Colorful Judge Biery at eye of legal storm – San Antonio Express-News.
Colorful Judge Biery at eye of legal storm
Since Medina Valley ruling, he has heard threats and calls for ouster.
By Guillermo Contreras
Updated 02:18 a.m., Sunday, July 3, 2011
Federal Judge Fred Biery has issued rulings peppered with poems, laced with humor and sprinkled with references to baseball.
He once sent someone to jail for “aggravated stupidity” after the man uttered a four-letter profanity in court. When a prospective juror demanded to be paid $100 an hour for his service, Biery had a counteroffer: a “chauffered ride” by U.S. marshals to a contempt of court hearing.
The chief judge of the federal court system‘s Western District of Texas is no stranger to controversial legal fights, having ruled on toll roads, contamination of neighbors’ groundwater by the former Kelly AFB and San Antonio‘s attempts to regulate strip clubs.
But a recent case has drawn more than criticism — along with threats. There’s also a movement to oust him.
In a lawsuit filed in May by the parents of an agnostic student, Corwyn Schultz, the judge granted the family’s request for a temporary order barring organized public prayer at the Medina Valley High School graduation.
Appeals judges disagreed and allowed prayer at the ceremony in Castroville. But long after the prayers, pomp and circumstance, the fallout continues, with Biery as its target.
Biery’s rulings can be colorful, quoting from works of philosophy, theology — including religious scripture — and citing even more unusual authorities like songwriter James Taylor.
He occasionally titles them in blunt nonlegalese: “Righteous Indignation Order Concerning Shameful and Unscrupulous Greed by Two Physicians,” for example.
Biery’s summary of arguments in the form of poetry may seem flippant, and his actions to jail those who disrupt his court may seem extreme, but they’re within ethical and legal bounds, observers said.
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