back to article US judge debenched for jailing entire courtroom

A US judge who jailed an entire courtroom because no one would cough to being the owner of a ringing mobile phone has been removed from the bench by a commission on judicial conduct. Judge Robert Restaino, 48, was hearing a domestic violence case in Niagara Falls on 11 March 2005 when he heard the offending phone and "snapped …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    And the phone was ......

    His I expect, probably changed his ringtone by accient and didnt realise.

  2. Lychee66
    Thumb Up

    Re-instate the man immediately

    We need more like him

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems perfectly reasonable to me...

    ... they should just count themselves lucky it wasn't Judge Jefferys -they would all be hanging from the gibbet by now.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Madam, I'm Adam

    Robert Restaino sounds like an anagram of something. Restrain booter? Er, robot stainer? Oo, brain tester?

    I choose Shilton Parii as my avatar.

  5. Joe Harrison

    @Lychee66 your wish is granted

    I can't understand why we need more people who are fine with declaring their own non-existent authority and jailing people at random even though they haven't done anything. But each to their own... I hereby order you to turn yourself in at the nearest police station. Happy now?

  6. Andrew Moore

    Properly named...

    Judge Robert Restraino

  7. Drum D.

    Good man

    US judges complain about this ruling not having a legal basis? WTF is their president doing ALL the time? Starting wars, injail people in Guantanamo. They should rather argue about the legal basis for those actions, instead of sacking some judge in the midlife crisis who tries to put some sense in a few stoopids' heads

  8. Dan Paul
    Thumb Up

    They WERE Warned!

    Take it from me, I live near Niagara Falls, NY and in EVERY courtroom I have ever been in, the judge warns people that cell phones are NOT allowed to be on and that people will be charged with "Contempt" if they use them in the courtroom.

    Cell phones are a major disturbance in public and Judge Restaino was perfectly within his rights. The judge is literally "God" in his courtroom.

    If any judge backs down after repeated warnings like Restaino gave, who would follow his or her orders?

    This was an object lesson that needed to be made to maintain the authority and order of the court system, not "madness".

  9. Tawakalna

    Lord Chief Justice Cocklecarrot...

    ..."get the following dwarves out of my court! Scorpion de Rooftrouser, Cleveland Zackhouse, Frums Gillygottle, Edeledel Edel, Churm Rincewind, Sophus Barkayo-Tong, Amaninter Axling, Guttergorm Guttergormpton, Badly Oronparser, Listenis Youghaupt, Molonay Tubilderborst and Farjole Merrybody."

    (but Wivens is a cat, Your Honour!)

  10. Mark

    Silly way to go about it

    He should have just cleared the court and told them to wait outside his courthouse unless they don't have a mobile phone.

    There was no need to jail anyone. Then again, there was no need to be in the court either, apart from the actors involved in the case (juries et al).

  11. this

    Prurient interest

    yes, but did they get the phone? I think we should be told - even if it's just to round off the story...

  12. cor

    Well he misjudged that one.

    - He'll have to solicit for a new job now.

  13. Kenny Millar

    I don't see the problem here?

    Anyone whose phone rings in public, and won't own up should be jailed anyway.

  14. Spleen

    Not the only loony American judge

    Don't know why this guy was sacked. There are American judges who make a habit and a PR career from medieval-style arbitrary sentencing (google "creative sentencing" and flick through the local news results), ordering petty criminals to walk behind donkeys or similar silliness in order to humiliate them. And most people seem to think that returning to the era of the scold's bridle and ducking stool is a good thing, or at least funny enough it should trump the rule of law.

    The job of a judge is to ensure a fair trial, not to pander to the media or popular bugbears.

  15. yeah, right.

    Damn good ruling

    I'd say it was a damn good ruling. Mobile phones are a curse, and should be treated as the evil they are. They are the front line in psychological warfare for the ROTM. Drive the humans crazy, and the machines will have an easier time taking over.

    The article does not say if the phone in question was ever found.


    Dear Drum D

    This is a civil judicial matter and what the #(&#( does what the Feds do in Guantanamo have to do with it. This was a judge that was stepping outside of his powers. Man some people can't tell you the weather without bring up the President. Do not get me wrong....I have a very, very long laundry list of things that the President is doing wrong.

    Hm? Can't think of a President that I didn't have some sort of laundry list of things I didn't agree with, can you? I think anyone that agrees with a President 100% of the time has drank the cool aid.

    Oh and BTW, a sitting President can not just start a war without the involvement of the other branches of government. I think there are even some running for President that voted for this war but of course denial is now running rampant.

  17. Chris Bradshaw

    stupid judge...

    He should have asked the court to point in the direction they heard the mobile ring from - there would probably be a pretty good consensus and the security goons would only have to search a few people...

    Or he could have just relaxed and asked for a recess, during which everyone made sure their mobiles were off...

    But, if he really doesn't like ringing mobes*, he should get a jammer... :-)

    * now allowed, AFAIK

  18. Ivan Headache

    He should have had

    one of them there do-hickys.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Ashley Pomeroy

    It's not an avatar. It's an icon indicating the general tone of the comment. Don't worry though, you're not the only person that can't cope with anything that isn't phpbb.

  20. Grimmup North

    H2G2 moment

    Truth is beauty, beauty is truth. The judge decided that life was in fact was in fac neither beautiful or true and thereby had it removed from all those present.

    My coat awaits, it's been nice knowing you....

  21. Anonymous Coward

    How long does US justice take?

    11th March 2005? I wonder what he's been up to for the last 30 months!

    Dead Vulture

    They are not God

    To the poster that said, "Judges are God in the courtroom." They may want you to think that but it really isn't true. Oh they may have power to use but if they use it in the wrong manner....well ask this judge. Actually (Judges hate this) but in the courtroom the power is in the jury. Not the judges, not the attorney but the jury.

    Both attorneys and judges like to keep us fooled that "they" are the ones in charge. Full of it they are!

  23. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Don't see what the problem is

    Given that the US is on a rampage as far as personal freedoms are concerned, I cannot see why this is a problem. Frankly it's a case of left hand not knowing what right hand is doing.

    And Dubya is obviously a perfect example to drag in (again). After all, he's the one setting examples.

    So war cannot be declared by the President alone ? And ? Is that supposed to mean that the muppets would have actually had the balls to go against it ? Of course not, As far as I remember, the war was approved at a dictatorship-like 90-something percent, with only a few abstentions which were commented on as end-of-career decisions. NOBODY said no to the war. Not one. So anyone who says otherwise is a liar.

    But hey, what else do you expect from politicians ?

  24. Luke Wells
    Paris Hilton

    what ringtone?

    What ringtone drove a judge that mad? Maybe it was Crazy Frog?

  25. Stuart Gray

    Another lift from the BBC News website

    Has anyone else noticed the "special relationship" that seems to exist between the BBC News and El Reg? General news starts on the Beeb, ends up here, tech news appears here first, pops up on El Beeb later the same day?

    If I didn't know betterm I'd say there was a conspiracy...


  26. Tawakalna

    in a British courtroom, however..'s likely that Lord Chief Justice Cocklecarrot wouldn't even have known what a "mo-billphone" or a "rington" were.

    "Clerk of the Court, what exactly is a mobile phone?"

    "a modern personal portable communications device, Your Honour, I understand that they are popular with young people and the beatnik crowd"

    "good gracious, whatever next? anyway, guilty!"

  27. Les Matthew

    Who will be first to give him

    a ringing endorsement?

  28. cor

    (The) Justice was done.

    After 'barring' everyone.

  29. Chad H.


    The key words you seem to be missing are "No legal basis".

    Legal basis is legal basis in any courtroom. That some folks dont care when theres no legal basis sometimes, but does care at others is exactly the point he's making. Civil, Criminal, Familly, the court doesnt matter, its Hippocracy.

  30. ChrB
    Paris Hilton

    So let's restrain from the US

    God I'm glad not to life in the US of A!

    They jail you en masse because some twit keeps the mob(il)e running in court.

    Or they taser you to death for whatever reason.

    Or sack you for whatever reason (remember the teacher being sacked for pr0n on the school's pc).

    No Sir, no more holidays in the states for me, then. Land of the Free? - gone.

    choosing PH 'cause she does not taser or jail. Just suck, that is.

  31. Joe Stalin

    Mobile Music

    Sitting on a bus or train while some muppet blasts their crap music through a god awful tinny speaker on their mobile phone is damded annoying. I'm quite happy to see the folk tied to the rail track (Eurostar high speed connection) and then sell tickets for the event. The Judge has my full support.

  32. Phil

    @ Joe Stalin

    So you would be quite happy to find your entire bus/train jailed (including yourself) ???

  33. Anonymous Coward

    @Chad H

    I, for one, welcome the arrival of our houyhnhnm masters

  34. Walter Brown

    @Drum D

    @Drum D

    You seem to think that our president just woke up one morning and said, hmmm... seems like a good day to flatten iraq and ordered our military in to action, taking hostage random people and torturing them.

    thats now how it went, the president was given a signed declaration of war issued by congress, based on real and credible information that a hostile rouge nation and state sponsor of terror possessed weapons of mass destruction and would likely use them against his people (as he did twice before) or supply them to terrorists groups, the same terrorist groups that has carried out attacks on not only the US but the UK, Spain and many other nations. the media claims that these WMD's were never found, the truth is, they have been found, not in some big huge warehouse, but in small amounts scattered throughout iraq, to the tune of 3 times the amount initially reported to congress, they refuse to report this though, that would make them look bad!

    whats sad is the world takes what the media says as gospel and jumps on the president bashing bandwagon, it goes to show how stupid the general public really is. If you want to know the truth, all you have to do is look for it, its there, readily available and easy to find, all you have to do is look.

  35. Mike Moyle
    Thumb Up

    @ AC; Re: @Chad H

    If this keyboard shorts out from the coffee that I just blorted over it while laughing, it's going to be all your fau...¢‹ÎUH8F^%√§&&*()))˚˚º≠≠=g§ƒ......................................

  36. James Pickett


    Dr Strabismus, I presume...

  37. Walter Brown


    "in the courtroom the power is in the jury. Not the judges, not the attorney but the jury"

    That statement couldnt be more wrong, every state in the union has laws on the books granting Judges the power to vacate a juries guilty verdict and enter his own verdict if he feels the verdict is not consistent with the evidence presented or if the evidence itself tainted or inaccurate. most judge dont like to exercise this power, but some do, some very interesting situations have come from judges vacating guilty verdicts on the spot. the only power the jury holds over the judge is on an acquittal, no states allow judges to throw out not guilty verdicts, if the jury fails to convict, thats the end of it.

    Judges also have the power to change the final charge the jury agrees upon in cases of open ended charges such as murder / manslaughter where the jury decides what level of crime the defendant is guilty of.

  38. Stuart Gray

    @Walter Brown

    Oh come on! WMD found "in small amounts scattered throughout iraq, [sic] to the tune of 3 times the amount initially reported to congress", and you say "they refuse to report this though, that would make them look bad!". I am sure that Fox News, Sky News would LOVE to report this, if it were true, so close are they to the Republican opinion. Even the BBC would report it, as they are (still) fairly unbiased. The fact is, NO weapons of mass destruction have been found, in any kind of quantities.

    And what exactly is a "rouge" country? One that has turned a little red?


  39. Morely Dotes

    @ ChrB

    "Or sack you for whatever reason (remember the teacher being sacked for pr0n on the school's pc)."

    Yes, being sacked is so much worse than being jailed and possibly whipped because you allowed your class full of children to name a teddy bear, isn't it?

    Barbarian savages running entire nations in the Middle East, and we hear cretins criticising our self-admitted problems, and *don't* cut off their hands, or heads, or beat them in public. Whatever can we be thinking? We should conform to *their* ideas of justice!

    Which would mean nuking their cities until there was nothing left but radioactive glass. Hmm. I suppose that's what they want, though.

  40. RK

    @pascal monett

    actually, your assertion that NO ONE voted against the resolution giving Dubya the "de facto" authorization to invade Iraq is INCORRECT. Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, CA voted 'NO' on the resolution, and was the only one for quite a while to consistently vote against our Little Caesar and his hypocritical, corrupt cronies controlling Congress at the time. Dennis Kucinich eventually came round as well, and now that the Democrats aren't QUITE as afraid as they were for 3 years after 9/11, more of them are standing up to the crooks, but only in matters that sidestep any opportunity for Rethuglicans to call them "weak" or "soft" or "flippy-floppy" or whatever the groupthink term of the week is.

