On the morning of September 11, 2017, Judge Nikita V. Harmon, presiding judge of the 176th Judicial District Court of Harris County, while on the bench and in the performance of her duly elected duties, was ordered off of her bench and threatened with arrest by Judge Jim Wallace, presiding judge of 263rd criminal court, without cause.
Hurricane Harvey caused damage to the criminal courts, so judges have to share court rooms at the civil court building.
Judge Harmon was scheduled to be at the shared bench at nine in the morning. After Judge Wallace did not take the proper procedure to secure his bench time at nine in the morning, he demanded that Judge Harmon remove herself from the bench so he could take plea bargains on his docket.
When Judge Harmon refused to leave the bench until her docket was complete, upon his order, Judge Wallace threatened Judge Harmon with arrest for failure to follow his edict.
As a senior judge, Judge Wallace had every legal authority to do so.
“Think about this: if Judge Wallace has no respect for a sitting judge, who was elected just like him, who is lawfully performing her duties in a courtroom, full of people and then threatens that judge with arrest, which he had the power to do, because he was feeling some kind of way, that that newly-elected judge refused to submit to his order,” Jolanda Jones, Houston Independent School District school board trustee, criminal attorney and former city councilman, said. “That she dared defy him, then regular Jo & Joann Q. Citizens probably don’t stand a chance for fairness in his court.”
“Regular people don’t stand a chance,” Jones went on to say.
Not the first instance of Judge Wallace’s behavior
Jones had represented a client in Judge Wallace’s court before, and the trial had taken two weeks to complete.
The jury found Jones’ client not guilty on two charges, so after the trial Jones went to talk the jury, as she is legally allowed to do, to get feedback on how she did as a criminal attorney.
When she tried to talk to the jury however, Judge Wallace told Jones she was not allowed to speak to the jury and that he would go talk to them himself. Listening through the door, Jones heard Judge Wallace apologize to the jury for the trial taking so long and that it was due to Jones being “long-winded.”
“I was very upset that Judge Wallace would be imputing my professional reputation,” Jones said. “I never said anything because in this system you’re going to go up to a judge more than once, you don’t want the judges to hold grudges and penalize your client because of you.”
Houston Court System in general
There are a lot of stories that go unheard and countless racist acts that happen within the courts.
Charneshia Corley was raped by police officers, caught on camera, and the courts still denied her justice. As a matter of fact, the officers and the courts tried to frame her for committing perjury because “actual penetration” did not happen. After two years of not getting justice from the court system, she decided to release her video publicly.
Unfortunately, just as more papers were starting to pick up her story, Hurricane Harvey hit and her story was quickly forgotten.
Cases like Corley’s and Judge Wallace’s behavior should not be forgotten, and justice should be administered properly. However, it is up to the community to make sure justice happens because at this rate it is not going to happen under the elected officials we’re supposed to trust.
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