Letters

Where's the Proof? Just a Bad Judge

Where's the Proof?

Witch hunt: I read Jim Schutze's article about Dallas police Chief Terrell Bolton ("Dump Bolton," April 12), and Jim seems to actually believe the chief is silently orchestrating the protests outside Ms. Laura Miller's home and is therefore responsible for the emotional pain experienced by her husband and children. Where's the proof? I don't agree with the protests outside Ms. Miller's home, because they serve only to help cast her as a victim when the real victim is Chief Bolton. His alleged wrongdoings have been investigated by the city manager's office and the FBI, and he has been cleared of the allegations, yet Ms. Miller and Ms. [Donna] Blumer continue to press these issues.

Then others have the unmitigated gall to take issue with Chief Bolton for accepting comp time pay, which is clearly a benefit offered for the position of chief of police for the city of Dallas. No other city official has been criticized for his or her acceptance of salary and benefits, and there are others who make substantially more money than Chief Bolton.

It seems there is some type of witch hunt to get rid of the chief. The nightclub and pay scandals are dead horses that Ms. Miller and Ms. Blumer continue to beat. If they really believe the chief is crooked, then at some point he will trip up. When and if that time comes, they need to be ready with proof of wrongdoing, not cloak-and-dagger innuendo. Those tactics work well in the arena of reporting, but in public service, credibility should be paramount.

If Ms. Miller has higher political aspirations, she needs to find a more substantive issue with which to distinguish herself. Meanwhile, John Wiley Price and the other protesters would better serve Chief Bolton by stopping the protests. Laura Miller and Donna Blumer don't even deserve that kind of attention.

It will take more than this mess to get rid of Dallas' first African-American police chief.

Gregory Kissentaner
Dallas

Lowlifes: I concur wholeheartedly with Jim Schutze: Chief Terrell Bolton must go. It is simply unacceptable that he should send police to prevent protests against Mayor Ron Kirk but then permit them against Councilwoman Laura Miller.

But I find the names John Wiley Price and his Warriors are calling Ms. Miller to be funny as well as ugly. Funny because only genuine lowlifes would stoop to that level of sexism.

Phyllis Guest
Dallas

Hatemongers: I was truly horrified after reading Mr. Schutze's article about the harassment of Laura Miller. I agree that this is about the children. How could any person, no matter how self-righteous, behave that way in front of children? It just makes the investigation of Bolton seem that much more valid. If he had nothing to hide, then why are his supporters behaving like hatemongers? Where is the logic? If they thought Ms. Miller was anti-Bolton before, how is she going to feel now? If they think she'll back down or run away, they haven't been paying attention. Running scared isn't her style.

As a lifelong Dallasite, I am ashamed of our city and its police force. If there's a petition to get Bolton out of Dallas, I'll joyfully sign. This sort of behavior cannot be tolerated by anyone for any reason. Maybe once Bolton is gone, we could lock up John Wiley Price for child abuse. I bet none of those loonies sees a day in jail. It's just not fair, but hey, that's Dallas, right? It just makes me ill.

Marie Eland-Thill
Dallas

Just a Bad Judge

No martyrs here: As a lawyer who makes frequent appearances in the Dallas courthouse, I won't quarrel with the facts in Thomas Korosec's article "Homefryin' with Fred Baron" (March 29). I do take issue, however, with any suggestion that former state District Judge John Marshall is in any way a hero or a martyr in the cause of justice. No doubt that Baron helped boot Marshall off the bench, but Marshall's re-election bid was defeated, in the final analysis, not because he ruled against Baron, but because he was a bad judge. His poor performance was what finally brought home a sufficient number of voters to remove him.

