THE LIFE BEHIND A RACIAL MISTAKE
Nothing like it has ever occurred in Arizona. Last Thursday, Judge Stanley Goodfarb stood in a courtroom, stripped of the familiar comfort he usually takes from his black robes. Ushered before the Arizona Supreme Court in the civilian clothes of the accused, Goodfarb stood charged with making racist comments and uttering vulgar remarks. While these particular trespasses do not normally make their way onto a courthouse docket, today the state's highest justices are reviewing Goodfarb's behavior and weighing their disciplinary options. No one expects Goodfarb to escape with anything less than a shattering rebuke and a suspension from his post; in fact, I would not be at all surprised should the brethren terminate his career as a judge. If Goodfarb is not permanently removed from his seat on the Maricopa County Superior Court, the head of the black lawyers' association in Arizona has promised to work against his reelection this fall. These events, and their facile portrayal in other news media as the righteous culling of a bigot from the judiciary, ought to grate upon you like a rasp scouring blemished metal. Yes, this particular judge is uncouth. But if Stanley Goodfarb is a racist, what white person is not? Certainly not me. And, perhaps, not even you. Once again, we see the razor of racial retribution wedged stiffly against everyone's throat. We have seen this before. Jesse Jackson was almost slashed off the political landscape because he referred to New York City as "Hymietown." A lifetime of trying to raise people up was to be obliterated because Jackson's human frailty did not stand the measure of a hysterical level of political correctness.
Now we must vilify Stanley Goodfarb, once again ignoring the man's life, preferring instead to obsess upon a mistake. The tragedy of Stanley Goodfarb is not a tale of prejudice revealed and punished; rather, it is the story of a good and just man destroyed for political expediency. @rule:
@body:Ronnie Joseph, a black man, was convicted in Goodfarb's court in 1988 of attempted murder. Joseph based his appeal on the premise that minorities were improperly excluded from his jury. During an in-chambers conference with the prosecutor and the defense attorney handling the appeal, Judge Goodfarb exploded, saying that he could well understand why the state would not want any "fucking niggers" on the jury. Judge Goodfarb's sordid words were not ambiguous. Although it took four years for his remarks to become public, when they did, Goodfarb's racist comments scalded the public sensibility like Crisco in a hot skillet splattering the skin.
Goodfarb was described as a foul-tempered Kluxer on every Arizona newspaper's opinion page and savagely lampooned as a judicial cracker--not once, but twice--by Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Benson.
No matter how the Supreme Court rules, Judge Goodfarb has come nearly to the end of a 36-year career of public service disgraced, humiliated and thinking of early retirement. As Goodfarb considers, and confronts, spending the rest of his life fishing on his beloved lakes in northern Arizona, friends offering solace have thrown their arms around the judge's shoulders. These supporters include minorities who were stunned by Goodfarb's words, but who were also convinced that the offending remarks are not a reflection of the man's soul. "There is a much-overused term, 'wearing your heart on your sleeve,' that applies to Goodfarb," says Cecil Patterson. "He has an emotional attachment, an involvement, with the poor, the less fortunate, the downtrodden." As a young public defender representing the poor of all colors, Patterson practiced in front of Goodfarb. "There was never any problem, never a hint of prejudice," observes Patterson. Cecil Patterson became the first black appointed as a judge in Arizona's Superior Court. Today, he heads up the Human Rights division of the Arizona Attorney General's Office. He has known Goodfarb, personally and fondly, for close to 14 years. When Patterson first submitted his name to the judicial commission for a seat on the bench, his application went nowhere. On two different attempts to gain judicial appointment, he did not advance past the interview stage. Goodfarb intervened. He took it upon himself to mentor the young black man, so Patterson would do better the next time a vacancy on the bench occurred. "He was one of the people on the inside that I could talk with," says Patterson. "He helped me in my preparation for the commission, giving me ideas on where I needed to shore up my knowledge, helping me in the question-and-answer preparation . . . I got on the bench, in part, because of his help. He continued to educate me, to acculturate me. He was someone I could go to with questions." Goodfarb and Patterson moved beyond professional contacts. "We related on a social level," says Patterson. "Every Monday morning, we'd talk about his son playing football and my daughter being on pompom. It was on a real personal level. One to one. We'd talk about music and my love of jazz and blues." Patterson also remembers that Goodfarb was keen on hiring, promoting and retaining minorities within the court system. "He has a genuine commitment to the rights of people regardless of color," says Patterson. Patterson is not alone in his assessment of Goodfarb. In the bowels of the Supreme Court building, an enormous file on Stanley Goodfarb's disciplinary case is packed with letters. There are expressions of outrage about his coarse remarks, sent by representatives of local black and Hispanic bar associations. There are also letters of concern from the Arizona Women's Lawyers Association and the NAACP.
But this quartet of complaints stands in relative isolation. Those complaints are overwhelmed by testimonials from scores of individuals who speak out in witness to Goodfarb's stouthearted humanity. And the numerous notes from people of color who have been hired, worked with or been warmly touched by Stanley Goodfarb are vivid counterpoints to the writings of those who were offended in their official capacity as minority representatives.
"As an Hispanic court clerk . . . I take the negative complaint against him as a racist personally, since I regard the man as an invaluable asset," writes Jamie Olivencia II. The city manager of the largely Hispanic community of Avondale expressed much the same sentiment. "I recently participated . . . in settlement negotiations conducted by Judge Stanley Goodfarb. . . . Not only was I treated with the utmost respect . . . but I observed Judge Goodfarb demonstrate a high degree of sensitivity to the rights and feelings of the people of the City of Avondale . . ." wrote Carlos V. Palma. A black bailiff who worked in Goodfarb's court and later became an attorney recalled the judge castigating a plea agreement that kept an African American in jail. "The judge admonished the state," writes Gerald P. Richard III, "for not taking into consideration that the young man had strong family support and, therefore, would not be kept in custody until his sentencing.
