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
  (D., Texas).
  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
  mighty fine."
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."