When a joke is no joke

WATCH, a courtroom monitoring project in Hennepin County has issued a news release today calling for the resignation of Judge Steven Aldrich.

The group claims a comment he made during a Family Court hearing prompts the release, which says:


During the hearing to amend an order for protection brought by a woman against her husband, Judge Aldrich stated, “I’ve been married 45 years. We’ve never considered divorce, a few times murder maybe.”

“Many women seek a protection order because they’re fearful of being murdered or seriously injured by their partner,” she WATCH executive director Marna Anderson in the release. “The last thing an abused woman needs to hear in this situation is a joke about domestic homicide.”

The comments comes in the wake of a couple of high-profile killings of women who sought or had orders of protection.

What’s your view?

Update 4:32 p.m. Judge Aldrich has posted the following :


The following is the only public statement I can make, as will be seen from its text: I am sorry for the offense occasioned by my comment. It has been taken somewhat out of context. I tried to use humor to lower the tension in the courtroom and in retrospect I chose the wrong words. The couple in this case has asked that I remain the judge in their cases. In deference to their privacy and the canons of Judicial Conduct about pending cases, I will not comment further. Throughout my 15 years on the bench, and for 25 years before, I have acted forcefully to protect victims of abuse and their children, and to issue or seek Orders For Protection justified by the facts and law. /s/ Stephen C. Aldrich Judge of District Court

Update Fri 11/13 6:45 a.m. – Lawyers in the case released this statement via comments:


The comments made by Judge Stephen C. Aldrich, as reported by WATCH on November 12, 2009, are not taken by the parties or their attorneys as offensive. As stated by Judge Aldrich, they were a means to lower tension and for humor. The report by WATCH is out of context and is a non-issue. In fact, the Petitioner seeking the Order for Protection reported that it made her laugh, cut the tension, and was the highlight of the hearing. WATCH is taking the comment completely out of context and far too seriously. The parties have agreed to continue their case in front of Judge Aldrich. Robert J. Hajek, Attorney for Respondent Scott M. Rodman, Attorney for Petitioner”

  • jsh

    My view? Very poor judgement by Judge Aldrich. I’m sure he’ll never make that mistake again. Very bad joke for that time and place. Resignation? Not going to happen and isn’t warranted.

  • Katie

    I would like to know the context in which he made the statement. The only context that would make it okay if he was directing it towards the woman and meant to empathize with a similar statement she had made. Seems unlikely. I wouldn’t want Judge Aldrich ruling over any cases involving domestic abuse. It’s clear he doesn’t understand the severity of domestic violence.

  • Russ

    What I find more disturbing than the comments made by the judge, which might have been taken completely out of context. Is that WATCH didn’t have any public comment about Judge Edward Wilson who allowed Devon Dockery out of jail for violating an OFP, order for protection. Then killed Officer Crittenden of North St. Paul and wounded another officer from Maplewood. Maybe WATCH should do a better job of monitoring the courtrooms?

  • Jamie

    I can take a joke about almost anything, but there are a couple of topics that, for me, are simply off limits: violence against women and the holocaust. It’s hard to know if the judge was having a moment of inexplicable stupidity or if that statement really reflects an insensitivity on his part. I’m inclined to believe the latter, especially given the recent publicity about this issue. We should be able to expect judges not to make light of the issues they’re presiding over. I don’t know if firing him is in order. Some kind of really serious discipline at least, though.

  • evan

    This was an unfortunate comment by Judge Aldrich. He should apologize and we should all move on. I’m sure WATCH will be watching him for future indiscretions.

    I’m disappointed that the world has become such a divided place that any perceived slight ends up with the call for the maximum consequences. I don’t think I want to live in a world where you can’t recover from a mistake.

  • Jamie

    “WATCH didn’t have any public comment about Judge Edward Wilson…”

    WATCH probably can’t be in every courtroom. Why are you so quick to judge them when you seem to be willing to give Aldrich the benefit of the doubt (in terms of his comment’s context)?

  • Connie

    I cannot think of any context in which this would be funny.

  • GregS

    “”Many women seek a protection order because they’re fearful of being murdered or seriously injured by their partner,” she WATCH executive director Marna Anderson in the release. “The last thing an abused woman needs to hear in this situation is a joke about domestic homicide.”

