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N FEATURE The Worst Judges in Texas In these courtrooms, justice comes to a screeching halt BY NATE BLAKESLEE /ION OVA, #1, e ,/411vveloo /14* .44A0444,44440\(4… 1″‘11111d i 4:.,011d dj: J./jj 11 /Ill 111.1j44j law t’s not a good time to be a Texas judge. President Bush’s nomination of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals remained caught in the craw of the U.S. Senate for four long years, as her various shortcom ings and the sorry state of the civil justice system in Texas were bandied about from The New York Times editorial page to the radio rants of Howard Stern. She wasn’t so much confirmed last spring as she was coughed out, like a bundle of mouse bones from the beak of a barn owl. Meanwhile, the Court of Criminal Appeals, our second most prestigious court, has become a national laughing stock, thanks in no small part to Justice Sharon Keller’s toe-curling performance on the PBS show Frontline, in which she tried to explain why a man exonerated by DNA evidence should have been kept in prison. A nation of CSI junkies was left shaking their heads, 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER FEBRUARY 10, 2006 muttering, “Where do they find these people?” We’re temptlabs!” Instead, we present the following list, as an admittedly unscientific demonstration that you don’t have to look very hard to find a bad judge in this state. We began our search with no preconceived notion as to what makes a judge “bad.” Instead we talked to dozens of attorneys, including former prosecutors and judges, to find out what makes them mutter around the water cooler. We heard storiesvirtually all off the record, for obvious reasonsabout incompetent judges, partisan judges, insane judges, mean judges, and judges on a mission that had little to do with justice. The following five, each in his or her own way, stood out above the rest. Bad judges of Texas, we salute you. Take heart and soldier on: The nation is waiting to hear your stories.