Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Judicial candidates shouldn't brag about harsh sentences when seeking office

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    I recently visited the Jackson Jambalaya website, which is always full of great news, and saw the ad at right for Marlin "Marty" Miller, a candidate for 20th District circuit judge in Madison and Rankin Counties.
    All I can say is that Miller, who is currently a prosecutor, would not have my vote.
    Cannon 5, Section 3, Subsection d of the Code of Judicial Conduct provides that judicial candidates shall not:
i) make pledges or promises of conduct in office other than the faithful and impartial performance of the duties of the office;
(ii) make statements that commit or appear to commit the candidate with respect to cases, controversies or issues that are likely to come before the court;
    Now, to be certain, Miller's ad is not promising that he will as judge impose maximum sentences as a judge. But he is clearly trumpeting the fact that he obtained these lengthy sentences as a prosecutor, and the clear inference is that he will impose these types of sentences as a circuit judge. And for that reason the ad is, in my opinion, unethical.
    I confess that I'm glad that Miller helped put those criminals away for quite a while. They are scary looking guys. I just don't think it ethical to run for circuit judge on a platform of having obtained harsh sentences as a prosecutor. I would rather see a prosecutor run on a platform of being firm but fair, and see him brag about how few of his cases had been overturned on appeal. But that's just me; other people may disagree.
    A major problem with our criminal justice system is that we have far too many judges who go straight from the prosecutor's office to the bench. Many become fair arbiters overnight, but others never set aside their prosecutorial bias. I don't think a law banning anyone from being appointed or elected judge within two years of serving in a prosecutor's office would be unreasonable.
    I don't know Miller and have no axe to grind with him, but if Miller were to be elected and I were to be a poor defendant in his courtroom, based on his advertisement I really don't feel like I would get a fair trial. And that's not healthy for our judicial system.