Holding judges accountable is in high demand right now. The justice of the Supreme Court are doing whatever they want — because who can stop them — so making an example of judges limits most of us to the gavel wielders who actually have binding codes of ethics. I’m all for forcing judges to walk the straight and narrow, but there are times where “accountability” looks a lot more like “caviling.” This is one of them. From the ABA Journal:
A Las Vegas judge is facing ethics charges partly for a social media photo of herself sporting a bikini while in a hot tub with public defenders.
… That’s it? We had a judge who enslaved dozens of kids over made-up laws — now that’s newsworthy. Getting caught in a hot tub is very tame for all the things a judge could get in trouble for in Las Vegas. She’s facing a whole litany of complaints because she used the words “tits” and “shit” on her personal Instagram page:
The misconduct complaint alleges that both posts violate ethics rules requiring judges to act in a way that promotes public confidence in the judiciary; requiring them to comply with the law, including the judicial ethics code; and providing that judges participating in extracurricular activities should not act in a way that appears to undermine their independence and integrity.
Undermining the integrity of being a judge looks like handcuffing a 13-year-old girl to prove a point or yelling at an old cancer survivor because his property was a little grassy. Undermining judicial independence looks like getting caught being fed money under the table for over two decades. Hot tub visits and the occasional curse word do not magically become controversial because you’re a judge, nor does giving sound advice:
Ballou became a district judge in January 2021. She was previously criticized for telling a Black defendant accused of battery against a police officer that he should stay away from officers.
“You know you don’t want to be nowhere where cops are ’cause I know I don’t, and I’m a middle-aged, middle-class Black woman,” she said. “I don’t want to be around where the cops are because I don’t know if I’m going to walk away alive or not.”
Don’t be mad at her for being right — be mad at the police. Data shows that of the 600 people killed in traffic stops between 2017 and 2022, 28% of the drivers were Black despite being only 13% of the population. And, considering that around 20% of police responded that they feel angry and frustrated on the job, I wouldn’t take the risk of unnecessarily talking to a gun and badge on what could be one of their bad days either.
If you search for Judge Ballou’s Instagram page, you will likely find that it is now private. Hopefully that will be enough for people to leave her alone.
Judge’s Hot Tub Social Media Post Makes Waves With Judicial Conduct Commission; She Quotes Cardi B In Response [ABA Journal]
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at [email protected] and by tweet at @WritesForRent.