Chad Johnson did NOT deserve thirty days in jail for this....

Don't take my man card for this, but I'm not a sports fan.  I never have been.  I could care less who is in the NFL, who's playing whom---whatever---just not my thing.  But I read on the news yesterday that former NFL star Chad Johnson is going to jail for thirty days.  

The judge was some woman who had just accepted a plea deal worked out regarding him violating his probation.  She had already read him his new conditions (community service, three more months of probation), and asked him if he had any questions.  She concluded by commending his attorney to him.

At that point, he fraternally (an appreciatively) reached over and patted his attorney on the butt, and said "good job"--you can see him mouthing the words.  This provoked some laughter in the courtroom, but it's obvious from the footage that this was the equivalent of pat on the back or a thumbs up, with no disrespect for the procedure intended (see below):

This is so ridiculous that it's beyond belief.  The judge quite obviously was miffed about the laughter, but even a casual observer can see that he was not being flip or trying to "entertain" the courtroom--it was an honest (if slightly too casual) effort to thank his attorney.  If "Her Honor" can't control her emotional reactions and discern intents any better than this, then I don't think she belongs on the bench "playing God", as it were, with people's lives.  A judge is supposed to make rulings based on justice, public safety, and what is truly warranted, not based on being in a cranky mood at the moment or having a disdain for gestures of male camaraderie (which is what this is).  We've got some serious flaws in our system that need to be fixed--and things like this make that glaringly apparent. 

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Did he deserve 30 days in jail for head-butting his wife?

What fixes do you propose? End discretion in the criminal justice system, with mandatory prosecutions and mandatory sentences? No more female judges? All paper trials - no live hearings - so there can be no emotional out bursts? Closed courtrooms (fewer people, fewer and smaller disruptions)?

I do hate it when someones background or environment is brought up to justify someones actions that resulted in harm, violence or destruction.

In this case however nobody was harmed, humiliated or even bothered except for the judge. People express emotions in different ways and he expressed emotion in his way without any negative impact on anyone else. Total over reaction by the judge.

My questions were sincere, not rhetorical. I carefully didn't express an opinion on the latest ruling.

OP is complaining about something deep in the criminal justice system. You can't change this ruling without changing how probation and courtrooms operate. So, what exactly needs to change? I asked questions to figure out how he proposes to fix the problem. After all, isn't that what men do when they find a problem?

Now stating my opinion, I agree the incident should have been handled through the civil contempt process, not the criminal justice process. But from what I've read, he's served no time for domestic battery, and had at the time of this hearing attended no ordered anger-management classes. That shows problems with the system, too.

[Also, it looks like he's got a cause of action against the great lawyer. He wouldn't have had a hearing on violating probation at all if the lawyer had examined the original probation order.]

"defendant's background in sports" - The judge may have been unaware of the defendant's profession. It's irrelevant to the rulings. You also can't run any kind of justice system on such individualized standards.

I've been involved in cases with immigrants who come from cultures where appointments are not kept with precision. Should they be allowed to show up to court 40 minutes late to account for their background?

There are all sorts of professions where calling out of turn is part of the job - stock traders, antique dealers - should they be allowed to disrupt courtrooms because of their "backgrounds"?

Less seriously: Senior trial attorneys are used to being in charge. Should they be allowed to control courtrooms because being in control is their professional background? The reality is, at a trial with experienced counsel, most of the judge's task is controlling the attorneys.

Todd says the problem is with the "system." If you think the problem is this one judge, then the outraged citizens of her jurisdiction should write to their elected representatives to begin the impeachment process.

More honest questions. I'm sincerely interested in the thoughts of people who don't work in courtrooms.

What do mean "defend"? My comments here (and others like them all over the country)? A difficult disciplinary/removal process?

I have no idea how judicial appointments work for this judge. Of course, classically in this country, judges are appointed by an executive and serve as long as they want unless impeached. Thus my recommendation. Today, a lot of trial judges are elected. Or they may be recruited through a civil service process. If you want to change these processes, especially the appointment/impeachment set-up, that's a big systemic and ideological change.

For the third time, I don't. It should have been handled through the civil contempt process, not the criminal justice process.

Wouldn't the hardship depend on the contempt ruling, if there was any?

Did he deserve 30 days in jail for head-butting his wife?

Well, Her Honor didn't seem to think so--she has already accepted the plea agreement and explained the new arrangements.


What fixes do you propose? End discretion in the criminal justice system, with mandatory prosecutions and mandatory sentences? No more female judges?

Rebekah, a man is going to JAIL for THIRTY DAYS...not because he head-butted his wife, and not really even because he violated his probation---those matters were already taken under advisement, and a plea agreement had already been accepted.  He's going to jail simply because an emotionally overwrought judge got worked up about people laughing in her courtroom.  Does that not bother you?  I find that VERY disconcerting.  

I'm not defending Mr. Johnson because of who he is--I could care less.  I'm defending him because I expect judges to be rational.  I expect them to use discretion and good judgment, and to pass rulings based on what is right, not on what may have them ticked off   at the moment.  Rather than asking how to fix the system, I think we need to ask how someone this moody and temperamental winds up on the bench.  It's hard to believe that this is an isolated incident---and I'd say the same thing if a male judge were acting like this.  

Someone wielding this kind of power should not be prone to irrational overreactions, nor should she be given a pass just because it's considered PC to defend women in high- powered positions. 

"how someone this moody and temperamental winds up on the bench"

There are only 3 possibilities - She was appointed; she was elected; she was hired through a civil service process (like public school teachers).

There are 2 general prevention changes that can take place going forward. a) You can change how jurists get the job, or b) you can change how candidates are assessed. If she was appointed, you could switch to electing judges as an example of a. If you like the constitutional/charter system already in place, examples of b would be psych evaluations or personality assessments or mandatory training on the interaction of personal issues on professional practice.

I've said I think the particular incident should have been handled through the civil contempt process, but I also think probation was the wrong initial sentence. A parole arrangement would be better.

That wouldn't have prevented this. There was no finding of contempt.

Also, normal people who've never been there before usually figure out immediately that courtrooms are not the place for "natural" behavior. Officers of the court work very hard to keep this up. I've seen immigrant families literally shaking in their boots while riding the elevator to their hearings before administrative law judges. I've watched giddy, chattering school groups go absolutely hushed as soon as they step foot into the courtroom.

Have I seen 25-year-old clerks on power trips dress down senior attorneys in the right? Yes. Have my clients wasted thousands of dollars because a senior attorney is late to court, or late to file papers, and the court staff refuses to sanction him? Yes, too.


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