Two Great ISBA Member Benefits Sponsored by
ISBA Mutual Lawyers Malpractice Insurance
view counter
A Value of $1,344, Included with Membership
Free CLE
view counter
Fastcase
view counter

Justice Never Sleeps - But What if the Judge Does?

Practicing law can be an exhausting profession. Long workdays make it difficult to maintain a good work-life balance. The daily stress of practicing can be tiring, too. Sometimes it's almost impossible to keep your eyes open in court.

When an attorney dozes off, it can be a problem. But what about the rare occasions when a judge falls asleep on the bench? The third district recently handled an appeal brought by convicted spree-killer Nicholas Sheley, centering on a judge who nodded off during the trial. People v. Sheley, 2017 IL App (3d) 140659.

The Sheley court held that a judge falling asleep during the proceedings does not constitute per se reversible error. The court reasoned that a judge falling asleep does not rise to the level of structural error - i.e., one that "renders a criminal trial fundamentally unfair or an unreliable means of determining guilt or innocence." Id. at ¶ 16.

Sheley was based on a criminal trial - the focus was on the defendant's rights first and the judge's conduct only as it relates to whether the defendant got a fair trial. But what should a lawyer or other observer do when a judge falls asleep on the bench? Find out in the January Illinois Bar Journal.

Posted on January 3, 2018 by Mark S. Mathewson
Filed under: