Bully on the Bench?

Abrasive encounters with some Hispanics, cash-and-carry court appointments coupled with hefty campaign contributions. Critics wonder if Pat Shelton's speedy dockets are outrunning justice.

But the lawyers in Shelton's court needn't worry. He's ready to enlist the County Attorney's Office to enforce payments if and when the fee appointments begin again.

The judge says if families return to court a second time without an attorney, he can appoint one for them and order them to reimburse the county or face civil contempt action. "I don't really have that power now if somebody doesn't pay on a retained lawyer. That gives me the county attorneys to help bring in some of those dollars."

And with that, Pat Shelton will be running the best little judicially sanctioned juvenile law mill in town, complete with a county collection service.

"What this judge is doing is being a runner for private lawyers," counters UT professor Dawson, who lingers on the idea of cash being exchanged in a court hallway between poor families and an appointed lawyer.

"That's really the image of justice that we want to promote in this state, isn't it?" The professor scoffs. "That's just fucking outrageous.

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