlights (all emphases added):
– Justice Robert P. Young, Jr., asks Justice Weaver to give the recusal issue a rest: “It is well past time for Justice Weaver to end her siege and begin to again devote her energies to the work of this Court rather than the destruction of her colleagues and the reputation of this Court.
– Justice Maura D. Corrigan — who, as Jan Crawford Greenburg reveals in Supreme Conflict, was considered by the Bush Administration as a possible SCOTUS nominee (but withdrew from consideration) — cattily kicks off her opinion by quoting the lyrics to a Broadway show. She quotes Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics for “Comedy Tonight,” which she brings back near the end of her opinion, by imploring Justice Weaver to “cut the comedy.”
– Justice Corrigan addresses Justice Weaver by her first name (yeah, we’re LOVING it): “Betty, can’t we stop wasting the taxpayers’ money on this frolic and detour?… Whatever your goal, this low comedy of your making can only end in tragedy: the public’s loss of respect for this Court and for our state’s judicial branch.”
– And there’s more. In the final paragraph of her opinion, Justice Corrigan calls upon Justice Weaver, “my one-time friend and still colleague, to rejoin the fold of ordinary mortals with the other six of the people’s justice, doing the people’s important work.”
“One-time friend”? OUCH. It’s très playground, but deliciously so.
Justice Corrigan to Justice Weaver: “We are NOT BFFs. And gimme back my fruit roll-up, bitch!”
Mich. top judges go wild [Detroit News]
Feuding justices spar as they work [Detroit Free Press]
People v. Parsons (PDF) [Michigan Supreme Court]
[All links via How Appealing (hefty linkwrap).]
Earlier: Benchslapped: Michigan Supreme Court Justices — Why Can’t They All Just Get Along?
Until recently, Justice Emily Goodman was probably our favorite member of the New York Supreme Court — mainly ’cause she was nice enough to write to us.
But Justice Goodman has been displaced; we’ve found a new object for our affections. From Judicial Reports:
Is Carol Berkman the least popular Supreme Court Justice in Manhattan? We know a slew of attorneys who have put her at the top — or perhaps that’s the bottom — of their lists.
To say that Acting Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman of Manhattan is unpopular among litigators would be an understatement. More than a dozen lawyers recently cited her penchant for extraordinary verbal abuse of counsel.
One called her “ornery.” Another said “nasty.” Still another opined that she was “vindictive.”
In 1999 the Legal Aid Society took the highly unusual step of publicly petitioning against Berkman’s reappointment to Criminal Court. The society wrote a letter to the Mayor’s Committee on the Judiciary that accused the justice of “systematic rudeness and mistreatment of both defense and prosecution lawyers and defendants (and occasionally even belittlement of other judges).”
We love Justice Berkman: she’s smart, and she’s tough. On the smarts front, note her impressive resume, including Cornell and Harvard Law; her low reversal rate (5.4 percent); and the attorney testimonials in the Judicial Reports piece, noting her intelligence.
The Judicial Reports article also contains ample evidence of Judge Berkman’s tougheness — especially with respect to her handling of psychiatric evidence she perceives to be dubious. You can read the report in its entirety by clicking on the link below.
Wielding a Mean Gavel [Judicial Reports]
The influential judicial screening committee of the American Bar Association has reversed itself on the nomination of Superior Court Judge Vanessa L. Bryant to the federal bench, concluding that the judge it found not qualified a year ago is now qualified.
The chairman of the association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary said Tuesday that the new evaluation is the result of a routine re-examination of Bryant’s qualifications. That was triggered when Bryant’s nomination was resubmitted in January by President Bush after Congress adjourned last year without acting on it.
So Judge Bryant’s confirmation — which was never seriously in doubt, even back when she was deemed “unqualified,” due to the political support she enjoyed on both sides of the aisle — is now just a formality.
To refresh your memory, here’s some discussion of Judge Bryant’s earlier “not qualified” rating:
In confidential interviews, [ABA investigator Doreen] Dodson wrote, judges and lawyers described Bryant as “domineering and exasperated with lawyers,” “arrogant and unreasonable,” and “contentious and short-tempered.” Some also said she seemed overwhelmed by complex issues and wrote opinions that were hard to decipher. Dodson added that such complaints appeared consistently through her years on the bench.
