The person in that black robe sitting behind the raised desk is supposed to be an impartial and neutral arbiter. That person is not supposed to have a dog in the fight. That person is supposed to make his or her decisions without regard to who it helps.
Of course, like much else in the world we live in, it is honored more in the breach than the observance. But we at least demand the appearance of impartiality, dammit!
Judge Bill Harmon in Harris County couldn't care less about appearances. He doesn't care even to create the impression that he is above the fray.
The other day my colleague, Mark Bennett, posted the video Chronicles of a Teen Killer on his blog. The video was put together with the cooperation of the Harris County District Attorney's Office and the Houston Police Department. And Judge Harmon.
The film is a serious look at drunk driving. But it's propaganda. It's designed to poison jurors into accepting the loose logic the police and prosecutors use in charging many motorists with driving while intoxicated. And there, lending his face to the project, is a man who is supposed to remain neutral and detached.
And that's not all. Proudly displayed behind the judge's desk in County Criminal Court at Law No.2 on the eighth floor of the Harris County Criminal (In)justice Center is a plaque from MADD commending Judge Harmon on his work in support of MADD's objectives.
Can there be any doubt as to whether Judge Harmon can sit as an impartial arbiter in a DWI case?