Florida Judge Goes from Irreverent to Eloquent

Florida Judge John MerrettA judge friend prefers anonymity, but always sends great stuff for Lawhaha.com. Her latest involves a Florida state trial judge who is a real character: Judge John Merrett.

Merrett’s irreverent judicial antics, as reported in Folio Weekly, have included: pulling out a handgun in open court; stepping down from the bench to perform a quickie wedding for a guy he was sending to prison; and getting in trouble for chastising a Pakistani defendant, who was accused of preying on young girls online and who called American women “stupid and promiscuous,” saying “On behalf of my countrywomen, I join you in thanking God that you did not marry an American woman.”

The appellate court reversed the conviction because it wasn’t sure from the judge’s commentary if the defendant’s country of origin influenced the result.

Merrett’s latest notoriety is of a much tamer nature, stemming from a solitary but eloquently written sentence in a court order. As my friend described it:

Family law can be the source of much colorful language, but that language does not often flow from the pens of the presiding judges. Below is an eloquent exception, written by Judge John Merrett, a Florida state trial judge.

The case before him involved parents from Ecuador. The parents agreed that the mother could take the children to the United States for vacation. Once in the U.S., the mother refused to return the children.

The father then obtained a custody order in Ecuador and sought to enforce it in Florida. During the Florida proceedings, the mother blocked all efforts by the father to have contact with the parties’ children. Distressingly, the mother’s attorney appears to have assisted the mother in her stonewalling.

In writing of this situation, Judge Merrett compared the father’s appearance in the children’s lives to that of a mere apparition:

[The mother] has resisted contact between [the father] and the children, attempting with the assistance of her attorney to impose unilateral conditions on visitation without regard to orders of this Court. It is plain that her purpose is to deny [the father] his natural and legal rights concerning the children and to enlist the aid of the Court in doing so. She hopes to make him a wraith before the law, dimly glimpsed and faintly heard, but without effect among the living. (Italics added.)

That last sentence is quite nice.  The Folio Weekly article linked to above says Merrett got transferred to family court, possibly because of his conduct. Reading the full article, I came away thinking this is a courageous guy who would be fun to hang out with.

— Garces v. LaGarda, ___ So.3d ___ (Fla. 1st DCA May 8, 2012).

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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