"It would not have been fair to have remained silent when a judge, who I have personally observed in every attempt to administer fairness, is in need of support." Not everyone who would wish to can support Goodfarb publicly. "If you had told me in law school that I would ever defend a judge who used the expression 'fucking niggers,'" says one local attorney, "I'd have said you were crazy. But what's happened to Goodfarb is wrong." The lawyer requested anonymity, because he is less concerned about what is happening to Goodfarb than he is about what his minority clients will think if they learn he has spoken on the judge's behalf. The impact of Goodfarb's words, and, equally troubling, the four years that passed between their utterance and their public disclosure in an appellate opinion, weigh heavily upon those concerned with the perception of the judicial system by minorities. "The ability of a system to have something like this languish and go unchecked for four years," marvels Cecil Patterson. "People want to know why minorities aren't trusting of the system. This is a good example. It makes it difficult to sell the system." The appellate court found that Ronnie Joseph had received a fair trial in Goodfarb's court. The justices even agreed that the sentencing was fair. But citing Goodfarb's racist remark in their opinion, they decided that for the sake of appearance, Joseph should be resentenced. With the printing of the appellate court's opinion, Goodfarb's crack became public, and the Judicial Commission on Conduct scheduled a disciplinary hearing, the result of which was a recommendation to the Supreme Court that the judge be suspended, without pay, for three months. With an election coming in November, this decision amounted to a professional death sentence. At the commission hearing on March 25, there was eloquent testimony on the detrimental image of the judicial system that Goodfarb's remark fostered among minorities. Christopher Payne is a young black associate at the Snell & Wilmer law firm and a member of the Hayzel B. Daniels Association, the professional society of African-American attorneys in Arizona. Payne said he was only an infant when dogs and fire hoses were turned upon blacks in the Deep South during the 60s, but he felt that the struggle for civil rights was not over. He came to overwhelmingly white Arizona "to make a difference."
Goodfarb voluntarily accepted a position on a pedestal, said Payne, and because of his remarks, the judge should be removed from the bench. Payne went on to explain that he'd recently appeared in front of Goodfarb and, as a black man, was very uncomfortable. Asked why he had not chosen to give Goodfarb official "notice" of this perception and get another judge for his client, Payne explained that he had not been the lead attorney on the case. But that explanation is not as simple as it would seem. The senior attorney on Payne's case was another black lawyer, Lonnie Williams. Not only was Williams comfortable in Goodfarb's court, he appeared at the Judicial Commission on Conduct's hearing as a witness for the judge. The first black man to integrate the Phoenix Country Club, Williams said he was "appalled, shocked, embarrassed . . . and outraged" about Goodfarb's remark. But he cautioned that there was a broader picture to Goodfarb's case. He recounted discussions he'd had with Goodfarb "on numerous occasions" about the need to increase minority representation on the bench; the judge was receptive to that cause.
"You need to judge a person over a long period of time and over their career," suggested Williams. "We all do stupid things in life." The conundrum that is Stanley Goodfarb was encapsulated in the testimony of Antonio Bustamante, chair of the Civil Rights Committee of Los Abogados, an Hispanic bar association in Arizona. Though the committee ultimately decided to urge Goodfarb's removal from the bench, Bustamante admitted that members of Los Abogados were divided on Goodfarb, a confusion clearly reflected in the attorney's personal experience with the judge. In a 1990 case, Judge Goodfarb said in chambers, according to Bustamante's recollection, "I don't give a goddamn. Your client better answer questions at the fucking deposition. The son of a bitch better answer the questions." Bustamante said the effect of such language was like being struck by lightning: "What have I done? Is it because I'm Chicano? Because my client is Chicano, and this is a drug crime, and he thinks all Chicanos are involved in crime?" Bustamante did not realize that Goodfarb speaks this way with all attorneys, regardless of color. At his worst, Goodfarb is combative. But at his best, he engages the lawyers for both sides in a salty, Socratic dialogue, forcing the attorneys to explain themselves, to make themselves abundantly clear. Even when Goodfarb agrees with you, he pushes to make sure there is no laziness or sloppiness in your thinking. His opinions, for example, are well-known within the bar for their mix of scholarship and elbow grease. Presiding judges routinely assign complex cases with challenging legal issues to Goodfarb.
And so Antonio Bustamante, reflexively worried that Goodfarb's goading was linked to the skin color of the lawyer and his client, was struck by lightning a second time when Goodfarb ruled, and ruled quickly, in the Hispanics' favor. Ronnie Joseph was also emotionally undone by what he discovered in Goodfarb's court.
He was arrested four times as a juvenile and 22 times as an adult. He already had three felony convictions when he appeared in front of Goodfarb for shooting Roy Atkins and severing the man's femoral artery. Only prompt medical care managed to save Atkins' life. The police subsequently discovered a TEC semiautomatic in Ronnie Joseph's room. Although the evidence in the Joseph case was conclusive, the defendant felt that he was convicted because of his skin color.
At his sentencing, he told Goodfarb, "I apologize because you feel that I am a ruthless person, just from being in your courtroom I picked this up . . ."
When he was subsequently resentenced by a new judge, Joseph said, "It hurts me to have to deal with the so-called justice system that's only working for those able to pay for it. It hasn't worked for me, not no stage of my case, as far as I can see. And I'm hurt, I'm hurt about it."
