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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. This lady simply should not have a driver’s license. Her actions show she can not see the danger in what she does. No need to shame…just make sure she can not drive.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Gene H, yes, I acknowledge. I just had to have a chance to zing a judge, though — you know. :mrgreen:

  8. “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.”


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

  9. 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.

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

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

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