Columns & Stories]
All Rise For Judge Bobby Knight
By ANDY THIBAULT, Columnist
Law Tribune Newspapers
October 2, 2000
Bobby Knight needed a job.
Knight, recently ousted from his post as coach of
the University of Indiana basketball team, wanted a spot where he might
only have to murmur, " Show me some respect." He had grown tired
of throwing potted plants at framed pictures. He wanted a place where
manners and civility really counted.
Of course, if Knight wanted to enforce his own
"zero-tolerance" policy, it would be good to have his own
Praetorian Guard carry out the mission. Guy and gal weightlifters and
maybe a few good old boys would be nice.
That's when Knight heard there were openings for
Superior Court judges in Connecticut. He prepared carefully and sent his
application to the Judicial Selection Commission. Here's what happened.
Patience was in order. It couldn't happen right
away. Knight learned this after just a little bit of research. He found
that in some states the voters elect judges, but in Connecticut, three or
four votes make all the difference in the world. The votes that really
count include the chairman of the Judicial Selection Commission, one or
two political leaders who
might or might not be on the commission, and the governor.
Knight didn't want to serve 10 or 15 years in the
Legislature making nice to other judges. None of his college roommates or
home-town pals were among the real voters. So he visited a few judicial
districts to discover the best route.
First stop was chambers of a judge affectionately
known as "Melon Head."
"They said I couldn't make it 30 days on my
own, but I showed 'em," Melon Head told Knight. "I called Lew
Rome's office three times a week for three years begging to get a robe.
Finally, Rome got sick of me, palmed me off on Tulisano, and here I
Knight learned that Melon Head had a pretty good
situation. Most lawyers were afraid to try cases in front of Melon Head.
Melon Head didn't want to try cases unless he absolutely had to. The
settlement statistics for Melon
Head's court were very impressive.
"This is looking better all the time,"
Next stop, the Public Defender's office.
"I was almost indicted for disappearing with
a state car," Slick told Knight. "They say I can't walk down the
hall without bumping my head on the floor. Now I tell those other lawyers
what it really means to administer justice."
Knight reflected before going on to his last
"This is just like coaching basketball in
Indiana," the coach thought. "If fear and greed rule the
marketplace, the courthouse is just like the basketball court: fear and
power are the two driving forces."
Maximum Bill's chambers was the final destination
before Operation Judge Knight got off the ground.
"Even when I don't know what I'm doing,
which is a lot of the time, it's not really a problem," Maximum Bill
told Knight. "I just ask the lawyers how to proceed, right in open
court. If I get flustered, I just bang the gavel and yell 35 years.
Doesn't even matter what the crime is!"
Turns out some of the powerhouse law firms were
fans of Knight. They made the right phone calls and the right donations.
Knight passed muster at Judicial Selection and sailed through
confirmation. He became the latest gift to the judiciary from the The Big
Once on the bench, Knight didn't even have to
threaten to throw chairs. Once, however, a lawyer dared to object to a
ruling. "I don't care what the ruling of the Supreme Court is,"
Knight said, "this is my ruling. Objection overruled. And next time,
call me Mr. Judge Knight."