Articles Posted in Here Comes the Judge

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He was deemed fit to stand trial, although you’ll probably wonder about that after reading this. As reported by The Ocala Star Banner:

Circuit Judge Hale Stancil is used to presiding over criminal trials, but on Wednesday and Thursday his role in court became that of witness as he testified against a man who wrote him threatening letters from prison.

In two separate, one-day trials, two different six-member juries returned guilty verdicts against Lester Leroy Williams, 36, on two charges of written threats to kill or do bodily harm for writing separate threatening letters to the judge in August and October 2014, in which he threatened to harm Stancil and his family.

During the trials, Williams, who represented himself, gave several reasons for writing the letters, including a conspiracy involving the federal government; that he wanted to confront the judge, who, he claimed, had unfairly sentenced him previously; and referencing a discussion between his family and a member of Stancil’s family, which, he said, landed him in prison.

Assistant Public Defender Meredith Poisson acted as standby counsel and briefly represented Williams during the trials. She argued that while her client wrote the letters, the intent to harm the judge did not exist.

On Thursday afternoon, presiding Circuit Judge Robert Hodges sentenced Williams as a prison release reoffender to 15 years in prison for each of the two cases. Those sentences will run consecutive to one another and will begin in February 2020 — after the 10-year sentence Williams is currently serving for sexual battery is completed.

Williams previously served time for six criminal charges involving battery.

You can read a lot more, and see photos of Mr. Williams, here.

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It’s a robe, not a cloak of invincibility. This former Judge just learned that retiring got rid of the ethics charges but … as reported by The Daily Report …

A Fulton County grand jury has indicted the former chief judge of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit for making false statements and violating her oath of office as her judicial conduct was investigated nearly four years ago.

Indicted, as in she could face 1-5 years in prison for each count. About the ethics charges …

In 2011, the state Judicial Qualifications Commission filed ethics charges against Chief Judge Amanda Williams, accusing her of “willful misconduct” and “tyrannical partiality.” The JQC cited claims of the judge doing judicial favors for friends and family members, conducting ex parte meetings with litigants and lawyers and ordering others locked up for little or no reason.

In one case, Williams was accused of jailing Lindsey Dills, a young drug court participant, for an indefinite term. The woman ultimately spent 5½ years in Williams’ drug court, including more than a year in jail for cashing two forged checks totaling $100 on her father’s checking account, according to the JQC.

Williams announced in December 2011 that she would voluntarily step down, ending the prosecution by the JQC.

You’ll find the source here, and more information about the criminal and ethics charges in this story in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

 

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Unless it’s a traffic ticket where you don’t have much to lose, it’s just not a good idea to represent yourself.  This point is made over and over by cases like this. As reported by Courthouse News Service:

On trial for mail and wire fraud, fallen real estate mogul Luke Brugnara [who is representing himself] blamed his treatment at the Alameda County jail for his bizarre behavior in court and demanded that U.S. District Judge Alsup allow this explanation to be given to the jury.

“If I were in the jury box, I’d think this guy is nuts,” Brugnara said, launching into a rant about how he has not been allowed to shower or shave for five days and that deputies are trying to prevent him from preparing for trial by repeatedly throwing his legal papers into garbage bags.

Brugnara also spent this past weekend on suicide watch in Santa Rita jail, where he claims to have been thrown naked into a cell caked with feces for 30 hours. Since the incident, he has taken to calling the deputies his “North Vietnamese captors.”

“I haven’t showered, haven’t shaved. That’s why I’m acting crazy,” he told the judge.

What are the charges?

… allegedly conning a New York art dealer out of $11 million in fine art including a missing Edgar Degas sculpture …

The trial sounds, well, interesting, and challenging.

[Brugnara]  has consistently bullied witnesses, argued with the U.S. attorneys and generally turned the court into a lurid spectacle for nearly two weeks.

“You’re trying to turn this trial into the biggest train wreck you can,” Alsup said Tuesday.

Alsup, who seems to fully believe that Brugnara is deliberately hanging himself in order to get the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn his inevitable conviction, has so far added 295 days to Brugnara’s sentence for summary contempt – earning 111 of those days for calling U.S. District Attorney Robin Harris a “Nazi” in court on Tuesday.

