Friday, January 11, 2013

The biggest loser


That's the number of votes Republican judicial hopeful Brad Hart lost to incumbent Judge Maria Jackson this past November.

The voters of Harris County spoke and they rejected Mr. Hart's effort to move up to the 14th floor at 1201 Franklin from the 4th floor.

I've had a couple of cases over the years with Mr. Hart. He was always very reasonable to work with. He seemed to be the model of a career prosecutor (and I don't mean that in a bad way). His trademark was cutting to the chase. He didn't waste your time with a bunch of bullshit.

But then something funny happened. Judge Belinda Hill announced to the world that she was taking a top job with the DA's office. Even though her new job opportunity made her sitting on the bench the very definition of the appearance of a conflict of interest, there she sat because she couldn't step down until Gov. Goodhair appointed a new judge.

Well, actually she could announce her resignation from the bench but that resignation couldn't take effect until a new judge was appointed. Jacqueline Smith in the civil courthouse found that out the hard way when she tried to quit during the middle of her term to take a job with a white shoe firm downtown but was told that she had to listen to lawyers arguing until someone got around to finding someone else to take her place.

But I digress.

The other day Rick Perry appointed a new judge for the 230th Judicial District Court. Brad Hart.

So, while my colleague Murray is nursing his man-crush of the latest prosecutor cum judge, it's up to me to point out what's wrong with the appointment.

Gov. Perry pretty much told the voters of Harris County to go screw themselves by appointing a person who lost in November to ascend to the bench. Perry's move is a slap in the face to this little thing we call democracy. This also makes it painfully obvious that those who propose that we change our system of selecting judges from popular vote to appointments and retention elections haven't the slightest clue as to what they're talking about.

This is just the thing that the authors of the 1876 Texas Constitution did their best to prevent. As a result of Reconstruction, that document designed a decentralized government with most of the power resting with the citizenry. But what Gov. Perry has done is subvert the will of the people.

And before y'all jump up and scream that down ballot races are largely determined by straight ticket voting at the top, the fact remains that that is the system we have and that's the system we used last November. A good many Republican candidates for judge were banking on voters in the suburbs turning out in large numbers to vote for Mitt Romney. Unfortunately for them, the turnout in the city was enough to overcome the GOP votes in the county and they did not sweep into office.

But Rick Perry and his minions don't care about elections. They don't care about anything other than advancing their right wing philosophy which includes packing the courts with as many Republicans and conservatives as possible.

If we did away with popular elections whoever the governor appointed would sit on the bench until they got tired of doing so because retention elections have become the next best thing to lifetime appointments. All retention elections do is encourage large law firms to pump more and more money into judicial races creating nothing but conflicts of interest in the courthouse.

And, with the pending appointment of a judge to replace Joan Campbell in the 248th, I suppose we could just browse the names of Republican candidates who were rejected by the voters to determine who Gov. Goodhair will select.

Because the will of the people means nothing to him.

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