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The Blawger and the Bankruptcy Judge

By all accounts, Robert Somma had been a top-notch U.S. bankruptcy judge since his appointment to the bench in 2004 and a top-notch bankruptcy practitioner for many years before that. The sense of many in the Boston area is that the 63-year-old's retirement Friday from his $158,000-a-year bench seat is a tragedy. Circuit Executive Gary H. Wente told The Boston Globe that Somma was "an absolutely excellent judge, first rate," and Boston bankruptcy lawyer Daniel M. Glosband said, "I think he was an excellent lawyer, I think he was an excellent judge, and I'm very sad that he's chosen to resign."

A footnote to this story is that a legal-blogger may have contributed to the judge's decision to resign. Somma's resignation came on Feb. 15, two days after he pleaded no contest to a DUI charge in Manchester, N.H. He was arrested late on Feb. 6 for rear-ending a pickup truck after leaving a Manchester bar. One fact left out of initial news reports was the judge's attire at the time of his arrest: black cocktail dress, fishnet hose and high heels. Even the police report omitted this, except to note that the judge "had a difficult time locating his license in his purse." Enter New Hampshire blogger Chris King, a former lawyer and journalist who claims both on his blog and on BostonNOW to have "scooped" the news media in reporting the judge's attire. On the day after the judge entered his plea, King described the judge on his blog as having been "in drag" at the time of his arrest. The day after that, the story appeared in the New Hampshire Union Leader and the judge resigned.

In an e-mail, King said that he trusted a source. "At the point the [Union Leader] and everyone else was writing about the purse but nobody straight up said 'in drag' I did, and it took balls to say that but I know which sources to trust, and I was right." King is himself controversial in New Hampshire, where he once faced felony extortion charges, since dismissed, and writes a second blog devoted to seeking disbarment of N.H. Attorney General Kelly Ayotte. Fellow blogger Mike Cernovich once wrote at Crime & Federalism about King  as a case study in the psychological toll taken by someone facing an indictment. We will never know whether King's post contributed to the judge's resignation, but even he agreed that the judge's choice of attire did not "have one wit to do with his competence on the bench." On that we can all agree.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on February 19, 2008 at 12:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)


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