From the hardened criminal to the sophisticated attorney, minorities who come into contact with the judicial system are highly skeptical and defensive. They have reason to be. In a story written by Peter Aleshire, New Times reported that blacks and Hispanics were six times more likely to receive jail time than their white counterparts, who were routinely released to counseling programs, halfway houses or work-release supervision (Die Like a Man," August 26, 1992). Our prisons are teeming with minorities, far out of proportion to their percentage of the general population, and worse, far out of proportion to the percentage of crimes they commit.
The judicial system, like the country at large, is convulsed with racial issues. The case has been made that Judge Goodfarb is the issue. But racism in the judicial system is not a simple problem, and will not be corrected by a simplistic solution. To end Goodfarb's career over an insensitive remark without examining his 36 years of public service--and neither the Judicial Commission on Conduct nor the Arizona Supreme Court made the slightest effort to look at the judge's progressive record--sends the clear message that the judiciary is more concerned with ethnic symbols than institutional racism. Unable to address the systemic, it focuses on the incidental. It is as if an emergency-room trauma team uncovered a patient on a gurney with a massive head wound, then elected to first treat the paper cut on the injured party's finger by amputating the digit. The suggestion that the judiciary is more concerned with the appearance of bigotry than with substantive racism has been underscored by the other counts of vulgarity lodged against Goodfarb. Although it has been little remarked in the uproar following his slur about "fucking niggers," Stanley Goodfarb was also brought up on charges of cursing. On this front, there is no debate between substance and appearance. The only concern of the bar is decorum, manners and the legal community's self-concept. The agitation flows not merely from the judge's use of off-color words. Even the bar is not that prissy. More precisely, the concern is that Judge Goodfarb might be swearing at lawyers. In 1991, an attorney representing a dentist appeared before Goodfarb because a lab claimed it was owed tens of thousands of dollars in overdue bills. The lawyer for the dentist begged to differ, and presented his case. He said the sum his client owed was tiny. He arrived at this lowly number by ignoring the current balance, the 30-day balance and the 60-day balance, acknowledging only that part of the debt that was 120 days overdue. This insignificant tally was to be even further reduced, because the lawyer felt that his own fee for defending the maligned dentist ought to be deducted from whatever debt might be owed to the dental lab. Goodfarb intervened before the lawyer was able to argue that the dental lab actually owed money to the tooth driller. The judge told the dentist's lawyer that his theory of accounting was "goddamn bullshit." Just so. In 1993, two lawyers rushed to court arguing over the paperwork for a temporary restraining order. The combatants disdained settlement. They hammered and tonged each other over the removal of an underground gas tank in the middle of a shopping center. With a couple of deft questions, Judge Goodfarb startled himself with the discovery that neither lawyer was even sure whether the gas tank actually existed.
More bemused than frustrated, Goodfarb suggested a compromise to avoid entanglement in a blizzard of legal papers. When the attorneys dragged their feet, Goodfarb erupted. He pointed out that service-station owners throughout the Valley managed to extract leaking fuel tanks without the use of counsel, utilizing, instead, common sense and good will. Of course, gas-station attendants, observed Goodfarb, did not have the benefit of law school, where attorneys got "their brains all fucked up." In his own defense before the Judicial Commission on Conduct, Goodfarb explained that it was his "feeling that it's rather improper for lawyers to engage in warfare in my courtroom when there's nothing to have warfare about, except how much they can bill each other's clients for." To establish that a pattern existed, as well as to prove that there was no statute of limitations on swearing, the state bar also cited a 1986 case in which Goodfarb had referred to a defendant as a "little son of a bitch." On July 4, 1984, Kenneth Grooms and a friend began their holiday weekend by robbing a string of gas stations and a liquor store. Then Grooms held a shotgun on a group of girls, kidnaped one of them and drove her across the state line, weaving drunk down the highway, before he raped the terrified teenager in the back seat of the car. Charles Dickens would have been taxed to conjure more delays, continuances and courthouse twists than those that bogged down the Grooms case. After Grooms was tried and convicted, it was discovered that the defendant had been using a false identity. When his parents finally located him in prison, they revealed that, while Kenneth might be a kidnaper/rapist, he was only 14 years old. A new trial was ordered. Motions for a change of judge were successfully filed against every single jurist in Mohave County. Twice the Arizona Supreme Court had to advise prosecutors to move more expeditiously. Grooms then moved through several sets of counsel. The case was transferred to the state Attorney General's Office for prosecution, and when that office developed new evidence against Grooms, his lawyer launched a new round of motions for dismissal. The case came before Goodfarb.
Grooms himself was not idle during this period. According to Goodfarb, "He tried phone calls and letters from the jail to threaten and intimidate [the victim] and her friend, who was a witness to the kidnaping." While proof is "much more conjectural and somewhat less conclusive, after Grooms' parents got involved in the case, the state had some evidence the parents tried similar tactics on the victim and her girlfriend. They justified this on the basis the girls were of 'loose morals.' While certainly immaterial, there was no proof of this," Goodfarb said.
After complicated negotiations, Grooms' attorney got the state to make what Goodfarb described as "a fairly reasonable plea offer." Consulting with his parents, Grooms rejected the terms and informed the court that the most he would plead to was a Class 2 misdemeanor for speeding.
