Federal judge’s emails lead court of appeals to vacate prison sentence

A federal judge who sentenced a drug defendant to more than 17 years in prison should have recused himself because his email communications with the U.S. attorney’s office “invited doubt about his impartiality,” a federal appeals court has ruled.

The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that cocaine defendant James Atwood of Kankakee, Illinois, is entitled to be resentenced before a new judge. Illinois Times and the News Gazette have coverage.

The judge who sentenced Atwood is U.S. District Judge Colin Bruce of Urbana, Illinois. He has communicated with the U.S. attorney’s office in more than 100 emails since taking the bench, according to the appeals court. The emails were ex parte, meaning defense lawyers were not included in the communications.

via ABA Journal Daily News https://ift.tt/1jXmrxS

October 31, 2019 at 04:03PM

Federal judge reprimanded for ‘very serious’ long-term misbehavior involving employees and felon

A federal judge in Kansas has been publicly reprimanded for sexually harassing court employees, having an extramarital relationship with a convicted felon on probation and being late for court engagements.

The Judicial Council of the 10th Circuit publicly reprimanded U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia of Kansas City, Kansas, in a Sept. 30 order, report Law.com, Bloomberg Law, the New York Times, the Topeka Capital-Journal and the Kansas City Star.

Murguia is an appointee of President Bill Clinton. His sister is a judge on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and was also appointed by Clinton, according to Law.com.

The judicial council said a public reprimand was the most severe sanction available to it. “Although we appreciate the public reprimand may cause embarrassment to the judiciary, misconduct that rises to this level calls for transparency and a powerful disincentive,” the council said.

Murguia’s conduct was “very serious and occurred over a lengthy period,” the council said.

The judicial council said, however, that the evidence and facts were insufficient to recommend impeachment.

According to the judicial council opinion, Murguia:

• Gave “preferential treatment and unwanted attention to female employees of the judiciary in the form of sexually suggestive comments, inappropriate text messages, and excessive, non-work-related contact, much of which occurred after work hours and often late at night.”

The judicial council said the harassed employees were reluctant to tell Murguia to stop his conduct because of his power as a federal judge, though one finally did so. Murguia continued the behavior nonetheless.

• Had a years-long relationship with a felon, convicted of state-court crimes, who was using drugs and on probation. The felon is back in prison for probation violations.

Whether a judge’s affair, even with a felon, is misconduct depends on the circumstances, the judicial council said. In this case, “Judge Murguia placed himself in such a compromised position” that he was at risk of extortion, the order said.

• Was habitually late for court proceedings and meetings for years, partly because of regularly scheduled lunchtime basketball games. Murguia’s tardiness often required attorneys, parties and juries to wait, and sometimes made attorneys late for proceedings in other courtrooms.

Murguia was counseled about his tardiness fairly early in his judicial career “but his conduct persisted nevertheless,” the judicial council said.

Murguia had admitted to the misconduct, apologized for his behavior and promised to stop.

When he was first confronted with the allegations, however, Murguia “did not fully disclose the extent of his misconduct,” the judicial council said. “He tended to admit to allegations only when confronted with supporting documentary evidence. His apologies appeared more tied to his regret that his actions were brought to light than an awareness of, and regret for, the harm he caused to the individuals involved and to the integrity of his office.”

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson, chief judge of the Kansas court, told the New York Times that several judges in the district had reported “concerns and allegations” about Murguia. An investigation followed in which a special committee of five judges interviewed 23 people. The judicial council, made up of seven district and circuit court judges, adopted the special committee’s conclusions about the three types of misconduct.

Murguia emailed a statement to the New York Times. “I accept responsibility for my inappropriate actions,” he told the newspaper. “I publicly apologize to the victims and to the other members of my staff for the impact my conduct has had on them.”

“My actions have not and will not interfere with the fair administration of justice,” he said. “I continue to strive to be a responsible person and employer.”

Murguia also apologized to his colleagues, former wife, family and friends in a statement to the Kansas City Star. Murguia and his wife divorced in 2018, according to the newspaper.

By Debra Cassens Weiss

via ABA Journal Daily News https://ift.tt/1jXmrxS

October 1, 2019 at 11:28AM

Judge: Murder Trial Testimony ‘Is Beginning To Get Me Horny’

While this sounds like a discarded line from an episode of USA’s Silk Stalkings, this is unfortunately something an actual judge said in an actual case that resulted in a 35 year sentence for murder.

