Black Woman Jailed in Michigan For Cursing; Misses Christmas With Family

LaRue Ford was forced to spend the holidays in Berrien County jail in Michigan because Judge Dennis Wiley saw fit to hold her in contempt of court (and, later, to revoke her $5000 bond). Why?

Because she cursed under her breath in the Secretary of State clerk’s office.

It’s appalling:

asiangrrlMN will be along (at ABLC) forthwith to provide the appropriate profanity-laced tirade that this story deserves, but I have been yammering about this on Twitter and wanted to post it so people will know what the hell it is I’m yammering about.

Oh, and if anyone can explain to me how this judge could hold LaRue Ford in contempt of court for muttering “fuck this shit” under her breath at the clerk’s office, I would love to hear it.

***Notably, Benton Harbor is in Berrien County. If you’ve been following the emergency manager law shenanigans that Chris Savage of Eclectablog has been covering for the past year, you likely understand why this is relevant.

(h/t Temporarily Max McGee)

[via Follow the Leader]

[cross-posted at ABLC]

43 replies
  1. 1
    General Stuck says:

    It’s 1959 all over again with these retrogrades. In MI, no less. I figure the deep south will propose Jim Crow pilot programs pretty soon.

    But maybe it is the proverbial epic convulsion before the cathartic lurch toward a more perfect union. We shall see.

  2. 2
    Steve says:

    What an abuse of judicial power. This is so not legal. Good thing the ACLU is helping, although I can’t believe she’s already spent 8 flippin’ days in jail. That’s outrageous.

  3. 3
    jlow says:

    I think this judge deserves a couple thousand holiday cards emblazoned with those words he so does not want to hear. Anybody got a mailing address?

  4. 4
    wenchacha says:

    Wow. Fuck that shit.

    Hizzoner has made his damn point. Set her free!

  5. 5
    RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist says:

    Not surprising. The west side of MI has race issues. Big ones. People in largely AA Benton Harbor call their ‘lighter’ sister city St. Joseph ‘Saint Johannesburg’.
    My aunt was a court clerk in a west side county. The hostility ranges from open to barely guarded.

  6. 6
    PurpleGirl says:

    I expect that this detour in the legal system will in some way affect any and all job search efforts in the future. You know, we [x company] can’t hire someone who will say something inappropriate under their breath. And she was in jail for it to boot.

  7. 7
    Ruckus says:

    I didn’t enlist to spend 4 yrs in the service and pledge to uphold the constitution so that anyone can be jailed for saying the words fuck or this or shit. I have on many occasions felt like this country is not worth the PR we’ve all been taught. This goes on that list.
    So how many states can’t I live in or travel in or purchase products from? MI, MS, FL, SC, KS, AR, LA, TX, AZ, NC, GA, IN. Is that the list or are there more that I should add?

  8. 8
    Libby says:

    So outrageous. What the establishment has been allowed to do to Benton Harbor is the living example of what’s wrong with everything.

  9. 9
    red dog says:

    Has this clerk who filed the charge or called the cops been charges with anything that would get her fired ? Is there a statute or law against muttering this and if so it must be a misdemeanor????

  10. 10
    Mike Lamb says:

    The comments to the story are interesting. Spatula would be right at home there.

  11. 11
    OmerosPeanut says:

    Fuck that shit, indeed.

  12. 12
    Roger Moore says:

    I hope that asiangrrlMN’s proposal will include rusty pitchforks. This seems like the right time for them.

  13. 13
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Oh, and if anyone can explain to me how this judge could hold LaRue Ford in contempt of court for muttering “fuck this shit” under her breath at the clerk’s office, I would love to hear it.

    “Speaking under your breath while blah” I would guess is the obvious offense.

  14. 14
    RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist says:

    I’m gonna climb out on a limb here and say I don’t think you should be able to use audible obscenities in a government office. It’s detrimental to the orderly course of business, and disrespectful to other citizens.

    But getting tossed in the sneezer for it? Outrageous. The judge must have had a huge chip on his/her shoulder. That punishment is way out of line.

  15. 15
    Mike Lamb says:

    @RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist: Not just tossed in jail or a quickie arrest to “scare her straight”–8 fucking days!!! People get less than that for a DUI.