Goodfarb snapped to Grooms' attorney, "That little son of a bitch is going to have his trial by" such and such a date. The state bar attorney who prosecuted Judge Goodfarb for his wanton mouth did not actually go so far as to argue that the kidnaper/rapist was not a little son of a bitch. The attorney's position, if I might summarize, was that a judge ought to say "son of a gun," an argument that nicely demonstrates Goodfarb's point about the effect of law school upon the brain. For the Judicial Commission on Conduct and its attorney, Bruce Meyerson, the context of Judge Goodfarb's remarks is irrelevant. In fact, context was not much discussed at the commission hearing. The fact that these vulgarities were uttered in the judge's chambers, and not in front of an impressionable jury, is also irrelevant. The commission and Meyerson focused upon one thing and one thing only: appearances. Meyerson explained that "there are different levels of frankness . . . there's 'that's goddamn bullshit' as opposed to 'counsel, I disagree.'" It is precisely this foppish devotion to civility, rather than reality, that gives one caution as the Supreme Court ponders Goodfarb's vulgarity in the Ronnie Joseph case. During the hearing, Meyerson asked with rhetorical flourish, "Do you think it's important that the judiciary be held in esteem?" When its finding was issued, the commission said Goodfarb "brought his office into disrepute." But the Bruce Meyersons of the bar are wrong when they ask us to believe that it is the Stanley Goodfarbs who have lowered public esteem for the legal profession. It is exactly the issues that Stanley Goodfarb has fought in these very cases under review--excessive billing, senseless generation of paperwork, attorneys who are unprepared (e.g., the Ronnie Joseph case), the insistence on litigation when settlement is called for, and delays, delays, delays--that have lowered the public perception of attorneys. I've never heard anyone, ever, say that the problem with the legal profession is the judges who talk like trailer trash. Let's dial this in a little tighter. In the May 1989 issue of The Maricopa Lawyer, Judge Goodfarb wrote a common-sense article attacking all of these problems. "Judges who deal daily with the deluge of pleadings, motions, petty discovery issues and arrogant 'hardball' litigators often find it overwhelming just to stay afloat." He went on to complain about exotic counts routinely encountered today in lawsuits. "This recipe is sure to result in a souffl of equally complex answers, counterclaims and third-party claims, all guaranteed to spawn motions, Rule 11 claims and requests for attorney fees so that every young lawyer in the firm will be able to indulge in the resultant feast of billing. "Our icons are Holmes, Cordoza and Darrow, not Boesky, Levine and Milken. We ought to act like it." A curious thing happened after Goodfarb's article appeared. He was deluged with laudatory letters and notes. Two current Supreme Court justices, Stanley Feldman and Thomas Zlackett, had their pens out. Numerous attorneys wrote, some asking that a commission of reform be constituted.
We know that lawyers, like politicians, are compulsive note lavishers.
One such writer is local attorney Peter Baird, who wrote to Goodfarb: ". . . Amen. Those sentiments have to be expressed and heard over and over and over so all of us, including me, can hear and take them to heart. "After you properly admonished me some years ago about the suffocating characteristics of huge numbers of exhibits and pages, I have been deliberately trimming down my motions and shrinking my exhibits. . . ." Aside from its servile tone, what, you may ask, causes us to dawdle over this twaddle? Only this: The author of this letter is the same Peter Baird who, last November, resisted compromise in the underground-gas-tank mess. After Judge Goodfarb was already under attack from the Judicial Commission on Conduct and the minority bar associations for his intemperate remarks in the Ronnie Joseph case, it was this same Peter Baird who filed a letter of complaint because Goodfarb dared to suggest that some attorneys come out of law school with their "brains all fucked up."
Four years earlier, when he thought he could quietly brown-nose unobserved, Baird was perfectly willing to humble himself in a letter and admit that he has been part of the problem within the legal system.
But after Judge Goodfarb starts getting the stuffing knocked out of him by the press, the state bar, minorities and do-gooders one and all, Peter Baird is only too happy to file a letter of complaint with the judicial commission, kicking Goodfarb in the kidneys because the judge used foul language. Baird's actions, of course, do not violate any legal ethics rules. And that is the problem. His behavior, at once pungent and transparent, is so lawyerlike that we are not surprised. But he's not the one up on charges. It is Goodfarb, the crusty, foul-mouthed reformer, who is in the dock.
When you ask yourself if the state Supreme Court will consider the substance of Goodfarb's career, his 18 years of intelligent, humane decisions versus a momentary lapse, you are not comforted by the precedent of the commission hearing. The matter of racial insensitivity is a cudgel that renders Goodfarb defenseless. But make no mistake. The race card played against Goodfarb is trump, but it is not the real game here. The "image of our system of justice" comment, which Meyerson himself emphasized, makes it clear that Goodfarb's lack of gentility is the fish bone stuck in the bar's windpipe.
Goodfarb, the roughneck, is not a member of the club. Not that this is how Mr. Baird would characterize this drama. Baird, Meyerson's first witness in front of the Judicial Commission on Conduct, said that when he "reflects on the fitness of a judge . . . I had no choice in the matter" except to file a complaint. Like Madonna, Mr. Baird is "Vogue" posing. Of course, he had a choice. But that aside, if Mr. Baird cannot abide the way Goodfarb talks in chambers, how are we to speak with Baird? The answer can be deduced from the other attorney in the gas-tank matter. Ron Cohen, speaking to Goodfarb but seeking to challenge Baird, phrases his rebuke as if Peter Baird's cochlea were the most elegant, and fragile, bone china.
"What Peter neglected to mention," says the tiptoeing Cohen, "and I have great respect for him, so I'm sure it was inadvertent, was the nature of the relief we seek. . . ." This, apparently, is how Peter Baird, a member of the cut-glass firm of Lewis and Roca, wants to be addressed. This, apparently, is how the Judicial Commission on Conduct and Bruce Meyerson wish all lawyers to be addressed. It is as if the attorneys want to don powdered wigs, spritz themselves with complex perfumes and knock upon the judge's door with their cherry-wood walking sticks. Unfortunately for these Beau Brummells of the bar, Stanley Goodfarb is not now, and has never been, a grandee. He grew up in Tucson, a tough-nosed Jew boy, when Arizona's nicer inns refused service to members of his tribe. The judicial commission thinks this information--the judge's life itself--is irrelevant. But I'm going to tell you a little bit more about this man and his record on the bench.
You tell me what you think. Ask yourself if this is the life of a racist, or if this distinguished, progressive career has, somehow, shamed the bar. @rule:
@body:Stanley Goodfarb grew up in New York City, the oldest son of Jewish immigrants who fled Poland's anti-Semitism in the 1920s. At the start of the Depression, his mother, working in a garment loft, met and married Stanley's father. The family survived the hard times until his father fell off a construction ladder, injuring himself so seriously that he spent the rest of his life as an invalid, unable to work. "We became dirt-poor," says Goodfarb. The family moved to Arizona to ease the old man's crippling arthritis, and, at the age of 13, when many kids are picking up spending change with odd jobs, Stanley was helping to support the family. Because every cent earned went to putting bread on the table, he would not learn what a checking account was until long after he was graduated from college.
The three boys were expected to cook, keep house, go to school and work, while their mother earned wages as a waitress. "I would go to her restaurant and bus her tables, so she could leave early," recalls the judge.
At 14, Goodfarb started working construction, getting a union apprentice card even though he was underage. Construction work made its mark on Goodfarb. It wasn't just that he'd followed in his dad's footsteps or that the money was good--as a teenager, he was able to buy the family its first car, a ten-year-old Plymouth--or that he was a boy among men. It was all of that. By the time he was ready for college, Stanley wasn't even sure he wanted to go.
His parents quickly straightened him out on that score, but the impressionable youngster would never shed the influence of his hardhat days, which shaped his work ethic and, later, came back to haunt him during the Ronnie Joseph case. Today, Goodfarb says he was brought up a social liberal by his parents, and he never thought of rebelling against this upbringing. "I was raised with Fiorello La Guardia and Franklin D. Roosevelt as heroes."
He is a man from another era who remembers Arizona's old ways. The first time he heard the expression "kike" was at a junior high school assembly in Tucson, at a time when most of Arizona's schools were still as legally segregated as those in the Deep South. After attending law school, he served a stint in the Army. On return to civilian life, even though he had graduated No. 2 in his law-school class, Goodfarb could not find work in the Valley. "There were no law firms in Phoenix who hired Jews [during the mid-50s]," says Goodfarb. "I went to a couple of Jewish firms and they were trying to hire Protestants, to reach out for new business." Like others who've felt the slap of discrimination in the open marketplace, Goodfarb went to work for the government, spending 18 years at the Attorney General's Office, attached to the Highway Department, where he distinguished himself in intricate condemnation cases. There he met someone whose background crisscrossed his own, however tangentially.
"Hayzel Daniels was descended from the buffalo soldiers stationed at Fort Huachuca, which is where the Army had sent me," the judge says. "And we were both from the University of Arizona, which meant something, even back then. As a black man and a black lawyer, he broke so many barriers here, starting with the integration of Carver High School and then playing football in the border conference at the UofA. Can you imagine what it was like for him in those days, going to Abilene, Texas, to play Hardin-Simmons?" Daniels and Goodfarb became, if not good friends, social acquaintances.
Today, members of the African-American bar association named after Daniels are trying to remove Goodfarb from the bench. The irony is not lost on the judge, but when you are accused of being a racist, your focus is not upon life's bittersweet cul-de-sacs. He is, after all, watching his judicial career whirlpool down the drain. Appointed to the bench in 1976, Goodfarb has loved the work, relishing the intellectual give and take of the courtroom in a career that allowed him to put the poverty of his childhood behind him and raise a family of his own. Unable to conceive, the Goodfarbs adopted a trio of children. When I first looked into the background of Goodfarb, it was the redemptive act of adoption, repeated three times, that I found so difficult to square with the suggestion that Goodfarb is a bigot. Though it is the first thing another man might offer in his own defense, Goodfarb does not mention that one of his children is part Indian, another of Afghani descent and the third of mixed blood. Goodfarb's brother, Jay, is the one who mentions Stan's civic work: helping to get the children's Arizona Puppet Theater off the ground and serving on the board of one the first local day-care centers. And, always, there was the work ethic drilled into the three Goodfarb boys by their immigrant parents. When it comes to the practice of the law, Goodfarb's approach is old-fashioned: Bring your lunch pail. "The problem with the law profession is that a large percentage of the people have giant egos, and a lot of the big shots in the bar are not very competent. My recommendation is work hard and do a decent job for your client." Goodfarb's clients have been the people of Arizona. This is his history, based upon court records and press accounts. In 1977, he dismissed a case when the police hid their records, saying, "If I were a judge in Argentina, Brazil or Czechoslovakia, I might expect this, but as a judge in the United States, I'm shocked." Later that same year, he objected to a plea agreement worked out with a swindler who fleeced victims of $150,000. Goodfarb balked because there were not specific provisions for restitution, only vague reassurances. "It's just a promise," said the judge, "which is what he gave them when he took their money." Goodfarb insisted upon, and got, a specific repayment plan. In 1978, the son of a prominent Scottsdale car dealer was arrested on cocaine charges. "Your sentence," said Goodfarb, "is going to be the bright light to the rest of the young geniuses in Scottsdale who have too much money, too many wheels, time on their hands to wheel and deal in society's newfound pleasure, cocaine. . . . It's like a car contract, only if you don't follow it [the terms of work release], we won't repossess the car; we'll repossess your body and put you in jail." By 1978, Judge Goodfarb had established a reputation as being death on repeated trial delays. "I like to keep lawyers' feet to the fire and make them go to trial," he tells the press. That same year, certain lawyers, notably in the silk-stocking firms, take issue with Goodfarb's abrasiveness. "There are things that are a lot more important than my dignity or a lawyer's vanity," Goodfarb says. "If I affront my dignity or step on a couple of egos, who cares? There's nothing more essential than people's freedom or lives." He admits yelling at defendants. "Some kids come into my court dressed like they just rolled out of bed and acting like I'm screwing up their morning. They have no respect for their parents, the police, the courts or society, and I'm supposed to do something to return them to the straight and narrow. No wonder I yell at them. I can't come down off the bench and hit them over the head." One defendant, up on a stolen-credit-card scheme, is so impressed by Goodfarb's lecture that she leaves his courtroom and promptly faints. When she recovers, she is never seen in the judicial system again. A press account reports that some lawyers are "shocked" by the informality of Goodfarb's court. "I guess some lawyers like the courtroom to have a funeral atmosphere. I don't," he says.
