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Bev's Burner
Some's Hot, Some's Not 

By B.K. Carter

"Bev Carter is the owner/publisher of the Fort Bend Star, winner of numerous state and national awards. She has been a voice of Fort Bend's largest circulated newspaper for 30 years."


 

For many years, the taxpayers of Fort Bend County have spent millions (literally) of dollars on security for the courthouse at the behest of the judges.

One of the reasons this has been so expensive is there is more than one “courthouse” and each one has to be equipped with security devices.

In addition to the expense of buying and installing the equipment is the on-going expense of equipping each of the security checkpoints with usually more than one bailiff. 

I’m not talking about the bailiffs that each judge has in his own courtroom to keep order. I’m talking about the two deputy/bailiffs at each checkpoint. Their salaries and benefits are ongoing and costly. About the only boon these deputies don’t have is a take home car which just about every other job at the sheriff’s department has.

No one has complained about the expense of providing this security because people should feel safe at their job. Additionally, it’s the matter of the safety of the citizenry in the courtrooms also. One doesn’t want “uninvolved bystander” as their memorial.

So the only time I’ve really thought all that security was silly was when I went out to the parking lot and saw “State District Judge” emblazoned on various license plates attached to cars belonging to judges. I’ve thought if judges are so concerned about security, then why drive around advertising the job from which their fears emulate. 

Then in the past year, a couple of the judges in Fort Bend have, in my opinion, gone overboard in their demands about actions in their courtrooms. 

The following pictures are from both inside  Judge Cliff Vacek’s courtroom and from the door.


A sign facing the audience in Judge Vacek’s courtroom admonishes us to “Keep your head still.”

Why design a nice court house when tacky signs muck up the doors?

While the bailiffs are there to make sure that proper decorum is maintained, I can’t believe Judge Vacek demands the audience in his courtroom refrain from shaking their heads. What if, like my family, you have congenital palsy? I guess you are out of luck in Judge Vacek’s court. Woe to you if you are ever tried in that court. 

The other photo shows the rules taped to the outside of his door. While some of the rules are understandable, like no cell phone, no talking, no food or drink and no gum or candy, one can’t help but wonder about the “no facial expressions” rule or the “no crying” and “no shaking your head.” I can’t help but think that the no texting rule is a little silly. I can understand jury members being unable to do that, but I can’t see how it can hurt if an audience member is texting, as long as it is not obvious.

I was sitting in a courtroom sometime last year and while the jury was gone and the judge was out, I was sitting quietly in my seat working a crossword puzzle. The jackbooted Nazi bailiff ordered me to put it away. I guess next I can’t take reporter notes.

Maybe Judge Vacek doesn’t realize that courtroom belongs to the people. He is only the referee. Demanding a certain measure of decorum is proper. Making silly rules not part of the Texas laws doesn’t engender much respect.

Then we get to Judge Bud Childers. You remember Judge Bud. While County Attorney, we used to call him “Bud Lite.” I’m not sure that he has completely lost that name, even though he is now a “judge.” Maybe he’s “Judge Bud Lite.”

Judge Bud has lots of rules pasted on his door. (By the way, why spend all that tax money on making the courthouses look nice when the judges trash up the doors with tacky, tacked up signs?)

Some of his rules are certainly called for. But some are crazy.

They are:

(1) Only the defendant is allowed into the courtroom unless the defendant is less than 21 years of age. 

I guess this means that you can’t simply go and watch a trial unless you are under 21. If you are over that age, too bad for you and too bad for the Constitution.

(2) No infants or children are allowed into the courtroom unless approved by the judge.

I guess this means if you are a defendant with a small child and can’t afford child care (you are probably only there because you are poor to start with) you are just out of luck and out of the Constitution. 

(3) No food, drink, chewing gum or smokeless tobacco is allowed in the courtroom.

I agree with most of this except I don’t think you can legally forbid chewing gum.

(4) No slouching or sleeping in the courtroom. Reading newspapers or magazines is not allowed in the courtroom.

Who decides if one is slouching. Isn’t that a subjective opinion?

(5) All cell phone and pagers must be in the silent mode while in the court.

I agree.

(6) No shorts, cut-offs, tank tops, vulgar writings or phrases on shirts (sic), no see-through garments or revealing clothing for female or male defendants will be allowed in the courtroom. Pants will be pulled up and shirts tucked in.

I agree with most of this but I don’t think judges or bailiffs should have to be fashion police. If a defendant wants to wear clothing that will offend the jury or the judge, let him!

(7) No talking while court is in session. No standing in the aisle or at the doors while court is in session. 

Does anyone really need to be told this with an ugly sign on the door?

(8) Do not put your hands in your pockets when approaching the bench.

Hands in your pockets scare the little girl in Bud

(9) Do not approach the bench with backpacks, brief cases, diaper bags or purses without first getting permission from the Bailiff. 


Judge Bud tools around town with his “state judge” licence plate and blocks handicapped spaces.

According to my reporter, she was stopped at the door and told to put her purse in her car. Now I ask you, who is hanging out in the parking lot of the courtroom over by the jail? 

When she threw a fit, the judge made the bailiff’s search all the purses. When this proved too time-consuming, he sent the purses back to the parking lot.

So here is the rule for Judge Bud’s court, get down on your hands and knees and crawl to the judge’s bench. You might get a better verdict if you start your crawling from the back of the courtroom.


Judge Bud Childers loves to park in front of “No Parking” signs.

Judge Bud demands extreme security in his courtroom while he tools around town with “State Judge” on his license as he parks in a “No Parking Zone” and blocks a handicapped place.

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Contact bkcstar@earthlink.net, if you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column. Write a SIGNED letter to the editor with valid day time phone number--name can be withheld by request.

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