Judge Tim Grendell Was For The First Amendment Before He Was Against It

Last week I described how Ohio judge Tim Grendell was abusing his contempt power to lash out at a critic, and how he justified his conduct in a puerile letter to the editor.

Jonathan Adler at the Volokh Conspiracy has picked it up, as has Instapundit and Watchdog.org. Any hope Judge Grendell has of a quiet resolution has been dashed.

With the publicity have come tipsters; Judge Grendell is apparently both feared and despised. One tipster pointed me to a time that Judge Grendell took a different approach to free speech.

In 2003 Grendell was an Ohio state representative. In the context of a symbolic and rather belated vote to ratify the 14th Amendment, he was quoted sneering at the Democratic sponsor of the vote as an illiterate:

Talking about the case that determined "separate but equal," the story said: "Grendell said Mallory should read the case, Plessy
vs. Ferguson, but he doubted Mallory would understand it. 'He's the only reason I might support the OhioReads program,'
Grendell said, referring to the state's volunteer tutoring program."

For what it's worth, Grendell is white and Mallory is black.

This generated condemnation from both Republicans and Democrats. Then-Representative Grendell defended himself, saying he was taken out of context and sounding a ringing endorsement of free speech:

The true irony of the situation is that had I made the comments attributed to me, it would have been my right to do so, without
censure or reprimand, based on my 1st Amendment Right to free speech," he wrote.

1

How did Judge Grendell descend from celebrating his constitutional right to be an ass in 2003 to mouthing platitudes about limits on free speech in 2015? What a curious journey for a "constitutional oriented judge and legal scholar."

  1. These quotes come from a March 16, 2003 article in the Times Recorder of Zanesville, Ohio entitled "Even GOP boss wants Grendell censured for his comments." It's available on Westlaw, but I decided attaching the whole thing would exceed fair use.  

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. GuestPoster says

    Why is it that, apparently, even judges seem to think that the First Amendment's right to free speech means a right not to have one's comments criticized, or to have them published in any forum one chooses, rather than merely a right to not be arrested or otherwise legally harassed by agents of the state due to what one has said?

    Why do so many people insist on giving simultaneously too much AND too little power to that particular amendment? I mean, it's a powerful bit of law as it is. It doesn't prevent anybody from, say, calling me an idiot, or insulting my lineage, due to this post. It doesn't prevent our host from deleting the post, and deciding that he doesn't want these words adorning his lawn. But it DOES mean that the cops can't kick down the door and arrest me for saying what I've said. Isn't that enough? Does it have to take away the speech rights of others, too, to be of value?

  2. Benanov says

    judges seem to think that the First Amendment's right to free speech means a right not to have one's comments criticized

    It doesn't prevent anybody from, say, calling me an idiot, or insulting my lineage, due to this post.

    Yeah, you of the purple bow-tied pixel clan just wouldn't understand that when someone's a powertripping judge the law is what they say it is, and they say it's always in their favor. >;-)

  3. Tony Festa says

    Grendell, like so many of his ilk, takes a one-sided view of first amendment rights, giving all credence to his right to speak freely, but ignoring the incumbent duty of tolerating the rights of others to speak their mind, even if offensive. He seems blind to the strength of American democracy, that public officials can be parodied, verbally pilloried, and grotesquely insulted and still maintain the authority of their office. And this is only because of the long-standing American belief that the power wielded by public officials belongs to the people and is vested in the office, not the person. In our tradition, the office deserves respect, but the officeholder must earn it.

  4. says

    What a curious journey for a "constitutional oriented judge and legal scholar."

    Not “curious” so much as “completely expected”. I find that the vigorousness of a person’s proclamations of Constitutional orientation are a very reliable indicator of their inability to uphold those principles when there’s a personal stake involved. Present company excepted, of course.

  5. Richard Gadsden says

    it would have been my right to do so, without censure or reprimand, based on my 1st Amendment Right to free speech

    Even his 2003 views show a poor understanding of the First Amendment. Surely a censure or reprimand is just other people's free speech responding to his?

  6. En Passant says

    @Richard Gadsden March 2, 2015 at 9:51 am:

    Dangnabit, I was about to say that.