In 1979, the morning newspaper's influential columnist, Bernie Wynn, attacks Goodfarb for his light sentences. That same year, Goodfarb urges the League of Women Voters to campaign for a state prison system that will stress rehabilitation. He suggests small prisons scattered around the state, so prisoners will be close to families and community college facilities. In 1980, at a Criminal Justice Forum, law enforcement agencies propose curbs to illegal immigration, including the use of vigilante citizen patrols as well as reducing the benefits to aliens already here. Goodfarb blasts the proposal: "On the face of it . . . it's racist and discriminatory." When ASU tries to hide the results of an NCAA investigation into its sports program, Goodfarb orders the records produced for the media and describes university administrators as considering themselves part "of the aristocracy who knows what's good for the peasants." In 1982, when the City of Phoenix ignores its own ordinances on consultation with union members, Goodfarb rules in favor of city employees and tongue-lashes the bureaucrats. He is no less peptic when NAU administrators attempt to suspend an employee who sought access for the handicapped on campus. In 1986, he issues a landmark ruling against husbands found to be hiding assets from their ex-wives. In 1987, a young black man, Wayne Eric Sublett, shoots a clerk at Park Central Mall. Despite the glare of the media, Goodfarb sentences the man to the minimum term. ". . . [He] was driven by the voices. Paranoid schizophrenia is a terrible disease," says Goodfarb, comparing Sublett to Hamlet. He notes that the parents had repeatedly tried to get help, to no avail, from Arizona's barely functioning mental health system. In 1991, he brings to an end a contentious lawsuit that involves a baby who died as a result of AIDS after receiving tainted blood. In conference, he grabs the lawyers by their ties and says, "Look, I know what you guys are up to. You're dragging this thing out until you both figure you've bled your clients white, and then you're going to settle. And I want it to stop. Now." In recent conversations, Goodfarb explained his role in settlement negotiations. "I hammer lawyers sometimes because clients can't afford the risk of losing. No one tells them they could lose. I become the messenger. The reality of the law, on occasion, is not very pretty. White juries tend to come down hard on blacks who are looking for a financial settlement. According to some juries, blacks don't need the same amount of money that whites do." Goodfarb had a role in a controversial case involving just such a calculation. When a national waste hauler secured the rights to locate a facility in the poor and largely Hispanic community of Avondale, the only issue left on the table was compensation.
"I handled the settlement conference," Goodfarb explains when pressed. "The world puts dumps in minority neighborhoods. Nobody puts a waste dump in Paradise Valley. Not only should you pay them [the minorities], you should pay them sooner." In 18 years on the bench, Stanley Goodfarb has done more than talk the talk; he has walked the walk. When the charge of racism first surfaced, his earliest defenders were those lawyers who represent Indian tribes in their decades-long struggle with the state and federal governments over water rights. Goodfarb's reputation as a populist, grassroots judge who defends the rights of the little guy, especially when he or she is a minority, is so entrenched that one lawyer from a pedigreed law firm told me, off the record, that his partners immediately transfer judges if they initially draw Goodfarb, because almost anyone else is more sympathetic to their corporate clients. How, then, is it that this judicial progressive told a public defender he could understand why a prosecutor wouldn't want any "fucking niggers" on the jury? On December 7, 1993, the Court of Appeals denied the motion for a new trial of Ronnie Joseph, but the justices were concerned about the appearance created by Goodfarb's outburst. "The words are patently offensive and would denote racial bigotry . . ." the Court of Appeals said in ordering a new sentencing of Joseph. Goodfarb's words are indeed repugnant.
But the problem goes beyond the offensiveness of the expression. Like a bullet that has been crosshatched at the business end to turn it into a more devastating "dum-dum" projectile, the magnum-force impact of Goodfarb's taunt is heightened because the words appear to also suggest that the judge sanctions segregated juries. Which is not the case. It has never been the case. But defense and prosecution attorneys have played this race game with each other for years.
