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Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Judge Who Couldn't Stop Lying

By Nicholas Stix
August 11, 2006
WEBcommentary, Blogcritics, A Different Drummer, etc.

Maybe we ought to make jurists wear see-through robes. There’s something about the combination of wearing a black robe, sitting high above the rest of us, and being addressed as an institution (“the court”), that tends to go to judge’s heads.

One must always keep in mind, when talking about judges, that they are a class dominated by the grimiest political hacks, most of whom owe their positions to party machines and backroom deals, even as they hold forth about “the (political) independence of the judiciary.” They couch the most corrupt and politically partisan decisions in the language of moralistic sanctimony, as if they were speaking from Mount Olympus, rather than from the sewer.

In Friday’s issue of The Australian, a national newspaper down under, the subhead for an op-ed is, “Courts have to depend on lawyers being honest in order for the courts to function properly writes Ysaiah Ross.”

So much for that idea.

When my sister graduated from liar’s school 12 years ago, I congratulated her on stepping up from being an amateur to a professional liar.
As a graduation gift, I presented her with the foundation of all contracts: A baseball bat. (It was a miniature bat, for symbolism’s sake.)
Which brings me to Australian Judge Marcus Einfeld.

Einfeld, a former Federal Court judge who is also “an Officer of the Order of Australia and was voted a Living National Treasure,” has in recent years made a profession of lecturing public officials on honesty and ethics.

Judge Einfeld is what Harry Truman used to a call a “high hat.” A “high hat” is someone who’s got money and influence, and who publicly lectures everyone else on morality, but in private is the best customer at the local bordello. (Those are my words, not those of the old Missouri dirt farmer and failed haberdasher, but I believe they capture Harry’s sentiment.)

In January, Judge Einfeld’s Lexus was photographed speeding, and incurred a ticket for 77 dollars Australian ($100 U.S.). But Judge Einfeld had no intention of paying the ticket. What’s the point of being a judge, even a retired one, much less a Living National Treasure, if you can’t beat a traffic ticket?

Judge Einfeld insisted to Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court that he was not the driver at the time; he’d lent his car to a “friend.” But even if the story were true, it would be irrelevant. If you lend your car out to a girlfriend, and she gets a speeding ticket, you pay the ticket, and then take it up with her. The one thing you may not do is say, ‘Your Honor, the ticket isn’t my fault. You see, I lent my car out, and my girlfriend, she went speeding, and she got the ticket, because she’s a lousy driver, and so, I shouldn’t have to pay the ticket.’

Judges and lawyers hear dumb, convoluted stories like that all the time. Hell, they trade ‘em for laughs at dinner parties!

In 1992, I published a wonderful short story, “Morning in Bond Court,” in my since long-defunct magazine, A Different Drummer. The story, which perfectly balances cynicism, wry humor, and poignancy, by retired Cook County cop Paul Pekin, is based on Paul’s experiences on “the job.”

The narrator is a Cook County cop who spends a day taking various small fry back and forth from the jail to the courthouse for bond hearings. One small-timer in court is a “young black man, greasy upright hair. He stands before the bench, hands behind his back. Maybe he thinks he still has the cuffs on….

“The young man with the ugly hair is charged with stealing eighteen packages of spark plugs from an auto supply shop. Even worse, he failed to appear at his last court date, failed to appear at the date before it, failed to …

“‘I can explain all that. They told me courtroom B and I went there and they said it was someplace else …’

“‘You’re saying you went to the wrong courtroom?’

“‘Six times?’

“Only the young man with the ugly hair fails to be amused. He is led away, frowning. Five thousand dollars bond. That’s a lot of spark plugs.

“Next, we get a redheaded guy with no teeth. Charged with battery.

“‘It’s all her fault, your honor. She makes me go with her to her sister’s, it’s about the money they got for the car, and this guy her sister sold it to gets arrested and his old lady wants her purse back, and that’s when it turns out she’s the one with the …’

“‘You seem to hang out with complicated people,’ the judge says.

“Yes sir, I certainly do.”

“‘Well, you hang around with complicated people, you get complicated results.’

“Bond is twelve hundred dollars and the redhead is taken away.”

Judge Marcus Einfeld has complicated friends, and he tells complicated stories.

His first story was that he had lent out his car to a visiting American professor named Teresa Brennan.

Professor Brennan was hunted down, and found to have died in February 2003, almost three years before she had gone speeding in the judge’s car. Now, that’s one complicated girlfriend.

When the little matter of Prof. Brennan’s being dead was brought up to Judge Einfeld, he had a ready answer: No, no, no, not that dead American Prof. Teresa Brennan, it was a different dead American Prof. Teresa Brennan!

The good judge insisted that his dead American Prof. Teresa Brennan was alive long enough to go speeding in his car, but died shortly thereafter. (From grief over the ticket? Out of shame for having besmirched the ethical jurist and Living National Treasure’s driving record? Due to guilt over having dragged the first dead American Prof. Teresa Brennan’s name through the mud?)

In the meantime, in his scorched earth campaign to beat a 77 dollar traffic ticket, Judge Einfeld is now up to four different stories, with no end in sight. After the Judge pays his legal fees, that may ultimately be the most expensive 77 dollar ticket in vehicular history.

Judge Einfeld went into the wrong field; he should have been a ditch digger, because he sure can dig himself a hole.

How many times does a judge, in the course of a year’s cases, see someone who, in trying to evade the long arm of the law, turns a minor infraction into a major felony? You’d think they’d learn from experience, and not want to come across like the spark plug thief with the bad hair or the hot-tempered, toothless redhead.

It doesn’t look as though Judge Einfeld is going to be prosecuted for perjury; such prosecutions are for “the little people” who have to obey the laws, not for jurists and ethics lecturers. However, legal observers in Australia are concerned that the Judge’s travails might tarnish the reputation of the judiciary. I say, the judiciary’s bad name is in no danger from Judge Einfeld.

I think this is one of those rare cases in which the wheels of justice can’t grind slowly enough.

In the meantime, the judge might want to get some help for his necrophilia problem.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...
The author clearly did no research on Australian law because if he did, he would have been aware that designating another person as a driver is perfectly legal. In fact, the ticket itself has a section that allows a person to do exactly that. It is a well known tactic that allows points to be spread, particularly between husband and wife, lessening the risk of either losing their license due to points. People may not like it or think it is right but it is still completely legal. Nicholas talks as if the judge asked for special compensation or used personal influence in making his argument about another person being the driver when in fact, this is completely untrue.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006 at 9:31:00 AM EDT
Nicholas said...
What does Aussie law have to do with this? Oh, yes, now I remember. According to Aussie law, Judge Einfeld was due to lose his license, so he made up a story about a dead woman who, while having been born in Australia, had lived and died in another country.

How is perjury "completely legal"? You'd better study some Australian law, "anonymous." No wonder you wouldn't sign your name! If such lame posts were the best I could do, I'd go anonymous, too.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006 at 9:40:00 AM EDT
Anonymous said...
You wrote:

"One must keep in mind, when talking about judges, that they are a class dominated by the grimiest political hacks, most of whom owe their positions to party machines and backroom deals, even as they hold forth about 'the (political) independence of the judiciary.' They couch the most corrupt and politically partisan decisions in the language of moralistic sanctimony, as if they were speaking from Mount Olympus, rather than from the sewer."

We saw another example in Kansas on July 25, 2014.

David In TN
Saturday, July 26, 2014 at 1:42:00 AM EDT

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