Baked Alaska and birthday cake: Memorable lines from the Manafort trial judge, T.S. Ellis

Judge T.S. Ellis...

Posted: Aug 22, 2018 4:12 PM
Updated: Aug 22, 2018 4:12 PM

Judge T.S. Ellis is known as a colorful judge who is not afraid to interrupt prosecutors, interrogate witnesses and even poke fun at himself along the way.

Whether repeatedly urging prosecutors to "move along" with their questions or joking about the free lunches provided to jurors, Ellis has injected the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort with bursts of humor and sharpness.

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Here are some of Ellis' most memorable quotes from the trial:

Week 4

Reflecting on his reputation and role in the trial: "My grandson called and said, 'Are you really' -- well, we all take brick paths in life and some we deserve. And I didn't read all of them. I do know that I'll be careful about Caesar in my own Rome in the future, but be assured that I always knew that my Rome was very small. And even within that Rome, I was far less supreme than Caesar. But like some people, I like metaphors and similes from literature. They're not as familiar to many people as they are to me."

Instructions to jurors when they were unable to reach a consensus: "You should not surrender your honest conviction as to the weight or effect of evidence solely because of the opinion of other jurors or for the mere purpose of returning a verdict."

On the jurors' role as judges: "You are not partisans. You are judges, judges of the facts. And your sole interest here is to seek the truth from the evidence in the case. You're the exclusive judges of the credibility of all the witnesses and of the weight and effect of all the evidence."

On both legal teams' enthusiasm in representing their clients: "I think the Government and Mr. Manafort received very effective and zealous representation from their counsel. Both sides were zealously and effectively represented. And that isn't a statement I can make as often as I'd like."

Week 3

On the media's request to unseal parts of the trial that are currently secret: "A thirsty press is essential in a free country."

On defending his decision to keep jurors' names under seal: "I've received criticism and threats. I'd imagine they would too... I had no idea myself this case would arouse such public interest. I still am surprised."

On prosecutor Greg Andres' confession that he should have asked a question of a witness: "Confession is good for the soul." Andres: "I think my soul is in pretty good shape or it should be after this process." Ellis: "I'll help."

On the prosecution's decision to call one more witness: "Ladies and gentlemen, the bad news is we have one more witness. It's not really bad news. It's what it is. The good news is that it will be a short witness. That's not really good news either. We have to hear all of the evidence and consider it carefully."

On his new law clerks: "Well, if you'd like, I'll take a moment and go get it. But it won't surprise you to learn that I don't have a phalanx of lawyers working... And, in fact, this came at a time when I lost all my law clerks and I get brand new ones, and they know nothing and have not been involved in this case."

On use of electronic devices during jury deliberations: "Now, during your deliberations, you must not communicate with or provide any information to anyone by any means about this case. You may not use any electronic device or media. I could go through a whole list. Nothing about a cell phone or an iPhone or, good heavens, this is now outdated, BlackBerry."

On giving the prosecution a deadline to review jury instructions: "But I think this will help focus your mind. You remember what Sam Johnson said about the man who was about to be hanged: It wonderfully concentrates the mind. 2:00 p.m. will wonderfully concentrate your mind on the instructions." Andres: "Provided I'm not going to be hanged." Ellis: "Well, the hanging is merely a metaphor. What might happen to you could be worse. Your imagination controls that."

On keeping jury deliberations confidential: "Let me offer a caution that I want you to take quite seriously. I'm always disturbed when I see in the media, and I do see it -- in the past I saw it fairly frequently, I don't know if I've seen it much in the last few years, but I've seen jurors discussing what went on in the course of deliberations in the jury room. That seems to me to do an injury to the deliberate process. If jurors knew in advance everything they said and did in the course of their deliberations was going to be grist for the media mill, I think it might well have a chilling effect on deliberations."

Week 2

On possible tears in Andres' eyes during a private discussion: "Well, I understand how frustrated you are. In fact, there's tears in your eyes right now." Andres: "There are not tears in my eyes, Judge." Ellis: "Well, they're watery."

