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Oh. Have you ever gone to avoid school. Boy that was cool I mean where are you going to ever go to way over. You went off to the detention home right. We're all really three weeks. But then you were really right. Sure. You've never been sentenced to a jail in other words. We're going to try to get you there now. Take a hallway. But for 20 years thousands of cases going through my court I haven't been able to please everybody and I haven't tried to someone comment. As far as Sarah from was concerned it was a love hate type thing you either love them very much you're a hater to very much and I imagine they evoke that
type of response from people. Judge Crist Serafin pass judgment in Milwaukee criminal courts for nearly two decades when the state judicial commission charged him with gross judicial misconduct. The tables turned south and found himself on the other side of the bench facing a disciplinary hearing. His career at stake. He listened impassively as witnesses were called and motions made. So with him in the dock it seemed a different man from Sarah from on the bench. This state will benefit by tomorrow night. We've not gone today and we haven't heard a word of testimony for the jury and I'm not going to let anyone down in my way of having a trial here regardless of the criminal conduct of the defendant.
There were dozens of other judges in Milwaukee but for years when Milwaukee and start of the law they didn't think of other judges or the statutes or the Constitution. I thought of Xenophon. I've been the number one in every election. Of all the people who ran opposer unopposed including the last election. I don't know what the image is. Yeah these are hard questions they answer. I shouldn't be answering those don't trap me into asking telling you bigger because I will. It would sound and it isn't OK I'm I'm not a shrinking violet I know I'm an egotist. But you should be asking others have a half hour show just standing on Wisconsin Avenue asking people what they think of Chris R.. I think he's a good judge and form everytime our kids are no different any other people don't want to good. I think somebody is firm and fair. I believe in those harsh. Sentences he Hansack law and order. They're tough for law and order. He's all right you know he lays down the law and he doesn't like to see it
get loose like it's been happening lately I think he's not strict enough. He was the one that gave him down hard penalties and I think it does help give a hard penalty. Sturton. Yes. There is a strict judge and I think really a lot more the judges should be just a strict I don't always care for his flamboyant actions but as long as a person is proven to be guilty I like him to be put away your record is too bad it is just that you drink too much. Yes if you have an operating model without owner's consent yes. Battery Yes. Did I send you to jail for six months back in 1970 you know. That I sent you out there for six months. Yeah sure they had to be me well that would give you six months. Nobody killed. Except me. You're right. He doesn't putz around with anybody and he just gives you the works if you need it. We need more like
him. I think the world that men I don't it's too bad we don't have more of those others are a bunch of paid CS. I'm in favor of getting those guys off the street and just surfin is the type of guy who gets them off the street. I took a poll in my classes. I'm a teacher and a poll was overwhelmingly in favor of just your friends and judges that would get a little tougher instead of somebodies Molly college judges. What are the police who were just put up a bail for you may by no way. Not for the record you have served. Somebody is going to put a halt directive out in this community. Can you name any other judges in Milwaukee. No I can't. Not not offhand. Are you Mrs. Qusay would you go to the microphone so I can talk to you for a minute. Are you going to get a
lawyer for your son. I could hardly be work. Yes I came. What about the whole time I have been there. I see you've had problems with this young man haven't you. Yes father. When did a father die here three years and getting away. So just three years ago we started with auto theft as a juvenile right. Obstructing an officer. There was action of a controlled substance criminal damage to property operating are without owner's consent consent and possession of my beverage by my right and these other times he was caught. Can you imagine what he's done when he was caught and he could think of plenty. And now it's robbery. So he's no longer and get a life in a man's court. Get over to the microphone you. John you're in a man's Corker tried bribery as I told you you get 10 years. I'll
appoint a lawyer for you. Give me all. Point to a public defender based on this record of criminal activity. The last two years $5000 bail. Have you ever gone to a boy's. Boy at school I mean where are you going to ever go to way over. Your when up to the detention home right. Problem 3 week. But then you are really right. Sure you've never been sentenced to a jail in other words. We're going to try to get you there now. They got away. All right today. You know why you didn't this is good news I want to protect people like you from children like this.
