Dakota County judge reprimanded for making sexual jokes in courtroom

Told a juror had four children, Judge Spicer said: "Well... you weren't shooting blanks. We know that much."
Told a juror had four children, Judge Spicer said: "Well... you weren't shooting blanks. We know that much."

If I were a courts reporter, I'd want to cover whatever Dakota County courtroom Judge Richard G. Spicer presides over.

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Spicer sure sounds like a riot, but his humor is a little too much for the Minnesota Board of Judicial Standards, which recently issued a public reprimand against the judge for making "insensitive and demeaning" jokes.

Here, via Burnsville Patch, are the jokes the board determined to be over the line. It should be noted that Spicer made all of them during a single trial:

-- When a juror stated that she knew the defense attorney because the two had shared a hotel room on a school choir trip for their daughter, Spicer said, "Shared a room? I don't want to hear about that. Oh, it was a choir trip." A few moments later, when a deputy entered the court, he said, "He wants to make sure we're safe. I don't know; we have a couple women sleeping together but besides that everything else is okay."

-- After hearing some of the answers to jury selection questions, he asked, "Do you guys have lives?"

-- To a juror who said she had been the victim of a crime and a defendant in a lawsuit, Spicer commented, "Interesting life, Jean."

-- When told of the consecutive ages of a juror's four children, Spicer commented, "Well ... you weren't shooting blanks. We know that much."

-- When told by one of the jurors that he managed a pizza restaurant, Spicer asked, "Do they still taste like cardboard?" When the same juror said he was unmarried, Spicer asked the juror whether he had children and upon hearing the reply he remarked, "You would be surprised how many times I get yes to that."

-- To another juror who stated she had a 42-year-old-child, Spicer said, "You don't look like you would have a 42-year-old. You don't look much older than 42 yourself. Wow. Wow. Very good."

-- When a juror stated he had worked in an airline stockroom, Spicer asked, "ls that where they steal all our bags and put them in there?"

During that same trial, the defendant was convicted of violating a harassment order and disorderly conduct. But he later appealed (albeit unsuccessfully) because of a comment Judge Spicer made just as the jury was getting ready to deliberate:

"You'll go into your deliberations. And all be done because l won't lie to you. I've had a half day vacation for some time to play in a golf tournament tomorrow afternoon. So, l will be out of here by noon come hell or high water."

Spicer, who was also reprimanded for disparaging a defendant in 2009, immediately informed any jurors who might've been slow on the uptake that he was kidding, but still... cracking funny right at the moment that someone's liberty hangs in the balance probably isn't the most appropriate thing for a judge to do.

According to Patch, Spicer won't be appealing the public reprimand, but he did tell the board he uses humor "to make the court participants more comfortable in their role as jurors." In practice, it sounds like he's accomplishing exactly the opposite.

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