I’m handing this one to you because.
Oh sure, because it’s wild and crazy–judges cannot be allowed to behave like little dictators. They administer court proceedings, yes, but they do not get to enforce their own personal procedural rules. One of which, in this case, seems to be that a defense lawyer does not get to speak in defense of her client if the judge, Conrad Hafen, tells her to shut up. (Read the excerpt from the court transcript.)
I suspect and fervently hope something not very good will happen to Justice of the Peace (!) Conrad Hafen’s bench career. Well, wait. This episode occurred in Las Vegas, Nevada, and since I keep hearing that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas–except I’m hearing that while hearing about what actually did happen in Vegas which had to get to me in New York and therefore didn’t exactly stay in Vegas–maybe so too will Hafen. (Do take a look at his very large, colorful photo topping the article. It will make an impression, I assure you.)
The second because: I was once on the sidelines for a similar incident in a pretty well-known case, California v. Simpson.
Peter Neufeld, for whom I was working at the time, came back from the trial in California with a canceled check he had had to write–I seem to remember it was for $250–to the court administration because Lance Ito had held him in contempt and fined him for…
Well, what was it for? When I heard the whole story I realized it was because Peter, a great lawyer, had been oh gee arguing a point in defense of his client and Ito, not in my opinion a great judge, either didn’t like or didn’t understand the argument and got frazzled and pissed off.
Peter had both sides of the check framed and kept it on his office window sill.
Back to today’s story. I hope the Legal Aid lawyer, Zohra Bakhtary, frames the judge’s transcribed order to put her in handcuffs and hangs it in her office next to her law degree and court admissions. Maybe she should frame the handcuffs, too, in a sort of Joseph Cornell box.
As the article suggests, I could categorize this nasty little business as part of the U.S.A.’s war against women:
It’s well within a judge’s power to restrain a person who is acting out of order in the courtroom, but rarely do they use this power against an attorney advocating on behalf of a client. And while Hafen [the judge] didn’t make any specific references to Bakhtary’s [the defense lawyer] gender in the court transcript, it’s possible to see the incident as fitting into a larger pattern of men silencing women in this kind of setting. [My emphasis]
Stephen Cooper, a former federal and D.C. public defender, wrote an article on Bakhtary’s handcuffing that highlights two other instances in recent years in which female public defenders were treated with similar disrespect. He cites a particularly disturbing case from 2007, reported by The Washington Post, where a D.C. Superior Court judge ordered an attorney — a woman of color, like Bakhtary — to be “searched, shackled and detained” simply for attempting to inform the judge that her client was “homeless and poor.” That judge was later found to be grossly out of line and was reprimanded for his behavior.
Phil Kohn, Clark County’s chief public defender, strongly defended Bakhtary’s conduct in court and told HuffPost that he’s never had one of his attorneys restrained in the 10-plus years he’s been working there. Kohn also criticized Hafen’s demeanor in the courtroom and called out the inappropriateness of Hafen referring to Bakhtary by her first name.
“I believe in decorum. All parties should respect each other,” Kohn said. “It should be ‘Mr.’ or ‘Ms.’ or ‘Your Honor.’ The fact that he’s talking to her as ‘Zohra’ — this is kindergarten stuff.”
If Mr. Kohn hadn’t pointed this out, I was going to. Thank you, Mr. Kohn.
UPDATE 6/16/16. Now let us take a moment to LOL at what just happened to Judge Hafen:
Source, Huffington Post: Las Vegas Judge Who Humiliated Defense Attorney Loses Election In A Landslide