    but, that aside, those of you asserting there should be more judges like this and that he is "God" in his courtroom and that sort of NONSENSE all seem to be enamored of this idea that authority derives from itself or "rightness" or whatever, rather than from people, which is contrary to the fundamental principles of the the Magna Carta and U.S. Constitution (as well as those of other countries) and the basic beliefs that underlie it, like "the rule of law". it's sad to me that people continue to romanticize the idea of power for its own sake and wanton misuse of it to deprive people of their rights, because you underline the fact that we've learned little from all the bloodshed, cruelty, wasted lives, and wasted resources our history.

    stop for a bit and consider how this man interrupted peoples' lives. some of them undoubtedly had children they couldn't attend to or perhaps meetings or other committments for work that they couldn't keep. there were probably financial impacts for these people (even simple things like parking fines and the like) -- through no fault of their own and all because some judge let being "God" in his courtroom go to his head.

    i don't like cellphones all that much either, but there's a lot of leeway in deciding how to deal with a situation like this (perhaps the person simply FORGOT to turn it off) that don't involve taking it to an extreme like this.

  41. david

    Why not jam it?

    A jamming device can do so, if ringing is THAT bad in the courtroom. Does anyone know whether jamming is illegal in US?

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @Walter Brown

    "the truth is, they have been found"

    Ha ha ha ha...

    "a hostile rouge nation"

    Ha ha ha please stop....

    "to the tune of 3 times the amount initially reported to congress, they refuse to report this though"

    omfg ha ha ha genius...

    You are joking right?

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You got to be kidding

    "based on real and credible information that a hostile rouge nation and state sponsor of terror possessed weapons of mass destruction"

    I may never stop laughing at the out and out naivete of the above, real, credible totally false information, that any thinking person knew to be false at the time. As for the ludicrous claim they were found, if that was so president stupid would be screaming it to the media all the time, why would he cover it up?

    However in the light of your beliefs you may be interested in a large coat hangar shaped bridge I have for sale here in Australia.

    I would call you a moron, but that would be insulting to self respecting morons.

  44. Ivan Headache

    @ Walter Brown

    They couldn't even find the sugar in Iraq .

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Why did it take over 2 years to give this nitwit the boot?

    Seriously. Over 2 years! What does a judge have to do to be debenched immediately? Stab someone in court?

    For those who say "they all deserved it", imagine that you are sitting on a train, and some police come in, and declare "we smell marijuana, someone here has been smoking illegal drugs, who is it?". No one owns up. You are then arrested with everyone else on the train, and sent to prison.

    That is PRECISELY what happened in this case: just swap "illegal drugs" for "phone". I wouldn't be surprised if civil suits for wrongful arrest are brought because of this case; I'd certainly consider it if I was treated in such a dreadful manner.

    The problem with cases like this is that they erode public trust in the judiciary, and in the long term, public trust is really the only thing keeping the judiciary and executive separate (constitutions have a way of changing).

  46. Darren7160


    I find it fascinating that some see no problem with this, "Because the person had their phone on in court." or some other inane logic. People, please! The issue is penalizing ALL people based upon the actions of one! Duh!

    Has logic and common sense suffered so terribly in such a short period of time? It makes me want to cry that some are so anxious to PUNISH people that they couldn't care less about the rationality or the lack of limits.

    This is the same exact mentality that lead us into Iraq! No rational person, based upon the evidence presented, could see a connection between Iraq and 9-11, or terrorism or anything else. However, like spoiled immature children, this country wanted to strike out in blind rage...

    Really, it isn't cute, it isn't witty or anything else. It is nothing more than a childish response to push everyone because you are unable or cowardly unable to deal with the real trouble maker.

  47. Mr Larrington
    Paris Hilton

    Long long ago...

    ...when I was a small Mr Larrington, this sort of thing went on all the time at my skool. Never did me any $&*()%^** NO CARRIER

    I'm sure it wouldn't have been beyond the wit of man to have all present searched, their phones examined and the owner of the one with the "Missed Call" wossname flashing balefully to be taken out behind the bins and given a good kicking, but judges the world over are renowned for their tenuous grip on reality...

  48. A J Stiles

    Simple Solution

    There's a simple solution to the problem of mobile phones ringing unwantedly.

    Radio waves cannot travel through anything that conducts electricity -- and neither can they pass through a hole smaller than about a tenth of a wavelength in said conductive material.

