By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Boycotting slimeballs: I've known Mike McSpadden for more than 20 years, first when he was a prosecutor, then as a district judge ["An Open Mike," by George Flynn, April 19]. Sometimes I disagree with Judge McSpadden, and that's part of being a lawyer. But regardless of how he rules, you can be sure that he is trying to be fair to everyone in his courtroom.
Judge McSpadden has a very strong sense of fairness. He wants every defendant in his court to have a fair trial and to have a trial that the defendant can see is fair. When he isn't sure how the law requires him to rule, he usually does what he thinks is right -- and 99 percent of the time, he's doing what the law requires.
In 1986, when he was under pressure to sign on to the joint Republican judicial campaign, he thought one of the nominees (who eventually lost) was slimy and not up to the job. He was right. If Mike McSpadden sacrificed a federal bench for doing what he thinks is right, more power to him. As Davy Crockett said, "Be sure you're right, then go ahead." Judge McSpadden also knows how to stand by a friend.
Incidentally, Judge McSpadden was appointed to the bench to replace Frank Price rather than Lee Duggan.
Self-defense: Judge McSpadden was the first judge in Harris County to establish his own little "public defender system." The problem with his version is that he controls the pocketbook for the defense of the accused indigents in his court. No criminal defense attorney who is dependent upon a judge for his entire income can escape a conflict of interest in his representation of the indigents in that judge's court.
The conflict of interest is so obvious in Judge McSpadden's "public defender system" that a child of six could see it. Why can't the Commission on Judicial Conduct or the State Bar Grievance Committee?
E.G. (Gail) Huff
In a league of his own: When my son Michael (now a federal public defender in Houston) was in high school and considering law school, I took him to chambers to meet Judge McSpadden. During their brief conversation, Michael told of being a volunteer coach for a largely minority intercity baseball team of kids ten and 11 years old.
It was a poor league. His team had only two baseballs for batting practice and had to share baseball gloves. They rarely had enough for all nine players. Their left-handed first baseman wore his sister's right-handed glove. A week or two later, I was invited to Judge McSpadden's chambers without the prosecutor. McSpadden handed me some brand-new baseballs and a left-handed glove.
He was impressed that a young high school student would donate his time to such a worthy cause and wanted to help. He asked me to deliver them to my son and asked only that I not make it public. I carried his donations out of chambers in a plastic bag. That was over ten years ago, and I am certain the statute of limitations has run.
ExCEPtion to the Rule
Warehoused kids: I am writing to say "hooray!" to those parents who are [challenging] the validity of their child's stay at CEP ["180 Days in the Hole," by Margaret Downing, April 19]. I certainly sympathize with their plight, as I am a former employee of Community Education Partners, and I know the frustration of the students who are there for lengthy stays and, unfortunately, unchallenging class work.
Grades have been changed, altered and made up in order to meet deadlines. Teachers often have little or no classroom experience and basically baby-sit the students. Fights are frequent, and consequences minimal. The staff turnover rate is tremendous. In the last month, I know of at least three people who resigned because of the poor management of the facility -- I even hesitate to call it a school!
So, parents, keep up the good work of boycotting the school and its multimillion-dollar investment. CEP does not educate students, it serves as a warehouse for kids.
Name withheld by request
Expel druggies: Are Drew's parents arguing that he should not have been expelled for bringing drugs to school? The three-day suspension sounds more like the interim needed for his due process hearing with his expulsion being the result of his guilt. If this is true, good for HISD. I believe that the hundreds of thousands of HISD students who do not break the law deserve their right to a safe and drug-free school. So even though I think CEP has problems, I think it's good that Drew and other expelled students have a place to continue their education.
Name withheld by request
Parental participation, please: As a former student, parent and now grandparent of students of HISD, I have faced the challenges these parents are now facing with their children. At a personal financial cost, I went toe-to-toe to try to bring change through every means possible. I won some and lost some, but through it all I tried to balance my involvement with constructive participation to improve what was already there.