Embarrassing Judges

If you are a practicing lawyer in Maryland, you are going to find this video unbelievably interesting.

Channel 11 goes after two Maryland judges. The piece takes shots at two judges, one who got a DWI and another who, in a very high profile case, married an alleged victim and perpetrator in a domestic violence case.judge3

At first, watching it I got a little worried about these judges being embarrassed over a single incident that shouldn’t be career defining (as George Bush famously pointed out to Dan Rather). But then they pile on some more dirt on these judges and play interviews of these judges who just dig deeper holes for themselves…. it is not pretty. You don’t walk away from the story glad these guys are on the bench. Sure, you leave open the possibility otherwise because you know these pieces can railroad people. Still.

If you have ever been in front of an abusive judge who speaks to you in a way they would never dare speak to a stranger on the street or at a party, you can’t deny a little bit schadenfreude when a judge is exposed. But, in my opinion, Channel 11 goes a little far here. It makes for good television but is probably not the best way to treat judges or people.

I agree with the premise: judges should be more publicly accountable. The story reports on another judge who was allegedly lifting weights and eating during a hearing. We don’t know who the judge is because the disciplinary investigation is anonymous.

But this piece paradoxically proves that just making all allegations against judges in public carries with it a lot of byproducts that might not be best for consumption by the general public and news media. What is the correct balance between transparency and protecting the privacy of judges? I don’t know.

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