Not Funny: NJ Supreme Court Says Judges Can't Do Stand Up

from the benched dept

Humor: some people have it, other people don't. For the humoursly challenged, exposing the funny takes several ingredients. First, you need to be in a position to observe everyday occurrences that can be mocked or exposed for ridicule. Then you need the ability to craft a joke about that topic. Finally, you need the ability to deliver that joke. Vince Sicari has those ingredients. He's also a part-time judge in New Jersey, which is the sort of thing I didn't know existed (part-time judges, not the great state of New Jersey). Unfortunately that apparently makes him the bane of the legal system, as the New Jersey Supreme Court has ordered him to step down from the bench if he continues working in comedy.
"The judge's acting and comedy career is incompatible with the Code of Judicial Conduct and therefore he may not serve as a municipal court judge while continuing with that career," the court wrote in a unanimous 7-0 opinion.
Specifically, the court noted that Sicari's work has included playing bit roles on shows like ABC's What Would You Do?, in which he essentially pretends to be a jackass, often a racist or vulgar jackass, to see how those around him will react. The court says that the discerning public won't be able to separate the words spoken in this role and during his standup routines and the words he utters from the bench, because apparently residents of New Jersey never watched Sesame Street growing up and don't know what the word "pretend" means. Judges, you see, are not allowed to be funny.
Harry Anstead putting
Pictured: The Florida Supreme Court shortly before their summary execution under the Rabbit Ears Act Of 1918


This, in case you aren't sure, is stupid. Aside from the fact that what the court points to in terms of Sicari's performances are his in character roles, the other problem is that he's gone out of his way to not do comedy about legal matters or make jokes from the bench. He also performs under a different name (Vince August instead of Vince Sicari). Still, an attorney for the state argued that the public would be confused over which Sicari was the real Sicari after seeing him play characters on the show, because apparently that attorney hasn't seen ABC's ratings.

Look, being a judge is important, even a traffic court judge like Sicari. I get that. But do we really want to live in a society where you can't be a comedian and serve the public? Hell, half of our public servants are hilarious unintentionally. That's because public discourse is inherently funny, due to the fact that the public is involved and half of them are morons. See? That was a joke. Kind of.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Androgynous Cowherd, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 6:00am

    Not just stupid.

    This, in case you aren't sure, is stupid.


    Not just stupid -- a bright line violation of the First Amendment. A government employer cannot tell a government employee that they'll be fired if they continue with [insert act of free speech/expression here], full stop.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 6:13am

    So in NJ, you have to ask permission for what sort of work you want to do? or are job roles assigned at birth?

     

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  3.  
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    Michael, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 6:15am

    Re: Not just stupid.

    If they included a no-compete clause, it could be argued that the New Jersey judicial system is in competition with the jokes he is telling.

     

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  4.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 20th, 2013 @ 6:20am

    Re:

    You get a Cutie Mark when you come of age. Jersey is a magical place.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 6:55am

    uh huh

    From the State that wants to make you buckle your pets up in the car. Fuck you chris christie you fat boob.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 6:56am

    Re: uh huh

    mmmm boobs

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 6:58am

    It wasn't a joke. Kinda of.

    It's just a true statement that half of the population (at least half) are morons.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 7:01am

    Re: Re: Not just stupid.

    I live in NJ. It's a right-to-work state. Non-competes are not worth the paper they're printed on, here.

     

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  9.  
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    RyanNerd (profile), Sep 20th, 2013 @ 7:06am

    Hasn't NJ heard of the old sitcom Night Court?

    If there were a true conflict of interest between what a part time judge does with his time when he's not on the bench then I can see that there would be an issue. But in this case it's simply an incredibly stupid overreaction.

     

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  10.  
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    MM_Dandy, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 7:08am

    Night Court is now in recess...

    The Honorable Harry T. Stone will be in his office, under his rug.

     

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  11.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Sep 20th, 2013 @ 7:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Not just stupid.

    Non-competes are not worth the paper they're printed on, here.
    Telling, perhaps, that you chose to take issue with that rather than the implication that [New Jersey] judiciary and stand-up comedy are direct competitors?