In a 1986 United States Supreme Court case, the justices noted that in Dallas County, Texas, a prosecutor's instruction book "explicitly advised prosecutors that they conduct jury selection 'so as to eliminate any member of a minority group.' In 100 felony trials in Dallas County in 1983-84, prosecutors peremptorily struck 405 out of 467 eligible black jurors." This is racism, but it is not the blind, unthinking, cracker logic of Jim Crow. Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, the president of Trial Logistics, served as a jury consultant for defense attorneys in both the Rodney King and the Reginald Denny cases in Los Angeles. She told me that race is a clear issue in jury selection. Based upon 500 focus groups that Dimitrius has conducted, and her ten years of experience as a jury consultant, she says, "It is folk wisdom about the perception of Anglos and minorities on juries, but it's folk wisdom that is true. On a very simple level, if cops hassle you because of your race, you, as a juror, look more critically at the testimony of a police officer. Asians and whites are prosecution-prone, while African Americans and Hispanics are defense-prone. Carolyn Waters, the forewoman of the Keith Watson and Reginald Denny trial, and Bob Almond, the foreman of the federal King trial, both agreed that the racial composition of the jury affected the verdict." The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Batson v. Kentucky that you cannot simply strike citizens from a jury, as prosecutors had done historically, merely because they are minorities. In the past, you could eliminate a black juror without even giving a reason. Today, you must be able to justify striking a person of color. In effect, the courts have said that a jury of your peers includes people predisposed to walk you as well as those who are predisposed to put you away.
That does not mean that prosecutors and defense attorneys have stopped playing racial games when it comes to jury composition. They're just cuter about it. When Goodfarb exploded in front of defense attorney Stephen Collins that he could understand why prosecutors didn't want any "fucking niggers" on the Ronnie Joseph jury, he wasn't endorsing judicial apartheid. He was recognizing, in the coarsest manner imaginable, what every judge already knows.
Buy why, then, did he say such a thing? "I was frustrated with Mr. Collins. I am not a racist, but I have a low level of frustration, and I vented my frustration in an inappropriate manner." Goodfarb says he was exasperated because the defense attorney had obtained seven continuances, and he still wasn't prepared to argue the merits of the Batson appeal. Yes, Goodfarb understood the challenge, but what proof had been gathered, where was the evidence, what have you got? Ronnie Joseph's victim did not fit the profile of a stable member of the community; he was a man shot over a disagreement regarding a minor drug deal. Goodfarb claims the repeated delays increased the possibility that the principal witness, the man who'd been shot, might not be around for a new trial. Some of this--a missing witness, in particular--sounds like backfilling after the fact. Stephen Collins explains his unpreparedness by noting that the prosecutor refused to produce the records Collins needed to prove his Batson argument. As to Goodfarb's contention that the judge was frustrated, hence the racist comment, Collins says, "This claim on its face is absurd."
The public defender points out that Goodfarb's first response was that he was simply trying to "pull Collins' chain." It is historically clear that Goodfarb has a short fuse and that the fuse is quickly ignited by attorneys who are unprepared or clog the courts with repeated delays. Seven continuances is well past Goodfarb's, or most judges', reserve of patience. But how does the judge excuse the term "fucking niggers"? The answer is that he does not. He has admitted that what he said was wrong, and he has publicly apologized.
"When I vent my frustration, I go back to my roots," laments Goodfarb. "I learned my language before I acquired the veneer of law school, before the veneer of college. I learned my language swinging a hammer, using a power saw and pouring concrete and digging ditches.
"I thought he [Collins] had a pretty good issue, and I couldn't understand why it had taken so long. And then, at the end of all this time, all Collins had done was ask for an evidentiary hearing. . . . I was prepared to grant him a mistrial if Tucker [the prosecutor], in fact, had not told the truth [about jury selection]." Goodfarb knows there are those, including Stephen Collins, who will never believe that. "It's pretty depressing," says Goodfarb. "You go through life thinking of yourself as a racial liberal. Look, people make mistakes. They say the wrong thing. It's an unfortunate part of our culture. Blacks say 'honky,' ofay. Don't look at people's words, look at what they do. Blacks have a right to be pissed off at me. When that language came out of my mouth . . ." and his voice trails off.
"I don't want to lose my career over this. The world is full of people who say the right thing and do the wrong thing."
@body:It is late on the evening of Stanley Goodfarb's 18th anniversary on the bench. Tomorrow, the judge and I will talk, but at the moment, something has caught my eye on one of the cable channels.
Khallid Abdul Muhammad of the Nation of Islam is speaking to a crowd at Howard University. He is already infamous as an anti-Semite. In the wake of his appearance, the president of the school will depart, under a cloud, for a job in Texas, his reputation sullied for allowing Muhammad to practice the First Amendment at Howard.
Muhammad's speech is riveting.
"I'm a truth terrorist. I'm a knowledge gangster. A black-history hit man. I'm a live killer, urban guerrilla. Got to be a roughneck, it's the only way I know to go."
Muhammad serves up his anti-Semitism like a pepper hound laying on the Tabasco.
But if you will listen, the man's outrage has a perspective.
Muhammad is indignant because of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. He compares the six million Jews lost to the ovens and the decade-plus reign of Hitler's terror with the hundreds of years of the slave trade, and the tens of millions lost in the Middle Passage and the tens of millions marched across Africa to loading ports. His numbers dwarf the figures commonly accepted for the Holocaust. His fury is about respect.
You can dispute his arithmetic, you can deplore his anti-Semitism, you may even think that you can shut him up, but you underestimate, at your own peril, the impact he has upon his audience when he says, "You are removed from your ghettos of Warsaw and Krakw; you are removed from your ghettos, white Jew. But these [and here he points to his listeners], the sons and daughters of Africa, we are still in the ghettos of white America."
Muhammad deplores the $21 million annual subsidy the Holocaust Museum gets from the government, while there is not a dollar available for James Cameron's efforts to launch a black museum in Milwaukee, an effort detailed on 60 Minutes and begun when Cameron survived a lynching.
Muhammad has been so vitriolic about Jews and his allegations of Jewish involvement in the slave trade that the Congressional Black Caucus instigated a censure of the Muslim, which in turn led to Louis Farrakhan's removing Khallid from his official posting.
Muhammad goes off on the press and those blacks who would muzzle him.
