views updated May 23 2018


A public officer chosen or elected to preside over and to administer the law in a court of justice; one who controls the proceedings in a courtroom and decides questions of law or discretion.

ABA House of Delegates Approves New Model Code of Judicial Conduct

The American Bar Association House of Delegates on February 14, 2007 unanimously approved a revised Model Code of Judicial Conduct, which establishes standards of professional responsibility for judges. The new code replaces one that was last approved in full in 1990. The revisions included a restructuring of the provisions from the previous Code and a number of changes designed to clarify guidelines under which judges must act.

The ABA has had a long history of establishing standards by which judges and attorneys much conduct themselves. In 1908, the ABA approved the first ethical guidelines for members of the bar with the approval of the Canons of Professional Ethics. These canons did not apply to judges, and efforts in 1909 and 1917 to include judicial standards failed. However, concerns regarding conflicts of interest among some judges arose, and by 1922, the ABA had appointed a commission on judicial ethics. Chaired by former President and Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court William Howard Taft, the committee was charged with drafting a code of judicial ethics. The ABA approved the Canons of Judicial Ethics in 1924. This document, which consisted of 36 canons, was intended to serve as a guide for the states.

In 1969, the ABA began a comprehensive process to review, evaluate, and update these canons. Three years later, the ABA approved the Model Code of Judicial Conduct, which changed the style and form of the old rules. More specifically, the new code reduced the number of canons from 36 to seven and also cleaned up much of the language. The ABA again conducted a comprehensive study the model code in 1988. This led to the adoption of the 1990 Model Code of Judicial Conduct, which reduced the number of canons from seven to five. As was the case with the 1972 Model Code, the 1990 version was designed to be enforceable and incorporated mandatory language.

In recent years, the ABA has considered additional revisions to the Model Code. In 1998, the organization approved revisions related to campaign contributions for judges running for positions on the bench. A report from an ad hoc committee in 2002 concluded that new rules related to public financing for judicial elections were necessary. The Supreme Court's decision in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765, 122 S. Ct. 2528; 153 L. Ed. 2d 694 (2002) also affected judicial rules. In that case, the Court determined that a law prohibiting judges from discussing political issues.

In September 2003, ABA President Dennis W. Archer, Jr. announced the appointment of a joint committee that was charged to evaluate the 1990 Model Code. This committee was formed under the auspices of the ABA standing committees on judicial independence and professional responsibility. Phoenix lawyer Mark I. Harrison was appointed as chair of the committee. The committee planned to hold public hearings in 2004 and 2005, with completion of the project expected by February 2007.

"Judicial ethics are not static," Archer said when he formed the committee. "It has been 12 years since the ABA took a good, hard look at the code to see if it provides adequate guidance to judges about their conduct, and to the public about what to expect from judges. In the meantime, judges are facing growing pressures from interest groups participating in the judicial election process and initiatives in Congress that would restrict judicial independence, and other factors are coming into play that can bear on the conduct of judges performing their duties in office."

In the first 22 months after the committee's formation, the committee met a dozen times in person and an additional 17 times in conference calls. The committee completed two drafts in 2005 and invited public comment at hearings. The committee continued to meet and consider revisions in 2006, leading to the submission of a final report to the ABA on December 20, 2006.

The new Model Code reduces the total number of canons from five to four. Under the 1990 Model Code, each Canon was subdivided into additional canons. Thus, the specific canon governing use of nonpublic information by judges was Canon 3B(12). Under the new code, the canons remain as broad statements, but the specific provisions now exist as rules. Thus, the same provision regarding use of nonpublic information is now contained in Rule 3.5.

One provision that gave rise to controversy was a proposal that would have downgraded the proscription against a judge engaging in an activity that would present an "appearance of impropriety." One of the previous drafts included this language as a guideline, but did not establish that violation of this provision alone could give rise to disciplinary action. In the final version, however, the ABA chose to retain the language from the 1990 Code. Under the new code, "A judge shall uphold and promote the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety."

The committee's decision to reduce this proscription in the first place led some critics to charge that the ABA looked too closely at internal politics rather than sound legal principles. Even though the ABA reversed its position, according to an editorial in the New York Times, "the proposed code revisions have serious deficiencies. They fall well short of ending the festering scandal of expense-paid judicial seminars that are held at desirable resorts and underwritten by private interests. If the House of Delegates lacks the resolve to ban these junkets, it should at least limit reimbursements for accompanying spouses. There should be no free rides or free lunches (or breakfasts or dinners)."

The ABA approved the Model Code by a unanimous vote on February 14. The Model Code itself is not binding law, but it serves as a persuasive guide for the states to use when developing their own codes. In practice, almost all states adopt the ABA's model codes in a wholesale manner.

