South Carolina Judge Sentences Drunk Driver To Read Book Of Job

South Carolina Judge Michael Nettles has imposed a novel sentence on Cassandra Tolley, 28, for DUI. Tolley has been ordered to read and write a summary of the Old Testament book of Job. I have been an outspoken critic of such novel punishments for years (here and here). The order to read and summarize a religious book is not simply an affront to our legal system but a danger to the separation of church and state.

Tolley pleaded guilty to a drunk-driving crash that seriously injured two people. During her hearing, she mentioned that she was a Christian in addition to an account of childhood abuse. The judge sentenced her to eight years in jail followed by five years of probation and substance abuse counseling. Nettles then added the requirement that she read and summarize the Book of Job.

We have seen judges order defendants to attend mass or yoga lessons. Others seek to humiliate them by making them peel gum from the bottom of the courtroom benches or sleep in dog houses. All of these sentences represent the loss of the touchstone of a legal system: consistent and coherent sentencing. Judges assume the roles of judicial Caesars — toying with defendants who do not know if they will receive a conventional punishment or some idiosyncratic sentence for a judge. Judges appear to be increasingly mimicking faux judges from television from Judge Judy to Judge Brown. This is primarily a problem in the state courts where some elected judges openly pander to the public’s taste for humiliating or novel sentencing.

Because she consented to the sentence, there will be no appeal. Moreover, individuals can agree to such acts so long as they are not given coercive choices between jail and some humiliating acts as with the recent case of the judge ordering a girl’s hair cut in front of him.

The addition of a religious element makes this latest sentence all the more problematic but no doubt all the more popular with the public. Citizens are left not knowing what entertaining flourish a judge will place on their sentence. Indeed, many will feel as lucky as Job and exclaim: “I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.” Job, 19. 20

Judge Nettles graduated cum laude from Wofford College in 1981 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. Michael earned his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of South Carolina in 1984. His bio says that he is “an active member of the Lake City First Baptist Church, where he serves as a Deacon, Sunday School Teacher, and member of the Foreign Missions Team.”

Source: Herald Onlineas first seen on ABA Journal

31 thoughts on “South Carolina Judge Sentences Drunk Driver To Read Book Of Job”

  1. What next? The Revelation? Or some of the totally incomprehensible sections of the Koran? The Bhagavad-Gita?

  2. The sentence was unconstitutional. Unfortunately, that is of no consequence since it was accepted..

  3. There is a lesson in this. Do not drive through South Carolina. If you fly over, flush. They call folks who live just across the state line in North Carolina, Yankees.

  4. BarkinDog, I’m always surprised when I see somebody’s photo and they look like a little kid who just got bigger. It’s a very weird look.

    Ayway, I just thought of something. In the Book of Job, there’s nothing that would have any effect on the conduct of a drunk driver, is there? Am I missing something? If I remember correctly, God and Satan are in some kind of debate and they make a wager of sorts that if God mistreats Job enough, he’ll end up cursing God and he’ll switch loyalties to Satan. It’s an interesting proposition, by the way. Imagine the Republicans and the Democrats, sitting down circa 2000 and the Republicans saying, “Hey I know; if we totally ruin the economy bet me they’ll all turn around and hand the white house over to some Democrat Devil.” Oh, doesn’t work? OK, forget it.

    But anyway, so God kills off all Job’s kids, gives him boils on his tushie, and other stuff like that, and then the neighbors come in and yell at Job, “You had to have deserved all this” and “Think hard; it must be something you said” and “Your tree was leaning over my property all this time,” and stuff like that. And he still won’t curse god and turn to Satan. Or something. Isn’t that it? Where’s the drunk driver’s lessin in all THAT?

  5. The dogpack was surveyed and they think that the Judge’s name is Goober. They think this is a photo of some guy from the Andy Griffth show and the photo is put on the article as a joke. Please confirm that this Judge really puts out a photo of himself for public consumption that looks like something out of the Book of Jobs.

