State Judges

Vines.jpgJudge Carlton Vines presides over traffic violations and DUIs in Chattooga County, Georgia. It’s a tiny county with a population of just over 25,000. The local newspaper, The Summerville News, has an ongoing investigative series examining the county’s drunk-driving phenomenon and growing number of DUI arrests.
Unfortunately, Judge Vines has become a part of the phenomenon. He was arrested in November of last year for driving drunk and leaving the scene of an accident after swerving into another car. The coppers just released the dash-cam video from the arrest. The man was trashed, slurring, and stumbling… though still cogent enough to refuse the breathalyzer.

From WBS TV:

Vines pleaded guilty to DUI charges in April. He has since spent three nights in jail, paid fines, done community service and was on house arrest.

On the tape, Vines can be heard admitting he has had “over the limit.” At one point on the tape, an officer asks, “Do you remember the wreck you were involved in?” Vines can be heard responding, “I’m not going to admit or deny it but I will take responsibility.”

A nolo plea — or just good drunken logic? Vines is under voluntary suspension, and the Georgia State Judicial Commission gets to decide whether he returns to the bench.
Judge Vines makes some bizarre comment about sharecropping at the end of the YouTube video. Can someone from rural Georgia please explain?
Caught On Tape: Georgia Judge Arrested For DUI [WSB TV]
Drunk Judge Arrested [YouTube.com]

Elizabeth Halverson small Judge Elizabeth Halverson Liz Halverson Above the Law blog.JPGTwelve Angry Men, move over; now there’s someone meatier. A juicy judicial celebrity sighting, from the Las Vegas Sun:

Suspended District Judge Elizabeth Halverson returned to the Regional Justice Center on Friday — for jury duty.

While waiting for an assignment, Halverson, who can’t roll through the courthouse on her motorized scooter without attracting attention, turned quite a few heads, including those of several prosecutors at the district attorney’s office, which is on the same floor as the jury service room.

Las Vegas lawyers: If you’re hoping to have Halverson on your jury, sorry. Her Honor wound up being assigned to a civil trial that was subsequently postponed, “bringing an abrupt halt to her brief public service on the other side of the bench.”
Suspended judge can’t even get out of jury duty [Las Vegas Sun]

Jay Spechler Judge Jay Spechler Jay Sprechler Above the Law blog.jpgThe fabulous Monica Goodling — if you’re on Facebook, join her fan club — isn’t the only person being accused of anti-lesbian bias these days. From the Daily Business Review (via JAABlog):

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge of the Day: Jay Spechler”


judge_halverson.jpgJudge Elizabeth Halverson has graced stomped through these pages many times before. But this is her first appearance of 2008. The LA Times recounts some Halverson highlights:

Her former bailiff said he was forced to heat and serve her lunch, check the temperature of her ice water, brush lint from her robe, help her put on her shoes, massage her neck and cover her with a blanket before her nap.
An assistant said Halverson, of the 8th Judicial District Court, made her answer questions — under oath — about courthouse gossip.

She’s been stripped of her criminal cases. She has been suspended with pay. She has a hearing this month that may result in her being removed from the bench. But she’s STILL running for reelection. We apologize to Halverson fans out there, but we will not be running a “Re-Elect Halverson” campaign, even if she does provide great blog fodder…

Halverson also referred to her husband as “Evil Ed,” her former bailiff testified, and told Jordan to “pull out your gun and shoot him.”
“I’ll dispose of the body,” Jordan quoted the judge as saying.
Halverson’s newer staffers told commissioners she acted respectfully and professionally. But commissioners said that didn’t excuse her treating Jordan and others in a “truly bizarre and inappropriate manner.”
Two people are challenging the suspended judge in the August election. Halverson said she entered the race because community members encouraged her to hold onto her judgeship.
“Do I think the public will see the truth about me?” she said. “Yes, I do.”

