Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Serial Killer and the Judges

Anthony Sowell is allegedly Cleveland, Ohio's most notorious serial killer.  Sowell was luring young black women into an Imperial Avenue house where at least 11 were brutally raped and murdered. 

The Sowell case is pending in Cleveland courts since last year when the original Judge, Timothy McGinty (pic right), a hot-head former prosecutor recused himself from the case.  According to my sources in Clevealnd it is doubtful whether McGinty would even have a law license were he to become a lawyer in the current disciplinary environment since the Judge failed to disclose at least one DUI convictions on his bar application which came to light during McGinty's ugly campaign to become a judge. Modern day law students are permanently prevented from taking the bar exam for less dishonesy that McGinty exhibited in his bar application, but that was then.  Additionally McGinty's conduct as a prosecutor notoriously involved th the sorts of things that resulted criminal conviction reversals and in as we saw California prosecutor taking a 5 year suspension as recounted, here, on Bad Lawyer.  So it was no surprise when Judge McGinty stepped down in December from the Sowell prosecution, particularly after he had shot his mouth off in the press about the case before he was assigned it.  But McGinty's ego wouldn't let him stay out of the case, leaked a confidential psychiatric examination on Sowell to the press.  When the new trial judge learned about the leak--not realizing it was her colleague who leaked the report--she was on the verge of jailing the reporter who published the story for contempt of court.  

That judge, Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold (pic, below,) is in big trouble herself.  What remained of her reputation has taken a big hit and the story is all over major web blawgs including the ABA Journal and others.  While most of these websites leave out the Judger McGinty portion of this tale of judicial malpractice.  You see what's going on, and why anybody in their right mind should care, Anthony Sowell is far more dangerous than any of these clowns at Guantanamo Bay--and the judges presideing over his case are playing a dangerous game that implicates whether he stays behind bars. 

Now, the new judge, Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold is also a  controversial and mercurial Cleveland jurist.  She has battled openly with the Cleveland media over the years, but this time, she may have gone way over the line;  one thing is for certain she is about to lose the highest profile case she has ever been assigned.  This may not be the only consequence for Judge Saffold who committed a mind-boggling act of stupidity and injudiciousness--using a pseduonym, Judge Saffold has been anonymously posting comments at the website of Cleveland's only daily newspaper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  In posts under the name "lawmiss" traced to the court's computer the Judge has offered sarcastic, and racist comments about legal matters pending in front of her and specifically comments critical of Sowell's african-american attorney Rufus Sims.  When confronted by reporters for the Plain Dealer, the Judge tried to claim that the posts were made by her daughter, a non-lawyer who resides 2 1/2 hours away in Columbus, Ohio.  Even allowing for her alibi, why would her daughter would have access to the court's Cleveland computer?   The Judge isn't saying, but let's not kid ourselves--the Judge, herself, is caught doing what no judge should do, exhibiting extreme bias and prejudice.

Mr. Sowell (pic center) is represented by a number of reputedly excellent lawyers, including Mr Rufus Sims (on the left).  What follows is from the website:

"The judge's personal AOL account was used to set up the lawmiss account.  One of the comments criticized [attorney Rufus Sims] for his defense work in a [separate] vehicular homicide trial in which Saffold was the judge. Sims' client in that case was convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced to six months in jail. [Lawmiss] advised attorney Sims to 'shut his Amos and Andy style mouth.' The post said Rufus Sims did a disservice to his client and that other lawyers could've done a better job.

Saffold has denied writing any of the comments. Her 23-year-old daughter, Sydney, on Thursday took responsibility for writing all of the comments. Sydney Saffold is a former law student living in Columbus. Court records -- obtained by the newspaper under a public-records request -- showed that three of the comments were made at the exact times and dates someone was logged on to on the judge's office computer."
According to the Plain Dealer the extended post said:    "“Rufus Sims did a disservice to his client,” the Nov. 21, 2009, post reads. “If only he could shut his Amos and Andy style mouth. What makes him think that is [sic] he insults and acts like buffon [sic] that it will cause the judge to think and see it his way. There are so many lawyers that could’ve done a much better job. This was not a tough case, folks. [The bus driver] should’ve hired a lawyer with the experience to truly handle her needs. Amos and Andy, shuffling around did not do it.”

Lawmiss/Judge Saffold was referring to a case where Mr. Sims represented a local bus driver who killed a pedestrian in a downtown Cleveland crosswalk while she was distracted and using a smartphone to text. 

This afternoon, Mr. Sims filed motions to have Judge Saffold removed from the case.  If she fails to remove herself, the Supreme Court of Ohio will remove her.  Can you imagine the incredible cost to Ohio taxpayers if this Judge had proceeded to handle the trial, conviction and sentencing of this defendant only to have this stuff come out later, only to have his convictions reversed.  Imagine for a moment, the pain and mental torture of the family members and friends of his victims as they relive again and again the testimonial horror of what happened to their daughters and sisters and loved ones because some thoughtless, egotistical Judge who couldn't restrict her opinions during the most important case of her judicial career.  Frankly it makes me wonder how many of the matters she has handled that are now going to have to be revisited because of bias and prejudice. 

Kashimir Hill at Above The Law, one of my favorite Blawgs, named Saffold,  Judge of the Day--this is not a compliment.

Look I think I can feel some empathy with Judge Saffold, it's tough to be a minority anything and feel dogged by the media, second guessing anything and everything you do, questioning even your basic intelligence.  By going after Mr. Sims, Judge Saffold betrays her tremendous insecurity. But more importantly, the Judge unintentionally reveals her own inability to separate herself as from, the basic instinct--victim hood.  Judge Saffold makes it impossible for her to do the job she was elected to do.  Judge Saffold should step down from not only this case, but she she ask herself whether she needs to step down from the bench.  The disciplinary authorities of Ohio may not let her have a choice in the matter, now.

The Ohio Supreme Court should also look at the intemperate Irish dry-drunk, I empathize with him too, but I'm not sending people to prison or to the death house, let alone abusing civil litigants or parties as a Judge. 


  1. B.L. tim mcgoofy was very helpful in having his opponent at places at the times as expected so as reporters could find him where it would be stated he would appear with no investigation as to why he was actually there

    tim (never saw a search warrant i wouldn't

    sign) mcgoofy

    how'd he get elected must be the drunk i mean luck of the irish

    the pope

  2. Your Holiness,

    A good friend of mine tells me that McGinty ran an incredibly outrageous campaign and slimed the sitting judge who had the seat with personal garbage that did not reflect in anyway on that Judge's fitness to serve, ture?