    Unless the Ohio legislature's internal rules say otherwise, the legislative body can censure (ie: publicly call Grendell a dipstick) or reprimand (ie: call him a double dipstick poopyhead) any member that a majority so chooses. Grendell had no better understanding of the First Amendment in 2003 than he does in 2015. Quelle surprise!

  7. albert says

    @Tony
    "…the power wielded by public officials belongs to the people and is vested in the office, not the person. In our tradition, the office deserves respect, but the officeholder must earn it."
    Well said!
    …..
    @Ken
    "….Any hope Judge Grendell has of a quiet resolution has been dashed…."
    .
    1. Grendell has no interest in a 'quiet resolution'.
    2. Grendell hasn't thought out his long term strategy.
    3. Grendell has no long term strategy; he reacts (a reactor?)

    Let's hope for an early meltdown….

  8. Bryn says

    The judge is a strong proponent of the, "Free speech for me, but not for thee" principle.

  9. jdgalt says

    Just what limits *are* there on a judge's power to punish someone for contempt, anyway? Isn't his word pretty much law in his own courtroom? Does it matter if the "contempt" takes place outside that room?

  10. MCB says

    The true irony of the situation is that had I made the comments attributed to me, it would have been my right to do so, without
    censure or reprimand, based on my 1st Amendment Right to free speech," he wrote.

    Oh, he's one of those asshats. Of course he would be. Every time I hear someone claim that their right to free speech is compromised because people are criticizing their speech I think of a thirteen year old throwing a coming of age tantrum.

    How hard is this concept? You get to be an ignorant small minded biggot. I get to point out that you are an ignorant small minded biggot. Also, is he implying that Plessy was a good decision?

  11. TXDave says

    Can we invoke the power of Duct Tape yet? It can't fix stupid, but it can muffle the noise.

  12. Clovis Sangrail says

    Is it only me, or is everybody waiting for Beowulf to turn up and tell him he's an idiot?

  13. albert says

    I'm going out a limb, and predicting that Grendell will walk away with Asshat of the Year. If he can hang in there, he'll win for sure.

    P.S. The 'grendellwatch.com' domain is available.

  14. Wesley says

    Just what limits *are* there on a judge's power to punish someone for contempt, anyway? Isn't his word pretty much law in his own courtroom? Does it matter if the "contempt" takes place outside that room?

    Yes, it does. There are two kinds of contempt (although I don't practice in Ohio, I assume other jurisdictions aren't completely dissimilar): civil and criminal. Civil contempt is power that can only be used to coerce someone to do something within their power (e.g., a reporter being held in contempt until they disclose a source). Criminal contempt is punitive, and carries with it criminal due process protections. For each type of contempt, there are two sub-types: direct and indirect/constructive, with direct contempt occurring in front of the judge, and constructive outside of the judge's presence. Only direct criminal contempt (i.e., that disrupts the courtroom) can be punished without a separate charging document, hearing, and rights to an attorney and jury, but a defendant can still appeal.

    Grendell appeared to be threatening indirect criminal contempt against McArthur. Unlike direct criminal contempt (saying "fuck you" to the judge in court), indirect contempt requires there be a court order that you willfully disobey (really the only indirect criminal contempt I've seen involve flagrantly ignoring orders to pay criminal fines or child support). You also have the full due process protections of any other criminal charge, including a jury trial (although it looks like Ohio statutorily caps the punishment at 30 days, which could have some effect on those rights).

    Under any type of indirect contempt, there has to be an order directed at the party that the party disobeys. A third-party deriding a judge in private comes nowhere near any of that.

  15. Quartermaster says

    I was a county office holder in Ohio in 2003 and have little use for Mallory. The 14th amendment vote was the sort of thing idiotic politicians engage in when they have nothing constructive to offer. Grendell is of the same class. It's sad to see that moron ascended the bench. We have too many such idiots there already.

  16. Tony Festa says

    @bluedanube2 They sure are a cloistered little clique, a real insiders club. Witness how long it has been since the judicial complaints started pouring into the Ohio Supreme Court about this guy's violations of the Judicial Code of Conduct and still NOTHING. I understand the need to keep judges insulated from a lot of political interference. Otherwise we'd end up like Russia or Venezuela. But there has to be some middle ground to check the kind of arrogant abuse we see from Grendell and his boot-licking minions.