On his mistake in criticizing prosecutors: "I was probably wrong in that. But like any human, and this robe doesn't make me anything other than human, I sometimes make mistakes."

On his reminder to the prosecution that they wrap up their case quickly: "As a concession to the shortness of life, we need to get it done." Later: "Now we need to bring it to a close and it's lunchtime."

On the virtue of patience: "Judges should be patient. They made a mistake when they confirmed me. I'm not very patient, so don't try my patience, either."

On the lawyers' request for "a moment" to confer: "You can have a day." As the lawyers began to exit the courtroom: "I was only kidding about a day."

On empathizing with a juror who forgot her number during roll call: "And I can understand your haziness on the number. It brings to mind when I forgot my service number when I was first a young member of the United States Navy. And that was a painful experience. And to this day, some 60-some years later, 647251."

On the jury's lunch menu options: "I hope you enjoy your pheasant under glass or whatever else you were able to see on the menu. I've looked pretty hard at Panera's menu, but I've never seen that. So maybe if you do get something engaging, you can tell me about it and I'll take steps to get it."

On his uneventful weekend: "I had a pleasant and uneventful (weekend) -- and to me that always makes it pleasant, I realize. You'll get to the point where uneventful is really good."

On courtroom poker: "It isn't appropriate to ask him, his counsel, what witnesses they intend or how many witnesses they intend, because sort of like poker, you don't have to show your hand until you're called, something like that. I'm not a poker player."

On understanding the pressure of high-profile cases: "I remember trying cases. ... I had big cases that I thought were important. They were important to me, important to my career. And I remember the stress and I remember the pressure. And so I know that's true for both of you -- I mean all of you. This is a stressful time. So I understand that. But I'm trying to minimize the stress time is all I'm trying to do."

Week 1

On free lunches provided to the jury: "I hope you will not hurry to slit your wrists. There is a positive side. The court will provide your lunch, every day. Don't, however, look for the Baked Alaska. You won't find it. But the menu will be palatable stuff."

On the jury potentially bringing in cake to celebrate a birthday: "I quit having those some years ago. My wife is younger and I'm waiting for her to catch up."

On his request that lawyers control their facial expressions: "It's been reported that lawyers upon leaving the bench roll their eyes, communicating to those who are watching them, essentially, why do we have to put up with this idiot judge? ... So rein in your facial expressions."

On some journalists rushing out of the courtroom during back-and-forth about Manafort deputy Rick Gates' potential testimony: "That was news to me, by the way, and obviously to about 25 other people who scurried out of here like rats leaving a sinking ship."

On his decision to block prosecutors from showing jurors photos of Manafort's luxury goods: "Mr. Manafort is not on trial for having a lavish lifestyle."

On his push to move the trial along: "It's my job to see if we can get this thing done with the least amount of wasted time. And to submit more documents that are necessary is not appropriate."

On his demand that lawyers avoid using the term "oligarchs" to describe Manafort's patrons in Ukraine: "Well, Mr. (George) Soros would then be an oligarch by that definition and so would Mr. (Charles) Koch. I picked two people on both sides of the spectrum. But we wouldn't call them oligarchs. So I would suggest to you that you avoid the term."

On the use of technology: "I'm not a person of this century, maybe not even the last century... I don't have an email account. I never have and never will."

On his family's history: "My mother's family came from a shtetl in a part of Russia that became Poland, that became Russia, that became Poland. You know, I learned from them that a lot of Ukrainians hate Russians and the Russians hate the Ukrainians. And then, of course, then my mother's family were Jews. Everyone hated them."

On the courtroom's white noise machine: "It sounds like waves breaking gently on some distant beach."

On relations with the press: "I'm not much for the press. I never speak to any member of the press, but I am sensitive to the fact that the public should understand what happens in these proceedings and should have an understanding of it, and I know there are many members of the press who work hard to bring that about, and, of course, we see -- I see situations where it isn't reported accurately, not the facts, but they don't understand things quite, some members, and so it's -- and I've contributed to some extent to that in some comments I've made. But, anyway, you all do your job, and I'll do mine."

On the length of proceedings: "We are close to the end of this process -- because I'm hungry."

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