  16. 16
    RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist says:

    Regarding the Emergency Manager law under which Benton Harbor’s government was basically taken over by an appointee of Governor Snider, we tossed that law out in the November election.

    Today the Governor signed a new, improved version.

  17. 17
    trex says:

    This woman is STILL in jail because she can’t come up with the $5000 bond. What, is she going to flee and curse in other county clerk’s around the country?

    The outrageous behavior on the part of the judge towards this woman has me wondering: just how black is she? Don’t tell me none of the snowbubbas who’ve wandered in there and been screwed around by the bureaucracy haven’t cursed about it.

  18. 18
    PaulW says:

    In the immortal words of Harry S. Truman: fuck that shit.

  19. 19
    Lancelot Link says:

    From a glance at google, Dennis Wiley seems to have a record of treating non-white people badly.

  20. 20
    D0n Camillo says:

    I get the feeling this judge has pulled this shit before. This is just the first time there has been some pushback. I hope that he is on the receiving end of a shitstorm for this. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy.

  21. 21
    Bill T. says:

    Someone must begin a campaign to send this judge large quantities of those recordable greetings cards that contain the recorded message, “Fuck. This. Shit.”

  22. 22
    D0n Camillo says:

    What do you know? Judge Wiley is white.

    What are the odds?

  23. 23
    Lojasmo says:

    oklahoma, for starters.

  24. 24
    wasabi gasp says:

    In county of Berrien, shit fucks you.

    Sharon Jones – I Learned the Hard Way

  25. 25
    Raven says:

    Norman Schwarzkoff has died.

  26. 26
    satby says:

    I moved here (Berrien county) from Chicago 4 years ago. I tell people I moved to Michissippi. All of the poverty, racism, and mosquitoes; none of the juleps. I’m white, BTW, so the rednecks let their racism fly in front if me assuming I’d agree.

  27. 27
    Ruckus says:

    Did have a great aunt who lived there who was a bit evangelical. Also used to work for someone from there and he could be a major asshole.
    I have gotten the impression from Sooner that it is not that bad. I’m willing to be corrected.

  28. 28
    ruemara says:

    I once worked at a tony real estate firm on the posh edges of Berkeley. I was called on the carpet because I was grumbling under my breath since a bunch of highly paid agents could not get back to my lowly paid self with information on their listings in a decent amount of time, throwing my advertising schedule off. This was at my desk, no where near any of them. Someone had to sneak to the hallway behind me and listen in to report me. These people want slaves and it does not matter if they’re (R) or (D) when they vote; when they interact with black people, they want a mammy or cipher. Fuck these bigoted asshats.

  29. 29
    Older_Wiser says:

    You meant Michiganistan, right?

  30. 30
    RedKitten says:

    Evidently she was also strip-searched. I’d say it’s unbelievable…but it’s not.

  31. 31
    Older_Wiser says:

    More on Judge Dennis Wiley:

    And more:

    You’ll find lots more on Wiley.

  32. 32
    rea says:

    How is this contempt of court? I sure don’t see it, and as it happens, I’m licensed to practice law in Michigan. If she said it in the courtroom with court in session, maybe, but at the counter of the clerk’s office?

  33. 33
    Smiller says:

    Isn’t this just like Cohen v. California where Cohen was wearing a shirt in the courthouse with the words “Fuck the Draft” and was prosecuted for it. The us supreme court overturned the conviction as an infringement of the first amendment. Both are profanity laced showings of displeasure that would clearly be protected. This is first year law school stuff

  34. 34
    J R in WV says:


    Fuck that Shit!

    I mean,

    Fuck THAT SHIT!!

    I mean,

    FUCK THAT shit!

    I mean, I mean, send that judge to the Group W bench. I am moved to write poetry:

    I hear that Tumbrel rolling,
    a rollin’ down the road,
    I hope that tumbrel,
    Carrying a big load!

    Oh Yes, Sisters, Brothers!

    I hear that tumbrel rolling,
    carrying that load,
    You can hear it carrying
    a Republican Judge Toad!

