Judge Accused of Ordering Whites Out of Courtroom to Lecture Blacks

Georgia Judge Marvin Arrington is accused of telling white lawyers to leave his courtroom and then lecturing young black defendants. He discusses his “mistake” in the video below.

Arrington does not deny separating white lawyers and black defendants to engage in some cathartic criticism. He told a local television station: “I came out and saw the defendants, about 99.9 percent Afro-Americans, and some point time I excused some of the lawyers, most of them white, and said to the young people in here ‘What in the world are you doing with your lives.'”

He further noted in ordering the lawyers out: “I didn’t think about racism or reverse racism, I practiced law for 30 years and 75 percent of my partners were white.”

Once again, whether ordering criminal defendants to court (here) or ordering prayer circle in court (here), judges seem to be increasingly forgetting their limits in creative sentencing or cathartic conduct. When you add a racial element, it becomes a particularly worrisome trend.

For the full story, click here.

UPDATE: Judge says ordering whites out was a “mistake.” Here.

For the video, click here.

64 thoughts on “Judge Accused of Ordering Whites Out of Courtroom to Lecture Blacks”

  1. “…What Judge Arrington did should be seen as a very serious breach of trust, irrespective of the guilt or innocence of the defendants, although part of me really feels for him (uh oh – emotion – not permitted in this forum). I do not doubt for one minute that his motivation was anything but sincere and well meaning (although beside the point…”

    Guess what, cleo? ‘We’, meaning JT, DW, mespo, VC(binx), rafflaw, JR, Susan, Jill, Vince Treacy, myself etc, and most others here agree with you!

    Additionally, ‘we’ are intelligent, caring, pretty level-headed individuals with equally unique, often sarcastic, sense of humor which occasionally season our comments as a denizen JT blogger
    and observer, in my opinion.

    We get together. We exchange thoughts. Sometimes we have a lot of fun!

    “HELLO,k2: Jonathan is posting inappropriate graphics again
    – Somebody, make him Stop…

  2. Stop foaming at the mouth, Mespo. You’ll ruin your keyboard. Now it’s my use of the phrase “his community” that’s gotten you all aquiver?

    From the Wall Street Journal:
    (I copied and pasted from the on-line edition)

    On CNN, Arrington told Anderson Cooper that seeing the same faces walk in and out of his courtroom year after year takes its toll. “I ask them all the time, ‘What progress are we making with you?’ And sometime they cannot answer.” He said he would open his court doors to everyone on Thursday and “I am going to give the same identical speech: ‘You’ve got to do better.’”

    “‘I came out and saw the defendants, and it was about 99.9 percent Afro-Americans, and at some point in time, I excused some lawyers — most of them white — and said to the young people in here, ‘What in the world are you doing with your lives?’”

    He’s an African-American Judge. In his own words, 99.9 percent of the defendants were African Americans. Is it so horrible to assume that he might feel some sense of kinship or “community” with them? Why does that notion offend you so?

    According to the report, he spoke about “seeing the same faces walk in and out of his courtroom year after year.” That’s the “treadmill”
    and “same old same old” I was talking about. But I guess I should have checked with you before I paraphrased. My apologies.

    I thought you had actually read the story, so assumed you would understand the reference. My mistake.

    You said earlier that Judge Arrington “is presupposing everyone in that courtroom or even some of those who have been charged are guilty”. Is this the basis of your objection to what he did?

    The guilt or innocence of these defendants is not the point. Even if each one of them had already been found guilty as charged, they still have the right to legal representation in the courtroom.

    What Judge Arrington did should be seen as a very serious breach of trust, irrespective of the guilt or innocence of the defendants, although part of me really feels for him (uh oh – emotion – not permitted in this forum). I do not doubt for one minute that his motivation was anything but sincere and well meaning (although beside the point.

    Anyone who can read knows that Arrington is facing censure, but he is not being “pummeled in the press”. The story has been relegated to the blogs in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and USA Today.

    Reverend Jeremiah Wright gets a standing ovation after a sermon a couple of days after his racist views are reported in the press (find it on CNN.com.), and I’m sure Arrington will stay on the bench.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s getting late, and this ole bubba is gonna snuggle under his nice white hood.

  3. cleo:

    While you’re just sitting around despairing about your white victim-hood, you may want to read another article here on the site. It’s:

    In that case, Judge Osborne, an African-American Judge, is facing censure and possible removal from the bench for remarks he made about “white folks.” Obviously, the Supreme Court of Mississippi (that progressive, liberal state) didn’t get your memo that, in America, all African-American Judges get a free pass on racially sensitive remarks and only the Caucasian Judges are to be pummeled in the press and officially. If I had your mindset, I would hop in my car right now and get down to Jackson and correct this outrage, “you know it baby.”

  4. cleo:

    “borne of years of seeing members of his community paraded on a treadmill in front of him, same-old same-old.”
    And what “members of his community might that be”? And what “same old same old” are you referring to? Thank you for proving my point by merely restating what Larry said. You did give us your reason though which, we can tell by your tone, is the perception of white victimization that you so obviously feel. My reference to presupposed bigotry is your and Larry’s feeling that we here are somehow favoring the black judge due to his race, despite the myriad of comments by most everyone here that condemn his actions. A little argument tip: if you are trying to support a position, facts beat feelings all the time. Of course, we now know your true feelings of victimization so thank you for that clarification. I’ll let you get back to the rally with Larry.

