Judge called out for sitting in jury box ‘eating candy’ during witness testimony

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By Katie King on

A hat-trick for the judge once reprimanded for going to a Halloween party dressed as a black prisoner


A judge from Louisiana has been slapped on the wrist by his peers for engaging in “bizarre and disturbing” behaviour during a trial.

In one of Legal Cheek’s favourite stories of the year so far, Judge Timothy Ellender was this week slammed by the Supreme Court of Louisiana for sitting in the jury box with jurors “eating candy”, moving around the courtroom, and sitting in various chairs during witness testimony. He also allegedly looked outside of the courtroom windows during examination, and hugged the surgical partner of the defendant’s medical expert in front of the jury.

Given the judge’s actions, the Supreme Court of Louisiana ordered the matter be heard again in a new trial. Though a number of justices did choose to dissent, the majority said it was:

[C]onvinced that the trial judge’s actions resulted in a miscarriage of justice.

This isn’t the first time Ellender has engaged in some pretty questionable behaviour during his 23 years on the bench.

In 2004, the Loyola University graduate was suspended for one year without pay for attending a Halloween party in blackface, a prison jumpsuit and shackles. Ellender — who was admitted to the bar in 1971 — claimed that the costume was a joke, and while the justices agreed the controversial lawyer didn’t mean to insult black people, they ordered him to take a sociology course to help achieve “a greater understanding of racial sensitivity”.

A pretty major cock-up on all accounts, but in 2007 Ellender was suspended yet again, this time for growing impatient during a domestic abuse case involving a complainant seeking a restraining order against her husband. The judge, who retired in 2015, reportedly asked the parties why they didn’t file for divorce instead of “go through this crap”, comments that left him with a 30-day suspension and a $185 fine.

It seems Ellender has well and truly completed the hat-trick with his latest antics.

Read the judgment in full below: