We admit that now and then we indulge in a teeny bit of imaginative exaggeration to make a point. We never dreamed that we would be overtaken by of all things, our eyeglazing daily trade paper, the New York Law Journal. After decades of staunchly upholding the finest traditions of legal boringness, it has transformed into a veritable gossip rag about judges. Soon the NYLJ will feature comic strips and a daily horoscope.
Today’s front page features a color photo of a 66-year old upstate judge in a superhero costume perched on a motorcycle. The accompanying story isn’t about judicial hobbies or midlife crisis, but about moonlighting for extra pay to meet the prohibitive cost of living in Onondaga County. “I would kill for a $5 plastic trophy,” his Honor explains.
Another rural judge keeps the wolf from his door by coaching basketball, explaining that he “has been careful to keep his temper in encounters with referees to maintain the dignity of his court.” Here is a typical basketball game at Cooperstown High School:
Referee: (blowing whistle) Foul! You can’t just run across the court with the ball, you have to dribble it!
His Honor: I’m going to allow it. Basketball rules are within my sound discretion. That’s why they call the playing field a court.
Referee: What are you, blind? What are you, nuts? Did you see what that kid just did? He –
His Honor: I’ve made my ruling, let’s go.
(somebody whispers in Referee’s ear)
Referee: (to judge) My mistake, I don’t know what came over me, it won’t happen again.
The stuffy Office of Court Administration rejected the application of Judge Pauline Mullings, who presides over criminal trials in Queens, to make big bucks as a private security guard. OCA, get with the program! Who could be better qualified than Judge Mullings to guard the portals of Duane Read, peer into shopping bags and wrestle with shoplifters?
The NYLJ and Chief Judge Flipman have overlooked the real story here, which is that judges are descending from their thrones and joining the masses in their daily struggle to put food on the table, following the example of the Catholic worker-priests.
The bar should support this movement. Next time you’re in court, ask the judge if he or she is available for babysitting or yard work. It’s the least we can do.