Ex parte communications:  “Convenience, happenstance, and habit”

Based on a special committee report, the Judicial Council of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit publicly admonished a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois for his practice of exchanging ex parte communications with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  In re Bruce, Memorandum (7th Circuit Judicial Council May 14, 2019).  The Council also ordered that the judge remain unassigned to any matters involving the Office until September 1, watch a Federal Judicial Center training video, and read excerpts of the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges.

Before being appointed in 2013 to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, the judge worked for 24 years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of Illinois and had “unsurprisingly” formed friendships with several people working in that office.  After being appointed, the judge remained friendly with many people in the office, including paralegal Lisa Hopps.

In December 2016, Hopps complained in an e-mail to the judge about his absence from a going-away party for U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis, and the judge responded that he had missed the party because he was presiding over the trial in U.S. v. Nixon.  The judge said one of the Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the case was “entirely inexperienced” and criticized that attorney for repeating “the bull***t” from the defendant’s testimony and turning a “slam-dunk” case into a “60-40” one for the defendant.  The judge mentioned his boredom and added that he “work[s] hard not to try” cases, which he testified referred to not acting as an advocate even when a case is being poorly tried.

In late 2017, Hopps shared these e-mails with Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Bass after the judge found that Bass had misled the court in a high profile criminal case in which the defendant was a former member of Congress.  Bass then notified other personnel in the U.S. Attorney’s Office about the e-mails, and the Office disclosed the e-mails to Nixon’s counsel.  Nixon filed a motion for a new trial based on the e-mails, which is still pending.

After a review, the U.S. Attorney’s Office discovered additional e-mails between the judge and members of the Office in other cases and disclosed the e-mails to the defense in those cases.  The Federal Defender in the Central District, whose office represented the defendants in many of the cases, filed a complaint.

In August 2018, the Illinois Times published an article titled, “Federal judge engaged in ex parte talk.”  Other news outlets also reported the story, and the “coverage and its aftermath prompted” the Chief Judge of the 7th Circuit to file a complaint and prompted the Central District’s Chief Judge to remove the judge from all cases involving the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The special committee found that the judge frequently had ex parte communications with employees of the U.S. Attorney’s Office about requests for warrant approvals, draft plea agreements, jury instructions, docketing issues, scheduling matters, and criticisms of individual Assistant U.S. Attorneys.  The special committee also found that probation officers regularly contacted the judge directly and copied the Office but not defense counsel on those e-mails.  The committee also found that the judge occasionally had ex parte communications with the Office after he had entered judgment in a criminal case, for example, congratulating Assistant U.S. Attorneys when they prevailed on appeal in cases over which he had presided.  Most of the communications were by e-mail, but some were in person or over the phone.

Further, in addition to the Nixon-related e-mails, the committee found that the judge had communicated ex parte about a second pending trial with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  After the judge and Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly Perison had a misunderstanding during a pretrial-conference about what documents had been filed in U.S. v. Gmoser, Peirson sent the judge a series of docket entries, copying his clerk and defense counsel.  In a private response, the judge stated, “My bad.  You’re doing fine.  Let’s get this thing done.”  During the hearing, the judge explained that his comment was only intended to comfort Peirson after the misunderstanding.  Disclosure of this e-mail  prompted a defense motion for a new trial, which remains pending.

The committee noted that there was no evidence that the judge’s ex parte communications with the U.S. Attorney’s Office “impacted any of his rulings or advantaged either party” or were on the merits of cases, with the exception of the Nixon-related and appeal-related e-mails.  The judge “admitted that some of his communications were flatly inappropriate and others were unwise.”  However, he initially claimed that the e-mails about scheduling and other ministerial matters were not objectionable, arguing that ex parte communications about minor matters were “‘permissible for the efficient operation of the court,’” were the “default,” and were part of the “culture” of the courthouse that went back at least to his predecessor as district judge.

