FREE JUDGE BRUCE
In a May 14 order that surfaced just last week, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago decided that U.S. District Court Judge Colin Bruce, removed from criminal cases last year, should be sidelined until Sept. 1, when he’ll again be allowed to preside over criminal matters. The judge, once a prosecutor, had been chatting with former colleagues about pending cases. While Bruce’s habit of talking about cases with prosecutorial paralegals and others was known within legal circles, no one did anything until Illinois Times reported on the improper communications last year, a committee of federal judges acknowledged in its ruling. After the story ran, defense lawyers demanded new trials, the public defender’s office filed a complaint and Bruce, before being suspended from criminal cases, promised that he’d never again communicate with lawyers outside court motions. Bruce’s transgressions were no big deal, judges found, and so he can be returned to full duty. The committee noted that Illinois Times and assistant U.S. attorney Tim Bass have filed requests for emails exchanged between Bruce and his buddies in the prosecutor’s office, and so more stuff, with resulting publicity, could surface. “This publicity would likely further a perception that Judge Bruce has an inappropriate closeness with the (prosecutor’s) office and made too common a practice of ex parte communication, both of which could undermine the public confidence in Judge Bruce,” the committee wrote. Perhaps the Seventh Circuit could spare us the drama and make public those emails itself, public confidence in courts being important and all. We’re just saying.