Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Well, Texas has once again shown the nation that our judicial system is a joke. Tom Delay's defense team, acting under the leadership of Dick Deguerin, has managed to have Judge Bob Perkins removed as presiding judge from Delay's case for no other reason than because Perkins made political contributions to MoveOn.org, a liberal political group which now supports Delay's removal from office (although they had taken no such stand back at the time that Perkins made the contributions).
The ruling, made by semiretired Bell County Judge C. W. "Bud" Duncan is nothing less than a travesty of justice. The defense team's sole ground for arguing that Perkins should be removed from the case came in the fact that Perkins is a Democrat who supports Democrat causes, while Delay is a Republican. Duncan's decision means that, in effect, no judge in Texas should be allowed to preside over a case for any defendant who holds political views which are different than his or her own. Which is, of course, absolutely absurd.
Judges in Texas are, by necessity, political individuals. Texas judges, unlike federal judges and the judges in some other states, are elected rather than appointed. Texas judges run for office in order to gain their seats, and this means that they need to be involved with political parties and gain political support in order to gain their jobs. It is impossible to gain a seat as a judge in Texas without some level of political campaigning and fundraising, and to say that a judge cannot preside over a case because he holds different political views than one of the parties who appears before him is to completely undermine the entire system of elected judiciary which operates in our state.
Having worked as a defense attorney for many years, I can guarantee you that as I write this tonight, a thousand jailhouse lawyers (i.e., inmates who do their own research and legal drafting while in jail in the effort to defend themselves) across the state are busy drafting motions to have their judges recused from their cases because their judges have "political bias" against the defendants and support different political parties than the defendants themselves. (and, ironically, by the reasoning which held sway on the Delay case today, these defendants should be allowed to have their judges recused, especially since so many defendants in Texas jails are poor, minority inmates who would probably have the most to gain by supporting drug rehabilitation programs and other items on a liberal agenda, while the majority of judges in Texas are wealthy, white, and Republican- seemingly coming from a political point of view which is far different than that of the average inmate).
In light of the fact that there was absolutely no valid legal reason to force Judge Perkins to step down from Delay's case, I believe the ruling by Judge Duncan to be nothing more than political corruption, pure and simple.
Just last week The Austin Chronicle ran a story about the corruption and malfeasance which has been sweeping through Bell County (Judge Duncan's home county). The article specifically targetted Bell County District Attorney Bobby Bell, pointing out his racist prosecution practices (blacks are statistically far more likely to receive prison time than whites for drug crimes in Bell County) have long involved manufactured evidence and trials which did little more than railroad defendants who protested their innocence. The article points out the outrageous political practices of Bell, but it is also clear that the entire judicial process has been compromised in Bell County for some period of time. Defense attorneys refuse to practice in the county, and judges shove cases through the courts without granting defendants either the time or the resources to adequately defend themselves. Judges and juries regularly hand out sentences for first time offenders (especially minorities) in Bell County which include prison sentences that are in excess of 90% of the allowable sentence. This corrupt, racist county is the home of Judge Duncan, the esteemed jurist who somehow found his way into the Delay case in order to make one of the worst (and most suspect) legal decisions in recent Austin history.
I believe that promises have been made and palms have been greased. The rest of the country is laughing at the Texas legal system- some out of joy and some out of frustration- and today they are more than justified in finding our judicial system ridiculous.


JMD said...

Now, now, Steanso, I am no fan of DeLay, but you should at least mention that the jurist in question donated not just to Democratic candidates but also to MoveOn.org, which has been virulent in its criticism of DeLay. Were the judge just a Democratic voter, I wouldn't think there would be a problem. (Heck, if he voted for himself, he'd be a Democratic voter.). Contributions, too, probably aren't enough on their own. But the pattern of his contributions, coupled with the fact that he donated to an advocacy group that has specifically targeted DeLay, are surely enough for a zealous advocate to raise an issue, don't you think?

J.S. said...

Well, Dedman, first of all I actually don't think that contributions to ANY political group are sufficient to have a judge removed from a case, and second of all, from what I understand, Perkins' contributions to MoveOn were made during the Kerry campaign, long before MoveOn had taken any interest in Delay, let alone set up their current campaign against him. Furthermore, almost every Democratic political group in the country has been "virulent" in its criticism of Delay (in my opinion, for good reason), so prohibiting a judge from contributing to any group which opposes Delay is, in effect, prohibiting that judge from dontating to almost any Democratic cause. I appreciate your comment, Jim (and I encourage more of them from dissenters out there), but I definitely remain unconvinced.