    “Many WOMEN seek a protection order”???????

    Sorry, honey, so do many MEN. And yes, I am fully aware that my use of the word “honey” is disrespectful. I meant it that way.

    There is a SERIOUS problem with WATCH, it is a women’s advocacy group with an brazen agenda to inject gender bias into the courts.

    As for OFP’s, again sorry, they are handed out like candy and require no evidence of abuse, so let’s not assume that abuse is present when an OFP is filed.

    Okay?

    We used to have what is called “an order to vacate” which one party in a break-up used to get the other out of the house, now we use orders for protection.

    Domestic abuse IS a serious problem but people like WATCH are turning it into a farce, or worse.

  • dsr

    Ah Yeah! The judiciary expects to be respected, even demands it! They have too much power to be so flippant during their postions of power! Maybe an apology could surfice, if accepted by woman who was in court that day for OFP, but considering how much power judges have and what they expect from the public in respect, I would put some kind of punishment or suspension-something!

  • GregS

    Bob,

    I am going to beat you (and MPR) up on this one. You folks do a great job, but you suffer from a progressive/liberal blind-spot that does not serve the public well.

    In the text above there were TWO socially inept statements: one from Judge Aldrich and one from Marna Anderson. The problem is you saw fit to publish a story about the first, but the later statement slid through the newsroom unnoticed.

    What Marna Anderson said was clearly sexist.

    Doesn’t MPR have a paragraph in the style book regarding the treatment of racist or sexist comments?

    For instance, if during the course of an interview, a developer said, “These condos are a great place for white people to live”, how would that be treated?

    Would you include such a statement in a story without comment? Let’s not kid ourselves, a statement like that would not get through the newsroom without notice and comment.

    Say why was Marna Anderson’s comment not caught?

    Sorry Bob, you folks do a great job, but you have to diversify your staff.

  • GregS

    [repost]

    Bob,

    I am going to beat you (and MPR) up on this one. You folks do a great job, but you suffer from a progressive/liberal blind-spot that does not serve the public well.

    In the text above there were TWO socially inept statements: one from Judge Aldrich and one from Marna Anderson. The problem is you saw fit to publish a story about the first, but the later statement slid through the newsroom unnoticed.

    What Marna Anderson said was clearly sexist.

    Doesn’t MPR have a paragraph in the style book regarding the treatment of racist or sexist comments?

    For instance, if during the course of an interview, a developer said, “These condos are a great place for white people to live”, how would that be treated?

    Would you include such a statement in a story without comment? Let’s not kid ourselves, a statement like that would not get through the newsroom without notice and comment.

    So why was Marna Anderson’s comment not caught?

    Sorry Bob, you folks do a great job, but you have to diversify your staff to include someone who can pick up on these gaffs.

  • Matt

    @Greg2: How is Marna’s comment sexist and/or racist? I’m baffled by your comment.

    The usage of woman in this context makes sense: the sentence was directed at a woman, so it makes sense. Yes, men also get OFPs, but this wasn’t about a gender-neutral comment. It was directed at a woman.

    As far as the judge: Resignation? No. Mandatory training for avoiding inappropriate conduct in the courtroom for all judges? Maybe.

  • Kim E

    GregS: I don’t understand how you can advocate for the testing of rape kits one day, then question the validity of women seeking OFP’s the very next day. Both issues of violence against women, both trying to help the women who were victims, yet one action seems to be a “farce.”

    Also, I question your use of “honey” in a knowingly consescending, disrespectful manner. Perhaps you’re turning into one of those blowhards you say don’t exist.

  • Mike-Oh

    Resignation? Really? People make mistakes, that jsut part of being human. Why is it that when ever a mistake is made by a public official people start calling for a resigantion? It seems a little harsh to ruin someone’s career and life over one mistake.

  • Judge Stephen Aldrich

    Text/b>The following is the only public statement I can make, as will be seen from its text:

    I am sorry for the offense occasioned by my comment. It has been taken somewhat out of context. I tried to use humor to lower the tension in the courtroom and in retrospect I chose the wrong words. The couple in this case has asked that I remain the judge in their cases. In deference to their privacy and the canons of Judicial Conduct about pending cases, I will not comment further.