    A thin layer of metal mesh (earthed just to make sure) in the walls and across the windows would keep the signal out. Mobile phones work in the 1.8GHz band, giving a wavelength of 16.6cm. So the mesh could have gaps up to 16mm. and still block telephones.

    (By stating this in a public forum, I have automatically rendered the idea unpatentable. Lester Haines is welcome to wave a printout of this comment in the face of any patent troll while screaming "PRIOR ART!!!")

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    USA 11-2

    @Walter et al

    WMDs? WTF? Whatever... you lost - get over it. (and yes it is over you just don't know it yet)

  50. Doug Bird

    Bad Physics

    >"Radio waves cannot travel through anything that conducts electricity" :

    um. ever use an antenna?

  51. Stratman

    Why should the perp fess up?

    Notwithstanding my pathological hatred of bros playing tinny rap music on their (stolen) phone or 'look at me I'm really important' prats braying into their iPhoney in confined public places, I find myself siding with the ringtone renegade here.

    They were in a court of law, so presumably the full nitpickityness of said law applies. The judge asked whos phone rang yet nowhere in any report was there any mention of a caution. The guilty party was completely within his (or her) rights not to self incriminate.

    On a different tack, has El Reg found a replacement for the fabled Amazonian Butterfly of flapping wing fame? Namely a phone rings in Naigra Falls and there is all-out war in the Middle East.

  52. Darkside

    Go on - I dare you

    Name a teddy bear after him!

  53. JC

    About time

    It's about time people started learning how to act responsibly and this judge did the right thing. Others in the courtroom had opportunity to point out who had the phone or at least narrow the suspects but they did not, after being warned.

    What is it with fools these days thinking they'll do whatever they want without any regard for the impact on others? A little civility and effort to maintain order is manditory for us all to get along.

  54. Dan Paul
    Thumb Up

    @About Time; @Read the Story; @Stratman

    Hey Michael, Didn't you ever have one jerk in school do something that everyone else got punished for? Oh, I get it... you were that little twerp shooting the Nun in the back of the head with the spitballs. Nice, made me miss my field trip, prick!

    Same idea applies here, if the judge could not strip search every person in the court to find the offending phone and search each phone for the time the phone rang, the next best thing is to make the other non offenders tattle on the one that let the phone ring by sending them all to jail for contempt of court. Too bad that didn't work.

    This was not an abuse of power, it was an attempt to catch the jerk that disobeyed the orders of the court. You do not f#ck with the court, boy.

    The judge shouldn't have been benched, he should get a medal. If you let these little turds get a leg up in a Judges Courtroom, there will be complete chaos just like there is in our schools. No one should be able countermand the judges authority in his court. That sure doesn't happen in Britain now does it?

    Now let our teachers do the same thing and we might have some order in the world.

    Hey JC, Great comment, right on the money. Personally, I'd like to see the Cat o' Nine Tails return for punishing irresponsible little twats who don't give a damn about others or their property. That'd make 'em think twice.

    Hey Stratman, Dude... There is ALWAYS A FRIKKIN CAUTION IN A US COURTROOM TO TURN OFF THE GODDAM CELLPHONES. Even the laywers will go to jail for "contempt of court". I have seen an unprepared laywer get cuffed for not heeding the warning of a judge (upon granting yet another stay), "Be prepared when you come back to court".

  55. Michael

    Due Process

    A significant problem with the judge's behavior is that it denied "due process of law" to the visitors in the courtroom.

    Fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution: "...nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..."

    Laws are enacted by legislatures; sometimes by a chief executive (Governor, President). Judges interpret law, but they are not entitle to *make* law and they most certainly are not *the* law.

    Presumption of innocence was also violated.

    Great Britain also has a presumption of innocence concept that appears to be in a state of challenge:

    As has been mentioned, I believe the proper thing to have done was clear the courtroom; a thing that *is* entirely within the Judge's jurisdiction.

  56. Seán


    Note that none of the lawyers, cops, court officials, gaolers did a thing except obey orders. Only one of the victims raised a complaint. What a nation of cowardly lickspittles.

  57. Tricia Pulley

    They DID protest!

    Read the scathing report for this judge's removal and you'll see descriptions of several people who protested that this was unfair:

    In the USA we call this unlawful imprisonment. These individuals were robbed of their liberty. I especially feel for the person who begged to be incarcerated later so that he could pick up his little girl from school.

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