Saturday, February 16, 2013

Yet another black-robed prosecutor in Harris County

On Thursday, Gov. Rick Perry appointed former Harris County Assistant District Attorney and current executive director of Crimestoppers, Katherine Cabaniss, as presiding judge of the 248th Judicial District Court.

According to Ms. Cabaniss' biography, she worked for a civil litigation firm before joining the DA's office. She was a prosecutor for 11 years (and emphasizes that she obtained a death sentence in a capital case) before leaving to head up Crimestoppers in 2006. So, by my calculation, for the last 18 years, Ms. Cabaniss has worked either to send folks to prison or to help the police solve crimes. In other words, her entire background is in assisting the state in criminal prosecutions.

Yes, Murray, I'm sure she's a really nice person, but that's not the point.

The point is she will be presiding over criminal trials in which questions of the honesty of police officers and the legality of their actions will be raised. She will be asked to make decisions on those questions that will affect the lives of the defendants, and their families, standing before her. And she has never been on the other side.

Her entire career has been on the enforcement side. She's never had to stand next to a client being sentenced to a lengthy stretch in prison. She's never had to comfort the wife, the mother, the father or child of a client who's been sentenced to years in prison. The numbers are an abstraction to her.

Her entire career has been spent assuming that police officers are being truthful in their reports and when testifying at trial. She's never discussed an offense report with a client who insists that the officer is lying and that things didn't happen the way the man with the badge said they did.

There are far too many judges in the criminal courts who have never stood beside a person accused by the state of committing a crime and challenged the evidence before the court. There are too many judges who view their bench as an extension of the District Attorney's Office.

Here we go again.

5 comments:

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Okay, Chicken Little,

The same thing was said about Marc Brown and he is proving himself daily to be one of the best judges on the bench in Harris County. Brad Hart and yes, gasp, Ryan Patrick are getting some pretty good (admittedly early) reviews as well.

The election of 2008 seems to have proved to many people that being a defense attorney before taking the bench was not always a great thing.

However, I respect your burning desire to complain in advance, so I will leave it at that. However, if you would like to address some actual act that one these judges did that was wrong or oppressive, I will be happy to discuss that in more detail.

Paul B. Kennedy said...

Oh, Murray, don't go getting your panties twisted up in a knot. There are former defense attorneys who were lousy judges and there are judges who came straight out of the DA's office who were good - but we really need judges who have been on both sides of the fence if we want a level playing field at the courthouse.

When you have candidates straight off the 6th Floor who are running ads that make it sound more like they're running for sheriff, we've got a problem.

Anonymous said...

Katherine Cabaniss has no such ads, so what's your point?

Paul B. Kennedy said...

Ms. Cabaniss is the executive director of an organization that receives money from every defendant who pleads guilty in exchange for probation or deferred adjudication.

Her organization depends on those "contributions." She is part and parcel of the law enforcement establishment in Harris County.

Anonymous said...

She's on the drug court foundation board, no? That makes her sound a little softer on crime / balanced.