The Elk Rapids Teenage Republicans hosted a candidates forum for the candidates for 86th District Court Judge, Bob Cooney, Haider Kazim and Paul Jarboe. If you blinked, you may have missed the absolutely shocking admission that Grand Traverse County Prosecutor and judicial candidate Bob Cooney made during the forum.
The candidates talk about the informal hearing system for civil infractions. (Not one of them addresses the issue of non-attorney magistrates, but that’s not the issue.) When it was Cooney’s turn to talk about civil infractions, he said this:
“Our office actually represents law enforcement if there is an appeal.”
Did you catch that?
Cooney doesn’t see himself as representing the People of the State of Michigan. He sees himself as representing law enforcement. And the People and law enforcement have two very different sets of interests.
Think about that for a second. If you see yourself as representing the police instead of the citizens, there’s nothing to stop you from all manner of sins in an attempt to win a victory at the expense of justice. You adopt the mentality that the police are never wrong even when they’re wrong. And no wonder you give the sheriff a pass when he writes illegal tickets. If you see yourself as law enforcement’s advocate, you slide into the mentality that the police can and should cut corners to get the “bad” guys. There’s nothing to hold the police to any standards of anything. You slide into the mentality that the police are an occupying force with no checks, when in fact, you’re supposed to be one of those very checks.
And it’s no wonder that law enforcement is tripping over themselves to support Cooney’s rise to more power, a.k.a. the judgeship. Why wouldn’t they want a judge that has spent the previous decade blindly accepting whatever they do over the interests of the residents of Grand Traverse County?
Other takeaways from the candidate’s forum:
Around 18:00 minutes, the question is what Supreme Court decisions each candidate disagrees with. The question thoughtfully points out that most Supreme Court decisions are not unanimous, so surely each of the judge candidates has a case or two that they would have decided differently than the majority.
So Kazim gets up and says that a District Court judge doesn’t rule on weighty issues of constitutionality. Uhm, what? District Court judges rule on constitutional issues all. the. time. So wrong.
Cooney says that Canon 7 of the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct prevents him from answering the question because, you know ethics. So let’s fact check that. Here’s the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct. There’s nothing even remotely close to a prohibition on a judge expressing personal opinions on Supreme Court decisions. The closest Canon 7 gets is saying that judges and candidates shouldn’t make promises about what they would do if they were elected to office. That’s not even close to stating that you disagree with a Supreme Court decision. If you weren’t allowed to disagree with a Supreme Court opinion, they wouldn’t publish dissenting opinions.
Later in the forum, Cooney touts his reputation for being “tough.” (58:00 minutes). So isn’t that far more questionable in terms of campaign promises than stating that you disagree with a Supreme Court decision? Like that we should all elect him because he’s tough? Isn’t that a promise?
So Cooney tries to deflect the question by saying something to sound smart, but it was nonsense. Not one of them actually answered the question. I would have backed up to have the three candidates even try to name and discuss three recent Supreme Court decisions.
At 11:46 they talk about discovery in misdemeanor cases. Cooney says he thinks it should be allowed, even though it’s not allowed under the current law. Jarboe actually points out what the law says on the issue.
They spend most of the rest of the time praising sobriety courts. At 29:00 minutes Cooney says that they have “one of the best sobriety courts.” Then he compares the 4-5% claimed recidivism rate in recovery court with the supposed 40% recidivism rate of people who don’t participate in a recovery court program.
A couple of things. One, that says nothing about how your recovery court does in comparison to other recovery courts. You’re comparing apples to oranges. Second, are you running your recovery court with integrity? What the recovery court program does not have is any checks in place to ensure the integrity of testing despite a known history of testing irregularities in the District Court. In addition, on the recidivism rate, you’re the one responsible for charging repeat offenders. You could simply decline any new charges against recovery court grads and drop your recidivism rate to zero.
Focusing on recovery court in a candidate’s forum is such a softball. It doesn’t require any candidate to demonstrate that they know anything. At 43:00 – 44:00 on the forum video, Cooney says that he’s running for judge because recovery courts. He says that the judge’s personal interest in the participants must be what cures them from addiction at such a high rate, because he doesn’t know how else to account for the recovery court’s success.
What if there isn’t anything to account for the recovery court success? What if it’s a self-selecting probation and the people who get through it are the people who otherwise would have gotten through probation and avoided reoffense? I have a hard time believing that judges have invented the cure to substance abuse and that it’s just a little judge love. What they have done is managed to convince appropriators to divert millions of dollars to the courts to fund these programs. If a little judge love cured substance abuse, judges who really cared would start going to AA and NA meetings to show their judge love and cure substance abuse before the first and second offenses even occur.
I have to hand it to the Elk Rapids Teenage Republicans for hosting the forum. Otherwise there’s nothing for voters to go on. Even then, what they mostly have to go on is recovery court fluff and every candidate boasting about how they’re most experienced. I still want to know bar exam scores, LSAT scores and law school GPAs. These could be objective measures of candidate qualifications.
Just my 2c. What did you think of the candidate’s forum?