Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Racism: Reality Bites

One of the things that you do when you're out on family medical leave taking care of your new born is watch a lot of movies (if you're me anyway). I had the pleasure of watching Jaws 1-3 recently. Nothing like an obviously fake shark munching on beach goers to entertain you for awhile. An email I just got from reader Allison (thanks Allison!) reminds me of those movies. Racism is the great white shark of social issues (no pun intended...maybe). Just when you think it's safe to get back in the water, here it comes again..and again..and again:

A piece of general advice for judges, lawyers, presidential candidates, and almost everyone else: avoid using the terms "you people" and "that one." They tend to raise hackles. And get you removed from the bench.

From Courthouse News Service:

The North Carolina Supreme Court removed Judge Mark H. Badgett from the bench after he ordered a Hispanic man accused of domestic violence to pay child support when none was requested, saying "you people always find a way," and, "I don't know how you treat women in Mexico, but here you don't treat them that way."

After defendant Floyd Mandez Carreon objected, Badgett ordered a deputy clerk to take Carreon's wallet from his pocket, hand over $140 in cash to Kathy Mendez Carreon, and let her take down Floyd's Social Security number.

Ordering a deputy clerk to rob a defendant isn't kosher? Another "whoops" moment after the jump.

Badgett made things worse by trying to cover the incident up:

When Badgett found out that the Judicial Standards Commission had ordered an investigation, he talked to the deputy clerk and plaintiff's counsel, suggesting the defendant had been violent and claiming he didn't recall the wallet incident. He told state investigators the same, adding that the defendant was known to carry a gun, that he suspected him of being a gang member based on his appearance, and that the deputy clerk had stood near him at the hearing to ensure safety.

Saying the defendant looked like a gang member probably didn't help Badgett's claim that he was not guilty of racial profiling.

Badgett's website reports that his campaign for re-election is suspended. He writes, "As for the future, my tentative plans are to reopen my law practice or work as a partner in another law firm." We hope he isn't planning on going into immigration law."

My fellow Americans, "I think we need a bigger boat."

Hey reader, any thoughts about race in the courtroom, especially all you lawyers out there?