The fuse worked!

It seems like long ago that I wrote Lighting the fuse: It is time to get rid of court reporters in the federal courts. Today, I received a comment to that post. While the comment is very tardy, I am amused by it anyway. I think most readers will be too. So, on the assumption that readers of this blog don’t follow a post written in July and comment thereto received today, I reprint the following bit of sterling advocacy using the “all caps” format used by the writer:

MR. RGK, YOU CAN GO FUCK YOURSELF. YOU THINK YOU’RE SMARTER JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE A “JUDGE”. I AM PRETTY DAMNED SURE YOU WOULD NEVER BE ABLE TO DO WHAT A TRAINED COURT REPORTER DOES. I FEEL VERY SORRY FOR YOU THAT YOU MAKE ALL THESE ASSUMPTIONS WITH NOTHING TO BACK IT UP. HAVE YOU EVER HEARD A PERSON WITH A DEEP HAITIAN/HISPANIC ACCENT?????? LETS SEE A VOICE MACHINE PICK THAT UP!!! NOT!!!! I WOULD LOVE TO SEE YOUR FACE IF PRESIDENT OBAMA TOLD YOU THAT YOU DID NOT HAVE THE QUALIFICATIONS TO BE A JUDGE. I SUGGEST YOU SHOVE IT UP YOUR ASS. I ALSO FEEL VERY SORRY FOR ANYONE WHO HAS TO STEP INTO YOUR COURTROOM BECAUSE LITTLE DO THEY KNOW, THEY’RE DEALING WITH A MAN WHO HAS NO HEART. MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS TO YOU, ASSHOLE!

Comment posted by Jovan. Submitted on 2013/12/08 at 11:35 am

RGK

Federal trial judges should ditch the black robes for something more regal!

It is not at all clear why it is that federal judges, and particularly federal trial judges, wear plain black robes. Before the Founding, I am told that judges in America wore wigs and robes of various colors. Jefferson (ever the liberal except when refusing to free his own slaves) thought American judges should not wear robes or wigs. Adams, as you might imagine, took the contrary position.  Someone apparently worked out a compromise, wigs were out but black robes were in.

What’s even more historically obscure is why judges have favored black at all.  Historians of the robe have fought to the death over this issue. One group suggests that:

  • In England, before 1694, the most popular colors for judge’s robes were green, scarlet (red) and violet – apparently, you had a choice!
  • In 1694, Queen Mary II of England died and was buried in Westminster Abbey in London. At her funeral, all the judges in attendance wore their official judicial robes – but wore them in the color black as a symbol of mourning for their deceased monarch. The mourning period for the passing of Queen Mary was extended over several years and most, if not all, judges continued to wear black robes.
  • By the time the mourning period had ended the wearing of black robes had been established as the norm for judges in the courtroom.

See Jerry Anderson, M.A., WHY DO JUDGES WEAR BLACK ROBES? AND WHY IS A DRUNKARD CALLED A “LUSH”? (December 7, 2011).

The other group argues that there are images predating 1694 of legal officials wearing simple black.  “Clearly black robes were  ‘in the mix’  so to speak before Queen Mary II died.”

Regardless, black is so, how I shall I say it, pedestrian.  It does not properly reflect our superior status as FEDERAL TRIAL JUDGES. After all, the Constitution makes our salaries immune from the sequester. Personally, we don’t have to make any sacrifice at all while Congress destroys the judiciary.

If we want to throw money around for “real-time” and court reporters because it saves us from working our poor little fingers to the bone writing notes, well, then, great men and women are entitled to their prerogatives. Let the assistant federal public defender–who withdrew from a death penalty case yesterday because she had been fired under the sequester–eat cake.  Some thing are more important than others.  Because some things are more important than others, I think we ought to start wearing better looking robes.

I propose a rig like this one:

Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of John Jay, first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, 1794

Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of John Jay,
first Chief Justice of the United
States Supreme Court, 1794.

What do you think?

RGK

Touching the third rails of judicial politics

J Brazito's photostream per Creative Commons License.

J Brazito’s photostream per Creative Commons License.

With the very real budget crisis facing the federal district courts, and the nuclear impact on key players like federal public defenders, it is worth at least mentioning two savings that could be easily achieved without any harm to the functioning of the federal district courts.  However, to even speak of these two areas is to touch the third rails of judicial politics.

Electrified Rail One

We don’t need court reporters.  Digital audio recording can easily replace court reporters.   Various studies including a pilot project in a big federal district court and in a relatively small district court prove that digital audio recording could replace court reporters with no loss in accuracy while resulting in significantly lower cost and much greater transparency.  There will be a legion of naysayers, but any honest look at the situation results in only one rational outcome:  the federal district courts should move to eliminate court reporters (by attrition).

Electrified Rail Two

At the district level, did you know that there are two clerks of court?  One serves the Article III district judges.  The other serves the Article I bankruptcy judges.  Both have their own staffs—from docket clerks, to IT staffs, to courtroom deputies, to administrative service staffs.  If this duplication ever made sense, it makes none now.  The federal district courts should move to consolidate the clerks of the district courts and the clerks of the bankruptcy courts.

I just touched the rails.  I didn’t die.

RGK

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