Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Blind Justice?

New York Federal District Court Judge Richard Conway Casey is blind. Unable to see for years, Casey is the first blind person to be named a federal trial judge. He has held that position for years.

Nominated for a federal judgeship by President Clinton in July 1997 Casey was asked how he could measure credibility without looking a witness in the eye?
Casey responded by asking whether sighted judges might be distracted by a pretty face, hair or clothing.
``If so, should they close their eyes?'' Casey asked, saying the true measure of credibility is determining whether details string together in a coherent, logical way.

Not so fast Judge Casey. How about just answering the question? The "pretty girl" distraction affects everyone in the courtroom, but NOT permenantly. And if this baloney about credibility being determined only by stringing details together is true why do all jury instructions on credibility speak about the "way the witness answered, his demeanor, etc." In other words, what is commonly known as the "squirm test" is a great indicator of a witnesses credibility. So that response is stupid.

Justice may be blind, but a blind trial judge raises a number of issues. And answering a question with a question is the type of "non-responsive" answer a good lawyer would object to.

Media professionals call this type of response: "Telling a Story." The best way to answer questions is to tell a story, according to professional media trainers. Telling a story eats up time, precludes a follow-up, and supports your message.

With all the other issues confronting Connecticut's latest Federal Judgeship nominee, Vanessa Bryant's struggle with potential blindness from macular degeneration is something Senators should examine, and the public should know.

The people of this jurisdiction should not be duped by the appointment of a person with a disability that many would consider to be incapable of accomodation. This is especially true given a life time appointment to the federal bench?

Blindness is a difficult disability and would raises issues concerning how a judge controls her courtroom. The credibility of witnesses is one thing, but there are also serious problems with jurors sleeping, witnesses being intimidated by persons in the courtroom, positioning of participants, lawyers flipping one another off, etc. etc. All of these types of conduct need to be policed by a judge.

It is too bad that this lady may have a debilitating disease. But blind persons can't be police or fire, or EMS. And one can just imagine the kind hearted Bryant skewering a lowly alcoholic lawyer for failing his clients.

Well, a blind judge fails the system.

No comments: