Courtesy of The Bitch Girls, we have this court video of Judge Leslie Lewis of Utah’s 3rd District from 24 February 2006. Defendant Michael Jacobson was charged with a third-degree felony count of wanton destruction of protected wildlife for helping to transport a deer carcass that a friend had poached. Michael’s brother Kent Jacobson was in the audience to observe and to support his brother. While recusing herself from the case because of her personal bias against deer hunting, the judge uses her bench to make a personal statement about the case. Here is what transpires:
Judge Lewis – “I cannot in all honesty tell you that I believe I could be fair. I have a prejudice concerning deer hunters, and people who kill deer, and transport deer that have been shot.” pause “Have you ever actually looked at a deer when they’re alive?”
Michael Jacobson – “um hmm”
Judge Lewis – “And it doesn’t bother you that you can see their heart beating?”
Judge Lewis – “I’m asking you a question. I expect an answer,”
Michael Jacobson – “Yeah,”
Judge Lewis – “Were you starving? Did you need the meat?”
Michael Jacobson – “I wasn’t the one that shot the animal,”
Judge Lewis – “Could you have stopped your friend?”
Michael Jacobson – “Nope, I wasn’t there at all,”
At this point Kent Jacobson, who had had no part in the proceedings up to this point, stood up from his seat in the back of the courtroom, sighed and walked out. Judge Lewis apparently takes offense and directs her attention to him.
Judge Lewis – “Are we boring you?”
Kent Jacobson replies – “Yes’em” as he walks out of the court room.
Judge Lewis, to bailiff – “Chris, there’s a gentleman who needs to brought back into court who just walked out.”
Judge Lewis to Jacobson after he has been brought back into court – “Now, why did you feel the need to make such an explosive and clear indication of your displeasure or boredom at being here?”
Kent Jacobson – “OK, it’s not just the displeasure of being bored here. The problem is we have just as much rights as going out and shooting deer as you have the right . . . ”
Judge Lewis, interrupting loudly – “What are you talking about?”
Kent Jacobson – “Well it was your dis…regard(?)”
Judge Lewis – “Put him in custody. I’m not going to argue with you and you have no business chastising me sir. And I did not make a comment that you have any right to correct.”
Kent Jacobson – “OK”
Judge Lewis – “What I said is I had strong feelings and consequently was recusing myself. I don’t want to hear a word from you. You and I are not in the same position. We are not having a dialog.”
Kent Jacobson – “I didn’t say anything. I got up and walked out.”
Judge Lewis – “After making a large, explosive indication of your displeasure at being here. And when I asked if you were bored, you said yes. Take him back, I don’t want to look at him.”
Kent Jacobson mumbles as they walked out – “Well, I was bored,”
Judge Lewis – “You’re bored? Let’s see how you feel in the holding cell. That’s a first.”
After being held handcuffed for about 20 minutes, Kent Jacobson was escorted by a bailiff through another courtroom and released. He has not been charged with any crime relating to the incident.
Clearly Judge Leslie Lewis did not simply recuse herself as she argues in her exchange with Kent. She went on to challenge the defendant to answer, not to the charges or the law, but to the same strong personal feelings she was recusing herself over. This is an abuse of her authority which violated the defendant’s rights and had the potential to compromise the case had he made some admission under this questioning which was later ruled inadmissible (notice I said “potential,” IANAL.) The Judge then proceeds to chastise the brother for answering her direct questions.
Fortunately, Utah has retention elections for judges and Lewis’s job is subject to a vote next month. In addition to this case, there is this quote in an article from desertnews.com:
Lewis is among 24 district-court judges up for retention election this time around. She has caused controversy in the past for her occasional verbal outbursts. She is also the only district-court judge up for retention who received a sub-standard score in two areas of a recent survey by attorneys who appear in her court.
According to the survey of 123 attorneys, 60 percent found Lewis’ behavior “free from bias and favoritism.” Only 54 percent of the attorneys approved of how she “perceives legal and factual issues.” Under standards set by the Utah Judicial Council, judges should pass with 70 percent approval or greater.
If you live in Utah, be sure to vote in that election. We’ll see if the citizens of that state agree with Judge Lewis.
In the meantime, I have a response for the judge. I have actually looked at a live deer, among other critters, and I feel what every hot blooded carnivore on earth feels. My pulse quickens, I fill my lungs, adrenaline saturates my blood stream, and I begin to salivate. I freeze and each sense comes alive as I strain to obtain every possible advantage over my prey. If I am skillful and lucky enough to bag my mark, it does of course bother me if the heart is still beating too long after it’s fate is sealed; it is poor sport, poor marksmanship, and worse field craft. To witness the death of your prey, well taken, is one of the most exhilarating experiences available to man. I am sorry for any who have not done so.
I don’t suppose that is the answer she is looking for, but it is the truth.
Anyway, here is the video, at least until Google decides that it is inappropriate for citizens to question activist judges and bans it…