However, although the code allows an ex parte communication for scheduling “when circumstances require it,” the special committee emphasized that, “’when circumstances require it’ is key.  As Judge Bruce now concedes, the majority of his ex parte communications did not ‘require’ the exclusion of defense counsel; they were often a matter of simple convenience, happenstance, and habit.”  The committee acknowledged that “certain circumstances will require ex parte communications, including genuine emergencies and emails relating to warrant applications,” but stated that no good reason had been provided why defense counsel should not have been included in “the routine scheduling and ministerial discussions” the judge had had with the Office and that the communications violated the code even if the practice was attributable to courthouse culture.

The special committee disagreed with the judge’s argument that his sanction should be private, concluding that a public response was required given the “public criticism of Judge Bruce’s ex parte communications, found in news reports and defense motions for new trials.”  The committee stated that “the public heeds the judiciary’s decisions on the belief that it operates independently and with integrity, and this case suggests that such belief in Judge Bruce’s work on cases involving the Office may have waned.”

However, the committee also emphasized that it was not condemning the judge’s “ongoing friendships with members of the Office.  Such relationships are normal, . . . and there is ample guidance on when recusal or disqualification based on friendship is appropriate . . . .  The bottom line is that a judge’s closeness to individuals having cases before him simply does not excuse ex parte communications prohibited by judicial norms and the Code of Conduct.”  Although the committee noted that “some interviewees expressed a concern that Judge Bruce remained too friendly with members of the Office,” it concluded that “no evidence suggested that Judge Bruce had an inappropriate relationship with anyone at the Office.”

 

Throwback Thursday

10 years ago this month:

  • The California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished a former judge for failing, while he was presiding judge, to take sufficient action to ensure that a court commissioner was deciding all of her cases in a timely manner and failing to promptly respond to complaints about the commissioner’s delays. In the Matter Concerning Schnider, Decision and Order (California Commission on Judicial Performance August 31, 2009).
  • Modifying the recommendation of the Commission on Judicial Qualifications based on the judge’s consent, the Nebraska Supreme Court suspended a judge for 4 months without pay for (1) improperly involving himself in a criminal case against his nephew by personally requesting the prosecutor to keep a plea agreement open, telephoning and meeting with the nephew’s attorney, and having an ex parte communication with another judge concerning the case; and (2) using expletives during a private conversation with a prosecutor concerning the scheduling of a case, stating that the defendant should have been “hammered” with other felony charges, and leaving a profane and threatening message on the prosecutor’s telephone. In re Complaint against Marcuzzo, 770 N.W.2d 591 (Nebraska 2009).
  • Based on the judge’s acceptance, the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission publicly reprimanded a judge for ordering a woman to show cause why she should not be held in criminal contempt of court for distributing political flyers alleging the judge was corrupt. Public Reprimand of Bridges (North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission August 24, 2009).
  • Pursuant to the judge’s agreement, the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary publicly reprimanded a judge for taking 8 months to decide a petition to restore custody of a child to the child’s mother. In re Rich (Tennessee Court of the Judiciary August 26, 2009).
  • Based on a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a judge for having an affair with a court employee. In the Matter of Mamiya, Stipulation, Agreement, and Order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct August 7, 2009).

 

