Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Is this what it means to inhale?

The mailers from the Republican Party are coming hot and heavy as we approach Election Day. The latest broadside warns of chaos in the courthouse should the Democrats sweep the judicial races.

Once again I must address the warning that folks aren't showing up for their court dates. Blaming that on Democratic judges is more than a bit misleading. Let's see, a lawsuit was filed in Harris County challenging the constitutionality of the bond schedule in the misdemeanor courts. The plaintiff's won the lawsuit and the sitting Republican judges appealed.

As part of that lawsuit, the County was ordered to release any defendant in a non-violent misdemeanor case in which that defendant was not taken before a magistrate for a probable cause determination within 48 hours. That magistrate was also tasked with the job of determining the appropriate bond for the defendant based upon the nature of the offense and the defendant's ability to post bond.

If after seeing the magistrate, Pretrial Services determined that the defendant was a good candidate for pretrial release, they were released. Otherwise they sat behind bars until they posted bond.

The procedure in the felony courts has remained largely unchanged since there tend to be more issues regarding the safety of the community and the seriousness of the alleged offense.

And as to concerns about the punishments meted out, I would remind the folks who put out this bullshit that 15 of the 16 judges on the misdemeanor bench are Republicans. Furthermore, the vast majority of cases are resolved through plea bargains in which the only role of the judge is to decide whether or not to accept the deal. In the last 13 years I have had only one plea deal rejected by the judge.

The other issue on the broadside has to do with damages in civil court. Republicans are worried about Democrats sitting on the civil benches and hearing cases involving monetary damages. Their biggest fear is that Democratic judges will determine what is, and what isn't, a frivolous case.

Well, I guess one's level of concern would be strongly correlated to one's view as to what is and isn't a frivolous matter. Being that state legislatures long ago became entangled in the entrenched interests of industry and banks, it has long been the case that the only path one had to redress injury were the courts. When someone says that Democrats would award too much in damages in frivolous suits, what they are really saying is that those judges would hold corporations and powerful business interests accountable for their actions and the damages they cause.

The other thing that most folks don't know is that, quite often, parties settle cases for an amount that differs from the award in order to achieve finality, collect what they can and to avoid the time and cost of the appeals process.

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