J.S. said...

Also, Jim, I don't blame the defense team for raising this issue at all. They're just doing their jobs (and doing it well, I might add). I DO blame Judge Duncan, however, for making such a ridiculous ruling.

The League said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The League said...

It was asked what I said and pulled down. Well, my comment was pulled down out of shame at my type-o's.

I said that I hoped that the same stringent rules applied to the next judge, be it donations to the GOP, Heritage Foundation, etc...

I mentioned that MoveOn.org is NOT strictly an anti-Tom Delay vehicle, and that donations to the organization are given for many reasons. Pointing to the Delay case seems week as the Delay issue is a new one and MoveOn is an organization of many years.

This whole fiasco really makes me wonder why anyone should bother to work within the legal system if it's all about influence peddling and party loyalties. For the first time in my life I'm glad I'm not in Texas.

J.S. said...

You ain't just whistling dixie about having second thoughts about working in the justice system. The Tom Delay case, however, is not a good example of how the legal system works on a daily basis. It's just messed up that famous people and politicians get a different variety of justice than your average joe (and there are plenty of times that the justice system ain't so just for your average joe, as well, but you can bet your ass that the system doesn't normally bend to work in the average person's FAVOR)

The League said...

I'm not talking about working in the justice system as much as I'm talking about having faith in it.

I'm sick to death of seeing party loyalty on both sides make people toss logic and reason aside just so they can feel like they're part of a winning team.

J.S. said...

But that's the American way, Roundball...

JMD said...

You don't think any political contribution should be sufficient?

What is a judge contributed to one candidate in a lawsuit between the two candidates? What if a judge was a life long member of the NRA and the issue was the constitutionality of a statute on Second Amendment grounds?

In fact, don't the rules of judicial conduct and ethics set forth some guidance on these very issues? Are those rules superfluous or unnecessary?

The League said...

Donation/ membership to MoveOn demonstrates little more than an active role in party affiliation. It does not encompass a specific agenda dedicated to singular issues like the two examples you mentioned.

MoveOn is not a "Let's get Tom Delay" organization. MoveOn is nothing more than an e-mail distribution list for largely democratic causes, encouraging people to particpate in the democratic process and contact their representatives.

Occasionally a request will be made for donations for specific projects for advertisements, etc... Citizens may give money to MoveOn all the time based upon whatever cause they're pushing that day or week.

Like the Heritage Foundation, MoveOn tackles a number of issues, not all of which a contributor may agree and is free to participate or ignore MoveOn's various causes.

This is markedly different than supporting a specific candidate or specific cause such as the NRA situation mentioned where a clear preference can be demonstrated.

My concern is that those rules of conduct you mention are not being applied properly or fairly mostly due to the fact that MoveOn is about as popular as the ACLU in Republican-heavy Texas. Will one standard be held up for Judge Perkins, but a different standard apply to anyone with the all-important (R) after their name inside the State of Texas?

As Steanso mentions, judgeships are elected positions. Are only Republicans qualified to judge one of their own?

By your standard, anyone who has given to the GOP or any conservative support network should recuse themself from presiding over this case.

J.S. said...

Donating directly to one of the parties involved in a lawsuit is a far different thing than donating to an organization which simply supports a particular ideology or general cause. As for your NRA hypothetical, I actually don't think a judge should have to recuse himself from a second amendment case simply because he is an NRA member. Judges don't live in a vacuum, and each and every one of them comes to the bench with a lifetime of experiences and decisions under their belt. That's why I think that there's a huge difference between barring someone from a case because of their political leanings versus asking them to recuse themself because of a pre-existing bias toward or against a specific party (keep in mind that in small towns, judges are often even required to ppreside over cases in which they personally know the parties who are involved in the suit- the judges are only expected to recuse themselves if an actual bias for or against one of the parties can be demonstrated).

JMD said...

I think MoveOn is known a bit more for its zealotry than anything else. They are certainly as partisan as the NRA. That's neither here nor there.

I'll have to look up the Texas judicial ethic rule on contributions so we can discuss.

The League said...

You've basically stated that MoveOn is comprised of some sort of fanatic group, thus dismissing them.

I'm curious: If MoveOn is comprised of zealots, then what is the Heritage Foundation? The John Birch Society?

Is the membership of those organizations logically more sound to judge Tom Delay?