Crime in the Federal Courts: When Investigators Scrutinize the Judges for Potential Criminal Activity

Criminal cases in the federal courts here in Atlanta are no different than in other parts of the country. Criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors make their arguments in front of federal judges, who under our Constitution are appointed to lifetime positions by the President, with the consent and approval of Congress. However, what happens when investigators scrutinize not the defendant, but the judge himself?

An article today explains that there currently an unprecedented number of investigations into the activities of sitting federal judges. One of these activities has ripened into a criminal case against the judge, while others are at the stage at which the judge could receive some sanctions.

Two of the open cases involve judges who are alleged to have engaged in possibly illegal or, at the least, highly questionable, acts related to sex. One of the judges supposedly went on a two-night binge at a topless club and used an escort service, and that judge alleges that his acts were “private and personal involving human frailties and foibles.” This is exactly the argument we make as criminal defense attorneys on a daily basis, and we, perhaps more than most people, appreciate that even the best and most accomplished of our fellow citizens can engage in some amazingly stupid behavior.

However, it is the second case involving a judge and sexual matters that might be the most disturbing. A very well-known and highly respected conservative appellate judge in California has admitted that his personal web site contained off color videos and photos, including two showing naked women dressed up (for some odd reason) as cows showing bare crotch close-ups. This judge defends his conduct by saying he believed the web site was not open to the general public. This is the same defense we often raise when representing people accused of simple possession of certain kinds of pornography: namely, that what an adult does with his or her computer is no business of the rest of the world.

Judges are people like the rest of us, with strengths and weaknesses. We can only hope that our clients receive the same treatment for their weaknesses when we represent them in front of the federal courts.