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.
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.
Does it matter that the conduct did not involve a case? You (and the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board) can make that call. As reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer (at Philly.com):
The Inquirer has reported that [Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus] McCaffery, using a private e-mail account, sent at least 10 messages containing sexually explicit content in 2008 and 2009 to an agent in the Attorney General’s Office. The agent then forwarded the material to dozens of others in the Attorney General’s Office, according to copies of the e-mails.
You can read a lot more here.
If something bad happens to a candidate, some voters will feel sympathy for him/her, and will vote accordingly. Nevertheless, it’s crass to play the play the sympathy card even in the event of something serious. But this? Not cool. As reported at HighlineTimes.com (Burien, WA):
Campaign signs for Des Moines Municipal Court Judge Veronica Galvan were vandalized twice over the weekend. The signs, placed along Des Moines Memorial Drive, were cut off their stakes with a blade or sharp implement. Galvanʼs signs were initially vandalized sometime Friday evening. The culprit cut one side off each sign, so only half of each sign was left on the stake. A campaign volunteer replaced the damaged signs on Saturday. Then, on Saturday night, the signs were hit again. This time, both sides of the signs were cut off, leaving only the stakes.
Yeah, this is probably the only case of political signs being vandalized. But what you clearly fail to understand is that this was not any old vandalism. Take it away judge.
Shoot, $140,000 per year in Detroit will go a long way. You would think someone with a job like that – which also includes 9 weeks off! – would take it seriously. In this case, it appears that you would be wrong. As reported by myfoxdetroit.com:
Detroit district court judges have it pretty good. They work seven hours a day and get an hour for lunch… So why does 36th District Court Judge Cylenthia Miller need to show up late so often or not show up at all?
That there’s a serious accusation. Can you back it up? Well …
It’s 11:00 a.m. A video shows people have jammed the courtroom, but the judge isn’t there, and the lawyers are still getting $300 an hour. This wasn’t just a one off. We got a hold of the judge’s attendance record. She’s a truant. If this were high school, she’d never graduate.
Maybe she’s just going through a rough patch?
In 2009 she missed an extra 53 days or nearly three months of work.
In 2010 she missed an extra month and a half. It’s the same with 2011 and 2012.
Okay, maybe not. But back to the present:
So we put the peep on the judge over the last few weeks. On February 8, a Friday, she called in sick saying she injured herself when her sister’s dog pulled her in a ditch. On February 1, the following Monday, we couldn’t find her. The next day she didn’t show grieving over a loved one.
When the judge did show up, she was always late, took long lunches or left early. Pretty serious stuff for a judge who handles everything from murder to misdemeanors.
She showed up and hour and a half late on Wednesday. On Thursday, she showed up two hours late. After a rigorous hour and fifteen minutes on the bench, she cut out for lunch. A long lunch. A two hour and 15 minute lunch.
It was no better the next day, Friday, February 15. She was nearly two hours late again, and she left at 2:30 in the afternoon. Where could she be going? The law library? The prosecutor’s office? Nope. She went shopping at Kroger in Grosse Pointe…
She was late again on Monday morning. We [the news crew] couldn’t take it anymore.
“Court’s been in session for an hour and a half and you’re still [outside],” I said to her. “Been coming every day for three weeks, you’ve never been on time.”
She said nothing.
Shocker. Time to go up the chain.
“It’s embarrassing to us as a court, and it’s embarrassing to me as the court’s chief judge that I’m having this discussion with you,” said Judge Kenneth King. “I’m telling you that this matter will be dealt with.”
Judge Miller met with the chief judge on Monday. She promised to “do better in the future”.
“Better”? The Juice is guessing the folks at WJBK will be monitoring the situation. Here’s the source.
So maybe you’re sitting up above the rest of the folks in the courtroom. But this stuff? Uh-uh. Nope. Fuhgeddaboutit. It’s totally unacceptable. As reported by The Houston Chronicle:
“It was horrible,” Houston attorney Wesley Clements said about the alleged behavior of District Judge Lonnie Cox. “When he started yelling like that at the top of his lungs, it got my attention.”
The allegations are in a motion filed by Clements asking that Cox remove himself from a plea hearing in the probation violation case of Maricelda Marie Aguilar, 22, of Alvin.
Clements said he was in the process of filing a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct about Cox’s conduct during the Oct. 5 hearing.
And about that motion to recuse himself from the case?
Cox said he was unable to comment about an ongoing case. He filed an order refusing to recuse himself and referring the recusal decision to the presiding judge for the 2nd Administrative Judicial Region, Montgomery County District Judge Olen Underwood.
So what went down with Judge Cox?
