Written by Kenneth Manboobs
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Topics: Court, Union

Friday, 27 August 2004

image for Courtroom Sketch Artist Fired, Inaccuracies Cited

Erie, PA - Western Pennsylvania Federal Court sketch artist Robert Simmons was fired this week because of a "distinct lack of accuracy" in his renderings of the Court's daily proceedings. The Sketch Artist's Union planned to file an appeal on Simmons' behalf saying he was a victim of artistic differences.

Complaints about the sketches came from the Public Defender's Office, the District Attorney, and visiting prosecutors. The broad scope of the displeasure was the main reason given on the termination filing, and it is not hard to see why. Many of Simmons' sketches depicted court participants as unidentifiable stick figures. Sometimes the artist even posed individuals in impossible situations such as was the case in the money laundering trial of Mark Presley.

Presley's lawyer Jim Clark displayed one example of a sketch from the trial in which his client is posed throwing money around the witness stand. "Mark was depicted with blue hair and green teeth," says Clark "that's just irresponsible."

Simmons spoke about some of the charges when contacted for this article.

"You know, I've been called a lot of things in my lifetime, but I am not a racist," said Simmons in relation to a charge made from a minority juror after she turned up purple in one of his sketches. "I was out of brown that day," he recalled "boy I would have given her horns too if I would have know what a (expletive) she was."

Judge Tom Lundquist was on record in the termination report as reprimanding the artist multiple times. The report states that Lundquist repeatedly asked Simmons to "cease the inclusion of dogs and cats" in the sketches as they tended to give off an "unprofessional impression."

In response to those allegations Robert Simmons would only let on that "dogs and cats were (his) specialty", and that Judge Lundquist carried on a vendetta ever since "I gave him ‘google eyes' in one of my pieces."

The termination report described the firing as "unfortunate" and seemed to lament the fact that Simmons "would be missed most on ‘Balloon Animal Friday'" where he was know to come early and stay late, fashioning balloon animal hats for every session attendee. But, as the final statement on the report noted, "Accuracy is job number one of the Western Pennsylvania Federal Court Sketch Artist position."

While Simmons has filed an appeal to of the termination, he is trying to get on with his life and think about the future. He is currently interviewing with Play-Doh as a quality assurance officer.

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