    Everybody gets a pitchfork
    And Some gets a torch!
    You run get some feathers
    I’ll heat the tar on the porch!

    “Cause we aren’t gonna let!
    Republicans aren’t gonna get!
    To put anyone back
    on a chain-bound track!

    We’ll have a real election, and see if we can’t get prosecutors to take an interest in historical patterns of racist and Republican over-lordism!

    Please note that the poetry above makes use of traditional and ancient methods of composition known as exaggeration, sarcasm, irony, metaphor, simile, rhyming, rhythm rockin and rollin’ and is not to be taken as a literal recommendation for immediate non-political action.

    This is, tho:

    Eric Holder should find the most highly educated, experienced, most southern upper-crust federal prosecutor with a black wife, assign him 2 or 3 big ex-SEAL Federal Marshals, and tell him to be interviewing this so-called “Judge”, and every minority defendant and defence attorney that ever came before his court! Perhaps finding it necessary to hold the Judge in an unheated county jail in SE Arkansas as a flight risk until they can be sure the judge wasn’t misusing his power to oppress the minority and poor folks in his district.

    Now that’s a couple of action points I could get behind. Nothing burns me more than someone using his authority inappropriately to hurt people he holds an un-judicial opinion about without regard to the facts of the case.

    This guy’s middle name is Jim-Crow!

  35. 35

    Well, hell, you need to keep those darkies in line, after all. Oh, yeah, sure, she “muttered” it “under her breath”–this time. But you know how it is, you give these people an inch and they’ll take a mile. Before long, they’ll be saying, “Fuck this shit!” loud and clear for all our delicate white ears to hear, and if there’s one thing that should be clear by now, it’s that we whities have the right not to be offended or put out in any way–especially when it’s them darkies doing it.

    And let’s not forget, either, that it’s a mighty short step from one of them saying “Fuck this shit!” loud and proud to all of them rioting in the streets, burning cars, raping white women and staging slave uprisings. If anything, that judge went too easy on her. He should have sent her to death row. I know, it’s harsh, but brute force is the only thing those people understand.

    O.K., I’m done channelling now. I fucking hate this country sometimes. Sending President Obama back to Washington for another four years really has undone a lot of these assholes. Mark my words, when the rioting and looting begins, it won’t be African Americans doing it; it’ll be my people. How does one go about applying for membership in another race? Because I’m sick unto death of my own.

  36. 36
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    Imani, there’s one fine point here: She was leaving the district court clerk’s office, not the Secretary of State’s office. It’s this capricious extension of the courtroom to the clerk’s office that has her in jail on contempt charges. I don’t think that even this asshole jurist would attempt to extend the definition of “court” to the S.o.S.’s office.

    ETA: And I’m unclear on why she’d be returning to the court clerk’s office to pay the reinstatement fee. I figure that would be done through the S.o.S..

  37. 37
    Kolohe says:

    good thing we’re moving towards taking all the guns out of the hands of the people and making sure they’re only in the hands of the government.

  38. 38
    brantl says:

    When this judge goes to the doctor for a physical, he starts with the proctological exam, and then it’s over. This clown’s all asshole.

  39. 39
    John PM says:

    @RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist: Clearly, you have never been in the office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County (Chicago).

  40. 40
    Tone in DC says:


    Sounds like offices around here.

    And I have to say, I don’t think they even can deal with ciphers.

  41. 41
    KT says:

    Is there actually a law defining which speech or actions qualify as “contempt,” or is purely a function of a judge’s mood or personality?

    Judges aren’t gods and I see no reason why they get to unilaterally define what is and what is not contempt.

  42. 42
    mapaghimagsik says:


    More importantly, all the guns we do have sure prevented the government from stepping all over her rights, now didn’t they?

    Nice win/win there. Then, if someone was black and armed, they could justify shooting said black person with “stand your ground”

  43. 43
    Pococurante says:

    @RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist:

    I’m gonna climb out on a limb here and say I don’t think you should be able to use audible obscenities in a government office. It’s detrimental to the orderly course of business, and disrespectful to other citizens.

    Happens in courts all over the country all the time, and one doesn’t have to be a black woman to wind up in jail for doing it.

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