Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Judges-Gone-Wild, Part I: The Circuit Court Version

On the topic of misbehaving judges, I have to begin with circuit court judge Linda Van De Water.  But I must admit that I have a soft spot for this judge.  After all, it was her outrageous behavior on the bench that motivated me to start The Legal Watchdog about one year ago.  (You can read The Dog’s inaugural post, here.)  And after that, her honor turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving.  Soon she was charged with her own crime for allegedly storming a residential neighborhood in her pajama bottoms, screaming, jumping on moving cars, and chasing down her ex-boyfriend who had, to her honor’s dismay, moved on to another relationship.  So, whatever happened in her criminal case?

I predicted, here, that judge Van De Water would get off easy.  I predicted that the prosecutor would give her a deferred prosecution agreement where she has to do some anger management-type counseling and jump through some other fairly easy hoops.  Then, after a year or so, she would have her criminal charge amended down to a non-criminal ordinance violation.  This was an easy prediction, in part because the prosecutor seemed to dramatically undercharge the case to begin.  That is, instead of charging multiple different crimes—which is what typically happens in Wisconsin under similar factual scenarios—the prosecutor charged only a single, low-end misdemeanor, leaving him little room to negotiate.

And it turns out that my prediction was right . . . sort of.  In the end, the prosecutor made it even easier on the judge.  How?  He skipped the deferred prosecution agreement altogether and went straight to the non-criminal ordinance resolution.  In other words, the prosecutor amended Van De Water's criminal charge to a non-criminal ticket, without any requirement of anger management counseling or hoop-jumping of any kind.  So was there any consequence that went along with this ticket?  Yes.  $100.  That’s right: $100.  Not a bad outcome for the judge, considering that last year the government paid her $128,600, plus a host of generous benefits to go along with it.

Apparently, one of those government benefits was lenient treatment by the state’s prosecutors—sign me up!

But if you think this is bad, we’re just getting started.  It turns out that while The Dog was on hiatus, one or two—depending on who you believe—of our Wisconsin Supreme Court justices have been misbehaving as well.  Check back soon for Part II of Judges-Gone-Wild, where we’ll explore recent shenanigans in the state's highest court, including an alleged choking incident during some heated judicial deliberations. 

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