It’s Not Just The Texas Governor Who Panders To The Police
July 22, 2016 (Fault Lines) — In criminal cases in Texas, the deck is normally stacked against the defendant. First, the public doesn’t like criminals. Second, the District Attorney’s Office is not usually inclined to be reasonable, they intend to win. Third, the judge is normally a former prosecutor, who has to stand for election every four years. So in Galveston County, just south of Houston, District Judge Kerry Neves just slammed the door on any semblance of fairness for defendants who have been accused of assaulting cops or otherwise placing them in danger.
Judge Neves announced on Facebook that he would no longer take plea deals for probation or deferred adjudication involving those crimes unless he was presented with compelling evidence to support a plea deal. That compelling evidence was defined as a letter from the “victim” officer, or the DA’s statement that they have discussed this with the officer and the officer approves of the plea bargain.
OK, I get that a judge has to approve all plea deals, and that he doesn’t have to agree to a deal that the judge does not believe is just. But requiring the police to approve of a deal? That’s ludicrous. Of course, the police think that this is just great, and are all for it.
All that this has done is ensure that the presiding judge for that area will have a lot of work, because any defense attorney worth his salt is going to immediately file a motion for the judge to recuse himself from cases involving officers. You see, a judge is supposed to be impartial, to consider the entire range of punishment for a defendant. Here, that’s gone out the window, and that’s not just my opinion.
Former state district judge Susan Criss criticized the order because police officers should not be able to determine what happens in court. The Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association has also had comments on their message board, pointing out that the judge would be participating in plea bargain, which is forbidden. Lawyers who are way more experienced than me have pointed out that once a recusal motion is filed, Judge Neves has one option—he can either recuse or refer the motion to the presiding judge. That’s the only option.
There have been questions raised as to whether this order also violates the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct, as follows:
Canon 3 (B) Performing the Duties of Judicial Office Impartially and Diligently
(2) A judge should be faithful to the law and shall maintain professional competence in it. A judge shall not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism.
(10) A judge shall abstain from public comment about a pending or impending proceeding which may come before the judge’s court in a manner which suggests to a reasonable person the judge’s probable decision on any particular case.
Canon 5: Refraining from Inappropriate Political Activity
(1) A judge or judicial candidate shall not:
(i) make pledges or promises of conduct in office regarding pending or impending cases, specific classes of cases, specific classes of litigants, or specific propositions of law that would suggest to a reasonable person that the judge is predisposed to a probable decision in cases within the scope of the pledge;
The problem in this case is that Judge Neves is pandering to the public, playing for votes. He is up for reelection in November.
As long as you have judicial elections, this is what you will have. This isn’t about Judge Neves caring about police officers, it is about reelection.
 The crimes are Assault of a Public Servant, Evading Arrest, Failure to Identify, Resisting Arrest, Hindering Apprehension, Escape, Facilitating Escape, Prohibited Substances in Correctional Facility, Contraband in Correctional Facility, Attempting to Take Weapon from Peace Officer, Interference with Public Duties, Interference with Police Service Animals, or any offense where a police officer is placed in danger.