Recent cases

  • The California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished a judge for failing to timely act in 3 family law cases and signing 2 false salary affidavits.  In the Matter Concerning Lamb, Decision and order (California Commission on Judicial Performance July 2, 2019).
  • Based on stipulated facts, the Mississippi Supreme Court suspended a judge for 30 days without pay, publicly reprimanded him, and fined him $500 for contacting sheriff’s investigators in 2 cases and remanding the charge to file in 1 of the cases.  Commission on Judicial Performance v. Sutton (Mississippi Supreme Court July 19, 2019).
  • Based on a stipulation, the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline publicly reprimanded a judge for ordering a landlord jailed for contempt without following the law; the judge also agreed to complete a course at the National Judicial College.  In the Matter of Jasperson, Stipulation and order of consent (Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline July 23, 2019).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly warned a judge for failing for over 15 months to appoint a prosecutor pro tem for or recuse himself from a criminal matter against a justice of the peace who was his friend and with whom he had a business relationship.  Public Warning of Turcotte (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct July 16, 2019).\
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly warned a judge for failing to maintain her Texas law license in good standing 5 times from 1992 through 2018.  Public Warning of Guaderrama (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct July 16, 2019).
  • Based on the findings and recommendation of a judicial conduct panel, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended a former judge for 3 years from eligibility for appointment as a reserve municipal court judge for a “pattern of obsessive conduct about whether [the court manager] liked him as a friend” and actions that were meant to intimidate her or to retaliate against her for reporting his conduct.  Judicial Commission v. Kachinsky (Wisconsin Supreme Court July 9, 2019).
  • Based on a special committee report, the Judicial Council of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit publicly admonished a judge for his practice of ex parte communications with the U.S. Attorney’s Office; the Council also ordered that the judge remain unassigned to any matters involving U.S. Attorney’s Office until September 1, watch a Federal Judicial Center training video, and read the excerpts of the Code of Conduct that are part of the training.  In re Bruce, Memorandum (7th Circuit Judicial Council May 14, 2019).

 

Throwback Thursday

20 years ago this month:

  • Pursuant to a statement of circumstances and conditional agreement for discipline, the Indiana Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for granting a petition for habeas corpus that raised issues of law related to another court’s order even though he knew that the prosecutor had not been notified. In the Matter of Johnson, 715 N.E.2d 370 (Indiana 1999).
  • Affirming the recommendation of the Court of the Judiciary, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended a part-time non-lawyer judge for (1) using an inmate from the county jail to work on a house being built for the judge’s son; (2) trying a felony offense when he knew or should have known that his court did not have jurisdiction over felony offenses; and (3) falsely answering interrogatories and testifying about his assets in a federal court proceeding in which a judgement had been entered against him. In re Williams, 987 S.W.2d 837 (Tennessee 1998).

 

Obsession, fixation, intimidation, and retaliation

Based on the findings of a judicial conduct panel, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended a former municipal court judge for 3 years from eligibility for appointment as a reserve judge for a “pattern of obsessive conduct about whether [the court manager] liked him as a friend” and trying to intimidate her or retaliate against her for reporting him.  Judicial Commission v. Kachinsky (Wisconsin Supreme Court July 9, 2019).

The judge was the part-time, elected judge for the Village of Fox Crossing Municipal Court, which holds sessions approximately 3 Thursday evenings a month for 90-120 minutes.  In the spring of 2016, the judge hired M.B. as the full-time court manager.  The judge and M.B. shared a small office in the municipal building.  Even before M.B. was hired, she and the judge had been “friends” on Facebook; each had hundreds of friends on Facebook, including a number of mutual friends.  At the beginning of M.B.’s employment, they had occasional conversations about their personal lives, developed a friendship, and engaged in occasional joint activities outside of work.

Beginning in March 2017, however, their relationship became strained after “a couple of incidents that M.B. found concerning.”  First, in a public comment to a post on M.B.’s Facebook page, the judge stated that M.B. was “on her second honeymoon” at “an undisclosed location.”  M.B. informed him that this was incorrect, and he apologized.  A few days later, the judge hid behind a counter at the court office, and, when M.B. walked in, he popped up and shouted “roar,” startling M.B.  During that visit, the judge’s “loud and boisterous” conduct disturbed village employees.  In an e-mail after the visit, the judge told M.B. that he hoped his visit had made her day and that it was something he was “more than happy to do for my best friends.”  M.B. told the judge in an e-mail that “it would help her focus on her job if they kept their relationship work-related.”  In an e-mail in response, the judge agreed to minimize discussion of non-business matters during business hours but indicated that he wanted to continue to discuss their everyday personal lives.

