Article 25

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Mark Painter

In Uncategorized on 05/04/2012 at 1:56 pm

Judge Mark Painter. Photo by Paul Davis

Resigning from the United Nations

By David Heitfield


Two unemployed white male baby boomers walk into a bar, while a third unemployed white male baby boomer awaits the full report.

That’s not a joke. That’s the story.

Characteristically, Mark Painter distinguishes himself from the others in his subset. For one thing, he recently resigned his position as the first American justice on the United Nations Appeals Tribunal three months before his three-year term expired. He was protesting the decision by some bureaucratic pinheads to not nominate him for a seven-year extension of his term, and he felt a literary allusion.

“Beware the Ides of March,” Painter deadpans. (His resignation letter is dated March 16; the first session of the Tribunal was March 15, 2010.)

He also evokes a memory of a bygone era, back when William F. Buckley was the face of the Republican intelligentsia, when political wit was somewhat more substantial than the gotcha lamestream media allows today.

An always well-coiffed and youthful-looking 65, Painter looks and sounds like someone who knows what he loves, does what he likes and loves where he lives. He almost conjures up an image of a Marcus Cincinnatus, living a life of civic virtue. A little work for the tribunal here, walk over to the academy to teach some wisdom to the youth, then over to the theater to lend a hand to the latest gig from Stratford.

The real Cincinnatus is best remembered for his abrupt resignation from his term as Roman dictator in 439 BCE, as the statue says: “With one hand he returns the fasces, a symbol of power as appointed dictator of Rome. His other hand holds the plow, as he resumes the life of a citizen and farmer.”

And while he won’t be farming, he won’t be returning to the life of a judge, either. Last year, Ohio voters rejected a state constitutional amendment that would have rescinded the mandatory 70-year-old retirement age for judges.

“You can’t be fired for being old for any other job,” Painter says. “Except for being a judge in the state of Ohio.”

Besides, he has no interest in running for the state supreme court, as he once did early in his career.

“Bob Taft screwed that up enough,” Painter says defiantly. “I’ve told him that.”

That leaves his work for the American Arbitration Association, serving on the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s Board of Trustees and other odd jobs. He’s entertaining other offers and recently turned down a carefully considered position to be the dean of a new law school in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

“Almaty means ‘the city of apples’,” Painter points out. “I guess Johnny Appleseed got there before he got here.”

There’s always a local tie. He’s like a Gannett editor’s wet dream.

In the end it came down to $12,000 flights home, 300 days away a year and – just to remind you he’s a Republican – taxes. “UC doesn’t take two days to get there” being another reason.

Painter is doing a few things in private practice, his first opportunity for private practice in 30 years, although he has no desire to practice in Hamilton County.

“No telling who you’ll get as a judge,” he explains.

And no current desire to run for mayor, either, although he ruffles at the thought of Charlie Luken ever holding that job again.

As the first American elected by the U.N. General Assembly to serve on the new tribunal overseeing the disputes of 60,000 U.N. employees (Painter once said, “It’s basically an employment court”), Painter was one of three judges to draw the short straw to serve a three-year term instead of the typical seven-year term, in order to create staggered seven-year terms. The three judges were then congratulated by their peers because they would, in effect, be the only judges to serve 10-year terms.

Instead, the Internal Justice Council refused to re-nominate Painter and the judge from India for a seven-year term. (The French judge, the third-three year appointment, somehow escaped the purge.)

Painter is clearly proud of his work on the Appeals Tribunal – he says they produced 150 cases without a dissent, contrasting with about 15 percent of appellate cases he dissented on in his tenure on the Ohio First District Court of Appeals.

He was understandably upset when a new international position he was expected to form and shape until he was 72 was cut short by seven years. Press releases declared, “The U.N. reform initiative has lost its way. It has been subverted by the (Internal Justice Council’s) apparent desire to remove those jurists who insist on adhering to the rule of law.”

Of course, given that all their decisions were unanimous anyway, how does removing only two of the judges change anything?

Honestly, to me, it sounds like a suspicious conspiracy. As hard as it is to believe, there was a conspiracy involved when I left my job. It didn’t involve the Rule of Law so much as Office Politics and Fear, but there you go.

And, as coincidence would have it, the editor of this paper who arranged this meeting, yeah, he was the victim of a conspiracy at his last job, too. Political Correctness or some such thing.

It’s just important to remember what we’ve learned about neuroplasticity in the past 10 years, that the brain can continue to grow despite aging as long as a person stays active. When I see someone like Judge Mark Painter, I can’t help but be a little sad that Ohio makes old judges retire.

Of course, while it might be against the law to fire people for being old in other jobs, employers seem to have become quite adept at firing (or not hiring), older people for no reason at all. Or maybe just because they hate the Rule of Law.

Rock on, Marcus Cincinnatus.Image


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