Judge Carlisle Greaves, who has since retired, made the remarks during the trial of Khyri Smith-Williams for the 2011 killing of Colford Ferguson. As Legal Cheek tells us, citing a Royal Gazette report, this all came to light in an appeal brought by Smith-Williams challenging the conviction on the grounds that the judge acted inappropriately.

The remark came while a witness explained that he had shared former sex partners with the defendant. On appeal, appellate judge Sir Maurice Kay delivered the understatement of the century:

In particular, his comment ‘all this sex is beginning to get me horny’ was inappropriate and inimical to the dignity of court proceedings.

The attorney for Smith-Williams raised more concerns about the testimony this specific witness got away with:

Lynch also raised concerns over how Greaves conducted himself during Harris’ evidence, arguing he had not done enough to “censure” Harris’ use of inappropriate language. In transcripts submitted to the court, Harris swears repeatedly and refers to other people involved in the case as “f*****t” and “f***ing p***y”.

This is a fun game of Wheel of Fortune. I need three letters and a vowel — see if you can sound it out.

Ultimately, the court upheld the conviction, determining that the language was just a byproduct of “serious criminal trials” in Bermuda involve judges conducting hearings “in an informal way, often using casual language and rich metaphors” and that the judge’s bid to turn the trial into a snuff film review didn’t impact the case. At the risk of further triggering Judge Greaves, the latter’s a little hard to swallow. It’s hard to have much confidence in a the solemnity of a murder trial when judges are cracking jokes about key witness testimony. Night Court was a comedy because it was a steady stream of solicitation cases — Harry Stone juggling wouldn’t have played as well if he guest starred on Law & Order.

Even if the remark was a harmless error vis a vis the result, Bermuda should redo the trial to repair any doubts over the sanctity of its judicial system.

And, yes, I realize Judge Greaves is snickering “you said tittie.”

Bermuda judge criticised for saying murder trial was making him ‘horny’ [Legal Cheek]

Headshot Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above

the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.

via Above the Law https://abovethelaw.com

September 19, 2019 at 11:27AM

Indictment Sought for Georgia Judge Over Court Computer Hack

A special prosecutor is going to a grand jury today to seek the indictment of Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader over allegations she allowed a convicted child molester to access her court computer, according to District Attorney Danny Porter.

The unusual case began in February, when Schrader contacted private investigator T.J. Ward to look into whether Porter had hacked her computer.

Ward had one of his technicians install a device called a WireShark on her computer. The device lets its user monitor activity on a computer network. Ward recruited Kramer, who co-founded Dragon Con and was later convicted of child molestation, to analyze its findings.

Porter, who denied hacking the judge’s computer, asked the GBI to investigate the possible breach of the county’s computer system when apprised of the monitoring. He also recused from the investigation into Schrader’s activities and filed a motion asking her to recuse from any cases his office is prosecuting.

September 18, 2019 at 02:48PM

Judge who posted noose photo on Facebook resigns and agrees to never again seek judicial office

By Debra Cassens Weiss

September 17, 2019, 11:37 am CDT

A town justice in New York has resigned and agreed to never again seek judicial office after he posted a picture of a noose on Facebook to make a point about the need for harsh punishment.

Kyle Canning, a justice of the Altona Town Court in Clinton County, New York, was accused in a May 7 ethics complaint of posting the noose image along with the caption, “If we want to make America great again we will have to make evil people fear punishment again.” The Albany Times Union and the Washington Post coverage.

Robert Tembeckjian, the administrator of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, said in a Sept. 17 press release that the image harmed public confidence in the courts.

“The noose is an incendiary image with repugnant racial connotations.” Tembeckjian said. “It is the very antithesis of law and justice. For a judge to use the image of the noose in making a political point undermines the integrity of the judiciary and public confidence in the courts.”

The photo and caption, posted in February 2018, were visible to the public. Canning removed the post in August 2018 after receiving a letter from the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

The commission said it has closed the ethics proceeding against Canning as a result of his resignation and his stipulation that he would not seek judicial office in the future.

In his June 27 resignation letter, Canning told the Altona town supervisor he was resigning “with a sense of despair” after a formal ethics complaint was filed against him by the judicial conduct commission.

“I feel as though, due to my current financial situation and obligations to my family, I am being coerced into resigning. So effective immediately I will be vacating the office of town justice,” Canning wrote in the letter.

Canning had been a town justice since January 2018. He is not a lawyer.

via ABA Journal Daily News https://ift.tt/1jXmrxS

September 17, 2019 at 12:54PM

Criminal defense attorney and judge settle suit over alleged retaliation involving recording

By Amanda Robert


A Houston criminal defense attorney who recorded a Galveston County judge saying he “overworks” cases and lacks experience has settled his lawsuit against the judge.

