The Corner

Bozo the Jurist

I wrote yesterday about an important legal victory for free speech up in Canada, in which I was privileged to play a small part. Whenever I mention the subject, a percentage of American readers always respond, “Thank God we have the First Amendment.” But free speech is under threat here, too, albeit in subtler ways. Michelle Malkin has a good column on the attempts by a fellow called Brett Kimberlin to ruin by any means necessary the lives of those who cross him:

Free speech is under fire. Online thugs are targeting bloggers (mostly conservative, but not all) who have dared to expose a convicted bomber and perjuring vexatious litigant now enjoying a comfy life as a liberally-subsidized social justice operative. Where do your elected representatives stand on this threat to our founding principles?

At a hearing in Maryland arising from Kimberlin’s “lawfare” campaign, the blogger Aaron Walker was arrested. Aside from the merits of the case, I was struck by the appalling performance of the presiding judge, one C. J. Vaughey. As is increasingly the way with our decaying justice system, there is no easily searchable court transcript, only an audio tape that a few individual bloggers have been painstakingly transcribing. Judge Vaughey comes across as a near parodic combination of bluster, ignorance and narcissism:

THE COURT: –You’ve decided to battle, and he comes back. And see, you’re — you — you’re the kind of guy, you don’t want to get into this to settle this, mano y mano. You want to get all these friends who got nothing else to do with their time, in this judge’s opinion, because — my God, I’m a little bit older than you are, and I haven’t got enough time in the day to do all the things I want to do. And I thought by retirement, I would have less to do. I got more! Because everybody knows I’m free! So they all come to me. But you, you are starting a — a conflagration, for lack of a better word, and you’re just letting the thing go recklessly no matter where it goes. I mean, you get some — and I’m going to use word I (ph) — freak somewhere up Oklahoma, got nothing better to do with his time, so he does the nastiest things in the world he can do to this poor gentleman. What right has that guy got to do it?

WALKER: He has no right to do that, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Well, he’s — you incited him.

WALKER: But, your honor, I did not incite him within the Brandenburg standard though.

THE COURT: Forget Bradenburg [sic]. Let’s go by Vaughey right now, and common sense out in the world. But you know, where I grew up in Brooklyn, when that stuff was pulled, it was settled real quickly.

WALKER: I’m not sure what that means, your honor.

THE COURT: –Very quickly. And I’m not going to talk about those ways, but boy, it ended fast. I even can tell you, when I grew up in my community, you wanted to date an Italian girl, you had to get the Italian boy’s permission. But that was the old neighborhoods back in the city. And it was really fair. When someone did something up there to you, your sister, your girlfriend, you got some friends to take them for a ride in the back of the truck.

Over the years, I’ve faced unsympathetic judges in various courts around the world, but I can’t recall ever listening to such a stream of unjudicial drivel from the bench as that which poured from Judge Vaughey. If Andy McCarthy or Ed Whelan or our other legal eagles can help me here, I’m genuinely curious: Is this Vaughey clod unusually awful? Or all too typical?

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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