On Friday, I contacted three different offices to get my hands on this official transcript, and each office told me to check with the other. On Monday, I went to the Criminal Division, which is where these records are ultimately kept. This time, instead of being directed to another office, I was flatly told this transcript is unavailable without a court order.
Hmmm. Now let me get this straight. This is a transcript of an open judicial proceeding. Am I to understand that, although anyone could have attended the hearing, the transcript itself is unavailable? That makes no sense. Since Moran's original remarks have already been published, what public interest is possibly served by hiding the official transcript?
Why am I making such a big deal out of this?
Let me explain with a little story. A few weeks ago, people walking into the rotunda were confronted by a large bearded man screaming at another fellow. Concerned, they told some deputies, who raced down the hallways to discover that this person was none other than Judge Moran. The person at whom his venom was directed? County exec John Stoffa. The reason for the temper tantrum? Stoffa had suggested moving the county's Liberty Bell to the rotunda. Moran exploded. He does things like that.
In fact, he explodes regularly at administration officials concerned about rising costs in the county's $43+ million courthouse expansion. They're concerned about the public while Moran's chief concern seems to be himself.
Unfortunately, Moran's volatility extends in all directions. In March, during a social meeting with a bunch of lawyers, he flipped his lid when talking about courthouse security and his own perks. He had to send a written apology. He's also had to apologize for demeaning the staff of both District Attorney and Public Defender, although this conduct has persisted. He even had to send a letter to a jury after incorrectly telling them their deliberations, which resulted in multiple burglary convictions, were possible only because he had rejected a sweetheart deal between the prosecutor and defendant. No such agreement existed.
All of this erratic behavior is bad enough. But now Judge Moran made a terribly divisive statement from the bench that undermines our judicial system. When he learns that someone wants a transcript of what he said, he alters his original remarks to soften their tone without bothering to consult the lawyers involved. And now, court officers stonewall an attempt to see the official transcript of an open judicial proceeding. There is a climate of fear among court employees who wonder when the next explosion is coming.
Is a government official exempt from criticism because he wears a black dress? Any government official who acts erratically, who offers a racially tinged statement, who tries a cover up that statement by altering his original remarks, and who stonewalls attempts to view the record of a public proceeding, is fair game. But a judge must be held to the highest standards of all public officials. Here's what an Official Note in the Code of Judicial Conduct tells us:
"Public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or improper conduct by judges. Judges must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. They must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny. They must therefore accept restrictions on their conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly."
Temper tantrums, confusing and unnecessary statements about race from the bench, demeaning courthouse employees, coverups, stonewalling - these all tend to diminish public confidence in our judiciary.
Maybe Bush will solve our problems and nominate Moran to the next Supreme Court vacancy.