Things Only Civil Lawyers Would Say, Part I

 Posted on April 23, 2008 in Uncategorized

From the letters to the April 14, 2008 Houston Chronicle:

Justice here isn't partisanI write in response to the letter written by Dana Lejune that was published in the Chronicle Thursday. (Please see "The way to get new judges.") I am particularly disturbed at the characterization that justice in our county is dispensed with partisan labels. There is no "Republican" justice any more than there is "Democratic" justice - there is simply justice.We need to avoid involving our judges in political mudslinging, and the suggestions of Lejune surely lead us in exactly the wrong direction. We dare not permit the politicization of our judiciary. We ask our judges to follow and apply the law fairly and impartially.In Harris County, we are fortunate to have a group of judges who have followed and applied the law fairly and impartially for many years. Sometimes their ruling is for the plaintiff and sometimes their ruling is for the defendant; in criminal matters, sometimes their ruling is for the accused, sometimes for the state. Those rulings depend upon the facts of the case and the applicable law. These judges are not politicians. They are lawyers who have made a great sacrifice for our county.We should elect judges who have experience, who are fair, who will follow the law, who do not have a political agenda and who know what they are doing on the bench.Our judges serve a critical role in our society: They uphold our Constitution and protect the rule of law. Thus, it is imperative that we all give serious thought and consideration to those who serve on the bench and not just vote according to a political agenda.ALISTAIR B. DAWSONchair, litigation section, State Bar of Texas, Houston

It's true that in Harris County we have "a group of judges who have followed the law fairly and impartially for many years" whose rulings depend on the facts of the case and the applicable law. But that group is not the entire group of Harris County judges. It is, rather, a subgroup, the size of which is subject to considerable debate among members of the criminal bar.

A few of Harris County's criminal court judges are shamelessly pro-state, some even to the extent of mollycoddling the prosecutors who appear before them in trial. If it weren't a violation of judicial ethics to promise, as Sharon Keller promised in her campaign for Court of Criminal Appeals judge, to be a "prosecution-oriented judge", they would truthfully include that plank in their election platforms. One misdemeanor judge is so helpful to the prosecutors in his court that they leave their assignment to that court entirely unprepared to appear before a neutral and detached magistrate.

Partisan election of judges inevitably politicizes judges. Let a political party pick your judges, as the Harris County Republican Party has done in Houston for the last 14 years or so, and you're going to have judges who work the party machinery - in other words, politicians. In implying that Harris County's judges are uniformly fair and just law machines without political agendas, Dawson, a civil "litigator" and Republican Party contributor, is either disingenuous or clueless.

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