Bad Judicial Behavior

Dear Harris County judges:

The following is a non-exhaustive list of conduct, engaged in by you or your staffs, that is likely to get you grieved:

  • Telling defendants, “If you don’t hire a lawyer, you’re going to come back every day and stay until 11:30 until you hire a lawyer.”
  • Telling defendants, “Go hire a lawyer from the hallway.”
  • Telling defendants, “You made bond. You can’t have an appointed lawyer.”
  • Removing appointed counsel from cases when defendants make bond before substitute counsel is hired and without a hearing.
  • Telling defendants, “Hire a lawyer or go to jail.”
  • Jailing people for not hiring lawyers.

The days of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers trusting the Commission for Judicial Conduct to do its job are past. If a grievance is filed, it will be news.

Most of you would never do any of these things. That’s great. No need to protest. I hope your staffs realize that you would never do these things.

I know that some of this conduct has been going on for longer than I’ve been a lawyer. If you have a quibble or doubt about whether any of it is unethical, I’d be happy to have a friendly discussion with you about it; maybe you can convince me that it is not only traditional, but also legitimate. I raise these issues because I don’t want HCCLA to have to grieve any more judges. I’d rather the unethical behavior just stopped.



0 responses to “Bad Judicial Behavior”

  1. Any way you’d consider unbanning Rage Judicata so he respond to this post? It’s been awhile since I kicked his butt in a flame war.

    • What exactly would you argue with him about on this topic? It seems like he and Mark would be on the same side on this issue, so surely you can take a shot at kicking Mark’s butt in a flamewar.

      • Mark has a narrow, bony ass that I couldn’t hope to kick even if he stands still. If it’s a moving target, I’m sunk. I, on the other end, have a caboose so huge that Refrigerator Perry’s suggested I cut down on desserts.

  2. Well done Mark.

    This kind of well thought out SPECIFIC “message” is what I have been waiting for. There are good Judges and bad ones; for the ones who have the “sense God gave a catfish” this ultimatum will be well received. To others, well…”they don’t know what they don’t know; or know and just don’t “GET IT”. At least now (hopefully) this will be the first step in requiring anonymous bloggers to quiet down the all encompassing drive bys and ACT! No more wining & hiding. To NOT do what you have indicated is a great disservice to all the other hard working Judges who truly care and do not “shive a get” about their egos. They truly want to do the best they can do within the boundaries set out by the Commission on Judicial Conduct. Heavy-handedness be gone! In the same light you all don’t hesitate to use positive grapevine in any form or fashion if you see a judge doing something extraordinary that is NOT a good intention leading to hell – but a true act of judicial bravery. Otherwise nothing need be said one way or the other because the focus of any case should NEVER be on the Judge. Justicia et Veritas Prevalis!

  3. Mark, years ago, I saw and heard a now-deceased state district judge in open court threaten an indigent TSU student from Africa that he was going to “bounce his head off the side of the wall like a basketball” if he did not hire an attorney on his own.

    So it goes.

  4. From years of practicing in DC, I find the general “way of doing things” extremely informal in the Harris County Justice system. Maybe its me, but I am not at all surprised by the “letting it go” that appears to be transcending the courts…

    I for one am glad people are critical of the system (even you Mark!) so that proper justice with procedure will be followed…

  5. Why are most of the courtrooms kept locked until 8:55, forcing people to bunch up in the hall? In County Court 8, docket is set for 8:30. Yet the doors aren’t opened until 8:45 or later, depending on when the prima Donna decides to call docket.

  6. I think that the Commission on Judicial Conduct needs a major makeover. Last year they failed to take action against a judge who used profanity in his court room. With the standards of conduct so lax in state court, I am happy to practice almost exclusively in federal court. Bankruptcy is keeping me busy, and the judges always treat me with respect.

    [Alex: We don’t do the “keywords in commenter name” thing around here. MB]

  7. All people have capicity for good or evil. When people in power, who wear robes, turn to the dark side it is particularly troubling. I am with you Mark, 100%. The days of the defense bar sitting idly by while judges publicly stomped on the accused and the Constitution are over. The judges are all lawyers. They took the same oath we did to “support” the Constitution. No one is perfect, but if you take on the job of judge and want people to call you “Your Honor” all day long, then you need to be vigilant in supporting the Constitution.

    There are lots of good judges. In fact most of the judges are well-intentioned good people. The problem is that when you lump all their ‘bad habits’ together you get some serious gross injustice. If you want to understand what I am talking about just do a little comparison test. Go to the Federal Court and watch Judge Ellison and watch how he treats the litigants. The Honorable Judge Ellison treats litigants, including criminal defendants, in a respectful manner. He is true gentleman and calling him your Honor is quite natural. After you take that little trip march on over to state court and pop in a few courts and just watch. The difference in how some of the state judges address the defendants will reveal the stark truth about just how ugly some of the state judges can be.

    Rude behavior on the part of a judge is of no great significance. But that rude behavior is the tip of the iceberg. Look a little deeper and you will find in some judges hard mean-spirited bias against the accused. Anyone who has spent any time in the courthouse knows what I am talking about. The last time I mentioned the mean-spirited side of the courthouse was the Friday after Ike when I blasted “those who run the courthouse” for making people come to court just days after the Hurricane for meaningless routine settings. People without food, shelter, power, fuel, work , childcare were made to come to state court for fear if they didnt come they would loose their bonds and have a warrant on their head in addition to everything else. Judge Emmet should have closed the state Criminal courthouse for the entire week. He did not. The Federal Court was closed the entire week; no ifs, ands or buts.

    I appreciate Mark providing this forum as the public has a right to know just how bad things can be in the State courthouse in Houston, Texas. And for those who tell me to watch what I say, I have this to say. I do. I watch what I say as I type it. If I make someone mad by telling the truth, that is their problem, not mine. I will be quiet when I am dead and not a moment before.

    Robb Fickman

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