Monday, September 21, 2009

Judicial Ethics, a continuing meditation Interesting essay at the Legal Profession Blog, of which the Bad Lawyer Blog is not-worthy--also check the unbelievable "musings" on Rosh Hashanah. Wow, are these guys high-toned or what?

A number of years ago I was involved in a nightmarish case in a small county involving a corrupt nursing home operator, a director of nursing, and a young nurses aide. There were allegations of sexual harassment and I brought an action against the operators which were based in Our State's second city. The operator was someone who successfully gamed the entire system with the help of a dedicated lawyer out of Our State's capital. After I filed my action in this small rural county the nursing home operator hired the county prosecutor's son as local counsel--and I experienced what every lawyer fears, but which I can truthfully say almost never occurs in my 27 years of experience--I experienced "home boy(ing.)"

Being "home boy(ed)" is the awful experience of being involved in a matter in which your Judge has completely partial to one side. Often parties think this is occurring when in fact they have no case either factually or legally (or both.) So, I discount the allegation even when made by my own clients--but, this nursing home case was purely awful, and evil was done by the public officials in this small rural county on behalf of the nursing home operators. One of the more trivial aspects of this case was the fact that the Judge in the case, while the case was pending was a guest of the prosecutor and his family at a "reverse raffle." Ergo, the connection to the Legal Profession Blog post: can a Judge avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest when he or she receives "gifts" from litigants? How is the gift, even a ticket upgrade, not a bribe?

A number of years ago I handled a sex harassment case on behalf of a young woman that was defended in Our Home Town by an international law firm. On the day of my client's deposition at their Taj Mahal offices in the penthouse suite of the newest, tallest office tower in town I was ushered through the dining room which was set with silver service, the Chief Justice of the State Supremes was going to speak to them and enjoy their luncheon largess. Assuredly, this law firm had many cases pending in front of this jurist.

The Catholic Church, as I have pointed out on numerous occasions holds an annual Red Mass to bless and feed the elected officials who guard the flood gates against law suits and prosecutions for molesting children.

These "musings" are prompted by my reading that one of my judicial heroes is taking an ethics bullet for trying to protect witnesses from intimidation by a gangster. Apparently statements made in court at a proceeding prior to trial (from which the Judge recused himself)--have resulted in the disciplinary counsel of Our State prosecuting the Judge for violating the judicial ethics. Let's see bribery of the Judge if done by gentlemen, that's OK, but God forbid you try to protect a witness from physical harm--that'll cost you.


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