"You got me busted, and I'm going buck wild on your behind. . . . I don't care about your newspapers, I don't care about these damn cameras . . . these half-baked, half-fried, bootlicking, butt-licking, buck-dancing, bamboozled, half-punkified, half-sissified, pasteurized, homogenized niggers and Uncle Toms."
He ridicules one specific black leader, loping around the stage imitating a chimpanzee, scratching, mugging.
"I yam a-some-body. I yam a-some-body. I don't know who the hell I yam, but I yam a-some-body."
It is Jesse Jackson, the shadow representative for Washington, D.C., in Congress, who has helped orchestrate the condemnation of Khallid Abdul Muhammad, the same Jesse Jackson whose career was almost extinguished when he referred to New York City as "Hymietown."
There is a lesson here.
Jesse Jackson is much on my mind when I go to see Goodfarb the next day.
I empathize with this judge. I grew up in a construction family and worked as a pipe fitter, learning a trade and a roughhewed vocabulary that included every ethnic put-down.
Unlike Goodfarb, I was raised a bigot by my parents. At an age when I had not yet discovered girls, we lived next door to a black social club. My father could see me listening to the music floating out of the building so close by, and his words were short and sharp: "If I ever catch you with a black girl, I'll cut your penis off."
His words of smoldering savagery made an impression on me, and I was my father's boy.
I can clearly remember telling a teacher that she could not force me to sit next to a black kid if I wanted to sit with the whites.
But something happened; I met black people.
I went to an inner-city high school where blacks were the overwhelming majority. We played ball together and hung out together. I defied my father in ways he had not imagined.
The old man's hatreds became unexplainable to me, not that an explanation was ever offered.
I still cannot discuss race in my family. The two relatives I am closest to had a different coming of age: One was raped by blacks in a jail cell; the other still carries the emotional scars of brutal interracial confrontations in the cafeteria and rest rooms of Houston's schools.
Though this judge grew up using the same language as my family, there is little bond that I can see between my father's squinty-eyed racism and Goodfarb's racist crack. He is simply one more person, like so many whites--and blacks, for that matter--who resort to gutter talk as aggravation shorthand.
MDNMFor those who are the victims of MDNMethnic isolation, any defense of the judge tastes like chalky mendacity. Just as my family is beyond reach on the topic of race, so too are those who've run out of patience with Stanley Goodfarb. But is the outlook of a victim a reasonable tape measure? Who will not be fitted for a racist's bib overalls if the tailor is hunched over in pain?MDNM
Janice Moore, with the law firm of O'Connor Cavanagh, expressed her feelings about Goodfarb, not in terms of pain, or hurt, but rather of wrath.
"The plain reality is that in the minds of far too many in the bar and in this society at large, I am nothing more than a 'nigger lawyer' who has achieved senior partnership status at one of the most prestigious law firms in Phoenix. Although I am the first 'nigger' to have achieved that result, no doubt based upon misguided 'affirmative action,' I carry the weight of my entire race each day I am given the chance to practice."
Moore told me that "one slip of the tongue" and Goodfarb ought to be off the bench.
"When you make this ignorant statement from some vile abyss, and you are a judge, it is different."
Judge Goodfarb's apologies do not much sway Moore.
He has recently taken a class on multicultural diversity, as well as submitted to anger counseling, both of which, I think, are a foolish waste of everyone's time. What Goodfarb needs is a lunch with Janice Moore.
I am predisposed to think that any class on "multicultural diversity" is lost on a 63-year-old man. As if to prove the point, Goodfarb, in our discussion, recalls an old adversary. Shaking his head and clamping his lips together in frustration, he blurts out, "The little faggot."
Don't roll your eyes.
You cannot dictate that a man's tongue will be the equal of his heart (though sometimes you do just want to clip Goodfarb on the side of the head, the way you'd slap a jukebox to make it skip past an unnerving scratch).
I disagree with Janice Moore and Christopher Payne and Bruce Meyerson; a slip of the tongue is not a lynching offense.
No white person can toe that line.
And I'll tell you something else: No black person can, either.
We have no right to demand perfection of each other.
I have been down that road before, and it is bitter terrain.
In Arizona, those who twice defeated a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday observance told us we should not celebrate this exemplary life because his civil rights record was not immaculate. By this, King's enemies meant that the minister had been less than perfect in his marriage vows.
We see the same reckless standard in Schindler's List, in which author Thomas Keneally only expresses one personal emotion: He is amazed that Oskar saved Jews because Oskar, after all, lived a life of the flesh; as if heroism was only found in those with perfect piety.
I wonder what the keepers of the torch of political correctness can be thinking?
If you run off a Jesse Jackson when he stumbles, he will not be there later on to repudiate Khallid Muhammad. And if you can run off Khallid Muhammad, will you then turn on Janice Moore because her passion is just as molten, if less threatening, than the Muslim's?
Are you going to haul off every white person who is not the epitome of racial grace? Do you think they'll go quietly?
It denies all of us, black and white, our potential for goodness if we are to be crucified for moments of weakness.
The fate of Judge Stanley Goodfarb is in the hands of the Arizona Supreme Court, where Justice Robert Corcoran has earned a reputation for being a hard-nosed enforcer of judicial ethics.
He must feel some conflict, a certain inner turmoil.
Better than most, Corcoran knows that this particular judge is not a bigot. Corcoran is the man who introduced Cecil Patterson to Goodfarb.
If you have read this far, you must feel like you've read too much. But, you see, I wanted to paint a truer picture of who this judge is, because if he is pushed off the bench, Stanley Goodfarb will leave stigmatized as a racist.
That ain't right, and that ain't the way it was.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.