There will always be debates about what it is like to be a judge. Some say it’s a highly stressful position, while others argue it is a “cushy” power job, with no one looking over your shoulder as you command your courtroom. When a judge directs a lawyer or a litigant to “jump”, they jump, no ifs, ands or buts!
I lean towards the view that a judge’s job is very stressful. They deal with the most important issues in society: where should a child live? how much jail time should a convicted offender receive? and, how much money do innocent victims of a car accident need to reclaim their lives?
Of course, there is much anecdotal evidence about the stressful nature of the judicial role, often used as a reason to excuse bad behaviour. Or does unprofessional conduct abound because some judges begin to believe they are untouchable, simply because they are judges? A recent case of a “runaway” judge tends to support the “arrogant judge” theory.
Judge Arnette Hubbard, age 81 (yes, still sitting at 81!)is a silver-haired African-American jurist who presides in Chicago. One sunny July morning Judge Hubbard left the court building to smoke a cigarette in Daley Plaza, adjacent to the court facilities. Businessman David Nicosia was nearby using his cell phone and became annoyed at the second-hand smoke wafting in his direction.
Judge Hubbard and Mr. Nicosia, a white man, had an unpleasant exchange that resulted in Mr. Nicosia’s arrest for aggravated battery and a hate crime. Mr. Nicosia was at the law courts that morning to obtain a marriage license. Instead he ended up in jail, cancelled the wedding plans, and awaited his day in court.
His trial last month turned into the ever popular “He said/She said”. Judge Hubbard testified that when Mr. Nicosia asked her to stop smoking she replied that she wasn’t permitted to smoke indoors. She said that Mr. Nicosia then spat in her face and yelled “Rosa Parks move!”. She cried out to nearby deputy sheriffs and tried to stop Mr. Nicosia from leaving the scene, whereupon she alleged he flung her off and slapped her.
Mr. Nicosia described a different series of events. He testified that after he complained the judge intentionally blew smoke in his face and said she could smoke wherever she liked. He replied “It’s not like you’re the Rosa Parks of smoking”. At that point an angry Judge Hubbard said she had something for him. She opened her mouth and delivered a projectile of tobacco-laced spittle that landed in his mouth, on his glasses, and on his shirt. He quickly spit out the nasty “goober” which inadvertently landed on Judge Hubbard. He testified that the slap was accidental and occurred when the judge moved toward him to stop him from leaving.
Trial Judge James Obbish acquitted Mr. Nicosia of all charges, saying he believed that Mr. Nicosia would never have faced the felony charges if the alleged victim had not been a judge. He said that Judge Hubbard ought to have moved away from Mr. Nicosia once he complained. He also added that Mr. Nicosia didn’t deserve a medal as he “didn’t act in a way that a man should act to a lady”.
Clearly the court did not believe Judge Hubbard’s version of the truth and her credibility was also damaged after she testified she had to take 17 months off work after the “assault” for post-concussion syndrome, although she presented no medical evidence to support her claim.
Judge Hubbard has a civil lawsuit against Mr. Nicosia pending. As for me, I think she should retire from the bench, drop her civil suit, and pay back the 17-month salary she milked from the citizens of Chicago.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang