Judge Judy may play OK on TV, but not so much in real life. A San Diego judge has accepted sanctions and stepped down permanently from the bench not only for filming her courtroom in a reported bid for a reality TV show, but for the TV style humor, comments and rowdy audience participation tactics that sound more Jerry Springer, less Superior Court.
The state Commission on Judicial Performance cited 39 instances of misconduct in censuring San Diego Superior Court Judge DeAnn M. Salcido. The charges include a "pattern of misconduct" and abuse of authority, according to a September report by San Diego Union-Tribune. That report details the charges, alleging Judge Salcido mocked defendants and attorneys and encouraged the court audience to shout "woo woo" during the day of taping. They did. The Commission says the judge went so far as to "line up" the most interesting cases for that day.
One over-the-top example of the judge's "humor" occurred when she gleefully told a defendant that if he violated his probation, "you will definitely be screwed, and we don't offer Vaseline for that." According to a report by The San Francisco Chronicle, other remarks included asking another defendant if he needed to "call the lifeline" about a sentencing choice, telling a grinning defendant, "They might like your smile in jail," and describing court clerks as "cucumbers."
With a lack of acceptance of responsibility that might have made the judge turn on any defendant who tried it, Judge Salcido offered a non-apology/apology when submitting her resignation, reports The Chronicle. "Humor and less formality in certain courtroom contexts can be very effective," Salcido said. Her comments were intended to "connect with the offenders, the victims and others in the courtroom," she said.
The Commission on Judicial Performance, a body surely not known for its lighthearted approach to the law, stated that judicial humor "should never be used in a courtroom, as it was by Judge Salcido, to ridicule, embarrass or disparage others, or in a manner that diminishes the dignity of the judicial process."
In any case, Judge Salcido has missed the point. It is "humor" when there is an exchange. But, when the butt of the joke cannot reply, perhaps because they would not like to be jailed for contempt, it is not called humor, it is called bullying.
Judge Judy, watch your back.