Friday, November 2, 2012

Judicial anger in action

The other day Scott Greenfield blawged about Vanderbilt law professor Terry Maroney who thinks it's a good idea for judges to show their anger from the bench.

According to the world of Terry Maroney, when a judge goes ballistic on the bench defendants realize that the one in the robe really cares about them. The wrath of the judge is a sign of empathy and love.

Well, if that's the case, then Maricelda Marie Aguilar must really be feeling the love from state district Judge Lonnie Cox down on Galveston Island. It would seem that Judge Cox threw a tantrum in the court room when he decided that the plea agreement worked out between the prosecutor and Ms. Aguilar's attorney on a probation revocation case just wasn't acceptable to him.

At the hearing, Cox became agitated when he discovered that Aguilar had missed several meetings with her probation officer, according to the recusal motion. "The judge while sitting on the bench in open court looked at the plea papers and then screamed, 'This is s---. This kind of b------- is not what the drug court should be doing and it is just costing the taxpayers money,'" the motion states. 
The judge told Aguilar she was worthless and asked "if she thought he would turn her loose to kill the child," the motion states. "He told the defendant she was worthless and then told the defendant she was not worth the paper and ink that the plea agreement was written on and proceeded to rip the papers to shreds and throw the papers in the air.

The article goes on to state that the court reporter wasn't present at the time of Judge Cox' tantrum. I suppose there are reasons that judges in Harris and Galveston counties prefer to take pleas without a court reporter present. It certainly makes it harder for a defendant to prove anything untoward happened during the process.

As if to make matters worse, this isn't the first time that Judge Cox has blown a gasket from the bench. My colleague, Byron Fulk, had firsthand experience raising the judge's ire. His client was on the receiving end of the tirade when Judge Cox didn't like the deal that Mr. Fulk had worked out on his client's behalf.

As Mr. Greenfield pointed out
The tyranny of the majority is always a popular thing, as it makes the villagers storming the courthouse with their torches and pitchforks feel validated.  The last thing we need is to relieve judges from their obligation to maintain judicial temperament and play to the angry mob.  Will the mob agree with the judge's moral outrage and applaud her righteous indignation?  Probably.  This is precisely what we fight against.
Mr. Maroney speaks as one who hasn't spent any appreciable time in the courthouse standing next to a client facing a judge. Yes, judges are people. But when they put on that robe and sit down behind their desk they are supposed to be neutral and detached. Blowing a gasket when you don't like the deal that the attorneys have worked out is far from being neutral and detached.

It's also unprofessional. If Judge Cox wants to vent, he needs to go home, crack open a beer and let it rip. If he's going to do it from the bench he might want to consider a new line of work.

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