The ACLU of Texas is asking Harris County’s longest serving felony court judge to resign after making a statement to the Houston Chronicle on his views about black men’s attitudes toward the criminal justice system.
The civil rights group also is asking that the judge be automatically recused from cases involving African-American defendants until an investigation into potential racial bias occurs, according to a news release Tuesday.
“If there remained any doubt that the deck is stacked against people of color in our criminal justice system, Michael McSpadden just dispelled it,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. “When a sitting judge feels comfortable enough to admit openly and on the record that he uses bail orders to jail black defendants on the assumption they can’t be trusted, it’s time to take action. This kind of flagrant racism has no place in our justice system.”
She said, “The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct needs to take the first step toward rooting it out, and Judge McSpadden should voluntarily step down.”
McSpadden could not be immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. His court staff said he was on the bench hearing cases.
The civil rights organization said McSpadden’s comments violate the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct and could merit removal from office.
“Judge McSpadden’s remarks are inexcusable, but not at all surprising for those of us who know the justice system well,” said former death row inmate Anthony Graves, who runs a criminal justice initiative for the ACLU of Texas.
See here for the background. Perhaps there’s some context Judge McSpadden can add to his comments, or perhaps he could just admit that was a dumb and offensive thing to say and offer an apology for it. People may or may not accept either action, but at least it would be something. In the absence of any such followup, one is left to conclude that he has nothing further to say on the matter. Whatever one may have thought of Judge McSpadden before now, that’s not a good look. And as a reminder, Judge McSpadden is up for election this fall. For all the griping some people do about partisan judicial elections, they do at least give the voters the chance to correct errors on the bench.
On a side note, two of Judge McSpadden’s colleagues on the misdemeanor courts are again urging the county to settle the bail lawsuit.
“The most conservative appellate court in this country, strict constitutional conservatives, have said that this practice that we are doing is unconstitutional,” said Judge Darrell Jordan, one of the defendants in the lawsuit.
Jordan told County Judge Ed Emmett and county commissioners that fighting the suit had already cost Harris County $6 million in legal fees. “I’m asking that you all cut this last check, fire these $6 million lawyers, let the County Attorney’s office come, and we all sit down and work out a settlement.”
Jordan’s co-defendant, Judge Mike Fields, urged Emmett and the commissioners to “use every tool in your arsenal to help us settle this lawsuit.” Fields added, “Our county needs to settle this for financial reasons, and our public needs it settled for reasons of good governance and confidence in the criminal justice system.”
Judge Emmett said he’s willing to settle on the basis of the 5th Circuit’s ruling, but said plaintiffs haven’t responded to offers to talk.
Judge Jordan, the lone Democrat on these benches, and Judge Fields have been the lone voices from those courts for sanity. Unfortunately, their colleagues remain uninterested in such matters as the cost of the litigation and the fact that they’ve lost at every step and looked bad in doing so. And they’re all up for election this November. See my comments above on that.