Irk Judge, Get Time-Out Chair

Booted off grand jury, man sits on bench 3 days every other week, 7 hours a day; legal experts say order may be out of line.

DETROIT -- On Thursday, William Schramm of West Bloomfield reported to the Detroit federal courthouse, sat all day on a hallway bench and stared at the wall.

It's the same way the 31-year-old retirement planner has spent his Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays every other week since the end of January.

Schramm is charged with no crime but is serving an unusual and indefinite sentence for allegedly lying to a federal judge.

When Schramm, who is self-employed, balked at sitting on a grand jury, Chief U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman told him he wouldn't have to serve. He would, however, have to sit on the first-floor bench every day the jury sits. He wouldn't be allowed to read. And he wouldn't receive the $40-a-day pay or the mileage reimbursement jurors get for trips to the Detroit courthouse.

Legal experts say Friedman's order -- which was not put in writing and did not result from finding Schramm in contempt of court -- is highly unusual and of questionable legality.

"My initial impression is this is an incredible abuse on the part of the judge," said Ralph Lindeman, a lawyer and justice reporter with legal publisher BNA Inc. in Washington, D.C., who spent 15 years as a Department of Justice trial attorney. Schramm "is effectively being imprisoned and there has been no process to determine whether the judge has made the right kind of call."

Friedman said he has inherent authority to administer justice that is not spelled out in any specific statute.

Details here from the Detroit News. (via Bashman)