The Freedom from Religion Foundation, an organization committed to the separation of church and state, filed a complaint against Judge Randall Rogers with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct in Austin last Friday. Rogers is the judge gone wild who ordered a man to marry his girlfriend or go to jail.
Last week, I wrote about Judge Randall Rogers of Smith County, Texas and his outrageous overstepping of his judicial authority. It seems that, unlike Rogers’ victims, others are standing up to this crackpot in a black robe. There’s been a complaint filed against Texas judge gone wild.
As you may remember, Josten Bundy, age 21, punched out his girlfriend Elizabeth Jaynes’ ex-boyfriend for disrespecting her. Judge Rogers gave Bundy a choice: marry Elizabeth within 30 days or go to jail for 15. Rogers refused to let Bundy call his employer to tell him he was going to jail so, in fear of losing his job he and Jaynes got married. Rogers also ordered Bundy to write a particular Bible verse 25 times per day.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation, an organization committed to the separation of church and state, filed a complaint against Rogers with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct in Austin last Friday.
This is yet one more case of someone in a position of power forgetting the principle of separation of church and state. Religion has no place in the courtroom unless the case being tried is a civil rights case involving religion. An assault case, such as Bundy’s, clearly fails to rise to that qualification.
A person’s religious or moral views are unique to that person. I fully support the freedom to have such views, even if they are opposed to my own. I’ve long said that, while I fervently disagree with their opinions, I will stand for the KKK’s (insert any other, similar organization/viewpoint) right to free speech. Why? Simply put, if I work to quash their right to free speech, I’m opening the door to allowing someone to do the same to me. You all know how much I love sharing my opinions; being silenced would be miserable.
That said, lawyers and judges are not “people.” Before I get fired, let me explain. Of course we really are people, but when we step into our roles as Officers of the Court, we are held to a different standard of conduct than most “people.” We may have (and likely do have) personal opinions on the issues we handle; clearly, I do. All you have to do is read this blog to know that’s true.
However, if I were to step into a courtroom to represent a client*, my personal opinions should be checked at the door. Our job is to interpret the law in the best possible light for our clients, offering them zealous representation. Judges are there to make the decision as to whose interpretation of the law best follows the actual letter and spirit of the particular law in each case.
Judge Rogers obviously has a strong opinion about the Bible and, apparently, about unmarried couples. He’s welcome to it, too. However, the minute he dons the robe and the bailiff calls the court to order, his personal opinions cease to matter. The order to marry and to write Bible verses is plainly illegal and outside of the powers of the court.
However, Bundy (21) and Jaynes (19) are young and have no reason to know that the judge can’t do as he did. On top of which, Rogers could have sent Bundy to jail immediately, do not pass “Go,” do not collect $200. Many people would have found that to be a terrifying prospect. It’s plainly clear that Bundy was afraid of it, despite his original willingness to go. His fear centered on losing his job because he couldn’t tell his employer and would be considered a “no call, no show,” which is typically a terminable offense.
Fear and intimidation kept Bundy and Jaynes from realizing that, had Bundy gone to jail, Jaynes could have called his employer when she got home from court. Instead, the two chose to get married.
One has to wonder at what else is happening in Rogers’ courtroom. It’s hard to believe that this is an isolated incident. It may be the only time Rogers has forced marriage on parties before his bench, but I doubt that it’s the only time he’s bent the rules of judicial conduct. This overstep was so egregious that it garnered media attention. How many less egregious, but equally wrong acts have been made? If, by some chance, this really is the only time this judge has gone wild, he picked a memorable way to do so.
It will be very interesting to see what happens with the complaint filed against him. Stay tuned!
*It is important to point out, for matters of ethics and legality, that I have chosen not to practice law and so did not pursue licensure.