Judges “Threatened” by Their Bench Chairs

One of the greatest threats to judges is their own bench chairs.  We judges get very used to our bench chairs. These plush chairs are very comfortable. Since we spend years sitting in the same bench chair, they get to “know” them and their limits.  Occasionally, we go beyond those limits. My "loaner chair" "made … Continue reading Judges “Threatened” by Their Bench Chairs

“Bizarre” Religious Attire in Court

Religious Attire in the Courtroom: The General Rules Judges have broad discretion in establishing rules of practice in their own courtrooms.  This power includes standards of personal appearance and attire.  Sometimes, the judge's dress standards must yield to someone’s sincere religious beliefs.  For example, the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause generally requires the judge to … Continue reading “Bizarre” Religious Attire in Court

“Jesus is My Lawyer”

When criminal defendants appear in my court by themselves, I ask, “Do you have an attorney?” Most defendants request a continuance, so they can hire a lawyer, or they ask me to appoint the public defender to represent them. Occasionally, I get a defendant who stands erect and proudly proclaims, “God is my lawyer!” or … Continue reading “Jesus is My Lawyer”

My “Famous” Courtroom Fainting Spell

Vertigo on the Bench One morning I was on the bench with a huge docket of cases. The audience chairs were filled, and the custody cage was full of prisoners. Feeling the back pressure of the caseload I started talking faster and faster. (I was probably hyperventilating.)  All of a sudden, I felt light headed and … Continue reading My “Famous” Courtroom Fainting Spell

Even More “Eccentric” Criminals

The "Comfort Dog" Runs Amok in the Courtroom  A woman came to court carrying a chiwawa “comfort dog.” Our security screeners are hesitant to turn bogus “comfort dogs” away because of liability under the American Disabilities Act. However, the screeners should have alerted my court bailiff and clerks that she was on her way to my … Continue reading Even More “Eccentric” Criminals

The Threat to Murder a Mormon Judge

Years ago, I received a phone call in the middle of the night from the Lieutenant of the Orange County Sheriff’s Judicial Protection Unit (JPU). A jailhouse informant told a jailer that the informant’s associate was going to murder a judge because he was Mormon. The threat was considered credible.  It is widely known among law enforcement … Continue reading The Threat to Murder a Mormon Judge

Heartbreaking Criminal Cases

Some criminal cases are heartbreaking, not because of harm to a victim, but because of the circumstances of the criminal. As a criminal prosecutor and as a judge I have some discretion to “do the right thing.” The WWII Vet Shoplifter As a young criminal prosecutor in the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, I was … Continue reading Heartbreaking Criminal Cases

The Defendant Who Was a God

One afternoon I was arraigning a large group of prisoners in the “cage” in my courtroom. I started advising these defendants of their constitutional rights. One of the women suddenly interrupted me and screamed, “I don’t recognize you.” I thought to myself, “I don’t’ recognize you either.” She continued, “I am a god. I don’t recognize you, … Continue reading The Defendant Who Was a God