Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Election

This blog is in the main a criminal justice blog, and the 2016 election will impact Texas criminal justice in ways large and small. So, for what it is worth, here are shattershot thoughts from local to national.

My local (Brazos County) races were unremarkable. There were no contested races, so I will comment on the closest races to my home that resonate.

I grew up in Houston, so I watched the Harris County DA and judicial races there with interest. Houston may not have the hipster Texas outlier swag of Austin, but it is more diverse, and in ways just as politcally liberal. It was no surprise then that Kim Ogg, a Democrat beat Devon Anderson, the incumbent Republican in the DA race. This outcome was expected - Anderson had made several political missteps in the last year. Ogg is qualified for the office she will take over in January. Expect expanded pre-trial diversion programs, a decision to either not prosecute - or reduce to misdemeanor level - "trace cases" - cases where only a trace amount of drugs (cocaine, etc) are found, and a scaling back of Capital Murder prosecutions.

There were also heavy losses amongst the Harris County Republican heavy judiciary. Murray Newman wrote about the damage done to the Harris County trial court judiciary as a result. Among the incumbent GOP judges who lost was Judge Stacey Bond. I serve with Judge Bond as a member of the Second Judicial Region Capital Murder Appointment Committee. She is intelligent, engaging, and a committed member of this important committee. I never practiced in front of her, but by all accounts Judge Bond was an excellent judge. She should not have been shown the door by a partisan electorate.

At the State level, Larry Meyers, the incumbent Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) judge who chose to run as a Democrat in his re-election bid, lost to his Republican opponent, former Harris County District Judge Mary Lou Keel. It wasn't close. Scott Walker beat Betsy Johnson to replace the soon-to-be-sorely-missed Judge Cheryl Johnson on the CCA. Hard as it is to envision, expect an even more government-centric CCA.

Which brings me to the national elections. With President Trump and a Republican Senate, the Supreme Court will now add a 9th justice. That new Justice may or may not be in the mold of former Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia had a cohesive, predictable and consistent view of the Constitution. Say what you will, liberals, about Justice Scalia, but his view of the Constitution included expanded 6th Amendment confrontation clause protections for citizens. He was the leading intellectual force behind this almost revolutionary, revisionist interpretation of the confrontation clause. There is no guarantee his vision will continue with the new appointment.

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