No Judge who is corrupt, who condones corruption in others, can possibly remains on the Bench.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

'Farm Team’

Substitute judges academy assembles candidates for future seats on the bench.
By Michael Lee PopeThursday, July 01, 2010

Imagine the scenario. You are sitting as a substitute judge and a prosecutor slams a code book down while making a dramatic point in a drunk-driving case. Do you fine her? What if some guy is hot under the collar about a traffic ticket and wants to use the courtroom as a forum to tell off the cop in public. What do you do?
Judging is full of lightning-speed judgments, often with tremendous consequences. That’s why Alexandria General District Court Chief Judge Becky Moore created the Substitute Judges Academy, inviting top lawyers from across the commonwealth to the city courthouse on King Street.
Described by one speaker as the "farm team" of candidates for future seats on the bench, participants swapped horror stories from the courtroom, learned about new laws that go into effect July 1 and sung Happy Birthday to the undisputed legal dean of Alexandria, Judge Daniel Fairfax O’Flaherty.
"Substitute judges with judicial education are better prepared to serve well in court," said Moore, who hosted the first substitute judges academy back in January. "I think it’s important to have as much judicial education for the substitute judges as possible."Lesson one: Learn the law. And starting this week, there are a whole lot of new ones. It’s part of the annual ritual in Virginia, when the actions of the General Assembly session earlier in the year becomes the law of the land.
Starting this week, sending spam e-mail messages is a crime and community centers are now considered gang-free school zones.
One of the more challenging new laws for the courts to consider is a new code section that outlaws sending obscene text messages."I think that one is probably unconstitutional," said attorney David Oblon, whose law partners include House Majority Leader Moran Griffith (R-8) and House Courts of Justice Chairman David Albo (R-42).
Oblon spoke to the institute about the raft of new laws, touring a legal landscape that included everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. Wearing a mask during the commission of a felony is now a crime, although cold weather is not one of the considerations that should be taken into account. People can carry concealed weapon into bars, although they are not allowed to drink while packing heat. Then there’s a host of new exemptions that Oblon called "exemption creep," including allowing people with suspended licenses to drive to church and adding the death penalty for those who kill a fire marshal and auxiliary police officers."This is death-penalty creep because every other group is going to step forward and say they deserve the exemption," said Oblon. "I would expect to see more of this in the future."SOMETIMES SPLIT-SECOND judicial decision-making can have drastic consequences for years and decades to come. Attorney Jim Clark recalled a routine marijuana case where the defendant wanted to waive counsel. He figured a night or two in jail was the path of least resistance, but Clark warned the pinch-hitting courthouse gang to consider the bigger picture."Gee, maybe I don’t have to tell my parents," Clark recalled the defendant explaining. "That can come back to haunt people 10 years later."Sometimes, judges make the wrong decision. This is what happed several years ago in Alexandria, when a teacher was killed after a protective order was denied. Commonwealth’s Attorney S. Randolph Sengel told the institute participants that nobody wants to see their name in a headline as the judge who released a defendant on bond before he commits a murder."The most serious cases are the easiest to figure out. The more difficult cases are not as serious ones, like petty larceny or trespass," said the elected prosecutor. "I think a healthy dose of common sense carries the day."Moore spoke to the institute about ethics in the courtroom, presenting a series of situations that the group is likely to consider while wearing the robe. Human nature being what it is, Moore said, Virginia’s courtrooms are full of boorish behavior and short-tempered litigants. She suggested de-escalating tense situations by taking a break or lowering the volume."I’ve noticed that the quieter I get," she said, "the more well-behaved they become."