Court of appeals faults trial judge for saying witness is 'completely full of it' and 'full of it up to your eyeballs'

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

From the Michigan Court of Appeals decision last week in Wehbe v. Wehbe:

As a reviewing court, we rely on the trial court to make credibility assessments and we are substantially assisted when the trial court refers to such assessments on the record. However, such references should always be consistent with a court's duty to treat the parties in a patient, dignified, and courteous manner. Assessments of credibility stated informally in phrases such as "completely full of it" and "full of it up to your eyeballs" lack dignity and courtesy and are of less assistance to this Court, as the tone suggests that the trial court may be motivated by pique rather than an objective credibility determination. We urge the trial court to use more judicious language in the future.

Ow! My sense is that appellate courts tend to publicly reprimand judges this way only if they feel the trial judge's conduct to be pretty seriously troubling (especially since the court could have used a private back-channel communication instead). The trial judge was Judge Cheryl A. Matthews of the Oakland Circuit Court.