Cleveland Judge Orders Woman To Wear Sign Calling Herself An “Idiot” In Latest Shaming Punishment

I have previously written about the rise of shaming punishments in the United States in both blogs (here and here and here and here) and columns (here and here). We can now add Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Pinkey S. Carr to the ignoble line of judge meting out their own forms of justice through humiliating acts. In this case, as shown in the video below, Shena Hardin, 32, is requiring to wear a sign calling herself an “idiot” in public for repeatedly driving around a school bus on the sidewalk while children were boarding.

As a threshold matter, Hardin is by any definition an idiot. She would routinely drive on the sidewalk to go around a school bus while children were boarding. The driver wisely alerted police who waited one morning and caught her in the act. The outrageous act was caught on videotape below.

Carr ordered her to stand at an intersection wearing a sign for two days saying: “Only an idiot drives on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus.” She is to wear the sign 7:45 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. both days. Her license was suspended for 30 days and she was ordered to pay $250 in court costs.

Carr is already been given “props” for the “perfect” sentence in the media. Carr has been on the bench for just a year but has already decided to make up sentences. She is a former prosecutor and graduated Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1992.

It is easy to let the well-based anger at Hardin to overwhelm our judgment and even relish the degrading act ordered by the court. However, these shaming punishments degrade our legal system and turn judges into little Caesars meting out their own justice to the thrill of the public. We have seen judges force people to cut their hair in their courtroom or clean their court bench with a toothbrush. These sentences make justice a form of public entertainment and allow judges to turn their courtrooms into their own macabre productions.

Hardin should be punished severely according to the municipal code. This should have included in my view a jail stint. I also fail to see how a 30-day suspension is an adequate punishment. I am far more worried about her driving in 30 days than happy with a two-day humiliation. Most people would never drive on a sidewalk in any circumstances. Hardin did it regularly with children boarding a school bus so not to be inconvenienced for a minute a morning.

The judge in this case undermined the social condemnation of this act by improvising with extrajudicial punishment. While I would not require the judge to wear a sign reading “Only an idiot comes up with his own punishments,” I do believe that state bars need to condemn such abuse in sentencing.


Source: ActionNews

41 thoughts on “Cleveland Judge Orders Woman To Wear Sign Calling Herself An “Idiot” In Latest Shaming Punishment

  1. However, these shaming punishments degrade our legal system and turn judges into little Caesars meting out their own justice to the thrill of the public. We have seen judges force people to cut their hair in their courtroom or clean their court bench with a toothbrush. These sentences make justice a form of public entertainment and allow judges to turn their courtrooms into their own macabre productions.

    Well said.

    They are going far afield.

  2. Normally I’m with you 100% on the issue of shaming punishments, JT, but this one? I’ll have to admit this particular one does have a certain je ne sais quoi about it. Still, it does not mitigate that the judge in this case undermined the social condemnation of this act by improvising with extrajudicial punishment. Bad judge! Get under the bench!

  3. I agree Mr. Turley. There is a disturbing coarsening of our culture that doesn’t need to be fueled by more from our judicial system. People throw around insults now routinely. There’s such a negativity to it that bleeds over to all of our culture. Jail time, 6 month license suspension and community service as a crossing guard..no signs, just the duty of protecting kids. But, I’ll clue folks here in on something they may not know. License suspension does not deter most people from driving. I wish I had a nickle for every subject of surveillance I followed driving w/o a license.

  4. In NC, she would immediately lose her license for at least a year. No passing allowed from both directions. That was in the 50’s. Today there is probably a death penalty involved.

    If humiliation is to be allowed, It must be done where it will be observed and felt.

    She should have had to wear a new sign each day for a month at her place of work. Shame, more creativitty pleease.

  5. Gene H, I take issue with you, not because of this particular act (which I consider sociopathic much more than idiotic, BTW) or this particular punishment (which I consider useless and a rotten precedent, plus one that if the woman doesn’t do it, it will be very hard to hold her in criminal contempt and still not grossly violate her Eighth Amendment rights on “unusual” alone), but because it encourages judges to do what strikes them but which is obviously outside their jurisdiction.

