Judge Finds Himself In Contempt Of Court When His New Smartphone Interrupts Closing Arguments

from the the-Man-sticks-it-to...-the-Man dept

Having your cellphone go off during a movie or during your kid's school concert is considered by many to be the penultimate act of rudeness. (Actually answering your phone in these locations is the ultimate act of rudeness, one many feel should be punished by immediate death.) Having your cellphone go off in court is not only considered rude, but (legally) contemptuous.

But, what's the expected response if it's a judge's cellphone that starts making noise while court is in session? At most, we'd expect a brief and possibly brusque apology from the judge before returning to the case at hand. We'd expect nothing more because many authority figures have presented themselves as exempt from the rules they enforce for most of the past 20 50 100 years.

Judge Raymond Voet of Ionia County, Michigan is an exception. Rules are rules and should apply equally to everybody, no matter what position they hold.

A Michigan judge imposed a $25 contempt of court fine on himself after his cellphone made noise during closing arguments of a jury trial.

"I'm guessing I bumped it. It started talking really loud, saying 'I can't understand you. Say something like Mom,'" he said. "My face got as red as a beet."

Voet, who said the phone is new and he is still learning how to work it, said he decided to hold himself in contempt of court and fine himself $25 because he wouldn't accept excuses from anyone else whose phones caused disturbances in court.

"If I cannot live by the rules that I enforce, then I have no business enforcing these rules," Voet said.
A new phone can have a steep learning curve and this one soundly defeated the judge's embarrassed attempts to silence it. But rather than just dealing with the misbehaving phone and returning to work (actions no one would have questioned -- after all, he is the judge), Judge Voet subjected himself to the same rules he holds everyone else to.

Sure, the fine is only $25, but the gesture is much, much bigger than that. Voet earned plenty of respect in return for a nominal cash outlay. While we can only speculate as to whether he would have subjected himself to a larger fine in order to set an example, the fact is he followed through on an action that wouldn't have occurred to most of his peers, much less been considered (briefly) with any seriousness.



Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 7:36am

    "If I cannot live by the rules that I enforce, then I have no business enforcing these rules," Voet said.

    Must have an uterus installed so I can have his babies.

    I'm at a loss of words on how epically awesome this is and even more at a loss on the fact that I am amazed meaning this is not the norm but rather an exception.

    I humbly salute this example of a judge.

     

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  •  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 8:00am

    Impressive...

    Normally I don't see authority figures taking the same punishment as the people they preside over.

    Nice to see that it happened here.

     

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  •  
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    Gothenem (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 8:54am

    Awesome

    This is how all people in all walks of life should be treated. Equally. This judge obviously has the right idea. The law applies to everyone, rich or poor, judge or customer service representative, CEO or Wal-Mart Greeter. I would feel, after this, that I would be treated fairly by this judge.

    Take note all you other judges out there. This is how it's done!

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2013 @ 9:11am

      Re: Awesome

      "Take note all you other judges out there. This is how it's done!"

      ...and Congress...


      Oh sorry I was dreaming there for a second...

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2013 @ 11:14am

      Re: Awesome

      I would feel, after this, that I would be treated fairly by this judge.

      Right there is why this sort of behavior is important.

       

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    identicon
    Digitari, Apr 16th, 2013 @ 9:14am

    Re:

    This is one of the FEW reasons I Hated Leaving Michigan. Judges, on the whole, are fair, ( at least on the lower west side where I used to live).
    Not that I ran into many in an official capacity.I did have some rather scurrilous friends though, even they felt the judgements to be fair.

     

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    TheLastCzarnian (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 9:22am

    Ignore Dictionary.com, this judge is the definition of integrity.

     

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    identicon
    michael, Apr 16th, 2013 @ 9:24am

    Penultimate

    "...considered by many to be the penultimate act of rudeness."

    Penultimate doesn't mean what you think it means.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2013 @ 9:30am

      Re: Penultimate

      He used it correctly, what exactly are you referring to here?

       

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      John Fenderson (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 9:31am

      Re: Penultimate

      He used the word correctly. "Penultimate" is the next-to-last thing (the ringing of the phone). Ultimate is that last thing (the answering of the phone).

       

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    NoahVail (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 9:32am

    Judge Voet for PotUS and Senate and House and...

    Judge Raymond Voet has the same, exact integrity that is missing from most elected officials and public servants in Washington.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2013 @ 9:49am

      Re: Judge Voet for PotUS and Senate and House and...

      He has clearly taken himself out of the running for any DOJ jobs, so an elected official seems like a good option for the citizenry.

