This is how to become a judge: go to law school, play a little golf, cut some checks to the right foundations and political campaigns and voila! One appointment later you’re a well-compensated dispenser of justice.
Note that none of these activities prove you are someone unusually qualified to arbitrate on matters of law. Just that you're well-connected.
Keep a low profile, don’t piss anybody off and the job is essentially yours for life.
While the rest of us do the work of several and sweat the vagaries of shareholder dividends and corporate profit margins as related to the company payroll, Cook County circuit court judges like James Obbish merely have to breathe.
Inhale, exhale. Yeah, it’s good to be judge.
Perhaps it’s too good. Maybe a life spent on golf courses and at lavish fund-raisers is so far removed from the increasingly-grim realities of life in the 21st century that one becomes detached. Isolated. Out of touch. Perspective is warped.
Which might be the only way to explain Obbish’s decision in the Kyle Voissem case.
Kyle Voissem is a twenty-one year-old man who, after his puppy had urinated on the floor, threw a pot of scalding water on it. The mountain cur puppy suffered second and third-degree burns on more than half its body as a result.
Instead of Judge Obbish seeing this as (at best) an inappropriate expression of anger and (at worst) the path at least one criminologist cites as the first indication of a serial killer within, Obbish lashed out at animal-rights groups.
Obbish sided with Voissem’s attorney, saying that as a result of their campaigning, Voissem was now saddled with an “internet tattoo” which precludes him from landing gainful employment.
Ensconced in his judicial cocoon, Judge Obbish is unaware of our current recession. He is ignorant of the fact that millions of people—with and without tattoos—are unable to find work. And that animal rights groups have very, very little to do with it.
I don’t belong to the anti-cruelty society. I don’t go out in my car and collect stray cats and dogs. I’m not even a vegetarian. But Voissem's appalling cruelty should be crystal clear to all—especially a judge.
We’ve all muttered “I’m gonna kill him”, or words to that effect under our breath. But very, very few of us have acted on them.
There is a world of difference between entertaining a fleeting thought and lifting a pot of boiling water, taking aim and discharging its contents on the four-legged equivalent of an infant.
Let’s be clear Judge Obbish—Kyle Voissem isn’t the victim here. The puppy who peed on the floor is.
This is the creature who suffered. Not the selfish, unfeeling young man who dissolved into a tower of rage because a mere animal had inconvenienced him.
You get that, right?
Does Kyle Voissem have any idea of the indignities that life has in store for him? And more to the point—is he even equipped to deal with them?
The fact that Obbish let the conduct of animal rights groups determine his decision is an act as disturbing as Voissem’s.
Commenting on the “organized campaign to destroy a human being” Obbish asked “Is everyone out there so perfect that they never made a mistake, never reacted in anger?"
Sure, Judge. But it didn’t involve inflicting third-degree burns on a puppy.
What’s next? Letting serial rapists off the hook because they’re getting bad press?
Finally, in Obbish’s infinite empathy for the unemployed Kyle Voissem and his internet tattoo, Obbish wouldn’t even prevent Voissem from owing a pet while on probation.
Wow. Let me think about that one.
I can't help but wonder how Obbish would react if he had a daughter and Kyle Voissem expressed a desire to date her.
Think words like “No way scumbag! You keep your dog-scalding hands off her or I’ll put you so deep in prison they’ll need to pump air to you!” would find their way into the conversation?
While I’m not inclined to believe Voissem should spend the rest of his life in prison (three-months in a minimum-security facility sounds about right), a year’s probation which fails to even keep Kyle Voissem from owning another dog seems wildly and extravagantly generous.
As does reappointment for Judge Obbish when his current term expires June 30, 2015.
I’ve got my calendar marked.