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July 2007

Get a Hobby

One thing that has always confused me about lawyers is the utter lack of a hobby that doesn't involve, as Article III Groupie would put it, the overconsumption of luxury goods.  Or, as is often the case, the overconsumption of alcohol - probably motivated by serious depression, a malady of lawyers.  One personal injury lawyer has found a productive hobby - yoga.  Though, amusingly, the yoga lawyer refers to his life as his "goddamn life."  So perhaps he hasn't found total salvation. 

Arkansas Cop Beats Up Children

A Hot Springs, Arkansas paper reports:

Hot Springs (AP) - Video from the popular internet web site YouTube that was posted by one of six people arrested for skateboarding in downtown hot springs is causing quiet a stir.

Hot Springs police say the skateboarders were in violation of a city ordinance. Now three minors and three adults are facing charges, and the officer who arrested them is on administrative leave.

One of the more interesting videos is available here.  It gets really interesting at the 1:50 second mark.  It's at that point we can see an adult choking out a teenage girl, and then choking out a teenage boy.  This second video shows that same "tough" officer threatening to mace a teenage boy.

Personally, I think skate boarders are a menace.  They are usually obnoxious, and I prefer they confine themselves to skate parks.  Indeed, that they brought cameras with them meant they knew skateboarding on city streets was an infraction, and that they expected a confrontation.  But that doesn't give grown men - even grown men wearing badges - a license to beat up children.

Should "Public Servants" Care About Their Pay?

Why oh why does anyone want to be a judge?  It's the serve the public, of course.  A person who has never done a pro bono case, volunteered at a soup kitchen, or even helped an old lady cross the street, when talking about becoming a judge, will mention his burning desire to serve the public.  Spare me. 

If judges are truly judges because they are but humble servants, why are they always complaining about their pay?  In New York state, judges are threatening everything from an illegal strike to a de facto work stoppage.  These judges, according to themselves, are making a pauper's living.  Is this claim true?

New York judges make $136,700 a year.  The median income for a family of four living in New York state is $67,857.  So the average judge makes about double the median household income.

But judges will tell you they are not the best paid people in New York.  Or that law firm partners make more money.  So what?  Really.  How is this relevant? 

A law firm partner or small-firm lawyer puts up with an incredible amount of stress, some really obnoxious clients, and a crushing workload to earn his large salary.  Unlike a judge, a lawyer doesn't set his own calendar or set his own working hours.  It's a life of stress, stress, stress, work, work, work.

Law professors make much less than law firm partners - less, even, than most first year associates at top law firms.  Does this mean law professors are underpaid?  I've never heard that argument seriously made.

That judges who make double the median income of the very people they "serve" are nonetheless complaining about their pay, tells me all I need to know about their motives for service.  Judges like the reduced workload and, more importantly, the power.  Which is fine.

There is nothing wrong with desiring a cushy working arrangement or a lot of power.  Who doesn't want one or - in the case of being a judge - both?  But there is something wrong with judges pretending that they are but humble public servants.

Judge Tjoflat on Abandoning Nifong's Ship

Federal Judge Gerald Tjoflat offers some keen observations on the Duke lacrosse scandal.  Among them:

Why did state DA’s ultimately abandon Nifong? Tjoflat doubts that altruism explained their actions. Instead, the December 15 hearing, with Meehan’s revelation of the conspiracy, “was too much for the N.C. Bar and the prosecutors around the state to tolerate.” Tjoflat surmised that “prosecutors, faced with a growing sentiment in the state legislature to establish a mechanism for monitoring prosecutorial conduct, got word to Nifong that he was now on his own. They had to maintain the status quo. The superior court belonged to them. After all, most of its judges were former prosecutors and, therefore, sympathetic to them. But, however they may have made their thoughts known to Nifong, he was not about to budge. He had one of his investigators re-interview the accuser," dropped the rape charge, but “proceeded full steam ahead with the kidnapping and assault charges.” Only at that point, the North Carolina Conference of DA’s abandoned him ...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who realizes that prosecutors did not oppose Nifong because they "seek justice."  Rather, they opposed him because in so doing, they were able to escape any meaningful reform on prosecutorial misconduct.  Even though, as Mike Nifong proved, even demonstrably innocent people can be indicted, no meaningful criminal justice reforms will follow the Duke scandal.  Nothing will change.  And that, sadly, is exactly what prosecutors want.