    When judges decide to go outside their jurisdiction and they get rewarded for it (as this one has already been by the fact that so many people are his foolish cheerleaders because they wish THEY had the power to do things like that) a precedent is set that is, in my opinion, more dangerous than any other. Believe me, I know this first-hand. Judges have almost unlimited discretion WITHIN the laws giving them the right to do so much without effective review or evaluation. Giving them powers BEYOND those legally provided must be restrained and discouraged everywhere by every means. I wish the ACLU would jump into this case on the idiot’s side. :mrgreen:

  6. There is one reason that the extra-judicial punishment indicates its need, and which supports GeneH’s take.

    Obviously the shame of conviction and fining, incarceration. etc. does not have the desired effect today (in increasingly wider circles!).

    The remedy does not lie in using EJP, but other approaches.
    What they are, I have no idea.

  7. I also noticed this was a “short bus,” for mentally and physically challenged kids. I like the driver’s voice..sounds like a good man.

  8. It’s GeneH’s day.

    He said that the larger the group, the less people are inclined to work. True.

    Tha same could be said about the effect of punishment.
    The anonymity of large cities, civilizations, etc does diminish the effectiveness of punishment.

    Who cares when no one knows, there is only the cost in time and money to consider, and the risk of being prosecuted.

    The situation in a village of 20 families with a common economy is something else.

  9. Malisha,

    If you’ll re-read what I said, I did admonish the judge although I did personally find this particular extrajudicial punishment amusing and oddly apt. To wit: “Still, it does not mitigate that the judge in this case undermined the social condemnation of this act by improvising with extrajudicial punishment. Bad judge! Get under the bench!” What appeals to my sense of humor and and my sense of legal and judicial propriety can be and many times have been at odds with one another. The sense of legal and judicial propriety always wins in the end though.

  10. Amusing until someone gets a speeding ticket & is then required to not only pay a fine, but wear a sign that says they are an idiot for wanting to break the speed limit law…..
    Of course the ‘limits’ are arbitrary anyway in whatever the DOT wants to post….

  11. Some judges seem to have an affinity for the “stocks” and a scarlet letter which I have never understood. There was a wealth of actions available to this Judge without the need for inventing new ones.

    As to the props … this Thunder guy is a radio talk show dude in Texas who lists as one of his achievements that “I can drink a beer faster than anyone in Texas.” ‘nough said?

  12. In fairness to judges you have to have a HIGH tolerance to stupidity to do the job.

    I sat in the court room while the judge explained to the first of many people there, that he wanted to explain their rights to them….and that they would NOT be “trying” the case today, just explaining options. And so after 10 or 15 min’s of the judge going over all of his options, he asked the old guy if he understood…so the guy proceeds to plead his case, while the judge has to stop him & try to explain again, that they are NOT there to try the case yet. AGAIN he asks if he understands, blank stare….and then someone comes & gathers the old boy up & tries again to get through to him.
    THEN the next person comes up, and the judge AGAIN has to go through the same spiel!

    Now I KNOW your not going to believe this, but I swear, TWENTY PEOPLE LATER, he is STILL going through the same speech!!!

    If I hadn’t have been there I would never have believed it….& up until then I had always thought of a judge having a cushy job….OMG!!!

    I wouldn’t survive a week of that! (Or they wouldn’t…LoL)

  13. “If this punishment doesn’t work, she should be dragged behind a school bus.”

    You are truly an old school kind of deity, Zarathustra.

  14. Most states have laws that require traffic to stop for stopped school buses. They also have laws that deal with driving on the sidewalk. She should have been charged with violating both laws and given the punishment indicated for each.

    In the future, after she got her license back, she could leave home a bit earlier or a bit later to avoid the school bus or, amazingly, she could have stopped for a minute.