The truth is out there. I mean, seriously, how could she dispose of her husband’s body? She is a LARGE woman, with an oxygen tank, who can’t even get her own nap-time blanket. She was making a joke. Obviously.
Update: A commenter sent us to this bizarre kid-sploitation reelection video.
Judge Elizabeth Halverson courts trouble in Las Vegas [Los Angeles Times]

Since yesterday, when the big Eliot Spitzer news broke, we’ve been on a bad-behavior kick here at ATL. So let’s keep going down that path. A tipster sent us a juicy story, with this intro:

This is wild. And by wild, I mean INSANE… He’s 61. She’s 25. He likes booze, cocaine, and turtlenecks.

How’s that for a teaser? From the Albuquerque Journal (subscription):

John Brennan Judge John Brennan New Mexico Above the Law blog.jpgPolice drew their guns and broke open a door to get former District Court Judge John Brennan to stop choking his 25-year-old girlfriend, according to Albuquerque police reports released Monday.

According to the reports, Brennan, 61, appeared to be extremely intoxicated, denied that he attacked the woman and was wearing only a mock turtleneck and gray underwear when confronted by officers.

Brennan was arrested on charges of domestic violence, kidnapping and aggravated battery against a household member in connection with the Sunday incident. He made his first appearance in Metropolitan Court on Monday.

Well, good for him for having a girlfriend young enough to be his granddaughter (at least in our nation’s more rural areas).
More details — and yes, once again, allegations of prostitute involvement — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Ex-Judge of the Day: John Brennan”

LaLeshia Walker Alford Judge Laleshia Walker-Alford Louisiana Above the Law blog.jpgGotta love an elected judiciary. From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

A Shreveport judge’s excessive use of prescription drugs led her to disgrace the judiciary by missing work, falling asleep on the bench, and at times talking gibberish to convicts, the Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled in a 7-0 decision that permanently removed her from office.

LaLeshia Walker Alford, first elected to the Shreveport City Court in 1997, was removed from the Caddo Parish bench and ordered to reimburse the state $5,000 for the cost of the investigation that began six years ago.

We especially appreciated the article’s deadpan subhead: “Absences, gibberish on bench recounted.”

So how did this all get started?

Alford, a Tulane Law School graduate who was re-elected in 2002, fell under state investigation after an anonymous complaint May 27, 2002, accused her of missing work regularly, canceling court without any notice, and presiding on the bench impaired, inarticulate, and at times nodding off. At one point, Alford threw a 15-year-old boy into an adult lock-up after fuming over his poor report card….

Dozing off on the bench? No big deal. One well-regarded federal judge has his clerks bring him a pitcher of ice cubes and a glass while he’s on the bench, so he can chew on ice to stay awake.

But napping on the bench is just the tip of the iceberg for Judge Walker Alford. Check out some excerpts of her judicial gibberish, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge of the Day: LaLeshia Walker Alford”

Hilton Fuller Judge Hilton Fuller Brian Nichols Above the Law blog.jpgThis has been all over the news. We like the ABA Journal’s version, ’cause it’s the crispest:

The Atlanta judge overseeing the prosecution of alleged courthouse shooter Brian Nichols has stepped aside from the case after he was quoted [in a New Yorker article] as saying, “Everyone in the world knows he did it.”

The New Yorker piece was by one of our idols, prosecutor-turned-writer Jeffrey Toobin (who launched our blogging career, with this Talk of the Town piece). Judge Fuller and Jeff Toobin were interviewed by the Fulton County Daily Report about the controversy:

“I had a specific agreement with Toobin,” said Fuller on Tuesday, before announcing his recusal. “Our conversation was to be on background only, and there would be no direct quotations or attributions, unless they were floated by me first.”

Not so, said Toobin, reached in New York. “I don’t know what to say,” he said. “I mean, it was clearly for attribution; we even had a New Yorker fact-checker call and confirm it. … I have great respect for Judge Fuller, but that was not at all my understanding.”

