|Jack T. Camp|
A federal judge in Atlanta made national news this week when he was charged with buying drugs from a stripper. The judge had presided over the prosecution of Edmond H. "Eddie" Smith, a case we have covered here at Legal Schnauzer.
U.S. District Judge Jack T. Camp, a 67-year-old Reagan appointee, became infatuated with the stripper when she performed a lap dance for him, according to an affidavit from an FBI agent. The lap dance apparently pleased the court.
Bad jokes aside, the Camp escapade illustrates a sad truth about our justice system: Camp got nabbed only because he allegedly committed a crime--a relatively minor one--outside his role as a judge. He could have committed any number of serious crimes in "his official capacity" and almost certainly gotten away with it.
That's because federal judges receive lifetime appointments and are cloaked in judicial immunity--and those are two of many reasons the U.S. justice system is a sordid mess.
How did Camp step in doo-doo? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution spells it out:
Camp met the dancer, identified in the affidavit as CI-1, when he purchased a private dance from her, according to the affidavit by Special Agent Mary Jo Mangrum, a member of a task force investigating public corruption. He returned the next night and purchased another dance and sex from her, the affidavit said. The two then began a relationship that revolved around drug use and sex.
In some cases, he bought drugs from the dancer, while in others the pair purchased them from other parties, according to the affidavit. Camp sometimes took loaded guns to the deals.
Camp’s arrest came after a buy from an undercover agent, authorities said.
So, a lap dance led to the judge's downfall. The dancer must have made several motions, to which the judge definitely did not object. (Sorry, we can't help ourselves.)
What about Eddie Smith, the Alabama outdoorsman who has been ensnared in a number of legal difficulties? Well, Smith now looks like a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, compared to the judge who helped throw him in the federal slammer. Reports the Mobile Press-Register:
A federal appeals court moved this week to appoint a new judge in the Eddie Smith case after the judge who presided over the trial was arrested on charges of doing drugs with a stripper that he had paid for sex.
Edmond H. “Eddie” Smith IV is scheduled to be sentenced next week for trying to hire a hit man to kill a federal judge and prosecutor. That date is in doubt now in the wake of Friday’s arrest of Senior U.S. District Judge Jack T. Camp, a 67-year-old married man who took semi-retired senior status in 2008.
“I don’t know what it’s going to do,” said J. Clark Stankoski, an attorney who represents Smith.
How did Camp come to preside over a case in Mobile, Alabama? Reports the Press-Register?
In February, Camp was tapped to preside over Smith’s trial in Mobile after federal judges in southwest Alabama recused themselves because one of their colleagues was an alleged target. Smith, whose lavish lifestyle and frequent run-ins with the law drew front-page headlines, had been convicted of being a convicted felon in possession of ammunition.
Authorities contended that Smith plotted to kill the judge and prosecutor in that case, William Steele and Greg Bordenkircher, respectively.
Jurors heard taped conversations between Smith and a fellow inmate at Mobile County Metro Jail in which the defendant talked about hiring a hit man to do the job.
Eddie Smith apparently is not a sweetheart of a guy. But I long have suspected that he was set up by corrupt forces in Mobile, Alabama. Now we learn that the judge in his case is a druggie, and that's not all. Get this, from the Press-Register:
Last week’s arrest of Camp represents the latest strange turn in the Smith saga. An undercover police officer, who posed as a disbarred lawyer who had contacts with a hit man and secretly recorded his jailhouse conversation with Smith, later resigned from the Daphne Police Department for having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a female informant.
Gives you the warm and fuzzies about law enforcement, doesn't it?
Anyway, back to Jack T. Camp. What kind of person has been presiding over federal cases in Atlanta--and sometimes Alabama? The AJC provides the ugly details:
Camp’s relationship with the stripper, who had a federal conviction related to a drug trafficking case, began last spring, according to the affidavit. The two would meet when Camp paid her for sex, and they would smoke marijuana and snort cocaine and take the painkiller Roxicodone together. Camp usually gave the stripper money to buy the drugs although sometimes she provided them on her own, the affidavit said. She secretly recorded Camp discussing the drug transactions.
