I heard a story on TV the other day that some school district in California was going to prohibit teachers from sending unruly students in their classroom down to the principal. I guess the idea behind it was that this action was allegedly unfairly targeting minority students. While that is unfortunate, should it result in the loss of teachers’ ability to maintain order in every classroom? Is the solution worse than the disease?
Dealing with children is tricky because labels like “troublemaker” might define the rest of a child’s life. So perhaps one can argue that we must over-protect children in their classroom where teachers have all the power and students must deal with that teacher for the entire year. I happen to disagree, but the point is debatable.
Not so debatable, in my view, is the idea that a judge is not in charge of his courtroom. So long as the judge isn’t breaking any laws, he must maintain order and arbitrate the issues brought before him. Last Tuesday, a judge held a hearing to deal with the 36 protesters arrested by police during the “Straight Pride March” in Boston. Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins attempted to let off a number of defendants with just community service, but the judge decided that he wanted to hear from victims (who happened to be police officers) before dismissing charges like resisting arrest. DA Rollins does not believe in prosecuting low-level offenses and made that part of her campaign platform. Her reasoning sounds somewhat similar to the California teacher example. She says that most of these low-level offenders are poor or minority and so prosecuting these offenders is essentially racist.
I disagree with this concept as well, because we already have attorneys defending people charged with crimes. If the prosecutors refuse to prosecute, the system breaks down. But I want to focus not on the judge’s decision not to dismiss, but on his decision to detain a defense attorney for three hours. The attorney was vigorously defending her client but when the judge tried to move things along, she kept talking. After several warnings which were heard (because she repeated them herself), the attorney didn’t shut up and was held in contempt and detained for three hours.
The Defense Attorney group is outraged at this, and the Globe Op-Ed writers have repeatedly mischaracterized what happened, based on my reading in the original Globe article. That original article sounded like a transcript of the interaction which led to the defense attorney’s detention. The reason was she wouldn’t follow the judge’s clear and unambiguous instructions to stop talking. (See photo three for this.)
Regardless of the defense attorney’s passion about the case in question, or really any case, judges need to maintain order in their courtroom. But the Globe columnists gloss over this, and instead state that the judge acted irresponsibly. Editorial journalist Adrian Walker, appearing on page A6, stated that the judge “had defense attorney Susan Church jailed for several hours for contempt after she dared to cite case law she said Sinnott was ignoring.
“Whatever you make of details of the case, things have gone completely off the rails when a district court judge can have a lawyer hauled off in handcuffs simply for annoying him. Whatever happened to judicial temperament?”
Walker needs to read the transcript and then answer a simple question: who is in charge in a courtroom? Is it the attorneys, the court officers, the stenographers, or the judge? Or is nobody in charge? Walker’s characterization of the lawyer’s action as “annoying” is erroneous. Flagrantly disrespectful and disorderly is more like it.
Then a second columnist, Shirley Leung, argues that the judge’s order was sexist, because the defense attorney was a woman. This Op-Ed inexplicably appeared on the cover of the Business section. I really wish the Globe would keep the opinion pieces on the Opinion pages.
Leung compared the lawyer to Elizabeth Warren, which passes for high praise in the Boston Globe. But really, this is about a woman who “persisted” after being told by the judge to stop. In a courtroom, with a lawyer who is part of the court system and is considered an “officer of the court,” the judge sets the rules and when he asks someone repeatedly to stop talking, they had better listen…or else. Leung praises the attorney for ignoring the judge’s order and is upset that she faced a penalty for doing so.
I love it when someone tells someone else to flout the rules of their profession. So let me suggest that Columnist Leung march in to Boston Globe publisher John Henry’s office and give that white male a piece of her mind!
The link to the Leung Op-Ed is here: https://edition.pagesuite.com/popovers/dynamic_article_popover.aspx?artguid=3c75b17b-6283-4a5e-9f31-7fcaa30f1415&appid=1165
If a citizen wants to protest, that is their right. They must also face the consequences for any acts that violate the law. But when an officer of the court doesn’t follow the rules, that person isn’t a citizen-protester. If they don’t like the rules that attorneys must follow, then find another line of work. But going after the judge because he has a conflict with an attorney in his courtroom and disciplines her is out of line.
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