Lopez Torres v. New York State Board of Elections

The election of state judges is part of the U.S. political process, involving the participation of political parties in some jurisdictions. Unlike federal judges, who are appointed for life, state judges must face the electorate when their terms near an end. The state of New York's system of electing judges was one of the most complicated in the nation, making it virtually impossible for judicial candidates not endorsed by the Democratic or Republican parties to get on the ballot. Frustrated by this system, a group of judicial candidates, voters, and a non-profit organization challenged the constitutionality in a federal civil rights suit. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals, in Lopez Torres v. New York State Board of Elections, 462 F.3d 161 (2nd Cir. 2006), agreed with the plaintiffs that the system violated their political association rights and directed the state to hold direct primary elections for judges until the state legislature enacted corrective legislation.

New York state trial judges who work in the state's general jurisdiction trial courts are called "Supreme Court Justices." In 1921 the New York legislature revamped the electoral process for Supreme Court justices, enacting a three-part scheme that includes a primary election, a nominating convention, and a general election. Justices are elected from New York's 12 judicial districts, which are very large. In each of the judicial districts are a number of assembly districts. During the first phase the state held a primary election at which rank-and-file party members elected judicial delegates. Judicial candidates needed to assemble a slate of delegates to run on their behalf, so these delegates could vote for their candidates at the judicial nominating convention. Small subgroups of delegates stood for election in each assembly district but before they appeared on the ballot they first circulated petitions within the district. Within a span of 37 days each slate of delegates had to gather 500 valid signatures from party members residing in the assembly district. Each party member could sign only one petition, which meant the number of available signatories shrunk each time a party member signed a petition. Because these petitions were routinely challenged based on the one-signature rule, each delegate slate needed to collect 1,000 to 1,500 signatures. Once a delegate slate was approved it was placed on the primary ballot by the State Board of Elections. However, the ballot did not disclose the name of the judicial candidate that was linked to the delegates. Therefore, a candidate would have to run a voter education campaign in each assembly district.

The political parties held their judicial nominating conventions one to two weeks after a slate of delegates was elected. In theory any judicial candidate could lobby the delegates for support but in practice only candidates who had the backing of the party's leadership would be nominated. The nominating conventions rubber-stamped the party candidates. Between 1990 and 2002 over 96 percent of nominations went uncontested and delegate absenteeism was high. The final phase of the process, the general election, was equally an uncontested affair, as one-party rule was the norm in most judicial districts. Between 1990 and 2002 almost half of the elections for Supreme Court Justice were uncontested.

Brooklyn Civil Court Judge Margarita Lopez Torres first won election in 1992. She immediately offended powerful Democratic officials by refusing to hire their friends and relatives for her office. A few years later Lopez Torres expressed her interest in becoming a Supreme Court Justice but the officials blocked her. She tried two more times, the last time in 2003, but the three-step process made it virtually impossible for her to assemble and elect a slate of delegates. It became clear that only a candidate with the backing of a political party would have the resources to mount an effective campaign. Therefore, in 2004 Lopez Torres and others filed suit against the Board of Elections, alleging that the election system violated their First Amendment guarantee of political association. The New York federal district court agreed with the plaintiffs and issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the board from enforcing the judicial nominating system and directed the state to conduct open primary elections until the legislature overhauled the system. The order was stayed until after the 2006 general election.

The state appealed but the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the injunction. The Court found that the district court had conducted an exhaustive evidentiary inquiry that demonstrated beyond doubt that the political parties controlled the election of Supreme Court justices. The scheme frustrated the First Amendment rights of judicial candidates and voters, for the amendment guaranteed them a "realistic opportunity to participate in the nominating phase free from severe and unnecessary burdens." The state could not show a compelling state interest for a scheme that did not "merely deprive a candidate of a realistic chance to prevail; rather, through the use of overlapping and severe burdens, it deprives a candidate of access altogether."

Justice Kennedy Urges Congress to Raise Judicial Salaries

Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February 2007, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy urged Congress to increase the salaries of all federal judges or else risk the possibility that fewer talented judges will accept appointments to the bench. According to Kennedy, if judicial salaries do not improve, it will increasingly become more difficult to attract top lawyers from private law firms to accept positions on the bench because many of those lawyers make several times the amount that judges make. Moreover, said Kennedy, judges will become more likely to accept positions outside of the judiciary, such as in academia, due to the salary disparity.

The Judiciary Committee invited Kennedy to speak at a hearing entitled "Judicial Security and Independence." Although members of the Supreme Court were reportedly skeptical when the committee asked Chief Justice John Roberts if one of the associate justices could speak, the justices eventually perceived a benefit in having a justice testify. Joining Kennedy were Judge Brock Hornby, who serves as U.S. District Court for the District of Maine and also as the Chair of the Judicial Branch Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States; James Duff, Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts; and Jeffrey Minear, Administrative Assistant to the Chief Justice of the United States.