Hmm… This description calls to mind a certain other jurist named Vanessa: Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore (at right), appointed by President Clinton in 1994, and recently discussed here.
Now, we harbor a healthy skepticism of the ABA ratings process. And we do acknowledge the concerns that have been raised concerning the anonymous nature of the earlier criticisms of Judge Bryant, which hampered her ability to respond to them at her Judiciary Committee hearings.*
But here’s a question on our mind, which we’ll just toss out there for all of you to debate:
If confirmed to the federal bench, might Judge Vanessa Bryant someday end up looking like the northeastern, Republican version of Judge Vanessa Gilmore?
* Speaking of anonymous criticism of judges, yes, we know: we are delinquent with our response to Judge Alex Kozinski’s open letter. Look for it tomorrow.
Opinion Reversed: Judge Is Qualified [Hartford Courant (via How Appealing)]
Dodd, Lieberman and Blumenthal endorse federal judge nominee [Associated Press]
Vanessa Lynne Bryant bio [Office of Legal Policy]
Earlier: The Honorable Vanessa Gilmore: A Delicious Judicial Diva
- Anna Nicole Smith, Celebrities, Deaths, Larry Seidlin, Ridiculousness, State Judges, State Judges Are Clowns, Television, Trusts and Estates, Videos
For all of the references in his introductory remarks to being “dignified,” Judge Larry Seidlin was anything but. We’re mortified.
Words don’t do him justice. Just watch this video clip of his ruling in the Anna Nicole Smith matter:
Some highlights (or lowlights, as the case may be):
(1) Judge Seidlin’s theatrical sigh, around the one-minute mark;
(2) the start of the full-blown breakdown, at about two minutes;
(3) the judge’s tear-suffused repetition of “I want her to be buried, I want her to be buried”; and
(4) Judge Seidlin’s wannabe poetic conclusion: “It’s a long order. It’s a long order.”
- Anna Nicole Smith, Celebrities, Deaths, Larry Seidlin, Ridiculousness, State Judges, State Judges Are Clowns, Television
While we were in line at a coffee shop yesterday, footage from the Anna Nicole Smith case was playing on a television above the counter. The customer in front of us turned around and said: “That judge is CRAZY.”
We agree. Judge Larry Seidlin, of Broward Circuit Court, has to be the most ridiculous judge to preside over celebrity litigation since Judge Lance Ito.
If you haven’t been following the litigation, here’s a good CNN write-up:
Judge Larry Seidlin, with his distinctive Bronx honk, down-to-earth approach and plain language, is as much a part of the show in Broward Circuit Court as the case he is presiding over.
Seidlin is hearing arguments over the status of the earthly remains of recently deceased tabloid fixture Anna Nicole Smith. But arguments over child custody and paternity have made their way into the courtroom.
Some legal observers, and even one of the participants, say Seidlin has allowed the proceedings to become a circus.
E.g., Jeffrey Toobin, of CNN and the New Yorker:
“This may be the most ridiculous legal proceeding I have ever watched,” Toobin said. “This judge is one of the least competent judges I have ever seen. He is letting this thing meander all over creation, mostly because he seems to enjoy being on television.”
Court TV’s Lisa Bloom concurs, observing that it’s all “wearing a little thin.”
But legal affairs reporters aren’t the only ones with low opinions of Judge Seidlin:
According to the Miami Herald, 22 percent of the lawyers responding to the 2004 Broward County Bar poll found Seidlin unqualified.
A blog of the Justice Advocacy Association of Broward concludes that Seidlin is, among other things, a victim of “his inner comedian.”
We’ve all seen judges like this (and we’ve all laughed, with exaggerated loudness, at their jokes). CNN suggests a motive for Judge Seidlin’s hamming it up in the Anna Nicole Smith proceedings:
The judge’s offbeat folksiness combines the directness of a Judge Judy with the touchy-feely common sense of a Dr. Phil. He could be auditioning for his own television show….
