Friday, February 23, 2018

Should judges be armed?

Should judges be armed?

The big debate of the day is whether teachers should be armed.  Rumpole discusses it over at his blog today.  Sheriff Israel's answer during the town hall was the best one I've heard: "Teachers should teach" and not be armed.

What about judges?  Former Chief Judge Norman Roettger (1930-2003) used to carry on the bench even though guns were not permitted in the federal courthouses.  He also allowed his court reporter to carry.  Judge Roettger was quite a character.  He had a huge handle-bar mustache.  He was a maverick. 

One of my first hearings was in front of Judge Roettger.  I was a federal public defender and it was a change of plea.  And the government had just started trying to get appellate waivers in agreements.  I couldn't get this new prosecutor to take it out and I was very frustrated.  My supervisor at the time told me to leave the waiver in the agreement and watch what happened when Roettger saw it.  Roettger BLASTED the prosecutor.  He asked him whether he worked for the Department of Justice or the Department of INJustice.  Why would they want the defendant to waive appeal.  What if the judge made a mistake.  Roettger took out a big sharpie and crossed it out in a very dramatic fashion and told the prosecutor to come sign the cross out.  It was quite a show.

Who has some good Judge Roettger stories? 


Anonymous said...

Judge Roettger didn't just carry, he used. He was a big game hunter. His house was full of "trophies" that he had shot himself on hunting safaris. I picture him like the big game hunter character in the original Jumanji movie -- pith helmet and all.

Henry Bell said...

One of my favorite memories is from a sentencing hearing in a check kitting case where we (Manny Perez represented the other defendant) told the Judge we wanted the cash seized from the clients at arrest (2 years earlier) to be used for restitution and the prosecutor told him he did not have the "authority" to do that because the Miami Beach police had seized the money. He was not the sort of Judge to boldly tell he did not have "authority" to do something. Mumbling loudly and angrily he ordered the United States Attorney "whomever he is" (the office was between USAOs) to conduct an "investigation" into what happened with the cash because that money was not meant for "some sergeant's new desk." You had to be there. It was great. Of course, when that train came over you it was not so funny. I know because it rode right over me more than once. I am glad I had the privilege of practicing before him. Btw, he loved to sustain hearsay objections at trial. Judge Roettger was one of a kind and a real character.

Henry Bell

Anonymous said...

A judge with 'balls' who doesn't feel he works for the USA office's convenience. How novel.

On the other subject, since cops aren't required to protect you, why work in a gun-free zone?

Anonymous said...

I was hired by a man who was arrested at the airport with counterfeit currency. The agents flipped him immediately and he did a controlled delivery to the owner, who was also arrested. My client agreed to cooperate at trial, until he learned that an earlier courier who had been arrested and out on bail was found floating in Biscayne Bay.
The USAO demanded that he still testify,and took the position that if he pled and refused to testify, they would seek to hold him in contempt and ask for consecutive time.
Instead,we went to "trial" before J. Roettger with the co defendant and told the jury in opening that the defendant was guilty, and we wouldn't be defending the case. We elicited his confession on cross, stayed as far away from the co-defendant as possible in all our comments, and in closing, we insisted that the jury convict the defendant. They did, and J. Roettger, who knew what was going on, not only gave us the acceptance of responsibility reduction, he also gave the defendant the minimum sentence for being a "stand-up guy."

His court reporter was well trained in the nuances of the courtroom. I lost an appeal once when the government recommended a sentence of house arrest, but J. Roettger gave her a year and said " I never give house arrest as a sentence." We filed an appeal, but that statement was curiously absent from the transcript. If you saw him make eye-contact with the reporter, you would also see the reporters hands stop moving.

Finally, defense lawyers knew that it never hurt to have a beautiful young wife or girlfriend testify at a defendant's sentencing hearing. Those were different times.

Anonymous said...

There are stories, then there were the stories he told--those were always fabulous.

the trialmaster said...

I was representing a defendant charged with trafficking when Norman sat in West Palm Beach. The prosecutor called me on the day before trial and told me they were going to dismiss against my client. Nevertheless I packed my bags and brought a change of clothes with me. When the ausa announced a dismissal, Norman refused to take it and told the ausa,"you indicted him and now you need to trial him". The CI was scared and when he took the stand could not remember anything about the case. Norman called a recess, instructed that the CI be brought into Chambers and was alone with Norman. He must have been reamed out like only Norman could do. When he returned to the stand he suddenly remember everything and my client ended up convicted. He also yelled at my counsel for "straddling around the courtroom like a bantam rooster" His Marshal, Sandy was also his girlfriend rumor had it. Quite a guy.

Anonymous said...

One day, many years ago, I was second-chairing a very senior lawyer at my firm. It was an antitrust case, and it was being tried in the old Fort Lauderdale fishbowl courthouse. As I walked in after lunch, I was rushed by two federal marshals. The judge looked down and said:
"Counsel, sorry about that. This guy I have in for sentencing has a contract on him. 100,000 out of court and $200,000 if he is hit in court. I looked up at the judge and told him that that was why he made the big bucks, and that he should tell us next time so we could take a longer lunch. He was amused but not scared. He was a very special judge.

Anonymous said...

My favorite Judge Roettgerism: "Counsel, your argument is an ass. Now you can strut your ass into the building. You can parade your ass through the halls of this courthouse. You can ride your ass around my courtroom. But, counsel, that does not mean I'm going to buy your ass."

Anonymous said...

One time Bob Berube had just walked his guy, a truck driver stopped with a trailer full of drugs. As Roettger was telling the guy to go hence without day, Berube asked that the truck be returned. The AUSA stood up and informed Roettger that that would not be happening because the truck was being forfeited. Roettger stared at the AUSA for a second and roared: "Give him back his truck! This isn't Bulgaria!" The truck was promptly returned to the defendant.

And if you go up to Port St. Lucie to see the Reds play the Mets this year in Spring training, you might just see him drinking a beer and watching the game...

Rumpole said...

Yeah, of all the people on earth I want to place my life in the hands of, it's a judge, and their aim with a firearm. I mean who amongst us is more cool under pressure than a judge?
Sure. Arm them. Put a freaking machine gun pit before the bench and give them some grenades while your at it.