Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas, Richard, and to Hell with you

By today's date nine years ago, I was ordered to answer a letter sent from the office of the Disciplinary Counsel of Louisiana. I was told I must respond by December 26, 2002 or face additional sanctions.

Merry Christmas, Richard.

The way this office works is to inflict as much pain as possible on the presumed innocent. A presumption of innocence does not apply to a lawyer placed in their sights. The presumed guilty must suffer. A letter in response to a demand from the disciplinary counsel is supposed to be penned in pain.

The office of the Disciplinary Counsel of Louisiana could have written to me on December 1, 2001, or January 1, of 2002. Or a year before, or a year later.

There was no particular urgency, because the concern of the Disciplinary Counsel of Louisiana was something I had done in 1999: I had complained in confidence to the Fifth Circuit Judicial Council about the misconduct of a federal judge. The  Disciplinary Counsel of Louisiana also objected th my having filed two recusal motions, also in 1999.

But the office of the Disciplinary Counsel of Louisiana wanted to send me a Christmas letter. So they did. There was nothing to stop them.

My response was sent back by return mail.

I wrote to the office of the Disciplinary Counsel of Louisiana that I was telling the truth in my motions of recusal directed to a federal judge. I told the office of the Disciplinary Counsel of Louisiana that I had spoke the truth when I wrote in confidence to the Judicial Council of the Fifth Federal Circuit.

I pointed out that the Judicial Council never bothered to investigate my accusations.

There is nothing that requires supervising circuit court judges to investigate the misconduct of a district judge.

I asked the the office of the Disciplinary Counsel of Louisiana to forward my letter - and theirs if they like - to the US attorney for Louisiana. 

Send them the whole file. Please.

Since the office of the Disciplinary Counsel of Louisiana is not going to investigate the judge, send the paperwork to the US attorney. Since the judges on the Fifth Circuit are not going to investigate a judge they are supposed to supervise, send the paperwork that you have from me to the US attorney. Please.

No response to this request was ever made to me. You have to cooperate with the office of the Disciplinary Counsel of Louisiana, when they write to you.

But when you write to the office of the Disciplinary Counsel of Louisiana, this office does not have to cooperate with you.

The office of the Disciplinary Counsel of Louisiana is there to prosecute you. They are there to inflict as much pain as possible - even before you are found guilty of any violation of the ethical rules that govern the conduct of lawyers in Louisiana.

The office of the Disciplinary Counsel of Louisiana is not there to uncover the truth.

Turns out, one of the unwritten rules for lawyers is: don't complain in confidence about the misconduct of a federal judge because you will be punished if you do.

If you discover your judge is taking gifts from lawyers in his court - let it go.

If you discover your judge is bending the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to benefit the boys who are gifting him - let it go.

If you discover your judge is in business with lawyers, who bring cases before him - let it go.

If you file a confidential complaint with the supervising judges on the Fifth Circuit and your judge lets opposing counsel in your clients' case know that you are the one who complained about him - let it go.

If you discover that the supervising judges are not going to do anything with your confidential complaint - let it go.

If you find out that your judge is free to make decisions touching on his own financial interests - let it go.

Let it all go, boy - says the office of the Disciplinary Counsel of Louisiana, because we are here to protect the judges. We work for judges after all, and they have as much interest in protecting an officer of their court from a be-robed miscreant on the federal bench as a moo cow has in the outcome of the Kentucky Derby.

Oh, and since you did not let it go, since you actually expected the judge to be held to an ethical standard of some kind, we are going to put you before a committee of lawyers who practice before the judge you pissed off. 

Boy, we are going to take away your law license. 

We are going to wreck your ability to have an income as a lawyer.

Just go away, boy. Since you think we are here to get to the bottom of things, just you go away.

You hold a law license at the pleasure of our judges, and they sure don't want anyone making waves about judges getting $$ from the lawyers. They do that themselves.

Merry Christmas. 

Monday, February 7, 2011


Dan Rodicks, Baltimore Sun columnist, has a piece about the dangerous on-the-bench and behind-the-wheel antics of Circuit Court Judge W. Kennedy Boone, who has not hit bottom, yet. 

Here is Rodicks' opinion piece, posted on line on Feb 7, in print edition, Feb 8, 2011 - followed by a link to the article.

If this isn't 'judicial disability,' what is?

Dan Rodricks
4:41 PM EST, February 7, 2011

What happens if Judge W. Kennedy Boone III blows a .07 after lunch? Does he just return to the bench that day, or is the bailiff authorized to send him home with a designated driver? Does Judge Boone get to resume his duties, or does another judge of the Washington County Circuit Court relieve him of his docket? I realize that a .07 blood-alcohol level is not considered intoxication under Maryland law, but it's pretty close.

I raise these questions because Judge Boone, who presides in Hagerstown, has been ordered to take a blood-alcohol test twice a day — once before he goes on the bench in the morning, and again after lunch. Imagine that, my fellow Marylanders: We are apparently so hard up for Circuit Court judges, we're keeping one who can't be trusted to lay off the booze; we'll just check his breath twice a day.

The designer of this creative gate-keeping is the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities, which secretly investigates complaints about the behavior of judges. The term "disabilities" refers to senility, physical illness, mental illness and alcohol or drug abuse. But apparently the commission tolerates these disabilities in a judge — or at least alcohol abuse, at least with regard to Judge Boone.

The commission ordered the judge, who is 68, to take the blood-alcohol tests because he had been involved in a car accident. He'd been driving while drunk, though "blotto" would be a more appropriate word for it. A test after the accident showed Judge Boone with a blood-alcohol level of .18. That's more than twice the legal limit in Maryland. The driver of the other vehicle, a young woman, received minor neck and back injuries, according to published reports.

Judge Boone pleaded guilty to driving under the influence, was fined $1,000 and sentenced to three years of unsupervised probation.

That was last March.

The accident was in early November 2009. It took the disabilities commission all this time to conclude that Judge Boone had violated Maryland's code of judicial conduct and to come up with a sanction. And this is it: twice-daily breathalyzer tests. The judge must also go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and lay off the booze.

So perhaps the answer to my opening question is right there — if he blows a .07, that's evidence of drinking, and evidence of drinking "may result in further discipline," according to the "private reprimand" delivered by the disabilities commission. (Because the judge's DUI case was on the public record, his reprimand was made public as well.)

Still, it's reasonable to ask: Why is the commission being so nice in the matter of W. Kennedy Boone III? This is the same judge who, in 2007, referred to three black, female public defenders as "the Supremes" and advised their client to get "an experienced male attorney." In that case, the judge received a reprimand from the disabilities commission for "a serious lapse in judgment," and he apologized to the public defenders.

In light of what's happened since, you have to wonder if Judge Boone had been drinking before he made the "Supremes" remark. In fact, any litigant who had business in front of the judge after Nov. 6, 2009, might have wondered the same thing. According to the Hagerstown Herald-Mail, that was the day Judge Boone's SUV crossed the center line on North Prospect Street and struck a car driven by a 25-year-old woman and occupied by a 3-year-old in a car seat. (The child was not injured.)

Judges are notoriously soft on drunken drivers, particularly those who stand before them on a first offense. Maybe the disabilities commission thinks Judge Boone deserved a little of that love, too.

But here's the problem — W. Kennedy Boone III is ... a judge! A judge's judgment should not be in question. A judge is held to a higher standard. Citizens need to trust the man or woman who hears their cases, rules on their motions or imposes criminal sentences on their sons and daughters, nieces and nephews.

While making Judge Boone take a breath test before he goes on the bench might seem like a creative and humane concept, I can't believe we're this hard up for judges.

Perhaps the commission thought it would be kind to keep Judge Boone on the job until his mandatory retirement age of 70. It would be wiser, and in the interest of justice, if we just offer early retirement with pension, and wish him well.

Dan Rodricks' column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. He is the host of Midday on WYPR, 88.1 FM. His e-mail is

Dan Rodricks: A judge gets break and breathalyzer -