Many people — at least, many people who have not had prolonged contact with the legal system — believe that judges must adhere to the rule of law, because there are checks and balances and courts of appeal and stuff, so judges just can't go off on lawless rampages.
Isn't it pretty to think so.
Judge Johnson had an issue with the so-called presumption of innocence:
On the afternoon of the third day, the jury retired to consider its verdict. And that's when it got interesting.
While the jury was out, according to Price and her attorney, Paul LaValle, the judge started talking about what the sentence would be when the jury came back with a guilty verdict.
Then the judge decided she wanted Price to immediately take a drug screen urine test and ordered the bailiff to contact the Pretrial Services facility in the courthouse to arrange it.
The judge also said if Price tested positive, the results would be given to the jury, says LaValle.
In case you are wondering, no, there's no legal authority for a judge ordering a defendant to take a drug test so that the results can be given to the jury after they've been given the case.
Fortunately for Price, the jury came back not guilty. All over for her, right?
But Judge Johnson had different ideas. Having ordered the drug test, she instructed the bailiff to take Price away for the drug test.
LaValle again objected and looked to prosecutor Eva Flores for help.
Eva Flores is a rookie who has been with the DA's office only since May. She remained silent.
The veteran prosecutor who had supervised Flores during the trial, Gary Miller, had returned to his office when the trial ended, said LaValle. He said he's confident Miller would have advised the judge against ordering the drug test.
A spokeswoman for the DA's office, veteran prosecutor Donna Hawkins, said the DA's office has "no responsibility to be part of anything" after a not-guilty verdict is announced.
So Price was led to another floor of the courthouse, where she was questioned (strangely, she thought) on the details of her financial condition — her income and what she pays for rent, auto, utilities, clothes, etc. — and then made to urinate into a cup in front of a female staffer.
The results were negative.
Then they told her she had to pay $11.
Boo and hiss to the prosecutor for lacking a spine. And good luck to Price in her efforts to get Judge Carolyn Marks Johnson disciplined — a process that is likely to be time-consuming and ultimately fruitless.
The point of this story is not that there is a rare "news of the weird" style instances like this emerging from the legal system. The point of the story is that this happens all the time. Judges routinely issue lawless, viscerally-based, crazy-ass orders, and for the most part the system does a piss-poor job at policing it or providing litigants and lawyers with methods of addressing it. Hence a judge can issue a clearly unlawful order without even an arguably legitimate basis to do so, justify it with an explicitly autocratic "Just because I say it, counsel," and still escape serious discipline and survive to continue screw over litigants years later.
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