¡Justice, Sí, Safety, No!


Harris County District Judge Katherine Cabaniss’s email pleading for votes in the popularity contest that is the Houston Bar Association’s Judicial Preference Poll (via Robb Fickman, who I hope will have something to say about it when he’s out of trial) is right across the SWRVs’ ((Scared White Republican Voters’.)) home plate:

Dear Fellow HBA Member,

The Houston Bar Association’s Judicial Preference Poll will be released on Monday, September 8. I am asking for your vote.

In the HBA poll released earlier this year, I was voted either “Well Qualified” or “Qualified” by almost 87% of respondents.

I was a prosecutor for more than 11 years in Houston. I also served as Crime Stopper’s Executive Director for 6 years. Since being appointed by Governor Perry in 2013, I have worked to see that justice is done in every single case, every single day, in my courtroom.

It is the election season, and I need your help to keep Harris County safe.

Please take a moment to complete the HBA poll before the deadline, September 29. I would be honored to receive your vote. Additionally, please let a friend know about the poll, and ask them to vote as well.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Katherine Cabaniss
Judge, 248th Criminal District Court

pd pol ad • Katherine Cabaniss Campaign

A judge’s job is not to “keep Harris County safe.” The safer we are, the less free we are, and vice versa. The prosecution’s job is to keep us safe, the defense’s job is to keep us free, and the judge’s job is to call the balls and strikes. A felony judge promising to “keep Harris County safe” is dangerously close to violating Canon 5(1) of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct:

A judge or judicial candidate shall not make pledges or promises of conduct in office regarding pending or impending cases, specific classes of cases, specific classes of litigants, or specific propositions of law that would suggest to a reasonable person that the judge is predisposed to a probable decision in cases within the scope of the pledge….

A judge’s job is to protect everyone from the fears and prejudices of the majority. Unfortunately, judicial elections buy us judges who pander to those fears and prejudices. And as long as more Republicans vote than Democrats, the SWRVs—right-wing authoritarians to a man—will dominate and those fears and prejudices will be those of the meanest and most frightened among us.

(This should not be read as an endorsement of Cabaniss’s opponent, for it is certainly not.)


8 responses to “¡Justice, Sí, Safety, No!”

  1. A while back, I saw dueling interviews in my local paper for two candidates for a judgeship. In their ‘Any final words?’ sections, one said “We need to get tough on crime.” The other said “We need to make sure we apply the law as written.”

    It was the first and only time I’ve been motivated enough to actually go help someone campaign, and while there was some other justification, the real reason was that clear-cut dichotomy.

  2. Katherine Cabsniss is an excellent judge. I have been before her many times on many cases, some of them hotly contested and some of them very serious. I have always found her to be totally fair. When presented with the facts, she always tries to do the right thing. She ran as a conservative and she is a conservative, but she has also shown compassion and mercy where it was warranted. She has done a fine job and deserves to be reelected.

  3. You are correct that the line about keeping Harris County safe is aimed at conservative voters. While judges do not (and should not) try to perform the same duties as law enforcement and prosecutors, the decisions they make undeniably affect the safety of the public. They also affect the rights of accused citizens and the liberty of the population as a whole. These interests must be balanced to achieve something we optimistically call “justice.” Whether you agree or disagree with the language of the email, I sincerely believe this is what Judge Cabaniss — who is also my friend and former colleague — strives for. I understand your point, but I think actions speak louder than campaign rhetoric, and I stand by my earlier comment.

  4. Mark-
    On Friday morning, Sept 5, 2014, I posted on my blog: The Farcical HBA Bar Polls and Those Who Play the Game.

    I just read your blog and you and I see eye to eye.
    As the real Bob Bennett once observed, he couldn’t tell if some of these judges were running fir judge or sheriff. I pretty sure most see no distinction between the jobs.

    I also wrote about the farcical & misleading nature of the entire HBA Bar poll. They might as well call the Damn thing ” The Assistant District Attorneys Paid for Bar Poll of Their Ex DA Buddies & Pals”.

    Anyway, my piece says what I have to say and if it makes more state judges mad that’s their problem.

    Peace please.


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