THE FALL OF JUDGE DUFF
When the Gods Fall, the Earth Trembles
Past commentaries by Sherman H. Skolnick of the Citizens'
Committee to Clean Up the Courts contain mention of a "Judge
Brian Barnett Duff." Recall, for example, this excerpt from CN
Called BNL, it had records of Iraqi strongman Saddam
Hussein and his secret private joint business dealings with
his partner, an American. A close crony of the Federal
Reserve, Chicago Federal District Judge Brian Barnett Duff,
ordered the return of any records from the Banking
Committee, then headed by a Democrat, Rep. Henry Gonzalez
The House Banking Committee was an intervening
party-litigant in the controversy. Judge Duff so opposed
the House Banking Committee's efforts to get those records,
that the Judge would not listen to the Committee's
attorney; did not want the attorney in the Judge's
courtroom, the Judge calling him an 800 pound gorilla
showing no respect for the court.
As background to a detailed story by Mr. Skolnick, now in my
possession, I call attention to an article in the Chicago Tribune
of October 11, 1996 ("Beleagured judge steps down from U.S.
According to the Tribune article, "U.S. District Judge Brian Duff
resigned Thursday after more than a decade of erratic behavior on
the bench." Why did Duff resign? Mr. Skolnick describes Duff as
raving and ranting "like he had just escaped from a nut house" at
one hearing. Says U.S. District Judge Marvin Aspen, Duff "has a
legitimate physical disability." According to Mr. Skolnick, it
had become "widely known and understood that Judge Duff is
certifiably insane, and has a psychiatric disability."
It should be noted that mental illness is a complex disease and
that those who suffer from it ought not to be stigmatized. Many
of the so-called "mentally ill" are able to live normal lives,
and indeed, some experts in the field (such as R.D. Laing, for
example) characterize so-called "insanity" as in fact being
"hyper sanity" -- meaning that those so labeled are actually
*superior* in "sanity" to most.
However, that having been said, it is troubling that so many
cases involving the lives and well-being of many have apparently
been profoundly influenced, if not in fact decided, by a judge
apparently not in full possession of his faculties. The fall of
Judge Duff raises troubling questions as to past cases over which
he has presided.
Some interesting vignettes from the Tribune article:
** Duff reportedly demanded a meeting with Illinois
Governor Jim Edgar, and threatened the outcome of pending
cases unless Edgar complied.
** Duff issued a gag order on lawyers in one case, and
warned, "If I find someone talking to the press, I'm going
to bore them a new orifice."
** The judge arrested his court clerk and fined her $20
reportedly because the clerk had handed a file to Duff "in
the wrong way."
** During one particular sentencing, Judge Duff
pontificated on "temptation" and revealed to the court that
once, on an airplane, the flight attendant had "looked
According to the Tribune article, "Sources said that the matter
[of Duff's resignation] was so sensitive that [U.S. Attorney
James] Burns warned his entire office that if word of the
complaint leaked out, violators would be fired."