Courtroom clashes can become intense, but when a judge repeatedly calls a lawyer “stupid” in an Australian case, the rules of conflict became more than blurred.
The case involved a local lawyer, Benjamin Lindner, appearing before Victorian County Court Judge Mark Dean, who told the lawyer:
“I cannot believe what has happened in this trial, some of the decisions that have been made by the defence. It is beyond me, absolutely beyond me.
“In 35 years as a criminal lawyer, 10 years as a silk, I have never seen such incompetence by introducing evidence in a trial which is evidence of the accused man’s guilt. And I, for the life of me, have no idea what his defence is.”
The judge’s comments came to the attention of the media after the Victorian Court of Appeal delivered a verdict on an appeal, which contained large sections of the heatedexchange between the judge and the lawyer.
Judge Dean: “[Defence counsel], you are unbelievable. Unbelievable. I will use my description that I used yesterday. You are stupid. I ruled”
Mr Lindner: “I’ve got my role. You’ve got your role.”
Judge Dean: “Yes. But my role — no. But, [defence counsel], you are sailing very close to your ethical responsibilities to this court. You have a primary responsibility to behave in an appropriate manner and to ensure that this process and proceeding is conducted according to law.”
Mr Lindner: “Absolutely.”
Later Judge Dean told Mr Lindner: “I am getting very close to reporting you. Your behaviour in this trial is completely unacceptable. This case has been going for 11 days.”
Mr Lindner: “Yes.”
Judge Dean: “It is an embarrassment. Your conduct of this trial, and the ridiculous submissions you make, and points that have no substance, are a serious breach of your duties to this court.”
The appeal judges found that it was unnecessary for the Judge Dean to repeatedly describe the defendants as “pathetic”, and at one occasion call them “pathetic drug addicts”.
But they found this did not affect the trial, as the comments were not made in the presence of the jury.
While the judges criticized some of Judge Dean’s conduct during the trial, they found the appeal should be dismissed and the conviction upheld, because the judge’s actions did not cause a miscarriage of justice.
Source: The Age