Sunday, August 5, 2012

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

Candidates who switch parties between elections open themselves up to criticism that they are either sell-outs or opportunists. Some manage to overcome the perception and hold on to their office while others fall flat on their faces.

Down on the island, State District Judge Wayne Mallia wasn't so fortunate. Judge Mallia sits on the bench of the 405th Judicial District. He was elected as a Democrat. After seeing the bloodbath in the 2010 elections, the judge decided it was time to switch parties.

Now I've had plenty of matters before Judge Mallia and I've always found him to be a fair, even-handed judge. I might not like all of his decisions but I never felt as if I were starting off at a disadvantage in his courtroom.

The voters in Galveston County weren't so impressed with his last minute conversion, however, as he was forced into a run-off after failing to pick up a majority of votes in the GOP primary in May. Last week he was handed his pink slip as the new conservative majority in the county decided that Michelle Slaughter was a better choice to sit on the bench.

Of course Ms. Slaughter has no experience in criminal law which might not be such a big deal except that the district courts in Galveston County handle both civil and criminal matters. Showing her ignorance of the way the criminal courts operate, Ms. Slaughter has announced that she just won't be giving out probation to repeat felony offenders and that she won't be afraid to revoke someone's probation if they screw up.

Does that mean that she's planning on busting pleas left and right? You see, Ms. Slaughter, it isn't Judge Mallia who's handing out probations like candy - it's the result of plea bargains between the prosecutor and the defense attorney. With rare exception the judge will accept the deal because he wants the case off his docket.

People choose their political party because their daddy voted that way or because the party line reflects their views or because it's the only game in town. Many voters claim that they will vote for the person they think is the best candidate regardless of the party affiliation - at least that's what they say. But voters aren't so understanding when candidates jump from one party to another in the name of political expediency.

Judge Mallia stuck his finger up to see which way the wind was blowing and guessed wrong.

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