After five days of watching justice being administered in the federal courtroom of Judge Donald Molloy, I bet I wasn’t the only person who wanted to get away from Missoula.
I got several e-mails about my report yesterday and three came from people claiming to be lawyers. One wrote about “my audacity to chronicle the courtroom shenanigans, ” which proves why newspapers must be saved.” It’s a warm thought which I appreciate but I guess he didn’t get the word that my newspaper died last month.
A second comment discussed my “abject stupidity for leading people to believe that Judge Molloy is doing anything, anything at all, inappropriate” and three paragraphs later added “you’re obviously too dumb to get a real job in journalism because you don’t even know that luckily, Judge Molloy is appointed for a life term and like all judges, he can do anything he wants, anything, in his courtroom.”
The third bit of commentary was only 140 characters long, the first Twitter message I’ve ever received, and the self-identified lawyer said, “The judge will go to heaven…” The remaining 113 letters and spaces addressed, I think, that I was a “government whore” and should burn in hell or something like that.
There were two that suggested unnatural acts be performed on Grace’s No. 1 lawyer, David Bernick.
I am appalled at how Bernick treats witnesses, tries to manipulate the jurors and permeates the courtroom with an unhealthy odor. But (and I can’t believe I’m about to write these words) Bernick is doing precisely what he is supposed to do – get W.R. Grace off. His antics are nauseating at times – but that’s his job and he does it painfully well and he’s worth every penny he’s paid.
I’ve spoken to lawyers who have encountered him in trials across the country. In some courtrooms, where he’s given the complete freedom many think Molloy is providing, he excels. In other courts, I’m told, where decorum and judicial propriety is the rule, he doesn’t do nearly as well.
You don’t have to like Bernick, but don’t blame him for doing his job well. It is a judge’s responsibility to ensure that the rules are applied equally to both sides in his or her courtroom. And yes, as several of you said, if the trial is allowed to go forward, perhaps the prosecution could consider being a bit more assertive.
So I left Missoula and headed south into the heart of the Bitterroot. The mountains are still lightly frosted to both the east and west, the rivers were running fast, fly fishers were making their lines do the graceful dance above ravenous trout. And eagles soared above.
But there were occasional reminders of the room on the second floor of the Russell Smith Courthouse. Like this sign offering cow droppings for sale: