In all of the political contests involving the Harris County Criminal Justice Center, there is probably no greater disparity between the candidates' qualifications and ability than there are between Republican Incumbent Judge Caprice Cosper and her Democratic opponent, Municipal Court Judge Maria Jackson.
As I've written before and my friend, Mark Bennett has written, Judge Cosper is the best Judge in the Criminal Courthouse. Please keep in mind that although Mark is one of my very good friends, he and I seem to disagree on damn near everything. But we are in agreement here that Judge Cosper is an amazing Judge and the thought of her losing her bench to a judge that tries only traffic cases is both nauseating and sad.
I've mentioned previously that there are four judges who comprise the supervision of the STAR Court Program. All of their roles are equally important in the success of the program, but (call me biased) I would describe Judge Cosper as the heart and soul of the program. She was one of the founding judges who helped start it, and she takes personal pride in the program.
When the STAR Program was first established, I'll admit that I was skeptical over the possibility of really making a meaningful change in the lives of hard-core addicts. I was very wrong about that. Under the guidance of Judges Cosper, Thomas, Anderson and Wilkinson, I've seen some amazing stories of recovery and redemption. I've also seen the pride and happiness in the faces of people who are winning their fight with their addictions.
That type of meaningful change couldn't have happened without judges like Judge Cosper.
When not working in the STAR Program, Judge Cosper is even better on the bench in the 339th District Court.
Trying a case in front of Judge Cosper is like trying a case in front of a Westlaw data base. She keeps up to date on all of the latest case law and legislation. During a tricky (from a legal standpoint) case in many courts, prosecutors and defense attorneys often are having to take "time out" to do some last minute legal research. It doesn't happen in the 339th, because the Judge knows the law off the top of her head.
As far as her judicial demeanor, she approaches each case with an open mind. Somehow she manages to tackle her job with a combination of compassion and toughness that is difficult to describe without seeing it in person.
Those defendants that appear before her on non-violent offenses that deserve a second chance will get them. But, Judge Cosper will order them into a treatment program that will do everything possible to ensure that defendants won't find themselves back in the criminal justice system again. She is the Judge who won't let a young person take a final felony conviction on a first time drug case, if she feels that a deferred adjudication will give them a chance to rehabilitate themselves and avoid a final conviction.
On the other hand, she will hand out the maximum sentence to violent offenders without batting an eyelash when appropriate. She knows the difference between people with legitimate problems and those who are just grasping on to any excuse that they can find for their behavior. She can cut through the difference and administer true justice.
She consistently does the right thing over and over again. She plays no favorites with either the State or the Defense, and I doubt that anyone could find a defense attorney who has practiced in front of her that would describe her as anything less than completely fair.
Like I said, she is the best Judge in the Courthouse.
Her opponent is a municipal court judge that has been a lawyer for less years than Judge Cosper has been a judge. Municipal court judges serve an important function in government and I do not mean to diminish that. But the bottom line is that the municipal courts handle only Class C Misdemeanors. For those of you who read this that aren't familiar with criminal law, a Class C misdemeanor is only punishable by a fine.
That basically translates into the fact that Maria Jackson has never had the power to sentence a person to a day in jail and now she seeks to hold a position where she would be handing down life sentences and signing death warrants. Her experience is primarily with traffic violations and now she seeks to deal with Capital Murders?!
The disparity between the two candidates is beyond enormous and is probably the best illustration why Judicial elections should have absolutely no ties to partisan politics.
Sadly, there is a real danger that those people who are still foolish enough to vote "straight ticket" on their ballots could remove from office the Best Judge in the courthouse in favor of a person who isn't even remotely qualified. I've never voted "straight ticket" in my life, nor will I. If anyone is so weak-minded that they can't put individual thought into who they are voting for, then they shouldn't be voting in the first place.
Folks, do me a favor and get the word out to all of your friends who might possibly be voting straight-ticket Democrat and tell them about the mistake they would be making.
Unless Judge Cosper is re-elected, everybody loses on this one.
In case you missed it the first two times, she's the Best Judge in the Harris County Criminal Justice System.