Today [May 31, 2011] the Supreme Court publically reprimanded Magistrate James Oren Hughes for making an inappropriate comment to a law student attending a reception of the Horry County bar and for showing that law student, and others, an inappropriate image on his cell phone at that same reception.
The Supreme Court doesn’t tell us what was inappropriate about the comment and image. Inquiring minds want to know (or at least I wanna know). I can guess at some possibilities. Racist? Sexist? Sexual proposition?
However, I am concerned Judge Hughes may have been reprimanded for a scatological or ribald comment or image. Why? Because that’s the way family law attorneys talk and joke at legal gatherings. If that’s the case, I’m worried about the law student who took offensive.
I’ve heard second hand that an adjunct family law professor at one of our state law schools was rebuked by the administration for telling “off color” war stories during classes. Evidently one of the students took offense and reported the professor to the administration.
Who are these law students so offended by ribald or scatological humor that they run to authorities in offense? The practice of law is stressful; family law particularly so. Cocktails and off color humor are an excellent way to relieve stress. I hope we don’t have to start talking to law students the way we talk when teaching Sunday school.
I wish the Supreme Court had informed us what comments and photographs in social settings are going to lead to public reprimands. If Judge Hughes’s comments were sexist, racist or involved a sexual proposition, he deserved his discipline. If his offense was merely being off color, I wish the Supreme Court would have warned the bar that such comments in social gathering can lead to discipline. Even better, they could have told that future member of the bar to grow up.