Hard to believe that a Senior Judge in Minnesota would post frank comments about cases he was hearing on his Facebook page, even though he believed only his 80 “Friends”, made up of family and close associates, would see them.
However, the posts were available for all the world to see and Judge Edward W. Bearse, who has an exemplary record, was formally reprimanded this month by the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards, the Board noting that even to disseminate his private views to his family and friends was unacceptable.
In the evening, after the first day of trial in a case alleging the accused had engaged in sex trafficking, Judge Bearse wrote:
“Some things I guess will never change. I just love doing the stress of jury trials. In a Felony trial now State prosecuting a pimp. Cases are always difficult because the women (as in this case also) will not cooperate. We will see what the 12 citizens in the jury box do.”
Three days later the accused was convicted, case closed. However, the prosecuting attorney saw the judge’s Facebook post and alerted the accused’s defence counsel to the posting. On application by defence counsel another judge vacated the guilty verdict and ordered a new trial. The Court found that Judge Bearse’s Facebook remark implied that the accused was guilty of the charge and that the victim of sex trafficking was a prostitute.
While hearing a felony case without a jury the accused’s lawyer was taken to hospital by ambulance after experiencing a panic attack in the courtroom. Judge Bearse posted this:
“Now we are in chaos because defendant has to hire a new lawyer who will most likely want to start over and a very vulnerable woman will have to spend another day on the witness stand. . . . I was so angry that on the way home I stopped to see our District Administrator and told him, “Michael, you are going to have to just listen to me bitch for awhile.” . . . [W]e know the new lawyer (probably quite justifiably) will be asking for another continuance. Terrible day!!!”
The Chief Justice asked Judge Bearse to delete the post. He did and then recused himself from the case.
In another posting, the judge wrote:
“My day yesterday in the Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis: . . . Criminal Vehicular Homicide where defendant stoned on Xanax supplemented it w/a lot of booze and then drove wrong way down a freeway colliding w/an innocent citizen driving the right way down the same freeway killing him. . . . and most interesting — three kidnappings . . . where the three were physically tortured to try and find the drugs.”
Among other postings Judge Bearse made pejorative remarks about offenders with long records saying “We deal with a lot of geniuses!” He also referred to his courtroom as a “zoo”.
While a judge’s work is both interesting and challenging, it is also often exhausting ( as he or she listens to marginally relevant evidence ad nauseam), and brings with it a degree of public and social isolation to ensure that judges cannot be said to be biased.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang