Monday, August 29, 2011

Public charges and conferences

Having reviewed the transcripts of interviews with the Chief Justice and Justices Bradley, Prosser and Gableman, it is not surprising that no charges were issued. While the perceptions of the various witnesses differ, they tend to depart on very subjective points in which the witness characterizes the volume of someone's voice or the rapidity with which an action was taken - although there does seem to be disagreement as to whether Justice Bradley's fist was raised. Somewhat differing versions are not unusual in a case like this. What seems clear is that the Justice Bradley got in his face and he placed his hands on the sides of her neck to either push her away or halt her advance. There was no "chokehold."

Neither one of them behaved at his or her best. We all have our moments but it still would be nice if they would a issue a joint public apology. I don't think that's likely.

It is unfortunate that this became public and sad that it has and will continue to be used for political purposes. I hope that the justices can come to see that leadership entails backing away from this type of confrontation and getting to a point at which some measure of collegiality is possible is more important than scoring debating points or gaining strategic advantage.

What I don't see leading to that is making decision conferences public. Judicial decisionmaking requires deliberation aided by frank and open discussion. Althouigh decision conferences end in a vote, it entails an iterative process in which the judge reconsiders his or her preliminary or earlier expressed views. In the end, the rationale for a decision is expressed in a fully considered opinion. Forcing the justices to make their intial thoughts public will tend to short circuit the deliberative process and to inhibit frank discussion. The inability of members of the Court to get along is deep and pervasive problem that can't be solved by the simple expedient of open conferences. Sanitizing those conferences - and that's what making them public will do - wont' make it go away.


gnarlytrombone said...

it entails an iterative process in which the judge reconsiders his or her preliminary or earlier expressed views

Unless Jeff Fitzgerald issues a deadline for a decision; then you just go with the first draft.

Anonymous said...

The Abrahamson court is a disgrace.

Tom said...

What struck me is that, even if you believe everything Justice Bradley claimed, there still was no crime. She admitted that she was not injured (a necessity for a battery), and her breathing was not restricted (a necessity for strangulation, which does not require injure).

Also, while it's not unusual that the details you noticed (generally, tone of voice and how fast Bradley moved) varied between observers, it is more than a little disturbing that the differences just happened to line up with their ideological divides.

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