The Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is calling for an investigation of Houston’s longest-serving felony-court judge, claiming that his no-bond policies and recent remarks on black men and Black Lives Matter display “flagrant racism.”
In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Texas District Judge Michael McSpadden said that, as policy, he denied personal bond to defendants awaiting trial for years because of concerns that, once released, those defendants would be arrested again for different offenses.
For more than a decade (2006-2017), McSpadden blocked magistrates from offering personal bond to defendants. As the Sacramento Bee defines it, personal recognizance bond “allows defendants be released from jail before standing trial without having to pay cash bail.”
McSpadden also made it very clear to whom he was denying bail. From the Chronicle:
“The young black men - and it’s primarily young black men rather than young black women - charged with felony offenses, they’re not getting good advice from their parents,” he said. “Who do they get advice from? Rag-tag organizations like Black Lives Matter, which tell you, ‘Resist police,’ which is the worst thing in the world you could tell a young black man ... They teach contempt for the police, for the whole justice system.”
McSpadden also referred to these defendants as “tainted.”
“Almost everybody we see here has been tainted in some way before we see them,” he told the paper. “They’re not good risks.”
In a statement released Tuesday (h/t to the Sacramento Bee), the state’s ACLU chapter called McSpadden’s comments an open admission of racial bias against young black male defendants who appeared before the judge in court.
“If there remained any doubt that the deck is stacked against people of color in our criminal justice system, Michael McSpadden just dispelled it,” Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, said in the statement.
The comments, along with the revelation that McSpadden barred magistrates from offering personal bond for years, add to the judge’s troubled history of stripping defendants of their rights.
In July, McSpadden made headlines after a Houston city councilman accused the felony-court judge of judicial oppression. As the Houston Chronicle reported, Councilman Michael Kubosh, who is also a bail bondsman, said that McSpadden refused to appoint lawyers to low-income clients who were free on bail.
McSpadden’s policy was to require most defendants free on bail to hire their own lawyer. If they did not, he ordered them to come to court daily until a lawyer was hired. McSpadden’s rationale was cartoonishly simple: If you can make bail, you can afford a lawyer; underprivileged clients who asked for court-appointed attorneys were regularly denied them by McSpadden.
“This shouldn’t be this hard,” Kubosh told the Chronicle at the time. “They do this to oppress the person to take a plea or give up and just make a deal. This is all about judicial oppression.”