“I just wanted to see if the candy bar would fit in my pocket.”
“I was only trying to pick some lint off the back of her skirt.”
“I had no idea there was money in that envelope.”
We all know that looks can be deceiving and that sometimes there’s an innocent explanation for things that don’t look so innocent. Still, it behooves a person to be aware of the impression he’s creating and to avoid causing confusion as to his intent.
Judges, for instance, ought never to accept campaign contributions – or any other perquisites – from parties appearing (or likely to appear) before them, lest some skeptical citizen might suspect a conflict of interest and start murmuring.
Nor should parties appearing before judges offer anything that might possibly be construed as emoluments, thereby calling into question the judges’ impartiality.
Even if they are innocent of soliciting or receiving consideration for favorable rulings, you have to wonder about the judgment of judges who can’t appreciate the inadvisability of the appearance of impropriety.
Doing things that look bad isn’t smart, and who wants stupid judges?
Back in 2011, when Madison County Judge Barbara Crowder gave the lion’s share of trial slots in a future asbestos docket to her biggest campaign supporters, it didn’t look good. She was subsequently reassigned to a less venal venue.
Her successor, Madison County Judge Clarence Harrison, seems to be similarly lacking in judgment. He insists that a $2,000 campaign contribution from one of Crowder’s former supporters, Edwardsville asbestos firm Gori Julian, does not pose a conflict of interest for him. Maybe not, but it sure doesn’t look good.
Like Crowder, Harrison is being reassigned to a docket where he’ll have less opportunity to impugn himself.
Associate Judge Stephen Stobbs, who replaced Harrison this week, is the fourth asbestos judge in as many years. We hope he’s an improvement on his predecessors and has enough sense not to do things that look bad.