Friday, September 20, 2013

In New York City and Texas the Judicial System Shows Its Worst Side – Reinstating a Teacher Who Possessed Heroin and Overturning Conviction of Tom DeLay

It’s Supposed to Be a System of Justice and Protection

Most people agree that prisons are not the place for housing low level drug users.  But possession of heroin does not indicate a low level drug user.  So there is justifiable outrage when a New York City teacher was found to have 20 packets of heroin in his possession and had the charges dismissed after he had a one day drug rehab session.

Damian Esteban, who taught at the Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design, was arrested in October 2012 when he reported for jury duty and a court officer found he was carrying 20 small bags of heroin inside a cigarette pack. The tenured teacher claimed he didn't know the heroin was in his backpack. He said he had successfully completed a drug rehabilitation program months earlier, and had picked up an old backpack on his way to court without knowing there were still drugs inside.

Sure, right.

But justice was done when an arbitrator upheld the firing of this person. 

The case made tabloid headlines and last May the city persuaded a hearing officer that Esteban should be terminated from his $66,000 a year job. Although criminal charges were dismissed, and Esteban completed a day of community service, the Department of Education claimed that his conduct and notoriety had seriously compromised his ability to do his job.

And justice is now terribly perverted as a judge has overruled the arbitrator (exactly how does an arbitration decision go to court?) and ordered the teacher reinstated.

But Esteban appealed to a state judge and won this week. State Supreme Court Justice Manuel Mendez said the teacher's dismissal was "excessive and shocking to this court's sense of fairness."

Mendez noted that there was no proof to justify the arbitrator's conclusions that the teacher's conduct would have affected his performance, or that his teaching would suffer from the negative publicity. Nor did he see any evidence that Esteban had ever brought drugs into the school building or posed a risk to students. He recommended suspension without pay.

How can a judge reach this conclusion?  How can a judge so callously disregard the welfare of young student?  How can any judge be so un-judicial?  How many people think it is correct for a person who possess heroin to be a teacher?   In what set of morality and ethics and concern for students does that exist?   The city will appeal and hopefully justice will be done.  Good grief!

In other judicial news an appeals court in Texas has over-turned the conviction of former Republican House member Tom DeLay.  The court found that the jury didn’t decide the way the appeals court judges felt they should have decided and so substituted their opinion for that of the jury.  Now appeals courts are and should be free to overturn a jury verdict when there is overwhelming indications that the jury acted incorrectly.  But the standard is very high.  In our system of justice the role of the jury is to determine if the defendant is guilty, and the jury sits through the trial in order to do so.  An appellate court has not sat through the trial and should only reverse the fact finding of the jury when it is absolutely clear that it is right to do so.

The background of the appellate judges is not known, but in Texas the government has long been controlled by conservative Republicans and it is difficult to imagine that the judges who voted to overturn Mr. DeLay’s conviction were no politically aligned with Mr. DeLay.(The Times reported that the 2 to 1 decision broke along party lines)   But for anyone who followed the DeLay case the objective conclusion is that Mr. DeLay did indeed violate the law.  But then he is a conservative, and in the minds of conservatives the law is just an inconvenience to be ignored in their rush to force their views on the rest of us.

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