Bad boys, what you gonna do? Not a good past few weeks for the six percent of the American public which still holds lawyers in high regard. There was this:
A closely watched obscenity trial in Los Angeles federal court was suspended Wednesday after the judge acknowledged maintaining his own publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos.
Then, courtesy of Above the Law, we find that another California judge (state judge, this time) was admonished for his conduct of a personal injury trial, in which he did things like holding up a sign saying "OVERRULED" when the plaintiff's attorney made an objection, and allowed the defense counsel to sing the theme song from the Twilight Zone while cross-examining the plaintiff about her claim of emotional stress.
The topper, though, is the story of Adam Reposa, a Texas lawyer who was recently sentenced to 90 days for contempt of court; the judge
found Reposa guilty of contempt for making a gesture simulating masturbation while standing before County Court-at-Law Judge Jan Breland. Breland testified that during a pretrial hearing March 11, Reposa rolled his eyes and looked at her while making the gesture.
Reposa's defense? He was actually making the gesture to the prosecutor, not the judge.
Will sue for food. Of course, in addition to idiot lawyers, you have idiot lawsuits. I've blogged before about what I regard as one of the major accomplishments of the legal profession over the last forty years: convincing a majority of the public that if something bad happens (a) it's somebody else's fault, and (b) the afflicted person should be compensated for it.
Actually, though, there's been an increasing trend toward lawsuits that don't seek monetary compensation under some far-fetched theory, but instead are directed toward vindicating some imagined moral principle, under an equally far-fetched theory. For example, some judges have a policy of prohibiting certain terms, like "rape" or "victim," during trials, on the theory that that's the ultimate issue for the jury to decide. There's certainly for legitimate debate on that subject, but courtesy of Appellate Law & Practice comes the story of a one such case, where the judge told the witness she could only describe what allegedly happened to her, and not tell the jury she was "raped." Her response: to send off an angry letter to the editor? To organize a rally at the courthouse to protest the ruling? No: she sued the judge in Federal court, on the grounds that the order violated her First Amendment rights.
And then we have the story of Darthmouth College English Instructor Priya Venkatesen, who found her students unreceptive to some of her literary theories. "My students were very bully-ish, very aggressive, and very disrespectful. They’d argue with your ideas." (In the immortal words of Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, "the horror... the horror...") There was worse:
The snapping point came while Ms. Venkatesan was lecturing on "ecofeminism," which holds, in part, that scientific advancements benefit the patriarchy but leave women out. One student took issue, and reasonably so – actually, empirically so. But "these weren't thoughtful statements," Ms. Venkatesan protests. "They were irrational." The class thought otherwise. Following what she calls the student's "diatribe," several of his classmates applauded.
Ms. Venkatesan informed her pupils that their behavior was "fascist demagoguery." Then, after consulting a physician about "intellectual distress," she cancelled classes for a week.
She then sent each student an email announcing she was contemplating filing suit against them for creating a "hostile work environment."
Then again, idiot lawsuits, and even more idiotic court decisions, are no longer confined within our borders. Here's a story out of Canada in which a Quebec judge... Oh, hell, I can't even paraphrase this:
First, the father banned his 12-year-old daughter from going online after she posted photos of herself on a dating site. Then she allegedly had a row with her stepmother, so the father said his girl couldn't go on a school trip.
The girl took the matter to the court - and won what lawyers say was an unprecedented judgment.
Madam Justice Suzanne Tessier of the Quebec Superior Court ruled on Friday that the father couldn't discipline his daughter by barring her from the school trip.
Which is why one of my all-time favorite quotes is by the Roman playwright Juvenal: "It is difficult not to write satire."