Further in his interview of Chris Daniel (my earlier commentary, in four parts, is here, here, here, and here), David Jennings betrays that Daniel is not the only participant ignorant of the operative facts. He gets the lawyer-window story confused, turning it into a lawyers-only-window story and trying to make of it a story of elitism: “Does that sound like he’s trying to put lawyers above people, voters?”
To appreciate the unintended irony of the question and of Daniel’s response, recall the first words of Chris Daniel that I included in part 1: “In investigating the needs and wants of the legal community . . . .” Making it quicker and easier for lawyers to file and retrieve documents in the public-service section at 1201 Franklin satisfies those needs and wants.
Theresa Chang’s excuse for not creating an attorney window was not that it was elitist, but that it would be too expensive. For many years before the Criminal Justice Center was built, Charles Bacarisse had an attorney window in the public-service section at 301 San Jacinto. In addition to meeting the needs and wants of the legal community, it helps nonlawyers because while lawyers were waiting in line, their clients were paying, one way or another.
But Daniel, who has probably never been in 1201, is all too happy to take the notion and run with it:
What it really sounds like is that he understands one aspect of that office, but to the detriment of the average citizen who is not an attorney. And I’ll give you an example. There are certain courts right now that are online filing only. Now, if you are poor, if you are an illegal immigrant trying to get legal status, if you are somebody who has to either rely on pro bono legal service or a court-ordered attorney, you have almost no access to the courts. You have been shut off from the courts. And for him to take this attitude Lawyers Only, really does close the office to the rest of Harris County.
- The electronic filing system in most Federal courts (for which system Daniel has expressed admiration) allows online filing only.
- Whether a Harris County court requires online filing is not a matter for the District Clerk to decide. It is a decision of the court. Loren Jackson has, however, worked with the judges to create local rules allowing for a free e-filing portal, so that people (lawyers and pro se litigants) will not have to pay the statewide monopoly to file documents.
- Anyone with pro bono legal service or a court-appointed lawyer should not be filing documents himself. Pro se litigants will, it is true, have to get to a computer to file their documents, or ask the court for the rule not to apply to them. The judges’ e-filing orders allow for such exceptions; any pro se litigant who isn’t minimally competent to ask the judge for an exception has got no business filing anything anyway.
- “An illegal immigrant trying to get legal status”? It’s nice to hear a Republican sticking up for illegal immigrants, but it’s sad to think that this guy, a few straight-ticket votes away from the District Clerk’s Office, thinks that illegal immigrants file documents in the Harris County District Courts seeking legal status.