Over the last week I was asked two different questions that have the same answer. How do you find the right lawyer? – – -Which is not an uncommon question for me. Lawyers, law offices, power brokers and Texas politics have been revolving around my legal briefs since I had a penal.
The other question was asked by a dear friend of mine who was in a frenzy to understand why I was so sedate about his fate before a county court on an assault charge. (It wasn’t enough that he wasn’t guilty of the charge.) I understood that his innocence wouldn’t be much of a factor because of the county he was in and the attorney he had hired. Telling him he didn’t need to worry only fueled his insistence on an explanation.
For those that don’t know:
FYI: In Texas, judges are elected. Last time I looked it cost nearly a quarter of a million to run effectively as a district judge; almost a cool million to run for the state supreme court.
FYI: Judges don’t care if your client is guilty. They don’t want to. In an effort not to pre-judge a case, it’s just easier not to care. This is a good quality. No one wants a judge that is easily swayed by public opinion or pop culture.
FYI: When a judge retires from public life the campaign account of “Re-Elect Judge Roy Bean to District 2,” becomes “the personal checking account of Judge Roy Bean.”
FYI: District judges receive hefty paychecks compared to other states. Why? By Texas law, the pay for state legislators is directly related to how much state judges are paid. If you are slow on the uptake: When the legislature wants to give themselves a pay raise, they vote to increase the pay for judges.
Where do judges get the money to run?
It depends on what type of cases they preside over. Supreme court justices are generally supplanted with campaign donations from corporations – not directly, that would be illegal. But what is there to stop a CEO from giving four thousand dollar bonuses to it’s chief executives that donate the maximum $2,300. And what if this CEO has over a fifty chief executives? One corporate donor could effectively buy a seat on the Texas supreme court. And they do.
County judges handle most of the regular run-of-the-mill criminal cases so they generally receive campaign contributions from local criminal trial attorneys. Criminal cases with a higher profile are quickly snapped up by the district courts. (There’s a reason, I’ll come back to it.) Mostly, district courts handle large civil claims. For obvious reasons, big time civil attorneys love to contribute to district judge campaigns. Not a hard thing to do when you consider that law firms can easily be filled with over a hundred attorneys. ($$$ Each giving the maximum contribution.$$$)
It’s not bribery if its legal.
First, let me state, there is no direct bribery. There’s no need. Put yourself behind the bench. Remember, you don’t care if the defendant is guilty. Also, consider that 90% of your cases are mind-numbingly boring. It’s not uncommon for judges to met out justice on the harsh side, over and over and over.
Suddenly, your degree of interest skyrockets when you notice that the lawyer representing that new defendant is from the law firm of Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe. Why? 50% of the contributions to your campaign is given by the law firm of Dewey, Cheatum and Howe. Might you wonder if you’ll receive the same kind of support next time you run for office?
Ya gotta dance with the one who brought ya.
For Dewey the judge puts on another robe. This robe demands that everything is on the up-and-up. And why not? You’re a judge that follows the law, aren’t you?
FYI: Like crime, no arrest is perfect.
Got probable cause? Since the judge knows it makes his favorite attorney look good when the case kicked outright, for some reason, most of the cases brought by Dewey get dismissed before they ever see a courtroom; . . . with one caveat which relates directly to the defendant’s wealth. Since you can’t generate mega-legal fees without a trial, rich clients of Dewey often suffer through a trial and appeal. What a surprise.
If the judge doesn’t dismiss, it doesn’t mean the defendant is in any real danger of being found guilty. The judge has ample leeway when presenting jury instructions. Written with a slant, “beyond reasonable doubt,” can mean, ‘if the crime isn’t video taped, you cannot convict.’ And if that wasn’t enough, the judge always have the right to overturn the jury’s verdict. If he worries about the way it might look, the judge always has the option of making a ruling that will easily be overturned on appeal. (Not a bad thing for the Dewey.)
Gee, I wonder why Dewey gets so many clients? This brings us to that first question. How do you find the right lawyer? If you were ever arrested for a crime would you hire Dewey? You’d be an idiot not to. Answer: Find the attorney and/or law firms that gives the most to the judge and/or judges involved. (Desirable law firms routinely give to every judge in a particular county so there’s no reason to care which judge you’ll end up with.)
It’s the big money in big-time criminal trials that provide campaign contributions for district judges. Millionaire clients looking to get a beloved family member out from under a felony will pay most anything. High price trial lawyers need those high attorney fees to contribute to all the district judges.
A judge’s leeway for civil trials can be massive, but it rarely needs to be. In the case of big corporation v. little guy, the little guy almost never makes it to the trial. The law has already been changed to prevent that from happening. If you have ever been proven innocent of a crime after being incarcerated you may think there’s a big multi-million dollar lawsuit against the state. The law says you get $50k. It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent two days in jail or twenty years in prison. $50k. That’s it. T.S. Was your doctor drunk when he accidently cut your spinal cord during that delicate operation? Best you can get is $250k. That’s the law. T.S. Want to sue the corporation that hurt you? Better do it quick. There always seems to be a short time-line to file suit. The list goes on-and-on.