We Are Afraid to Name and Shame

Houston DWI lawyer Paul B. Kennedy (The Defense Rests) complains about Carpet bagging [visiting] judges:

In the meantime, those who were tossed out of office by the public continue to preside over trials because their buddies and former colleagues keep using them as visiting judges. It’s a process that needs to stop.

While it is true that the drafters of Texas’s constitution wanted judges to be subject to the will of the people, I don’t agree with Paul that judges whom voters have rejected should not be able to sit as visiting judges. The drafters of the Texas Constitution got it wrong. As a result of our partisan judicial elections, the voters hire many incompetents (see, for example, Ruben Guerrero) and fire many great judges (see, for example, Caprice Cosper).

The point, in my view, is that our sitting judges—the “buddies and former colleagues” that Kennedy refers tocontinue allowing lousy former judges (whether retired or fired) to preside over trials.


In his post, Paul doesn’t name the visiting judge.

He doesn’t name the sitting judge.

He doesn’t even give the number of the court.

That’s why.

8 responses to “We Are Afraid to Name and Shame”

    • I just looked it up. It was Mike Wilkinson, who I always found to be a fine judge. The voters fired him in favor of Randy Roll—a good example of the discernment of voting public. Unless Wilkinson has changed, I would choose him over Roll any day. In Paul’s case, Wilkinson was sitting in the 185th; I might choose Wilkinson over Judge Susan Brown. That’s a much closer call, though.

      In any case, “Judge Wilkinson was sitting in the 185th” wouldn’t make much of a complaint. Maybe Paul was just looking for a hook so that he could brag about his acquittal. Nothing wrong with that.

  1. While I certainly agree that there are some real doozies floating around as visiting judges, I don’t think we can deny that many are beneficial. How many times have we negotiated a deal only to have the judge balk at it, then had to wait until a visiting judge sat-in and approved the deal? We all know it happens and it’s usually because the judge fears voter backlash if his opponent finds out and uses it against him in a campaign commercial. Visiting judges don’t have this problem and maybe instead of bashing them we should be thankful. Many defendants owe their freedom to the roving robes…

  2. I’ve noticed a similar contempt for “visiting judges” by defense attorneys in the Fort Lauderdale- Broward County area as well. The local courthouse blog dishes dirt on judges, the electoral process, and the pension system which allows double and triple dipping.

    The local attorneys, hidden behind that mask of internet anonymity, scream foul ball when a retired judge comes in for a day of $$ while already collecting some of the fattest pensions in the country. That’s aside from their everyday bitching about nearly
    every subject you can think of – from parking to the buildings leaky plumbing.

    As much as I like the internet and information I get from sites like yours, the anonymous
    comment system is one of the worst developments I have seen in a society that values civilized discourse. And the online behavior you get from people, even attorneys, makes me sick.

    You have my utmost respect for standing up publicly against injustice and requiring those who participate to identify themselves as well.

  3. So how does this get fixed? Inform an uninformed voting public? While it is uncalled for, where does the solution lie? I’m more involved with the attorney side and my firm, so I want to hear from educated people on this topic.

  4. Do judges have to have some sort of minimal legal training in order to become judges in TX? Here in NY I was horrified to learn that the guy who came in to fix the printers was a judge. The guy’s formal areas of expertise never extended outside of fixing printers and yet he was elected a judge, I can’t imagine any well thought out decisions coming from this guy. He was a Republican lock-them-all-up-and-throw-away-the-key type of guy.

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