The first law clerk I hired was Mary Buckley. With an advanced degree in linguistics and honors from the Creighton Law School, Mary worked with me when I was a magistrate judge. That was so long ago that Mary was the one who taught me how to use a computer. Do you remember DOS commands?
Anyway, Mary read my posts on “causal cruelty” and sent me an e-mail about her experiences. You should know that Mary is a brilliant person who has always been committed to doing good in this world. (See photos of Mary and her children near the end of the link.) After she left me, she worked for Chief Judge Bill Cambridge on our court, then worked as a federal public defender, and concluded her career with the feds as a clerk to Chief Judge Smith Camp. Mary wrote:
Though I spent 18 years in judges’ chambers, I still forget that you all exist in a sheltered world. Douglas County is notorious for being horrible about getting inmates their meds. At least between 1994 and 2001 it took an Act of Congress to get a guy his pills.
And I had a horrible situation with [the] Sarpy [County jail] and the Marshals once. My client appeared for his plea. His entire head was red, scaly and swollen, and he had a gross cloudy liquid coming out of his ears. I didn’t recognize him. The prosecutor and I went and talked with WGC [Judge Cambridge] prior to the hearing about the situation. Apparently, the nurse said the situation got to that point because my client was using too much dandruff shampoo. WGC repeatedly asked the Marshal, John LNU, why my client had not been taken to a doctor, and John kept repeating, “He saw a nurse. And he caused the situation himself.” Finally WGC yelled at John in his loudest voice, “I want this guy to see a doctor today, do you understand me?” And voila, it finally happened.
No need to respond – I just think someone needs to hear these horror stories – maybe someday it will have an effect and local inmates won’t be treated like cattle, or worse.
While Mary’s horror stories regarding “causal cruelty” are worth the retelling, I find the first line of her e-mail the most important. She is right. Federal trial judges “exist in a sheltered world.” After doing this work for decades, I still need to be reminded of that truth. Young federal trial judges, especially, should take heed of Mary’s insight. It is terribly important.