Monday, February 13, 2006

Bad Judges In Williamson County

In as article about The Worst Judges in Texas two judges in our very own Williamson County get an honorable mention:
Tim Wright & Suzanne Brooks
Williamson County, County Courts at Law

The law says that anyone facing jail time is entitled to a court-appointed attorney if they cannot afford to hire one of their own. This includes misdemeanor offenses, the most serious of which can land a person in jail for up to a year. According to data gathered by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Williamson County, just north of Austin, reported providing attorneys in only about seven percent of misdemeanor cases, the lowest rate in the state for counties with more than 5,000 misdemeanor cases per year. (The statewide average was 30 percent.) After months of court observation, Dominic Gonzales of TCJC believes he has solved this riddle: He says misdemeanor defendants in the Williamson County courts presided over by Judge Wright and Judge Brooks, both Republicans, are systematically discouraged from seeking counsel, from the moment they step into the courtroom until they appear before the judge. Gonzales observed Judge Brooks on more than one occasion simply denying defendants straight out, without making an effort to determine their indigent status. “If they’re standing on two legs,” Gonzales said, “she’ll tell them, ‘We’ll set you for trial in three weeks, and you can go find a job between now and then.’”
Got this tip from Dominic Gonzales mentioned in the above article. He's been to several WCDP meetings to bring this issue for our attention. Here's a linke to his organization, The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition - The Fair Defense Project. Here's their goal:
The Fair Defense Project works to ensure that every person is treated equally in Texas’s criminal justice system, regardless of wealth. Every indigent person accused of a crime should be appointed competent legal representation promptly. No person should be forced to give up their right to an attorney.
Sounds right to me.



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