/ November 28, 2007

Can You Hear Me Now?

On Nov. 27, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended the removal of Judge Robert M. Restaino of Niagara Falls, N.Y., after his 2005 cell-phone inspired rant, which the Commission chair called “two hours of inexplicable madness.” While presiding over the weekly progress evaluations for 46 defendants, Judge Restaino was disturbed by the noise of a cell phone ringing in the courtroom. According to witnesses, Restaino snapped, demanding the phone’s owner to reveal himself. When no one took responsibility, Restaino ordered that all 46 people present in the courtroom be thrown in jail. The Commission said that Restaino behaved like a “petty tyrant,” and that his actions were completely unlawful. The one dissenting commissioner, Raoul L. Felder, argued that Judge Restaino had never shown any signs of bad behavior in the past and should be shown lenience. In 2006, the Niagara Falls City Court ruled in favor of the Judge, deciding that he enjoyed judicial immunity even for flagrant misconduct.

Apparently Judge Restaino isn’t the only one being set off by cellphones. To read more about a growing epidemic of “cell phone rage,” click here.

One Response

  1. King of Clubs said...

    Within reason, I fully support reasonable restrictions on cell phone use. I have heard and seen more than enough mobile use and abuse – at the opera, at a dry cleaner by people oblivious to everyone and everything around them, at luncheons and other programs to interrupt speakers and other attendees, in driving when nearly causing accidents with other cars – or almost hitting pedestrians (such as ME!) despite its being illegal in DC.

    Let us not forget the itinerant cellers who can’t resist the “call of nature,” keeping their cells on and in use in public restrooms. Is there no sense of shame and what we might call “embarrassment,” a word that might be punningly apt, at calling or receiving in such a setting?

    Finally, I will never forget the two calls that created a serious distraction at a memorial service in Orlando, Florida. Maybe, as with the film a few years ago, “Heaven Can Wait.” So, too, can the caller and receiver. Can’t the dearly departed “Rest in Peace?”

    Not as long as the horde of PDAs and other mobiles, with their cacaphonous chorus of chimes, beckon.

    All of the above offenders, regardless of carrier, should learn some manners and attorneys or not, should be “disbarred.”

    Notwithstanding all of the above, the judge was injudicious and contemptuous of his proper contempt powers. More moderate methods, such as visual and oral warnings, and punishment directed only at the guilty parties would be far more appropriate.