Lighter Side: Judge under fire for eating candy in jury box mid-hearing

by NZ Lawyer10 Jun 2016
A judge from Louisiana has been slammed for sitting in the jury box with jurors and eating candy during a witness testimony.

Judge Timothy Ellender also wandered around the courtroom, sitting in different chairs and starred out the window during the testimony, behaviour labelled as “bizarre and disturbing” by his peers.

The judge also hugged the surgical partner of the defendant’s medical expert in front of the jury, Legal Cheek reported.

“According to plaintiffs, Judge Ellender failed to preside over the trial from his position on the bench, but rather roamed around the entirety of the courtroom during much of the trial,” the Supreme Court judgement read.

“Judge Ellender’s insidious actions of leaving the bench, wandering around the courtroom, looking out the windows, eating candy and otherwise failing to pay attention to the proceedings communicated to the jury in a non-verbal way his opinion that the trial was not serious and could be treated as a joke.”

The Supreme Court of Louisiana ordered a new trial because of the judge’s behaviour, the majority saying the court was, “Convinced that the trial judge’s actions resulted in a miscarriage of justice”.

But this isn’t the first time his behaviour has been called out in 23 years on the bench.

In 2004, Ellender attended a Halloween party in blackface, an afro wig, a prison jumpsuit and shackles.  While the justices agreed the lawyer didn’t mean to insult black people, he was ordered to take a sociology course to achieve “a greater understanding of racial sensitivity”.  He was suspended for a year.

He was suspended again for 30 days and received a $185 fine in 2007 after he became impatient during a domestic violence case where a complainant sought a restraining order against her husband.  The judge asked the parties why they didn’t just file for a divorce instead of “go[ing] through this crap”.

“I find Judge Ellender’s actions are even more disturbing considering this court previously disciplined him twice for his conduct both on and off the bench,” the most recent judgement said.
 

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