Friday, November 30, 2007

Judge jails everyone in court

A judicial panel in the US has removed an "egregious" judge, who objected to the ringing of a cell phone in the courtroom and ordered the arrest of 46 defendants present on the premise.

The ringing of a cell phone annoyed Judge Robert M Restaino in New York State's Niagara Falls so much that he asked the person whose instrument had made the noise to come forward.

Otherwise, everyone in the court room could take a week in jail. "Please do not tell me I am the only one who heard that," Restaino had said.

When no one came up voluntarily, the judge carried out his threat.

According to New York State Commission on judicial conduct, Restaino ordered 46 defendants to be held in custody and they were ultimately placed in holding cells.

The Commission was not amused by the judges conduct and recommended his removal, describing his action as "egregious and unprecedented abuse of judicial power."

The Commission found that while the judge "chastised" at length the defendants who claimed ignorance about the ringing phone's owner and accused the culprit of being "self-absorbed" for not coming forward, he never questioned "any of the prosecutors, defence attorneys, court personnel, programme representatives or others who were present in the courtroom" on March 11, 2005.

Restaino, for his part, attributed his behaviour to "certain stresses in his personal life," according to the report.

"It is tragic that in a crowded courtroom, only the individual wearing judicial robes, symbolizing his exalted status and the power it conferred, seems to have been oblivious to the enormous injustice caused by his rash and reckless behaviour," the Commission said.