Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Just Like In Grade School!

Remember in elementary school when someone would do something stupid/funny/loud behind the teacher's back? She'd turn around and demand that the perpetrator inclupate himself. Of course, s/he never would. So the teacher would turn to threats, ordering other kids to rat our their classmate or face the consequences. Eventually resistance would crumble and fingers would point. (the same thing is the leitmotif of federal drug prosecutions).

It's predictable when a grade school teacher does it. It's a little sadder when a judge tries it and it doesn't even work:

'Every single person is going to jail in this courtroom unless I get that instrument now,' he told the courtroom's audience, according to the commission.

'If anybody believes I'm kidding, ask some of the folks that have been here for a while. You are all going.'

Security officers then attempted to find the phone but failed.

After a brief recess, [New York] Judge [Robert] Restaino returned to the bench and again asked who had been responsible for the ringing phone.

When no-one came forward, the judge ordered that the entire courtroom audience of 46 people be taken into custody and set bail at $1,500.

'This troubles me more than any of you people can understand,' the judge explained.
Nice - he even worked in the standard parental "this is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you." 14 people in the courtroom were locked up because they couldn't post bail. They were only released by the judge after reporters began asking questions. The commission that booted the judge from the bench called his conduct that of a "petty tyrant." They apparently didn't buy his "I was under stress defense."

For the record, there's a much easier way to deal with cell phone annoyances in the courtroom. At both the federal courthouse in which my office is located and the Fourth Circuit courthouse in Richmond, court security officers will not let visitors take cell phones past security. They are left there and picked up on the way out. It seems a little harsh, but it beats jail time!

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