After the judge sent numerous other e-mails to her about personal matters, M.B. filed a complaint with the village’s human resources manager.  In a meeting the next day, the human resources manager explained to the judge the concerns about his behavior and developed guidelines, including that no personal information about colleagues would be shared on social media, that all phone and e-mail communications would relate to business matters, and that the judge would only visit the office once a week.

However, the panel found, the judge “was upset as a result of the meeting and was determined to express his displeasure to M.B. and to reject any limitation on communications to work-related matters.”  The judge sent M.B. several e-mails that included personal matters, insisted that he needed to have a personal friendship with her, and invited her to participate in a non-work activity.

On 3 occasions, the judge went to the municipal court office, sat close to M.B.’s desk, facing her, and did nothing except tap his pen and make “cat noises;” on 1 visit, the judge “continued this extremely odd behavior for 45 minutes.”  During one of the visits, the judge told M.B. a story about a dog being raped and then repeated the story.

In a telephone call, the village manager and the village attorney explained to the judge his potential violations of the village’s policy prohibiting harassment in the workplace, advised him to maintain professional decorum at work, and told him to stop communicating with M.B. about personal matters.

Over the following weekend, the judge told M.B. in an e-mail that he wanted to “hit the reset button,” claiming that it had not been clear to him that she wished to avoid after-hours activities with him but that he now understood.  However, he also chastised M.B. for not telling him directly and said:

My main concern is that a “work only” discussion policy should not preclude normal “water cooler” discussion of things like the Packers, Badgers, child graduations, children having children, recent vacation adventures, etc.  I need to know what you consider to be “over the line.” . . .  Walking on eggshells during what should be relaxed casual conversations is not good for productivity or mental health.  Your ideas on this are welcome.

The judge also complained that M.B. had “defriended” him on Facebook and encouraged her to reverse that decision.

After that e-mail, the village manager sent the judge a letter pointing out that he had violated the village’s direction not to discuss the personal relationship with M.B. and reminding him that he was not to engage in any communications with her beyond work matters.

Approximately 2 weeks later, the judge sent M.B. an e-mail that, he acknowledged, “violate[d] every principle we have talked about regarding office conduct the last few weeks” but continued, “Feel free to report me to HR.  I feel spunky this morning.”  The judge sent her other e-mails about having “a beer or wine summit” and ending “the strict restrictions on no nonwork related discussions and replace it with use of respect and common sense.”

In an e-mail to the human resources manager in June 2017, the judge claimed that the incidents about which M.B. had complained were “minor” and that her unwillingness to accept his view of how their relationship should work was detrimental to the municipal court office.  He stated that he preferred not to work with “such a person any longer than possible,” suggested that the human resources manager advise M.B. to “give a little bit on the work-only thing,” and explained that the alternative was for him to terminate her employment.  In a subsequent e-mail, the judge told the human resources manager that, although he had not made a final decision on whether to fire M.B., she had until 5:00 p.m. that day to decide if she accepted his “rules” for their professional and personal relationship.  Later that day, the village attorney informed the judge that his conduct violated the village’s policy against harassment and that his threats to terminate M.B. constituted retaliatory conduct that, if carried out, would violate the law.

After receiving the letter, the judge “elevated his conduct.”  He posted to his Facebook page that “[t]he sh— is not over.  I might have an employee termination today.  Not mine.”  The panel found that, although “the post did not explicitly name M.B., the only conclusion a reader could draw was that M.B. was about to be fired because she was the only employee he supervised either at the municipal court or in his private law practice.”

On July 17, while alone with M.B. in the municipal court office, the judge lunged over her desk, knocking some items off and whispering to her:  “Are you afraid of me now?”  The panel found that the judge was attempting “to intimidate M.B. into acquiescing in his fixation on a personal relationship with her.”

That evening, the judge ran into something on his way out of the courtroom, and his arm began to bleed.  He used his pay stub envelop to stop the bleeding then left the blood-stained envelope on his desk in the office where M.B. could observe it.  The panel found that this “was an attempt either to intimidate M.B. or to elicit sympathy from her . . . , an intentional non-verbal communication that had nothing to do with work.”

