Friday, June 09, 2006

When Justice Goes To The Dogs

District Judge Norene Redmond was recently directed by the Michigan Supreme Court to quit bringing her dogs to work with her. The two terriers, Lurch and Lizzard, never came to court together but were otherwise allowed to roam in the main office away from the public, in the jury room if jurors didn't mind, and to sometimes sleep beneath the court bench. The judge would have employees take the dogs out to urinate.

This type of behavior creates a double standard. Judges require that parties treat courtroom attendance with appropriate seriousness and respect. There is a dress code; no cell phones; reading newspapers is frowned upon; if you need to have a prolonged conversation and you are not involved in the immediate hearing, take your gab session into the hallway. There are countless other rules of common courtroom etiquette. So, a judge bringing a dog into the courtroom is hypocrisy. Especially this judge who, according to some comments posted with the article from the Detroit News, had directed people to leave the courtroom and come back when they were appropriately attired. In fact, a sign outside the building reads: "Proper dress required (or you will be told to leave to change your clothes)." How can we expect parties, especially criminal defendants, to respect the court system if judges are lowering the bar on acceptable courtroom behavior or engaging in hypocrisy?

What makes things worse is that Judge Redmond states that she did not see a problem with her actions. She is either trying to white-wash her behavior or she really doesn't get it, making this particular "justice" truly blind - and not in a good way.

And, I found that this is not the only bout of questionable behavior with Judge Redmond. She also allows web surfers to vote on which criminals should be released from jail in order to deal with jail overcrowding. In an article from WZZM13 Online entitled Let 'Em Go? It's Your Call, the author states: "There's always something new on the Internet. Now you can sentence criminals in your pajamas." After reviewing the article, I'm not sure what purpose this "survey" serves other than to assist Judge Redmond to delegate her discretionary responsibility. I'm not really buying the motivate-people-to-come-up-with-ways-to-solve-the-jail-overcrowding answer she provided. Sounds to me like it is more a reason for criminals to go to, obtain as many on-line friends as they can recruit, and run up as many votes as they can for themselves in order to win a night out on the town.

And, I'm not finished. Another article from the Macob Daily describes an incident where a defendant was before Judge Redmond for an arraignment on an attempted robbery charge. The defendant refused to approach the podium and talk when directed to do so by Judge Redmond. She threw him back in jail figuring he would be more willing to talk on Thursday. When the defendant reappeared before her, he again refused to talk. Judge Redmond stated: "You have enough of a vocabulary to stick a gun in a woman's ribs and tell her to give you her keys, but you can't talk here." Apparently, Judge Redmond does not comprehend what a Fifth Amendment right is. She also, apparently, does not know what the presumption of innocence is.

Oh well. Just another thing that has me shaking my head.


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