    Throughout my 15 years on the bench, and for 25 years before, I have acted forcefully to protect victims of abuse and their children, and to issue or seek Orders For Protection justified by the facts and law.

    /s/ Stephen C. Aldrich

    Judge of District Court

  • GregS

    “The usage of woman in this context makes sense: the sentence was directed at a woman, so it makes sense. Yes, men also get OFPs, but this wasn’t about a gender-neutral comment. It was directed at a woman.”

    There was no mention of gender in the judge’s statement. So why are we talking about gender? So why did Marna Anderson mention gender? Obviously gender is VERY important to her.

    Here is a test folks……

    “During the hearing to amend an order for protection brought by a white spouse against a black spouse, Judge Aldrich stated, “I’ve been married 45 years. We’ve never considered divorce, a few times murder maybe.”

    Now do you see anything objectionable?

    Why would a simple substitution of gender for race suddenly make a paragraph objectionable?

    Think about it.

    Do you honestly think such a simple, perhaps factual, paragraph would have been published by NEWSCUTS?

    Take off your blinders folks and look at your world.

  • GregS

    “GregS: I don’t understand how you can advocate for the testing of rape kits one day, then question the validity of women seeking OFP’s the very next day. Both issues of violence against women, both trying to help the women who were victims, yet one action seems to be a “farce.”

    It’s real simple, Kim. I believe in justice and I do not believe in allowing considerations of race or gender to become a factor in who receives justice.

    By the way, men are the victims of domestic violence as often as women. We have known that for over 30 years and it has been confirmed by hundreds of studies and thousands of victim’s surveys.

  • Jamie

    You’re on another planet, GregS, if you think the problem of abused men is anywhere near the magnitude of the problem of violence against women. If you want to start a WATCH group just for men, go for it! But don’t you dare try to minimize or lie about the brutality and oppression that women have to live with.

  • GregS

    You’re on another planet, GregS, if you think the problem of abused men is anywhere near the magnitude of the problem of violence against women.”

    I live on planet Earth in a country called The United States of America, which has a constitution that guarantees equal protection for all its citizens regardless of race, gender or national origin.

    Frankly I cannot understand how demanding gender or racial neutrality in the courts minimizes brutality or oppression against anyone. Quite the contrary, it is the essence of social justice.

    The problem I see with progressive and liberals is their willingness to embrace sexism and racism when it serves their purpose then howl with indignation when it does not.

    All you had to do what substitute the term “white spouse” for “woman” in the paragraph above to see how obvious this bigotry of convenience is.

  • GregS

    “If you want to start a WATCH group just for men”

    Uh-huh, so then I could put political and social pressure on a judge to favor my son-in-law or my daughter?

    What kind of insanity is that?

    The same kind of insanity that would pressure a system to favor my daughter to the disadvantage of my son?

    Sorry, I prefer a world were everyone is equal under the law and crazy sexist and racist groups are shown the court house door.

  • Jamie

    Switching “white spouse” or “black spouse” for “woman” is not an equivalent or comparable exchange. Your argument is invalid. Beyond that, I’m not going to have this Bizarro World argument.

  • c

    Other than the comment about ‘progressives and liberals’

    I understand what you are saying Gregs.

    Abuse is not gender specific.

  • GregS

    “Switching “white spouse” or “black spouse” for “woman” is not an equivalent or comparable exchange. Your argument is invalid.”

    Quite the contrary, it is a rather precise substitution of language since all people have both the attributes of race and of gender. All we did was substitute one for the other.

  • GregS

    “Abuse is not gender specific.”

    Thank you, c.

    My point about progressives and liberals was not to bash those groups, I can do that elsewhere :)

    However, I hope I made my point.

    I think the quote above by Marna Anderson flew right past the staff at MPR, but a racial comment like that would not have. This is a classic case of worldview subtly shaping our perception of the world

  • Paul

    C’mon folks. DFTT.

    Move along. Nothin to see here

  • Judge stephen aldrich

    The following is the text of a statement made by the lawyers involved the case complained of. It was made without any prompting from me.