Judge Serafin made that promise in many ways over the years and he kept it. The state Judicial Commission cited Sarah for his handling of this defendant among its charges against him. It was this kind of courtroom conduct that turned Sarah from the image of a tough judge a hanging judge Sarah from the judge scoffed at that image. But Sarah from the publication reveled in his citywide notoriety. Knowing that there are do you still wish to plead guilty. You're not you're. Looking for your lawyer again. Would you explain to him what the rules are where you live. I there is no question. I may send them to jail and a fine carry number so be it I think there are many other defendants they come back. Milwaukee is an industrial town and the people are used to a tough kind of industrial justice.
You work hard you get paid you don't you get fired. You commit a crime you do time. Judge Serafin always knew where his support came from a fellow who has worked all his life and one of the. Fine industrial plants here in Milwaukee. Markey the biggest producer of heavy machinery and world the brewery capital of the world electronic capital. Fellow who has his home worked all his life raises children supporters churches organizations and sees millions of his tax dollars. With tax dollars of all the producers going to the non-producers in appropriately. That's one type of person. I imagine. Every. Imagine a lot of policemen are for me. Because they feel that. I'm valance ing the rights of criminal defendants as against the rights of society
and the victims of crime. The decent people of the community. I know I don't have the radicals. I don't I know I don't have the hippie nippy dippy types and I'm against drugs. When you're 25. Oh yeah like our. Family man you know I know right. But you're also according to this and I probable cause the pedler apparel. I'm not I don't I know you're not but I have what it says here that you are so offends voters made him a powerful politician of Milwaukee's public figures only to learn as well or better known. The police chief who is appointed for life and the mayor Crist Serafin is a Democrat formerly a liberal Democrat who made a name for himself by once standing up to the late Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy at a time when such a stand was hazardous to a young lawyers political future. This is low bail for a harrowing $25000. You
asked me to reconsider I'm going to make a thousand other you know what a conservator. It's a liberal who's been mugged. That statement neatly sums up Judge Sarah femmes political transformation. Serafin came to that conclusion in the process of judging over 200000 cases. One of his favorite stories concerns a young misguided liberal one who saw the political and judicial light after only one case and pulled me aside and. Said Judge can I talk to you. I said sure. I was running for the Criminal Court Branch 11. And then abandoned or ripped open because of the retirement of Judge duffus. And he said I want you to know that I've always been against you. He was a young man in his early 20s. And I said yeah why. He says because I thought you were too harsh. But I'm for you now. I said why. He says because you gave the guy who raped my sister in law 20 years wisely. So you say you're all for the poor criminal defendant
if you would just give him a hot meal and a clean bed you know he won't commit these horrible climate crimes until it hits home when you say hang in there so be. It. I'm going to be good enough to complete it. You know you're the lawyer. Then we deal. With crime rates rising more and more people are pressing for a crackdown in the courts. Still it's the role of the judge to stand between the accused and the people to see that justice is done. A conservative may well be a liberal who's been mugged but the judge's conduct raised questions about defendant's rights in his court. I'm going to give up a little bit of those right now they're going to scream when they hear there's a high he wants to take away the people's rights. Well I'm tired of this confrontation daily confrontation because we're not three We're prisoners were prisoners in our homes in our automobiles
in our offices where we have to be guarded. Late at night. Young colored girl walking down the street she approached there with a knife. But they were neck. And demand their money and then Victor Billy. Gardner And the cutter maiming her didn't break you remember. And then she says I did it because I was sniffing and snorting cocaine she says she's a good mother but the children were in the hall. With some wire and shove them. What do you mean a good mother. And by the way the two illegitimate children are by two different fathers. Well. This is. Dangerous. The fact. Mr. Gregory pointed up or remark is only self-serving.
