Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Judging the Judge

     An escapade by a magisterial district judge made headlines in the local newspapers, but was probably relegated to page 10 in other areas.
     In Pennsylvania such judges conduct criminal arraignments and preliminary hearings, issue arrest warrants and search warrants in some cases; hear civil disputes involving $8,000.00 or less, and Landlord-Tenant disputes other than matters involving title to real estate; issue temporary Protection from Abuse Act orders; decide traffic, game law, and fish and boat code cases; conduct marriages, administer oaths and affirmations, etc. They are elected for six-year terms, and draw an annual salary of $80K.
     The judge apparently thought it was funny to hand out acorns stuffed with condoms to women near the State Capitol. Two of the women he approached disagreed with his humor, and complained to the Capitol Police. The judge was arrested forthwith and charged with disorderly conduct.
     Resisting the temptation to pass such judgments as “nutty” and “squirrelly,” and refraining with great difficulty from pointing out that the judge's office is located in Intercourse, PA, I will pass on to weightier matters.
     I find it really hard to swallow the idea that the judge was intentionally causing "public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm," the definition of disorderly conduct. And in a culture that has accepted prime-time TV advertising for products such as Viagra, Cialis, feminine hygiene products, etc., I think the ladies greatly overreacted to his “gag.”
     The joke may have been a bit tasteless, but illegal? Come on! He was not causing a problem any more than if he had been handing out advertising fliers or religious tracts.
     Having said that, the “offender” must know that judges generally are held to a higher standard of conduct than most other citizens. He is now subject to anything from a rebuke to loss of his job.
     If I were his boss, I would probably ask him, “What in the hell were you thinking?”
     And here is a bit of advice for the ladies: “Get a life.”
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