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.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.
"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.
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.