Vegas voters bounce judge Conrad Hafen shortly after he handcuffs public defender lawyer

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Jun 16, 2016 Vegas voters bounce judge Conrad Hafen shortly after he handcuffs public defender lawyer

On May 30, I pondered whether Las Vegas voters will teach justice of the peace Hafen a lesson by simply electing one of his opponents in the then-upcoming election that he faced, after he beyond improvidently had a public defender lawyer handcuffed for continuing to interrupt him in fighting for her client.

Regardless of the wisdom of having elected judgeships — which serves democracy, but disserves judicial independence — the electorate spoke on June 14 by saying bye-bye to Hafen and his $150,000 annual salary, to the tune of winning only 24 percent of the votes.

The transcript from Hafen’s handcuffing fiasco demonstrates a judge acting condescendingly towards public defender lawyer Zohra Bakhtary, and sentencing her client to six months incarceration without enabling Ms. Bakhtary to finish her sentencing-related argument. Another judge this week released Ms. Bakhtary’s client pending his challenge of the proceeding, where Ms. Bakhtary was handcuffed and separated from her client when Hafen sentenced him. Ms. Bakhtary is still fighting Hafen’s May 27 contempt order against her.

Hafen’s cumulative actions against Ms. Bakhtary and her client are tremendously more egregious than those of now-senior status D.C. Superior Court Judge John H. Bayly, Jr., who was found to have violated the code of judicial conduct when in 2007 he had a public defender lawyer locked up with other inmates in the courthouse lockup for 45 minutes after she proceeded to speak after he warned her that continuing to speak would mean contempt of court. At least that lawyer was not in the middle of a proceeding, and the judge at that time had already deferred calling the case later in the docket.

My having appeared before Judge Bayly prior to that incident, I was surprised that he of all judges would have behaved in that way, but that means either that I did not know Judge Bayly well enough and/or that he was succumbing to the temptation that all judges are at risk of succumbing to (which I take to have been the case), which is deviating from having the right judicial temperament when they feel frustrated about lawyers’ and litigants’ behavior. Judge Bayly kept his job, in a jurisdiction where judges are nominated and renominated by the president, where the District of Columbia remains a land of taxation without representation.

Judge Hafen’s and Judge Bayly’s experiences hopefully will be important reminders to judges always to count to ten, or simply to call a brief or longer recess, when they are at risk of losing their cool.

I will not deny that I currently am succumbing to gloating over Judge Hafen’s lost election, and the likelihood that if he goes into private law practice that it might be a cold day in hell that a colleague will dignify a phone call from him for advice, with any response at all.

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