In an e-mail later that evening, the judge told M.B.:  “[I]f you want to restore a happy workplace, the first step is to stand up on your own and not use the Administration as a crutch. . . .  I can overlook what I consider poor judgment in handling a situation.  I cannot tolerate a weakling unwilling to have free and open discussions with the boss (or insubordination).”

On July 21, the Judicial Commission notified the judge that it was investigating allegations against him and advised him to “scrupulously avoid retaliatory conduct or witness intimidation.”

On July 26, the village manager held another meeting with the judge about keeping his relationship with M.B. work-related.  After that meeting, the judge dropped a white flag he had fashioned from office supplies on M.B.’s desk and said, “Here you go, I surrender, you win.”

However, the Court stated, the judge “was far from ending his campaign.”  For example, on October 27, the judge wrote a letter to M.B. reprimanding her for forwarding to the village manager e-mails that the judge had written to her.  On November 2, in the presence of M.B. and the human resources manager, the judge mentioned Harvey Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly and stated loudly, “I don’t do that crap and you should get that through your thick head.”

The next day, the judge sent a letter to M.B. that stated:  “By this time next week some things are going to happen that will cause a lot of fire and fury at the Municipal Building.  No, I am not resigning.  Just be psychologically prepared.  Have a good weekend.”  M.B. and villages officials were so disturbed by that e-mail that the village police were notified.  When the police chief interviewed him about the e-mail, the judge giggled more than once.

On Saturday, November 25, the judge sent an e-mail scolding M.B. for ignoring a previous e-mail in which he had wished her and her family a happy holiday.  The e-mail also stated:  “Will not spend the next 1.5 years or 5.5 years working with someone who actively despises me.  I have told you this many times.  We are approaching the end of the line on this.”  The e-mail concluded that, “There was an allegation missing from the additional letter from the [Judicial Commission]” and a picture of a kitchen sink was attached.

The next day, the judge dropped off a reprimand letter alleging that M.B. had falsely stated that he was stalking or tracking her in her complaint to the village 6 months earlier.

On Saturday, December 23, the judge wrote another letter of reprimand to M.B. based on her alleged refusal to return his Christmas greetings and her failure to respond positively to his efforts to improve workplace rapport.  On his Facebook page, the judge posted a sad face emoji with:  “Len Kachinsky was feeling sad.  Few things are sadder than a co-worker who refuses to return a Merry Christmas greeting out of spite.”

Following additional e-mails and meetings, M.B. sought and received a harassment injunction against the judge.

Less than 2 weeks later, the judge left on his desk where M.B. would see it a poster with a picture of the village manager’s face and the caption:  “I am from the government and I am here to help you.  WWRD #notmetoo.”  The judge also posted on his desk facing M.B.’s desk a copy of a page from the village personnel manual, entitled “Sexual Harassment,” with the word “sexual” highlighted 7 times in yellow marker.  M.B. believed that the poster and the copy of the sexual harassment policy violated the terms of the harassment injunction.  The police were contacted, and the judge was arrested.

On July 11, the state filed a criminal complaint charging the judge with 1 count of felony stalking and 2 misdemeanor counts of violating a harassment injunction.  Shortly before the trial, the district attorney’s office dropped the misdemeanor counts.  A jury found the judge not guilty on the felony charge.

The judge’s primary argument was that the village officials did not have the authority to regulate his “supervision of a resistant employee in an effort to ‘restore a level of personal rapport,’” which he believed was “a legitimate and laudable objective that is necessary for a workplace to perform effectively.”  The Court concluded, however, that, regardless whether “he was legally obligated to abide by the directives given by representatives of the village, he was obligated by the relevant provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct to maintain high standards of personal conduct and to act in a manner that promotes the integrity of the judiciary.”  The Court explained:

We fail to see how staring at a court employee for 45 minutes while tapping a pencil and making cat noises constitutes the maintenance of high standards of personal conduct or promotes the integrity of the judiciary.  Indeed, it does just the opposite.  Serving the people as a judicial officer does not allow a judge to impose his/her every opinion about personal interactions on subordinate court personnel or to force those subordinates to be the judge’s personal friends.

