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Grim Monday

An Expert Temper Tantrum

The circus continued today before the Judicial Review Counsel in Connecticut where former chief justice William Sullivan is accused of violating the code of judicial conduct by delaying publication of a controversial Supreme Court decision to benefit the nomination prospects of his successor.

In the center ring raged an expert for the chief, New Haven trial attorney Hugh Keefe. The former president of the counsel came out swinging. Whether he hit anything but the front page for his antics remains to be seen.

Keefe is renowned in Connecticut as a trial lawyer. Indeed, just yesterday, he won an outstanding result for a police officer accused of shooting a civilian and then lying about it. Congratulations for a job well done, Hugh But it sometimes seems as if the renown has gone to his head. What in the world was he doing on the stand today?

Keefe told the panel that while he led the JRC in the 1990s, the council did not review "discretionary" matters “unless it was completely and totally outrageous … an egregious exercise of discretion." When pressed to see if there was substance behind this adjectival smoke, he replied that a bad discretionary act must be “egregious and illegal.”

Outrageous. Egregious (twice, no less). Bad. Illegal. Classic bluster that may work against a greenhorn at trial but looks like a mere temper tantrum from the witness stand. This is an expert? I suppose he really does believe that we ought to be persuaded merely because he believes something. Wow.

Sometimes Keefe made no sense. When asked if the JRC's policies trumped state state statutes or regulations, he replied that the public relies on the JRC's policy statement as reflected in the council's annual report. Huh? Can we transform non sequitur into an adjective, too?

“I think what’s happening here is outrageous,” he erupted at another point.

The whole Sullivan mess is an embarassment to the state's judicial system. His decision to sit on an opinion doesn't warrant a hearing, chest-thumping experts, testimonials from priests, and all the hurly-burly nonsense it has generated. And it certainly didn't warrant today's performance in the center ring. Hugh's Blah, Blah Blues

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