Florida Judge Donna Miller is delighted by the results of a novel sentence that she handed down to a 345-pound man jailed for driving with a suspended license. Miller told George McCovery, 37, that she would reduce his time by a pound a day for weight loss. He lost 25 pounds in 20 days and received early release. Miller is one of the judges who has merged justice with the entertainment industry — replaying proceedings on the television show “Lake Courts.” I have previously written about the dangers of such “novel” sentencing in judges using their courtrooms for entertainment or self-aggrandizement. While some judges have been sanctioned for crossing the line in merging judicial with their entertainment careers, Miller appears to be flourishing in the practice.
Of course, weight loss is not one of Miller’s functions as a judge. However, such sentences are rarely about justice as opposed to the jurist. She insists, however, “I do what I do to try to change the person in front of me.” Thus, she views the criminal code as her license for self-improvement lessons — while being filmed for a larger audience. While such efforts may appear harmless, it reflects a trend that is undermining the integrity of our legal system as more and more judges yield to the temptation of television fame. These judges use defendants as effective props in their own entertainment production. In this case, Miller has found a way of merging “The Biggest Loser” with “Judge Judy.”