February 4, 2009
Suspension For Suggestion that Judge Was Racist
This seems to be the season of sanctioning lawyers for alleged false statements about judges. A Louisiana Hearing Board found that a lawyer had stated or implied that a judge was a racist in a recusal motion. The focus of the hearing appears from the recited testimony to have been on whether the suggestion was false. The board concluded that the charges were proven but notes:
[T]he unique facts and circumstances of this case suggest that an analysis of [the lawyer's] state of mind in the context of his offensive comments about [the judge] is in order.
The Committee is convinced that [the lawyer] genuinely believed that [the judge] has a particular problem with, or prejudice against him as an individual. It was clear to the Committee that the two gentlemen simply did not get along well. While not consistent with the objective facts established at the hearing, [he] subjectively believed that there was a racial component underlying some or all of the conflict that he perceived.
Sadly, the ugly specter of racial tension within the legal system is not a distant historical footnote. Despite heartfelt efforts by all sectors of the legal community, sometimes racial tensions run as an undercurrent through relationships in our system... As a person of color, he was one of a few, if not the only, African-American practicioner in the geographic area at issue... His sensitivity was real to him, and the Committee believes that it played an important role in driving his approach [to the cases].
The committee proposes a six-month suspension with all but 30 days stayed, with other CLE-type conditions and monitoring for two years. (Mike Frisch)
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Anything less would be, well, "incorrect."
Isn't a better solution to treat everyone the same for making unfounded accusations? If you go easy here because racism was and is present elsewhere, perhaps we should also go easy on racists- after all, somewhere, there are people whose actions confirm their prejudices.
Also, isn't calling the judge a racist one of the worst accusations you can make?
p.s. I wouldn't call out a judge in federal court, but I'd do it in federal court before I ever tried it in St. Tammany. You don't mess with the judges up there. The fact that he did, is itself strong evidence that something is very wrong.
Posted by: JB | Feb 4, 2009 9:09:02 AM