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« 405. Consent defense | Main | 403. Le droit, c'est moi »

404. The highest standards

The last post described the crisis in Slovakia's judiciary, where ethical charges are being imposed to punish politically inconvenient judges.  The purge is being carried out by the Justice Minister of the governing coalition, which includes an explicitly racist party.  It was easy to compare the Justice Minister, Štefan Harabin, to a Stalinist thug, since he looks the very porcine picture of one.  Give him a hat and he's ready to watch a parade

But of course I was being ironic.  Slovakia's use of judicial discipline to punish political crimes is a testament to how far it's come.  Defining disloyalty to a superior judge as "unethical" is, of course, a characteristic shared by all judiciaries in developed countries.

Take, for example, the salutary example made of New Jersey's Judge Bill Mathesius, who spoke about a retired justice of the state supreme court without first planting the obligatory kiss on the justice's red shoes.  In New Jersey as in Slovakia, Mathesius was hauled before a disciplinary counsel chaired by the very man he was accused of dissing.  (See post 287.) 

Then there was Florida's Judge Michael Allen, publicly reprimanded for including in a judicial opinion factually accurate observations about a fellow judge and dysfunction on his court.  (See post 344 and post 272.)  Just as art historians can trace a teacher's influence in an artist's line or use of color, I think I can see where Harabin acquired the exemplary professionalism of his court administration.

And then there's Luzerne County's Judge Ann Lokuta (see post 390), removed from the bench for ethical lapses at the behest of the two child-selling judges whose activities she had reported to the FBI.  As Harabin knows, if you let reporting of crimes and that kind of thing get out of hand, there's no telling where things might end up.

So Slovakia and its Justice Minister Harabin should be saluted.  His determined initiation of judicial disciplinary proceedings to intimidate his enemies shows that his country can proudly compare itself to the ultimate high standard, that set by the United States.  On the 20th anniversary of the Wall coming down, too.  Brings a lump to the throat, it does.

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