Judges are, by and large, not the flamingos of the justice swamp. Present company excluded, we tend to be temperate, conservative1 and ... well, judicious. For every one of us who wears Hawaiian shirts and cowboy boots to work,2 there are scores wearing rep ties and wing tips. That's just how we are.
It's also how we got here. I've been watching this system for 35 years and I've pretty much concluded that the first question — maybe not the most important one, but the first one — the governor asks about any judicial candidate is, "What are the chances I'll ever see this person's name again if I appoint him/her?" Only if the appointments secretary answers, "Zero. No chance. Zip, zilch, nada, bupkis, ain't gonna happen; fuhgeddaboudit" does the process go any further.
Because unless the appointments secretary can absolutely guarantee the governor that he will never pick up his morning paper and read, "Judge Arrested for Molesting Sheep," or "Local Jurist Marries 13-Year-Old Cousin," the application goes into the round file faster than a gum wrapper. Governors want their judges to "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God," but mostly they just want them to stay out of the headlines.
All of which, of course, makes my own appointment a miracle on the order of Fatima or Lourdes. My name shows up in newspapers and magazines every month. I had already published a book of psychotherapeutic meanderings — like the one you're reading now — by the time I reached Pete Wilson's appointments secretary. I am almost certainly the most over-exposed judge in the history of the state.3 As my colleagues would hasten to point out, I do not fit the profile.
Yet here I am. I can only assume I am a Roman Hruska appointment. You remember Roman Hruska. He was the senator from Nebraska who argued in favor of G. Harrold Carswell's confirmation to the United States Supreme Court on the basis that "Even if he was mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance? We can't all be Brandeises and Cardozos and Frankfurters and stuff like that there."4
I assume John Davies, who has otherwise acquitted himself spectacularly as appointments secretary for two governors, went back into Pete Wilson's office after interviewing me and said, "They can't all be Brandeises and Cardozos and Frankfurters."5
But something about me must have reassured Davies. He required me to submit a copy of my first book while I was under consideration. Having read it, he probably figured I'd already said about all the crazy stuff I could say.6
By and large, though, governors tend to regard a tendency to say crazy stuff as a negative quality in a prospective judge. They're looking not so much for "flamboyant and entertaining" as "Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent." Go figure.7
So it astounds me that there is a publication called ... so help me ... the Judicial Conduct Reporter. You would not think a group of people chosen in large measure for their ability not to crash and burn on the six o'clock news could support a quarterly magazine devoted entirely to cataloguing their sins. But they do.
Honest. I get this thing every three months. It's put out by the American Judicature Society, and exists solely to chronicle the peccadilloes of me and my colleagues, apparently in the futile hope that we will learn from our mistakes.
I'll pause here until you stop laughing at the concept of an educable judge.
Really, I'm not going to continue until you stop.
OK, are you done?
Every quarter the Judicial Conduct Reporter lands on my desk and I put aside whatever I'm working on to read it. Talk about psychotherapy. I start out thinking myself a flawed human being, struggling to get as many right as I can and hoping against hope I won't disappoint the people who put me here. By the time I'm finished, I think I'm ready for the Hall of Fame. Forget Brandeis and Cardozo, I feel like Gandhi. The things other judges are doing make me want to call Davies and ask what took him so long!
Usually the Judicial Conduct Reporters have a theme. Usually it's sexual harassment. Sexual harassment seems to be the judicial equivalent of the common cold. But there are other themes: bullying people, inappropriate gifts, ill-advised charitable activities.
One of my favorites was "Judicial Road Rage." This was a collection of guys8 who didn't just yell at another motorist or flip them off, but had them arrested. These people actually sent their bailiffs out, or called the sheriff, and had motorists whose driving offended them tossed into the hoosegow. Not just one guy who did that, several of them! A gaggle!
At the risk of sounding provincial, most of these do not involve California judges. Whether it reflects strong moral fiber or mere lack of imagination, our judges don't seem as prone to things like making decisions by flipping a coin (summer 2003) or falsely claiming to have won the Medal of Honor (summer 1995).
Nor do we talk to imaginary mystic dwarfs.
Yep. That's what it says: imaginary mystic dwarfs.
Until today, I would not have considered my lack of involvement with imaginary mystic dwarfs a great achievement. Until today, I would not have understood it as a compliment if someone said, "I've got some issues with Bedsworth; about the best thing I can say about him is he doesn't talk to imaginary mystic dwarfs." But today I found out the mystic dwarf thing is grounds for removal of a judge in the Philippines.
