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Judicial Ethics Run Amok


I’m in the depths (of hell) studying now for the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), which all aspiring lawyers must take before being admitted to the bar. So I’m not yet an expert on legal and judicial ethics, but I’m pretty sure that this violates about 38 rules of judicial conduct.

During a domestic violence trial in Maryland last week, a police officer testified that she witnessed a man hit his girlfriend in the face three times at a gas station . The officer had the man arrested. But, according to Paul Harris, the judge assigned to the case, one can’t assume that a woman who was hit didn’t consent to the attack. “Sadomasochists sometimes like to get beat up,” Harris told the courtroom — then acquitted the man.
Judge Harris went onto explain that it had to be clear that the defendant’s actions were not consented to by the victim, and asked, “How do you determine that without the victim?” (Byron L. Warnken, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, posed this question to a Sun reporter: “What would we do in a murder case?”).

Between this case and last year’s ruling — also in Maryland — that consensual sex can’t become rape (consent is irrevocable), the legal system (again, at least in Maryland), seems to be becoming less and less hospitable to women who are victims of domestic or sexual violence. And that’s saying a lot, because where the law started wasn’t any great shakes either.

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