You have a lifetime appointment and pretty much can't be fired, no matter how poorly you do your job. You make good money, with excellent benefits, and you tend to work in relatively new, clean, comfortable, and uncrowded buildings. You have a light workload, compared to your state-court brethren, and those dupes often have to work in old, nasty, crowded facilities. Appellate courts will hear some of your cases, but they don't really review your work--and even if they do, who cares, they can't fire you or even do much to discipline you for getting cases wrong.
You get to wear a robe, people call you "Your Honor," and they rise when you enter the courtroom. You get to sit high above lawyers--many of whom are smarter than you and make more money than you, but they still have to kiss your fanny. You don't have to run for re-election, so you never have to ask people for money--unless you come to enjoy taking bribes--and you can be an utter asshole to people and almost never have to worry about the consequences.
Many cases on your docket involve allegations of discrimination on the job or in public accommodations, and if you can stand the tedium of listening to the same old arguments and facts all the time, you can ride the wave to a cushy retirement--or your death, whichever comes first
Come to think of it, you really don't have to even listen--court reporters are there to take down every word. Best of all, you don't even have to do the most important part of your job--writing orders and opinions. It's well known that clerks "ghost write" many of those for federal judges. You don't even have to research the law--very few court cases are decided on the actual law, and if a tricky issue comes up, you can get a clerk to do the scut work. More often than not, you can ask lawyers to do the research for you.
You can commit all kinds of crimes while wearing your robe, and the chances are astronomically high that you will get away with them. As for lawsuits, you are "immune" from them for anything you do in your "official capacity."
So how can anyone with three brain cells screw up this dream job? Well, a few people are stupid enough to do it, with Mark Fuller from the Middle District of Alabama being the latest example. He is set to resign on August 1, in the fallout from his arrest for beating his wife.
And that brings us to the one thing that can cause potential problems for a federal judge. When the robe is off and you are outside your "official capacity," it's a good idea to be on respectable behavior. You can still get away with a lot, but it's best not to grope women (or men) in the workplace. It's best not to loudly make racist, sexist, or homophobic statements. It's a good idea not to hit your spouse or get involved in barroom brawls. And you'd be wise to steer clear of alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription painkillers and other mind-altering substances.
|Jack T. Camp|
What kind of person can screw up a job where you almost can't screw up? Well, we know Mark Fuller is that kind of person. And our research shows that, since 1970, at least five other federal judges have proven to be that kind of person. How did these five other dudes (like Fuller, they all are males) get in trouble? How did they join Fuller in a judicial "hall of infamy"? Here are a few details:
Otto Kerner Jr.
* Where he's from -- Illinois, on 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (1968-1974)
* Who nominated him -- President Lyndon B. Johnson
* How he screwed up -- Kerner was charged with taking bribes related to race tracks in the Chicago area, while he was governor of Illinois--prior to his nomination to the federal bench. The bribery charges were dismissed, but he was convicted of mail fraud, conspiracy, and perjury. He was sentenced to three years in federal prison, and facing almost certain impeachment, resigned as U.S. judge.
* Where he's from -- Eastern District of Pennsylvania (1973-1978)
* Who nominated him -- President Richard M. Nixon
* How he screwed up -- A combination of influence peddling and heavy drinking brought down Fogel. At the time of his resignation, he was being investigated for lining up a $52-million building contract for his uncle. Fogel wound up facing four counts of drunk driving and spent time at an alcohol-rehab center in Atlanta. Friends said the boredom of being a federal judge contributed to his drinking problem.
* Where he's from -- Eastern District of Louisiana (1978-1993)
* Who nominated him -- President Jimmy Carter
* How he screwed up -- Collins was the first black to be appointed to a federal judgeship in the Deep South and the first federal judge to be convicted of taking a bribe. He was convicted in 1991 of taking money to influence his sentencing of a marijuana smuggler. He spent five years at several federal prisons, including the Federal Prison Camp at Montgomery, Alabama.
* Where he's from -- District of Colorado (1989-2008)
* Who nominated him -- President George H.W. Bush
* How he screwed up -- Nottingham had "zipper issues." His troubles started when it was revealed in his divorce case that he had spent $3,000 on strippers in one night and had used an Internet dating site. One complaint alleged that he viewed pornographic Web sites on the government computer in his chambers. Finally, two former prostitutes claimed Nottingham was a client of an escort service, and one of the prostitutes said he had instructed her to lie to federal investigators about their relationship. According to news reports, Nottingham's nickname among "working girls" was "Naughty."
Jack T. Camp
* Where he's from -- Northern District of Georgia (1988-2010)
* Who nominated him -- President Ronald Reagan
* How he screwed up -- Camp had sex and drug problems, and we've reported on his case several times here at Legal Schnauzer. Camp pleaded guilty to three criminal charges after he was arrested for attempting to buy drugs from an undercover FBI agent. At the time of his arrest, Camp was in the company of an exotic dancer he reportedly had met at an Atlanta strip club. According to news reports, Camp became infatuated with the stripper when she performed a lap dance for him. She had a federal conviction from a drug-trafficking case, but Camp reportedly paid her for sex and they then would smoke marijuana, snort cocaine, and take painkillers together.