Sunday, November 16, 2008

...Lest Ye Be Judged

Over the weekend I had the occasion to rub elbows with one of Harris County’s newly-minted Judges…and a Criminal Defense attorney who works in the Harris County courthouses, making sure there is "equal justice for all, "as he told me.

Both jurists agreed that there should be no political distinction made when it comes to putting judges on the bench in Harris County…or in any other jurisdiction, for that matter. The law is the law, and should be enforced by all regardless of political stripe.

The defense attorney made an interesting observation that the Harris County Court System is a training ground for young lawyers in love (with the law): those wishing to advance their law careers cut their eye teeth prosecuting defendants. Behavior that might result in a misdemeanor or a warning to a first time offender in any other Texas counties is rewarded with a trip through the Harris County court system’s meat grinder, so that these ambitious attorneys can have a go at a case or two, perhaps in the hope of becoming the next Racehorse Haynes or Randy Hardin.

Interestingly, the Houston Chronicle yesterday launched a three day feature on how illegal immigrants are cycling through the criminal justice system like a revolving door in Harris County.

According to the report, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials failed to file paperwork to detain 75% percent of more than 3,500 inmates who told jailers during the booking process that they were in the U.S. illegally. While most of the inmates released from custody "were accused of minor crimes, hundreds of convicted felons — including child molesters, rapists and drug dealers — also managed to avoid deportation after serving time in Harris County's jails," according to the report, which is based on documents filed over a period of eight months starting in June 2007.

Of 177 cases reviewed by the Chronicle, those illegals who were released from jail were later charged with additional crimes, more than half of which were felonies, including aggravated sexual assault of a child and capital murder.

The report also revealed nearly 11% of the inmates in the review (3,500) had three or more prior convictions in Harris County, and had repeatedly "cycled through the system despite a history of violence and, in some cases, outstanding deportation orders."

Perhaps instead of spending time, energy and finances to fund partisan elections for judges, the counties could better apply those assets to plugging the holes and filling the deficiencies that allow this dangerous situation in to continue.

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