       

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Apr 16th, 2013 @ 9:41am

    OR, it's just a publicity stunt. Geez, ONE data point,

    and you fanboys just about literally orgasm:

    Ninja (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 7:36am

    "If I cannot live by the rules that I enforce, then I have no business enforcing these rules," Voet said.

    Must have an uterus installed so I can have his babies.

    I'm at a loss of words on how epically awesome this is and even more at a loss on the fact that I am amazed meaning this is not the norm but rather an exception.

    I humbly salute this example of a judge.


    Sheesh. Maybe "Ninja" is Japanese for "Ninny".

    Anyhoo, you can't buy better publicity anywhere for $25. And it's always the big criminals who are careful about minor points. -- BUT, sure, on the face of it, FINE. Some judges actually are good... I've never run across one, but it's possible.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2013 @ 9:45am

      Re: OR, it's just a publicity stunt. Geez, ONE data point,

      Or you are full of craycray

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Digitari, Apr 16th, 2013 @ 9:57am

      Re: OR, it's just a publicity stunt. Geez, ONE data point,

      " BUT, sure, on the face of it, FINE. Some judges actually are good... I've never run across one, but it's possible"

      only because they always found you guilty.

       

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    •  
      icon
      OldMugwump (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 9:59am

      Re: OR, it's just a publicity stunt. Geez, ONE data point,

      I'd vote for him EVEN if it was a publicity stunt.

      At least he understands the symbolism of equality under the law. That's more than I can say for most politicians.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Rikuo (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 10:00am

      Re: OR, it's just a publicity stunt. Geez, ONE data point,

      Mike Masnick. Do us an experiment would you kindly? Write an article about how the sky is blue. Oh, and mention that water is wet and people get drunk imbibing alcohol.
      We can start a betting pool on how long it takes for the trolls to turn up frothing at the mouth finding fault with everything you just wrote, even though they're cold hard facts.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        John Fenderson (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 10:09am

        Re: Re: OR, it's just a publicity stunt. Geez, ONE data point,

        I second this. It would be hilarious!

         

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        •  
          icon
          technomage (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 10:31am

          Re: Re: Re: OR, it's just a publicity stunt. Geez, ONE data point,

          lol, you forgot ootb's favorite rant: What does that have to do with technology or dirt for that matter...

          A better bet would be something along the lines of why a computer has an on button; why keyboard keys press down, instead of up; etc.

          but seriously, we need to stop feeding him after midnight, keep him in the sunlight, and prevent him from ever getting near water...

           

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          •  
            identicon
            AC Unknown, Apr 16th, 2013 @ 11:55am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: OR, it's just a publicity stunt. Geez, ONE data point,

            Or, Mike could just drop the banhammer on Blue, AJ, hurricane_head/googlypants, and darryl's IP addresses and we could begin the process of an unhindered discussion on how to fix what's wrong with this world.

             

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            •  
              icon
              Gwiz (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 2:18pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: OR, it's just a publicity stunt. Geez, ONE data point,

              Or, Mike could just drop the banhammer on Blue, AJ, hurricane_head/googlypants, and darryl's IP addresses...


              AFAIK Mike has never banned anyone from commenting on Techdirt. That would kind of go against his stance on Free Speech - that ignorant or incorrect speech should be countered with more speech, not censored. That's also why when the community down votes a comment it just hides it and it isn't removed entirely.

              You end up getting deeper, more involved conversations when there are dissenting views, instead of an echo chamber with everyone agreeing on everything.

              As an added bonus, we (the community here at Techdirt) get to claim higher moral ground over the sites which moderate and choose which comments to allow. Like the websites of the RIAA and the MPAA, all the MSM sites and that silly blog of David Lowery's.

               

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            •  
              icon
              John Fenderson (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 4:04pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: OR, it's just a publicity stunt. Geez, ONE data point,

              One of the things I like about Techdirt is that there is no banhammer (or at least, the threshold for banning is extremely high).

              The trolls can be annoying, but they are also easy to ignore.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            icon
            Wally (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 12:39pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: OR, it's just a publicity stunt. Geez, ONE data point,

            "What does that have to do with technology or dirt for that matter..."

            Well it is Techdirt you know... ;-)

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, May 11th, 2013 @ 12:12pm

        Re: Re: OR, it's just a publicity stunt. Geez, ONE data point,

        Rikuo, all of us Martians resent your obviously false statement of "the sky is blue." You're nothing but a planetist Earthling; what a shame.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
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      Bryan (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 10:33am

      Re: OR, it's just a publicity stunt. Geez, ONE data point,

      Not sure what criminal act got you found guilty, but that doesn't mean you didn't get a good judge.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2013 @ 11:24am

      Re: OR, it's just a publicity stunt. Geez, ONE data point,

      Geez...