Aguilar, now seven months pregnant, has been in the Galveston County Jail since July for violating her probation on an earlier drug conviction. She learned shortly before her arrest that she was pregnant and while in jail has developed a bacterial infection she fears could harm the fetus, she said in a written statement attached the recusal motion. Clements said she also has a condition that cannot be fully diagnosed until after Aguilar gives birth.
The Galveston County drug court had obtained Cox’s agreement to move Aguilar from the Montgomery County Jail to a drug rehabilitation center until she gave birth, allowing her mother to accompany her for medical treatment when necessary, Clements said.
Probation Department Director Janis Bane said the District Attorney’s Office approved the agreement. “It sounded like a good option and a good use of our resources,” Bane said. Nevertheless, the department will respect the judge’s decision, she said.
Everyone is in agreement. So what’s the problem? Well …
At the hearing, Cox became agitated when he discovered that Aguilar had missed several meetings with her probation officer, according to the recusal motion. “The judge while sitting on the bench in open court looked at the plea papers and then screamed, ‘This is shit. This kind of bullshit is not what the drug court should be doing and it is just costing the taxpayers money,'” the motion states.[expletives reinserted]
Oh. So that’s the “temper” in “judicial temperament.” Now it makes sense!
The judge told Aguilar she was worthless and asked “if she thought he would turn her loose to kill the child,” the motion states. “He told the defendant she was worthless and then told the defendant she was not worth the paper and ink that the plea agreement was written on and proceeded to rip the papers to shreds and throw the papers in the air.
“Then he stormed out of the courtroom.”
True, these are just allegation in a motion, but …
The court reporter was not present during the alleged outburst, Clements said, but there were at least 14 witnesses. Aguilar’s mother was present and her statement was attached to the recusal motion.
That’s a bunch of witnesses. And …
The flare-up is not the first attributed to Cox, attorney Byron Fulk said. Fulk said Cox erupted in anger when he and and an assistant district attorney presented a plea agreement in a similar case.
Like Aguilar, the defendant had violated probation after conviction on a drug charge, Fulk said. “The judge takes the bench, looks at the file and says, ‘I’m not going to do this,'” he said. “Then he pounds his fist on the table and starts screaming at the client.”
When Fulk tried to reason with the judge, he said, Cox “starts yelling at me, ‘Step away from the bar, counselor, step away from the bar.’ ”
Attorneys know that the judge almost always wins these battles. That’s assuming that the attorney has the nerve to even engage in such a battle.
Fulk said he admired Clements for doing what other attorneys feared to do. Fulk, who supported Cox when he ran for office in 2008, said, “It’s what we call in the legal profession, black robe disease,” he said. “In my opinion he’s a bully.”
You’ll find the source, including a photo of the judge, here.
It probably went something like this: “Don’t worry, honey. I’ll call my friend the Judge. You’ll be out in no time.” Or not, though the call was made to the Honorable James (“Jim”) Patrick Sharp, Jr., Justice on the First Court of Appeals in Houston, Harris County, Texas. Here’s what happened, from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct’s Findings of Fact:
On January 17, 2012, at approximately 8:00 p.m., Justice Sharp received a telephone call from a family friend informing him that her 15-year-old daughter had been arrested for shoplifting at a department store in Brazoria County.
The friend informed Justice Sharp that her daughter had been taken to the Brazoria County Juvenile Detention Center (hereinafter “Juvenile Detention”). She further informed Justice Sharp that Juvenile Detention staff had advised her that pursuant to standard policy, her daughter would not be released until the following morning.
The friend asked Justice Sharp for assistance in securing her daughter’s early release from Juvenile Detention so that she would not be required to spend the night at the facility.
So what did the Judge do? Plenty.
During all of the calls, Justice Sharp identified himself as a Justice of the First Court of Appeals; he stated that he was calling on behalf of his friend’s daughter (hereinafter the “juvenile”); and he sought information on how to secure the juvenile’s early release from Juvenile Detention.
During all of the calls, Justice Sharp was advised that Brazoria County had a policy that required the juvenile to remain in Juvenile Detention until the following morning, at which time a judge would magistrate her and/or review her case.
Not satisfied with the response he had been given, Justice Sharp repeatedly and persistently asked Juvenile Detention staff what could be done to secure the juvenile’s early release, and offered to drive to the facility to magistrate and/or “sign orders to release” the juvenile that night.
During his conversation with the Assistant Director, Justice Sharp referred to the possibility of Brazoria County being sued for failing to release the juvenile that night, stating: “[Y]our county is going to be sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars for this. You’ll have picked the wrong little girl that has friends in high places to mess with.”
Justice Sharp also stated to the Assistant Director, “Well, I can tell you this, things are about to change in Brazoria County. You guys are a bunch of back woods hillbillies that use screwed up methods in dealing with children and I can promise you this, things are about to change in Brazoria County.”
