Sometimes you have to put the pipe down in favor of giving credit where credit is due. Judge Joseph Irenas died two weeks ago, and an itinerant pot smoker who’d come before him several times had some kind words for him. Ed Forchion of Trenton, New Jersey remembered this federal judge as fair, suspicious of government claims, and protective of constitutional rights. A eulogy for a judge doesn’t get much better than that.
Few pro se litigants have good things to say about judges. All of us, including Forchion, can recount instances where judicial bias was evident. That’s why it’s so important to highlight the good ones.
Forchion is a long-time marijuana user and activist on the issue (@NJweedman), which makes him a target for state and federal prosecutors. He’s done time and refused to mend his “error”. But he’s learned his way around a courtroom over the years and gained grudging respect from both prosecutors and judges.
Not all judges were fair to him, so when Judge Irenas died, he wanted to say goodbye publicly. Entitled “Passing the Joint: Rest in Peace, Judge Irenas,” here’s part of what he wrote:
The third time I encountered him was for my DNA case, when I refused to give up my DNA to the state of NJ. Instead I wrote a letter to the governor and the attorney general (at the time it was McGreevey and Harvey) stating that I refused to give up my DNA and the only exemption to get it was to kiss my ass and swab their lips.
The state responded by charging me with criminal contempt of court. So I filed yet another writ of habeus corpus before Judge Irenas. He held an evidentiary hearing where:
- I was granted a stay on giving up my DNA;
- the state was granted the opportunity to resolve this issue.
Subsequently the NJ Appeals Court ruled that I did not have to provide my DNA, which removed me from having standing before Judge Irenas in that case. (I always believed the state capitulated because I had Judge Irenas in my corner.) I always felt that he appreciated my efforts to protect Constitutional rights. He helped me three times, and I cannot thank him enough times.
You should read the whole thing. It’s truly touching, and a great send-off to a fair judge.
Have you had a case before a judge you really like? Someone who’s gone out of his or her way to give you a fair shot? It’s never too late for giving credit where credit is due. Share in the comments below.