Monday, December 3, 2007

Judicial Ethics vs. Sports Ethics

Who is held to higher ethical standards, judges or people connected to sports?

Based on a recent issue of The Birmingham News, the answer clearly appears to be people connected to sports.

Sports reporter Jon Solomon did an excellent piece on football officials in the Southeastern Conference, following a crew throughout a game and providing a behind-the-scenes look at a part of football most fans never see.

As part of the report, Solomon gave an idea of the ethical standards that apply to SEC officials. He noted that an official cannot work a game involving his alma mater or a school where he has a close relationship with the coach. For example, official Mike Washington cannot work games involving the University of Alabama (his alma mater) or Mississippi State (where Coach Sylvester Croom is a good friend).

Judges are held to no such standards. In the lawsuit filed against me, I've noted that Judge J. Michael Joiner was a regular golf bud of opposing counsel William E. Swatek, and the two had been longtime neighbors. Joiner clearly should have been disqualified from hearing the case. But the decision was left up to him, and he decided to stay on the case and cheat me blind, committing federal crimes in the process.

Joiner only recused himself after I became aware of his cozy relationship with Swatek and filed a motion asking for recusal. And even then, the decision was left to him. No one held him to any ethical standards at all.

And the new judge, G. Dan Reeves, proved just as corrupt as Joiner was. After all, they work under the same roof. That's like having Louis Franklin take over when Leura Canary "recused" herself in the Don Siegelman case.

In the same Birmingham News sports section, reporter Doug Segrest wrote about a lawsuit involving the NCAA and University of Alabama booster Ray Keller. Testimony during the trial revealed that Keller had co-signed a loan or loans in 2000 for longtime Tuscaloosa News sports editor Cecil Hurt. The NCAA attempted to show that Keller had served as a source for Hurt.

Doug Ray, executive editor of the News, said co-signing the note with Keller was "a mistake from the outset" because a reporter should not have such dealings with a source or potential source.

And judges? Accepting financial favors from lawyers who come before them is perfectly legal. In fact, such favors are a critical source of funding for most judicial campaigns. And the co-signing of loans for judges was at the heart of the Paul Minor case in Mississippi, a major subject here at Legal Schnauzer.

I have shown that, based on the law, attorney Minor and former judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield were wrongly convicted of corruption-related charges in the case. But it's interesting that we freely allow close financial and personal relationships between judges and those who come before them, but such relationships are forbidden or strongly discouraged in other professions.

Does that mean that we care more about justice on the football field or in the newsroom than we do in the courtroom? It looks that way.

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