Congress establishes the salaries of federal judges by way of legislation. As of 2007, federal district court judges earn $165,200. Judges from the courts of appeals make $175,100. Supreme Court associate justices make $203,000, while the chief justice earns $212,100. In his testimony, Kennedy acknowledged that those amounts are large compared with the wages of the average American. However, this level of salary "is insufficient to attract the finest members of the practicing bar to the bench," he said.

Kennedy noted that judges now hear a substantially larger number of cases than judges hear 30 years ago. When Kennedy began serving as a judge with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1975, approximately 17,000 cases were filed. By 2005, this number had quadrupled to 70,000. He said that without the work of dedicated senior judges, federal dockets could become "dangerously congested." Judicial salaries have not kept pace.

"Despite the increase in workload, the real compensation of federal judges has diminished substantially over the years," Kennedy testified. "Between 1969 and 2006, the real pay of district judges declined by about 25 percent. In the same period, the real pay of the average American worker increased by eighteen percent. The resulting disparity is a forty-three percent disadvantage to the district judges. If judges' salaries had kept pace with the increase in the wages of the average American worker during this time period, the district judge salary would be $261,000. That salary is large compared to the average wages of citizens, but it is still far less than the salary of a highly qualified individual in private practice or academia would give up to become a judge."

Congress considered legislation in 2006 that would have given judges a 16 percent increase in salary, but that proposal died. Some members of the Judiciary Committee, including Dick Durbin (D.-Ill.) noted that even though financial rewards may be driving some judges to accept jobs with private firms, judges still earn more money than 95 percent of the population. Other members of the committee appeared to agree with Kennedy. Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.) indicated that he had already introduced a bill that called for cost-of-living increases for judges, and he agreed with Kennedy that Congress needed to end its reluctance to give raises to judges without also giving raises for themselves.

Kennedy stressed that he has never seen colleagues in the judiciary more dispirited in the past three decades than they are right now. "The blunt fact is that the past Congressional policy with respect to judicial salaries has been one of neglect," he said. "As a consequence, the nation is in danger of having a judiciary that is no longer considered one of the leading judiciaries in the world. This is particularly discordant and disheartening, in light of the care and consideration Congress has generally given in respect to other matters of judiciary resources and administration."

Some critics noted that the statistics cited by Kennedy and others may be misleading. "Unfortunately, the evidence cited by Justice Kennedy … amounts to very little when it comes to figuring out whether current federal judicial salaries are dissuading fine lawyers from taking seats on the federal bench," wrote one writer for the nonprofit Center for Individual Freedom. "Justice Kennedy's admittedly anecdotal evidence is exceptionally weak when you think about it. He pointed to only ten judges leaving the federal bench in more than a year, and some of those were due to retirements. Remember that is ten out of hundreds of federal judges sitting across these United States."

Between 2004 and 2007, a total of 19 judges left their positions, with several taking higher-paying jobs. Kennedy used the situation of David Levi as an example of how the judiciary is losing its members to the higher pay of other positions. Levi announced in January 2007 that he would leave his federal judicial position in the Eastern District of California in order to become dean at Duke University Law School. However, critics point out that Kennedy and others who complain about the judicial salaries cannot give examples of individuals who refuse to leave private practice for the prestige of a position on the federal bench.

South Dakota Voters Defeat Judicial Accountability Proposal

A ballot initiative in South Dakota that would have held judges civilly and even criminally liable for their actions on the bench was defeated by voters in 2006. Leading this effort was a group based in California that believes that the judges need to be held accountable for their actions on the bench. The group reportedly wanted to test the initiative in several small states before attempting to include the matter on a ballot in California.

A judge is generally immune from any lawsuit that is based on the official actions of the judge. A judge is protected by absolute immunity for an act that is considered judicial in nature, even where that act has been done maliciously or corruptly. This immunity does not extend to all cases in which a judge is a defendant, however. Where a judge serves an executive, legislative, or administrative function, the judge is not entitled to judicial immunity, although other types of immunity may apply in those situations. Judicial immunity is often viewed as necessary in order to ensure an independent judiciary.

Critics of the judiciary have taken aim at the concept of judicial immunity, claiming that judges need to be held accountable to improve the performance of judges. One such critic is Ron Branson, a Baptist minister, former prison guard, and former party official with the Republican Party in the Los Angeles area. He has also been an unsuccessful litigant in state and federal courts in California. Branson formed an organization known as Judicial Accountability Initiative Law, or JAIL for Judges, which has focused its attention on enacting state laws that would limit the application of judicial immunity.

JAIL for Judges describes itself as "a single-issue national grassroots organization designed to end the rampant and pervasive judicial corruption in the legal system of the United States." According to the organization, this corruption "can be achieved only through making the Judicial Branch of government answerable and accountable to an entity other than itself." Because the judicial branch is not accountable, says the group, judicial immunity leaves the people "without recourse when their inherent rights are violated by judges." Branson first proposed the idea of limiting judicial immunity in California in 1996, but he was only able to gather 5,000 to 6,000 signatures. According to Branson, he lacked the money or help to gain more support.

