We have some thoughts on Broward Judge Charlie Kaplan and his comment to a juvenile defendant who was wearing all black in his courtroom,
From the Broward Blog:
A fourteen year old is caught at school with a razor blade in his pocket. At an adjudicatory hearing, Kaplan asked the juvenile if he was "wearing all black that day too?. . . Is that the color you like going with? Black all the time?" A case manager told Kaplan that the child was not a danger, and the child's mother explained that her son had never been in a fight or hurt himself. The judge then associated this minimal crime with the horrific events at Columbine where two students killed twelve people: "I mean, I'm no expert. I just know what I read in the papers, but it's like Columbine, right? He's dressed in black. . .He's depressed." When defense counsel argued that the events of Columbine should not be taken into account, Kaplan responded, "[w]ell, I don't agree with you." Kaplan denied J.R.'s Motion to Disqualify, but today the 4th DCA granted a writ of prohibition finding that J.R. has a reasonable fear that he would be more harshly sentenced due to his choice of wardrobe colors, apart from the facts of the case.
J.R. v. State, case number 4D07-1361 (Fla. 4th DCA July 11, 2007).
Rumpole says: Just hold on one second. A young man has a weapon in his pocket in school. He appears in court wearing all black, perhaps in an attempt to dress in the "Goth" fashion. The Judge is concerned that the young man may be depressed. The Judge knows that in another case responsible people overlooked the warning signs of young men who had weapons, were depressed, dressed in a "Goth" style, and ended up shooting up a school.
As much as it pains us to rise to the defense of a Judge North of the Border (lord knows they would never do the same for us) we do not think Judge Kaplan did anything wrong. This is Juvenile court. Among other things, a Judge becomes a quasi-social worker-psychologist-Judge, in trying to fashion remedies to assist children and their families. To require Judge Kaplan to remain blind to what he is seeing is just wrong. Don't we want our Judges to remain vigilant to problems that they might be seeing in the children that come before them? There is nothing to suggest that the Judge treated the child more harshly because of what he was wearing. It appears to us that Judge Kaplan was saying "hey, there might be more here than meets the eye. Lets do something before another tragedy occurs."
If a young person appeared in court in Miami wearing a swastika on a tee-shirt, and raised their hand in a Nazi salute when appearing before the Judge, wouldn't the Judge have a responsibility to see that the child got some help?
We think the 4th DCA was not correct in deciding this case strictly along the lines of just considering Judge Kaplan's comments about the attire of the young man. It has never been more apropos to say "there may be more here than meets the eye" meaning that the manner of dress of a teenager MIGHT indicate something else was going on. And then again, the manner of dress may not have meant anything. The point we are making is that we do not think Judge Kaplan was doing anything wrong in making an inquiry to make sure there was not a problem. This is what we want our Judges in juvenile court to be doing, and we applaud Judge Kaplan for taking the time to be concerned.
There. It didn't come easy, but then we have defended worse clients than this before. A Rumpolian defense of a Judge North of the Border. And there is not even a blue moon outside.
See you in court.
After this post went up, we received this comment, which is just so good that it needs to be included in the post:
Broward Judges are all dressed in black robes including Judge Kaplan. Does this mean they are depressed? Well maybe after all that has been going on with them they should be.
Rumpole says: well done.