Thursday, March 24, 2011

Preaching from the bench

"Do I ever have a deal for you. I know you don't have time to do all that community service you will be assigned as part of your probation -- so what would you say if I were to waive it in exchange for you reading something instead? Sounds pretty good, so far, doesn't it?

I'll tell you what. If you'll read this bible study book that I've written, I'll waive all of your community service hours. Sound like something you'd like to do? It's a whole lot more convenient than having to get up and go somewhere for some forced "volunteer" work, isn't it?

Hey, while we're at it, here, before you enter that plea, do you believe in Jesus?"

I'm sure that's not exactly how the talk goes when entering a plea in Harris County Criminal Court at Law No. 4,  but it is apparent that Judge John Clinton hasn't spent much time reviewing the Establishment Clause. It is also apparent that the judge either doesn't know, or doesn't care, that there are many religions around the world that don't exalt Jesus as the earthly embodiment of God. A trifling detail, I know.

I wrote about Judge Clinton when he was still candidate Clinton prior to last November's election. Judge Clinton is a retired police officer who was allowed to attend law school while working so long as he promised not to practice criminal law. He and his wife opened up a family law practice. That's his experience. At least the black-robed prosecutors judges who went directly from the DA's Office to the bench have experience in criminal law.

When asked why he was running for the bench, Judge Clinton replied:
This race is important because I see these as gateway courts. Often, young criminals make their first stop here. We have to make a firm impression on them. We must also protect the rights of both the accused and the victims. I think that often we look beyond the victims and what they are going through when crime enters their lives. These courts play a vital role in keeping our community safe and secure.
Excuse me, your Honor, the last time I checked, the Constitution laid out the rules that protect the citizen accused. The duty of the judge is to ensure that the accused's constitutional rights are protected from the time he is approached by the police until the time the case is resolved. It is the defendant who has the right to a fair trial and due process -- not the state and not the alleged victim.

That's right, until the state has proven beyond all reasonable doubt that a criminal act has taken place, there is no victim. There is a complaining witness or an alleged victim - but that's it. Using the word victim implies that one has already decided that a criminal act took place.

He then went on to say
I am the candidate with the practical experience and the perspective we need in this court. I will always look out for victims and protect the Constitution. These courts play a vital role in protecting our community. That's something I've been doing my entire adult life.
Judge, the role of the courts is not to protect the community. The role of the courts is to ensure that a person accused of a crime is afforded a fair trial and due process of law. Protecting the community is a task assigned to law enforcement agencies, not the men and women wearing black robes sitting behind an ornate raised desk.

While Judge Clinton is forcing his religious beliefs on the people in front of him, he might want to take a look at Matthew 7:1 --
Judge not, lest ye be judged.
Let's face it, when the only qualification for a judge is whether or not there's an R or a D after their name, we get exactly what we deserve.

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