It has become painfully apparent here in the "Republic of St. Tammany" that you need two qualifications to be a judge:
1. A Law Degree. Just about anyone from a law school that is at least two clicks above "Joe's Law School and Personal Massage Therapy Certification Course" will do.
2. A well connected political patron; or, even better, a nest of them. In this parish that political patron is Walter Reed, St. Tammany's own Boss Tweed.
Harsh? Maybe. But let's look at some facts, here. The fact is, that in the Republic of St. Tammany, you don't stand a chance of being elected as a judge without the blessing of Walter Reed and his stack of political cronies. Reed and Company run the 22nd Judicial Court in a way that would make any third world dictator, if they knew about it, call him up and ask for an instruction manual. Want to be a Judge? Play nice with Walter or forget it. Want to stay being a judge? See above.
All sarcasm aside, the end result of all that political maneuvering is a court run by the DA's Office, not the judges elected to run it. Walter gets what Walter wants. That accounts for that ridiculously overblown 99% conviction rate that Walter likes to boast about.
Here's a reasonable question - what court in the world, outside of the most brutal dictatorships can boast that kind of conviction rate? We haven't seen any statistics to back this up, but we'd be willing to place a small wager that the Castro regime's repressive Cuban courts don't get to brag about a 99% conviction rate. And here is a very sobering thought - the United States locks up more of its population than any other nation on earth. Louisiana locks up more of its citizens than any other state except for North Korea, of course. If that doesn't rattle you, it should. Why? because it can happen to you. Law and order types (as most of us once were) like to think that this is a safe place to live and it's all because of Walter and company. And that's all well and good - until it happens to you. Until you or your husband or your father or sister or wife or son or daughter cross up with what passes for a justice system here.
Until you or a family member gets tossed in that hell-hole of a parish prison (another tale for another time) or runs out of money to defend themselves because of costly delays. Until you get charged with an impossible number of felonies that you cannot possibly afford to defend yourself against and then... they offer you that sweet sweet deal. Just plead to this little charge and we'll drop the rest. We're reasonable, see? And, guess what? You'll take it. It's what they do.
They beat people down until they'll do anything to get the gorilla of the 22nd Judicial court system off their back. THAT'S one of the ways Walter gets his 99% conviction rate. And the judges let them get away with it.
To the opening point - there is no system of checks and balances before someone puts on that black robe and sits in judgment on you. If they have Walter and his good ol' boy network behind them, they can be a total nitwit with a law degree and get elected to decide your fate. And, just looking at some of the decisions that are handed down in the 22nd Judicial, we are inclined to think that this is more often than not the case, in the Republic of St. Tammany.
In closing, we'd like to caution those of you out there who think that Walter & Co. have your best interests in mind. They don't. They have their own best interests in mind. They want to stay in power at all costs and part of that is bamboozling the public into believing that a 99% conviction rate is actually a good thing when it is truly a dangerous travesty of justice. And you don't think they'd actually back someone for a judgeship who had the guts to think independently from their clique and pop that little balloon, do you? After all, it's better to have a loyal nitwit on the bench than someone who might actually be knowledgeable and fair, isn't it, Walter?
- By the Editorial Staff of Louisiana United International