“People don’t have a sense of humor anymore.”

This was the reaction of Los Angeles County Judge Harvey Giss to the public outrage stemming from his racist humor.

Last July during an off-the-record discussion about a possible plea bargain for two African-American defendants, Giss remarked that the only thing that would make the defendants agree to a plea was for the judge to “come out in a white sheet and a pointy white hat.”

While the judge may have thought his comments were hilarious, members of the defendants’ families did not. Two days later, the defense in the trial asked Giss to recuse himself because of the remark, claiming that the judge’s racial bias was inappropriate and could create adverse conditions for the defendants’ pursuit of justice.

Though he acknowledged that he made a “bad statement,” Giss refused to step down in the case, citing well, his opinion that people can’t take a joke the way they used to.” Giss eventually withdrew himself from the case facing public pressure and an investigation by California’s Commission on Judicial Performance.

This week, after hearings and deliberations, the commission publicly admonished Giss finding:

“Judge Giss should have known that his insensitive courtroom reference to a history of violence towards persons of the defendants’ ancestry, whether intended to make a valid point regarding his role as a judge or in jest, was offensive and inappropriate.”

Giss’ comments were racially insensitive at best and incredibly out of line. And while the punishment has been handed down, some have said the judge deserved a harsher punishment as the commission’s public admonishment amounts to nothing more than a scolding.

Tell us what you think Clutchettes: are the judge’s comments reprehensible or should he have been fired for his remarks?

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  • Alexandra

    Bad joke, especially from a judge. I wouldn’t want him overseeing any cases either.