State Judges Are Clowns

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.)

* Not a wardrobe malfunction, my ass. Nancy Grace would sooner allow Casey Anthony to babysit her kids than admit that she had a nip slip on live television. [New York Post]

* When you have a “superior legal mind,” it’s easier for your feelings to get hurt. Gregory Berry now claims that Kasowitz Benson was “extraordinarily vindictive.” [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Irving Picard’s suit against Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz has been dismissed (for the most part). This is the best thing to happen to the Mets since Bill Buckner. [Bloomberg]

* In the past, when a wife cried in Massachusetts, a judge would wipe her tears with her husband’s checkbook, but alimony just ain’t what it used to be. [New York Times]

* Apparently judges in San Luis Obispo, California have banged one gavel too many. They’ve been reaching verdicts outside the courtroom to pad their own benefits packages. [Legal Newsline]

* Florida International isn’t just dominating the University of Miami in football this year. FIU schooled Miami when it came to Florida’s bar exam results, too. [Miami New Times]

Judge Wayne Phillips: He likes clerk butt and he cannot lie?

When I learned about this lawsuit out of Montana (via Morning Docket), I thought it might be from The Onion or an old episode of Ally McBeal. Reports the Billings Gazette: “A lawsuit has been filed against Fergus County District Court Judge E. Wayne Phillips by a female law clerk who alleges that the judge slapped her in the buttocks with a legal file.”

If the clerk’s allegation is true, was Judge Phillips’s action inappropriate? Certainly. Was it rude? Most definitely. But should it spawn a civil lawsuit, as well as possible criminal charges? Absolutely not.

And wait until you hear what the clerk is claiming in damages….

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Sri Srinivasan

* “Ten Worst Things for a Law Prof To Put on a CV.” [The Faculty Lounge]

* Think of this as another warning against taking sexually explicit photos of yourself. Or buying suspiciously cheap used computers. [Not-So Private Parts / Forbes]

* Musical Chairs: Sri Srinivasan, chair of the appellate and Supreme Court practice at O’Melveny & Myers, is leaving OMM to serve as principal deputy to Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. [Main Justice]

* Hey Warren Buffett: if you really feel that you are taxed too little, feel free to write a big check to the United States Government. [Huffington Post]

* Lawyer turned CEO Andy Lansing is looking for a few nice men (and women). [New York Times]

Woof woof!

* Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A dog walks into a bar…. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* IMF employees give Dominique Strauss-Kahn a warm welcome. [Dealbreaker]

* What is up with Georgia judges? Another one bites the dust: Judge Douglas Pullen leaves the bench, terminating an investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

* More bad news for the much-sued Dov Charney. [Fashionista]

* Congratulations to the recipients of the First Chair Awards for in-house counsel! The awards will be presented tomorrow night. [First Chair Awards]

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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Mark Ciavarella, Jr.

Those three words made me the personification of evil. They made me toxic and caused a public uproar the likes of which this community has never seen.

— Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella, Jr., commenting on his new moniker as the “Kids for Cash” judge. Today, Ciavarella was sentenced to 28 years for his role in a massive bribery scandal in the Pennsylvania juvenile justice system.

Judge Albert 'Pat' Murdoch

Here’s a quick update on the unfortunate tale of Albert “Pat” Murdoch, the New Mexico state court judge who has been accused of raping a prostitute. He will be retiring from the bench, as of Friday, and he has agreed never to seek another judicial office in the state.

(Maybe he should run for elective office? It worked out for Alcee Hastings, who successfully ran for Congress after getting impeached from his federal judgeship.)

Murdoch is retiring pursuant to an agreement with the state Judicial Standards Commission, which had started a disciplinary investigation (which will now conclude). Pat Murdoch will have more time to focus on his defense in the criminal case against him.

On that subject, the contours of his defense are starting to take shape….

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Ex-Judge Thompson: not looking well.

Oh goodness. Today is shaping up to be “Misbehaving Judges Day” here at Above the Law.

One judge, new to these pages, is accused of a serious crime: rape. And supposedly there’s a video of the alleged act.

A second judge (or former judge), who should be familiar to many of you — Donald Thompson, aka the “penis pump” judge — has been hit with fresh criminal charges.

Let’s look at the allegations against the two men….

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Judge Rhonda Hollander

We mentioned this in yesterday’s Morning Docket, and still you emailed. We mentioned it again in Non-Sequiturs, and still the tips kept coming. Well, fine. By popular demand, here is a full post on the Florida judge who stands accused of photograping a guy peeing in the men’s bathroom.

The Honorable Rhonda Hollander is a traffic court judge. But she seems to have a pretty interesting hobby. She was arrested last week for allegedly taking out her cell phone and snapping pictures of a man peeing in the bathroom. A courthouse police officer tried to stop her from taking these photos.

And that’s when things got weird….

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A traditional American... Halloween costume mocking the native inhabitants of this land.

Growing up, we had something called the “coffee filter” in my house. It was my mom’s cutesy way of telling us that we always needed to think before speaking, but it worked (most of the time).

The world would probably be a much better place if everyone bothered to use their coffee filters, but the sad fact is that most people don’t even have one. That’s probably the reason why there are so many racial epithets and ethnic slurs floating around that I’m still learning about new ones.

And it’s probably also the reason why judges are just blurting them out in court….

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