This Judge who forced lawyers to appear in person is now dead
This Judge who forced lawyers to appear in person despite the coronavirus pandemic is now dead, according to a news story in The New York Daily News.
Johnny Lee Baynes, a judge in Brooklyn since 2005, died on Thursday of pneumonia related to the novel coronavirus outbreak that has plagued New York City and the world. He was 64 years old.
Dozens of lawyers, court officers and clerks crowded onto the wooden benches in Judge Johnny Lee Baynes’ courtroom on March 12 as they waited for the judge to hear cases at his calendar call, the busiest day of his week.
When one lawyer complained that social distancing guidelines weren’t being followed in the jam-packed Brooklyn Supreme Court courtroom, Baynes fired back.
“If you don’t like it, you can leave,” the lawyer recalled Baynes telling her.
It was his last appearance on the bench. Two weeks later, the judge was dead of complications related to coronavirus.
Baynes became a Housing Court judge in 1993 and joined the bench in Brooklyn after he was elected to the New York City Civil Court in 2005. He was named an acting Supreme Court justice in Kings County, and in 2011 he won an election for a 14-year term to the Kings County Supreme Court. Prior to joining the bench, he was a staff attorney for the NYC Housing Authority as well as District Council 37 and the Municipal Employees Legal Services Plan.
When I posted this story on my Facebook page, several people snickered, and the words “justice” and “karma” appeared more than once.
Don Corleone would not have called this “justice,” as he explained to Bonasera. In the opening scene of The Godfather, the undertaker asks Don Corleone to avenge the brutal beating of his daughter by killing the perpetrators. That is not justice, says the Godfather. Your daughter is still alive.
I cannot call it justice that Judge Baynes is dead, and that the coronavirus is what killed him.
But I have learned that justice, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.