“Did you steal those Air Jordans?” “No sir, officer.” “Okay, then, run along.”
“I have photographs of you in flagrante delicto at a motel.” “That’s not me.” “Sorry, my mistake.”
“You shot me!” “No, I didn’t.” “You have a gun, you just fired it in my direction, and I’m bleeding. You shot me!” “Nope.” “I must be hallucinating.”
Imagine how smoothly our justice system would operate if we could just trust everybody to tell the truth. If all we had to do was ask the person accused of something whether he had done it or not – and we could take him at his word – we wouldn’t need judges and we wouldn’t have to have trials.
Even if we still had judges and trials, we wouldn’t have to worry about whether those judges could be impartial or not. If there were any reason to believe that they might favor one party over another, we could just ask them if we should be concerned. If the judges assured us that there was nothing to worry about, our hearts would be set at ease.
“Don’t worry,” a judge might affirm. “I can be completely objective towards the party of the second part, even though it is my mother/spouse/business partner.”
In the real world, however, you can’t trust everybody to be honest, you can’t believe everything everybody says, and you can’t expect everyone to act without prejudice. Our justice system takes for granted that people can be, and often are, deceitful – sometimes unwittingly.
Travis County District Judge John Dietz, for instance, insists that he’s not biased toward the plaintiffs attorneys representing hundreds of public school districts in a trial to determine the constitutionality of the Texas public school funding system.
Not surprisingly, the plaintiffs attorneys enthusiastically corroborate his objectivity.
We’d love to take them all at their word, but evidence of possible bias exists. Since Judge Dietz refuses to recuse himself, a visiting judge will make the decision for him.