Charming. Moving right along …
At approximately 10:00 p.m. that night, Justice Sharp telephoned a local District Judge and left a voicemail message advising the judge that a friend’s daughter was being detained in Juvenile Detention, and that he hoped the judge would “make a call” to release her.
Justice Sharp also sent a text message to the District Judge asking if he would call Juvenile Detention to help “get [the juvenile] released tonight.”
At approximately 10:30 p.m. that night, Justice Sharp telephoned a Brazoria County Commissioner and left a voicemail message identifying himself as “Justice Jim Sharp in Houston,” and advising the Commissioner that his friend’s daughter had been arrested for shoplifting and was being held in Juvenile Detention.
In his voicemail message, Justice Sharp asked the Commissioner, “What can we do to get that girl out tonight?” Justice Sharp further expressed his opinion there was “no sense” in having the juvenile spend the night in jail, and that, “I need your help. You will probably know who to call to make the keys go open.”
At approximately 11:47 p.m. that night, Justice Sharp sent a text message to the Commissioner, stating as follows: “If I were Brazoria Co. commissioner, I’d be on [the] look out for some serious lawsuits arising from your juvie [sic] facilities. . . You don’t release 15 yrs olds accused of simple shoplifting (bra and jeans) to their parents on the request of an Appeals Ct Justice? Serious problems there, Dude. Call me pronto, please. Justice Jim Sharp.”
Props for being such a good friend?
In voicemail and text messages to the District Judge and the County Commissioner, Justice Sharp made the following statements concerning a Juvenile Detention officer, who Justice Sharp accused of being “rude” to him:
a. The officer was the “most arrogant little prick [he] had ever talked to in [his] life,” and that if he had met with the officer “in person,” the officer would have known that he “had visited.”
b. If he had spoken to the officer “in person,” and if Justice Sharp had been in possession of a “baseball bat . . . that son of a bitch would have been cracked upside the head. Fucking little cocksucker.”
c. “Brazoria County Juvie Folks are [not] just arrogant but ignorant. When an Appeals Court Justice calls and identifies himself and then they refer to me as ‘Mr.’ Sharp, it bespeaks a fundamental misunderstanding of respect and pecking order!”
d. “[S]ome county paycheck functionary . . . call[ing] me ‘rude’ also is totally unacceptable and that stupid asshole need find [a] new job that never has him communicating with appellate court justices. Had I been there personally, it would have been damn ugly for him.”
During this same night, Justice Sharp unsuccessfully attempted to contact a former State Representative, a senior district court judge, and a local criminal defense attorney, all in an effort to secure the juvenile’s early release from Juvenile Detention.
Shazam! Like The Juice said, the Judge was fortunate to only receive a public reprimand. You’ll find the full document here.
Regular Juice readers know that you have a first amendment right to flip off a police officer. That doesn’t mean you won’t be arrested and thrown in jail. It just means that ultimately you will prevail. Any way, the same does NOT hold true for Judges, as this gent learned. As reported by NewsLeader.com (Springfield, Missouri):
David Hernandez, 31, was arrested Wednesday at about 3 p.m. while in the audience of a court proceeding. According to the judge’s docket sheet, Hernandez disrupted the court three times.
“Upon Mr. Hernandez’s departure from the courtroom, in direct view of Judge (Todd) Thornhill, (defendant) flails his arms and then lifts both arms in the air and extends the middle finger of each hand in utter disrespect and contempt of court,” the docket sheet reads.
Hernandez was asked if there was any reason he should not be held in contempt and produced none, the docket sheet says. The court then found Hernandez in contempt and ordered him to jail until August 23. [a 30-day sentence]
A police incident report indicates Hernandez was booked without incident.
Family law cases often involve a lot of emotional behavior. Typically, though, the Judge is not a participant. This is clearly not a typical case. Of particular interest are the portions beginning at about 35 seconds, and at the 6:55 mark.
You seriously threatened a judge on the phone, and on Facebook? Brilliant! As reported by Courthouse News Service:
Ezra Osman [age 28] is the ex-husband of Iris Guillen, who works as clerk for 312th Family Court Judge David Farr, according to Harris County court records.
After Osman called the court repeatedly on May 9, Guillen told Judge Farr that Osman was harassing her, records state.
“The judge picked up the extension and told the defendant that if he continued to tie up the phone lines he would be in trouble,” according to the charging document signed by an assistant district attorney. “The defendant then told the (judge), ‘Fuck you, mother fucker. I’m gonna’ come down there and fuck you up.'”
Pure genius, only to be followed by this …
Guillen later showed a Harris County sheriff’s deputy that Osman had made a threatening post on his Facebook page. It said: “Got my ninjas … so heads are going to roll started with that punk ass judge,” according to the assault charge.
Very effective use of social media.
Osman is currently jailed on a $20,000 bond.
Here’s the source, including a link to the charging document.