BusinessWeek assistant managing editor and blogger Bruce Nussbaum may have been one of the 40 most powerful people in design (back in 2005), but he was no match for State Supreme Court Justice Edward J. McLaughlin.
In coverage of a group of lesbians on trial for allegedly beating up a straight man outside the IFC Center (best trial ever?), the Post mentioned that Nussbaum was removed from the jury. Apparently Nussbaum upset Justice McLaughlin for asking what kind of gang was involved, prompting McLaughlin to dismiss Nussbaum from the jury and make him wait in a Jury Room during the trial, missing testimony and courtroom antics that reportedly had a lot of laughs.
The NY Times spoke to Nussbaum and details the court transcripts, giving us a revealing look at the line between civic duty and self-concern:
Just what kind of gang was this, Mr. Nussbaum wanted to know, and should he take precautions to protect his wife, like sending her away to stay with friends?....
“So do you honestly feel you’re in a position to fairly evaluate this case in view of your mindset that your wife might be in danger from an organized group of violent lesbians?” Justice McLaughlin asked.
To which Mr. Nussbaum protested, “That’s not what I’m talking about, Judge.
“When you use, when one uses, the term ‘gay,’ it generates a number of connotations,” Mr. Nussbaum said, according to the official transcript, though yesterday he said he actually used the word “gang,” not gay, and that the transcript was incorrect.
“One of them that crossed my mind was, you know, a nationally organized gang, very powerful, that could reach out and try to influence members of the jury.”
The judge, who indicated in court papers that he believed Mr. Nussbaum was trying to evade jury duty, said: “You ‘did a bad thing,’ as the saying goes. You’re off the jury.”
We're a little fuzzy on the timeline, but it seems like this exchange may have come after the voir-dire (if someone knows otherwise - let us know), where Nussbam did admit he was part of a "local street gang" called Blubber's Gang during the 1960s on Eighth Street between C and D.
Nussbaum has filed a complaint with the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct. McLaughlin told the Times he had Nussbaum stay on because "you can’t be allowed just to play your trump card and go back to work, take your vacation, go home or whatever."