Cases of Prejudice in My Court

Court Case Friday

(“Juneteenth” Weekend)

Bad news – good news.  The bad news is that I have witnessed overt racial and ethnic prejudice in my courtroom.  The good news is that, during my 33 years on the bench, it has occurred only a few times among thousands of cases.  

Case One – The Jewish Landlord

My first experience with courtroom prejudice was when I was a brand-new judge. The African American defendant was being sued for failure to pay rent. She yelled at the plaintiff landlord, “You’re nothing but a G—D—- greedy Jew!” I nipped that in the bud very quickly.

Case Two – The Vietnamese Driver

Another episode occurred during jury selection in an auto accident civil trial. The accident took place in “Little Saigon” in Westminster. One of the drivers was a Vietnamese immigrant.

 A prospective jurors blurted out: “I live in Westminster.  I don’t know what the problem is with Vietnamese drivers.  They’re terrible!  I guess they couldn’t make the transition from riding 4 legged water buffaloes to driving 4 wheeled cars.” Obviously, he was excused.

Case Three – The Neo-Nazi Defendant

I had a Neo-Nazi in custody in the “cage” in my courtroom. He was charged with several felony hate crimes.  His head, neck, and arms were decorated with professional-quality racist tattoos.

I appointed the Public Defender to represent him. Coincidentally, the Public Defender assigned to my court was African American. (Karma) The defendant freaked out.  He immediately started yelling, “I don’t want a f— N—- representing me!”  He continued to spew racist language.  When he finally ran out of words, I asked the Public Defender, “Would you like to respond?”  He replied, “I cannot represent this defendant.  I have a conflict of interest.” 

So, I relieved the Public Defender and appointed the Alternate Public Defender.  Coincidentally, the Alternate Public Defender assigned to my court was Jewish and he wore a yarmulka. (Karma) Again, the defendant yelled, “I don’t want a f— Jew!” He continued to regurgitate anti-Semitic slurs.  When he stopped, I asked the attorney, “Would you like to be heard?”  “Yes.  I have no problem representing the defendant.  I don’t have to like my clients to represent them.”  I said to the defendant, “Very well.  You will be represented by Mr. S—-.  If you want another attorney, feel free to hire one – at your own expense.” His liberty was in the hands of a Jewish lawyer.

Case Four – The Prejudiced Judge?

An African American young man appeared in my court on a criminal motion.  He represented himself (mistake).  He had brought the same legal motion several times in front of other judges, and each time his motion was denied.

I finally said, “Your motion is denied with prejudice.”  (“With prejudice” is a legal term for finality.  It means the defendant cannot bring the same motion in court again. Of course, he could appeal my ruling.)

The angry defendant stormed into the Public Defender’s Office demanding to file a complaint against a racist judge.  

PD: “Which judge?”

Def: “Judge London.” 

PD: “I don’t believe it.  Not Judge London.”

Def: “But he said he was prejudiced against me.”

The Public Defender called my clerk to find out what happened.  She explained that I had denied the defendant’s repeated motion, “With prejudice.” He laughed and explained to the angry defendant what that meant.

* On June 19, 1865, the enslaved African Americans in Texas finally learned of emancipation. “Juneteenth” has become a federal holiday – “Juneteenth National Independence Day.” It is also known as “Jubilee Day,” “Emancipation Day,” “Freedom Day,” and “Black Independence Day.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s