In 2005, JAIL for Judges drafted a ballot initiative to include its proposal as a constitutional amendment in South Dakota. In order to qualify for a vote, the initiative needed 33,456 votes. With financial backing from a South Dakota businessman, the initiative gained more than the minimum number of votes to place the issue on the ballot. Branson indicated that he hoped that a successful vote in that state would lead to initiatives in other states, including Nevada and Idaho. The text of the South Dakota initiative was nearly identical to the one submitted in California in 1996.

The organization proposed an amendment to the South Dakota Constitution that would create a special grand jury to hear complaints about judges. This grand jury would have the power to set aside judicial immunity in specified instances in civil suits brought by parties against whom the judge has ruled. Moreover, this special grand jury could levy fines or issue indictments against judges, who would be subject to criminal proceedings before special trial juries. The initiative would have waived immunity for "any deliberate violation of law, fraud or conspiracy, intentional violation of due process of law, deliberate disregard of material facts, judicial acts without jurisdiction, blocking of a lawful conclusion of a case, or any deliberate violation of the Constitutions of South Dakota or the United States." The initiative defines "blocking" as "any act that impedes the lawful conclusion of a case, to include unreasonable delay and willful rendering of an unlawful or void judgment or order."

Subsequent to the filing of the South Dakota initiative, the group in South Dakota that supported the initiative separated itself from Branson's group. The South Dakota campaign became known as Amendment E. The spokeswoman for Amendment E referred to Branson as a "clown" and said that he was bad for the campaign. Moreover, she noted that opponents of the South Dakota measure used him to discredit the movement.

Legislators in South Dakota attacked the initiative prior to the November 2006 election. In a unanimous vote, the South Dakota Legislature approved a concurrent resolution that denounced the initiative. According to the resolution, supporters of the initiative told South Dakota voters that the initiative simply provided a remedy for intentional judicial misconduct. The resolution further emphasized that the amendment "would actually allow lawsuits against all South Dakota citizen boards, including county commissioners, school board members, city council members, planning and zoning board members, township board members, public utilities commissioners, professional licensing board members, jurors, judges, prosecutors, and all other citizen boards…."

Members of the judiciary and legal community also spoke out against the proposal. Ronald M. George, chief justice of the California Supreme Court, said that he viewed the effort as a threat to democratic government. The chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court made similar statements. The executive director the State Bar of South Dakota called the proposal a "devious attack on both our criminal and civil justice system," noting that it would likely increase litigation associated with the special tribunals.

Supporters of the South Dakota measure conducted a poll two months prior to the November election to determine the level of support for the amendment. According to the poll, 67 percent of those responding said that they would support the initiative. The poll question noted that "[t]he amendment would allow the creation of a citizen's oversight committee or special grand jury which would hear complaints of alleged judicial misconduct against judges." It also referred to the provision that would make a judge ineligible for office if the judge is found guilty of misconduct three times. However, the question did not mention that the measure was an effort to eliminate judicial immunity for bad decisions as well as for intentional misconduct.

Support for the amendment fell apart during the November election. Of 330,387 voters, only 35,640—11 percent—voted in favor of the amendment. Despite allegations by JAIL for Judges that the result occurred through "vote fraud," most commentators agreed that the election represented a devastating defeat for the initiative and called into question the viability of the initiatives in other states.


views updated May 11 2018


A public officer chosen or elected to preside over and to administer the law in a court of justice; one who controls the proceedings in a courtroom and decides questions of law or discretion.

Senate Democrats and White House Battle Over Judicial Nominees

With Democrats fighting every step of the way, President George Bush and Republicans in the Senate are struggling to gain confirmation for Bush's judicial nominees. The fight, which began with Bush's first term in office, has taken a number of twists and turns. It shows no sign of resolution.

Pursuant to the Constitution, the president has the authority to appoint federal judges. The Constitution gives the Senate the power to confirm or reject the nominees.

In 2003, Bush nominated William Pryor to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The circuit includes Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Pryor came under attack from Democrats for some of his conservative views, including criticism of Roe v. Wade, the 1972 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. His nomination stalled. On two occasions, the Senate refused to bring Pryor's nomination to a vote.

In February 2004, President Bush took advantage of a 10-day congressional recess and appointed Pryor to a federal appeals slot. According Article II, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution, "The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session." Pryor's appointment under the Recess Appointment Clause was promptly challenged in federal court.

The challenge made its way to the very court Pryor had been appointed to—the Eleventh Circuit. In October 2004, the appeals court ruled 10-2 that Bush's appointment was constitutional. Pryor recused himself from the case.