John Mortimer, in his short stories about British barrister Rumpole of the Bailey, describes the malady of "judgeitis," which is one of the hazards of judicial service "along with piles and the sleeping sickness." Its symptoms are "pomposity and self-regard, unnecessary interruptions during the proceedings or giving utterance to private thoughts far, far better left unspoken." In addition to this classic "judgeitis," Marshall's conduct as a judge over the years led more than one lawyer to comment that it would be more useful to know the former judge's blood sugar level than to have the law firmly on your side when appearing in his court. Once the facts of a situation or controversy are sorted out, the applicable law should be fairly predictable. The law, after all, is a set of rules along which we order our conduct and relations. Many times, however, Marshall was as unpredictable as Texas weather. Another article in this publication pointed out that Marshall would often decide, based on his snap evaluation of the morality or justice of the situation, or for obscure or unfathomable reasons, which side he thought should win a case, and then conduct himself accordingly. If a lawyer or the lawyer's firm curried sufficient favor with him, or in some cases, even if he just liked a lawyer for whatever reason, Marshall would sign practically any orders or judgments put in front of him.

Marshall always led the other courts in the number of cases disposed of each year, a coveted statistic. Yet the manner in which he achieved this primacy was inimical to the justice system. He continually led his fellow judges in the number of recusals; that is, disqualification for bias, which left him fewer cases to dispose of. He also ran a "rocket docket" in which he issued a standard pretrial order that drastically cut the time for certain activities such as discovery that must occur prior to the trial. He also made all of his pretrial rulings, including motions for summary judgment, from the bench at the hearing. He refused to take matters under advisement, even in the most complex cases. His inclination to shoot from the hip rather than to carefully analyze issues resulted in Marshall being the most reversed judge in the courthouse. Because rulings by a trial court come to the court of appeals with the presumption of correctness, they are seldom overturned.

Lawyers who represent appellants, those who appeal from trial court judgments, have statistics akin to baseball batting averages, .300--three reversals out of 10 appeals in civil cases--is considered top drawer. Reversal of Marshall's rulings in recent years, however, reached levels around 50 percent. Losing in the trial court and having to take an appeal, even when reversal is likely, is not a desirable result for most litigants. Unless the appeal qualifies for accelerated treatment, which few do, the final outcome will be delayed for at least one year and possibly for considerably longer. If the appellant is a plaintiff, no certain recovery will be had until the final outcome, although the judgment may be enforced pending appeal if a bond is not posted. If the appellant is the defendant, he must post a bond to avoid enforcement of the judgment in the meantime, and the uncertainty of a contingent liability continues. All in all, John Marshall was a friend to appellants' lawyers. He generated more business and increased their batting averages. The lawyers in the trial court, those who strive for favorable or at least certain results in a reasonable time, and their clients suffered at Marshall's hands for too long. By the 2000 election, there were many members of the Bar and public other than Fred Baron who were tired of Marshall's conduct and were ready for him to go.

This analysis is further supported by the fact that Baron, like most plaintiffs' lawyers, is a Democrat, and made no secret of his party affiliation. Marshall, as Korosec's article stated, has been a lifelong Republican. There are numerous defense lawyers, who are generally Republicans, who have not been bashful about making campaign contributions to Dallas judges and bringing other influence to bear. Marshall's rulings adverse to Baron with regard to the witness coaching issue were favorable in the long run to the defense bar. If Marshall had not alienated so many lawyers and their clients, on both sides of the docket, he surely would have found sufficient friends and funds to blunt any unilateral attempt of Baron to oust him.

While I firmly believe Marshall was a bad judge, and whatever his successor's faults might be (and I am unaware of any), Dallas County is immensely better off with her, none of this is to say Marshall was or is a bad man. Most of his career as a judge he sincerely believed he was doing justice and the right thing. He has embraced causes many would consider worthy. Environmentalists doubtless think he's an ally. Once he enjoined a hunt club from conducting shooting matches using live pigeons, and he initially enjoined the city of Dallas from cutting down trees in Tenison Park to expand the golf course in violation of the deed restrictions. The problem is that a judge is not, in our system, an advocate. He is an umpire, and he is supposed to apply rules of law, not whims. With John Marshall, the roles of referee and advocate became hopelessly confused and proved to be his undoing.

Robert J. (Bob) Reagan
Dallas

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