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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

When the Prosecutor Becomes the Judge

Former Judge Elizabeth Coker
In the legal system, there is a natural progression for assistant prosecuting attorneys to get elected to the district or circuit court. Their extensive trial experience puts them in an excellent position to run an efficient courtroom.

What about the rest of the equation? Judges must be fair and impartial for the legal system to work. A case from Polk County Texas from a few years back comes to mind that illustrates what can happen when judge's are not impartial.

Former Polk County District Judge Elizabeth E. Coker, a former assistant prosecutor herself, was busted texting questions to an assistant prosecutor that she thought the APA should ask in order to secure a criminal conviction. The matter came to light in late 2013 via a "whistleblower"; an investigator for the district attorney's office that did the right thing when he became aware of what the judge was doing.

Judges cannot conduct ex parte -one-sided- communications with the parties or lawyers involved in a lawsuit. Obviously, even innocent banter about a case can cause a drastic shift from a level playing field to one that tilts toward one of the litigants.

Since her brokered resignation in 2014, many of the defendants that were convicted in her court room have lodged appeals invoking their right to a fair trial under the 6th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Immediately following her resignation from the bench, Coker announced her bid for district attorney for Polk County; she was roundly defeated.

What this story tells us is that some lawyers are not fit to be judges. Our legal system can only work when the judges are fair and impartial.

Many prosecutors seek judgeships; many prosecutors have become excellent judges. Thankfully, all states have a judicial tenure commission charged with the investigation and prosecution of crooked judges.

Post #555

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Judges cannot conduct ex parte -one-sided- communications with the parties or lawyers involved in a lawsuit. "

And that's why the Friend of the Court is in desperate need of reform.

August 25, 2016 at 9:34 PM 

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