By Houston Chronicle
Some justices, like the late Antonin Scalia, consider themselves originalists and look to the elementary meaning of laws. Other justices, like Stephen Breyer, subscribe to the doctrine of “active liberty.”
Here in Harris County, we should consider ourselves lucky that we’re able to watch State District Judge Michael McSpadden invent a totally new jurisprudential ideology in real time: cablenewsery.
Under this theory, judges can dispense with so-called facts and evidence and instead rely upon the hearsay and innuendo that gets shouted at television cameras on a daily basis. Who needs the Federalist Papers or Black’s Law Dictionary when you have all the accuracy and nuance of professional political pundits, talk radio hosts and internet commenters?
McSpadden treated legal scholars to his latest insight when he told Houston Chronicle reporter Gabrielle Banks that, in violation of state rules, he insisted magistrates deny no-cash bail to all newly arrested defendants because, “Almost everybody we see here has been tainted in some way before we see them.”
How have they been tainted?
“Rag-tag organizations like Black Lives Matter, which tell you, ‘Resist police,’ which is the worst thing in the world you could tell a young black man,” the long-serving jurist said.
He reemphasized his point in a letter to the editor: “I think ‘ragtag’ was too nice a term to describe a group which was built on the Ferguson, Missouri, lie of ‘Hands up. Don’t shoot.’ Also encouraging everyone to ‘resist police,’ and insulting them with remarks like ‘pigs in a blanket,’ among others.”
McSpadden needs to turn off the television and spend some time understanding real life in Houston. The activists in our city — not the ones that get attention on Fox News — talk about issues like justice and fair representation in our courts. They express their feelings and frustration through art, such as the exhibit by Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter at Project Row Houses last year, and engagement like the recent March for Black Women that met at Emancipation Park.
We expect our judges to display a judicious temperament from the bench — one that emphasizes integrity and equality before the law. McSpadden instead talks like he’s auditioning for a guest spot with Tucker Carlson. It’s an attitude that disgraces our courts with careless and, frankly, lazy stereotyping.
The NAACP legal defense fund used other words to describe McSpadden’s comments: “bigotry and bias.”
The civil rights group has called for the judge to resign because they believe he cannot be trusted to execute the law fairly. The ACLU of Texas has joined them. They and other groups have also filed a formal complaint with the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct.
If McSpadden refuses to leave, voters will be able to decide in November whether the Republican incumbent should be replaced by Democratic challenger Brian Warren, who promises to “dispense justice in a fair and equitable manner.”
Until then, Harris County residents can thank McSpadden for peeling back the opaque black robes and revealing the true philosophy that underpins a cash bail system federal courts have found to be unconstitutional — a system that long predates the Black Lives Matter movement.
Harris County now looks to elected officials like County Judge Ed Emmett, Commissioners Jack Cagle and Jack Morman, and the rest of the judiciary, to immediately settle an ongoing lawsuit against the county and implement a new bail system — one that’s compatible with the U.S. Constitution’s promise of justice for all.