Judges are entitled to ensure that their subordinate employees perform their work responsibilities in appropriate manners.  Judge Kachinsky’s pattern of obsessive conduct about whether M.B. liked him as a friend clearly passed well over the line and brought the municipal court he administered into public disrepute. . . .  The notoriety that resulted from his insistence that M.B. had to be not only his court clerk, but also his friend, certainly caused the residents of the Village of Fox Crossing who appeared in his court to question whether he had the temperament and stability to preside over their cases in a proper manner.

The Court stated that “M.B. was required to process case files and deal with the public as a manager of the municipal court, not to satisfy Judge Kachinsky’s personal opinion that employees must also be personal friends.”  The Court noted that his acquittal on the felony stalking charge did not mean that he was innocent of the ethical violations.

An article on “Professional boundaries in the courthouse” about other judicial discipline cases involving attempts by a judge to force a close personal relationship with a court staff member was published in the summer 2018 issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter.

 

Throwback Thursday

25 years ago this month:

  • The Arizona Supreme Court suspended until the end of his term without pay a judge who had used profane expressions in a case and said “f***ing n***ers” during an in-chambers argument referring to a defendant who had argued that his conviction should be vacated because the state used or failed to use peremptory strikes on the basis of race. In re Goodfarb, 880 P.2d 620 (Arizona 1994).
  • The South Carolina Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a magistrate for improperly issuing arrest warrants for uttering fraudulent checks at the request of an individual who was engaged in an illegal loan operation and was essentially using the magistrate to collect on the illegal loans. In the Matter of Ward, 448 S.E.2d 546 (South Carolina 1994).
  • The South Carolina Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a former judge, who, while a judge, had, in his capacity as a trustee of an estate, deeded all of the decedent’s interests in certain real property to himself and fraudulently induced the widow to convey her interest in the property to him, mortgaged 2 of the properties and used the loan proceeds for his own use, and submitted a financial accounting to the probate court that had materially false and fraudulent entries. In the Matter of Parker, 437 S.E.2d 37 (South Carolina 1993).
  • Based on a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge who was rude to a defendant during a hearing in a case, calling him names such as “smart aleck,” telling him to “shut up before you go to jail,” and lecturing him on being a loser. In re Thronson, Stipulation and agreement and order of admonishment (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct August 5, 1994).

 

