Somewhere Napoleon is Smiling
Over two years ago, shortly before the most recent election for the fifteen Harris County Criminal Court at Law (misdemeanor) benches, there was a brouhaha at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center about a politically incorrect email sent by CCCL6 Judge Larry Standley to other judges:
The issue: an e-mail [captioned, “What in the world is this? My God?”] forwarded to at least one of the judges from one of their colleagues. Why it’s an issue: It apparently included a poster for the underground short movie entitled Gayniggers From Outer Space. (The movie itself is made by gays from Denmark and is a spoof of sorts; the title allegedly refers to what some gay African blacks in Europe call themselves. You can see it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAW5NRj2YhE.)
(Houston Press, October 26, 2006 and Houston Chronicle, November 25, 2008.) The story was in the TV news as well as the weekly free tabloid Press at the time.
Judge Standley is an excellent judge who cares about people. There is more justice done in his court in a morning than in most courts in a week.
He is also one of those people whose social filters don’t always work the way they are expected to; we can agree that sending this email was a lousy decision. Judge Mike Fields took offense and complained to the Commission on Judicial Conduct (of which he is the Vice Chairman). The commission took evidence, including affidavits by several other CCCL judges in favor of Judge Standley, and rejected the complaint.
Flash forward to 2008, right after an election for Harris County Criminal District Court (felony) benches in which the Republican Party got its rich white ass handed to it. Judge Fields is hoping to be appointed to a vacant seat on the Court of Appeals (the intermediate appellate court for both civil and criminal cases); Harris County Republican Party Chairman lawyer Jared Woodfill (who bears a striking resemblance to a certain Mike Judge character) had recommended Judge Fields for the position.
A side note: Because they are elected to represent a larger area including Houston’s white-flight suburbs, Court of Appeals judges were well insulated in 2008 from the Democratic tide that swept the District Court benches. One way for a Republican misdemeanor judge to escape the possible 2010 continuation of the 2008 surge is to be appointed to the appellate bench.
Anyway, Judge Fields doesn’t get the gig, and he and Woodfill blame Standley. So:
With copies of the e-mails now in hand, Woodfill recently had Fields and Standley explain their actions to the party’s advisory committee, the same group that helped push out Rosenthal. Woodfill said merely the content of Standley’s e-mails justifies calling for his resignation, regardless of whether the fallout affected Fields. “When you see racism like that you have to kill it one act at a time,” Woodfill said. “Regardless of what party you are affiliated with, you have to stand up and say it was wrong.”
(Houston Chronicle article by Alan Bernstein — read the complete article.)
That might have been a convincing and noble argument in the past — say in November 2006 — but now it falls flat. Woodfill, unless he’s even more clueless about Harris County politics than I am, knew about these emails, including their specific content, in October 2006. If that content justifies calling for his resignation now, it has called for it every day for the last two years.
Woodfill pitches this as the party acting, but it turns out that party leadership met recently in executive session and did not decide to act against Standley.What Woodfill is doing is trying to give the idea of ousting Standley some legs before the party has to make a decision on it.
It’s a hatchet job. Not only is it a hatchet job, but it’s a hatchet job undertaken for personal revenge. Not only is it a hatchet job undertaken for personal revenge, but it’s a hatchet job undertaken for personal revenge against one of the fairest, most just misdemeanor judges in the courthouse.
And that’s what makes Jared Woodfill today’s Asshat Lawyer of the Day.
“Hey, Beavis, he said ‘asshat!’ Heh-heh. Heh.”
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