Thursday, October 18, 2018

Blowing smoke at the courthouse

Oh, campaign season is all around us. The other day I got a mailer from the Republican Party of Texas promoting Republican judges. I suppose for the ordinary person who hasn't the slightest clue how the criminal (in)justice system works, the mailer might have an effect.

But not really. You see, the results in most judicial races mirrors that of the races at the top of the ballot. There might be a difference of a couple percentage points but, in general, the results are pretty much in line in Harris County.

The mailer tells us that "Republican judges follow the law" and implore folks to "Keep Harris County safe by voting for Republican judges."

Those tag lines are horridly misleading because many judges on the ballot have absolutely nothing to do with criminal law and the average citizen hasn't a clue as to who sits on a civil bench and who sits on a criminal bench.

The mailer states that upwards of 95% of the judges endorsed by police organizations are Republican. I don't doubt that - considering that the Republicans have pretty much owned the county criminal benches for 20 years or more. And many of these judges have track records of being friendly to the state (since too many to count went right from the DA's office to the bench) - they will give the police the benefit of the doubt when it comes to suppression issues.

The mailer also tells us that some criminals have been released from jail (on bond) or have been given probation (through plea bargains made between defense attorneys and prosecutors) and then later committed other crimes.

But, wait a second. Aren't the Republicans supposed to be stingy with the purse strings? Locking up more folks when the jails are already at capacity means building new jails or paying other counties to house folks awaiting trial. How on earth is that being fiscally responsible?

Then, of course, there is this whole matter of the 8th Amendment and the lawsuit challenging the way bonds are set in Harris County. The county has continually lost at every step of the process yet 14 of the 15 Republican judges have continued the fight to defend an unconstitutional system at a cost of several million dollars.

I guess, what the hell, it's not their money so another round of briefs and depositions all around.

So, if you want judges who will continue to spend taxpayer money defending a bad system who use the old bond schedule as a way to coerce pleas from the poor, and if you want judges who are going to spend taxpayer money housing inmates who haven't been convicted of anything, then, yes, by all means, vote for the Republican candidates on the November ballot.

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