AT 8:40 LAST NIGHT, I had the last interview with Ed Rosenthal, I guess.

If U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer sticks to his judicial guns, he
will issue a gag order Thursday barring the defendant from talking to the
likes of me.

I spoke with Rosenthal on Wednesday night at his home in Oakland. Let
the condemned man in this absurdist federal pot trial -- in which the robed
judge is ever day morphing more into a nonsense character out of Godot --
have his last words:

"He hates me."

"Breyer has acted with utter contempt for me."

"He's been blatant about it."

Should the gag order hold -- newspaper lawyers, including the lawyer
for the Examiner, at which the gag order is directed, will argue against it
Thursday -- these may be Rosenthal's last words on the matter of his fate.

What did Rosenthal do to get in such doo-doo with a preening federal

He wrote books -- many press accounts omit the fact that Rosenthal is
the Tolstoy of marijuana writers, as he has penned a half dozen volumes on
the subject. He only actually grew pot for medical marijuana purposes
because the City of Oakland asked him to do it and supervised the project
and the cultivation, carrying out the dictates of California voters who had
approved the use of medical marijuana.

Oakland officials were lined up to testify that Rosenthal only did
what they asked him to do under state law. But Breyer wouldn't let them

The federal judge forbade the jury from even hearing that California
law approved of what Rosenthal was doing.

This myopic judge -- no Learned Hand, he -- insisted that the only
thing presented to the jury was that Rosenthal grew some pot plants.

I have covered civil rights cases in the deep South in the frenetic
'60s and seen your usual demonstrer busted for walking across a sidewalk
treated with more fairness and civility by Southern judges than Judge
Breyer has shown the accused pot fiend Rosenthal.

It is an axiom of American civility that all respect the bench. The
corollary is that the judiciary behaves in a manner that deserves respect.

Judge Breyer has not conducted himself in a manner -- outside the
duties of respect -- that only brings community ridicule to the bench he
sits upon.

"I'm caught in a crucible between federal and California law on
medical marijuana," Rosenthal said.

The accused in his last legal statements said Judge Breyer had allowed
the stiff-backed federal prosecutors -- let us not forget than Attorney
General John Ashcroft draped the breasts of a marble statue -- to "weed"
the jury pool of objectivity.

"One of the jurors weeded out was a friend of the judge -- a medical
doctor -- who said that the federal law was wrong and that he had
proscribed medical marijuana for his patients," Rosenthal said last night.

Enough of this, already. Breyer is making a national late-night-TV
fool of the federal bench in San Francisco and disrespecting the discerning
among his own.

Gag orders. Jurors told to imagine there was no state law that made
what Rosenthal was charged with perfectly legal.

This judge had best get an eye on his place in judicial history, else
he may end up ridiculed by cartoonists the way Judge Hoffman ended up a
caricature in the trial of the Chicago 7 in the late '60s.

That would be disrespectful to the bench. San Francisco does not wish
to be. Shakespeare had it long ago that if you act the fool in the robes of
authority, you will be seen as a fool without the robes.

Pudbate: Thu, 23 Jan 2003
Examiner Associate Editor