July 1, 2008
A New York family court judge was admonished for rude and sarcastic treatment of litigants in three cases. From the opinion of the Commission on Judicial Conduct:
Respondent has acknowledged that in three cases he made rude, intemperate comments to and about litigants that conveyed the appearance of bias. His “angry,” “scolding” and “sarcastic” comments were demeaning and admittedly improper. By berating the litigants in two matters for “wasting” his time by seeking custody and by requesting counsel, he also undermined the parties’ exercise of their legal rights and showed a disregard for the fundamental right to counsel, which a judge is obligated to effectuate, not to discourage.
In one matter, shortly after the parties had left the courtroom, respondent mocked a litigant’s application and twice referred to the litigant as an “asshole” in the presence of court staff. Respondent’s acknowledged lack of objectivity towards the litigant ultimately required his recusal from the litigant’s cases.
A judge’s rudeness is not excused by the fact that a particular litigant may be difficult or have a history of imperfect behavior. Respect for the fairness and impartiality of the court is better fostered by a judge’s patience and courtesy than by anger, sarcasm and disrespect. “Breaches of judicial temperament “impair[ ] the public’s image of the dignity and impartiality of courts, which is essential to their fulfilling the court’s role in society.” (citations omitted)
Hat tip to the ABA Journal (Mike Frisch)
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