08:37, December 17 108 0 abajournal.com

2018-12-17 08:37:06
When judges get angry, the most vulnerable suffer; one judge sees his behavior as reminder

Trial judges should be “a model of dignity and impartiality” who are able to control their tempers and emotions, according to ABA standards on special functions of trial judges.

Too often, however, judges exhibit anger and unprofessional behavior, Rewire News reports. And the targets of their wrath often are the most vulnerable people, including the poor and survivors of sexual or domestic violence, the article concludes.

In one case, Judge Kenneth Walker of Multnomah County, Oregon, interrupted a domestic assault victim’s impact statement in a January hearing and then walked out of the courtroom before she finished. Judicial ethics regulators closed an inquiry saying they had found insufficient evidence of a misconduct violation, the Oregonian reported in October.

At one point, Walker told the victim “I don’t want to hear this” when she described an alleged sexual assault that didn’t result in charges. At another point, he told the victim she couldn’t read messages that other people had posted to her Instagram account. During his third interruption, Walker said, “OK, I’ve heard enough. Thank you. Thank you.”

Walker told the newspaper that he could have handled the matter better by telling the assault victim that she should focus her comments on the charged beating, rather than allegations that didn’t result in convictions.

“It was a reminder, to me, that this is the most important day of her life, and she’s been struggling to get up in public and say something,” Walker told the Oregonian. “I think all judges should be reminded that even though we do a lot of cases and it’s pretty routine for us, we must consider in every case that it is the most important thing happening in that person’s life.”

Rewire News provides several other examples of angry judges, including these:

• Municipal Judge Marvin Adames of Newark, New Jersey, was accused in a November ethics complaint of jailing a woman he deemed disrespectful in a landlord-tenant matter. The woman remained in jail 23 days awaiting a contempt hearing because she was unable to pay bail. Law.com had coverage.

• In September 2018, Common Pleas Magistrate Michael Bachman chased a woman he believed was making too much noise outside his court down the hallway while pointing his finger at her, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. The woman had been told she was too late for court, prompting her to cry and argue with a man in a hallway. When Bachman caught up to the woman, he guided her back to his courtroom, grabbing her shoulder when she tried to turn down a different hallway. Bachman sentenced the woman to 10 days in jail for contempt; she was released after two days by a different judge. Bachman resigned about a week after the incident.

• Judge Jerri Collins of Seminole County, Florida, agreed to a reprimand in March 2016 for jailing a sobbing woman for three days because she had failed to appear as a witness at a domestic abuse trial. The woman had said she didn’t show up partly because of anxiety. “You think you’re going to have anxiety now? You haven’t even seen anxiety,” Collins said.

• Municipal Judge Robert Restaino of Niagara Falls, New York, jailed 46 people in 2005 over a repeatedly ringing cellphone while he was hearing domestic violence cases. New York’s top court ruled in 2008 that the incident required removal of the judge from his job. Restaino is running for Niagara Falls mayor, the Buffalo News reported last month.