George Orwell on Judges Who Take Bribes From Both Sides in a Case:

Thomas Porteous, the Louisiana District judge who is being investigated by the House Judiciary Committee is accused of, among other things, taking money from lawyers on opposing sides of a case he was presiding over:

Two lawyers, Robert Creely and Jacob Amato, both friends of Porteous, admitted they had been making cash payments to him for more than a decade...

Yet it was a poorly timed proposition while hearing a case over the ownership of a Kenner hospital that led to what the [Fifth Circuit] Judicial Council called Porteous' most egregious actions.

During a fishing trip in May or June 1999, Porteous broke down, pleading with Amato for money to finance his son's wedding, documents show. Creely and Amato agreed to help, funneling a few thousand dollars to the judge. Porteous also had been receiving gifts, money, and expensive meals from other lawyers, including Don Gardner, Leonard Levenson and Warren "Chip" Forstall, the report says.

In May 1999, the judge took Creely and Gardner to Tim Porteous' bachelor party in Las Vegas. Forstall paid for the flight, and Creely paid for Porteous' hotel room at Caesar's Palace.

All this took place while Porteous was presiding over the hospital case. Amato, Creely's partner, was attorney for one party, and Gardner was representing the other side.

This reminds me of George Orwell's fictional description in Burmese Days, of U Po Kyin, a corrupt Burmese magistrate who takes bribes from both parties in a case and then issues rulings based solely on the legal merits:

As a magistrate his methods were simple. Even for the vastest bribe he would never sell the decision of a case, because he knew that a magistrate who gives wrong judgments is caught sooner or later. His practice, a much safer one, was to take bribes from both sides and then decide the case on strictly legal grounds. This won him a useful reputation for impartiality.

Of course, U Po Kyin's strategy might not be sustainable over the long run. Eventually, litigants would realize that bribing him doesn't improve their chances of winning a case. Thus, the truly sophisticated corrupt judge would allow bribes to influence the outcome at least occasionally, in order to keep the money coming. Perhaps that is what Judge Porteous did. Unlike Orwell's fictional magistrate, however, Porteous wasn't smart enough to avoid getting caught.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. George Orwell on Judges Who Take Bribes From Both Sides in a Case:
  2. House Judiciary Committee To Investigate Possible Impeachment of Federal District Judge: