Wednesday, August 27, 2014

2014 Lillian Smith Book Award Recipient Reviewed by 2013 Recipient

On Sunday, August 31st during the Decatur Book Festival, a Lillian Smith Book Award will be presented to M.J. O'Brien, author of "We Shall Not Be Moved: The Jackson Woolworth Sit-in and the Movement it Inspired."

"The book . . . easily draws the reader into the emotion, tragedy, and messiness of movement activity. O'Brien neatly dissects an iconic moment encapsulated by photographer Fred Blackwell's image of the Jackson Woolworth sit-in on May 28, 1963, showing a mob of white youth pouring condiments and insults on the seated protesters. He then moves from the previous sit-in demonstrations in Jackson to the immediate and long-term reverberations of the three-hour ordeal the activists endured that day. O'Brien rubs off some of the movement's gilt by narrating intra-movement struggles that thwarted cohesiveness among activists when segregationists frustrated their attempts at every turn, then killed their most visible leader, NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers, two weeks after the sit-in. He does this by collating biographical narratives of the subjects of the photograph, both the abused and their abusers, as well as those—from Evers and the journalists and photographers to the police and politicians—not in the photograph but who helped to frame the scene.

"O'Brien uses this image to spin a sophisticated and effective narrative focused on the planning and aftermath of this incident that publicly showcased such vitriolic displays of human hatred. He helps us understand why the participants' paths crossed in Woolworth's that day, what that meeting did to them, and how they made sense of it afterward, complicating the factors that can drive, feed, and impede a movement. By contrasting the ugliness and human weaknesses on both sides with the bravery and fortitude of a few, O'Brien has crafted a beautifully written text that transcends the local story with a simple, effective, and appealing structure that will lend itself to the many other movement campaigns with equally iconic images.

"O'Brien's writing reflects his journalistic skills—he knows how to tell a story, and how to analyze images, interview his subjects, and craft tight prose that engages readers and elicits empathy for those on both sides. By structuring the book through the dissection of an image, he provides a lesson in how to "read" photographs and weigh the cultural, historical, and political significance of an image by understanding the individuals pictured, those the photographer chose not to frame, and the photographer himself."

--FranÒ«oise N. Hamlin, 2013 Lillian Smith Book Award Recipient, writing in American Historical Review, June 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

Arrested Federal Judge Keeps Getting $200K Salary

By Jay Reeves, The Associated Press
From the Daily Report, August 15, 2014 

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama federal judge stripped of his caseload following his arrest on domestic violence charges in Atlanta will continue receiving his annual salary of nearly $200,000.

Federal rules on judicial conduct and discipline don't include a provision for withholding the pay of U.S. District Judge Mark E. Fuller of Montgomery, and the court system can't quit paying a judge just because he was arrested, said judicial ethics expert Russell E. Carparelli. A circuit judicial council is looking into whether Fuller should be disciplined.

"During this course he will continue to receive his salary," said Carparelli, a former state court judge in Colorado and the executive director of the American Judicature Society at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

John Carroll, a former federal magistrate judge and dean of Cumberland Law School at Samford University, agreed. Each federal court circuit has a chief judge and a council composed of judges that consider disciplinary actions against federal judges, but judges continue receiving their pay as long as they retain their title, said Carroll.

District judges like Fuller are paid $199,100 annually, according to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts in Washington. They are appointed for life.

A woman who answered the telephone at Fuller's office on Friday declined comment.

Atlanta police arrested Fuller, 55, early Sunday and charged him with misdemeanor battery after his wife called 911 from a hotel and said he was beating her. Mark Fuller told police that his wife became violent as she confronted him with allegations of cheating.

Fuller was released from jail and posted a $5,000 bond. He must appear in court next Friday.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a brief statement on Wednesday saying Fuller was being relieved of his caseload and wouldn't receive any new cases, but court officials haven't responded to questions about Fuller's status.

Carparelli said the silence is part of the process.

"Generally speaking, when there is an allegation against a judge they are confidential until a decision has been made," he said.

The federal judicial code of conduct says a judge "should maintain and enforce high standards of conduct and should personally observe those standards, so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary may be preserved."

The code doesn't spell out disciplinary actions in cases where a judge is arrested on misdemeanor charges.

Following an investigation and review by the circuit judicial council, he said, a judge found to have violated judicial conduct rules could be reprimanded or censured or asked to retire. Ultimately, a circuit could recommend the impeachment of a judge who refuses to quit.

Impeachment is generally reserved for judges who make false statements, take bribes or do other things to corrupt the judiciary, not those involved in domestic altercations, Carparelli said.

"Typically this type of thing would not go there," he said.