Judge of the Day

Over the past week, while the Bay Area has been rainy, windy, and generally ugly outside, folks in my old Chicago stomping grounds have been enjoying the upside of global warming.

I know the sun is a nice, unexpected reprieve from the nine-month Midwestern winter. Unfortunately, the mini-heatwave has not brought any relief from the hot air that notoriously blows from government buildings in Cook County.

Earlier this month, a local judge was unceremoniously removed from her courthouse and arrested for assault. My colleague Staci Zaretsky might have called her a judicial diva, but I think this jurist is more of a Mike Tyson type…

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Montana Chief Judge Richard Cebull

Montana Chief Judge Richard Cebull started the first day of the rest of his life today. The judge who sent around a racist and sexist email about Barack Obama and the president’s dead mother started the “damage control” process that will never really end.

Richard Cebull could emancipate slaves and everybody would still know he’s a racist. Obviously, his family and friends already knew he was racist, but now the general public gets to know. There’s nothing for it now. Whether or not he will still be allowed to have a job is pretty much all he can fight for.

And he is: he’s voluntarily asked the Ninth Circuit to review his conduct. And he’s written a letter of apology to President Obama — who is rapidly on his way to becoming the most poorly treated president in American history (even though the last one was openly thought to be mentally retarded, and the one before that was impeached for getting a BJ).

But we’ll get to all that. First, free of charge, I’m going to slow down long enough let everybody catch up to why the original letter was racist, and why sending the thing makes Cebull a racist, too….

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Chief Judge Richard Cebull

We mentioned this last night in Non-Sequiturs, but it merits more coverage. Judge Richard F. Cebull, current chief judge for the District of Montana, admitted to forwarding a racially charged joke about President Barack Obama from his courthouse email account. Chief Judge Cebull, a graduate of the University of Montana Law School and a former federal magistrate judge, was appointed to the district court by President George W. Bush in 2001. One of the readers who brought this story to our attention described Cebull as “a good judge.”

A good judge who tells bad jokes. Let’s get to what you all want to know: What was the joke? And was it offensive, or funny, or both?

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Ex-judge of the day, David E. Barrett.


I don’t even know where to begin with this, so let’s just play it straight:

Last week, a now ex-judge in Georgia pulled out a handgun during a bond hearing, pretended to hand it to an alleged rape victim who was testifying, and said she was “killing her case” and “might as well shoot” her lawyer.

What?

I wish this was a joke or a hoax story. But no, it actually happened.

Keep reading to find out who this former judge is (spoiler: it’s not Rooster Cogburn) and why he pulled his piece in court…

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Judge Tonya Parker is taking a stand.

I hate reading about pharmacists and doctors (and politicians named Rick Santorum) who actively cause people harm by not prescribing treatment because of their religious beliefs. It’s worse when they’re called out and get all self-righteous about it. Hearing those stories makes me so angry that I start gnashing my teeth and crossing my eyes uncontrollably.

But sometimes I get news that makes me think, “maybe it will all be ok.” Like the story I heard today about a Texas judge turning the tables on the pricks conscientious objectors who use religion to curtail the rights and health of other people. This judge has an ax to grind about the inability of gays to get married.

If you will, please imagine a world where straight people could not get married either…

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Earlier this month, a video showing Judge William Adams of Texas beating his disabled daughter went viral. Judge Adams didn’t try to deny what he did (which would have been tough, given the video); instead, he defended his actions.

Did the Texas Supreme Court find Judge Adams’s advocacy persuasive?

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Judge William Adams

Warning: the following video is very disturbing. I’m not a squeamish person, and I couldn’t really watch the whole thing.

It’s sweeping the internet today: it’s a video of a man beating his daughter. Allegedly, that man is Judge William Adams, the Aransas County Court-at-Law Judge.

And the video was uploaded by Hillary Adams, the victim.

It’s all a bit much. But it is what everybody is talking about today….

UPDATE (3 PM): Comments from Judge William Adams and from his ex-wife, Hallie Adams, have been added below.

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Judge Maryesther Merlo. Who will play her in the movie? Suggestions welcome.

Earlier this year, we brought you the story of Judge Rae Lee Chabot, a state court judge in Michigan. Judge Chabot was accused of taking three-hour lunch breaks and long shopping trips to the Gap, in the middle of the workday.

I wrote in defense of Judge Chabot, whose judicial work was well-regarded despite her, ummm, flexible work schedule. I opined that “[a]s long as a judge is reasonably current with his docket, he should be left alone. There is no face-time requirement for judges.”

But even I would have a hard time defending the latest judicial diva under fire, Judge Maryesther Merlo of Allentown District Court in Pennsylvania. Judge Merlo — or make that ex-judge Merlo, since she just got removed from the bench — allegedly missed 116 days of work, from September 2007 to December 2009. That amounts to over 23 weeks, in a period of about two years.

And that’s not all Maryesther Merlo stands accused of. Her treatment of defendants appearing before her may have strayed beyond the merely tough into the downright rude….

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(Not that she spent much time on it anyway.)

Peggy Ableman

Earlier this week, we reported on the latest benchslap from Judge Sam Sparks (W.D. Tex.). In his order, Judge Sparks invited attorneys to a “kindergarten party,” to address what he perceived as childish behavior.

Judge Sparks eventually called off the party. That makes sense, since he had already achieved his goal of publicly shaming the attorneys appearing before him.

Other judges have apparently taken notice. Now comes Judge Peggy Ableman of Delaware. She has called for attorneys appearing before her to attend “a ‘special’ emergency refresher course in first year ethics and civility.”

UPDATE (5:20 PM): Darn it. Delaware Superior Court Presiding Judge James T. Vaughn Jr. has taken over the case and canceled the “refresher course,” as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

What’s really going to make the allegedly childlike attorneys squeal is that Judge Ableman scheduled her remedial class for the middle of Labor Day weekend….

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Remember Isaac H. Stoltzfus from Intercourse, Pennsylvania? After handing out condom-stuffed acorns to women on the street outside the Statehouse in Harrisburg, Stoltzfus became our Judge of the Day back in September 2010. In the spirit of res ipsa loquitur, we kept our coverage short and sweet.

We now know that Stoltzfus was cited with one count of disorderly conduct, but that charge was dropped. In April, the Judicial Conduct Board filed a complaint against Stoltzfus because… well, let’s not split hairs here, the dude was handing out acorns that he had personally hollowed out and stuffed with condoms. That is some pretty bizarre behavior, but Stoltzfus claimed it was just a prank, and filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.

On Wednesday, the state Court of Judicial Discipline dismissed the complaint, but why? We’ve got the scoop, after the jump….

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