Give Judge Mills credit for redefining the meaning of a bug in the system with his comments on judicial ethics and earwigging on internet blogs – and letting us know he reads at least one blog.
Mills said if he doesn’t read the comments on a certain blog, someone in his office is bound to print it out and leave a copy on his desk.
Now, that comment not only caught my eye, it put a bug in my ear that started scratching when I read the story Sop posted yesterday – a bug to understand who in his office would copy blog posts and comments and leave them on his desk and why.
I found the answer – or at least one answer – in the Oxford Eagle story about the event.
“I know if something is said about someone local, and if I don’t read it, my clerk will make sure I see it,” Mills said. “It’s going to get copied and put on a judge’s desk. And I think people know that and I believe some write comments to influence the judges.
I suppose lawyer-people know that; but I’m not a lawyer. What I do know, however, is that Judge Mills and Judge Biggers have their offices in the Court’s Oxford office – where “local” means Scruggs, Lackey, Tollison and a host of others with various connections to USA v Scruggs.
No wonder Judge Mills is concerned about earwigging comments on internet blogs. In small towns, you can go from hello-to-earwigging faster than I can say Judge Lackey – who, according to the story in the Eagle, said something like that himself during the discussion.
Lackey, who helped the government in its case against Scruggs, talked about how being a judge in a rural area can make it harder to avoid talking to people involved in the cases he hears.
“Your circle of acquaintances gets larger,” he said. “But your circle of friends becomes smaller.”
Lackey said early in his career as a judge, family and friends would call him “Judge” instead of Henry.
“I would meet the ‘can-a-mans’ at the Post Office — those are the ones who ask, ‘Can a man do this?’ or ‘Can a man do that?’” Lackey said. “It’s indicative to a small town practice. It would be hard to tell them I can’t discuss the case with them.”
I couldn’t agree more and, since this post is intended only as an examination of earwigging on internet blogs, I’ll move on to this interesting comment from a law professor.
I don’t see how a blog comment is ex parte. The other side can read it too and respond, right? Lots of people read the oral-argument transcripts from the U.S. Supreme Court and try to point out things they missed, hoping to influence the Court. That can’t be earwigging, I think.
Granted, I’m not a lawyer; but, I see no correlation between the number of readers and right-versus-wrong; nor, do I doubt Judge Mills’ claim that attorneys, if not others, know judges read internet blogs. Given that, there are ample examples of attempts to influence the sentencing of those who entered pleas in USA v Scruggs and clearly that is wrong – and by far not the only example.
The cultural implications of these many examples provides insight about the impact earwigging on internet blogs has on the concept of justice for all. First, viewer count is not an accurate reflection of the number of readers because of the redistribution system in place. A count of one view may actually be a connection to a service that redistributes the post to hundreds, or even thousands of viewers.
Each viewer, in turn, has the potential to increase the distribution in a variety of ways including email or actual conversation. Consequently, a false statement can be so widely distributed it becomes the only truth known to the extent it is the actual truth that becomes subject to question.
The larger issue, however, is not how but how to recognize and what to do about attorneys who are earwigging on internet weblogs – particularly since there’s no way to pin the blame for this situation on Dickie Scruggs.
Judge Mills is to be commended for starting a timely conversation that needs to continue and will here on slabbled. Although, Sop and I are never certain if we’re the minority opinion or the voice of the silent majority, either suits us fine.
We host slabbed for the pleasure – the pleasure of giving hope to the slabbed – and the related pleasure of reminding our growing number of readers that not only are there are two sides to every story, the most popular version may or may not be true. Of course, if any are judges, they already know that.