Law: Ring Ring

November 29, 2007

Today while surfing CNN I came across this article about a judge gone bonkers.

When I first read it, I was thinking “there has to be more to this story” because no judge would actually outright send a whole room to jail over a cellphone.  Was I ever wrong.

When I looked around for more details, and the more I looked around, the worse the situation seemed.  First, this judge didn’t just send everybody in the room to jail.  The judged called everybody up, asked them about it, and proceeded to enter judgment.  The details I have read don’t even make it clear if they were sent to jail with a charge RELATED to the cell phone, or if he entered stricter punishment on their action domestic violence charges because of the phone going off. 

Here is a another take on the story coming from the NYT: 

After a brief recess, Judge Restaino returned to the bench and asked the defendant who had been standing before him when the phone rang — from the back of the room — and if he knew whose phone it was.

“No,” the defendant, Reginald Jones, said. “I was up here.”

Nonetheless, the judge scrapped plans to release Mr. Jones, set bail at $1,500 and sent him into custody. He was the first of 46 defendants to be sent into custody because of what could be called the case of the ringing cellphone.”

Even more peculiar about the case is the judges reaction to the complains of defendants.  When one defendant complained that what was happening wasn’t fair to the rest of the people sentenced, the just said “I know” and when somebody said “this ain’t right, this ain’t right at all” the judge said “you’re right, this ain’t right.”  WHAT THE HECK?  It almost sounds like the judge knows he was going crazy but continued to do it! 

Anyway, as you can see, sanctions were swift and harsh for this judge, and I have to say, I think he completely deserved it.   I hope, in the interest of justice, all of these people get the opportunity to b resentenced if they were actually punished on the merits.

Question for my torts professor Monday:  Are there any immunities provided for judges against tort suites for false imprisonment stemming from a gross abuse of discretion?  My guess is he is protected, but I am curious to find out.

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