In its decision, the Eleventh Circuit noted that since the presidency of George Washington, presidents have made more than 300 recess appointments, including 15 justices for the Supreme Court. Both Republican presidents and Democratic presidents have availed themselves of the practice. Accordingly, "[h]istorical evidence of this practice alone might not make the recess appointment constitutional, but this historical practice—looked at in the light of the text of the Constitution—supports our conclusion in favor of the constitutionality of recess appointments to the federal judiciary."

The Eleventh Circuit rejected the argument that "recess" within the Recess Appointments Clause meant only a recess at the end of a session. Opponents of the appointment argued that an appointment could only be made during Congress' December-January adjournment, which marks the end of a congressional session. The Bush administration argued that whenever Congress is not in session for three days, the constitution permits the judicial appointments. The Eleventh Circuit ruled that the president has the authority to make appointments whenever Congress is not in session for more than a few days, but did not specify an exact amount of time.

Pryor's appointment was also challenged because it was a temporary appointment. Under the constitution, federal judges are granted a life-time tenure, which is meant to foster judicial independence apart from the executive and legislative branches. The Eleventh Circuit also rejected this argument.

The U.S. Supreme Court was asked to review the case, but on March 21, 2005, the high court refused to accept the appeal. Justice John Paul Stevens included a statement with the denial, writing that the failure of the court to accept the appeal should not be seen as constitutional endorsement of recess appointments.

An attorney representing Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), one of those challenging the president's authority, argued that the president was arguing that he has the authority to make recess appointments anytime the Senate is on break, including "literally, even a break for lunch."

Pryor's temporary appointment will expire at the end of 2005, but Bush has renominated Pryor for a lifetime appointment. Bush announced in December 2004 that he would renominate 20 controversial judicial appointees, including Pryor. On May 12, 2005, the Senate Judiciary committee voted 10-8 to send Pryor's nomination to the Senate floor.

In 2004, the president also used a recess appointment to appoint a federal district judge, Charles Pickering, to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Pickering said in December 2004 that he would not seek a permanent spot on the appellate court , which covers Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Pickering, 67, cited the toll the nomination battle had taken on him and his family. Bush nominated Pickering, a federal district judge, to the appellate bench in 2001. Democrats cited his views on abortion and civil rights as the reason for opposing the appointment.

The battle between Senate Democrats and the White House enjoyed a temporary truce for part of 2004. In May, the two sides struck a deal to temporarily end the impasse. Democrats agreed to allow votes on 25 non-controversial Bush nominees. In exchange, the president agreed not to make any further recess appointments to the courts. The deal expired with the November election.

Senate Democrats have not opposed all of Bush's judicial picks. Through April 2005, the Senate has confirmed 35 of Bush's appointees to the federal appellate bench, and around 200 judicial appointments altogether during Bush's terms. Senate Democrats have blocked confirmation of ten others, by threatening to filibuster those nominees who the party views as too conservative. Filibustering is a legitimate parliamentary device whereby a senator does not yield the floor during debate. This refusal to yield the floor blocks the opportunity to call for a vote on a matter.

Some Senate Republicans threatened to force a rule change that would prohibit Democrats from using filibusters to prevent approval of nominees. Led by Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R-TN), they floated the idea of invoking the "nuclear option." This would mean that a filibuster could be ended by a simple majority of senators, instead of the 60 votes required under current rules. Before that could occur, the two parties cut a deal that allowed the subsequent confirmation of Pryor and two other judges, Priscilla Owens and Janice Rogers Brown.

Judge's Family Murdered by Retaliatory Litigant

On the evening of February 28, 2005, U.S. District Court Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow returned to her Chicago home after work to find the bodies of her husband and mother in her basement. They both had been fatally shot in the head.

The judge and her daughters were immediately placed in protective custody. Because the victims appeared to have been shot execution-style, authorities initially focused on associates of Matt Hale, a white supremacist who had been convicted in 2004 of soliciting the murder of Judge Lefkow. Three years earlier, Lefkow had ruled against Hale, the leader of the World Church of the Creator, a strongly racist group, in a copyright-dispute case.

Following national press coverage of the murders, several white-supremacist web sites on the Internet began posting messages of satisfaction and vindication. Meanwhile, Hale, awaiting sentencing for his conviction, denied any role in the murders. Nevertheless, police released composite sketches of two males they wanted to interview, and the white-supremacy connection seemed the most viable.

Suddenly, less than two weeks later, the case took a strange turn. During a routine traffic stop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 11, 2005, police were shocked when the man they stopped for driving with broken taillights shot himself to

death in his car. A search of the vehicle produced a suicide note in which the man implicated himself in the murders of Michael Lefkow and Donna Humphrey, the judge's husband and mother.

At the same time, police were reviewing a handwritten letter received by WMAQ-TV in Chicago, signed by a "Bart Ross," in which the writer described breaking into the Lefkow home on February 28th with the intention of killing the judge. The letter went on to state that he had killed the judge's husband and mother at approximately 9:00 a.m. after they discovered him hiding in the basement. According to the letter, he remained in the home until about 1:00 p.m., then abandoned his plans to kill the judge.