For she knows she committed the. Crime. The victim was supper. Because of the way that. You're responsible. Lady and therefore. We're going to the court that you'll be kind of like playing with. The word God. They really were were got they brother might. Be in does it matter that we don't or that we should all be delivered by The Cure. We're very much in your Milwaukee isn't a lawless city in fact it has one of the lowest crime rates for any city of its size. Judges like to take credit for that. So does the police force. It's possible the crime rate is low for another reason however it could be low simply because Milwaukee ins like law and they like order when they vote they vote for politicians who promise to string the two together. The public has a right to tell the judges and all other servants
well-liked or elected by the public how they want their government to be run. Within the law for so if they're not satisfied. I think they should be ousted. Those who are not satisfying the public demand they are going to come back and say well we shouldn't be swayed by emotion or passion. Well darn it that's how people are elected. That's how we elect a president governor and a senator. By their feelings and prejudices and all the other things that enter into a person's character. So if I'm simply took the anger the fear and the frustration of the people on the street and brought them into the courtroom that's not unusual in lower courts. There's a Latin phrase inscribed in stone on the Milwaukee courthouse. VOX POPULI bucks day it means roughly the voice of the people is the voice of God. Serafin wasn't the first or only judge to take it literally. And Milwaukee wasn't the first or only city to approve. When I get a hardened criminal I think you have to treat them as you would have a contagious disease
you isolate them. And this is the the job of the judge to be able to look the man in the eye and say you're going to jail felons. We're pulling the pin on you that's all. We've had it. Because I've lived in Milwaukee seven hundred twenty five months. I was born just two blocks from here. Spent most of my life six blocks from where. I'm going very far in life down here in 8th and State Street 18 years now and five months as a criminal court judge. That's all I've been doing. And I well you know I'm not a square and. My guy's going to sit back and I long for the good old days but the good old days were sort of good in the way we were hungrier. But we were able to leave the screen door. Or the house door open and open with the screen door latch possibly leave our keys in our automobile sleep on the slope of a hill in the hot summer night in Juneau park
or Washington Park. What you can do that and walk in one. And I long for those days. And that's what's kept me on this job I guess. You're not going to get the best. We've tried tens of thousands of cases in this court room for over a period of a key here. You know all that I have one other one I have one other defendant black. You do you know where you want to use in a lot of harm right now for 28 years after that after a jury found him guilty in the form of going when you pick the minute. Thank. You Pete used to kick him in the face. People need to take in his face. I don't believe that when the police had a couple going down the hill you came in that book and they kicked him in the face. Precious little I don't know where you're getting the I don't know where you're getting your information from sir. I will do the same thing I will say when I'm with him and if what I write I hope I can see that I'm going to have trouble with this man I'm willing to put one on the other way I'm
not going to permit him to defend themself. Up there he's not going to defend himself. Mr. Goldberg you're fine with the band. We only have one choice. Does he remain in the court room bound and they are going to listen to the proceedings. From an adjoining room with a lot bigger in them. Serafin had widespread support but he was not without enemies in the court room bound and gagged. Or do you want to go into the ante room where we you can hear a bottle of beer and follow the proceedings there. Well I do believe you know the language as in many cities a disproportionate number of the poor find their way into Milwaukee criminal courts instead of his court they were assured tough treatment if they were unemployed on welfare or had illegitimate children. Many defendants claim these factors affected the length of sentence and sincerity in his court. They came. In sight.
You're right over it. Take him away. Talk about minority. Dumbbell of the Nothing more minor in my walk you don't agree. And I don't have a bathtub in my home until I was a junior and I in the sixties civil rights leaders attempted to dramatize their complaints of Sarah from his courtroom conduct with a series of marches on Sarah from socks. But if the marchers expected public condemnation of Sarah they were disappointed. If anything Sarah from his defense of his court to gain him even more support for something happening in the country. I just don't understand it when they can paper like their liberal live by the liberal point of them but only a group of young people for one reason or another. You know you're not a liberal you're a bigot. Well that doesn't make me a bigot. I'm all for just surf and I don't care what anybody says. It's just too bad.
