Chris Daniel’s interview, part 6 (in which I wrap it up)

In his interview with David Jennings (see my commentary, in five parts, here, here, here, here, and here), Chris Daniel says something downright interesting:

There are certain judges who will remain nameless, who have files in their office solely because they’re afraid to send them to imaging because they know that if they send it to imaging, it will be online and it will ruin whoever’s file that is reputation. And these are folks that have since had their lives repaired, they’ve moved on, and they’re living normal lives. And yet if that file gets put online, it ruins their life.

State law provides for expunction of criminal cases; it doesn’t allow judges to hold files back from the District Clerk because he will do his job and make them public.

In most cases, a judge holding back files from public view is probably violating State law. An interviewer less intent than Jennings on making his subject look like a golden boy would have followed up with this question: “what do you plan to do about that?” The District Clerk can’t legally decide to make some files non-public because they will ruin people’s lives. Public records are public; we don’t want a District Clerk who doesn’t understand or respect that principle. The District Clerk’s job—and Loren Jackson has done well at it—is to make public records accessible to the public.

Chris Daniel has said before that Loren Jackson’s innovations, including online access to documents, were in the works before Jackson was elected. As I explained before, this was a lie. There was no plan to make documents available online until after the case was closed. Now Daniel narrows his assertion:

The entire online filing process, to my knowledge, existed well before the incumbent filed for office.

This at least—assuming that Daniel is not once again confusing “online filing” with “online access”—is true. Other counties in Texas have had e-filing for years. It may even have been in the process of being adopted in Harris County. But e-filing is the smallest part of Loren Jackson’s accomplishments as district clerk.

In the Daniel interview, there’s more blather, more stroking by Jennings (“that light, that, that, that is just – that, that shines through you. If anybody knows you – I’ve seen you, I’ve been – how many times have I been around you? A hundred?”), but I think I’ve captured the marrow of it. Here’s the takeaway: Chris Daniel still has given no indication that he has any idea what the duties of the District Clerk are (and Jennings deliberately avoided talking with Daniel about them); he has no real ideas for making things work better; and his acquaintance with the realities of the District Clerk’s office is nodding at best.

Loren Jackson, by contrast, has changed the way the District Clerk’s Office works, inside and out, for the better, and he continues to improve it. Today, for example, the District Clerk’s Office announced a new civil verdict search engine (Tex Parte blog).

Daniel might be right—it might not be a catastrophe if he is elected District Clerk. Maybe he’ll have the good sense, Dunning-Kruger notwithstanding, to keep the District Clerk’s management intact, and the office won’t regress. But progress will slow and, if Daniel is allowed to follow his harebrained whims, Harris County will have a mess on its hands.

3 responses to “Chris Daniel’s interview, part 6 (in which I wrap it up)”

  1. Perhaps you could suggest to Mr. Daniels that he apply for a job as a clerk at the court and work at it for a couple of years. Realistically, that would give him enough knowledge so were he to discuss what changes and improvements he would make he could prevent you from so easily pointing out what an ass he is.

    On another note, I think e-filing should be optional. Moreover, I think this optionality ought to be incorporated within the rules of civil procedure with appropriate language preventing local rules of court from negating, however slightly, this optionality. I do not consider this to be a Luddite perspective, but a reasonable perspective given the near absolute infallibility of a time and date stamped physical document.

  2. Hi Mark,

    I immediately recognized – and chucked at – your reference to the Dunning and Kruger study (showing that incompetent people overestimate their ability even more than competent ones, in part because incompetence itself makes it more difficult to see their own issues).

    Keep up the good work!

    Jeff Deutsch

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