“You’re racking up a lot of time in this case. You deserve more,” Alsup said.

“She’s worse than a Nazi in my opinion,” Brugnara said. “And you don’t care about me; none of you care about me. It’s not fair. You’ve orchestrated this whole case and because you don’t like the way I communicate, you’re punishing me.”

“I’m not going to try to argue with you on the falsehoods in your speech. You got away earlier with saying Ms. Harris dresses like she’s in North Korea,” Alsup fired back.

On Wednesday, Brugnara fought with Alsup over the contempt sentences. “If you hate me that much, why don’t you just recuse yourself? Say, ‘I fucking hate you’ and recuse yourself.”

Harris asked Alsup to keep Brugnara from bringing up the summary contempt orders in front of the jury.

“You think that will do any good?” Alsup asked wearily.

Brugnara interjected, “Can you just hand Ms. Harris your robe? Because she’s trying to direct the court.”

You get the idea. And the judge’s displeasure with Mr. Brugnara began before the trial.

The judge is still steaming from Brugnara’s defiance of a furlough order that allowed him to meet with his former court-appointed attorney, Erik Babcock, at the San Francisco Federal Building. Brugnara walked out of the building after a meeting with Babcock on February 5 and spent six days on the lam before being apprehended by the FBI.

At a hearing after Wednesday’s proceedings, Alsup addressed the only defense Brugnara has for that escape, U.S. Supreme Court case United States vs. Bailey.

Under Bailey, duress or necessity can be used as a defense to an escape charge. Brugnara claims that he was dying of malnourishment in the Glenn Dyer jail in Oakland and fully intended to return for his trial, originally scheduled to begin Feb. 26.

Although The Juice is not a criminal lawyer, he feels confident saying “good luck with that one.” You’ll find the source here.

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Oh to be King, or in this case, Queen! Thoughts similar to this must have been going through this Judge’s mind on the day in question (and probably many other days too).  It’s likely that next time she will not give voice to those thoughts. As reported by thestate.com:

The Ohio Supreme Court says a judge shouldn’t have scolded jurors for issuing a verdict she believed to be wrong.

The court concluded Wednesday in a public reprimand that Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Amy Salerno violated a rule requiring judges to behave in ways to promote the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality. It says she also violated a rule barring judges from commenting on jury verdicts except in court orders or opinions.

Jurors in Salerno’s courtroom issued a not-guilty verdict in 2013 in a misdemeanor assault case. Several jurors complained to the court about how Salerno told them they “got this wrong.”

Salerno says she deserves the reprimand and regrets the comments. She says she’s learned from the mistake.

Um, er, uh, sorry. Here’s the source.

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If you had to guess the state, you would have guessed “Florida.” You would have been right. As reported by The Miami Herald:

Miami-Dade County Judge Jacqueline Schwartz broke judicial conduct rules when she told the owner of a Coconut Grove convenience store last year to “Go f— yourself” in a dispute over a political campaign sign, the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission has found.

The punishment? A public reprimand, and she has to write a letter of apology to the convenience store owner. You can read A LOT MORE, and see a photo of the judge, here.

 

 

 

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As reported by the Spokesman-Review:

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza apparently has a dim view of people swearing in his courtroom. He halted proceedings midway through Friday’s first appearance docket after a teenager got up and stormed out of the courtroom, leaving a string of expletives in his wake.

Cozza demanded that the teen come back inside the courtroom and told him he was in trouble. The teen’s initial response was to say “Do I have to?” but he complied with the judge’s instruction. He told the judge that he’d been in court to see his brother, who had been arrested the day before. “I’m just a little bit irritated,” he said. “Some of the allegations were false.”

Cozza gave the teen a brief lecture on proper courtroom conduct and he was handcuffed by two Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputies. The 17-year-old was booked into Spokane County Juvenile Detention, where he celebrated his 18th birthday on Saturday.

Here’s the source.

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Here’s an example of a judge in Arkansas who couldn’t keep it in, although he really didn’t pay a price for his misconduct. As reported by ArkansasMatters.com:

A Union County District Court judge is being disciplined after the investigation of several complaints.

