Judicial tantrum

Judge Keith’s ruling should be required reading for Wayne County Circuit Court Judge William J. Giovan, who passed a judicial kidney stone last week while dismissing a sexual harassment case. Get this: Giovan ruled that the case must be dismissed because the plaintiff spoke openly of a criminal conviction, since expunged, against the alleged sexual harasser. In his ruling, he cited a Metro Times cover story on the case.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit Justine Maldonado filed against her employer, Ford Motor Company, and former supervisor, Daniel Bennett.

Giovan contends that Maldonado and her attorneys, Miranda Massie and George Washington, violated an obscure state law (a patently unconstitutional law, in News Hits’ view) by repeatedly disclosing that Bennett was convicted of indecent exposure in 1995 for exposing his penis to three women on I-275. Maldonado also accused Bennett of exposing his penis to her. Bennett’s criminal record was expunged in 2001 and Giovan ruled that it could not be admitted as evidence in Maldonado’s case. But Giovan never issued a “gag order” to prohibit Maldonado or her attorneys from discussing Bennett’s criminal record. Since there was no gag order, Robert Sedler, Wayne State University constitutional law professor, says Giovan’s ruling should be reversed on appeal. He called the ruling “extreme.”

“If a judge wants the counsel and the parties not to comment on the case, the judge must issue an order based on specific findings that the statements will prejudice a fair trial and the judge did not do this here,” says Sedler.

“The public has a right to know what’s going on in court and lawyers and clients have a right to publicize their cases.”

Giovan’s ruling was appealed Monday. He should remove all loose objects from his pockets (and his cranium), because he’s about to get overturned.

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