Mimesis Law
19 January 2020

Defending Judge Durham’s Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

June 24, 2016 (Fault Lines) — We mustn’t forget, even in our outraged moments, that judges are people too.  Though they wear black robes, our three resident jurists at Fault Lines have lives, feelings and, on extremely rare occasions, tempers, just like those of us absent the privilege of uttering those magical words, “motion denied.”  That’s why I have total empathy for Judge Bryant Durham Jr. losing his cool with Defendant Denver Fenton Allen during a hearing last week.

A transcript of the hearing made its way around the internet this week and read like something out of a bad legal comedy.  There’s always a terrible defendant in a judge’s courtroom, and there’s always the temptation to put that one bad apple in his place.  Judge Durham Jr, starting the hearing with complete decorum, eventually losing it when Denver Allen failed to grasp “the right to an attorney” didn’t mean “the right to the attorney you want to pick.”  Allen is on trial for allegedly murdering another inmate at the Floyd County Jail, so when Judge Durham advised Allen going pro se could be the biggest mistake of his life, it was sound advice.

Allen’s response was to “find himself in contempt.”  That’s usually a power exclusively granted to judges for contumacious acts, violating orders in or outside court. But Durham bestowed a sentence of twenty days on Allen for pissing him off, promising to add more time for anything else he might have to say.  The following exchange is best read with the role of Judge Durham Jr. played by R. Lee Ermey and Denver Allen voiced by Jim Varney.


The hearing escalated into murder threats against Judge Durham and his family, and unfortunately for the jurist, he made some comments that could land him in hot water with Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission.  I truly hope nothing bad comes from this exchange.  We’re all human, and when provoked by stupid, humans are prone to say stupid things and take stupid actions.

As Judge Durham Jr. muses in the hearing, “You have a constitutional right to be a dumbass.”  Both men were at somewhat less than their civil best last week while exercising this right.  Let’s hope this moment of incivility doesn’t tarnish an otherwise fine judge’s career or cost him his job.



If we need empathy for Judge Aaron Persky, we certainly need empathy for Judge Bryant Durham Jr.  A momentary lapse of stoicism, when faced with an unreasonable idiot, is completely understandable, even if injudicious.

20 Comments on this post.

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  • Daniel Partain
    24 June 2016 at 2:03 pm - Reply

    As a postscript to this incident, Judge Durham has recused himself from Mr. Allen’s case, after this exchange. The Chief Judge for the circuit is handling Mr. Allen’s case now.

  • losingtrader
    24 June 2016 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    Encouraging Allen to jack off in the court room ? Hmm. Nothing to read there.

    The exchange did make me wonder whether, indeed, the only document appointed counsel possessed was the indictment…one week before the trial.

    • TMM
      27 June 2016 at 11:35 am - Reply

      Not sure what defense counsel had. Probably had more if he was having a mental exam done — psychologists and psychiatrists generally want to review defense report. Court never directly asked the parties what discovery had been provided or figure out what documents had been provided to defendant by counsel. Hearing was mostly an attempt to clarify that defendant did not have right to pick a specific public defender and to conduct a Faretta hearing.

  • wilbur
    24 June 2016 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    I know it would be difficult for me to be a judge. Keeping your cool under circumstances like this require a special temperament … ahh yes, a judicial temperament.
    I think it’s fair to say we pay judges to rise above such nonsense. As I said, I’m not sure I could.

  • Brad
    25 June 2016 at 8:25 am - Reply

    I wonder if Allen is a murderer or whether he acted in self-defense. If it is the latter, and especially if he knows that the screws know he acted in self-defense, then I can kind of understand his frustration.

    • TMM
      27 June 2016 at 11:33 am - Reply

      Reading the transcript (page 3), it appears that the defendant has a potential mental disease defense which counsel was investigating (and a psychiatrist had confirmed).

  • DaveL
    25 June 2016 at 10:04 am - Reply

    It sounds like Mr. Wyatt ended up having “one of those days” himself. It can’t be a good day for a defense attorney when your client has a knock-down, drag-out shouting match with the judge on the subjects of fellatio and buggery.

  • How not to behave in court | Sidebar for Plaintiffs
    25 June 2016 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    […] Source: Defending Judge Durham’s Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day […]

  • cavenewt
    27 June 2016 at 11:11 am - Reply

    As a regular citizen just reading the transcript, I found myself feeling for the defendant. The judge never addressed his complaints about not getting documents. That would certainly contribute to his escalating frustration and complaints about being in a kangaroo court.

    • me
      28 June 2016 at 10:44 am - Reply

      i actually agree…i certainly dont condone what he was saying and threatening to murder children with a hammer is disgusting, but the first few exchanges i felt the defendant has legitimate issues with his attorney and all the judge had to do was grant him a new public defender…

      • DaveL
        29 June 2016 at 10:32 am - Reply

        You felt it was plausible that the PD had actually demanded to perform fellatio on Mr. Allen? Or that he had somehow compelled doctors to give him a false diagnosis? Or merely the part where he supposedly withheld discovery?

  • Dink
    27 June 2016 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    Terrible judge. Should be disbarred.

    • CLS
      26 July 2016 at 6:27 am - Reply

      Terrible comment. Should be banned from site.

  • Mik
    25 July 2016 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    I feel that getting mad was understandable, but the way the judge went DIRECTLY to “You look like a queer” as an insult? Homophobia’s not a good look on anybody, judge or not. Everyone I’ve been seeing comment on the case are just laughing at how “insane” it was and no one seems to think it’s a big deal that the judge was spouting homophobic nonsense…

    • Doug
      25 July 2016 at 11:13 pm - Reply

      Homophobia? Shut the fuck up.

      • CLS
        26 July 2016 at 6:26 am - Reply

        Okay, that’s just uncalled for. One reason these Friday posts exist is so we can laugh at the special snowflakes who get offended by a few dumb jokes.

      • Mik
        27 July 2016 at 9:54 am - Reply

        [Ed. Note: No, you don’t get to scream curses at other commenters here. You’re now banned.]

  • Dave L
    5 August 2016 at 8:15 am - Reply
    • CLS
      5 August 2016 at 10:23 am - Reply

      I still laugh at this every time I see it.
      I’m also amazed it took someone this long to plug the Rick and Morty rendition on this post.

  • Jim
    4 February 2017 at 1:57 am - Reply

    The biggest issues is that the man had a completely incompetent public defender. He was supposed to go to court in one week and the public defender only had the indictment? The judge didn’t even make any attempt to see if the man’s counsel was competent. The judge should be disbarred on that basis alone.

    The guy realized he was completely screwed by a shitty justice system and was trying to delay the court case by being held in contempt on purpose.