Sunday, October 4, 2009

Drunken Behavior

A Connecticut Judge wiped her eyes while testifying before the State Judicial in HARTFORD, Conn.--charged with drunken driving. She was videotaped using racial slurs while arguing with police officers, and suspended without pay for eight months by the review panel.

Confirmed in 1991 as Connecticut's first black female Superior Court judge In her apology to the state Judicial Review Council, Her Honor admitted, "I regret that my actions may have tarnished the institution that I love. I've embarrassed and humiliated my family and loved ones, and disappointed my friends."

The panel unanimous agreed that her "disparaging and demeaning" comments failed to live up to the standards of integrity and impartiality expected of judges. The council could have imposed up to a one-year suspension and recommended her permanent removal by the Connecticut Supreme Court, but settled on the lesser suspension, which she said she would not appeal.

She was arrested Oct. 9 after her car hit a parked state police cruiser in a construction zone. Police say she told them she hadn't had any alcohol, but she failed a sobriety test, and urine tests later that night showed she had a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit of 0.08. Later, she argued with state and local police officers and a surveillance camera showed her using the N-word, calling a black state trooper "Negro," threatening that trooper's job, referring to a female officer as "little girl" and "Barbie" and using other offensive language.

"When I watched the video, the Judge told the Council, “I did not recognize myself. The woman I observed that night is not the woman I am." She acknowledged that her conduct was "reprehensible," and insisted she did not willfully violate the conduct code because her judgment was impaired by her intoxication.

Judge Susan S. Reynolds appeared to stump the Judge when she asked why her comments were not racist. “Why is it not racism .... hmmm. I think for crimes like bias you have to have intent," the defendant said. "All I can say is I was really intoxicated. ... I can't explain it. Why is it not racism ... I don't know. But if it is or someone perceives that it is, I apologize for that."

While other judges agreed that the defendant received above-average job evaluations and her reputation was excellent, a psychiatrist agreed she was under a lot of stress in 2008--death of her father, her mother's house burned down, and her adult children had legal problems. “She's had an impeccable record (as a judge) for 17 years,” concluded the Psychiatrist, “and I see no reason she couldn't continue."

In the meantime, the Judge has been accepted into the state's alcohol education program for first-time DUI offenders, and the drunken driving charge will be dismissed if she successfully completes the program.

From professional people to street derelicts, this story repeats itself ad nauseum. Each is part of someone’s family; there are 75 million-or-so of us who have alcoholics in our families. As she admitted, she neither recognized herself, nor approved of her behavior, when intoxicated.

Drunkenness frequently results in behavior not common to a person, except when “under the influence.” Sometimes their character shames them, at other times it is merely an excuse for being “out of character”--under the influence. Generally neither provides sufficient motivation for avoiding further indulgence.

What I fail to understand is how our various levels of government can justify this social cancer for the licensing revenues it brings in. The revenues are hefty, I know, but the tax burden placed upon the public is statistically three times greater. Yet, few among us dare challenge the system.

Clubs, taverns, and bars ring our local downtown area and produce more assaults, knifings, killings, and other violence than any other area. Does that not make our local government and all of us accomplices in crime and violence--for a price?

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