Michigan Judge’s Cell Phone Goes Off, So He Promptly Fines Himself $50

One Michigan judge doesn’t think that his status means he can just pick and choose what laws he himself is subject to. After his cell phone went off, disrupting court proceedings, Judge Hugh B. Clarke Jr. promptly fined himself because, well, that’s the law.

Clarke, a Lansing district court judge, told the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog that he had made a call during recess, and hurried back to the courtroom for a sentencing hearing without putting his phone back on vibrate. It went off during the proceeding, and he fined himself $50 for disrupting the hearing.

“I don’t know why I even had it,” he told the Law Blog.

Even though we might be tempted to view the violation as a trivial one, Judge Clarke does not.

“I’m not above the law,” he said. “We operate by laws and rules, and people have to follow them.”

If this story sounds familiar, there’s a reason for it. Clarke isn’t the only Michigan judge to punish himself for a cell phone disruption.

Back in April, Ionia County’s chief district judge held himself in contempt after his cell phone went off. For five years, Judge Raymond Voet has held fast to a “one strike, you’re out” policy regarding cell phone disruptions, regarding it as an inexcusable breach of courtroom decorum.

If someone’s phone goes off in his courtroom, Judge Voet confiscates the device, holds it owner in contempt, and makes the person pay $25 to get their device back.

During a prosecutor’s closing arguments, Judge Voet accidentally pressed a button which activated voice command. “Sorry, couldn’t hear anything. Try saying, ‘call mom’ or ‘open calendar,’ ” his phone blared.

He apologized to the prosecutor, and filled out a “Contempt of Court” form, fining himself $25.

Do you think that judges should have to abide by their own rules in court, even concerning cell phones?

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