In March 2018, Andrew Willey sued Judge Jack Ewing of the Galveston County Court at Law No. 3 for allegedly retaliating against him by refusing to appoint him to cases. His lawsuit also sought to challenge Galveston County’s system of appointing attorneys for indigent clients charged with crimes, a process that judges control under state law, the Houston Chronicle reports.

“Experts argue this creates pressure to resolve cases based on expediency rather than justice and inhibits lawyers from advocating too vigorously for their clients for fear of retaliation from judges eager to clear their dockets,” according to the Houston Chronicle.

In the lawsuit, Willey accused Ewing of reducing payment requests for work on behalf of two clients charged with misdemeanors in 2015 and 2016. Willey told Ewing that he was concerned about the lack of resources for appointed attorneys in Galveston and learned later that Ewing had removed him from a case.

This was a violation of the Galveston County Indigent Defense Plan, which requires that “the attorney representing the defendant at jail docket is appointed to represent the defendant in the pending criminal matter until final resolution of the case,” according to the Houston Chronicle. Only a majority vote of the Criminal Courts Board can remove an attorney from a case.

Willey claimed in his lawsuit that Ewing’s clerk told him he was removed because the judge was upset with Willey regarding “something that happened in the jail docket.” Willey then recorded a July 2016 meeting with the judge, who told Willey he would reappoint him to the case. He never did, leading Willey to file a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct in July 2017.

The commission found that Ewing’s actions “did not rise to the level of sanctionable misconduct.”

According to the settlement, Willey and Ewing will “abide by a rotating court appointment system through which attorneys are appointed in a fair, nondiscriminatory manner set by the Texas Fair Defense Act and by the Galveston County Indigent Defense Plan,” the Houston Chronicle says.

via ABA Journal Daily News http://bit.ly/1jXmrxS

April 23, 2019 at 05:22PM

Boston Judge, Ex-Court Officer Charged With Obstructing ICE Arrest

John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse in Boston. April 3, 2019. – Photo: Jack Newsham/ALM

A Massachusetts district court judge and trial court officer were indicted today in federal court for their alleged involvement in preventing a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer from taking custody of a fugitive alien charged with narcotics possession.

Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph, 51, who has been on the bench for a year-and-a-half, and Wesley MacGregor, 56, a former court officer, each were indicted on one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and two counts of aiding and abetting obstruction of justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston announced.

MacGregor was also charged with one count of perjury, U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling said in a release.

Prosecutors allege that Joseph helped the defendant, who was twice deported from the U.S., evade ICE custody by having MacGregor escort him and his attorney through the back door of the courthouse while the ICE officer waited in the lobby.

Joseph’s attorney, Douglas S. Brooks of LibbyHoopes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Defense counsel information for MacGregor was not immediately available.

In a statement, Lelling said the case boiled down to upholding the rule of law.

“The allegations in today’s indictment involve obstruction by a sitting judge, that is intentional interference with the enforcement of federal law, and that is a crime,” Lelling said. “We cannot pick and choose the federal laws we follow, or use our personal views to justify violating the law. Everyone in the justice system—not just judges, but law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and defense counsel—should be held to a higher standard. The people of Massachusetts expect that, just like they expect judges to be fair, impartial and to follow the law themselves.”

Todd M. Lyons, acting field office director of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations in Boston, suggested in a statement that Joseph’s actions were politically motivated.

“The actions of the judge in this incident are a detriment to the rule of law and highly offensive to the law enforcement officers of ICE who swear an oath to uphold our nation’s immigration laws,” Lyons said. “In order for our criminal justice system to work fairly for all people, it must be protected against judicial officials who would seek to replace the implementation of our laws with their own ideological views or politically-driven agenda.”

If convicted on the most serious charges, Joseph and McGregor each face maximum sentences of up to 25 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000, according to the release.

via Law.com – Newswire https://www.law.com/

April 25, 2019 at 02:36PM

Judge Learns The Hard Way — Being A Judge Doesn’t Help When You Crash Into A Police Car

Knock on wood, I’ve never been in a car crash with a police car, but I have to imagine, if I did my interactions with the po-po would be conciliatory. That stance would be supercharged if said police vehicle was stopped at a red light and the accident — minor though it may be — was because I rear-ended the cops because I didn’t think they were accelerating at the newly turned green light fast enough.

