In Part 63, Judge Mader discusses the use of ‘extraction orders’ for inmates that refuse to attend court dates. She also reflects on why she began keeping a diary and what she hopes others can gain from her insight.
Firearms are a subject that divides judges, sometimes along personality lines, sometimes political ones. Due to potential threats from defendants, their families, and their gangs, judges may carry concealed weapons if they have an official permit and weapons training. Family law judges, especially, are vulnerable to dangers from litigants.
I have never fired a gun. I’m not against gun ownership. I understand why some might want a gun in the house for protection or use a gun for hunting. Some judges do carry guns. I’m not sure which ones. Many judges are former police officers, and carrying a gun is natural for them. Judges have diverse backgrounds, and they may have good reasons for carrying a gun.
Afraid of violence in their courtroom and home, some may feel more protected with a gun. This can present a dilemma when stopped by the police for a traffic citation. The days when judges kept their judicial badges in their wallet opposite their drivers’ licenses are over. Judges are not allowed to say, “Hello Officer. I am Judge Smith from the Antelope Courthouse.” Judges have been punished, some severely, for throwing their weight around, identifying themselves as a judge, and requesting ticket leniency. If a judge has a gun in the trunk of the car, however, it would be permissible for the judge to tell the police officer right away for safety reasons. Alerting an officer to the judge’s occupation in this way is considered incidental.
The issue of identifying oneself as a judge and receiving special treatment is confusing.
Some judges adopt the title of “Judge” readily and attach it to their name naturally. For them it would not be unusual to call a restaurant or hotel and make reservations using the title “Judge.” The CJP looks askance at such identifications, and I don’t do it. Lest the reader believe that I am “holier than thou,” I admit I’ve called my doctor’s office and said to the receptionist, “Is it possible to get a doctor’s appointment at the end of the day so I don’t have to close down my courtroom?”
The jurors are deliberating. Both attorneys did a fine if uninspiring job in their closing arguments. It’s hard to get too excited about this case, and I am disappointed in myself. This defendant is facing twenty-two years in prison, and to him, this trial is the most important case in the world. Finding something unique and interesting in each trial, no matter how many times I’ve seen similar facts, is usually easy for me.
Is it because all the participants live on skid row? Or are chronic drug users? Or are mentally ill? Intellectually I know that the occupation and status in life of trial participants do not matter. Similar to the argument that prostitutes can be raped, all persons, even those living on the streets, should be secure from violence and predators. I hope the jury takes this trial seriously, even if the judge is bored.
Six months of writing this diary have passed and I have several weeks of vacation in August. I could use a break. There is ego involved in writing the diary. I want future generations of my family to know more about me than my birth and death dates. I would give anything to understand what made my ancestors tick. I’d like my descendants to be able to figure out which parts of their personalities have been passed down—what they’ve adopted, what they discarded. I’ve always been enamored of time capsules and leaving artifacts behind. This is my artifact.
My mother always encouraged me to do something “original.” Whenever I wrote an essay, she insisted that the opening line be provocative and that I say something never said before. Judging is such a cloistered profession. This diary could give color and personality to the inspiring and thoughtful men and women with whom I spend my days.
Jail inmates occasionally refuse to come to court. Without inmates, cases can’t proceed. The inmates know this and don’t mind creating problems, especially if they’re facing a long sentence. It is one of the few avenues of control that remain open to them.
The Sheriff’s Department uses both soft and harsher measures to bring inmates to court from jail. The soft methods include sending supervising compassionate deputies or jail chaplains to speak with the resisting inmate and try to convince the inmate to get on the bus. Sometimes this approach succeeds.
If the soft method doesn’t work, deputies used to enter the inmate’s cell and use physical force to pull the inmate out of bed. This involves cuffing the inmate and pushing him or her out of the cell and onto court-line, where inmates wait, sometimes for hours, to get on the court bus. At 4:00 a.m. when the court process begins, it’s understandable that inmates don’t want to get out of bed. With thousands of inmates traveling to outlying courts every day, it takes many hours to sort and transport everyone.
Lately, more inmates than usual are refusing to come to court. My only recourse is to issue an extraction order, a major production. Jailers assigned to a special squad don riot gear, masks, and protective wear, and enter the inmate’s cell to yank out the inmate after a final effort at sweet talk fails. Deputies do not like to perform extractions, and I don’t like to order them. Someone can get hurt, the deputies or the inmate, and it is the last resort for me.
I have asked several inmates why they were resisting coming to court. They denied they refused to come. “I was just having a hard time waking up and asked the deputy to come back in a few minutes. The deputy wrote me up as a ‘refusal.’ Really, I don’t have any trouble coming to court.”
My bailiff told me what was happening. “The Sheriff’s Department has been under extreme pressure not to use unnecessary force on inmates in the jail. Cameras have been installed all over the jail to monitor hallways and cells. Supervisors are watching deputies all the time. When an inmate doesn’t want to wake up at 4:00 a.m. and leave their cell, the inmate is immediately written up as a ‘refusal.’ The deputies don’t want to go into the cell to try to convince the inmates to come to court. They especially don’t want to lay a hand on an inmate. Why take a chance to be written up for misconduct involving force if they can just cite the inmate as a ‘refusal’ and go on to the next cell?”
This reminds me of LAPD officers who felt they were being excessively disciplined for misconduct by former Chief Bernard Parks. Rather than stop the patrol car if they saw minor violations, risk confrontations with the public, and accusations of misconduct, they’d just smile, wave, and continue to drive. The LAPD officers’ union was open about this behavior by their officers.
A temporary bailiff assigned to my court provoked an incident this morning. A behavior problem in a previous courtroom, the deputy was assigned to work exclusively inside the courthouse jail with inmates. His role today was to back up my regular bailiff in the courtroom. During the morning calendar, loud yelling could be heard from the jail lockup. My regular bailiff ran in to investigate. The second bailiff remained slouched in his chair, playing with his cell phone. My court clerk, married to a bailiff, and understanding their duties, asked the second bailiff, “Don’t you think you should go inside and make sure everything is okay?” The temporary bailiff, a burly guy in his forties, said, “Oh, it’s her court and she can take care of it.” He returned to his phone. My clerk noticed our bailiff had not returned from lockup and asked the other bailiff again to check on things. Same response.
When I came back to the courtroom, I heard about the incident. I asked, “Is anyone going to report the second bailiff?” Blank looks. Similar to the code of conduct among criminal gangs, no one who works every day with bailiffs in the courthouse wants to be labeled a “snitch.” Over and over I have been told that the courtroom is my responsibility. I need to make sure that my own bailiff is safe in an emergency. Anyone who behaves like the second bailiff sets a horrible example for the Sheriff’s Department’s image, already in need of rehabilitation.
I told my crew, “I’m going to report the bailiff’s conduct to his supervisor” and I did. The lieutenant was responsive. According to him, “The deputy’s conduct was deplorable. I’m going to get right on it.” I made it clear, “I am the reporting party. My bailiff is not making the report.”
The jury deliberated most of the day and took its responsibilities seriously. Something often comes over a jury after they are sworn. Once they begin to deliberate, they do not rush things along. I’ve seen this happen over and over.
The verdict: not guilty of assault with a deadly weapon. When I inquired, the foreperson said, “There was disagreement whether he was justified in using force when he was hit.” They did, however, find him guilty of intimidating a witness and making a criminal threat. While the defendant’s maximum may no longer be twenty-two years, it is not very much less.