Judging Judges Schroeder, Walmsley & Shea

Judges are in the news right now. Judge Bruce Schroeder who is presiding over the Kyle Rittenhouse case fancies himself an insult comedian. He’s luxuriating in the national spotlight by making racist jokes and yelling at prosecutors.

Judge BS considers himself a “tough on crime” jurist but not in this case. He seems to empathize with the defendant. I think we all know why. Cryin’ Kyle is a white vigilante who shot and killed two men in defense of property that wasn’t his. Oy, just oy.

Meanwhile in Glynn County Georgia 3 white dudes are on trial for killing Ahmaud Arbery. There was some racist grandstanding by one of the defense attorneys yesterday. Kevin Gough objected to the presence of Al Sharpton in the courtroom.

Upon seeing the famous activist and pastor, Gough had the vapors and objected to the presence of black pastors in a public court room. At least Gough didn’t call the Rev an “outside agitator” but the implication was there.

Mercifully, Judge Timothy Walmsley is nothing like Judge BS in Wisconsin. He handled Gough’s objection like a pro:

Walmsley said he was made aware Wednesday that Sharpton would be sitting in the courtroom instead of someone from Arbery’s family.

“And my comment to that was simply, as long as things are not disruptive and it’s not a distraction to the jury or anything else going on in the courtroom, so be it,” Walmsley said. “But if it violates the court’s rules with regard to the conduct of the trial or violates my orders with respect to how people are to conduct themselves in this courtroom, I will take it up with whomever I need to take it up with.”

Walmsley said he noticed Sharpton once “and that was it.”

“And the fact that nobody else even noticed that he was in here, means that everybody complied with this court’s rulings on sitting in this courtroom and listening to the evidence,” Walmsley said. “I don’t hear a motion and I will tell you this, I am not going to blanketly exclude members of the public from this courtroom.”

“If individuals, based on the limitations that we have, in the courtroom, end up sitting in the courtroom, and they can do so respectful of the court’s process and in compliance with this court’s orders with regard to the conduct of the trial,” Walmsley said, adding that if a person wasn’t a distraction, he wouldn’t do anything about it.

The name Walmsley triggered a memory. It’s a famous name in New Orleans. T Semmes Walmsley was Mayor of New Orleans from 1929-1936. He hated Huey Long and his machine with a fine fury. The enmity was reciprocated. The Kingfish’s nickname for the mayor was Turkey Neck Walmsley. It’s a complicated story so I’ll link to a 2016 Picayune piece by my friend James Karst to tell part of this twisted tale.

The memory triggered by the Walmsley name has nothing to do with Huey Long or Turkey Neck Walmsley for that matter. It’s a Judgey memory that was also evoked by Judge Schroeder’s misconduct in the Rittenhouse trial.

The Judge in question was Frank Shea who presided over Section G of Orleans Parish Criminal Court for 33 years. Judge Shea was the scourge of the defense bar and black defendants. He claimed to be a supporter of swift justice. In Judge Shea’s courtroom, it was better described as swift injustice.

Shea moved his docket at lightning speed regardless of the consequences. He was a terrible judge who thought he was a great one. Worst of all, he was biased and bigoted.

The fine New Orleans site The Lens published a four-part series by Nicholas Chrastil about Judge Shea and Section G in 2020. You can find it here, here, here, and here. And that’s not hearsay…

I missed the series last year because of the pandemic, lockdown, and presidential election. I’m glad I found it. It’s a winner.

Younger members of the defense bar hated appearing before Judge Shea. He was rude, high-handed, and obnoxious unless you were a prosecutor or one of his cronies. Nobody likes eating shit in court, but a steady diet was on the menu in Section G. Shea had the power and he exercised it.

Shea was fond of ethnic humor as described in part two of The Lens series. He also liked handing out nicknames. I spent as little time as possible in Section G, but I was dubbed the Greek Motherfucker by Judge Shea. That’s right, this hard-ass Irish judge’s favorite word was motherfucker. It takes one to know one.

I was present in court when Shea’s most infamous outburst occurred. Nick Chrastil wrote an excellent description of it, so why reinvent the wheel? Here’s this wheely wheely weird story:

In 1994, according to the Times-Picayune, Judge Shea pulled out a gun on a shackled defendant in his courtroom. The defendant was a man named Carl Taylor, who had been arrested on drug charges. When he was unable to make payments on a $600 fine, Shea ordered him sent to jail.

“Man, I’m getting tired of all this,” Taylor said to Shea, according to witnesses who spoke to The Times-Picayune. “Why don’t you get out from behind that bench and come back in this cell?” Shea pulled a blue-steel semiautomatic from a drawer and responded, “You want me to come back there with this?”

Keith Detweiler, an attorney who was in the room during the incident, said from what he saw, Shea never actually pulled the gun out, but that he opened a drawer and insinuated it was there. In a letter to The Times-Picayune, Shea later denied the reported version of the story.

“At that time, it was my belief that I was in imminent danger. I quickly unlocked the drawer and looked to see if Mr. Taylor was coming up the steps. I removed the pistol and held it in my hand close to my lap in an almost reflex action,” he wrote.

“If he would have come up here, I would have been in real trouble,” Shea told a reporter. “I don’t know how to fire it.”

“I don’t even fool with guns,” Shea continued. “I couldn’t hit a bull in the ass with a bass fiddle.”

It’s a helluva story that even Judge Schroeder would have a hard time topping.

That concludes this judicial post. Court dismissed.

The last word goes to 10cc:

3 thoughts on “Judging Judges Schroeder, Walmsley & Shea

  1. None of the men shot and killed by Rittenhouse were black.

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