State laws forbidding double-dipping by public officials stand no chance against the dark and powerful magic wielded by judges like Sid Harle. The San Antonioian frequently holds two positions of profit, one as an administrative judge and the other as a visiting retired judge, but all it takes is a little wave of his wand, er, gavel to make everything on the up and up — alakazam!
While we muggles must notify our retirement providers when we return to work, visiting retired judges are not bound by such loser laws. Retired misdemeanor and district judges can pull in a cool $750 a day while double-dipping from taxpayer-funded retirement programs because magic, duh!
Shapeshifter Jim Hogan, a visiting retired judge from Wichita County, can transform into three avatars: senior judge, associate judge, and retired judge. His witchcraft comes from David Evans. The administrative judge for North Texas is well-steeped in the eldritch art of handing out false judicial titles, but his abilities are nothing compared to the most mystical sorcerer in the state.
The latest spell from Texas’ Chief Wizard Nathan Hecht allows misdemeanor judges to take the bench with absolutely no authority. While literally every other type of judge (county, district, appellate, justice of the peace) has to be appointed by a government official with appointing powers or elected, retired misdemeanor judges, accustomed to DUIs and domestic abuse allegations, are allowed to preside over felony cases like murder and aggravated assault without being appointed or elected due to the ancient magic in Chapters 74 and 75 of the Texas Government Code (formerly known as Vernon’s Civil Statutes).
The original civil statutes clearly state that all retired judges must notify the Chief Wizard if they wish to continue service.
“No person who has heretofore retired … shall be considered to have been a judicial officer of this state after such retirement unless such person has accepted an assignment by the chief justice to sit in a court of this state,” the original statute reads.
Chief Wizard Hecht now maintains that district judges and appellate judges, not misdemeanor judges, need to just say they wish to continue serving as a visiting retired judge, meaning an entire class of judges — retired misdemeanor judges — derive their judicial authority solely based on sorcery, a.k.a. absolute bullshit.
For the thousands of defendants assigned retired misdemeanor judges every year in Texas, those qualifications matter because judges not constitutionally or statutorily qualified to preside over cases can and have had their rulings overturned on appeal.
It was only through the wizardry of greedy judges over the past four decades that the original intent of the statutes slowly metamorphosed to suit the needs of ghoulish judges who circumvent problems by conjuring totems that make pesky constitutional requirements (like taking the Oath of Office) vanish — abracadabra!
This column reflects the opinions of the editorial board and not the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a column, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at Anthony@FWWeekly.com. He will gently edit it for concision and clarity.
This story is part of City in Crisis, an ongoing series of reports on unethical behavior and worse by local public leaders, featuring original reporting.