Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My hat's off to the Judge

Well, okay then. The Judge came to his senses and apologised to the person with cancer, who was undergoing chemotherapy and did not want to remove her ski cap because she was left bald by the treatments.

I guess he finally realised how he appeared to the public as grossly insensitive and full of himself by what he did.

Welcome to the public arena Judge.

Judge apologizes for telling woman with cancer to remove hat

A Benton County judge has apologized for telling a woman with cancer to take a knitted cap off her bald head or leave his courtroom.

"Words can't express how sorry I am," Judge Holly Hollenbeck told the Herald on Monday, a few hours after he spoke with Bev Williams by phone and offered an unconditional apology.

Williams, 43, said the District Court judge told her the no-hat rule would no longer apply in his courtroom, but that his apology had nothing to do with the criticism he had drawn for his comments to her on Friday.

Williams, who lost her hair after enduring six months of chemotherapy, was in court to give moral support to her teenage daughter, who was facing a misdemeanor charge. Hollenbeck insisted the Kennewick woman remove her hat or leave. Williams chose to leave, crying as she left the courtroom, which had 60 people in it.

Even after Hollenbeck was told later the reason for Williams' headgear, he refused to change his order.
The Herald's story on the incident made national news over the weekend.

The story was picked up by Seattle news media, then was spread across the country by The Associated Press. The Drudge Report website, published as a digest of headlines across the nation, reported the story Sunday.

A website called Abovethelaw.com also invited comments about the incident, and had drawn more than 60 by Monday evening.

"I'm being vilified," Hollenbeck said. "I made no excuses to her for my behavior. What happened to her was inexcusable."

The Herald story triggered e-mails to the district court administrator and phone calls and letters to the editor.
Hollenbeck said Friday that he felt the no-hat rule was appropriate and necessary to ensure respect for court proceedings and the judge.

But on Monday, he said even as he made those statements that he knew he would apologize to Williams.

"I didn't want to do it in the newspaper, so I didn't apologize until I could find her," he said.

That had to wait until Monday when he could track down her cell phone number.

"This has affected me personally," Hollenbeck said, admitting it could hurt him politically as well in the next election.

Hollenbeck, who is presiding judge for the District Court, said each judge retains discretion on how to enforce rules about hats and appropriate attire in court.
"The rule has been changed (in my court)," he said.

Gerald Hunt of Kennewick said the judge's conduct angered him.
"It was a terrible way to treat a lady who was obviously ill," said Hunt, who contacted the Herald on Monday.

Readers of the Herald's website filed 10 comments, all critical of Hollenbeck.

"Denying anyone access because they are embarrassed to remove a cap that could not be used to hide anything except a bald head, is carrying (the judge's) authority too far," wrote Carey Marshall of Washtucna.

"Contempt for the court was not her intent and not indicated by her actions. I would say, that the judge himself has contempt for the citizens who have elected him," Marshall added.