That’s a lesson Bronx acting state Supreme Court justice Shari Michels isn’t likely to forget soon. According to a report for the New York Law Journal, she was publicly sanctioned for throwing her title around after hitting a police van filled with officers on their way to an assignment at Yankee Stadium. Fortunately, there was no property damage or injuries from the incident, but that doesn’t mean Michels gets to pretend it didn’t happen:

When the officer driving the van approached Michels, she allegedly immediately told him she was a judge and that there was no damage to either vehicle. She told the officer that since the accident was blocking traffic and no harm was done, they should “just keep it moving,” according to the commission.

The officer took down her information and told her that they had to do an accident report because a police vehicle was involved, but Michels continued to try and persuade the officers that a report wasn’t necessary because there were no injuries or damage, the commission said.

At the New York Commission on Judicial Conduct hearing on the incident, Michels appeared to finally understand that maybe acting like a big shot wasn’t the most prudent course of action:

At a hearing on the commission’s investigation, Michels said she repeatedly identified herself as a judge so the police officers would be convinced she wasn’t going to flee the accident if they allowed her to move her vehicle so traffic could continue. She said she regretted the behavior and acknowledged that identifying herself as a judge “could be perceived as even threatening.”

Though Michels was only hit with the commission’s lowest possible sanction, there are still real consequences, including a demotion. The commission said it was likely that her status as an acting state Supreme Court justice would be revoked for two years, bumping her back down to New York City Criminal Court judge. The final decision on that will be delayed until after a criminal case she is currently presiding over in Bronx Supreme Court concludes.


Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, and host of The Jabot podcast. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).

via Above the Law https://abovethelaw.com

January 14, 2019 at 01:50PM

Ex-judge who posed as ‘Don Tequila’ sentenced to 6 years in online revenge case

By Debra Cassens Weiss


A former judge in Galveston County, Texas, has been sentenced to six years in prison for posting fake ads for sex using photos and phone numbers of two former girlfriends.

Former judge Christopher Dupuy had used the name “Don Tequila” to buy the ads. He was sentenced on Wednesday for two counts of online impersonation after jurors found guilt earlier in the day, report the Houston Chronicle and the Galveston County Daily News.

Dupuy was sentenced to six years in prison on each count, to run concurrently.

The ads, posted in late 2014, had included language like “very fetish friendly,” according to the Houston Press.

It’s not Dupuy’s first run-in with the law.

Dupuy was elected to the bench in 2010 when he ran against the judge handling his divorce case, according to prior coverage by the Houston Chronicle. He resigned in 2013 after he was charged with lying under oath and abuse of office. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in that case and was sentenced to two years of deferred adjudication.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct reprimanded Dupuy in 2014, saying he bullied and retaliated against four attorneys who filed complaints against him, according to another Houston Chronicle story. The commission also said Dupuy lied under oath about owning a silencer during child custody hearings with his ex-wife, and harassed and bullied county officials, according to the Houston Press.

Dupuy had been jailed for 11 months after the online impersonation charges were filed in 2015. He was released after a Galveston County judge ruled in 2016 that the online impersonation statute was unconstitutionally overbroad.

The lawyer who sprung Dupuy from jail, Mark Bennett, had argued that using another person’s persona is a long-held tradition. He pointed to comedians such as Chevy Chase, who played President Gerald Ford on Saturday Night Live. When someone uses another person’s identity to cause harm, the proper remedy is a defamation suit, he said.

A Texas appeals court reversed in August 2017, citing an appeals court decision reached a few months after the trial judge ruled. The prior appellate decision, Stubbs v. State, had held that the statute “was not facially overbroad.”

Dupuy had resigned his law license in January 2017. The online harassment case was reopened against Dupuy a year later.

Police found Dupuy hiding in an attic when they arrested him in August 2018 after receiving a complaint from another woman. She alleged that Dupuy had threatened to kill her and called her 200 times in one night. That case is pending.

Prosecutor Adam Poole told the Houston Chronicle that the conviction closes another chapter in the saga.

“It’s just been a really long time in coming, but hopefully he is done with Galveston County now,” Poole said.

via ABA Journal Daily News http://bit.ly/1jXmrxS

January 10, 2019 at 03:11PM

Judge Tells Black Defendant That The N-Word Isn’t Offensive Because He Was Never A Slave

Little in this world is as straightforward as the rules surrounding the use of the n-word. If you’re not black… you don’t get to say it. We’ve even got an app for that!

Despite this clarity, we white people are always trying to make new rules for it. “Some black people use the word!” Sure. As part of a linguistic reclaiming, it’s a term available to black people. Other black people still choose not to use it. The key to this “confusion” around the word is that black people have the option to work this out for their own lives and don’t need white people trying to figure it out for them.

White people like Cook County Judge Richard D. Schwind.

Read more…