      The trolls just can't stay away.

      These comments are starting to remind me of those at YouTube.

      Next thing you know, OOTB will chime in talking about the size of the like bar...

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      out_of_tha_blue (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 11:49am

      Re: OR, it's just a publicity stunt. Geez, ONE data point,

      "and you fanboys just about literally orgasm"

      I'm sure you'll be there then.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    adamson, Apr 16th, 2013 @ 9:57am

    interpret

    "If I cannot live by the rules that I enforce, then I have no business enforcing these rules," Voet said.

    He meant 'interpret' the laws of course, not enforce.

     

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    crade (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 10:04am

    The question is, how much is the fine for a non-judge person being in contempt of court?

     

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      Bryan (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 10:37am

      Re:

      "The question is, how much is the fine for a non-judge person being in contempt of court?"

      $25, just like the sign in the courtroom says.

       

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      identicon
      Someone who works with the man, Apr 20th, 2013 @ 12:53pm

      Re: How much does he fine anyone else?

      He gave himself the same exact consequence that he gives anyone else...a $25 fine. It's not a publicity stunt either. He is truly shocked by the publicity this has had. I assure you, he's just that honest. It's nice to be able to work with a man of true integrity.

       

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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 10:18am

    Michigan

    At least somebody from Michigan is trying to make the state look decent. With the recent escapades of our local crazy Mike Rogers pushing CISPA to no end making our state look bad, at least we have somebody like Voet.

     

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      Gwiz (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 10:44am

      Re: Michigan

      At least somebody from Michigan is trying to make the state look decent.

      Yeah, I agree. A diamond in the rough for sure, especially after the the escapades of Kwame and Co.

       

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      identicon
      ShellMG, Apr 16th, 2013 @ 1:31pm

      Re: Michigan

      We have at least one other good guy in Justin Amash. He opposes CISPA.

       

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    ShivaFang (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 11:25am

    Good for him! I wish more authority figures would recognize that the rules apply to them also. This is one Judge who has _earned_ my respect (rather than just demanding it)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2013 @ 12:42pm

    Instant respect for that judge.
    If you're in a leadership position and you're not following your own rules and guidelines, you aren't qualified for that position.

     

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    Wally (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 12:43pm

    Just wanting to point out that the learning curve is greater for the general public than it is for those of us whom are used to using technology on a regular basis. This judge is awesome for realizing what was going on and I think that this is probably the judge I would love to see in court if I ever get a subpena to the Ionia County Clerk of Courts in Michigan.

     

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    identicon
    DOlz, Apr 16th, 2013 @ 1:23pm

    Can we get this Judge on the Supreme Court?

    Subject title says it all.

     

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    Uriel-238 (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 1:29pm

    Bravo, good sir.

    A nice moment of good sportsmanship to brighten my day.

    Of course, I'm sure he can afford the $25.

     

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    toyotabedzrock (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 2:21pm

    Or

    It would be better if everyone just had more understating for each others mistakes.

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 3:41pm

    If only this was the standard and not an outlier.

     

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    special-interesting (profile), Apr 17th, 2013 @ 3:27am

    A good example of a good example. Shows style and humility. A man of some substance.

    Stuff like that (forgot to turn off cell phone) just happens even in dire situations like a courtroom. The fine even sounds reasonable.

    Hmmm. Fine sounds reasonable... (don't get me goin now.)

    This once and a while phone ringing occurrence normally happens when we rely on cell phone gadgets so much. They are everywhere and ubiquitous to everyday life. Similarly we have copy machines everywhere in our lives and sure enough every once and a while we photocopy a picture or two and post them on a bulletin board somewhere else. If you don't then your kids will.

    In real life what would be the maximum a judge could do to errant distractions? A few hundred dollars and confiscation of the phone for a while?

    Lets compare the $25 serious contempt of court fine for a cell phone ringing in the courtroom to the potential statutory fines of 150,000 for copyright criminal violations. Why the discrepancy? Seems way out of line even to put into writing such a ridiculous amount.

    So turn on the cellphones in the courtrooms but lock up that dangerous copy machine its a vice more dangerous than a Gutenberg press with the inquisition hunting you down. (for printing Bibles no less.)

     

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    David (profile), Apr 17th, 2013 @ 11:02am

    When is he running?

    When is he running for something? This is a man I would vote for!

     

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    identicon
    Charles, Apr 19th, 2013 @ 10:41am

    Hello, Judge! Would you like to run for President of the USA?

     

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    identicon
    Prof. A.P. GARG, May 13th, 2013 @ 11:33pm

    High morale

    It is the highest morale shown by the judge. He has set an example for others to follow.

     

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