Arnick the judge judges a victim, misses the irony

DAN RODRICKS

February 11, 1993|By DAN RODRICKS

Do you think John Arnick is troubled by the allegations that have been made against him? It's a hard question to answer, but I'm going with "nope."

The man has too many friends in the General Assembly, too much arrogance within his vital bodily fluids. We're talking world-class gall here. We're talking bile.

Instead of hanging his head in shame for making racist, sexist and obscene remarks to female lobbyists in Annapolis last year, Arnick was out in clear public view yesterday, working the new $82,300-a-year job the governor gave him.

Judge: John Arnick

February 10, 1993

Someone wrote that on the chalkboard in Courtroom 1 of the District Court at Towson.

By 9:15, Arnick was there, in his black robe, presiding over all from a blue wing chair, acting giddy and oh-so pleasant, telling stories, even at times waxing philosophic.

He might have been assigned to Traffic Court, handling speeding tickets and parking citations, but this lowly judicial post did not keep John-John from lofty thought.

"The world is full of unkind truths," Arnick told a long-haired biker accused of blasting through the speed limit on Pulaski Highway. "And one of those truths," Arnick said, "is that bikers who speed at 2 o'clock in the morning are prime targets for the police."

Ah, yes, unkind truths -- like the fact that John Arnick, even after all those years in the state legislature, schmoozing up a storm, paying his dues to local Democratic organizations, is unfit to be a judge.

While chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in Annapolis, he verbally battered two women who were lobbying on behalf of battered women, described battered women in vulgar terms and expressed disdain for their claims of abuse.

This came after he told a few jokes about Poles, Jews and African-Americans.

Some of his peers in Annapolis wonder: Should this incident, alone, disqualify Arnick for a judgeship?

It's not a hard question to answer. I'm going with "yup."

The District Court, where most Marylanders have their first, and often only, brush with the justice system, has had too many hacks over the years, most of them fossils from the old magistrates' courts or city Municipal Court.

If you ever heard the demeaning wisecracks that came off the bench, if you ever heard a judge mock the way a foreign-born defendant spoke, then you know exactly what I mean by hack.

The last thing the District Court needs is another one.

As of now, however, John Arnick is there, robe and all. And yesterday he dispatched justice efficiently and pleasantly, with a few jokes thrown in. He smiled a lot. He told a little bit about himself: He owns a 1951 MG that can do 60 in third gear. He once owned a Harley.

Arnick mentioned that, while in the General Assembly, he used to see annual legislation to stop people from using car phones while driving their cars.

What did this have to do with anything?

A young accountant named Nancy was standing before Arnick, explaining why she'd been caught speeding on Philadelphia Road. Her estranged husband had been harassing her. (She told me after court he once punched her in the mouth.) He had stalked her at home, had called her at work. And Nancy was in her car one night when her husband called on the car phone and threatened her. She was in tears by the time a county police officer stopped her for doing 58 in a 40 mph zone.

As a matter of fact, Nancy said, she had come to District Court yesterday for two reasons: To appeal the speeding ticket and to apply for an order to keep her husband away.

Great irony had just exploded in front of John Arnick.

He is alleged to have used one of the ugliest of all sexual vulgarities to describe female victims of domestic violence, and here was one standing before him.

In response to Nancy's story, Arnick threw in his cute factoid about car phone legislation, suggesting that, if she hadn't had a car phone, Nancy would not have heard from her husband, she would not have been upset and she would not have been speeding. Arnick grinned. Nancy was not amused. She paid a $55 fine.

Life is full of unkind truths. Here's one: Women like Nancy should never have to stand before judges like John Arnick, not even for a speeding ticket.

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