Reform the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct

Who watches the watchmen? Who judges the judges
With all of their humors and tantrums and grudges?
When you don’t have a lawyer so they take back your bail,
Who’s there to correct them? Who puts them in jail?
Who reins them back in when they trample your rights?
When they scurry in shadow, who turns on the lights?
Who is it that makes sure they follow the laws?
Who raps their knuckles and points out their flaws?
Who halts their transgressions? Impedes their offenses?
Checks their abuses? Brings them back to their senses?
Who tells the world when they get out of hand?
When they abuse you, who takes a stand?
When they get off-track, who gives them a nudge?
Who judges the watchman? Who watches the judge?

The Texas Commission for Judical Conduct is a hole in the ground with a million-dollar budget. Its purpose is not to discipline judges, but to protect them. It keeps judges’ bad behavior out of the public eye by giving people a place to complain. It gives people a place to complain about judges, but it is the place where judicial complaints go to die. The commission delays and dithers, and very rarely takes any action in response to even heinous misconduct.

Read the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission’s (“to identify and eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency in government agencies“) report on the TCJC. (PDF.)

(Shorter sunset report: “We can’t report on the Texas Commission for Judicial Conduct because they are wholly unaccountable.”)

In the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association’s dealings with the Commission, I have seen that the Commission’s lawyers don’t understand simple concepts of constitutional law—the idea that a judge could not legally revoke a person’s bail simply because that person had not hired a lawyer, for example, was foreign to them.

(Read HCCLA’s letter to the Sunset Commission regarding the TCJC (PDF).)

The Sunset Commission notes, “the [TCJC] operates largely behind closed doors to protect the confidentiality of the judges it oversees….” Judges are public officials. The public’s complaints against them should never be confidential. The Commission won’t publish them, so the people should, every time.

If you have a complaint for the Commission, send it to the commission and publish it online. HCCLA hasn’t routinely done this in the past, but it will in the future, and anyone else with a beef against a judge should follow suit.

File the futile complaint, but also tell the world. Let the public see judges’ wrongdoing, and then let the TCJC try to justify its continued existence by rationalizing its failure to act. It’ll take an amendment to the constitution to change how the TCJC does business, but such amendments aren’t difficult to make.

Comments 1

  1. Carmen Wolfe wrote:

    I am astounded at how many government agencies, local government, etc. have no overseer to stop illegal actions acted upon in their work performance, starting from the President down. And what can a regular citizen do to prevent these actions or bring them to justice in light of corrupt justices or power seeking judges who act to maintain their status and keep on getting paid by the sweat of people who work their butts off to live a somewhat decent life. Something needs to be done in this country which was founded on justice for all!!!

    Posted 26 Oct 2012 at 9:41 am

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