King Richard

I met with some lawyers today prior to a sentencing. We got to laughing about nicknames for some of the other judges. I was shocked, just shocked, to learn that I have a nickname too. It is “King Richard.” They did not specify whether they were thinking of Richard I or Richard III. Either way, the moniker delights me. Here’s how I picture myself:

Image credit: Joey Davidson and TechnoBuffalo

Image credit: Joey Davidson and TechnoBuffalo

Kneel knaves.


16 responses

  1. But of course many federal judges think they are kings 🙂

    Seriously, if you think about the tremendous power that federal judges have, the comparison is apt. Of course, judges are supposed to follow the law. And I am sure most do. But there are some who abuse their extraordinary power, and expect to be worshipped like Gods. Sure, they might be eventually reversed by the court of appeals, but they have the power to ruin someone’s life in the meantime.

    Impeachment and removal as a check? Not likely. In the history of the U.S., I only counted 8 judges impeached, convicted and removed.

  2. This seems apropos … What is the difference between God and a federal judge? God doesn’t think he’s a federal judge. Told to me many years ago by then-US District Court Judge Gene Brooks (S.D. Ind.)

  3. You don’t even consider the possibility of Richard II?

    From Act III, Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s play:

    No matter where; of comfort no man speak:
    Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
    Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
    Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth,
    Let’s choose executors and talk of wills:
    And yet not so, for what can we bequeath
    Save our deposed bodies to the ground?
    Our lands, our lives and all are Bolingbroke’s,
    And nothing can we call our own but death
    And that small model of the barren earth
    Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
    For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground
    And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
    How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
    Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
    Some poison’d by their wives: some sleeping kill’d;
    All murder’d: for within the hollow crown
    That rounds the mortal temples of a king
    Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
    Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
    Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
    To monarchize, be fear’d and kill with looks,
    Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
    As if this flesh which walls about our life,
    Were brass impregnable, and humour’d thus
    Comes at the last and with a little pin
    Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
    Cover your heads and mock not flesh and blood
    With solemn reverence: throw away respect,
    Tradition, form and ceremonious duty,
    For you have but mistook me all this while:
    I live with bread like you, feel want,
    Taste grief, need friends: subjected thus,
    How can you say to me, I am a king?

    And here’s Richard Burton reading it.

  4. He was also 12 when he ascended to the throne, and was then deposed by he who became Henry IV. Still, he speaks some of Shakespeare’s most magnificent verse.

  5. Jeff,

    Why did the Bard have Richard speak in poetry? The books say S. used prose for common folk, and poetry for the high born. Is that really the reason? I truly don’t know, and would be interested in your opinion.

    All the best.


  6. It’s not quite that simple and consistent a distinction between commoners and those who aren’t. In The Tempest, for instance, Caliban speaks mostly in verse. And the high-born will sometimes (though certainly not always) speak lines of prose when discussing the mundane.

    But poetry was generally understood to be an elevated style suitable to the elite. ( It’s also a quick and easy way of distinguishing people so the audience can tell who’s who (at least by social class). In that sense, it’s all something of theatrical shorthand (or maybe a trick).

    For a modern variant, consider how, say, the late Robin Williams would segue into a southern-hick accent and manner for people saying particular kinds of what he deemed stupid remarks (or how Johnny Carson would do Floyd Turbo). Better still, think about why Henry Higgins wanted to change the way Eliza Doolittle spoke. (“These verbal class distinctions, /By now should be antique,” Rex Harrison spoke/sung as he demonstrated that they were anything but.)

  7. Oh, and the other part of the answer is that Shakespeare’s Richard II is not the petulant, selfish and self-aggrandizing, perhaps mad (though I’m not altogether clear about that) child-king that history makes him but a tragic figure, not up to the job but ennobled by his suffering. Indeed, the egomaniac in the play is more Bolingbroke (later Henry IV) than Richard.

    And, as a complete aside, John of Gaunt (he of “This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,/This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,/ This other Eden, demi-paradise,/ This fortress built by Nature for herself/ Against infection and the hand of war,/ This happy breed of men, this little world,/ This precious stone set in the silver sea,/ Which serves it in the office of a wall,/ Or as a moat defensive to a house,/ Against the envy of less happier lands,/ This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England”) was probably less the noble soul S makes him out to be than, as an old professor of mine explained, than the John Mitchell of his time.

  8. Jeff,

    In addition to your criminal defense gig, you ought to be teaching literature. Thank you for the education. Unlike most things I write, I mean it.

    All the best.


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