According to Reuters, "A Philippine judge who claimed he could see into the future and admitted consulting imaginary mystic dwarfs has asked for his job back after being sacked by the country's Supreme Court."
Wow. I'm too old to use the word "awesome," but I just don't know how else to describe that. As judicial flameouts go, that's Krakatoa. My hat's off to former-Judge Florentino Floro and his ... uh ... staff.
This beats the hell out of anything the Judicial Conduct Reporter's come up with lately. And I just love it. I love it because it appeared when I was right up against my deadline.9 I love it because it makes me feel superior. I love it because I've never previously gotten to type the phrase "imaginary mystic dwarfs." And I love it because the guy is APPEALING!
As near as I can determine, he's making this out to be a freedom of religion issue. He says, "They should not have dismissed me for what I believed." Certainly, I can sympathize with that position. The prospect of judges being removed because of their personal belief systems is anathema to all of us.
But I think once it's established that you, "told investigators that three mystic dwarfs — Armand, Luis and Angel — helped you carry out healing sessions during breaks in chambers," you gotta expect to trudge through a little grief. I mean, these aren't just your ordinary, garden-variety, run-of-the-mill imaginary mystic dwarfs. These are imaginary mystic healing dwarfs!
And you're on a first-name basis with them.
You gotta expect the local bar to be a little leery when you tell 'em, "Counsel, I regret that I cannot grant your motion. But if you'll just step into chambers, me and Luis and Armand will use our mystic powers to cure that arthritic knee of yours."
You've especially gotta expect it if you're able to see into the future. Reuters doesn't elaborate on just what the judge could see in the future — or whether Armand, Luis and Angel were not only mystic and therapeutic, but precognitive as well — but I'm not sure saying you can see into the future requires much elaboration. Certainly it made Judge Floro's future pretty clear.
I have no doubt that if I had told ANY of the lawyers who appeared before me, EVER, that me and the mystic healing dwarfs were gonna cure a little deafness and then go out for a run over the lunch hour and that when we returned we'd have the name of next year's Preakness winner, Davies would have docked me some points.
Certainly the Philippine Supreme Court thinks it lowers your score. Although they were very diplomatic about it. According to Reuters, "The Supreme Court said it was not within its expertise to conclude that Floro was insane, but agreed with the court clinic's finding that he was psychotic."
I'm not sure just what distinction they were drawing here. They may have been saying, "We're not psychiatrists, so we can't say he's gone stark, staring loony tunes on us, but we certainly agree with the doctors who said it." Or they may have concluded that, in today's world, one psychosis hardly differentiates you from the rest of society; it takes at least two or three to qualify for a diagnosis of insanity.
Either way, they confiscated his robe and his ruby slippers and fined him $780.10
And, mirabile dictu, Judge Floro is appealing. I don't have a clue who to.11 Who do you appeal to after the Philippine Supreme Court disrobes you? Seems to me, you and the dwarfs have pretty much topped out when you lose in your nation's supreme court. I can't really see The Hague taking this one on.
But Judge Floro has vowed an appeal, and, since he can see into the future, I have to assume it's gonna come to pass.
And I'm not about to take a chance that I might miss the outcome of this saga. I'm going online as soon as I finish writing this to subscribe to the Philippine Judicial Conduct Quarterly.
Then I'm gonna contact the dwarfs and see if they can do anything about my putting.
1 In the true sense of the word; not the one co-opted by self-serving politicians. back
2 And, come to think of it, there may only be one of us. back
3 “An ill-favoured thing, sir, but mine own.” back
4 Honest; he actually said “stuff like that there” on the floor of the United States Senate. back
5 The words “and like that there” could never come out of John Davies' mouth. Mine, yes; John Davies,' never. back
6 “That, General Napoleon, is the little town of Waterloo; it's of no strategic significance.” back
7 I am, generally, cheerful. back
8 Once again, the other gender lags sadly behind. Very few women make the Judicial Conduct Reporter. Apparently there is a glass floor beneath the glass ceiling. back
9 Deadlines are a ... well, having already used the word “hell” in this column, I'll just let you imagine what I think about deadlines. I don't want to show up in the Judicial Conduct Reporter for profanity. That's like going to hell for a dietary violation. back
10 I have no idea how they came up with $780. Maybe that was the cost of the psychiatric evaluation. After all, it couldn't have taken long. back
11 Yeah, I know the grammar is questionable, but how many times in your life do you get a chance to write six consecutive rhyming words? Go ahead, find six consecutive rhyming words in the works of Oliver Wendell Holmes — either of them — I dare you.back