Thursday, August 12, 2010

Vampires on the bench

"Thank you again for agreeing to help out with the Holiday No Refusal program. I know that you've been very generous with your time in the past, and I'm trying to "share the opportunity" with as many people as possible so that we don't abuse those Judges who haven't needed the arm-twisting to help! I'm also working to find a long-term solution that doesn't impose on the county court judges.
"At any rate, the short-term dictates that I stick with looking for volunteers...
"Is there any chance that tomorrow night the 12th is convenient? If not, how about next Thurs, Fri or Sat?"
E-mail from Assistant District Attorney Catherine Evans to County Criminal Court at Law No. 14 Judge Mike Fields, dated 12/11/2009.
That's right, the Harris County DA's Office is looking for "volunteers" to sign pro forma search warrant applications so that the vampires patrolling the streets can strap you down and draw your blood. What's going on here?

The excerpts in this article were obtained via an open records request to the Harris County District Attorney's Office for all incoming and outgoing communications between employees of the Harris County DA's Office regarding judges volunteering to review warrants on No Refusal Weekends.

Is a neutral and detached magistrate as much a figment of our imaginations as the Tooth Fairy? Why is the DA's office put in charge of assigning judges to "review" warrant applications on No Refusal Weekends? Apparently there's no need to bother keeping up the charade of an independent judiciary in Harris County.

The No Refusal Weekend is a joint law enforcement effort to emasculate the Bill of Rights; the judiciary should not be playing a role in this mockery of our Constitution. They certainly shouldn't be exchanging e-mails with prosecutors on what nights work best for them. Somehow I'm not thinking any judge who might dare to question the legality of this fiasco is going to be on Ms. Evans' e-mail list.
"I am the new Chief of the Vehicular Crimes Section and will be coordinating the No Refusal Weekends. I understand that you are looking for information about future dates. HPD requested to run No Refusal on a number of high volume nights, and Judge Lykos has agreed to pay for ADA's and a nurse to staff those nights. We will be running No Refusal on the following days:
Thursday, Dec. 10
Friday, Dec. 11
Saturday, Dec. 12
Thursday, Dec. 17
Friday, Dec. 18
Saturday, Dec. 19
Friday, Dec. 25
Saturday, Dec. 26
Thursday, Dec. 31
Friday, Jan. 1
Saturday, Jan 2
"As you can see, this upcoming weekend is NOT part of the program. On the involved dates, from 10pm to 12am, we will be presenting the search warrants to the City of Houston Municipal Judges. I intend to approach the misdemeanor Judges about volunteering to be available by fax between the hours of 2 and 5am. If I can get volunteers, that should offer some relief to the Magistrate Judges during the high volume hours. Obviously, if I can't get volunteers, we'll have no choice but to approach the magistrate on-duty when they are not in docket during the hours of 2-5am.
"For this past weekend, we filed more intoxication charges than on Thanksgiving weekend last year but sought far fewer search warrants. My hope is that we will continue to procure good evidence by consent without having to resort to a search warrant. I am certainly looking for ways to make No Refusal Weekends as efficient and effective as possible, so please let me know if you have any requests or recommendations."
E-mail from Assistant District Attorney Catherine Evans to County Criminal Court at Law No. 15 Judge Jean Hughes, dated 12/3/2009.
Harris County prosecutors want to make forcing motorists to volunteer evidence as "efficient and effective as possible" and they are going to the judges for ideas on how to do so. Since when do the judges of Harris County work for the Harris County DA's Office? Since when do the judges of Harris County work for local law enforcement? The role of a judge is to be a neutral arbiter in a dispute and to insure that the rules of evidence and procedure are followed. Their role is not to be a partner with law enforcement and prosecutors to make it easier to prosecute and coerce pleas from their fellow citizens.

And, just as disturbing, some local criminal defense attorneys have participated in these charades -- some while working for the Harris County DA's Office and others while (supposedly) practicing criminal defense.

9 comments:

Mark Bennett said...

Paul,

Good work.

Please share the original documents with us.

Mark

Houston DWI Attorney Paul B. Kennedy, said...

You're quite welcome. I will be posting all of the documents on my website (with a link) once I get the chance to scan them all into the computer.

Mad Jack said...

Good job, Paul. Please keep it up.

Will Freeman said...

Exactly what is it you think is collusive here? Just because a judge is asked to participate, why would that mean that he automatically is biased?

Houston DWI Attorney Paul B. Kennedy, said...

Well, let's see, Will, the HCDAO and the juduciary are not on the same side. The fact that the HCDAO is recruiting judges to review warrant applications on No Refusal Weekends implies they arr on the same side of the equation. The fact that a prosecutor and a judge are discussing how to make No Refusal Weekends more "effective" and "efficient" raises even more questions.

No Refusal Weekends and the collusion between the HCDAO and the judiciary make a mockery out of the document every lawyer took an oath to uphold.

Mark Anthony Morasch said...

Paul,

Great Job.

If the Judges are going to be involved than that should be a collective decision made by the Judges.

If the Judges decided to participate then all Judges should be required to participate on a published scheduled, and they should be equally available to the defense attorneys who may need a Writ of Habeas Corpus.

Mark

paul2413 said...

So why not file an ethics complaint against "those judges"?

Just curious.

Houston DWI Attorney Paul B. Kennedy, said...

Thank you for the comment, Mark.

Judges for No Refusal Weekends should be assigned off a "wheel." It is just plain wrong that the DA's Office coordinates the judges who will "review" (read: rubberstamp) blood warrants when a motorist decides not to blow into the breath test machine.

If there's a more clear example of a violation of the separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches, please point it out to me.

Houston DWI Attorney Paul B. Kennedy, said...

Thank you for your comment, Paul. For now my mission is to put this information out for the public so that they can see what really goes on behind the curtain at 1201 Franklin.

The public has this notion that our judges are "above the fray" and I think they would be shocked to discover the number of judges who throw themselves right into the middle of it all.

Part of the problem comes, I believe, from judges who went straight from the DA's office to the bench -- they lack perspective and, I think, objectivity.