A DNA sample taken from a cigarette butt found in Judge Lefkow's house proved a match with Bart Ross, a Chicago electrician. This, in combination with the note found in Ross' vehicle and the letter sent to the media, led authorities to conclude that Ross was indeed the offender in the Lefkow family homicides. In the note and letter, Ross had described in detail his breaking into the Lefkow home before dawn, believing that he would find the judge still there.

The connection between Ross and Judge Lefkow was as proximate as that of Matt Hale. In the fall of 2004, Lefkow had ruled against Ross and had dismissed his lengthy medical malpractice suit, which also contained allegations against the U.S. judicial system, described by Ross as "the Nazi style criminal and violator" of his civil rights. Lefkow's ruling was upheld by a federal appeals court just a few weeks before the murders, in January 2005.

Ross, a 57-year-old Polish immigrant (who changed his name from Bartlomiej Ciszewski after he had emigrated to the United States in 1982), lived alone with his dog and was facing eviction from the house he had rented for the past year. Police had made two unsuccessful attempts to serve him earlier in the week, and he was due in court on February 28.

Neighbors and others who knew him described Ross as an intelligent man who had grown increasingly angry and paranoid over perceived injustices following treatment for oral cancer between 1992 and 1995 at the University of Illinois-Chicago Hospital and its clinic. Ross felt the doctors had disfigured him and destroyed his life. He filed suit against five doctors in 1995 and also filed complaints with the state agency that regulates physician licensing and practice. In the complaints, Ross alleged that, following surgery and radiation treatment for metastatic head and neck cancer, he suffered "great anguish in mind and uncontrollable pain." After part of his jaw bone was surgically removed, he lost all of his teeth and received a jaw implant. Ross claimed that, as a result, he suffered speech impairment and an inability to fully open his mouth, resulting in the need to survive on liquid nourishment only. Ross also claimed that he had been subjected to radiation therapy without his knowledge and consent.

All claims were found to be without merit and were dismissed (not involving Judge Lefkow). Over the next decade, Ross continued to file complaints and to write lengthy letters to various political and governmental figures, including President Bush. His letters and complaints now included accusations against the government for aiding "Nazi-style" criminals. He compared the U.S. judiciary to the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

As lawyers refused to represent him and his claims went unheeded, Ross's mental condition began to unravel in apparent desperation. In his court filings, Ross consulted with more than 100 lawyers and approximately 200 medical doctors or clinics of record , traveling as far as Alaska to seek justice. In June 2004, he dropped off a large binder of court filings to U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), but he was told that the Senator's office could not help him. By then, Ross was telling people, "This is like the Holocaust, the doctors are like the Nazis, the system is working against me." Apparently, Judge Lefkow's dismissal was the last straw.

It appeared that Ross had planned to harm other judges as well. His letter to the media stated that after leaving Judge Lefkow's house, he had approached a doctor's house as well as that of another judge. At first, authorities were uncertain as to why Ross was in Milwaukee. However, two federal appeals judges who had upheld dismissals of his lawsuits had offices in the federal courthouse in downtown Milwaukee. One of the judges confirmed that federal marshals had contacted him about the situation in the wee morning hours. Another judge, who was working out at a local gym at 6:00 a.m., received a telephone call from his wife after marshals had contacted her. Courthouse security had seen Ross walking around the building, four blocks from where his parked vehicle had been issued a $20 parking ticket.

Ross was not buried until April 12, 2005. The medical examiner's office spent the required 30 days attempting to locate any family members in either the United States or Poland to claim his body. No family or friend was found. After the U.S. Consulate Office in Krakow, Poland, confirmed that none of Ross's family members was found in Ross's former homeland, Chicago authorities proceeded to determine whether the van that Ross had been driving could be sold to offset a pauper's burial. Meanwhile, a Polish funeral home in Milwaukee offered to help and donated a casket. John Walloch, the funeral home's director, told Chicago's ABC-TV reporters that, despite what Ross had done, "No one should be treated without a proper burial." A local parish priest provided a prayer service, attended by approximately two dozen persons. The Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee donated a grave site.


views updated May 21 2018


To make a decision or reach a conclusion after examining all the factual evidence presented. To form an opinion after evaluating the facts and applying the law.

A public officer chosen or elected to preside over and to administer the law in a court of justice; one who controls the proceedings in a courtroom and decidesquestions of lawor discretion.

As a verb the term judge generally describes a process of evaluation and decision. In a legal case this process may be conducted by either a judge or a jury. Decisions in any case must be based on applicable law. Where the case calls for a jury verdict, the judge tells the jury what law applies to the case.

As a noun judge refers to a person authorized to make decisions. A judge is a court officer authorized to decide legal cases. A judge presiding over a case may initiate investigations on related matters, but generally judges do not have the power to conduct investigations for other branches or agencies of government.