     

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  12.  
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    Erik Grant, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 7:17am

    Lets look at the "why"

    I am guessing the reason why they ruled as they did was due to the current state of our justice system.

    Anybody can and should be able to go on TV and be funny, including touching on subjects like race and gender. I don't have a problem with that. As has been said, that's also a first amendment right. In this case, it was a judge. He still has first amendment rights, to be sure, and I'm not positive this decision is consistent with the law.

    Lets just imagine for a moment what happens if this judge passes down a harsh sentence on his next black defendant. No matter how guilty the man is, if his lawyer can point to a skit the judge did on TV where he pretended to be racist, do you really think he can't force a recusal of the judge? Now repeat for women, now asian people, and suddenly we have half a judge whose rulings will always be subject to appeal.

    It's not right that the man's rights to free speech have been impugned. But there is a tough reality here, and there probably is no really good answer here.

     

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  13.  
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    Jessie (profile), Sep 20th, 2013 @ 7:25am

    So we have a judge working part time as a judge making $13,000 a year from it and by all accounts seems to be actively disclosing his other job to the mayor and advisory boards, actively trying to prevent conflicts of interest and working another job to support himself while doing the things he enjoys doing.

    What's he supposed to do, take kickbacks and become corrupt to make up for the money that being a part time judge doesn't pay?

    Then again, maybe the fact he's not is the real issue in this decision.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 7:27am

    What happens when the population changes? Do people spontaneously readjust the amount of morons to preserve the rule or does the government intervene? Is there a branch of government charged with preserving morons?

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 7:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Not just stupid.

    But you agree that the NJ judicial system is a joke?

     

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  16.  
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    DOlz (profile), Sep 20th, 2013 @ 7:36am

    Change of Venue?

    Prenda just found another windmill to go after.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 7:48am

    Flip Flopity my brain explodes

    On one had I see that morons in a hurry might not be able to separate racist joke telling guy from impartial judge. Like it or not just the appearance of impropriety IS a problem.

    On the other hand, what the judge does outside of court is his own damn business. If he is being a fair, impartial Judge following the laws as written then he is a good Judge.

    How would you feel being sentenced by a judge who has made racist comments outside of the courtroom even if you new they were in jest?

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 8:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Not just stupid.

    They are?

    And here I've been doing stand-up all wrong!

     

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  19.  
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    lar3ry, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 8:41am

    Judge... take this order to step down. Please.

     

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  20.  
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    Deranged Poster (profile), Sep 20th, 2013 @ 9:34am

    Re: Re:

    No they just get implanted with a Career chip.

     

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  21.  
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    Deranged Poster (profile), Sep 20th, 2013 @ 9:38am

    Re: Flip Flopity my brain explodes

    Too many morons running around in charge now. They take offense at the "Moron in a hurry" test.

     

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  22.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 20th, 2013 @ 11:35am

    Al Franken

    I mean how can people separate Franken from Stuart Smalley? Unpossible.

     

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  23.  
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    TaCktiX (profile), Sep 20th, 2013 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Re:

    This begs the question, why aren't they better friends to each other?

     

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  24.  
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    TaCktiX (profile), Sep 20th, 2013 @ 12:40pm

    Re:

    Yes, it's called Congress.

     

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  25.  
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    Mike Brown (profile), Sep 20th, 2013 @ 1:59pm

    Re: Al Franken

    Sonny Bono and Fred Grandy also come to mind.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 2:43pm

    Really?

    Someone should tell this to the judges in Effingham County Georgia. That conviction rubber stamp is such a joke all the judges in that circuit should be fired under this decision.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 4:12pm

    "Well, your honor, a funny thing happened on the way to court this morning..."

    Judge: "Shut up! I do the jokes around here!"

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2013 @ 9:12am

    Kickstarter for Investigations

    Perhaps there should be a kick starter for investigative journalism into people. It'd be one hell of a business model.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2013 @ 6:38pm

    wow

     

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  30.  
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    Joe, Dec 2nd, 2013 @ 4:34am

    This is ridiculous

    Let the judge do his thing. I know a guy who runs a funeral parlor and performs stand up comedy on the side. It's a stress buster.

     

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