Monday, August 27, 2007

Getting High on the Bench

Thoughts to inhale: The joint's jumpin' -
A review of Judge Korda's recent pot-smoking arrest


by FRED GRIMM fgrimm@herald.com
reposted from http://www.miamiherald.com/418/story/48958.html

Ohhhhhh, no. Wasn't he supposed to be our sober judge?

Wasn't he Broward's steadfast judge, unintoxicated by bong hits of celebrity? Didn't we all watch
Lawrence Korda, relieved, as he negotiated the media maelstrom, knowing that CNN and Court TV and
MSNBC and Fox inhaled his every word, without spinning off into, like, uh, you know, spontaneous
tangents of free association.

He came late into the who-da-baby-daddy courthouse ruckus as the antithesis of judicial
wackiness. Not even a smidgen, in his courtroom, of Anna Nicole Smith necrophilia. No talk about
her striking personal attributes. No judicial teariness. Judge Korda's restraint saved South
Florida from sliding deeper into the national assumption that we're all a bunch of stoners down
here.

Judge Korda gave us three weeks of tenuous self-esteem. Then he went to the park.

Stanley Goldman Park is a linear stretch of green parallel with Interstate 95 in Hollywood.
Trees. Grass. Canal. But too much noise to safely indulge in illicit activities. What with the
din of the freeway traffic, the whooping children, the screeching birds, Judge Korda probably
didn't hear the approaching cops until they were on him. Busted.

The police report reads like an exercise in nostalgia, retrieved from the 1960s archives when so
many of Lawrence Korda's contemporaries were indulging in weedy pursuits:



"While jogging through the park, officers Gianino, Scheel and I could smell a strong odor of marijuana coming from in the park in front of us. Upon following the odor, we came in contact with a white male, later identified as arrestee Lawrence Korda, who was sitting near a tree on the southwest side of the hockey rink. Korda was in possession of one cannabis cigarette and was actively smoking it when we made contact with him."

Random bad-luck arrests by police officers who just happened upon smoky scenes in public places
was once epidemic among the young, particularly when the young were stoned stupid. That
particular subset of society would be, like Judge Korda (or me for that matter), 59 or
thereabouts today.

Most of us, circa 1947, pretend that the 1960s and 1970s never happened. Or that the raucous
behavior involved other people. Certainly not the parents of our particular children, who've been
led to assume mom and dad were allied with J. Edgar Hoover in the War on Drugs.

Maybe there was an assumption before Judge Korda's arrest that someone caught with, as the
Hollywood police report indicates, ''less than .1 grams'' of marijuana didn't risk arrest in 21st
Century America. Very wrong. Judge Korda will be among 700,000 to 800,000 busted on marijuana
charges in 2007, judging from a dozen previous years of pot cases cataloged by the nonprofit
Sentencing Project.

The punishment likely to befall to Judge Korda -- not much beyond a diversion out of misdemeanor
court into counseling -- might sound like lenient treatment for a powerful person. But it's
pretty standard stuff. Only one in 18 marijuana defendants ends up with a felony conviction.
Despite all those draconian get-tough laws on the books, most possession cases fade away in
misdemeanor court, amounting to a $4 billion-a-year pretense that someone really cares. The
Sentencing Project study suggested the public had become ``receptive to a broader consideration
of alternatives to incarceration.''

Maybe the lenient disposition of pot cases has less to do with public attitudes than aging
judges, who harbor disconcerting memories of not-very-judicial behavior at a 1979 Rolling Stones
concert.

A sense of hypocrisy -- or maybe it's a touch of nostalgia -- keeps them from jailing a
pot-smoking kid. Or a pot-smoking fellow judge. Especially when he was supposed to be the sober
one.

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