I heard about this on an excellent local radio talk show in St. Louis that, unlike most talk radio, tends to be pretty even handed on the issues. Allman and Smash
A judge who wore blackface makeup, handcuffs and a jail jumpsuit at a Halloween party will be suspended for six months, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled Monday. Source - USAToday
The justices voted 5-2 to suspend Judge Timothy Ellender for a year without pay for dishonoring his position, but to defer half of that penalty. Ellender will lose more than $50,000 in pay, one judge noted.
There are many implications here. However, the most prominent in my mind is that this man is simply too stupid to be a Judge if he thought this would not come back to haunt him.
Apparently this judge thought it would be a riot to goto a halloween party dressed as a prisoner in handcuffs. I actually would have found that quite amusing myself if he had not decided to add Black-Face o his costume. IMHO this implies that to him, a prisoner is usually black, or, to properly portray a prisoner, one must appear black. Either way, it doesn't speak well of him and could cause any number of his rulings to be questioned.
One of my primary issues with this case however is:
The justices agreed Ellender did not mean to insult blacks. Nevertheless, they ordered him to take a sociology course "which will assist him in achieving a greater understanding of racial sensitivity."
IMHO, either the man is an idiot, and thus should not be a judge or the man is a racist and should not be a judge. How they could possibly feel that this man did not mean to insult African-Americans is beyond me. That they would even think that this is relevant is questionable.
I have reservations here. To me, this could be considered a free speech issue, in that the man has a right to do or say whatever he wants to when it come to commentary and the like, as a citizen
. However, Judges are, and I feel they need to be, held to a higher standard. Even the simple appearance
of impropriety can cause the integrity of the system to be called into question.
It's the punishment that is baffling to me. Either, you see this as an issue of protected speech to the point where you say he is perfectly within his rights to do this. If you do, why punish the act at all? Or you see it as an act that damages the image of the judiciary in which case, the man should be removed from the bench. To suspend him, even without pay for merely 6 months seems to be a little light considering the potential economic and sociological costs of this action. This light sentence could also be seen by the minority population of the area as further proof that justice, at least in New Orleans is not color-blind.
Another problem is the Fiscal issue. How many African-Americans convicted of crimes by this man will file appeals based on the Judges apparent racism? Even if the appeals are thrown out, how much will this cost the state? Based on the Judges actions, how many might be right? Questions for Debate
:Was the Judge within his rights to act this way (as a matter of free speech for example) or did he cross the line requiring sanctions?If you feel he crossed the line, do you feel the punishment was Just?If you feel it was his right, do you feel he should have been punished or sactioned at all?Should we hold judges to a higher standard then we hold the average citizen? Is it legal to do so?
As an aside, One argument I heard in regard to this story goes something like this: "What would happen if a black judge put on "white face" and prison garb?" Likely nothing. However, considering that there is a segment of the population that sees all blacks as criminals (or all unidentified criminals as black) and that the judge, a job about as directly contrary to being a criminal as possible (though there are occasional exceptions) in the hypothetical is black, it could easily be seen a satire. Should something happen to this hypothetical judge? That would depend on if you think judges should be held to a higher standard of conduct.