Indianapolis Bar Association Responds to Criticism of Marion County Circuit Court Judge
Indianapolis, IN, April 28, 2011: On behalf of over 5,000 lawyers, judges, and legal professionals, the Indianapolis Bar Association on occasion finds it appropriate to speak when the integrity of the legal system or those who administer, support and defend it are unfairly called into question. The April 27, 2011 blog post by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz titled “Treacy v. Parker?”, has made unsubstantiated allegations that call into question the actions of a sitting judge and the integrity of the legal system as a whole. The Marion County Circuit Court judge in the matter involving the case of Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White is bound by the rules of judicial conduct in that and any other case. While we understand the importance of a free debate in political matters and policy issues of public concern, including those that may take place on the Indiana Barrister blog, parts of this April 27 blog post suggest without evidence that the judge has violated his duties. The legal system, its participants and the public benefit from commentary on politics that is free from baseless allegations of this nature. We also note that since Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney who has chosen a name for his blog that references the legal profession, it would have been our hope that his respect for the legal system would have outweighed any interest in publishing sensationalized, unfounded and unattributed allegations about the judge. The IndyBar reiterates its support for a vigorous public discourse about the legal system and judiciary, but encourages those who comment publicly to do so responsibly.
OGDEN'S RESPONSE: I'm all for Free Speech and an attorney's right to criticize a judge. If a judge can't take public criticism, then he or she probably should look for another line of work. Having said that, even I am troubled by Abdul's allegation that Judge Rosenberg has been talking to Democratic officials about a pending case before his court and has done their bidding. That would be an extremely serious violation of judicial ethics that could well warrant disbarment. If Abdul has such evidence then by all means he shouldn't hide behind anonymous sources to create a "composite" to come up with an allegation against Judge Rosenberg that suggest serious ethical lapses. He should produce the evidence.
What about judges who consider signing off on a sheriff's request to confiscate someone's computer or ones who shrink like new cotton behind undefined 'administrative remedy' while turtling in pension fear?
God, the phony piety of the legal profession is nauseating. Virtually every problem in the country can be traced back to lawyers, and especially those in robes. If judges were forced to trade places with the prisoners in the dock, the country would be little worse off.
“The penalty for laughing in a courtroom is six months in jail; if it were not for this penalty, the jury would never hear the evidence.” -- H. L. Mencken
Abdul is a journalist. He's under no obligation to blow his sources.
The judiciary in this country is one third of the branches of government, having at least half the power and escaping all of the criticism visited on the other two branches.
I know I'd feel better if judges' call records, home office and mobile were public. So also their correspondence. I'd feel better if they lived in a barracks, cut off from the world, denied access to news, brought their food and clothing and escorted to and from chambers in secret via private tunnel. Perhaps a living attempt at Rawls' "veil of ignorance."
Short of such total withdrawal from the world, a judge will have the same biases and preferences that alight on all other men.
This issue transcends Rosenberg. We hold forth this idea that the judiciary is impartial and detached, when we know it's impossible for our human nature to allow such aloofness. We proffer these myths about human nature, because we've built a system of government that reposits so much power, indeed, final power, in a branch of government on the argument that this branch does not rule on base whim and desire.
A recognition that this branch is subject to the same forces as the other two and a realization that the men in this branch are from the same cellular fibre as the men in the other two branches causes us to lose our faith in the detached and dispassionate myth and introduces doubt into the sagacity of our tripartite exercise.
As people need to repel foundational doubts about our system, they strongly support the myths undergirding the system rather than confront the possibility that a new system might be needed. As we see elsewhere in the human sphere, defence of myths is often the most bloody and ruthless.
Did Rosenberg do what Abdul accused him of? At bottom, does it really matter? Does any judge truly escape his own biases and preferences in the courtroom? Why does the massed legal profession so completely come to the defence of one of their own in a way that the members of the other two branches would never do?
Why does America fight mightily to beat back the spectre of judicial bias when we will freely admit that all judges have favourite restaurants, sports teams and candy bars?
We are all inescapably biased people, and that capacity for preference allows us to navigate the world, instead of staring blankly at the wall when we awake.
Cato, you're completely missing the point. No one is suggesting criminal prosecution. However, lawyering (like many professions) have a code of conduct and ethics. One of those ethics is you don't slander others in the profession, and if you have evidence of questionable behavior, you need to present it to the proper lawyer authorities so action can be taken, up to disbarment.
I think a commenter on Indiana Barrister put it quite well:
This is a common mistake amongst idiots. Free speech means free from legal prosecution, not free from criticism. I've seen nobody suggest Abdul should be arrested. They're just criticizing him for not having the decency to have solid evidence before slandering a judge with an impeccable record.
Sure, Student. It's why the simile "As honest as a _______________," is invariably finished with "lawyer."
It's why another famously virtuous profession, politics, is a magnet for legal ethicists.
"If all lawyers were hanged tomorrow, and their bones sold to a mah jong factory, we’d be freer and safer, and our taxes would be reduced by almost a half.” -- H. L. Mencken
"However, lawyering (like many professions) have a code of conduct and ethics."
Now there's a circular argument.
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