What they said that got them in trouble so far in 2019

  • “You can’t down a couple of 40s before you go pick [your children] up before a visit because that’s not good. Do you understand?”  Judge to father in a hearing on a request for a domestic violence restraining order.  In the Matter Concerning Symons, Decision and Order (California Commission on Judicial Performance May 20, 2019) (severe censure for this and other misconduct).
  • “I cannot avoid the observation that the party who represents himself has a fool for a client. That is a well-known quote.  It’s too bad that someone did not perform the older and more gracious function, not simply of attorney, but counselor at law.  Counselors at law used to advise people not to go to court, to let the matter go and resolve it outside of court.  And that might have been a kindness in this situation.”  Judge in case in which an attorney was representing herself.  In the Matter Concerning Symons, Decision and Order (California Commission on Judicial Performance May 20, 2019) (severe censure for this and other misconduct).
  • “Prayer might be the answer. ‘Cause, he just signed an order to start building the wall and he has no money to do that, and so if you think you are going to get taxes back this year, uh-yeah, maybe, maybe not.  But don’t worry[,] there is a tax cut for the wealthy so if you make over $500,000 you’re getting a tax cut.  You’re right[] there[,] right?  Pretty close?  All[]right, so do you have a plan?  Other than just get the tax cut and pay it off?”  Judge to a defendant who could not pay his fines, referring President Trump’s immigration and tax policies.  In re Kwan (Utah Supreme Court May 22, 2019) (6-month suspension for this and other misconduct).
  • “Okay.   I will do it this way.  Please delete the prior stuff.  I’ll find you not guilty, ma’am.  Thank you.  Trying to clean up the docket, guys, not add to it.”  Judge changing her verdict in a bench trial from guilty to not guilty after the prosecutor refused to dismiss an unrelated charge against the same defendant.  Disciplinary Counsel v. Salerno (Ohio Supreme Court February 12, 2019) (1-year suspension for this and other misconduct).
  • “You have a hard time understanding me? Two lawyers can’t argue one argument.”  Judge, during a felony criminal trial, just before ordering his courtroom deputy in front of the jury to remove one the defendant’s attorneys from a sidebar conference.  Inquiry Concerning Bailey, 267 So. 3d 992 (Florida 2019) (public reprimand).
  • “[Your] lies are getting [you] in trouble,” “close [your] mouth,” and your “license in the State of Illinois does not exist.” Judge to criminal defendant who was a former nurse after incorrectly deducing based on independent internet research that she had never been licensed as a nurse in Illinois.  Judicial Commission v. Piontek, Opinion (Wisconsin Supreme Court May 21 2019) (5-day suspension without pay for this and other misconduct).
  • “Today I have to eat humble pie.” Judge apologizing in treatment court for his sexual relationship with the girlfriend of a defendant.  In re Shaw, 192 A.3d 350 (2018), Order (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline April 23, 2019) (severe reprimand of now-former judge and $5,000 fine for this and other misconduct).
  • “Sit on my lap if you want . . . no, no I take that back.” Judge to a participant in a drug court proceeding when she seemed confused about where to sit or stand when her case was called.  Fell, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct June 10, 2019).
  • “When God tells me I gotta do something, I gotta do it.” Judge after telling deliberating jurors that a defendant was innocent.  Public Warning of Robison (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct February 20, 2019).
  • “Take a read of People v Solmonson, 261 MA 657 (2004), cited in People Rassoull Omari Janes, COA Unpublished June 15, 2017 (I have a copy).” Judge providing caselaw to assistant prosecutor in an ex parte e-mail.  In re Filip, 923 N.W.2d 282 (Michigan 2019) (public censure for this and related misconduct).
  • Prosecutor “handled himself in in [sic] a completely unprofessional manner, never notified me of his concerns,” and “is a fool that I suffered” and a “cancer” in the prosecuting attorney’s office. Judge in disqualification hearing referring to prosecutors who had told the defense attorney about his ex parte e-mails.  In re Filip, 923 N.W.2d 282 (Michigan 2019) (public censure for this and related misconduct).
  • “Just get rid of them.” Judge to clerk about search warrant materials in boxes that should have been matched up and transmitted to the clerk for filing.  In the Matter of Russell, Opinion (Maryland Court of Appeals June 28, 2019) (6-month suspension without pay for this and other misconduct).
  • “So did you do it? Are you going to own up to it?  No one is owning up to it?  Somebody … did it.  People aren’t telling the truth.”  Judge to clerks in “line-up” in clerk’s office to identify who had assisted a domestic violence petitioner in a case with a missing file.  In the Matter of Russell, Opinion (Maryland Court of Appeals June 28, 2019) (6-month suspension without pay for this and other misconduct).