  5. Since you asked, Cleo, I’m one of the “couple of posters” who pointed out that this Judge’s actions were both improper and in my opinion highly unethical. It didn’t matter to me whether he was black, white, or whatever. Deliberately separating defendants from their lawyers, where the lawyers could not hear what the judge said to them, could (but not sure if it does) even cross the line into Judicial Misconduct.

    As Mespo said, it presupposes that the defendants are guilty, even though a verdict wasn’t formally reached. Judges are NOT supposed to do that, no matter what their private feelings are. If a judge can’t keep his personal views to himself during any phase of a trial, he/she should NOT be on the bench.

  6. Mespo

    I’m no-one’s champion, and I’m not letting you off so easily. You can dance around the point but I won’t.

    I find that Judge Arrington’s behaviour, while ill-conceived, was almost pathetically well-meaning and borne of years of seeing members of his community paraded on a treadmill in front of him, same-old same-old. I actually admire him for this, while at the same time recognizing the gross breach of trust, given his office.

    So lets cut to the chase – you want me to spell it out.

    If Arrington had been white and those expelled had been black, would we see a hue-and-cry in the media? Oh, yeah. You know it, baby. He would have been yanked off the bench, no questions asked.

    And I’m sorry, no! the mere reporting of a story does not constitute a “scream from coast to coast”.

    And who are the “couple of posters” who have asked me to respond?
    You are the only one, Mespo, and I did respond in my last post. It’s just that you seem to keep missing the point.

    The point is this, Mespo: If someone has a dissenting viewpoint, whatever the topic (and it was just my dumb luck that I happened upon this forum when everyone was dumping on Larry,) hear them out, don’t make assumptions as to their motivation, and put forth your own arguments without name-calling.

    Will you answer my questions now?

  7. Mespo727272 wrote:
    Unfortunately Judge Arrington still doesn’t get it. He is presupposing everyone in that courtroom or even some of those who have been charged are guilty. Does it take a rock to fall on this guy’s head to figure out judicial ethics?


    Judging from his last statement, it obviously does. I read the article briefly, but was in a bit of a hurry at the time and skipped over the last part. My goof; I thought the judge had seen the “error of his ways,” but I was wrong. You’re right, Mespo, this judge still doesn’t get it.

  8. cleo:

    Glad to answer your question when you answer mine. What exactly is the “valuable point” that Larry has made? A couple of posters have asked you and, as yet, no response from you. Larry apparently has retreated into that mire from whence he came, so it is left to you to champion his “point.”

  9. Mespo

    What do you mean by “presupposed bigotry”? Presupposed by yourself?
    And does every question have to be a “scholarly inquiry” to be legitimate? What’s wrong with asking questions that come from the gut?

  10. Susan:

    This is the last sentence in that article you cited:

    “He [Judge Arrington] said he would open his court doors to everyone on Thursday and “I am going to give the same identical speech: ‘You’ve got to do better.'”

    Unfortunately Judge Arrington still doesn’t get it. He is presupposing everyone in that courtroom or even some of those who have been charged are guilty. Does it take a rock to fall on this guy’s head to figure out judicial ethics?

  11. Here’s a link to a news story that Judge Arrington regrets that decision. If the link doesn’t work, my apologies. Maybe JT will have a better one. 🙂


    [quote from story]
    “In retrospect, it was a mistake,” Judge Marvin Arrington told CNN. “Because my sheriff said to me, ‘Judge, that message should be given to everybody’ — ‘Don’t violate the law, make something out of yourself, go to school, find a role model, somebody that will help you advance your life.'”

    Arrington, who is African-American, is a judge in Fulton County, Georgia, which includes the city of Atlanta.
    [end quote]

    Well, at least the judge now admits his action was a mistake. I wish all judges who made even worst mistakes could be that honest.

  12. Cleo, what was really annoying about Larry’s initial post was that he apparently made a bad assumption that Judge Arrington was “getting away with something because he’s black,” when that was not the case at all. JT’s original post was questioning his action, if not criticizing it directly. Most of us disagreed with this judge’s action, Mespo being one of the strongest critics. My feeling; if Larry had bothered to read all the posts before he replied, he would have known that.

  13. cleo:

    Why all the hostility? Maybe you aren’t from the South where code words like Larry’s are in full bloom. By the way, one can be “honestly” racist as Larry’s failure to reply or dispute seems to suggest. (Qui tacet consentit – “silence implies assent”). On what evidence is there to suggest that a white Judge would be treated worse? And by whom? The unfounded belief that PC society favors blacks to the detriment of whites is the racist assumption implicit in Larry’s, and presumably your “question.” That’s just presupposed bigotry masquerading a scholarly inquiry. Seems to me that a national story about a black judge doing this amounts to some degree of “screaming from coast to coast.” You will find if you choose to stay in this forum (and I hope you will) that respected opinions here have to be based on evidence and not feelings. Most of the posters do not suffer emotion-based comments silently. If you don’t understand that, I have to concur with your observation about yourself that: ” – I’m naive, I know.”

