A medical emergency in the back of the room abruptly ended a question and answer program with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at the U.S. Court of Appeals Eleventh Circuit Judicial Conference late Friday.UPDATE -- According to online reports, Judge Merryday is okay.
Thomas was starting to talk about legal opinions on bankruptcy law--saying he worries about challenges facing the judges he had been talking with during the conference --but he never got to finish his sentence. The crowd in the back corner of the ballroom at the Grand Hotel Conference Center began to move and people began saying, "Call 911."
Chief Judge Steven Merryday of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida had collapsed and fallen to the floor. Agents from the U.S. Marshal's office and hotel security staff immediately came to his aid while they waited for an ambulance to arrive. Thomas waited on stage with University of Georgia Law School Dean Peter "Bo" Rutledge, who had been asking the questions of the justice, and Eleventh Circuit Chief Judge Ed Carnes, who had made the introductions.
They were about halfway through their planned one hour and five minute presentation, after which Carnes was scheduled for 15 minutes of closing remarks.
Soon the marshals gave an order to clear the room and keep a clear path to the door. Hotel staff directed the attendees toward a hallway and a sunny, breezy terrace beside Mobile Bay.
An ambulance arrived within minutes. Emergency responders began speaking to the judge, asking him questions and trying to prompt a response. They asked him to smile if he could understand them. Merryday was conscious and stood for a moment with help before being secured onto a stretcher and moved to the waiting ambulance to drive to a hospital in nearby Fairhope.
Judges and lawyers waiting in the hallway expressed their hope and prayers for the judge's recovery. Some said they were initially afraid they were being attacked when they heard the commotion and a call for 911.
Carnes decided not to reconvene the meeting, which was scheduled to end at 5 p.m. and had run like clockwork for two days. The 160 judges and 300 lawyers in attendance slowly began to leave. Shortly after 5 p.m. Carnes received a phone call, after which he announced to the few still gathered in the hallway that Merryday was at the hospital and in stable condition. His wife had been contacted by a friend and neighbor who is married to another judge attending the conference.
Monday, May 09, 2016
11th Circuit conference ends badly
It was the big 11th Circuit conference in Alabama last week, with all of the judges in the Circuit attending. And the Circuit Justice -- Justice Clarence Thomas -- was there giving the keynote. But during his speech, Judge Merryday collapsed and had to be rushed out. The Daily Report has more: