Maryland judge must take twice-daily breathalyzer tests while hearing cases

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Washington County Circuit Court Judge W. Kennedy Boone lll has been ordered by the Maryland Judicial Commission on Disabilities to take blood-alcohol tests twice daily to insure that he’s not intoxicated while presiding over court cases.

The commission’s job is to investigate complaints about the behavior of judges, and looks into matters of mental or physical illness, senility, and alcohol or drug abuse.

In Judge Boone’s case, he was involved in a car accident in which he hit a young woman who had a baby in the car. Although the baby was not injured, the woman received minor neck and back injuries. Boone’s blood-alcohol level was .18 at the time, more than twice the legal limit.

Owing in part to some previous questionable behavior on the bench, including calling three black female public defenders “The Supremes,” and telling their client to get “an experienced male attorney,” it appears that the commission had more than casual reason to believe that the drinking incident was not isolated.

Now, each morning before beginning work, and after he returns from lunch, the judge is required to take the blood-alcohol tests.

Critics are wondering just how difficult it is to find prospective judges in Maryland that don’t have to be tested twice per day to make sure that they are sober while hearing cases.

The Baltimore Sun

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Judge accused of bilking child welfare system back on bench

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An Oklahoma County District Judge, Tammy Bass-LeSure, was back at work on Thursday, two weeks after she was charged with felony fraud for taking foster care payments for twins that she adopted, but secretly gave to another woman to raise.

“I’m doing what the citizens elected me to do, and I will continue to do so. I will continue to fight to clear my name and to work hard,” she said from her desk in her chambers.

Bass-LeSure was first elected to the bench 12 years ago, and until recently, handled criminal cases. Lately, she had been hearing adoption, probate and guardianship cases, although authorities said she will no longer be involved in adoption cases.

The judge has been on paid leave after she was charged with the crimes. As an elected official, she can only be removed from her position by the state Court of the Judiciary, which has not taken action on the matter.

Judge Tammy-Bass LeSure, 43, and husband Karlos Antonio LeSure, 46, allegedly took $22,000 in foster care reimbursements from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services beginning in January 2008, when they agreed to become foster parents of the infant boy and girl. The DHS paid the pair $730 per month.

Around the same time, according to prosecutors, they gave the children to LeSure’s bailiff’s sister, Ravona Latrice Edwards, who has been raising the children ever since. Edwards told investigators that other than DHS payments to day-care providers, she had not received any compensation or assistance for the care of the children.

The judge was charged with 30 counts of making fraudulent claims and two counts of perjury, while her husband was charged with two counts of making a false claim and two counts of perjury. The district attorney’s chief investigator said that the judge used some of the money in Texas and Maryland “at spas, nail salons and casinos,” according to an affidavit that was part of the filing.

Prosecutors said that the judge took repeated actions to suppress the truth about who had custody of the children “through trick, false appearances and/or unfair acts.”

The judge and her husband have had financial troubles in recent years, filing for bankruptcy in 2009, reporting debts of more than $1 million.

The judge currently earns over $120,000 from her post.

Information from: The Oklahoman

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Oklahoma judge charged with stealing child welfare funds

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An Oklahoma County district judge has been charged with felony fraud for taking foster care payments for twins that she adopted, but secretly gave to another woman to raise.

Judge Tammy-Bass LeSure, 43, and husband Karlos Antonio LeSure, 46, took $22,000 in foster care reimbursements from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services beginning in January 2008, when they agreed to become foster parents of the infant boy and girl. The DHS paid the pair $730 per month.

Around the same time prosecutors allege, they gave the children to LeSure’s bailiff’s sister, who has been raising the children ever since. The woman who has custody of the children told investigators that other than DHS payments to day-care providers, she had not received any compensation or assistance for the care of the children.

The judge was charged with 30 counts of making fraudulent claims and two counts of perjury, while her husband was charged with two counts of making a false claim and two counts of perjury. The district attorney’s chief investigator said that the judge used some of the money in Texas and Maryland “at spas, nail salons and casinos,” according to an affidavit that was part of the filing.

Prosecutors said that the judge took repeated actions to suppress the truth about who had custody of the children “through trick, false appearances and/or unfair acts.”

Bass-LeSure was first elected to the bench 12 years ago, and until recently, handled criminal cases. Last year, she moved to probate, guardianship and adoption cases after she was accused of misconduct while handling a high-profile criminal case.

The judge and her husband have had financial troubles in recent years, filing for bankruptcy in 2009, reporting debts of more than $1 million.

The judge currently earns over $120,000 from her post.

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Boston judge tosses evidence on paroled twice-convicted killer, caught with cash from robbery

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A judge in Boston ruled that police did not have probable cause in the arrest of a twice-convicted killer, forcing prosecutors to drop weapons and robbery charges against him. The ruling came only a few days after paroled “triple-lifer” Dominic Cinelli allegedly gunned down and killed police officer John “Jack” McQuire in suburban Woburn.

Gerald Hill, 48, was convicted of second degree murder in 1978, while awaiting trial on a fatal 1977 stabbing incident. He was released from prison on parole in Sept. 2009.

On November 9, 2009, Hill was spotted by police officer George Dias, running erratically down a street with a shopping bag and dodging cars, when he jumped in the back of a taxi and slumped down.

Dias left his post upon hearing of a robbery at the Boston Cab Co. and possible shots fired — when he spotted Hill. Dias approached the taxi with two backup officers, at which time Hill briefly pulled a gun on the officers. In the back of the taxi with Hill was $21,000 in cash, plastic zip ties and two handguns.

In his ruling, Judge Mitchell H. Kaplan found that Dias was acting on a “hunch” when he decided to pursue Hill for “some manner of illicit conduct that warranted further investigation, but did not have a reasonable suspicion based on specific facts.”

Without being able to use any of the evidence, Suffolk County prosecutors decided to drop the case.

A police spokesperson said “We respect the judge’s decision, but clearly the officer had excellent instincts and did commendable work.”

Even though the charges were tossed out, Hill remains in jail on separate charges of parole violation.

Boston Herald

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Federal judge throws out key ObamaCare provision

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Finding a key provision in the new healthcare law unconstitutional, a federal judge in Virginia has ruled that the government cannot require Americans to purchase health insurance. The ruling makes it likely that the law will end up in the Supreme Court, with a final ruling around the time of the 2012 election.

In the ruling issued on Monday, U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson found the so-called “individual mandate” provision to be unconstitutional, and that the federal government overstepped its authority in forcing people to get health insurance by 2014. Those who fail to comply with the new law will be fined.

The law’s controversial provision was intended to bring more young and healthy people into the healthcare system, who often don’t purchase insurance because their health is generally better than older people and those with preexisting conditions. Lawmakers believe that requiring those people to purchase the insurance will make it cheaper, and possible, for those with medical issues to buy their insurance. The new law prohibits insurance companies from refusing insurance to anyone because of pre-existing conditions.

Legal experts are divided on the issue of whether the law will be struck down by the Supreme Court.  Even in the court system, the partisan nature of the battle is apparent. Two other federal judges, Democratic appointees, have already ruled that the mandatory insurance requirement is constitutional.

“An individual’s personal decision to purchase — or decline to purchase — health insurance from a private provider is beyond the historical reach of the Commerce Clause,” wrote Hudson, a 2002 appointee of President George W. Bush.

“This broad definition of economic activity subject to congressional regulation lacks logical limitation,” he continued, saying it “exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power.”

Critics of the ruling immediately charged that Hudson had a conflict of interest, due to his disclosed stock ownership in Campaign Solutions, a Republican public relations and communications firm. The company lists as its clients some of the most vocal opponents of the law.

The lawsuit was filed by Virginia State Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, a conservative Republican, who claimed that the law violated the intent of the Constitution. “The ruling is extremely positive for anyone who believes in the system of Federalism created by our founding fathers,” Cuccinelli said. “It underscores that the Constitution’s limitations on federal power really do mean something.”

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Federal judge Thomas Porteous convicted of corruption and perjury

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The Senate voted on Wednesday to convict U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. of Louisiana on charges of corruption and perjury, only the eighth judge ever removed from the bench in the nation’s history.

Porteous was tried on four articles of impeachment. The 64-year old native of New Orleans was accused of taking cash gifts and bribes in exchange for favors to lawyers and bondsman having business in his court. Defense attorneys argued that much of the wrongdoing occurred while Porteous was still a state judge, and that accepting gifts and favors were common in the Louisiana legal community.

Porteous said that drinking and gambling led to poor judgement, including taking cash bribes and gifts.

Porteous claimed that he struggled with drinking and gambling problems which ultimately cased his poor judgment. Prosecutors said that Porteous’s corrupt behavior persisted for a period of many years, and included intentionally misleading the Senate during his confirmation hearings.

Two lawyers testified against him, saying that they provided thousands of dollars in cash to help sway decisions in their favor. One of the lawyers admitted to providing $2,000 stuffed in an envelope just before Porteous ruled on a civil case in his favor.

A New Orleans bail bondsman also testified against Porteous, saying that he took the judge on expensive trips, provided lavish meals at expensive restaurants, and had his cars filled with gas and washed. In exchange, the judge would set bail for defendants at the highest amount possible. The bondsman, Louis Marcotte, was convicted on corruption charges and served 18 months in jail.

He is “forever disqualified to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States,” Senate Daniel Inouye said during Wednesday’s Senate hearing. Porteous had sat on the federal bench since 1994, when he was appointed by President Clinton.

While Congress found Porteous guilty, he was not charged with criminal offenses. The Justice Department and FBI conducted an eight-year investigation against him but did not indict him, although the probe led to the House charge of judicial misconduct.

Porteous was suspended with full pay since 2008, but will lose a $174,000 annual federal pension pension because he was convicted before he retired from the bench.

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Former Pa. State Supreme Court Justice hired law firm to get massive kickback for her son

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When Sandra Schultz Newman was a Pa. Supreme Court justice, she hired real estate law firm Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel to help move along a project to build a new Family Court building in City Center. Now that she’s left the bench and is in private practice, it appears that her choice of lawyers was intended to direct a large amount of cash to her son, a lawyer working at the firm.

Did Justice Newman steer legal work to a firm that employed her son, hoping that he received a big commission? Some think so.

Newman’s son, Jonathon Newman, apparently introduced Jeffrey B. Rotwitt to mother Justice Newman, in an assignment ultimately was worth $3.9 million to the law firm. Rotwitt was reportedly on both sides of the deal to build the $200 million courthouse, earning fees as the court’s representative, and also as co-developer of the project.

When the Philadelphia Inquirer learned of the conflict and ran its story on it, the deal fell apart, and the state took over development of the project.

After Justice Newman stepped down from the court and went into private practice, she sent an email to the Obermayer firm in March 2008, asking the firm to pay her son a finder’s fee of 20%, which amounted to $780,000. “He brought you the case with my being present,” wrote Newman.  “I had never heard your (firm’s) name. I trust you will do the right thing.”

Sandra Newman said she didn’t hire the Obermayer firm to funnel cash to her son. “It may have that appearance, but it wasn’t true,” she said, despite critics agreeing that the transaction was suspicious.

The state Ethics Act makes it illegal for public officials to use their offices to benefit relatives. But the Supreme Court has conveniently ruled that the law does not apply to its justices or to any other Pennsylvania judges.

To son Jonathon Newman’s credit, he refused the fee, saying “It didn’t feel right.”

Philadelphia Inquirer

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