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Response to WATCH demand for the resignation for Judge Stephen C. Aldrich:

    “The comments made by Judge Stephen C. Aldrich, as reported by WATCH on November 12, 2009, are not taken by the parties or their attorneys as offensive. As stated by Judge Aldrich, they were a means to lower tension and for humor. The report by WATCH is out of context and is a non-issue. In fact, the Petitioner seeking the Order for Protection reported that it made her laugh, cut the tension, and was the highlight of the hearing. WATCH is taking the comment completely out of context and far too seriously.

    The parties have agreed to continue their case in front of Judge Aldrich.

    Robert J. Hajek, Attorney for Respondent

    Scott M. Rodman, Attorney for Petitioner”

  • GregS

    Given the statements by the judge, the petitioner, her attorney and the counsel for the respondent, it is clear that WATCH deliberately took the statements out of context.

    Also given the sexist comments by Marna Anderson, resignations are called for at WATCH. At a minimum, WATCH owes an apology to the judge, the parties involved in this case and the public.

  • Jamie

    The statements by the judge and by the attorneys don’t in any way whatsoever mean that WATCH deliberately took the judge’s comment out of context. That’s a ridiculous notion. And WATCH’s spokesperson did not make any sexist statements; she owes no apologies. You’re doing what right wingers often do in arguments: they simply turn the offense around and try to make it look like their opponents are the offensive ones. I imagine it’s done to just fluster the opponents because it’s so ridiculous, it’s hard to argue with.

    It doesn’t erase the offensiveness of the judge’s statement just because the people involved in the case were not offended. We already knew that Aldrich was trying to make a joke; for him to say that the context was that he was making a joke doesn’t really change anything.

    What I heard on the local tv news broadcasts last night makes it sound like Aldrich has a history of making lots of boneheaded statements like this.

  • Robert T. Jones

    I know Judge Aldrich personally and professionally and while I was not present when he made the disarming comment, I can personally vouch for his character. During a State Bar Association golf tournament I offered Judge Aldrich a snack; I couldn’t understand why he was scrambling through his golf bag until he handed me a quarter and explained that the Cannons of Judicial Conduct prohibit Judges from accepting gifts…even a pretzel. Calls for his resignation are ludicrous.

  • c

    Jamie-

    This is not an issue of left or right wing.

    This is a story about a joke that a Judge made, ( who did indeed apologize) and how a certain individual who took it way out of context. This happens far too often in the media-especially with the TV folks who can be prompted to sway the truth by alittle extra honey, (money).

    I would also like to thank Gregs for his tenacity in bringing the issue of blowing stories out of proportion to light.

  • Dolunay Dance

    This is one comment in a career of inappropriate behavior Judge Aldrich. He has been sanctioned on multiple occasions and has not changed his behavior.

    How did the attorneys in the case come to respond so quickly, by the way? Did Judge Aldrich call and ask them to respond? Also, just an FYI–*everyone* in court laughs at the judges jokes. The judge is god in that courtroom and if you want to win your case you’re going to think the judge is as funny as hell.

    This judge has been moved from one courtroom to another. There is no place left for him because he screws up EVERYWHERE he goes.

    If someone got fired for one comment this judge would have been gone a long time ago. Stop acting like this is one incident and he apologized and that’s that. In his constant attempts to make jokes he makes a mockery of the court and is an embarrassment to the bench.

  • c

    do luna why dance, (ya i got the lame joke)

    //This is one comment in a career of inappropriate behavior Judge Aldrich. He has been sanctioned on multiple occasions and has not changed his behavior.

    if that is the case than why was’t it part of the story or is your post more heresay and GOSSIP?

  • GregS

    And WATCH’s spokesperson did not make any sexist statements; she owes no apologies.”

    As a male, I find it extremely offensive to cast the subject of protection orders and abuse in gender terms. Marna Anderson clearly wanted to perpetuate the myth that women are the victims of domestic abuse and men are the perpetrators.

    Any statement casting the same subject in racial terms, suggesting whites are victims and blacks are perpetrators, would have been caught and censored by MPR, or if it were allowed to be published, it would be soundly condemned as racist.

    Allowing this statement into NEWSCUTS without comment and condemnation was an editorial failure.