MySpace judgment: Guilty

A substitute judge lost his position with the North Las Vegas Justice Court last week because of hostile comments aimed at prosecutors on his MySpace page.

Among the personal interests listed by Jonathan MacArthur, a 34-year-old criminal defense attorney, was: "Breaking my foot off in a prosecutor's ass ... and improving my ability to break my foot off in a prosecutor's ass."

MacArthur began blogging and posting pictures on the online community site last spring.

His MySpace page caught the attention of Clark County District Attorney David Roger, who went to the North Las Vegas Justice Court administrator and asked that MacArthur be recused from criminal cases as a substitute jurist, or judge "pro tem."

"It's obvious to the casual reader this is an overstatement just for the effect," MacArthur said, describing the comment as a reference to his work as a criminal defense attorney and not to his mind-set as a judge.

"It's funny that I emphasize it again," he said.

But local prosecutors aren't laughing.

"He has displayed a bias against prosecutors," Roger said Friday. "Therefore, I do not feel the state of Nevada would get a fair shake by him."

Roger spoke with North Las Vegas Justice Court Administrator Terri March last week about MacArthur's MySpace comments.

Roger said he told March that if MacArthur continued as a substitute judge, he planned to file a motion to have MacArthur recused from all criminal cases.

Roger e-mailed all prosecutors asking them to notify him immediately if MacArthur presided over one of their cases so that Roger could have him recused.

"I don't think he'll be sitting as a pro-tem judge any longer," Roger's e-mail said.

He was right.

March showed the MySpace comments to North Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Natalie Tyrrell, for whom MacArthur substituted. They decided not to use MacArthur's services any longer, March said.

"A judge's job is to be unbiased in all matters, and on that MySpace page, it appears he definitely has a bias against prosecutors," March said.

The comments were inappropriate and "unbecoming of a pro tem," March said.

MacArthur, who previously was a substitute in Las Vegas Justice Court, believes the district attorney's office is taking the statement out of context and is working to sabotage his shot at the bench.

He moved to North Las Vegas in 2005 to position himself to run for a new judicial department that opens in 2009.

Chris Lee, a former deputy district attorney who now works for Secretary of State Ross Miller, intends to run against him.

"My record on the bench is pristine," MacArthur said. "I've got nothing but compliments from both sides."

As a jurist, MacArthur said, he has no problem fairly applying the law. He said he makes an extra effort to see the prosecutor's perspective.

"I'm not letting people out willy-nilly," MacArthur said.

Roger dismissed the idea that his actions were politically motivated.

"I could care less about what he does in 2008," Roger said.

Other interests MacArthur added to his profile include: "anything relating to the NFL, video games, sex."

The NFL statement links to his favorite team, the Denver Broncos.

The sex item links to "Sperm are From Men, Eggs are From Women: The Real Reason Men and Women are Different," a book about sexual evolutionary biology by Joe Quirk.

The links were not immediately apparent in the packet copy of his MySpace page shown to Tyrrell, MacArthur said.

MacArthur said he blogs often and tries to provoke discussions on controversial issues, including race relations and fairness in practice in criminal cases.

He said his MySpace blog has received more than 5,400 hits nationwide.

"People who know me and interact with me socially know I'm constantly trying to say things in a funny, provocative manner," MacArthur said.

Several prosecutors said his comments show a "win at all cost" attitude inconsistent with the criminal attorney's mission to try to exact justice, a process in which fairness is a key tool.

It also displays a bias that would interfere with ruling fairly from the bench, said the prosecutors, who declined to be named.

They also reeled at MacArthur's definition of a substitute judge.

"What's a pro-tem?" MacArthur wrote. "Imagine a substitute teacher with a black choir robe and a disconcerting amount of authority."

MacArthur said that, as a defense attorney, he often feels that some prosecutors, especially during negotiations, "act like the world revolves around them and their job is not to do justice but to make sure the defendant suffers as much as possible."

Those are the type of prosecutors MacArthur said he likes to "break my foot off in."

But he emphasized the statement referred only to his job as a defense attorney in a process that is designed to be adversarial.

"Breaking your foot off in someone's ass means to soundly defeat somebody or to overwhelm someone with enthusiasm or competence," MacArthur said.

It's most often used "among blacks, people who associate with blacks or in a sports context," MacArthur said.

He also said the Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct, which requires judges to "act at all times to promote confidence in judiciary's impartiality and integrity," applies only to substitute jurists when they sit on the bench.

MacArthur said he still intends to run for judge despite the advice of some of his allies on the bench who have suggested that he postpone a campaign, given the MySpace controversy.

As for his MySpace page, he made it private this week, available only to friends.

He still considers it a recreational endeavor and a place to state his opinions. But in hindsight, MacArthur said, he would have changed the prosecutorial comment to avoid controversy.

"Being I never expected the DA (district attorney) was going to go searching for something like that, I was perfectly comfortable saying I love my job and I'm good at it."