The difference between dumb and stupid

As the Republicans, led by a Canadian born reincarnation of Genghis Khan (but without the good looks) and another guy who apparently paints himself with day-glow orange makeup,  threaten to shut down the government, I have a problem. I am forced to consider what I will do with a complex criminal case scheduled for a jury trial starting one day after the federal budgetary deadline. Will I have money to pay jurors? Will the staff be furloughed? Will I have US Marshals?

Now, I should be fair. God knows, judges are supposed to be fair (but never active). The Republicans threaten to destroy the world as we know it, but, truth to tell, the Democrats, like the insipid “little person” who runs the Senate, are happy as clams at the prospect. That way these progressives (what an idiotic name) can blame the Republicans for starving puppies. With a little effort, I can almost hear the scripted but horribly delivered lament from that strange lady who used to run the House.

So, is there a moral equivalency between these two fractious factions? I don’t even know what the hell that question means. But, I do agree with Lewis Black that: “The Democrats are dumb and the Republicans are stupid. The difference between dumb and stupid is dumb isn’t funny. Stupid is seriously funny.”  So, instead of fretting over the plight of jurors, I am going to sit back, scratch my ever expanding ass and laugh. By the way, that’s what old RINOs do.


Working for free, but not cheaply

Photo credit:  pcambraf's photostream per Creative Customs license.

Credit: pcambraf’s photostream per Creative Commons license.

As a senior judge, I could quit today, and the government would continue to pay my salary.  Or, if I like, I can continue to work even though I am not required to do so to receive my salary.

Like many others (who are far better judges than me), I work for free.  I don’t deserve a pat on the back–I like what I do and am happy to do it.

But, as the sign says, I don’t work cheaply.

This afternoon’s activity in the United States Capitol was the last straw.  I am compelled to speak out bluntly.*

So, to the crazies in Congress, primarily, but not exclusively, members of the Republican party, I say the following:

Today, Congress approved a budget fix so that you and others can fly around the country secure in that knowledge that the air traffic controllers will be at work rather than on furlough.   Then you scurried away to catch your flights home.  Yet you are knowingly and wilfully failing to appropriate the funds necessary for the federal courts to perform their core functions.  What is it about the word hypocrisy that you don’t understand?  Have you no shame?


*Unlike active judges who are constrained by all sorts of things, I don’t have much to lose by speaking my mind.

Congress is herewith warned

I just received notice that the Federal Public Defender for the District of Nebraska furloughed his staff and closed his office on Friday, April 19, 2013 and he plans to furlough and close his office on 10 additional days.  Here is the missive received today from our Clerk’s office:



The Nebraska Judicial Council directs all courtroom deputies and judicial assistants to avoid scheduling any trial and hearings involving the Nebraska Federal Public Defender’s Office on the following dates1:
May 3 May 17 May 24 June 14 June 28 July 5 July 19 August 2 August 16 August 30
The Nebraska Federal Public Defender’s Office staff will be furloughed on these dates, and the Defender’s Omaha and Lincoln offices will be closed. In the event the U.S. Attorney’s Office is required to furlough its staff, the same date(s) will be used.

1.  The only exception to this directive is when the assigned judge specifically requires the hearing or trial to be held.

While I intend to honor this directive, I am also contemplating the dismissal of a certain percentage of criminal cases assigned to the FPD.   If I dismiss a bunch of immigration cases, where a short prison sentence would otherwise be imposed and the defendants will be deported anyway, perhaps I can assist the FPD in meeting his statutory and constitutional obligations.  I have not finally decided on this course of action, but I am seriously contemplating it.

Congress is therefore on notice that its failure to fund the judiciary, and most particularly the Federal Public Defenders and Criminal Justice Act counsel, may result in the guilty going unpunished.  If a banana republic is what members of Congress want, I may help them get it.


The Federal Judiciary, and Federal Public Defenders in particular, are facing devastation and the Constitution is in peril–this is not hyperbole

(Photo credit:  Alex E. Proimos' photostream pursuant to a creative commons license,

(Photo credit: Alex E. Proimos’ photostream pursuant to a creative commons license,

Years ago, I had the privilege of drafting the plan that created the Federal Public Defender for the District of Nebraska.  Thus, it was, with utter despair, that I learned yesterday that the FPD for Nebraska will let go his senior criminal investigator (who is located in Lincoln) because of the dire budget situation.

The investigator, with 18 years of service to the FPD and additional years of service before that as a lieutenant in a metropolitan police department, is among the best and brightest.  He is the epitome of integrity, professionalism and just plain common decency.  He is universally liked and respected by everyone including his former law enforcement colleagues.

Because federal defenders are part of the judiciary, they are directly impacted by the crushing reductions in funding that the judiciary faces as a result of the sequester.  Indeed, it appears that Congress has singled out the Defenders (and Criminal Justice Act panel attorneys) for special damage.

I have been with the federal courts now, in one capacity or another, for over 25 years.  I served as chief judge and at other times I chaired our budget committee.  In short, I have “been around the block” when it comes to budget crisis.  I don’t scare easily.

But this I know with absolute certainty: Never before have the federal courts faced anything like the impending disaster brought about by the failure of Congress to appropriate the necessary pittance (less than 1% of the national budget) that is required to run the courts including most especially the Federal Public Defenders.

Judge Julia Gibbons, speaking for the entire judiciary, recently told Congress that “the Judiciary cannot continue to operate at such drastically reduced funding levels without seriously compromising the Constitutional mission of the federal courts.” Funding Cuts Will Compromise Federal Courts, Judges Tell Congress, (March 20, 2013)* (emphasis added).   She was not crying wolf.

There is no other way to look at it.  Congress, with its psychotic fixation on ideology, has begun to intentionally trash the Constitution, the federal judiciary and most particularly the Federal Public Defenders.  Unless they prefer a banana republic, where the rule of law belongs only to the corpulent political elite, it is time for the citizens of this country to wake up.


*Statement of the Honorable Julie S. Gibbon, Chair Committee on the Budget of the Judicial Conference of the United States Before the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government of the Committee on Appropriations of the United States House of Representative (March 20, 2013).

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