Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It may have been HisSpace, but contents of MySpace blog puts part-time Nevada judge on the shelf, off the bench

Many people, in many different walks of life, maintain blogs.

Thus, it will come as no surprise that some judges also blog. The blog maintained by Judge Richard Posner (along with University of Chicago colleague Gary S. Becker), The Becker-Posner Blog, is the only local example that springs immediately to mind, although I am sure there are others.

A part-time Nevada judge, Jonathan MacArthur, was also a blogger, according to an August 14 story by Martha Neil posted on the ABA Journal Law News Now page. He apparently is a blogger still, though his MySpace blog is now private -- but Mr. MacArthur is a judge no longer, as Ms. Neil reports in her story, Temp Judge Fired Over MySpace Post.

Neil writes that MacArthur's blog contained "graphic language" and was "reportedly hostile to prosecutors." (When not serving as a part-time judge, Mr. MacArthur is a criminal defense attorney.)

MacArthur's alleged "hostile" remarks were not quoted in Neil's story for the ABA, but an August 13 story by K.C. Howard in the Las Vegas Review-Journal quoted the "personal interests" professed by Mr. MacArthur in his MySpace blog as including "Breaking my foot off in a prosecutor's ass ... and improving my ability to break my foot off in a prosecutor's ass."

One begins to see why, just possibly, the local prosecutor might have sensed some hostility.

Once he found out about part-time Judge MacArthur's MySpace blog, the local prosecutor, District Attorney David Roger, called it to the attention of the local court administrator. The court administrator, in turn, called it to the attention of North Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Natalie Tyrrell, the full-time judge for whom MacArthur sometimes substituted. They decided that Mr. MacDonald would no longer be employed as a substitute.

The court administrator, Terri March, is quoted in the Journal-Review story as saying MacArthur's remarks were inappropriate and "unbecoming of a pro-tem."

The local authorities seemed to have also taken exception to MacArthur's definition of a judge pro-tem. "Imagine" MacArthur wrote, according to the Journal-Review story, "a substitute teacher with a black choir robe and a disconcerting amount of authority."

MacArthur alleged that his remarks were taken out of context. According to the Journal-Review story, MacArthur claims that "People who know me and interact with me socially know I'm constantly trying to say things in a funny, provocative manner." MacArthur apparently told the ABA's Martha Neil that, in hindsight, he might not have put up his controversial statements, but he only did it with the intent of provoking discussion; he did not intend to be taken at face value. Neil's article quotes MacArthur thusly: "It's obvious to the casual reader this is an overstatement just for the effect."

MacArthur intends to run for his own seat on the bench in 2009. He told the Journal-Review, "My record on the bench is pristine. I've got nothing but compliments from both sides." He also told the Journal-Review that he has no problem fairly applying the law; indeed, he claimed, he makes an "extra effort" to see things from the prosecutor's point of view.

Nevada is clearly very different than Illinois. We don't have "part-time" judges here. And while, from the standpoint of a Chicago native, it comes as no surprise that MacArthur is positioning himself for a judicial election two years distant, the Journal-Review article provides one final surprise.

According to the Las Vegas paper, one Chris Lee, a former deputy district attorney now employed by the Secretary of State, intends to oppose MacArthur for the new seat on the bench.

Only one opponent?

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