Judges are people just like us. Sure, they wear robes and have incredible power over our lives, liberties, and property. We still need to cut them some slack from time to time because underneath that black robe is a person, who when tested can make unsound judgments.
Three years ago, Georgia Superior Court Judge Bryant Durham Junior met Denver Fenton Allen for an advisory hearing that arguably turned into the worst day of Judge Durham’s life. Allen was charged with murdering his cellmate. Allen also didn’t care too much for his court-appointed public defender.
It’s worth pausing here to note a later judge handling Allen’s case found him mentally incapable to stand trial. This bit of information may help explain what happened next.
Judge Durham graciously attempted to explain that the right to an appointed attorney does not grant you the ability to pick and choose your appointed counsel. This explanation didn’t satisfy Mr. Allen, who then claimed his attorney made unwanted sexual advances toward him.
Allen got angry when Judge Durham dismissed his accusation and Allen held himself in contempt of court. Regular SJ readers know that’s not something defendants can do, but by this point Judge Durham was sufficiently irritated with Denver Allen that he granted the request.
Page eight of the transcript is an exchange few will ever see play out in a courtroom. Once Allen knew Judge Durham was heated, he kept escalating with outlandish language that culminated in threats to Judge Durham and his family.
Being a family man, I can understand why Judge Durham lost his cool. And it’s important to give Judge Durham credit where it’s due; he immediately recused himself from the case following the incident and took full responsibility for what he admitted were “highly inappropriate remarks.”
Denver Allen eventually got a life sentence after pleading guilty to murdering his cellmate in his sleep. Presumably he did so while bragging to a new judge about his “big ole donkey dick.”
So why relive Judge Bryant Durham Junior’s worst day on the bench several years later? There are several good reasons for it.
First, we have a Federal Judge who occasionally graces Simple Justice with a peek into just how absurd his daily job duties can be. This trip down memory lane in Georgia’s legal history is an attempt to let him know he’s not alone.
Second, it’s important in an age where humans are quick to “cancel” anyone who makes a mistake to highlight when people do their best to correct a problematic issue they caused. Yes, Judge Durham lost his cool when provoked by a mentally-ill inmate. He took steps immediately afterward to keep the appearance of fairness in the judiciary and admitted he should’ve kept his cool.
Finally, some very talented animators found the transcript of Judge Durham’s “Advisory Hearing” and brought it to life for our collective enjoyment. As the language in this video is very NSFW, headphones or viewing behind a closed door is recommended. It will never stop being funny.
Enjoy and happy Friday.