Friday, May 25, 2012

Brother, can you spare a bill or two?

I received a mailer a few days ago - well, actually a few weeks ago - from a sitting family court judge who was holding a fundraiser not too far from my office. Why, you might ask, is this newsworthy? That is a good question.

I live and work (for the most part) in Houston which is in Harris County. The judge in question sits on a bench in Montgomery County (hop on the freeway and head north). Now why would a judge in Montgomery County hold a fundraiser in another county? That question kept coming up in my mind.

None of the attorneys (probably a safe assumption that the recipients of the mailer were attorneys) lived in Montgomery County. None of the attorneys are eligible to vote in Montgomery County. But I would say it's a good bet that each of the attorneys has handled at least one case in that judge's court.

Which raises the question of why an attorney in one county would be persuaded to write a check to the campaign of a judge in another county. Could it possibly be the perception that the judge would look more kindly upon those attorneys who "made it rain?"

And what might give someone that impression? Surely judges don't give preferential treatment to attorneys who line their pockets during campaign season. Surely no attorney would give a campaign contribution to a judge in the hopes that it might curry him some favor down the road.

But why else would a Houston attorney give money to a Montgomery County family court judge who's also a deadbeat dad?

Our method of picking judges here in Texas is certainly flawed. There is something just a bit unseemly about attorneys making campaign contributions to judge in whose courtrooms they practice. There's something very unsettling about watching judicial candidates portray themselves as being tougher on crime (whatever that means) and more conservative than the person sitting next to them. It's just plain asinine for entire slates of judges to be elected (or tossed out) because they have an R or a D after their name.

Of course, electing them is the least worst alternative.

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