Monday, May 14, 2018
A news station could probably win a lot of Texas Emmy's doing stories on the JP courts. Hell, their travel alone is the kind of stuff that infuriates tax payers. Judge Haggerty over in the NE took is staff on a cruise last year, at least partially paid for by you the tax payer. Completely indignant about it too. A whole court shut down for a week, no business done, because they were boozin' and cruisin' on a boat somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico.
And Haggerty isn't even the worst offender of travel. Judge John Chatman in JP5 is by far, the absolute biggest traveler on the public dime. Seriously, he's the undisputed champ. Why Commissioner's haven't reigned the JPs in is beyond me, but they should have a long time ago. In FY2016 there were a total of 20 trips taken by the Justices of the Peace. Now to be clear, there is some required travel for JP's to keep their positions. One per year actually. But of the total of 20 trips that were taken that FY, John Chatman took an astonishing 12 of those 20 total trips. The next closest JP took 2 trips.
They make $80K+ per year and make THOUSANDS of dollars doing weddings ever year and we are still paying for their travel?
Weddings are performed by JPs, who only have the authority to do so in the first place because of the fact that they are judges, and instead of that money going back to you the tax payer to offset costs, it stays in their pockets. Here's the dirty little secret about it:
They don't report the funds to commissioner's court.
They don't report the money to the public.
There is ZERO public oversight of those funds.
Its not illegal, but the JP's keep the money they make from doing weddings. Perfectly legal within the law. But it isn't right. Any of them could provide a public report as to how much they make doing weddings. They could created a report showing how much time of the day is spent during normal court hours performing weddings. Any one of them could use those funds to offset costs to tax payers. Any of them could tell commissioners that they don't need additional funds each year.
But they don't. Not one of them. And there is nothing preventing them from doing so, other than greed.
And trust me, that needs to get fixed. Very seldom are weddings even on a judge's calendar. Witnesses have seen judges halt court proceedings to go perform a wedding, and then go back to court business. I know of at least one JP that keeps a separate calendar for weddings in case someone open record requests his official calendar.
Like I said, there are some MAJOR reforms that are needed in the JP courts.
Justice of the Peace Precinct 3
JP 3 involves Josh Herrera and Patricia Juarez Estrada. PJE got an endorsement from Dolores Lucas, one of the other candidates that ran but didn't make the run-off. Herrera is gonna win that race, as he should, but incredibly PJE actually wrote a Facebook post about how there shouldn't be any attorneys in "the people's court".
That is absolute bullshit. If you have a court, their primary function is to interpret the law. The only reason you aren't required to be an attorney to be a JP is because the intent of the Texas framers was to ensure all areas had a JP and in rural areas, lawyers are harder to come by. But any time you have a court that is presided by someone with no legal experience, it is inherently going to be a higher cost to tax payers because they are going to have more cases appealed. PJE made the argument that since Josh Herrera is an attorney he should run for one of the other courts and leave "the people's court" alone. Not sure why she believes she entitled to the position, but courts are better off in the hands of an attorney whenever possible. JP3 has a chance to choose an attorney to preside in that court and they should. Josh Herrera is the right choice in that race.
Justice of the Peace Precinct 4
JP 4 is pretty much the same deal. Rebeca Bustamante is trying to unseat one-term incumbent Jesus Urenda. Urenda has some integrity problems in my opinion. He didn't break the rules, but he sure bent them in the Sun Bowl Parade by attaching his campaign signs to the Constable vehicles, paid for by you the tax payers, and just covering up the part that said what he was running for. But they were absolutely his campaign signs. So for me, if he's will do to that on Thanksgiving with most of El Paso watching, God only knows what happens when no one is looking. He's also made some pretty outrageous claims cutting truancies since he's been elected.
This is a lie and that says a lot about his character. Chatman has also taken credit for doing so, over in the JP 5 race. But lets set the record straight, yes over the last 4 years truancies have taken a major nose dive. But its not because the JP's did anything about it. Its because there was a change in state law and they are almost never taken to JP court anymore. Thats the real reason they are down. So no JP should be bragging about how they cut truancies because they didn't, the legislature did. Hell YISD hasn't sent a single case to the JP courts in over a year. Not one. That is pretty much half of Urenda's area and nearly all of Chatman's.
Bustamante is an established and experienced attorney. Urenda tries to downplay it by saying she's "just an immigration lawyer". Well any lawyer that went to law school, graduated, and passed the bar exam anywhere in the United States is far more versed, trained, and experienced in the law, than a JP that never went to law school.
For integrity, experience and education, JP 4 (that is you eastsiders) should send Urenda packing and elect Bustamante.
Justice of the Peace Precinct 5
I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but voters in the Lower Valley, despite his MANY flaws, should re-elect John Chatman. Now that the race is down to Chatman and Lucilla Najera, while is not the greatest choice of candidates, the choice is clearly Chatman.
Chatman is not a nice person. Frankly he was a total ass to former opponent Kathryn Lucero and her child during the election. The position has gone to his head, he's arrogant, entitled, abrasive, and thinks his first name is now "judge".
But...he's still head and shoulders a better pick for the position than Najera. For weeks I heard Najera lie to voters. For weeks I heard her say she was "going to help the veterans" and blow smoke up voters' asses about how she was also going to help with traffic control and street repairs. Those are federal and municipal issues respectively.
I don't have to tell you because you already know, but the JP courts have no role in those issues. There is no budget line item in their courts for street repairs.
Lucilla Najera represents everything that is bad about lower valley politicians. The biggest plague to lower valley voters over the years has been the fact that there are fake, back-slapping politicians that prey on voters by telling them what they want to hear and making promises they have no intention or ability to fulfill. It is everything bad about government. Its why people lose faith in government. Its why they don't trust politicians.
And Najera is the epitome of that old type of politician. Lately she's had this gimmick of putting American flags on her campaign signs. But when you look at her voting history, its virtually non-existent. She allegedly cares so much for her country and veterans but couldn't be bothered enough to actually vote until the last election.
So while I don't care for either of the candidates as individuals, I'm still a voter in the area. I'm voting for Chatman. Yeah, he's all the bad things I said he was, and more that I haven't, but at least he won't lie.
Najera as a JP would be a nightmare.
But there is one really good thing I can say about John-John Chatman. He has really great supporters that work the polls for him. Najera's supporters are all as annoying and full of shit as she is, but Chatman's supporters, all seniors, and your typical super-nice people from the lower valley. Every last one of them were classy, genuine, and good people. That is arguably Chatman's biggest weapon, having really great campaign workers.
Hell I'm looking forward to early voting just so I can go say hi to them.
Posted by The Lion Star at 12:15 PM