Friday, September 7, 2007

What would Judge Andrews do? Here's what . . .

"If that had been my wife, I'd have beaten the hell out of you."

That's what Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Steven N. Andrews said a few days ago while sentencing a man who crashed a wedding reception and groped a female partygoer's breasts, according to a report in the Oakland Press.

It was quite a scene at the reception. Someone called the cops to break up the resulting fight. The guy's pants went down three times in front of a police dashboard camera's unblinking eye.

The tape, with a strategically placed blur, probably would be great stuff for one of those voyeuristic TV police-video shows.

The prosecutor said the man was "mumbling" and "extremely intoxicated." Defense counsel blamed the dropped trousers on a broken waistband button. He said his client doesn't remember any of it.

The man pleaded no contest to indecent exposure, aggravated assault and disorderly conduct. Judge Andrews ordered a two-month work-release jail term, 18 months of probation, no drinking, and $1,100 in costs and fines.

Perpetrator caught. Plea taken. Sentence imposed. A few chuckles, perhaps, for those who saw the tape. So far, so good.

But what about Judge Andrews' statement about how he would have reacted if his wife were the assault victim?

It's one thing when you're sitting around the dinner table with friends and family and say, "I'll tell you what, sweetheart of mine, if that guy would have touched you, I would've knocked him into next Tuesday."

But there is a big problem when judges say such things in open court.

There's a standard of conduct that's expected in Canon 3(A)(3) of the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct.

The way I read that standard, it comes down to this: when you're wearing the robe, you should keep your cool on the outside and your anger to yourself.


Marcia said...

What a great new feature for Lawyers Weekly! For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of reading Ed Wesoloski's MLW news articles and columns from the 1990's, you are in for a treat; Ed is a fine writer and thoughtful long-time observer of the Michigan legal community. Looking forward to more of your posts, Ed!

Anonymous said...

If those rules aren't constitutional as they pertain to lawyer's comments regarding judges (and according to the Eastern District of Michigan, they're not), then they aren't constitional as they pertain to judge's comments regarding litigants. I have no problem with Judge Andrew's saying what he did.

Ed Wesoloski said...

The constitutional point is well-taken. But should it be a verbal free-for-all in the courtroom? Order and respect for all, from everyone involved, is what separates the courtroom from the rabble in a beer-hall parking lot.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't sound like a "free for all." It sounds like a man who is expressing what many people would feel. I don't mind having a judge like that -- he did not, for example, require the defendant to perform some menial labor (such as cleaning a monument with a toothbrush in the rain). Would it have been ok if Judge Andrews had just said "boy, you're lucky it wasn't my wife" and left the rest unsaid?

Anonymous said...

There is quite a bit of information on regarding Oakland County Judges, including Judge Andrews. Personally, I have never been in his courtroom, but at our courtwatcher meetings, he is often discussed.

Copy over and paste these links to see what others think about this judge and it is not good.

Matthew said...

I have been in Judge Andrews court many times. He is one of the most well reasoned, thoughtful and strait forward judges you will ever meet. For those of us that were not in the courtroom during this exchange, it is impossible to say what tone of voice was used, or how the Defendant was reacting to the court proceedings. Knowing Judge Andrews, I am sure he was simply stating what every person in the courtroom was feeling and thinking. Looking at the sentence, it does not seem excessive and there is no evidence that Judge Andrews let any emotion cloud his judgment.

Ed Wesoloski said...

Thanks for your comment, Matt, and for the reminder that context is important. And you're right, as sentences go, it could have been a lot worse.
But even if delivered in the most calm, level-headed fashion it still strikes me as unseemly that a judge, even if saying what everbody is silently thinking, would say something like this at all.
Again, thanks for taking the time to post.

Anonymous said...

Judge Andrews will rot in hell, he is mean and unfair... don't let this hype fool you. He has put several young people behind bars for lengthy periods when he could have gotten them help instead.