Overlawyered had a post about the $51.4 million verdict here in New Orleans involving a street car injuring a young girl. The lead plaintiff’s lawyer was none other than limelight seeking Johnny Cochran, who graciously posed for pictures with the jury after the verdict. If that’s all that happened it would have been perhaps only unseemly; but when the judge joined in the picture taking session in the hallway outside the courtroom “unseemly” might have turned into “unethical.”
Funny, that the word “unethical” should come up. Judge C. Hunter King appeared before the State Supreme Court this past week to plead for a limited suspension of one year (as opposed to permanent removal from the bench). His prior transgression was that he made his staff work on his campaign, and then when a complaint was lodged against him he lied and said he hadn’t forced his staff to do campaign work. A staff member happened to have recorded a conversation with the judge which flatly contradicted the judge’s claim, and he then admitted that he had forced his staff to campaign. Or as local columnist James Gill puts it
“King has admitted coercing his staff into raising money for his re-election, and threatening to make them pay out of their own pockets if they fell short. He fired a court reporter who didn’t co-operate, and then he lied under oath to the Judiciary Commission when she fingered him.”
This transgression came to light (including the part about lying) back in May, but Judge King was still allowed to continue to sit on the bench to hear select cases, including the one that Johnny Cochran tried. You would think that he would have learned his lesson and kept a low profile, at least until after the Supreme Court decided his fate. Apparently not. Which is interesting, because his excuse (er, explanation) to the Supreme Court for his behavior was that he had a “lapse of judgment” and that he has done a lot of “soul searching” and now he’s a changed man.
Apparently he doesn’t see any problem with having his photograph taken with Cochran and the jurors outside his courtroom, though. Okay, let’s be frank. This man doesn’t suffer from “lapses of judgment.” He doesn’t have any judgment to begin with. And judgment is sort of important for people who hold the office of “judge.” So it will be interesting to see what the Louisiana Supreme Court does. To me it’s a no-brainer.