JUDGES GONE WILD
By Bathroom Reader
By Bathroom Reader
1003 words – MR
JUDGES GONE WILD
It’s kind of a given that judges should have good judgment. And most of them do. But as for these folks, well… judge for yourself.
Judge: William E Singletary, who was elected to the Philadelphia Traffic Court in 2008
Background: While running for the judgeship, Singletary was caught on video promising favorable treatment to campaign contributors at a “Blessing of the Bikes” motorcycle club gathering in a Philadelphia park. “If you all can give me $20 – you’re going to need me in traffic court, am I right about that? … Now you all want me to get there. You’re going to need my hook-up, right?” he told the assembled crowd over the PA system. The footage soon found its way to You Tube. (Singletary is also a church deacon and blessed the bikes.)
What Happened: Singletary was charged with four counts of misconduct and found guilty of all four, enough to cost him his judgeship. But the state Court of Judicial Discipline let him off with just a reprimand and probation.
Legal Footnote: Singletary was perhaps the only traffic court judge in the country who was legally barred from driving: In 2007 his license was suspended after he racked up more than $11,000 in unpaid traffic tickets and fines for reckless driving, driving without a license, driving without insurance and other charges. His license was reinstated in 2011.
Judge: C. Hunter King of the Orleans Parish Civil District Court in New Orleans
Background: Louisiana public officials are prohibited from using on-the-clock government employees as campaign workers. But that didn’t stop King from suspending court for a week in October 2001 and ordering court employees to spend the week selling tickets to his $250-a-plate campaign fundraiser. When questioned under oath, Judge King denied everything … until he learned that his court reporter had recorded him threatening to fire any worker who didn’t sell at least 20 tickets. (King fired the court reporter when she didn’t sell her tickets.)
What Happened: Judge King pied guilty to conspiracy to commit public payroll fraud and received a six-month suspended prison sentence. He was also thrown off the bench and disbarred.
Judge: Elizabeth Halverson, a Clark County, Nevada, District Court judge
Background: Halverson may have set some kind of unprofessional conduct land-speed record after taking the bench in January 2007. In her first four months on the job, the state’s judicial discipline commission received more than a dozen complaints about her behavior. They alleged that Halverson abused court staff with racial and religious slurs, sexually harassed a bailiff and made him feel like a “houseboy” by assigning him menial personal chores, endangered courthouse security by hiring unqualified personnel as bodyguards and admitting them into secure areas of the courthouse, hired a computer technician to hack into courthouse email accounts, made false statements to the media about three other judges she believed were conspiring against her, fell asleep on the bench during two criminal trials (and one civil trial) and ordered a clerk to swear in her husband so that she could question him under oath about whether he’d completed his chores at home. “Do you want to worship me from near or afar?” she reportedly asked one court employee.
What Happened: Halverson was suspended from the bench six months into her judgeship and charged with 14 counts of judicial misconduct. In 2008 she was removed from the bench for life. But by then she’d already lost her reelection campaign.
Judge: Timothy Blakely, a family court judge in Minnesota’s First Judicial District Court
Background: For a number of years Judge Blakely was in the habit of referring people who came before his court to a St. Paul attorney named Christine Stroemer for divorce mediation. There’s nothing particularly unusual about that, except that Stroemer had handled Blakely’s own divorce and she knocked more than $60,000 off of his $108,000 legal bill after receiving the referrals.
Blakely got caught when his ex-wife tipped off the state Board on Judicial Standards.
What Happened: The Board recommended that Blakely be removed from the bench, but the state Supreme Court let him off with a censure and a six-month suspension without pay in 2009. That made Dakota County prosecutor Larry Clark so angry that he ran against-and defeated-Blakely in 2010, winning 57 percent of the vote. (Blakely says that he didn’t realize at the time that his conduct had created the “appearance” of a conflict of interest.)
Judge: Carlos Garza, a New Mexico magistrate judge
Background: After recusing himself from a 2006 drunk-driving case involving a woman he was dating, Garza told a court clerk to clear the woman’s license of the charge before she met the legal requirements for having it cleared. In another incident with the same woman, Garza tried to intimidate a deputy marshal who pulled the woman over for speeding. Garza, a passenger in the car, reportedly told the deputy, ”I’ll take care of these tickets. Do you know who I am?” Garza got himself in even deeper trouble when he failed to comply with a judicial standards commission order that he submit to a drug test. He eventually did take the test … and was found to have 14 times the legal limit for passive exposure to cocaine in his system. The commission also accused him of cutting the hair on his head and body to prevent samples being taken for the drug test. (Garza claims that’s not why he cut his hair.)
What Happened: Garza ran for reelection unopposed in November 2006 and won; the next day the state Supreme Court barred him from the bench for life and ordered him to pay $16,000 to reimburse the judicial standards commission for the cost of its investigation.
Update: Garza made headlines again in April 2008 when he was arrested for failure to appear in what had once been his own court, where he was scheduled to go on trial for driving with a suspended license, failure to display registered license plates and speeding.