Municipal court judge Lee Johnson in Ennis, Texas, is the latest public official to rush to Facebook like a teenager on a tear. Johnson breathlessly reported that a “certain unnamed (very) recent Heisman Trophy winner” had been ticketed in his jurisdiction — an obvious reference to Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. Johnson then wrote “I meant to say ‘allegedly’ speeding, my bad.” It was striking that Johnson thought the problem was not saying allegedly as opposed to his turning into some form of judicial paparazzi.
Johnson thankfully avoided the “OMG” start to most teenage ravings but he did post the following
“Too funny. So it seems that a certain unnamed (very) recent Heisman Trophy winner from a certain unnamed ‘college’ down south of here got a gift from the Ennis P.D. while he was speeding on the 287 bypass yesterday. It appears that even though the OU defense couldn’t stop him, the City of Ennis P.D. is a different story altogether. Time to grow up/slow down young ‘un. You got your whole life/career ahead of you. Gig Em indeed.”
Nothing like a judge rejoicing in nailing a celebrity and then offering public commentary based on an assumption of guilt. This is part of what I have long complained about — the merging of our courts with our entertainment industry. With people like Judge Brown and Nancy Grace turning the law into a perverse form of entertainment, some judges cannot resist the pull of publicity. This is often expressed in so called “novel sentencing” where judges impose humiliating punishments.
In Johnson’s case, he wanted to be first to taunt a celebrity as if the Queen of Hearts said “Taunt First, Trial Afterwards.”
It hardly improved his professional misconduct by adding an “oops” that “I meant to say ‘allegedly’ speeding, my bad.”
Here are a few canons that were discarded by Johnson from the Texas Judicial Code:
Upholding the Integrity and Independence of the Judiciary
An independent and honorable judiciary is indispensable to justice in our society. A judge should participate in establishing, maintaining and enforcing high standards of conduct, and should personally observe those standards so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary is preserved.The provisions of this Code are to be construed and applied to further that objective.
Avoiding Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety In All of the Judge’s Activities
A. A judge shall comply with the law and should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
B. A judge shall not allow any relationship to influence judicial conduct or judgment A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others . . .
Conducting the Judge’s Extra-Judicial Activities to Minimize the Risk of Conflict with Judicial Obligations
A. Extra-Judicial Activities in General. A judge shall conduct all of the judge’s extra-judicial activities so that they do not:
(1) cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge; or
(2) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties.
Source: USA Today