Okay, I got a little sidetracked on my election profiles by some dude named Ike. But, I'm back again.
Back in January, I posted an article making note of the fact that if it weren't for the Rosenthal e-mail scandal (and subsequent D.A. Race), that the race for the 176th District Court would have probably been the spotlighted race for this election season in Harris County. (NOTE: When I said that it was before the Obama phenomenon had occurred).
I'm sure that every large county has it's judge that everyone dreads appearing before.
In Harris County, that judge would be Republican Judge Brian Rains of the 176th District Court, and in November, he will be challenged for his bench by Democratic Candidate and Defense Attorney Shawna Reagin.
In my January article, I pointed out that Rains' short temper, angry outbursts, and overall rudeness to attorneys were some of his major flaws. In reality, those things are just the tip of the iceberg. I think most voters could easily forgive a judge who was rude to arrogant prosecutors and defense attorneys that were practicing in front of him. However, Rains' anger, arrogance and stubbornness go way beyond the bounds of a lawyer's hurt feelings. They often bleed over into his rulings and how he handles his court in ways that create very troubling results.
For instance . . .
-over the years, Judge Rains has been the only one of the 22 Criminal District Court Judges who has done everything in his power to prevent probations or deferred adjudications from happening in his court. I'm sure that might sound really "tough on crime" to Joe Citizen, but the reality is that it is really taking away a viable alternative for people charged with crimes worthy of probation. His official position is that he never opposed probation, but standard conditions of his probations were often significant amounts of jail time. The jail time condition made it much more preferable for a Defendant to take a 12.44(a) sentence for a shorter amount of jail time that resulted in a final felony conviction. This was what led to the joint D.A. Office/Dick DeGuerin alliance that I mentioned in the earlier article.
-in a Capital Murder trial last year, the prosecution entered into evidence a video tape of the murder occurring (during a convenience store robbery). Rains allowed the admission of the tape, but refused to allow it to be shown to the jury for some reason. Both defense counsel and the State requested that it be shown to the jury, but Rains decided better of it. The State had to play the tape during closing arguments, rather than during testimony.
-in a recent Aggravated Robbery case, Rains refused to even entertain the idea of putting lesser included offenses in the jury charge, even though the evidence may have called for it. Failure to do so could potentially end up in a reversal.
-in another Capital Murder trial, Dang v. State, Rains had a capital murder case reversed because of his refusal to grant the defense more time to argue.
-several years ago, Rains granted a bond to a man named Neville Sapp. Sapp had picked up an attempted sexual assault case in a very violent episode against his ex-girlfriend, Ella Marie Broussard. The State, rightfully, requested that Sapp be held without bond (as he was a true habitual offender). Rains disregarded the State's pleas to keep a violent defendant in jail until trial, and let him out on bond. Days later, Sapp brutally murdered Ms. Broussard.
Rains' Democratic opponent is Defense Attorney Shawna Reagin.
I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with her about her qualifications and her ideas about how to run a court, as well address some concerns that I had previously had about her being very "anti-D.A. office".
Shawna has been practicing criminal law since 1989 and has a deep background in both criminal trial work and in appellate work. In my opinion, that kind of balance makes for a great potential to be a good judge.
She told me that her philosophy is that a good trial judge is one that sits back and lets the attorneys try their cases. As a trial attorney, that's pretty much music to my ears. If we are talking about a judge that knows the "ins and outs" of trying a criminal case, the appellate knowledge to what the current state of the Law actually is, and that same judge will let me try my case, we just might be talking about attorneys wanting to return to the 176th for a change.
In addressing my earlier addressed concerns about Shawna being "anti-D.A. office", she responded that her role of a defense attorney was to be an adversary to the State, and she prided herself on being a very zealous advocate for her clients. She pointed out that if elected to the Bench that her role would be drastically different from the one she currently holds. She also stated that, if elected, she would take her Oath to Administer Justice fairly and neutrally ever bit as seriously as she currently takes her Oath to defend her clients. She stressed that Assistant District Attorneys should not have any concerns about her ability to give the State a fair trial.
I think she makes a good point, and I enjoyed meeting with her.
Shawna Reagin has my vote in this race.