Events that have transpired over the last few days involving two judges underscore exactly why it is so important to vote in elections.
Judge Mike Herrera and Municipal Court Judge and current Court of Appeals candidate Maria Ramirez are text book examples of what happens when judges have no scrutiny and almost no opponents.
Ramirez was featured in the El Paso Times lately for an event that ultimately led to three citations, two of which where dismissed in exchange for pleading guilty to one.
Ramirez attempts to explain it away by saying its a ticket and everyone has gotten a ticket. Maybe, but it was actually a Class C misdemeanor. I have been raked over the coals for a misdemeanor so I know how bad it can get.
But the reality is that most people aren't running for a court of appeals job either. But the ticket isn't the issue, its the events surrounding the issue. It was an altercation at the federal court house involving security.
Ramirez let her emotions get away from her and that goes to one of the few things a voter can actually judge - no pun intended - a judicial candidate on; temperament.
But Judge Herrera's recent public reprimand is a bigger demonstration of why voting in judicial elections is so important. Herrera has largely ran unopposed during his career and he was recently publicly reprimanded for something that defies belief, he kept his own divorce proceeding in his own court.
How that didn't make the evening news when it first happened is beyond me, but he was finally reprimanded for it.
Word around the campfire is that Herrera is considering a jump to another court in a couple of years. From what I hear if he went for a county judicial seat the retirement would be a little sweeter.
That is why judicial elections matter.
Truth is that when it comes to judges in the courthouse, most of them will recuse themselves in a case at the APPEARANCE of a conflict, just to err on the side of caution. Herrera's case is an example of a judge that had an ACTUAL conflict and not only didn't recuse himself and transfer the case, he KEPT the case in his court and even petitioned the judge/himself in the matter.
I know, that sounds like an outrageous set of circumstances on Last Week Tonight, but no its real and happened on San Antonio Street.
These cases are lessons for voters. Don't undervote in contested judicial elections. Make and informed and thoughtful choice for who you want to support for a judicial seat. Its a reflection upon our community and a good reminder that the judges work for us.
Trust me, they forget that all too often.