In ‘Oh, Really?’ the Biederman Blog’s editors — voracious consumers of all matters pop culture — cast a curious, skeptical, fun and smart end-of-the-week eye on popular productions, sharing their keen observations about legal matters these raise.
With tens of millions of TV viewers tuned this week to see the answer to the nine-year question posed by the series How I Met Your Mother, for judicious reasons it’s a good time to reflect on this show’s episode titled Twelve Horny Women. Sitcom lawyer Marshall Eriksen, as played by Jason Segel, should have a slam-dunk case but cannot get anywhere with the judge or jury because opposing counsel, his law school pal Brad Morris (portrayed by Joe Manganiello), flexes his sculpted muscles, flashes his pearly white smile, and lures the all-female-jury with romance novel good looks. He woos all in the courtroom with his story of heartbreak after being recently dumped by his longtime girlfriend.
And not even the judge can resist — he allows Brad to act in this manner and even encourages it. In one scene, Brad drops his pen to the floor, and when he goes to pick it up, he does so by flaunting his back-side to the judge and jury, then, slowly and seductively picks the pen up. A frustrated Marshall says, “Objection!” yet the judge, with a grin on his face, gleam in his eyes and flirtation in his voice, responds, “I’ll allow.” Really? Is such conduct permissible in court?
Unfortunately for this TV judge, the American Bar Association has established guidelines under the Model Rules of Judicial Conduct that prohibit this kind of judicial misconduct. Under Rule 2.2: Impartiality and Fairness, “A judge shall uphold and apply the law, and shall perform all duties of judicial office fairly and impartially.” Further, under Rule 2.3(a): Bias, Prejudice, and Harassment, “A judge shall perform the duties of judicial office, including administrative duties, without bias or prejudice.”
Let’s look at what occurred in Colorado, in July, 2013, with Larimer County Judge Robert Rand, who was suspended with pay following “numerous allegations of inappropriate or unethical conduct,” the local newspaper has reported. He was found to have made inappropriate comments to female attorneys and court workers, though he repeatedly has stated he never meant anything bad by his comments. He will “resign next month after being censured by the Colorado Supreme Court,” according to press reports.
“In 2012, court officials said, Rand was repeatedly counseled by staff and colleagues that his behavior was unprofessional and intimidating, and warned Rand there was a perception that he was biased in favor of attractive women,” says the Coloradoan, which notes that, because of Rand’s behavior, the District Attorney refused to assign female prosecutors to his courtroom. One female attorney said the judge would “consistently comment on her clothes, hair style and how lovely she looked.”
Meantime, in South Florida, a judge was reprimanded for telling a woman in a divorce proceeding that she should go find a different guy in one of the area’s many and packed singles bars. In Baltimore, a judicial disciplinary panel rebuked a judge for rude, demeaning and inappropriate conduct involving women in his court and his chambers for, according to news reports, touching female lawyers on their faces, commenting on their attire and appearance and displaying untoward ill temper toward them.
And because the fictitious barrister in the TV episode is male and seems to enjoy counsel’s derriere display, it’s worth noting that in Mississippi, the state panel that deals with judicial conduct split over a complaint filed against a county judge who wrote to a local newspaper and gave interviews about her views on Christianity and homosexuality — actions that to some indicated unacceptable judicial bias, while to others represented a First Amendment-protected free speech.