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Entries beginning with a number are a continuation of the old Judging Crimes blog, which was long focused on the two meanings of its name: the way crimes are judged in America, and the, uh... occasional defalcations and derelictions of the berobed.

Judging Crimes took a long hiatus for some of the reasons explained here.

Entries beginning with Book 'em! are book reviews and commentaries. No attention is paid to the imperatives of book marketing. As Calvin Trillin once pointed out, the average shelf life of a book in a bookstore falls somewhere between milk and yogurt, but in these days of long-tail online marketing that matters less to everyone, and I don't see why it should matter at all to reviewers. Most posts will be about books that have been around long past the time when yogurt would have solidified.

Other entries will be... well, I'm curious to find out what the others will be.

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Tuesday
Jun152010

437. Megalomania watch

From Seattle, where you'd think they'd really have better things to do with their time:

A King County judge has been accused of violating the state's Code of Judicial Conduct for speaking out and writing on behalf of Amanda Knox during her murder trial in Italy.

Superior Court Judge Michael Heavey was outspoken in his criticism of the Italian judicial system and steadfast in his belief that Knox was being railroaded.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct, in allegations filed Tuesday, said Heavey's widely publicized opinions violated fundamental canons of judicial integrity and objectivity.

The allegations say Heavey, a 10-year veteran of the Superior Court bench, attempted to influence the outcome of Knox's trial by writing to a trio of Italian judges on King County court stationery. He also allegedly directed county court staff to write letters.

He tried to fix the ticket, and predictably enough says, as every judge who ever fixed a ticket for a friend likewise says, "my actions were to serve the interests of justice."  As we all know, "justice" is an exact synonym for "whatever result a judge wishes to achieve on a given day."

The Washington Commission on Judicial Conduct accused Heavey of violating two of the nebulous ethical rules governing judges.  The first is the stricture that "Judges shall uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary."  You don't need to be a lawyer to see the loophole: it doesn't say which judiciary, and Heaney's remarks (the Italian judicial system "bordered 'on diabolical'") were directed toward the Italian judiciary, and surely there's no reason the Washington judicial discipline system should be worried about upholding their integrity and independence?

(Incidentally, what borders on the diabolical?  The tenth and eleventh circles of hell, the ones Dante overlooked?  Hell's suburbs? - hey, I've been there.)

The second charge accuses Heavey of violating the pseudo-rule that says "Judges should not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others,"  which is pretty much what Heavey admitted doing: going to bat for someone who had been his daughter's classmate at a private school.

The reference to the private school fills in the backstory a little.  In America, we have a strong tradition that no one well-to-do enough to hire his or her own PR firm may be convicted of a crime.  Furthermore, we prefer our attractive young women to be victims rather than perpetrators.  In fact, even if a court finds them to be perpetrators, we'll insist on treating them as victims

Curiously, though, the Washington commission failed to give the best and most obvious reason for removing Heavey from office: he's delusional.  The guy believed people in Italy would care that he believed they had made "illegal and false statements." He even thought the phrase "illegal statements" had meaning, and that professionals in Italy would alter their behavior after hearing the Honorable Michael Heavey use it.

Megalomania is the most debilitating of the common occupational diseases to which elevation to the bench exposes a lawyer.  Its public manifestation ought to qualify any judge for an instant pension.  "Here's your plaque, Judge Nero, and the men in the white coats will show you where we're going to hang it."  And then change the locks, quickly.

But going nuts on a daily diet of power isn't against the Code of Judicial Conduct - an omission that is itself a symptom.

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