In the wake of the shooting of state judge Joseph Bruzzese on the steps of the Steubenville courthouse in August, the Ohio legislature has introduced a bipartisan bill to shield judges’ personal information from the public. The bill is still in its very early stages.
It is not hard to see why a bill like this might be necessary, but that realization is tinged with sadness. Judges are most effective when they are full members of the community, enjoying the same pleasures (and suffering the same indignities) as ordinary citizens. Grocery shopping, attending community events, waiting in line at the DMV, and similar activities foster an appreciation for everyday life that a judge needs to be an effective mediator, problem-solver, and voice for the community. When our judges are too cut off from the public, or exist in elite bubbles, they cannot have that effectiveness.
The benefits here of keeping a judge’s personal information from the public may well outweigh the costs. But we should be careful not to create a slippery slope in which the public and its judges lose critical opportunities for normal, everyday interaction.
These are tumultuous political times in Catalonia, which voted last week to declare independence from Spain. (The Spanish government argues that the vote, and any subsequent action, are illegal.) The independence declaration, which may come Tuesday, has spurred the regional judiciary in Barcelona to request extra police presence. Currently the court building is protected by police loyal to the Catalan government; the President of the High Judiciary of Catalonia is requesting further presence by the National Police force.
Mississippi state judge Carlos Moore has been the subject of several threatening social media posts, including one stating, “You’re a piece of **** I guess you need a bullet in the head.”
Police believe that the posts are related to Judge Moore’s decision to remove the Mississippi state flag from his courtroom. The state flag contains a miniaturized version of the Confederate flag in one corner.
The local police have issued arrest warrants for two men for cyberstalking threats.
Yesterday morning, Judge Joseph Bruzzese of the Jefferson County (Ohio) Court of Common Pleas was shot in the chest at near point-blank range as he prepared to enter the courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio. Judge Bruzzese was rushed by helicopter to a Pittsburgh hospital, and it appears that he will survive. Remarkably, the judge was armed and returned fire. A local probation officer was also at the scene and also fired at the perpetrator, who was killed. Authorities surmise that had the probation officer not been present, the suspect would have continued firing until Judge Bruzzese was dead.
The suspect was identified as Nathaniel Richmond, whose son was convicted in the same court for raping a 16-year-old girl in 2012. But the motivation for the shooting is unclear. Judge Bruzzese apparently had nothing at all to do with the younger Richmond’s case, although he is overseeing a separate case in which the elder Richmond is the plaintiff.
A sad and strange story, which could have been much worse if not for some quick thinking by the probation officer. Wishing Judge Bruzzese a speedy and full recovery.
From Scottish Legal News:
Less than a month after a warning by Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, that the English legal system was facing a ‘ticking time bomb’ in its failure to recruit judges, Scottish Legal News can reveal that Scotland too is facing such a crisis with top quality candidates spurning elevation to the bench.
Our enquiries among leading QCs found that most had no appetite to become judges citing hostile media coverage, lack of respect for the judiciary, relatively modest pay and pension packages, a backlog of distressing child sex abuse cases and concerns over judicial independence as well as the isolation and strenuous work load.
When incentives to enter a profession drop, the number of people seeking that profession drop as well.
Following a surge of acid-throwing attacks across the United Kingdom, courts across England and Wales are asking visitors to take a sip from any bottles they bring into the courthouse. There are already reports of long security lines at one courthouse that has implemented the new policy.