To the editor:
Attorneys, who in the legal system are considered officers of court, have a duty to defend the judiciary against unjust criticism. As members of the American Board of Trial Advocates, made up of attorneys from both sides of the docket recognized for their trial experience and professionalism, we are committed to protecting, preserving and defending the Constitutional right to a jury trial. Unfair criticism of the judiciary left unanswered serves to undermine the justice system that is so integral to our democracy, thus we feel a special obligation to speak out when unfair criticism occurs.
Recently, this paper published an advertisement paid for by an individual who was on the losing side of a case in which Judge Steve Ellis presided. The advertisement contained a number of allegations against Judge Ellis. Judges, by virtue of their position, are not free to defend themselves and it is not ordinarily appropriate for them to answer allegations made against them or their decisions.
The ad inferred that the right to a trial by jury had been denied. There was a jury trial with a decision rendered by Brown County citizens sitting as jurors. Courtesies commonly extended to litigants by judges all across the State of Texas were couched in sinister terms as being somehow evidence of bias or favoritism. Complaints were made concerning hearings in the court which seem to fly in the face of what all attorneys who practice in this court understand are the Local Rules of Court in Brown County.
We, all of us as citizens in our democracy, must remember that judges have no control over which cases come before them, but they must follow the law and make the hard calls on each and every case before them. One side loses, to one degree or another, in every case brought before a court. We may disagree with the decisions and actions of judges and juries in specific cases. The system has processes for appeals of decisions considered unfair. Processes set up by our constitution and laws, to which all judges and juries must adhere. We hope this letter will assist readers of this paper keep attacks on judges and juries in the proper context.
Guy D. Choate, San Angelo
Steve Suttle, Abilene
Don Griffis, San Angelo
Mary Noel Golder, San Angelo
Unfair Criticism of Judges