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August 10, 2009

"Judge sentences man to 6 months in jail for yawning"

The title of this post is te headline of this article from the Chicago Tribune.  Here are the basic details from the start of the artice:

Clifton Williams arrived at the Will County Courthouse in Joliet and sat in the fourth-floor courtroom where his cousin was pleading guilty to a felony drug charge. As Circuit Judge Daniel Rozak handed down the cousin's sentence -- 2 years' probation -- Williams, 33, stretched and let out a very ill-timed yawn.

Williams' sentence? Six months in jail -- the maximum penalty for criminal contempt without a jury trial. The Richton Park man was locked up July 23 and will serve at least 21 days.  "I was flabbergasted because I didn't realize a judge could do that," said Williams' father, Clifton Williams Sr. "It seems to me like a yawn is an involuntary action."

Chuck Pelkie, a spokesman for the state's attorney's office, said the prosecutor in the courtroom that day told him that "it was not a simple yawn -- it was a loud and boisterous attempt to disrupt the proceedings."   Jason Mayfield, the cousin of Williams who was pleading guilty at the time, said it was "not an outrageous yawn."

A Tribune review of a decade's worth of contempt-of-court charges reveals that Rozak jails people -- typically spectators whose cell phones go off or who scream or shout profanity during sentencing -- at a far higher rate than any other judge in the county. There are now 30 judges in the 12th Judicial Circuit, but since 1999, Rozak has brought more than a third of all the contempt charges, records show.

August 10, 2009 at 10:25 AM | Permalink


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And this judge thinks such behavior leads to actual respect for the court? Have the guy removed but putting him in jail is far too much. I have a lot of problems with judges being able to exercise any authority beyond removal over people not actually conducting business before a court.

As far as that goes I would put it in the category of Supremacy Clause's medieval garbage doctrines. Petty tyrants in black robed indeed.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Aug 10, 2009 12:45:03 PM

This is judge malpractice, as evidenced by his deviancy from the rates of most of his colleagues. End all judge immunities. Immunity may only be justified by the claim the sovereign speaks with the voice of God. That doctrine violates the Establishment Clause. It is psychotic and delusional. At a policy level, the immunity maintains the incompetence of the judiciary. As a class, they are horrible, and incompetent, allowing the guilty to go free, and imprisoning a multitude of innocents. The immunity prevents the healthful effects of torts from improving their horrible incompetence and carelessness. It is time to end this unlawful self-dealt privilege, which provides moral and intellectual justification for public self-help. All judges should be boycotted by all product and service providers. As they attack our way of life, they should be sued.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 10, 2009 8:31:39 PM



Posted by: Daniel | Aug 10, 2009 9:26:56 PM

There are many problems here. First, there should always be a warning. Six months imprisonment can really impact someone's life, and for what, yawning in a courtroom? Second, the judge could easily have the person removed. Third, imprisoning people because of a cell-phone going off is just nuts. How about a $50 fine, with advance notice.

I am an advocate of harsh sentences. But I like to think that jail/prison time is for people who have done more than simply PO a judge.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 11, 2009 11:07:13 AM

What's sad is that the other branches of government have basically abdicated governing the behavior of courts, so judges can actually get away with such actions. Yet those same judges would be very quick to reverse such arbitrary actions by members of the other branches.

Even fines against someone who is simply witnessing the proceedings is excessive.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Aug 11, 2009 2:15:26 PM

I hope the judge would be enlightened that punishing this man for 6 months for yawning is very inappropriate. What the man did is also improper since he is in a court room. This would also be a lesson for him to learn with regards for his manners.

Posted by: long island gal | Aug 12, 2009 1:43:03 PM

I do not see the elements for contempt. This judge should be removed from the bench A.S.A.P. In my view, judges need term limits just like our politicians do. A judge like this mental case should seek employment in North Korea. I am confident they would share his radical views.

All I can do is pray for this guy and hope he will get his freedom back.

Posted by: Giovanni LoPresti | Aug 14, 2009 11:44:08 PM

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