There it's just a class of people it's time to throw him out. The blacks. If convicted sir you could be jailed up to 20 years in the region of. 20 years. On this case or the like to life legislature in its wisdom decided to toughen up on criminal power penalty so they reduce the penalty for armed robbery from 30 years to 20 years and I indict that state like the plague here that did this to the people of the state of Wisconsin as having contributed somewhat to the continuing spiraling crime rate that we have in this and other communities of the United States. There was only one result when Southam ran for election. Landslide victory it was difficult to find anyone to challenge him. When liberals were persuaded to take him on. The results were highly predictable. Johnson don't know that the legislature did this. See the legislature is to the
left of the people of the state of Wisconsin who believe in law and order. So often the politician was simply unbeatable. He could fend off angry blacks occasional sniping from the American Civil Liberties Union. We collect real challenges and stay on the bench indefinitely. Despite Serafin the politicians invulnerability Serafin the judge was under increasing pressure from the legal community primarily defense attorneys. Wisconsin has the most liberal judge substitution law in the country. A defendant has the right to eliminate the first judge he's assigned to and face another judge. He doesn't have to prove prejudice as a result. Judge shopping is epidemic in Milwaukee because of Seven's courtroom conduct and maximum sentences. No attorney with a paying client wanted to stay in his court. I had lawyers I went to law school that had to help me with this 10 Browner file ran it out there were going to try the case no no Germans and everybody know I made this public so this is nothing new.
I couldn't care less about my friend making a fee of 5000 or 10000 dollars. We're going to try the case. You notice the statistics. I had the best average from arraignment the trial date than any other John the longest sentences of those who went to jail were by me. They all want to plead guilty until a lawyer told Judge if they are you know that we've seen that up oh that night that our part. About the the name of the courtroom game was avoiding Serafin soon poor defendants were playing a game too. After a public defenders program was fully implemented and poor defendants with the aid of free independent legal counsel were also judge shopping rather than face Judge sheriff in a probable cause partly right. But now you've got time. Well I know where you were thought there was a DA and I haven't appointed you. You don't represent this man until I say fuck you sit down please. I mean
you're going to represent him for nothing. I'm what we're going to a public defender. Yeah well I'm not going to. He's going to have to repeat you're going to represent Michael I say you didn't. Know. Now I know that you'll sit down until I appoint. But is that. Right. Mr. CLARK. Mr. Clark I could sit down. With your car question maybe we could resolve. No no. Mr. Clarke will sit down. And you'll have to do it much faster than he's doing. Serafin became powerless in his own courtroom his caseload had dropped to a trickle. I don't think you're going to read. Now you know. You want me to. Well I just I don't like this. The more the country and I was in the river. Just let me say I don't object to the. You go back to your wife you know lasted one week
almost after the Judicial Commission began its inquiry. He was transferred to family court. Even though five years remained in his term he began a campaign for appeals court judge. So I'm satisfied. I find that the marriage is irretrievably broken and beyond reconciliation. He turned once again to the voters. But the allegations of misconduct. Serafin found he couldn't go back to the well. Again the voters had limits and for the first time he lost an election in the court of appeals Mr. Gray 73 percent of the board's reporting will get most of the apparent victory here. One hundred forty three thousand six hundred fourteen votes to judge Crist sort of forms. One hundred one thousand three hundred nine. The object of every trial. Is. Not a search for. But a search for truth. That's what this court is dedicated to that the judicial credo by which I'm governor and I could care less about the legal effect of lawyers who defend the defendants in this
court with that I would say good night to you don't forget your instructor tomorrow morning and you Mr. Goldberg and you Mr. clinically. I think you're denying the motion right here what question is that he doesn't know. I'm I'm speaking about the testimony of Mr. Holland and specifically when you interrupted and made him answer or you suggested I believe an answer that he pinned on that identification in the event. Yes I was sure that I said either you are or you're not. I remember that right what is your. Oh forget it. All right you had a great day. Oh I think. Right my brother my very.
U.S. Chronicles
Passing Judgments
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WHA-TV (Television station : Madison, Wis.)
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PBS Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin)
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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U.S. Chronicle was a 30-minute public affairs series anchored by Jim Lehrer that consisted of programs produced by various public television stations. The series premiered in July 1980. This file does not include Lehrer?s opening or closing segments.
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Law Enforcement and Crime
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Producing Organization: WHA-TV (Television station : Madison, Wis.)
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Wisconsin Public Television (WHA-TV)
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Chicago: “U.S. Chronicles; Passing Judgments,” PBS Wisconsin, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “U.S. Chronicles; Passing Judgments.” PBS Wisconsin, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: U.S. Chronicles; Passing Judgments. Boston, MA: PBS Wisconsin, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from