“In order to snort the [Roxicodone], Camp and CI-1 would use a pill crusher to create a powdered form of the [Roxicodone],” the affidavit said. “In fact Camp gave CI-1 the pill crusher for CI-1’s use.”
The affidavit details a series of drug transactions in which Camp is described as securing Roxicodone and other drugs for his personal use and describes Camp as carrying a semi-automatic handgun to protect the stripper and himself during drug deals. Federal law carries separate charges for carrying a firearm in drug transactions.
Yessiree, it sounds like "His Honor" took his oath to uphold the law real seriously. One news account describes the Atlanta legal community as "shocked" about the allegations.
That, I can assure you, is a bunch of hooey. I've spoken with more than 50 Alabama lawyers over the past eight years or so, and many of them describe how judges--both federal and state--routinely violate black-letter law in order to favor one party/attorney or another from the bench.
"What can you do about it?" I usually ask. And they shrug their shoulders.
According to the Rules of Professional Conduct that are in place for every state, a lawyer is duty bound to report any lawyer or judge who he knows is engaging in misconduct. The law is, after all, a self-regulating profession. But how often do lawyers actually abide by this rule? "Nobody does that," one told me.
The Atlanta legal community might have been shocked that Camp was stupid enough to get caught engaging in criminal acts. And they might have been shocked at the nature of his acts. But I doubt if they were shocked that he would violate the law. Many of them probably have witnessed him violate the law inside the courtroom.
That leads us to the "rest of the story" about Jack T. Camp. Judges wear robes, and we call them "Your Honor" and rise when they enter a courtroom. But a fair number of them are seriously dysfunctional individuals. Thanks to lifetime appointments, some of them are so old that they have no business trying to handle the challenging duties of a federal judge; I personally have witnessed the actions of an 83-year-old federal judge in Birmingham who has shown signs that he does not have the temperament, patience, or mental acuity required by his job.
Quite a few judges are just sorry human beings. To take an oath that you will uphold the law and then knowingly and repeatedly violate it--as I've seen multiple state and federal judges do--requires a pretty disturbed mindset. But judges get away with it all the time, probably every day of the work week in the US of A.
Jack Camp's mistake is that he decided to screw around with a stripper, on her turf. He could have screwed around with parties in his courtroom and never been touched.
Here is a key point about judges: The law holds them to a high standard; they are to avoid the "appearance of impropriety." In real life, the justice system often does not enforce that standard. But that, in theory, is the standard judges are supposed to live up to.
Many judges, unfortunately, want to have their proverbial cake and eat it, too. They want all the perks that come with being a judge, but they also want to keep their social contacts, their business associations, and their prejudices. That's not how it's supposed to work--if the law is taken seriously.
I've written about judges who play golf with attorney friends and then proceed to hear their cases--ruling unlawfully in their favor. I've written about judges who belong to hunting clubs with attorney friends and then proceed to hear their cases--ruling unlawfully in their favor. I've had readers respond with comments such as, "Hey, judges are going to hang out with their friends. That's just the way it is, and it's no big deal."
That's not the way it's supposed to be--and it's a very big deal. No one is forced to be a judge; if you can't live up to the standard, don't take the position. No one is forced to remain a judge; if a judge discovers after taking the bench that the standard is too much to bear, then he can resign.
Jack T. Camp, for example, could have said, "You know, I really enjoy snorting drugs with my new stripper friend. She's introduced me to a whole new side of life. God, my wife is so boring, by comparison. And those lap dances . . . man, they are something else! I think I'll step down from the bench tomorrow."
But he didn't do that. He was used to the amenities of his position and didn't want to give them up. In the end, Jack T. Camp became Exhibit A of just how bad our justice system has become.
I have no idea what kind of judge Jack Camp has been. If he is anything like several federal district judges I've witnessed in Birmingham, he's an arrogant piece of crap who regularly cheats certain parties while favoring others--and routinely violates the law while wasting taxpayer dollars. In other words, he's a scoundrel who mocks the idea of justice.
But he almost certainly would never have gotten in trouble for any of that.
It took a stripper, a lap dance, a gun, and a bunch of drugs to bring him down.