Monday, November 1, 2010

Elections do have consequences

We received yet another flyer for Tuesday's election in the mail this weekend. The latest was put out by the Republican Party of Texas and it called for Harris County voters to elect Republican judges this time around.
Elections have consequences. There are over 70 contested judicial races in Harris County. If you want experienced, qualified, and fair judges, your choice is clear.
The flyer takes State District Judge Kevin Fine to task for, as the flyer incorrectly states, declaring the death penalty in Texas to be unconstitutional. What Judge Fine did was declare the procedure by which a convicted man is sentenced to death to be unconstitutional.

John Clinton is the GOP candidate for County Criminal Court at Law No. 4. What's his judicial experience, you might ask. Well, the answer is NONE. He retired as a detective with the Houston Police Department in 2005. While working for HPD, he and his wife opened a family law practice. That's right. He wants to be a criminal judge and not only has he never sat on the bench, he's never practiced criminal law. Now that sounds like an experienced and qualified candidate to me. According to his campaign biography HPD allowed him to practice law as a second career if he promised not to practice criminal defense. I wonder why.
“The only reason I went to law school was so I could be a judge one day.” -- John Clinton.
Now let's take a look at Don Smyth who wants to be the judge in County Criminal Court at Law No. 13. Does he have any experience on the bench? Would you believe the answer is NO. Mr. Smyth has spent the last 33 years working for the Harris County District Attorney's Office. Before that he was a staff attorney at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Hmmm, all of his professional career has been as an employee of the state - he has never represented an individual accused of a committing a crime. Fair? Fair to whom? After spending over three decades with an office whose mission is to defend law enforcement's assaults on civil liberties, what makes anyone think he will open-minded when it comes to Fourth Amendment abuses?

And then there's Denise Bradley running for the bench in the 262nd Judicial District Court. Her legal experience consists of working foe the Harris County District Attorney's Office for the past 22 years. Like Mr. Smyth, she's never sat on a bench and she's never defended an individual facing criminal prosecution. Qualified? Fair? She's just the latest in a long line of prosecutors who exit the 6th floor at the Harris County Criminal (In)justice Center go upstairs and work as a de facto second prosecutor.

Why is it that when it comes to judicial candidates that being a former defense attorney is used as a pejorative, but being a career prosecutor isn't?

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