2016.009 Three Good Deeds

Speaking of kindnesses…

She was never my favorite judge. She was fair in trial, which is more than I can say for most of our local bench, but she was irascible in the runup to trial; it didn’t seem personal, but she was not “patient, dignified and courteous,” as required by the Texas Canons of Judicial Conduct. Still, when the Harris County district court judge tragically lost her grown son, I sent her my condolences because it was the right thing to do. She hugged me in the hallway and thanked me the next time she saw me. We were cool for a while. She treated me professionally, and not with the usual rudeness.

When the judge ordered one of my colleagues into custody for doing her job I stood up for my colleague. When she filed a grievance against the judge, I wrote an affidavit describing what I had observed. Because it was the right thing to do. The judge received a private sanction, (a big deal coming from the usually toothless Commission for Judicial Conduct, which usually disciplines judges by requiring them to buy the next round): A judge who has once been privately sanctioned doesn’t want to be grieved again.

When another colleague died, I took over one of his cases in the judge’s court. It was, again, the right thing to do. Last week I had a sweet deal worked out for that client. I realized as I was going over the plea papers with him that we hadn’t checked with an immigration lawyer to make sure that the sweet deal was really sweet. I asked the judge for two more days before doing the plea. Giving me two days would have cost her nothing and benefited me no farther than keeping me from committing malpractice. Everybody knew I was going to get my two days, but the judge was rude to me. I had “just asked her for another day yesterday” (not true) and “was losing credibility.” That a new personal edge to the old failure to be patient, dignified, and courteous.

I explained that I hadn’t crossed this particular T because of the irregular way the case had come to me — as a mitzvah to a fallen comrade. I hadn’t done my usual intake.

The judge said, “well, no good deed goes unpunished.”

Okay, judge. Okay.

On reflection, I wonder which of these three good deeds the judge was talking about. I doubt that it was the first, and maybe it was the third, but I have a sneaking suspicion it was the second — my representation of the lawyer she had unlawfully jailed.

Was the judge butthurt by my providing a factual account of that incident to the Commission on Judicial Conduct? Is she bent on punishing me? I would like to know. Not so that I can avoid the same sort of good deed in the future but so that I can it more. I’ve got a defiant streak, and if you try to punish me for doing the right thing, I’ll look for more opportunities to do the right thing the same way.

And opportunities abound. Remember: Patient, dignified and courteous.

6 responses to “2016.009 Three Good Deeds”

    • Sam, on further investigation, the judge (whose name I’ve redacted from your comment) got a private sanction, which might be different from a private reprimand. Thank you for calling that to my attention.

  1. If you talked to Rusty Hardin and he told you that she was reprimanded then again he’s wrong. I’d be more than happy to talk to him and ask him why he is telling lawyers that. Listen man your entitled to feel however you want about a judge just like the rest of us about certain judges or Courts. This is the first time I’ve ever responded to any blog and I did so because in spite of how you feel about someone you shouldn’t put things out there without checking on the truthfulness of it especially when it comes to their reputation. As a side note If you had lost your child I doubt you would appreciate anyone calling you out and identifying you in that way. If you have that big of a problem with her why not talk to her in private and voice your concerns. I’m certain she would gladly participate. It’s your blog bud, write what you want. Sam.

    • My source is not Rusty. It’s someone who has reason to know and reason to tell me the truth. I wonder if the same is true of your source.

      Incidentally, without your comment, nobody who didn’t already know the story would have connected it with the judge that you named. I’m not shy about naming judges who rub me the wrong way, but I didn’t in this case for carefully considered reasons. “Why not talk to her in private?”? Because I have learned through long experience with lawyers that a blog post is more effective than a quiet word. I wouldn’t say that I have a problem with her, but she apparently has a problem with me, and she knows where to find me if, instead of being nasty to me in chambers, she wants to have a civilized conversation.

      Of course if my source tells me he or she may have been mistaken, or I see documentation showing that I’m wrong, I’ll retract that part of my post.

      Thanks for reading.

  2. What’s funny is that she thought the expression meant that she needed to punish you for doing a good deed. That’s not really the usual bent of that saying.

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