  • The administrative judge “is not your boss. You don’t need to listen to her.  You don’t need to listen to [the chief judge.”  Judge to new judge while they were eating lunch together.  In the Matter of Russell, Opinion (Maryland Court of Appeals June 28, 2019) (6-month suspension without pay for this and other misconduct).
  • The administrative judge “is a complete and utter incompetent vicious coward.’” Judge to several court employees in the courthouse hallway.  In the Matter of Russell, Opinion (Maryland Court of Appeals June 28, 2019) (6-month suspension without pay for this and other misconduct).
  • “No! It was a gift from my parents.  I’m not taping the meeting.  I don’t know how this thing works.”  Judge trying to explain the recorder found in her purse during a meeting with other judges.  In the Matter of Gross-Quatrone, 200 A.3d 411  (New Jersey 2019) (2-month suspension for this and related misconduct).
  • “We had an oral argument yesterday re: fracking ban where there was standing room only and a hundred people in our overflow video room.  The little Mexican is going to write in favor of the Plaintiffs and it looks like I am dissenting in favor of the Oil and Gas Commission.”  Appellate judge about colleague and non-public vote in pending case in text to intimate, non-spousal partner.  In the Matter of Booras (Colorado Supreme Court March 11, 2019) (public censure of now-former judge for this and related misconduct).
  • “We had many times where we didn’t have enough clerks, plus the clerks that were there were not trained in some of the areas, and we fell behind. And so, in falling behind trying to keep a very busy court going, I stepped in – was trying to answer phones, dealing with people at the, at the, uh, window.  Uh, in doing that, I made some mistakes.  And so the Censure involves some of the mistakes that I made.”  Judge in radio interview misrepresenting the grounds, extent, and nature of misconduct for which he had been previously sanctioned.  In the Matter of Walton, Order (New Mexico Supreme Court March 12, 2019) (3-week suspension without pay).
  • “[I] would never have thought [you] would have stolen anything.” Judge in voicemail to unqualified friend he had appointed as a trustee after failing to respond promptly to evidence of friend’s mismanagement and embezzlement.  In the Matter of Freese, Per curiam opinion (Indiana Supreme Court June 4, 2019) (45-day suspension without pay).
  • “To start with, the whole system, quite frankly, sucks;” “Most of these individuals, if l had my way, you’d see them probably swinging outside the door, okay? That’s the way I was brought up;” and “But thanks to lawyers, everybody has rights.”  Judge at a public meeting of the village board addressing concerns about recent criminal activity in the village.  In the Matter of Stone, Decision and Order (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct May 30, 2019) (complaint concluded with judge’s resignation and agreement not to seek or accept judicial office in the future).
  • “‘Okay, you need to stop for a minute,” and, “You are lying. You’re such a liar.”  Judge interrupting a deposition during her divorce case when the deponent began answering a question about an allegation that the judge had been intoxicated in her office.  In re Brennan (June 19, 2019) (removal for this and other misconduct).
  • “If I hear the basketball bounce one more time I am going after Chico’s disability.” Judge to next-door neighbor about her husband during dispute with his neighbors that “erupted” periodically and resulted in the judge’s neighbors filing several police reports.  In the Matter of Guthrie, Order and public censure (New Mexico Supreme Court April 8, 2019) (public censure).
  • “[I want] to take the trooper back to 1982 . . . when there was professional courtesy [my] daughter would not have received a ticket.” Judge to prosecuting attorney about a state trooper who had ticketed  his daughter for speeding.  Disciplinary Counsel v. Marshall (Ohio Supreme Court February 28, 2019) (1-year suspension for this and other misconduct).
  • “I am Judge Abbott of Palmyra and I just won’t do any arraignments for you anymore.” Judge when police in a neighboring town refused to help unlock his personal vehicle.  In the Matter of Abbott, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct February 7, 2019) (public censure for this and other misconduct).
  • “I recommend the Redd Group for all your polling needs. Excellent work! – Steven C. Bailey.”  Judge in a testimonial used on a business’s web-site with his title.  Inquiry Concerning Bailey, Decision and order (California Commission on Judicial Performance February 27, 2019) (public censure for this and other misconduct).
  • “Quick question: Is the fact that the IRS has audited you almost every year when your peers hardly ever or never have been, something to be proud of?  What does that say . . . about your business practices?”  Judge in Facebook post critical of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.  In re Kwan (Utah Supreme Court May 22, 2019) (6-month suspension for this and other misconduct).