  6. We dogs dont know nuthin bout the bible or the book written by Steve Jobs referred to in the article. We do know that after eight years in the joint the lady may not know how to read. At least she is not serving her time in State Penn where she is likely to lose her anal virginity. The photo of the judge is also of interest. This guy looks like his name should be Joe Bob. Some commenter above was beating up on JT for picking on southern states for thier peculiar judges. Keep up the work on State Penn and we can call it even. So, my pal works for IBM and he has three candidates for a position as math and science specialist first class. One is from Univeristy of South Carolina, one is from State Penn and one is from M.I.T. Which does he choose based just on the school attended? By the way, the SC guy can read and write, the Penn guy has his rear intact and the M.I.T. gal says she does not know nuthin bout birthin babies and intends to work to make IBM a better place.

  7. Bettykath:

    You hit the nail right on the head with this one. That is the trend that is happening here, although the probation here is not farmed out to private enterprise it is still thankfully a state function. Alas, collection agencies are sometimes used in the case of default. Here is a little perspective.

    From some point up until around 1988(?) too many people here in WA would be issued Notices of Infraction (tickets) and either not show up for court as promised or would not pay the fine: (known as FTA’s or Failures to Appear or to Pay the Fine.) Some would have many FTA’s and one guy had 25. The department of licensing would not renew a driver’s license until all these fines were paid. But many people just racked up the FTA’s and it was a big loss of fine revenue for the state. Later, the law was amended that made it a criminal traffic offense to drive a motor vehicle while having 2 or more FTA’s on one’s license. Finally the legislature abandoned that idea and set the course in motion to just suspend the driver license in the result of 1 FTA. DOL in some cases can add another year to a suspension if one or more Driving While License Suspeded citations results in a conviction. Many people get at this point overtaken by the downward spiral of endless fines, need to drive to work, and further lengthening of the ot the suspension. Some people take years to get out of this. Many times I would somewhat cross into a gray area and tell people who had the license suspended in this manner the pitfalls of getting trapped into the fortex of FTA and Suspended 3rd’s

    I don’t know what the balance is of this since people need to get their act together and either take it to court of pay the fine. But I can tell you from a real world situation Betty this happens in too many areas.

  8. And here’s another one

    Poor Land in Jail as Companies Add Huge Fees for Probation
    By Ethan Bronner, The New York Times News Service | Report

    Childersburg, Alabama – Three years ago, Gina Ray, who is now 31 and unemployed, was fined $179 for speeding. She failed to show up at court (she says the ticket bore the wrong date), so her license was revoked.

    When she was next pulled over, she was, of course, driving without a license. By then her fees added up to more than $1,500. Unable to pay, she was handed over to a private probation company and jailed — charged an additional fee for each day behind bars.

    For that driving offense, Ms. Ray has been locked up three times for a total of 40 days and owes $3,170, much of it to the probation company. Her story, in hardscrabble, rural Alabama, where Krispy Kreme promises that “two can dine for $5.99,” is not about innocence.

    It is, rather, about the mushrooming of fines and fees levied by money-starved towns across the country and the for-profit businesses that administer the system. The result is that growing numbers of poor people, like Ms. Ray, are ending up jailed and in debt for minor infractions.

  9. Professor Turley says: “Judges assume the roles of judicial Caesars.”

    This is the primary tumor of the cancer that is destroying the fabric of our culture. The metastases are all over the public body by now, and we are in stage 4, and there is damn nothing we can do about it. Because of Caesar, and all those who render unto him/her.

    Not just because of wacko insane sentences, either. A judge who later served as a sentencing commissioner in Virginia gave knowingly unlawful sentences even for things that he knew were not crimes. What you have is what you have thrown robes on — and in many cases, everything’s a caesar that wants to be one.

  10. I thank God every day that I don’t live in a screwed up State like South Carolina.

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