HOUSTON — Today, the ACLU of Texas and seven other groups filed a complaint with the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct against 209th District Court Judge Michael McSpadden. The complaint asks the Commission to immediately suspend and remove McSpadden following comments and a letter to the Houston Chronicle openly admitting racial bias against young Black male defendants who appear before his court.
“This isn’t new, but it’s jarring to hear a powerful figure in the criminal justice system embrace discrimination so openly.” said Terri Burke, executive director for the ACLU of Texas. “It's time we took action to end the inequality that Black defendants face in courtrooms like Judge McSpadden’s.”
In his comments to the Houston Chronicle, Judge McSpadden admitted that he instructed hearing officers to deny personal recognizance bonds to young Black male defendants because they are “tainted” and “not good risks.” He went on to say that Black defendants do not “[get] good advice from their parents,” but rather bad advice from “rag-tag organizations like Black Lives Matter.” Such an admission demonstrates that Judge McSpadden is in violation of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct and may constitute grounds for his removal from office.
“Judge McSpadden took an oath to administer justice without respect to persons and to do what is right for the rich and poor. He has failed his oath and has violated judicial conduct,” said Sharon Watkins Jones, director of political strategies for the ACLU of Texas. “It is time for the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct to show Judge McSpadden his words and actions have consequences.”
Pending the outcome of the investigation, the ACLU of Texas and its partners are also calling for Judge McSpadden’s recusal from any case involving a Black defendant.
The letter was signed by the ACLU of Texas, Houston Branch of the NAACP, Texas Civil Rights Project, ImagiNoir/BLMHTX Organizing Collective, Earl Carl Institute for Legal & Social Policy, Texas Organizing Project, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, and Black Lives Matter: Houston.