The Blind Leading the Blind . . .


. . . to vote for the blind.

There are great Republican candidates for Harris County criminal benches in next month’s elections: Vanessa Velasquez, Marc Carter, Mike McSpadden, Larry Standley. A straight-ticket sweep either way would be about equally bad, but an honest man familiar with the Harris County courthouse could, with a straight face, call for Republican voters to vote straight-ticket to keep these incumbents in office.
Namby-pamby liberal* Murray “Murph” Newman wrote of Republican Chris Daniel’s candidacy: “Only a die-hard Republican who was completely unfamiliar with the job Jackson is doing would think of voting against him.” Daniel found just such a die-hard Republican in David Jennings, who blogs at Big Jolly, and who is an enthusiastic supporter of Daniel’s Peterian quest for elected office.

Now Jennings is calling for a Republican sweep but, instead of holding up as a paragon of Republican judging one of those judges with a track record of knowledge, fairness, dignity, and respect, Jennings picks John Clinton, a guy who is running for criminal judge with no criminal-law experience and no judging experience, to carry the straight-ticket banner.

I think Jennings is an honest guy, but he seems, like most voters, to know next-to-nothing about the criminal courthouse. He writes:

That is the bottom line in this election. Republican judges base their rulings upon the law – Democratic judges base their rulings on how they “feel” about something.

This may be good Republican dogma, but it bears no relationship to reality. Anyone who has spent time down at the criminal courthouse will tell you about Republican judges who wouldn’t know the law if it bit them on the butt and wouldn’t follow it if they did; anyone who has spent time there in the last 20 months will tell you about Democratic judges who know the law inside and out and hold everyone in the courthouse to it. There are also some great Republican judges and a couple of transcendently bad Democrats on the bench.

Following the law means sometimes cutting the factually guilty loose, and sometimes hammering them. Whether a judge “follows the law” or not does not depend on party affiliation. Partisan judicial elections are a stupid idea.

Jennings plays to the Scared White Republicans:**

I completely understand that defense attorney Bennett or one of his clients would much prefer Mr. Leal to be sitting behind the bench but what about you? You are the voter. You are the ordinary, law abiding citizen whose life can be ruined by a criminal turned loose upon society by a “do gooder judge”.

The truth is much more complex. Not only are the SWRs among the citizens (law-abiding and otherwise) whose lives can be ruined by criminals turned loose upon society; they—and their children—are also among the citizens whose lives can be ruined by a police error or an overzealous prosecution or an ignorant judge.

I know whereof I speak: these folk—lifetime Republicans who are shocked, when they get crosswise with the law, to see how lousy some of the judges they helped elect are—contribute generously to the feeding of my children (for which I thank them). They would love to have judges biased toward them; they would settle with great relief for judges who follow the law neutrally.

As citizens, we all should want a judiciary that follows all of the law, regardless of the outcome in any particular case. Since we can’t do away with the partisan election of judges, that means studying the races and voting only for those candidates with whom we are familiar and whom we trust.

Jennings doesn’t seem to think very highly of his readers’ ability to distinguish the candidates—”the ballot,” he warns, “is very, very long.” While Jennings advocates straight-ticket voting, there are Democratic fools doing the same. Our best hope is that the ignoranti on both sides cancel each other out so that the judicial races are decided by the voters who are familiar both with what is at stake and with the candidates.

We will wind up with the judges we deserve; Harris County may indeed deserve—as Jennings asserts—judges like John Clinton. God help us.


*That’s facetiousness, for all the judges, judicial candidates, Harris County political party officials, and others with IQs at least one standard deviation beneath the norm who might stumble upon this page looking for the latest in kiddie porn. Newman is a fairly politically conservative smart dude.

**For the Stupid Republicans who think I’m tarring all Republicans with the “Scared White” label: I’m not. There are certain Republican voters who will be led around by their noses by anyone who can make them afraid (like Chris Daniel with his document-review terrorists, an idea that David Jennings himself called “stupid”). If the shoe doesn’t fit, great. Vote based on something other than fear.

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2 responses to “The Blind Leading the Blind . . .”

  1. “Republican judges base their rulings upon the law – Democratic judges base their rulings on how they ‘feel’ about something.”

    I guess none of these cases have disputed facts that affect admissibility, probable cause, etc.?

    We require our judges to do both. You can’t apply the law without knowing it. You can’t apply the law to disputed facts without determining how you “feel” about those witnesses and other sources of evidence.

    And in the context of court trials, the recent [temporary?] elimination of factual sufficiency appellate review makes it all the more important that judges fairly apply the law while following their *true* feelings about the evidence and whether it satisfies guilt BYRD.

  2. Mark,

    Your comments in this post are right on target once again. I think that when judges are elected to their positions they subject themselves to views of their affliated political party. Of course the problem with this system, is that a judge is suppose to be beyond politics. A judge is suppose be an impartial and neutral party, and is to follow the law, not some political agenda. A judge that is worried about backlash from the public or political pressure is not fulfilling their role and duties as a judge. A judge is not suppose to make rulings based on what’s popular or some political affliation, but should make rulings based upon the law alone.

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