Judge Brenda Branch in Halifax County, N.C., was not satisfied with simply sentencing Tonie Marie King, 21, for drunk and disorderly. So Branch sentenced her to write an essay entitled “How a Lady Should Behave in Public.” As with most shaming or novel sentences, Branch was instantly a national celebrity receiving praise from people for caring enough to fashion her own brand of justice. I am not one of them. As many of you know, I have long been a critic of such sentencing where judges seem to merge law and entertainment to the thrill of citizens. Judges are not appointed or elected to instruct women on being ladies like some Miss Manners issuing advice from a criminal docket.
I have repeatedly written against the use of shaming and novel sentencing by judges around the country (here and here and here). Judges often thrill the public by imposing their own forms of justices — departing from conventional criminal sentences to force people to clean courtrooms with toothbrushes, wear demeaning placards, or carry out publicly humiliating tasks. These judges often develop a taste for such power and the public acclaim that unfortunately comes from humiliating people.
As with other judges imposing her own flavor of justice, Branch sentenced the woman and then took to the air for interviews. She explained “We don’t have a whole lot of resources out here, so I try to be creative.”
King had pleaded guilty to being drunk and disruptive as well as resisting a police officer outside a convenience store. She was also accused of stealing a beer before struggling with a police officer. That does not seem like a problem with being “a lady” but being a felon.
However, Branch wanted the woman to do what she wanted as opposed what the criminal code states. So she sentenced King to 45 days in jail and suspended the sentence in lieu of a one-year supervised probation and her essay. Branch has previously made kids write essays but now is branching out to adults. In Fairfax county, ladies need to act more like Lady Halifax who was not seen stealing grog or kicking police officers in the eighteenth century.
The suspended sentence is the common tactic used for these judges. Citizens who want to avoid jail have to consent to the novel sentencing and thereby ruin their chances for appeal. They get to stay out of jail, the judge gets to appear in the newspaper, and the public gets to enjoy the story. No one seems concern over how different judges may define a proper lady and how such notions can invite sexist or cultural bias. Consider the lessons on raising a lady by Pastor Jack Hyles :
“The women’s liberation notwithstanding most men still want someone ladylike and feminine for a wife. To be sure, all good Christian men want submissive, feminine, ladylike, and godly wives. Yet, we live in a society which wants to homogenize the sexes.”
Pastor Hyles offers a variety of pieces of advice:
1. Dress her like a girl. Let her have long hair. Let her wear lace and ribbons. Do not let her wear that which pertaineth to a man. Deuteronomy 22:5 says, “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.”
2. Teach her strict obedience. . . . Whereas the boy is being trained to be a leader, the girl is being trained to be a follower. Hence, obedience is far more important to her, for she must someday transfer it from her parents to her husband.
3. She should not be allowed to play alone with boys. . . .She should participate in sports enough to become coordinated but she should not excel in sports. If later she marries a man who is very athletic, she could become more proficient in some particular sport that he enjoys, but if she becomes an expert in a sport that is usually associated with men and boys, it could prove embarrassing to her future husband, and for that matter, it could entice her to become more masculine than she ought to be.
. . .
5. Teach her to be an intelligent listener and an articulate conversationalist. She should read a variety of good books and magazines and have a wide variety of knowledge. . . This means that she should learn all she can about everything, especially things that interest men. For example, she should know football, but she should not play it. There is nothing a man wants any more than to be understood by an intelligent listener.
Well you get the idea . . .
These novel sentences are increasing because the media loves these stories and fuels the trend with publicity for the judges. It is a symbiotic relationship that is undermining the quality of justice in this country.
It is not clear if Lyle Lovett appeared as a witness at the proceedings:
Source: LA Times
47 thoughts on “Ladies Don’t Wear Jumpsuits: North Carolina Judge Sentences Woman To Essay On “How A Lady Should Behave””
Kate, I do hope you’re being sarcastic.
I like Darren’s letter up to the point where he starts in about a woman being in a position to judge others. A lady should of course learn about law and the Constitution, but she should leave it to men to judge others, because the Almighty Father has obviously chosen men as His judges, juries, and executioners on Earth. A lady should stay home to cook, clean, and bear a child every year for her husband.
I agree completely with your observation above. If Congress, state legislature or even city council wants some punishment to “fit the crime”, then they will (or perhaps should) make a law of it.
Having said that, I read with great amusement about a municipal judge who has a creative punishment for those who drive around in ‘boom-box’ vehicles, forcing their so-called musical tastes on the rest of us at 100+ decibels. When city officers cite those drivers, the judge gives them a choice. They can pay the maximum fine allowed by ordinance, the maximum hours of community service allowed by ordinance, or one day sitting in his courtroom listening to his music. Most opt for six to eight hours in the courtroom listening to Hizzhonor’s selections of music.
A couple of times a month, the noise ordinance violators gather in the courtroom and get to listen to the judge’s music. Among other things, the judge is an amateur jazz saxophonist, and a liberal amount of his own playing is in the the program. Other music includes bagpipes, American Indian flute, Japanese shamisen, Indian sitar and Tuvan throat singing.
For some reason, the judge said, he seldom has a repeat offender of the noise ordnance.
Minimum mandatory sentences aren’t some nitwit making it up as they go along. They’ve got problems, but judicial whimsy isn’t one of them.
Gene, does that include minimum sentencing laws?
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