  14. Cleo,

    Please do, there IS a lot of kindness here and honest attempts to bridge gaps and reach understanding. True kindness is important to me as well, so you seem a kindred spirit


  15. Mespo & Michael Spindell;

    How is it “patently obvious” that Larry (or myself for that matter, since you seem to be slotting me into whichever category you feel that Larry falls into) is motivated by “raw racism”? It was an honest comment and perhaps only “drive-by” in nature (he can probably speak for himself better than I can) because it was immediately stomped on and dismissed.

    I stumbled upon this message board after reading the article about Judge Arrington, which I found fascinating on many fronts. I browsed through the posts and found them reasoned and intelligent. I’ve never posted to anything before as I find most of these forums are populated by rude, arrogant, strident, unbelievably stupid red-necks or oh-so-politically correct and holier-than-thou types who make any sort of meaningful dialogue impossible (and I’m sure they’re not really interested in a true dialogue).

    I found your forum initially refreshing and informative and much kinder (true kindness is important to me) until I read the “white-hood” remark. Here we go again, I thought. This is the same old stuff – intolerant and closed-minded, and only somewhat more civil.
    Instead of picking up on a point which could make for a very interesting discussion, pro or con, you silence the postee by hurling insults.

    How is my use of the term PC any worse than cavalierly calling someone racist or any other name?

    I don’t need a civics lesson from you. I’m interested in fairness on all fronts – I’m naive, I know.

    Put down your pen and paper, Mespo. You won’t learn anything from me. You already know it all.

  16. To Larry and Cleo because of your short posts I cannot really tell if you are bigots, or just misinformed.

    Larry ‘If a white judge had done this you would hear people screaming from coast to coast. Why is that? I guess it’s fine for him since he’s black.”

    This type of formulation denotes a prejudgment that somehow Black people are getting away with something by using their race as an excuse for being victims. The problems with this is that they are still being victimized by prejudice whether it’s in getting employment, getting into school, getting a good mortgage rate and/or moving into a good neighborhood even if they could afford it. Black schools are consistently underfunded compared to white schools 44 years after /brow v. Board of ED. As someone who has intimately known black people for more than 40 years I can attest to the fact that they are presented as negative stereotypes in the media, when the truth is that they’re just people like the rest of us with darker skins. In your heart Larry, I suspect you know the depths of your prejudice, but are smart enough to use the above formulation as cover for your misguided view of this community of people.

    Cleo, as for you I have come to understand that those who use the term PC come in two forms, generally: 1. People who want to excuse bigoted or rude and/or ignorant behavior. 2.
    People who don’t understand that the whole PC issue was pushed by ultra-conservatives as a tactic in their attack upon higher education. By characterizing people exercising reasonable and socially beneficial restraint and requesting it of others, this ultra right wing cabal has again made expressions of bigotry acceptable in public discourse, dismissing critiques of this behavior as PC.

  17. Cleo:

    It is patently obvious to me that Larry made his little remark not for edification but for racial reasons and hence my remark. I am genuinely surprised at your comments, first accusing the forum of being politically correct , and then wondering why we can’t be more constructive. Given Larry’s hit & run mentality which was apparent from his rather unlettered post, I feel no obligation to try and teach him anything. I am more interested in you teaching me how the value of LARRY’s remark is anything other than raw racism. As far as I am concerned, you have the floor and I have my pen and paper.

  18. Cleo,

    Thanks for staying to respond. Sometimes we encounter “drive by” posts which are usually all-inclusive slams on the site and its habitues by individuals who don’t return to talk. If you’ll excuse me, your post above shared some of those all-inclusive qualities.

    By your follow-up, I can see you are not one such and that speaks a lot for you.

    What you read above was an unusually sharp retort, and I doubt if you go through the archives you will find more than a few such (most by me). Generally, the voices are low here and we do try to respect all viewpoints. The context of the exchange is what you missed. We recently have experienced abusive posters coming in who seemed entirely uninterested in exchanging ideas across the ideological divide, but instead seemed centered on making personal attacks on the site Host and to a lesser degree the posters here. This kind of raised the temperature a little and what you caught was an after-echo of that period… I am as guilty as anyone here in adding to the name-calling.

    As for Larry’s remarks, he has a point of course. The history of racism in this country has produced a heightened reaction to white-on-black misconduct, while black-on-white misconduct sometimes seems under-reported. Although recently with Rep Jefferson, the Detroit Mayor, the Atlanta Judge, the Chicago Preacher, there are quite a lot of black public figures coming under media criticism which might vitiate some of Larry’s argument. You will see that most of our posters (except me for a while) thought that Judge Arrington was in the wrong, so there was no PC excusing of his conduct. But Larry’s point went unresponded to since it seemed obvious that in the present case a black judge WAS being taken to task in the media and in the blogs and precisely was NOT being given a pass because of his race.

    I hope you will stay and add your ideas to the mix!


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