Judges must decide cases based on the applicable law. In some cases a judge may be asked to declare that a certain law is unconstitutional. Judges have the power to rule that a law is unconstitutional and therefore void, but they must give proper deference to the legislative body that enacted the law.

There are two types of judges: trial court and appellate. Trial court judges preside over trials, usually from beginning to end. They decide pretrial motions, define the scope of discovery, set the trial schedule, rule on oral motions during trial, control the behavior of participants and the pace of the trial, advise the jury of the law in a jury trial, and sentence a guilty defendant in a criminal case.

Appellate judges hear appeals from decisions of the trial courts. They review trial court records, read briefs submitted by the parties, and listen to oral arguments by attorneys, and then decide whether error or injustice occurred in the trial.

Judges can also be distinguished according to their jurisdiction. For example, federal court judges differ from state court judges. They operate in different courtrooms, and they hear different types of cases. A federal court judge hears cases that fall within federal jurisdiction. Generally, this means cases that involve a question of federal law or the U.S. Constitution, involve parties from different states, or name the United States as a party. State court judges hear cases involving state law, and they also have jurisdiction over many federal cases.

Some judges can hear only certain cases in special courts with limited subject matter jurisdiction. For example, a federal bankruptcy court judge may preside over only bankruptcy cases. Other special courts with limited subject matter jurisdiction include tax, probate, juvenile, and traffic courts.

Justices make up the upper echelon of appellate judges. The term justice generally describes judges serving on the highest court in a jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions a justice may be any appellate judge.

Judges are either appointed or elected. On the federal level, district court judges, appellate court judges, and justices of the Supreme Court are appointed by the president subject to the approval of Congress. On the state level, judges may be appointed by the governor, selected by a joint ballot of the two houses of the state legislature, or elected by the voters of the state.

On the federal level, judges have lifetime tenure. Most state court judges hold their office for a specified number of years. If a state court judge is appointed by the governor, the judge's term may be established by the governor. In some states a judge's term is fixed by statute. All state jurisdictions have a mandatory retirement age. In New Hampshire, for example, a judge must retire by age 70 (N.H. Const. pt. 2, art. 78). There is no mandatory retirement age for justices and judges on the federal level.

Judges' retirement benefits are provided for by statute. On the federal level, a retiring judge may receive for the remainder of the judge's life the salary that she or he was receiving at the time of retirement. To qualify for retirement benefits, a judge must meet minimum service requirements. For example, a judge who retires at age 65 must have served 15 years as a judge in the federal court system; at age 66, 14 years; and so on until age 70 (§ 371). If a judge is forced to retire because of disability and has not qualified for benefits under § 371, the judge may still receive a full salary for life if she or he served 10 years. If the judge served less than 10 years, she or he may receive half of her or his salary for life (28 U.S.C.A. § 372).

Judges must follow ethical rules. In all jurisdictions statutes specify that a judge may hold office only during a time of good behavior. If a judge violates the law or an ethical rule, the judge may be removed from office. In jurisdictions in which judges are elected, they may be removed from office by popular vote or impeached by act of the legislature. In states where judges are appointed, the legislature or the governor is authorized to remove them from office, but only for ethical or legal violations. This is because the power of the judiciary is separate from and equal to the power of the legislative and executive branches, and unfettered control of the judiciary by the other two branches would upset the balance of power.

Judges are distinct from magistrates. Magistrates are court officers who are empowered by statute to decide pretrial issues and preside over minor cases. Their judicial powers are limited. In the federal court system, for example, magistrates may not preside over felony criminal trials. They may preside over civil trials and misdemeanor criminal trials, but only with the consent of all the parties (28 U.S.C.A. §§ 631–639).


Canons of Judicial Ethics; Code of Judicial Conduct; Court Opinion; Discretion in Decision Making; Judicial Action; Judicial Conduct; Judicial Review.


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A flourishing weekly American humor magazine for close to sixty years, Judge was renowned during the 1920s for bringing a new generation of sophisticated humor writers and cartoonists to the attention of American readers, including S. J. Perelman, Theodor Seuss Geisel ("Dr. Seuss"), Ralph Barton, Johnny Gruelle, Ernie Bushmiller, and Harold Ross.

Judge was founded in New York City in 1881 and survived until 1939 in its initial run, offering a mix of jokes, short humor pieces, reviews, and gag cartoons. The humor magazines of the nineteenth century, unlike late twentieth-century publications such as Mad and Cracked, were aimed at grown-up readers and included topical and political observations as well as broad comedy and ethnic jokes. Judge was founded just five years after the appearance of one of its chief competitors, Puck, which, as one historian has pointed out, soon "shed its crude image—with jokes about minorities, slapstick humor, and puns—and became a sophisticated humor magazine with longer articles and more society and suburban subjects." Similar to Puck in form and content, Judge also owed something to Britain's well-established Punch. A key figure in the early development of Judge was cartoonist James Albert Wales, who left Puck to put together the group that launched the new magazine.