We’re with the meticulous Toobin on this one. In fact, we share the suspicion of one of the correspondents who wrote us about this story: Was Judge Fuller’s indiscretion intentional? Was it his way of getting out from under a long and complex nightmare of a case?
Judge Recuses From Courthouse Shooting Case Due to New Yorker Quotes [ABA Journal]
Judge Fuller recuses from Nichols case [Fulton County Daily Report]
Judge in Courthouse Shooting Case Steps Down [New York Times]
Death in Georgia [The New Yorker]
New Yorker Quote Leads to Atlanta Judge Recusal [WSJ Law Blog]

Monica Lewinsky's ex boyfriend's wife for president.jpg* Does the Bush Administration have Blackwater’s back? The U.S. pushes for specific legal protections from Iraqi law for civilian contractors. [New York Times]
* West Virginia: a little less corrupt than last week? WV Supreme Court agrees to rehear Massey Energy case (previously discussed here). [AP; WSJ Law Blog]
* D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg steps down early, to make way for Chief Judge David Sentelle. [D.C. Circuit (PDF) via How Appealing]
* NYT endorses Hillary Clinton (but not for the reasons identified in the bumper sticker at right). [New York Times; New York Times]
* A more detailed report on the Georgetown Law event with Justice Ginsburg that we wrote about last night. [Georgetown Hoya via How Appealing]

David Medina Texas Supreme Court Justice Medina Above the Law blog.jpgIt’s not every day that a member of a state’s highest court gets indicted. So of course Justice David Medina, of the Texas Supreme Court, is our Judge of the Day. Justice Medina and his wife were just indicted in connection with an alleged arson fire that destroyed their home last summer. (We previously discussed the case here.)
But wait — it gets better. District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, a recent Lawyer of the Day, has announced that his office will move to dismiss the indictments. As several tipsters helpfully pointed out to us, both Rosenthal and Medina are Republicans.
This is a little too much bizarreness for this early hour. We’ll turn the floor over to a Texas tipster:

Texas is awesome for many reasons — for example, the locals trying to build nuclear reactors in their garages. And don’t forget the alien visitors.

But the justice system just makes Texas awesomer (even though we already knew that — see here).

First there’s the Texas supreme court justice & his wife who were indicted yesterday and are suspected of torching their house after the bank foreclosed on it.

Then, the DA who says he’ll seek to toss the indictment.

Did we mention the DA’s under investigation himself, and a Harris County judge has requested the AG investigate?

All around, it’s pretty solid legal scandal.

Everything is bigger in the Lone Star State — including the legal scandals.
Update: Here’s an article from the New York Times (via the WSJ Law Blog).
Texas Supreme Court Justice indicted in arson of his Houston home [AP]
Texas Supreme Court justice, wife indicted [Houston Chronicle]
Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina Indicted [Texas Lawyer]
Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina indicted in connection with fire [Dallas Morning News]
Earlier: Did A Texas Supreme Court Justice Burn Down His Own House?
Lawyer of the Day: Chuck Rosenthal

Lynette Scavo Felicity Huffman cancer bald Above the Law blog.jpgHere’s a quick update about yesterday’s Judge of the Day, the Honorable Holly Hollenbeck. From the Tri-City Herald:

A Benton County judge has apologized for telling a woman with cancer to take a knitted cap off her bald head or leave his courtroom. “Words can’t express how sorry I am,” Judge Holly Hollenbeck told the Herald on Monday, a few hours after he spoke with Bev Williams by phone and offered an unconditional apology.

Hey look! It’s an ATL shout-out:

The story was picked up by Seattle news media, then was spread across the country by The Associated Press. The Drudge Report website, published as a digest of headlines across the nation, reported the story Sunday. A website called Abovethelaw.com also invited comments about the incident, and had drawn more than 60 by Monday evening.

“I’m being vilified,” Hollenbeck said. “I made no excuses to her for my behavior. What happened to her was inexcusable.”

And what about the headgear rule?

Hollenbeck, who is presiding judge for the District Court, said each judge retains discretion on how to enforce rules about hats and appropriate attire in court. “The rule has been changed (in my court),” he said.

So if you ever get to wear your hat in Judge Hollenbeck’s courtroom, you have ATL to thank for it (in part).
Judge apologizes for telling woman with cancer to remove hat [Tri-City Herald]
Earlier: Judge of the Day: Holly Hollenbeck

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