Kessler And Curley Manufacture A Baby Mama Drama
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals based in Milwaukee has come out with more than a few truly bizarre opinions lately. That said, Judges Joan Kessler and Patricia Curley really managed to top themselves today.
Landray Harris is a drug dealer. In January of 2007, at the age of 21, Harris was caught with over 7 grams of cocaine on his person, wearing pants that had a special secret pocket for hiding drugs. The same month that he was arrested, Harris was photographed at a club with other convicted drug dealers flashing gang signs.
Between his arrest in January of 2007 and his sentencing in August of that year, Harris was free on bail. When he appeared for sentencing before then-Wisconsin Circuit Judge Joseph Wall, Harris told Wall that he had never been employed (!). He further said that he had been living with the mother of his one-year old child and that she had been supporting him by working while she went to school.
Harris is, in short, a complete low-life.
Obviously incredulous that Harris had made no serious effort to try to become a productive citizen prior to sentencing, Judge Wall verbally ripped into Harris.
At one point, Judge Wall opined: "Where do you guys find these women, really, seriously. I'd say about every fourth man who comes in here unemployed, no education, is with a woman who is working full-time, going to school. Where do you find these women? Is there a club?"
At another point in the proceedings, Judge Wall stated: "Mr. Harris sits at home, gets high while his baby mama works and goes to school. I swear there's a club where these women get together and congregate."
Judge Wall then sentenced Harris to two years in prison and three years of extended supervision.
In an unprecedented decision today, Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judges Joan Kessler and Pat Curley reversed the case and ordered that Harris be re-sentenced. In the written decision, long-time Democrat activist (now appellate court judge) Joan Kessler wrote: " ... we nonetheless must conclude that the trial court's racial comments suggest to a reasonable observer, or a reasonable person in the position of the defendant, that the trial court was improperly considering Harris's race when it imposed sentence."
"Racial comments"? What planet do Curley and Kessler live on?
It's true that Judge Wall used the phrase "you guys", "these women" and "Baby mama". In context, "you guys" clearly refers to drug dealers and "these women" clearly refer to the women who choose to shack up with drug dealers.
"Baby Mama", while slang, is a relatively common term that transcends race. It's the title of a recent motion picture featuring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and was most notably used repeatedly by members of the mainstream media (including a local columnist ) to describe the controversy involving Sarah Palin's then-unwed pregnant 17-year old daughter.
Earth to Kessler and Curley: Last time I checked, Sarah Palin, her daughter, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are all white!
By way of background, Joe Wall is one of the smartest lawyers to have ever served as a judge in Milwaukee County. When he left the bench last year to return to the United States Attorney's Office (where we worked together in the 80s and early 90s), the collective legal I.Q. of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court bench dropped by about 20 points. What's more, Wall is one of the most compassionate and caring individuals that one could ever meet.
For Wall to have his motives and remarks impugned by Joan Kessler and Pat Curley is like Muhammad Ali having his boxing technique criticized by Doink the Clown.
To his credit, Wall is not going quietly into the good night. No longer on the bench, Wall is free to comment on today's absurd decision - and he is. Here's what he told the Journal Sentinel:
"The comments, reasoning, and conclusion of these two judges are legally incorrect and shameful, and are a transparent stretch to appear politically correct at a politically correct moment. Not only was there no mention or recognition of the defendant's race during his sentencing by me or anyone else in the courtroom, but my comments were taken out of context, as the dissenting opinion well points out.
For 25 years as a judge and prosecutor I have never considered a defendant's race and no one but these two elected officials would disagree. I spent four years as a judge at Children's Court trying to clean up the messes that men like this, white and black, created in the lives of their children, and two years on the bench in felony drug court dealing with the very same causes and consequences. ...
I would summarize all this with two words: 'convenient' and 'opportunistic'."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
For those wondering, Judge Curley (who has spent almost her entire legal career in the cozy, taxpayer supported confines of the Milwaukee County bench) was re-elected (running unopposed, of course) to a new 6-year term last Spring.
Judge Kessler however is up for re-election in 2010. The line for challengers forms to the right.