The next major humor weekly to come along was Life, which debuted in 1883. Puck folded in 1918, but Judge and Life remained rivals well into the 1930s. Though never quite as slick or sophisticated as Life, Judge managed to hold its own against its competitor, and by 1925 proclaimed "Larger circulation than any other humorous weekly in the world" on its covers. The man credited with boosting Judge's circulation over 100,000 was Norman Anthony, who became editor in 1923. He promoted the single-caption cartoon—as opposed to the traditional he-she type of earlier years-and with coming up with theme issues devoted to a specific topic, such as the Advertising Number, Celebrities Number, Radio Number, and College Number. Among the new contributors Anthony recruited for these issues were S. J. Perelman, "Dr. Seuss," and cartoonist Jefferson Machamer. Initially a cartoonist as well as a writer, Perelman contributed somewhat surreal cartoons as well as humor pieces and magazine parodies; his cartoons were always accompanied by a block of copy in the style that would later show up in his New Yorker pieces and in the nonsense dialogue he contributed to the Marx Brothers movies. Harold Ross, who later founded the The New Yorker, worked for Anthony briefly, and other eventual New Yorker contributors, such as Chon Day, Charles Addams, Gardner Rea, and Whitney Darrow, Jr., all did work for Judge. Other contributors included Milt Gross, Don Herold, William Gropper, Bill Holman (creator of Smokey Stover), Vernon Grant, and Ernie Bushmiller (creator of Nancy). Judge's theater critic in the 1920s and early 1930s was the formidable George Jean Nathan, and movie reviews were provided by Pare Lorentz, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker.

Anthony was lured away to Life in 1929 and was replaced as editor by John Shuttleworth. In 1931, Anthony created Ballyhoo, a much more raucous magazine that satirized advertising and many other icons of popular culture. Life, a monthly by that time and trying unsuccessfully to mimic The New Yorker, ended its run in 1936, selling its title to Henry Luce for his new picture weekly. By this time, Judge itself was a monthly, and for a time ran a cover line: "Including the humorous tradition and features of Life. " The magazine held on until 1939 before folding; it was revived twice, but never regained its earlier popularity.

—Ron Goulart

Further Reading:

Horn, Maurice, editor. The World Encyclopedia of Cartoons. New York, Chelsea House Publications, 1980.

Trachtenberg, Stanley, editor. American Humorists, 1800-1950. Detroit, Gale Research Company, 1982.


views updated May 29 2018

judge / jəj/ • n. a public official appointed to decide cases in a court of law. ∎  a person who decides the results of a competition. ∎  an official at a sports contest who watches for infractions of the rules. ∎  a person able or qualified to give an opinion on something: she was a good judge of character. ∎  a leader having temporary authority in ancient Israel in the period between Joshua and the kings. See also Judges.• v. [tr.] form an opinion or conclusion about: scientists were judged according to competence | it is hard to judge whether such opposition is justified | [intr.] judging from his letters home, Monty was in good spirits. ∎  decide (a case) in court: other cases were judged by tribunal. ∎  [tr.] give a verdict on (someone) in court: she was judged innocent of murder. ∎  decide the results of (a competition).DERIVATIVES: judge·ship / ship/ n.


views updated May 14 2018

judge proverbially taken as a type of gravity and sobriety.

The office of a judge is referred to as the Bench; in the UK, a judge formally wears scarlet robes trimmed with ermine, sometimes alluded to as symbolizing the office.

In ancient Israel, a judge was a leader having temporary authority in the period between Joshua and the kings.

The word comes (in Middle English, via Old French) from Latin judex, judic-, from jus ‘law’ + dicere ‘to say’.
judge not, that ye be not judged used as a warning against overhasty criticism of someone. The saying is recorded from the late 15th century, originally with biblical allusion to the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1.
no one should be judge in his own cause it is impossible to be impartial where your own interest is involved. The saying is recorded in English from the mid 15th century, and is found also as a Latin legal maxim, nemo debet esse iudex in propria causa.


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judge officer appointed to administer the law; arbiter, umpire. XIV. —OF. juge :- L. jūdex, jūdic-, f. jūs right, law + -dicus speaking (see DICTION).
So vb. XIII. —(O)F. juger :- L.jūdicāre. judg(e)ment XIII. —(O)F. jugement, f. juger. Hence judgmatic(al) judicious. XIX.


views updated May 14 2018

judge Any officer appointed by the state to administer the law. Judges are raised from the bar to preside over courts. Their chief duties are to conduct court cases fairly, to arrive at a conclusion (or to direct a jury to a conclusion) and to pass sentence. Provided they act within their judicial authority, no action lies against judges.