You Be the Judge: On Those Who Blame for a Living, Restraining Orders, and the Golden Rule

Posted on May 22, 2014

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Restraining order laws authorize lives lived decently to be discredited by judges in minutes, judges who know little or nothing about the people they presume to size up in a glance.

Defendants, men and women from all sectors of the social spectrum, report being made to feel like sex offenders based on knee-jerk character assessments and no certain facts. Parents and spouses are exiled for “offenses” alleged to be domestic violence that besides being unconfirmed may be unworthy of the label. Families are torn to pieces by accusations that may amount to no more than “name-calling, belligerent telephone calls at work, [or] a one-finger salute.”

Judicial partiality in the restraining order arena is coyly called “paternal” by its practitioners. What it’s called by those whose lives are permanently altered by it for the worse is careless, callous, and/or cruel. Allegations that cost people their ambitions, children, life savings, and sanity may be exaggerated, cooked, or spitefully manufactured—sometimes obviously so.

Yet rigid or even scalding denunciations from judges are commonly remarked. Social, political, and professional imperatives encourage and excuse tyrannical conduct from agents of the state who’ve been entrusted with protecting citizens’ civil rights and dignity, and these imperatives and this conduct are overdue for scrutiny, reproof, and realignment.

The superficial standards of arguably ill-conceived laws license neither judicial dereliction nor imperiousness.

Axiomatic in law is that “a judge is not the court.” This recognizes that judges are human beings, subject to foibles and flaws like everyone else, and what the law recognizes, judges must also. They, too, are imperfect parents, spouses, and people.

Here are some recent news stories that should serve as reminders that no one is above a measure of humility:

Judge Charged with Trying to Frame His Love Rival” (2013)

Judge’s Husband Arrested for Domestic Violence” (2009)

Judge Hits Daughter: Caught on Tape” (2011)

Alameda County Judge Charged with Elder Theft” (2013)

Illinois Judge Charged with Possession of Heroin, Guns” (2012)

Judge’s Daughter Wrecks Car, Kills Boyfriend in Drunk Driving Accident…and Sues the Driver That She Hit” (2008)

D.C.’s Top Judge Charged with Wrongdoing” (2014)

Son of Whitestown Judge Charged with Animal Cruelty” (2013)

Judge Charged with Stealing Cocaine from Evidence of Cases He Presided Over” (2013)

Judge’s Wife Suspected of Forgery” (2009)

Broward Judge […] charged with DUI” (2013)

Randolph County Judge Charged with Breaking Court Code because of Affair” (2014)

Judge’s Husband Sentenced for Hitting Her with Frying Pan” (2009)

Superior Court Judge Charged with Extreme DUI” (2012)

Former Philadelphia Judge Charged with Theft, Conflict of Interest” (2014)

Drug Court Judge’s Daughter among 10 Arrested on Pot Charges in Wilmette” (2013)

Federal Judge Charged with DWI, Dash-Cam Video Released” (2014)

Pennsylvania Judge Gets 28 Years in ‘Kids for Cash’ Case” (2011)

Judge’s Wife Makes Opposite Statements” (2011)

Judge’s Property Transaction Leads to a Charge of Fraud” (2013)

Ohio Judge’s Wife Allegedly Poisoned Him with Antifreeze” (2013)

New Orleans Municipal Court Judge’s Wife Arrested after Biting Husband, Threatening Officers” (2014)

Judge’s Son Has Felony Charge Dismissed” (2014)

Texas Judge’s Wife ‘Implicates Him’ in Triple Murder” (2013)

Judge’s Son Pleads Not Guilty to Theft of Drugs” (2013)

If members of the public aren’t to stereotype judges and their families according to such stories—of which the foregoing are but a smattering—then it’s only just that judges be expected to show the strangers who appear before them and whose welfare and prosperity may rest in their hands the same discernment and benefit of the doubt.

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