The old joke is that it is better to know the judge than it is to know the law. Now, in truth, I don't ever recall the judge ever giving one of the lawyers in the room a wink and a nod, and plowing ahead against all fact and legal reason, but I have been in many a courtroom over the years where it felt like my underpants were showing all the time, because I was the one person among the attorneys and the staffers who did not know of some peculiar personality quirk, inclination of mind or pet peeve of the judge, and I have seen lawyers who did know those things manipulate them to the benefit of their clients, so keeping up with the news about judges is important.
I've got two pieces of judicial news to post today. I'll post them separately for the benefit of indexing, etc.
On August 30, 2012, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded Jim Sharp, a justice on the 1st Court of Appeals in Houston.
The Commission found that Justice Sharp repeatedly contacted employees at the Brazoria County Juvenile Detention Center and identified himself as a Court of Appeals justice in his efforts to secure the early release of a friend's daughter from the facility. Even though told that Brazoria County
had a policy of not releasing juveniles until they could be seen by a
magistrate, Justice Sharp kept using his position and
authority as an appellate judge to pressure, intimidate, and coerce
Juvenile Detention employees into giving his friend’s daughter special
treatment (letting her out early in spite of County policy). Also, Justice Sharp reached out to several influential
friends, colleagues, and other public officials to try to get their help to get special obtain specially favorable treatment
for his friend’s daughter.
What Justice Sharp did is extensively documented in public records
and by the media. In addition, Justice Sharp’s conduct, including his
inappropriate and abusive treatment of Brazoria County employees, had
the direct consequence of causing his recusal from all pending cases in
which the Brazoria County Criminal District Attorney’s Office is counsel, thereby
interfering with the proper performance of his judicial duties.(Somebody in the State Bar or the SCJC made a mistake- Brazoria County has no "County Attorney"; the CDA does the civil and misdemeanor work that a County Attorney would normally do, in addition to a D.A.'s work.)
Sharp is a Democrat living in a Republican world- Harris County is Republican; a majority of the Judicial Conduct Commission's membership is chosen by the Supreme Court of Texas (all Republican) and the governor (Republican); Brazoria County CDA Jeri Yenne is a Republican. I do not believe that there was anything partisan in any thing that happened to Sharp, but I'm sure it was at least a tiny bit easier for the players to slap down a political adversary than someone who is supposed to be a friend. You know that this is a man likely to draw an adversary in the next election. I daresay that the odds are against his being reelected to the job. You can also tell from this story that he's not the kind of judge who reveres legal process, but instead is likely to think more like a politician. He's never been a prosecutor, but has been a criminal defense lawyer. Appears to have represented some civil plaintiffs as well as having clerked back in the day for white-shoe Houston defense firms. I'd like to know all that stuff before writing my brief, etc., than to find out after I was hip-deep in my appeal.