27 January 2006

A Word of Advice...

Ouch... advice to anyone convicted of an underage drinking offense: do not go off to college, take lots of pictures of you and your co-defendants downing shots, then post them on a web page with captions such as "FU judge Martone." Story here with a hat tip to Howard Bashman.


Anonymous said...

I don’t think we are getting the whole story here. On the face of it, this judge is a nut who does more than a few unethical things and violates peoples’ constitutional rights. I suspect, however, that the story got mangled.

But, what if they made a mockery of the legal system? As a judge he knows full well that everything he does is fair game for criticism. (If they had violated probation, the judge could not sua esponte revoke it -- at least in every state that addressed this issue.)

This judge has to realize that it isn’t for him to turn the judicial system into a personal crusade. Moreover, since contempt of court for things not in the presence of the judge generally requires a jury trial, this judge is probably just going to get himself into trouble.

People that major in “criminal justice” usually are a rowdy bunch, anyway. I know a few dozen of them, and all of them have bragged about their underage drinking. None of them were smart enough to get good jobs, but they all talk about their “rowdy” high school days of drinking. (Indeed, I know a few DAs who drank while they were in high school. However, I don’t think it is appropriate to post their names on the web.)

Stripping the students of their “honor” status is arguably unconstitutional, but that is for the girls to enforce. The girls have a constitutional right to tell just about anyone to **** themselves on the internet. (This doesn’t seem like a threat.) However, since they don’t seem to smart, I can’t bring myself to care about their constitutional rights.

By not suing the school these bimbos have hurt America, by not sticking up for their constitutional rights. Schools will think that they are free to do this in the future. (Though maybe these girls are not really that special.)

On the face of the story, this guy seems like an activist. Rather than interpret the law he goes into schools and tells people what to do with their lives. He should be a preacher. Not a judge. He has no business on the bench if he is on such a mission. (I wonder why no judges go to high schools and hold hearings on motions to suppress, so they can send a message to cops.)

Whether he is actually holding “court” sessions in a school is sort of strange. (Though I imagine such non-judicial behavior could be raised on appeal.)

Anyway, I assume, and hope, that the story was mangled.

Gib said...

I'm not sure how the judge violated anyone's rights. He became aware of a violation - the case was brought via the police and probation, which the defendant chose not to contest. Calling it "contempt of court" instead of a probation violation is a little confusing - but the reason there wasn't a hearing is the defendant chose not to have one, which is a decision they have every right to make.

As for the judge being on a crusade - I don't get that either - these people didn't go to jail for expressing an opinion of the judicial system, they went to jail because they did something a judge expressly and unambigously forbade them to do.

Ken Lammers said...

Yes, the judge is pretty clearly in the wrong and the school officials acted in an inappropriate manner (though probably not illegally as long as the prom was a school run event, funded by the school, and with clearly laid out rules and punishments prior to the event).

Still, it's hard to feel too sorry for these kids. There are numerous ways to punish stupidity under the law and their actions were stupid. Contempt is an improper charge, but violation of probation isn't.

BTW: The scariest part of the article is the part about having court in the school in front of the students. That only works if the defendant is found guilty. Thus the defendant is appearing before an activist judge who wants to convict him to make a point and will probably give him a stiff sentence to drive the point home. How does he get away with that? Does he not have a chief judge, judicial review commission, or appellate court to stop him?

BTW Part 2: Anyone who believes that this girl "has a problem" because she drank at her prom and got drunk at college please raise your hand. Yeah, I don't buy it either. But of course she has to do the ritualized beating of the breast as part of the "alcohol is evil" theme required of anyone who is convicted of even minor alcohol related offenses.

Ken Lammers said...


Acting on the violation isn't wrong. However, there are a number of other (at least potential) problems. One is the trials at schools (discussed above). Another is going to the schools in the first place, expressing a very clear bias, and later judging those who are the subjject of that bias. Those are the difficulties which jump out at me. I'm not sure the emotional bias at the probation violation hearing was actually out of bounds. It's not much different than something we've all seen: Client says "screw you" to the judge and the judge imposes a harsher sentence.

Gib said...


If the judge is holding contested hearings or pleas at the schools during sessions where he's trying to drive home a point about the evils of underage drinking - then I agree with you that it's improper. I wonder what "holding court" constitutes. I agree, I find it hard to believe actually holding contested trials in that environment would pass muster, or that the participants would agree to it. Maybe he takes pleas or hands out sentences that have been previously agreed upon. (I don't know how much better that is - but it might survive some form of scrutiny if a defendant objected.)

I also don't know that the judge shows any improper bias by speaking at schools. It obviously has the potential to create an appearance of bias, or we wouldn't be having this conversation, but whether it harms defendants, either at trial or sentencing is a different question. From the article, what the defendants got initially seems in line with what underage drinkers get in my neck of the woods, and 10 to 30 days in jail for violating probation in the manner they did sounds within reason.

On a second reading, I think a lot of the speculation we're all doing is a result of the article. A lot of what happened seems pretty poorly explained by the reporter.

Anonymous said...

Gib, Calling it “contempt” is more than confusing. It makes a “mockery” of the justice system.

Anyway, I am glad that we all agree that this guy is doing a lot of bad things (if what is in the article is true), and that these girls are awful people.

(Personally, they made me change my mind about the continued validity of the Amendment XIX.)

Windypundit said...

These kids sound like half the kids I went to high school with, most of whom turned out to be fine people, and a few of whom went on to become prosecutors. I'm appalled by the lack of proportionality in their original punishment and in the response to their drinking in college.

On the other hand, the students were pretty stupid to mock the Judge in a way he'd find out...while they were still in the state. They should have gone someplace like Southern Illinois if they wanted to party.

By the way, how is it that police can give alcohol tests to students at a party? I thought implied consent only applied to driving? Or am I just not paying attention?

Anonymous said...

Windy, There are a lot of holes in this story that the article doesn’t fill. The biggest one is that judges can’t become witnesses in their own case (even if it is something as simple as a web page) with the possible exception of contempt issues that occur in their own courtroom. You picked up on another issue regarding the “consent” issue. Though, since these girls seem quite stupid, they might have consented, but who knows. The reporter is such a ditz.

I agree. People that party hard are apt to become prosecutors. It is a great way to hide your drinkin’ ways, and they don’t require too much studying in college.

Tom McKenna said...

I gotta say, I'm not a huge fan of some of our alcohol laws, but guys, once a judge imposes a lawful sentence and suspends a portion of it conditioned upon abstinence from booze, you deserve jail just for stupidity for posting your violation on the net together with contemptuous comments about the judge.

The article makes clear, I believe, that the judge turned the information over to the DA and the probation officer, he didn't investigate it himself beyond stumbling on the web page. The only thing giving me any pause is the school court, which seems kinda whacky. Other than that, the guy's acting within his discretion.

Windypundit said...

"you deserve jail just for stupidity for posting your violation on the net"

Yeah. This doesn't exactly count as principled civil disobedience.

I would love to know what they were thinking. Did they think that being in another city or another county would put them outside the judge's reach? (Heck, I'm not even sure my suggestion of leaving the state would work.) Did they think they could simply deny the pictures were what they appeared to be?

By the way, a Fast Company article about Judge Martone says these are sentencing hearings and gives a few more details. He has "startup kits" that explain to other judges how to setup programs like this. Maybe one of you legal types could send away for one...