Someone get federal judge Rudy Lozano a cup of hot black coffee, stat!
It seems the judge "appeared to nod off" during the ongoing racketeering and conspiracy trial of a number of the Latin Kinds street gang.
So says a report from this newspaper, and while I don't believe everything I read in the paper (especially if I wrote it) I think there's some fire behind this smoke.
"He (Lozano) was nudged awake by a court employee after an assistant U.S. attorney objected to a question by Adam Tavitas, the lawyer for alleged Latin King Martin 'Lefty' Anaya of Chicago," the article said.
Lozano didn't return my call. I'm inclined to give credence to the news account of the trial, though, in large part because I have been there and done that.
The last couple of trials I sat in on in Lozano's court, Lozano appeared to get sleepy in the afternoon (and who of us doesn't once we hit a certain age?) and had to be given a nudge to bring him back into focus.
One of the problems here is the fact that Lozano is 70 years old this year. By that age, most people in the private sector have been given their gold watch and escorted to the door, and are glad to be gone.
There is certainly no magic age at which a person is no longer competent to do their job, drive a car and the like.
But just like auto insurance rates are higher for teens and seniors, there also comes a time when we exercise a little more caution.
Because Lozano is an Article III judge (nominated by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in accordance with Article III of the U.S. Constitution) he cannot be removed except through impeachment.
Lozano was nominated for judge in 1987 and confirmed in 1988. In July 2007, he went on "senior status," which allows him to work anywhere from full-time to one-quarter and anywhere in the nation.
Back to Lozano and the apparent need for a coffee break.
I sat in on hearings on former Gary City Clerk Katie Hall on mail fraud, extortion and racketeering in 2002. She pleaded guilty in January 2003 and was spared prison time because of ill health.
Likewise, the fraud and tax evasion trial of East Chicago political operative Bob Cantrell, who was convicted in March 2009. He remains in prison but will face release soon.
During both actions, Lozano appeared to nod off before my very eyes. As with the Latin Kings trial, he was nudged awake.
Now there is word that Chief Judge Philip Simon of the Northern District of Indiana is soliciting anecdotal evidence of Rudy's diurnal habits.
Between 1796 and 2003, 61 federal judges have been impeached. Of those, seven have been convicted, three resigned and one awaits trial. The remainder were acquitted.
It's got to be a criminal act to get a federal judge impeached. If lack of coffee in the afternoon is a crime, count me in.
But it's time for Rudy to wake up and smell the coffee.
The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 933-4170.