Monday, September 25, 2006

Thank God for Checks and Balances

Read this -- long, I know... and it requires free registration - just use fake info like I do :)

I loved this part:

In what the Commission on Judicial Conduct called “a shocking abuse of judicial power,” Justice Roger C. Maclaughlin single-handedly went after a man he decided was violating local codes on the keeping of livestock in Steuben, near Utica. The justice interviewed witnesses, tipped off the code-enforcement officer, lobbied the town board to deny the man approval to run a trailer park, then jailed him for 10 days without bail — or even a chance to defend himself, the commission said.

In an interview, Justice Maclaughlin said the commission seemed to be chasing legal technicalities rather than real justice.

An Essex County town justice, Richard H. Rock, jailed two 16-year-olds overnight without a trial, saying he wanted “to teach them a lesson.” They had been accused of spitting at two other people and charged with harassment. Then he sent them back for 10 more days, the commission said, without ever advising them they had a right to a lawyer.

In 2001, the commission punished him and Justice Maclaughlin with censure, the most serious penalty short of removal from the bench. Justice Maclaughlin is now in his 11th year in office. Justice Rock is in his 10th.

Oh, no! Not... censure! A fate worse than... well, in this case it's worse than nothing, since that's the effect it seems to have.

New York (and the other 30 states that practice this) needs to abolish these so-called "justice courts" and establish a system that is acutally accountable. And pehaps make sure the judges (or justices or magistrates or whatever the hell these evolutionary throw-backs are called) actually have more than a passing familiarity with the law.

How about we move from the 13th century into the 21st?