“He’s very entertaining, there’s no question about it,” [said Court TV's Lisa Bloom]. “But it’s not about entertainment. At Court TV we keep in mind that these are real people here.”
This is confirmed by TMZ.com, which reports that “Judge Larry Seidlin’s dream is to become a judge on a TV courtroom show” — and notes that his surname “is extremely similar to Judge Judy Sheindlin.”
Here’s a telling fact: Judge Seidlin is a former New York cabbie. You know when you climb in a cab, with a splitting headache, and just want to sit back with your eyes closed — but the cabbie insists on talking your ear off? Judge Seidlin sounds like he was one of THOSE cabbies, back in the day.
Please, Your Honor — spare us. We’re not interested in your thoughts on the war in Iraq (referenced in a lengthy spiel on Wednesday).
Just drive. Thank you.
P.S. Not all taxicab drivers turned judges are so problematic. See, e.g., Thomas Hardiman (W.D. Pa.) — who drove a cab before going to law school. But Hardiman, of course, is a federal rather than state judge.
If Anna Nicole Smith Case Is a Circus, Judge Is Ringmaster [CNN]
All Rise!!! Judge Seidlin Says He’s Ready for TV [TMZ.com]
- Crime, Judge of the Day, Perverts, Pornography, Sentencing Law, State Judges, State Judges Are Clowns
A former Orange County Superior Court judge collapsed in court Tuesday upon learning he was being sentenced to 27 months in prison for possessing child pornography on his home computer.
Ronald Kline fell into his attorney’s arms as Judge Consuelo B. Marshall was announcing his sentence shortly after noon. Court proceedings were temporarily halted and paramedics summoned.
Kline, 66, was revived and the hearing resumed a short time later.
We agree with John’s take:
He’s not only a perv, he’s a wimp. I wonder how many people he sentenced to 27 months — or more — while he was on the bench? Did they faint?
In other words: Your Honor, get a pair. And don’t play with them under your robe — that’s unwise, too.
OC Judge Collapses as He’s Sentenced to 27 Months for Child Porn [Legal Reader]
We agree that federal judicial pay needs to rise. But despite our sympathy for the cause, we’re getting tired of hearing about the need to raise salaries for federal judges. (The latest voice to weigh in on the debate, former Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker, is pretty random.)
So enough about federal judicial compensation. What about salaries for state court judges?
Yes, sometimes we poke good-natured fun at members of state judiciaries. But in all seriousness, state judges play a crucial role in the administration of justice — in the aggregate, arguably a larger role than federal judges (including the Supremes).
Many state court judges work long hours and perform excellent work on the bench. Many are widely admired for their diligence and their competence. And yet their pay, like that of federal judges, ain’t so hot.
Consider this email, which we publish with her permission, from the Honorable Emily Jane Goodman, a justice of the New York Supreme Court:
From: Emily Goodman
Sent: Monday, February 12, 2007 11:49 AM
To: AboveTheLaw Tips
Cc: Justice Emily Goodman
Subject: AboveTheLaw Tip
About the LIST OF SHAME, why not mention the salaries of NYS judges (of which I am one)?
Emily Jane Goodman
This message may have been intercepted and read by government agencies including the FBI, CIA, NSA without notice or warrant or knowledge of sender or recepient.
(By the way, we love that little disclaimer at the end about warrentless communications monitoring.)
We followed up with Justice Goodman, who offered some additional thoughts:
[A] NYS Supreme Court justice is paid $136,700 per year. We have not had a raise in 8 or 9 years; we’ve had only 2 in 2 decades! There are no COLAS, no bonuses, no outside employment. (Compare and contrast with a first year associate — you do the math!)
This is indeed troubling. Remember Dan Alterman’s estimate of $47,000, for the value of the billable hours spent on the Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell hearing — in New York Supreme Court, of all places? Two days’ worth of such hearings — a morning hearing, and an afternoon one — would easily eclipse the annual salary of the jurist hearing the case.
More from Justice Goodman on state judicial pay, after the jump.