Cronies on the Bench

Vonciel Hill and our feckless mayor combine to let two ousted judges stay on the payroll.

Psst. Hey. Wanna see somethin' dirty? Peep in this little window with me. C'mon! We won't get in trouble. Look in here.

It's City Hall. Yeah, no kidding. They don't know we can see them. For the last year, they've been going through all kinds of elaborate window-dressing gyrations for our benefit, parading around holding hearings and gathering "data" about municipal judges, whatever that means, because they want us to know how logical, efficient and fair they are.

All total bullshit. Look in here and you'll see what they really do. See, they hit a snag with that logical, fair stuff. It didn't work out the right way for some of their buddies. Somebody who was supposed to get a job didn't. Oops. Can't have that.

So what's going on here is a little offshoot meeting where they think nobody's watching. They're going to trash the whole thing. There is a particular dance at the end I don't want you to miss, a quick little two-step you might not even notice if you're not watching for it.

About a year ago, the Dallas City Council launched a big process to fix the city's supposedly screwed-up municipal courts system. I don't want to talk too much about the individuals in this deal right here, Judges Cheryl D. Williams and Timoteo Gonzalez. They were among five judges not recommended for reappointment. There are 11 full-time judges in all. Williams and Gonzalez reacted to the news by immediately suing the city.

Hey, I'm no judge of judges. The City Council's ad hoc court reform committee, using several criteria, decided these two were among five who should go. I have talked to lawyers familiar with the courts — speaking anonymously, so they did not have to fear reprisal — who told me they thought Williams and Gonzalez were good judges.

I don't know. That's not the point here. Be that as it may, we have the whole yearlong window-dressing thing about gathering data and coming to fair and logical conclusions. At the end of it five judges get bounced. Let the rumble begin.

The ad hoc committee was headed up by two council members who have different relationships with courts and the law. One, Angela Hunt, is a lawyer and former litigator, so we could say she has a professional relationship. The other, Delia Jasso, is married to a local judge, so her relationship is of a conjugal nature.

When the committee makes its findings public and the five are about to be put out on the street, major trouble erupts, mainly from council member Vonciel Hill, who has her own relationships to deal with.

Hill was a member of the special committee, but she attended not one of its meetings. Zeeero. Never showed up once. She is a lawyer and former judge, a five-year veteran of the municipal bench, as a matter of fact. And she is not at all happy about Williams and Gonzalez being among those bounced.

Hill immediately paints the whole issue as racial, even though the new roster of judges proposed by the ad hoc committee exactly preserves the racial balance of the old roster. As soon as the race card goes down, Jasso, who is Hispanic, goes down with it. She sort of jumps down.

The new recommendations were her own work with Hunt, and Jasso originally championed them. But the minute Hill drops the race-ace, Jasso strips down and takes a big running belly-flop dive, turns against her own proposal and swims up behind Hill to join the opposition.

Hill then introduces a special "budget amendment" in the city's ongoing budget process. It proposes that two new full-time judgeships be created, naming Williams and Gonzalez in the proposal as the people who should get those posts.

Hunt is incredulous. When Hill brings it up at the council committee budget briefing we're peeping in on, Hunt takes a kind of you-gotta-be-kidding-me attitude. It's the type of event where there's usually very little media attention and a tiny audience.

"It's not right to hand out full-time positions to well-connected attorneys, write them into the budget, create a position in the budget for these attorneys who, I would remind everyone, have sued the city of Dallas," Hunt says.

Hill is highly insulted by Hunt's use of the term cronyism. Highly highly insulted. Most highly. Insulted on high.

It is "absolutely, totally, utterly insulting," she says, for Hunt even to suggest that Williams and Gonzalez are "being proposed because they are friends of council members."

Hill offers this defense of them: "These people went through the process the same as the persons the ad hoc committee recommended to this council." Hill says it haughtily, with indignation.

Yeah, but. Then the committee recommended that those two not be hired back. That was what the process was for. Everybody goes through the process. The process finds that some should be kept and some put out. These were among the put-outs. It's like everybody takes a test, but some people pass and some people flunk. It's ... it's ... oh, forget it. What is this, anyway, the Mad Hatter's tea party?

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7 comments
2texans
2texans

I would suggest that we might be seeing more performances of Mikes Minstrel Show but that would be inappropriate.

johnwishboun
johnwishboun

One reason Gonzalez and Williams were bounced is that someone isn't satisfied that the two were sufficiently aligned with city "guidelines" to shake down every person in court for for every available nickel and dime.  Whose "fault" is it that average collections in Dallas courts are less than other large cities?  Maybe its because the people who show up in court in Dallas usually have less money for the ticket "shakedown" than other cities- that means they are poor.  Attorney Hunt probably wasnt used to representing those kinds of ppl at her "litigation" law firm.  Hunt, and anyone else who thinks the justice system serves as the city cash cow needs to go back to good-government class. 

WatchingSouthDetroit
WatchingSouthDetroit

By the way, Rawlings is showing that he is just as corrupt as the rest of them.  Leadership is to do the right thing.  Cronyism is NOT the right thing.  Or did John Wiley Price call and order him to vote the way he did? 

WatchingSouthDetroit
WatchingSouthDetroit

This is yet another example of why Dallas, specifically south Dallas, is so screwed up and why things do NOT ever improve.  These south Dallas politicos are concerned more with taking care of their buddies and cronies instead of doing what is best for the city and citizens as a whole.  Vonciel Hill never shows up to the committee meetings then cries racism later.

 

Since the people of south Dalas keep re-electing such low quality "leaders" such as these.  They deserve what they get in return - pretty much nothing but corruption and self interested city coucil members.

JM64
JM64

You're a trifle behind in this drama, Jim. Yesterday (19th), the Mayor switched his vote, withdrawing his 'support' for the fired 'Honorables'. I don't know why he changed his mind, but at least he is closer to doing the right thing.

 

I don't understand the logic of having a committee to determine a course of action if the recommendations are totally disregarded when they aren't what the powers-that-be want to have happen. If one desires a particular outcome, then 'stuff' the committee with your yes-men or don't bother with the committee.

JBone
JBone

Why would it be any surprise that Rawlings sold out to the Black Council members???

 

He bought his mayorship from the Southern Folks!!! Pay-backs are hell, Angela, no matter your good intentions! You know what they say about "good intentions", Mayor has some favors to pay!!!!!! 

 
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