Every ship needs a captain, and in litigation, every case needs a judge to keep the process moving smoothly and fairly. When that does not happen, there may be severe doubt about the propriety of the proceedings. In some circumstances, a new trial may be required as the best way to right the wrong that occurred. In one very unusual medical malpractice trial, a Louisiana judge was cited for such bizarre behavior that the state’s Supreme Court had to order a new trial for the plaintiff.
The judge reportedly wandered around the courtroom during the trial. He is accused of staring out the window, eating candy, sitting in the jury box and greeting witnesses during the trial in inappropriate ways. The judge had been reprimanded for similar behavior in the past, involving incidents both on and off the bench. The jurist’s career was interrupted for six months in 2004 after he appeared at a Halloween party dressed in blackface and a prison jumpsuit.
The Louisiana Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, ruled that the antics were too disturbing to allow the jury’s verdict to stand. Obviously, the verdict must have been against the plaintiff’s assertions of medical malpractice. The Court’s decision is understandable in that it is based on the inviolate assurance of fairness and propriety in our court cases.
The Court concluded that the plaintiff had suffered prejudice with respect to the underlying legal claims. While there were critics who asserted that the judge’s behavior did not mean that the trial itself was influenced, the decision appears to be a correct one for a medical malpractice case. The normal balance of resources in such cases tend to tilt in favor of the medical defendants in any event. Any disruption of the balance of propriety and objectivity would likely work to the plaintiff’s detriment.
Source: louisianarecord.com, “Retrial ordered after judge’s alleged bizarre behavior in medical malpractice case“, Emily Crowe, June 18, 2016