The Juice has seen worse, but this stuff is just not cool.

One of the complaints involved a witness in a 2013 criminal case. While giving testimony, it was reported that Judge Van Hook appeared “angry, agitated and frustrated,” verbally berated the witness, then ordered his arrest without any probable cause documentation from any law enforcement officer or the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

After the witness’s arrest, he hired an attorney and all criminal charges filed against him due to the judge’s actions were dismissed by a special judge in 2014.

In other complaints, the Judge was reported to have spoken to people in court in a “discourteous and undignified manner,” telling one woman who appeared before him in June 2014 that she had “meth teeth.”

He also called someone else before him “stupid” and “yelled at him repeatedly to show his driver’s license to the Court.”  So what was the discipline?

The action amounts to a Letter of Censure issued to Judge Van Hook, which cites six complaints.

You call that discipline? You’ll find the source, including a link to the disciplinary order, by clicking here.

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Perhaps it’s time to attend some of those judicial conferences and retreats? Maybe pick up a few things?  As reported by The Dallas Morning New:

Earlier this year, [Judge Etta] Mullin made news when she refused to allow an attorney into her courtroom because he was wearing shorts. The attorney, James Lee Bright, had just undergone knee surgery and was in a brace. He said the knee brace prevented him from putting on long pants.

Did she think he was faking it? No doubt Mr. Bright would have preferred to appear in court with an intact knee, in long pants. Unfortunately that wasn’t an option.

In recent weeks, Mullin held one of Bright’s law partners in contempt of court. Mullin said the lawyer, Peter Barrett, threw a written motion at her while she was on the bench. Barrett called that a lie and said he’s routinely mistreated by the judge. The motion, he added, was one to have her recused from a case in which he’s representing a client. The contempt charge against him is pending.

While the judge could be telling the truth, there just aren’t a lot of Motions thrown at a judges. Yes, they are often made, opposed and consented to, but not thrown!

In the Dallas Bar Association’s 2013 survey of members, 89 percent of respondents gave Mullin the lowest overall rating possible, saying her performance “needs improvement.” That was by far the harshest assessment of any criminal judge; in the second-harshest, 26 percent of the lawyers who responded did so with a “needs improvement” grade.

Seventy-seven percent in the survey said Mullins isn’t sufficiently prepared for hearings. Eighty percent gave her the lowest possible grade for impartiality, 82 percent did so in rating her knowledge of the law, and 86 percent said her judicial temperament and demeanor need improvement.

She’s about as popular as a member of Congress! Here’s the source, with a photo of the judge.

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You, a former judge, enter into a plea deal.  Your lawyer says it is a good plea deal. Then you reject it because it might impact your pension? Check this out, as reported by The Phladelphia Enquirer:

Former Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Willis W. Berry Jr. on Thursday rejected a proposed guilty plea on conflict of interest charges after learning that it could imperil his state pension.

“It’s a shame, it was a good deal, but we just can’t risk the pension,” said Samuel C. Stretton, a lawyer for the 72-year-old former judge.

Stretton publicly announced Berry’s decision at a status hearing before Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Erdos.

With the plea off the table, Erdos transferred the case to trial Judge Donna Woelpper and set a pretrial hearing for Jan. 7.

Stretton said Berry, who retired two years ago, was to have pleaded guilty to charges he used his judicial office and court staff to operate his private real-estate business.

In return, Stretton said, Berry would have been sentenced to probation and would have agreed to pay restitution of $50,000.

A good deal? If you read the rest of the article, you’ll see that it was a great deal. Which leads one to wonder, does the former judge think he’s going to do better at trial? The reason it was such a good deal is because of the mountain of evidence against him! And he was going to get probation!

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If even some of these allegations prove to be true, run! As reported by pennlive.com:

Harrisburg District Judge Robert Jennings III squeezed financial kickbacks from constables for his election campaign, sat on citations filed against himself and associates and made inappropriate sexual comments to women, a state investigatory board said in charges filed Friday.

A conviction on the accusations lodged by the Judicial Conduct Board could cost Jennings the job he’s held since 2004.

You can read a whole lot more here.