    Humiliation as punishment only creates resentment, not future compliance.

  15. “Some judges seem to have an affinity for the “stocks” and a scarlet letter which I have never understood. There was a wealth of actions available to this Judge without the need for inventing new ones.”

    Blouise,

    Publicity seeker perhaps, with higher political aspirations? This is the kind of bad judicial act that appeals to some people.

  16. Judges should stick to the punishments proscribed by law and not invent such punishments. Doing so returns us to rule by men not by law.

  17. I note from her bio that Judge Carr was elected last year and has sat on the bench for all of 10 months. And she was a prosecutor for many years. She may be confusing the roles.

    As Gene notes, this was the sort of offense for which public humiliation brings many of us, including me, a rush of emotional satisfaction. That’s understandable, but my personal view is that it is also wrong, for several related reasons.

    First, it turns the courtroom into a domed Circus Maximus, where the crowds gather to see what cool thing the judge will do to the next object of their collective ire. It’s a short leap to tossing out a couple of alternative sentences for the gallery to consider and then asking for a show of hands.

    Second, it compromises the dignity and seriousness of the judicial system. When I look back over the 39 years I have been in practice, I am struck by the noticeable increase in the lack of respect for the courts, as demonstrated by both the physical appearance and behavior of those appearing before judges.

    Third, it refocuses attention from the process itself to the personality of the presiding judge. In systems which provide for popularly elected judges, this encourages an unseemly form of judicial politicking.

    In reading over this comment, I sense that it has the tone of a grumpy curmudgeon, and maybe I am. But I view judging as the highest calling in the legal profession and it ought to be conducted with sufficient gravity and decorum to remind people that the law is all we have and it ought to be regarded with a degree of awe and, sometimes, even fear.

  18. Mappleton,

    Where does one sign up for curmudgeonry?

    As for respect for judges and proceedings, let us see some respect for the law first, and for equality before the benc and justice. Many hurdles to clear.

    Not all curmudgeons vote the same. Regards.

  19. Thanks for that article Gene H. See, that’s where it goes. Soon you can pick up a ridiculous children’s fantasy book you buy at the check-out line in the supermarket and open it up and read about a bizarre situation with kings and queens in a kingdom far away, and later that day, you read in the papers that some judge in Indiana did just what the silly king and queen did in the story. And THEN you watch as, sickeningly, the king and queen here start ordering people to have boarders in their houses as punishment for not mowing their lawn correctly, you have court orders forcing mothers to teach their daughters to curtsey properly, you have judges ordering folks to clean up the rest room in Exxon stations, you have… [fill in the blank] … and you will always have some judge somewhere with too much power and insufficient respect for the law and a desire to be known as cute and creative, and we’re as done for as any ordinary litigant in Fairfax, Virginia.

  20. A civil case that has become very complicate due to the ignorance of a Federal Judge has finally ended up in the Court of Appeals. This case is precedence setting that affects all of us US citizens. At the root is the violation of Civil Rights against an individual, Jeff Baron who was involved in a civil lawsuits with a business associate over domain names. The case grew a set of legs and escalated into Constitutional rights violations against Mr Baron on the part of the Federal Judge Royal Furgeson. Who is retiring at the end of the year. Does he know how wrong he is and needs to run away? Who knows. But now the Court of Appeals heard the arguments on Wednesday and were surprised to learn of the injustice done. Today an auction was to be held to liquidate the remaining assets of Mr Baron to pay off fraudulent lawyer billing abuses. The main bidder who would get a windfall was bidding 4.1 million dollars for a trust of domain names valued at over 100 million. Even after expert testimony during depositions the judge refused to agree to a stay of the auction. The Appeals Court was not happy about this. They said they do not want to set a precedence against a person’s civil rights and will take this matter very seriously. It will not be a quick decision. I believe that finally someone is listening. I don’t know what happened today with the auction but I pray it was halted.

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