Sunday, May 27, 2012

What message sent from jailing honors student for truancy?

Stories like this just make the state look foolish: "Texas honor student jailed for missing too much school." A Montgomery County honors student working two jobs was jailed for excessive truancy. Reported KHOU out of Houston:
"If you let one run loose, what are you gonna' do with the rest of 'em?," said Judge Lanny Moriarty. "Let them go too? A little stay in the jail for one night is not a death sentence."

But Tran's classmates said she had a lot more to juggle than the average teen.

"She goes from job to job from school. She stays up until 7 a.m. in the morning doing her homework," said Devin Hill, a classmate and co-worker.

On top of that, Tran said her parents spilt up and moved away, leaving her to support her younger sister. (Ed. note: The sister lives with a relative; Tran lives with an employer's family.)

The judge admitted that he wanted to make an example of the teen.

Tran had to spend 24 hours in jail and had to pay a $100 fine. 
Notably, public reaction in favor of the teen and against Judge Moriarty, who told KHOU he feared that, if he dismissed Tran's case, other defendants would think, "Well, he’s soft. He’s not gonna do nothing." (On Reddit, someone commented that "Moriarty" is a terrific name for a villain)

So the judge is worried about the message he would send, but was the message he ACTUALLY sent really "stay in school"? Or was it, "Your situation doesn't matter." "You don't matter." "Excellence be damned." "The pettiest of our rules are more important than your desperate life circumstances. Drop out if you can't follow them all because we'll jail you if you don't." What message do you think was sent by the judge's sentence, and what harm might come from Moriarty using his discretion to let Miss Tran avoid jail? Do you think the judge's decision encourages Montgomery County youth to stay in school, or to drop out if it looks like work and/or familial obligations might make them miss a few days?

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

The judge's attitude and actions actually weaken the entire system. He has made it clear that aside from not being qualified nor intellectually capable of carrying out the task he was given, he is more concerned about re-election than doing his job.

When it becomes clear that even the hardest working and most talented people among the community are going to be callously mistreated by the systems we put into place to help govern, what faith or motivation to cooperate remains?

That judge needs to be tossed out of office on his tail as quickly as possible and remediation delivered with even greater urgency to the kid affected.

Lee said...

The judge's allegance is to the law and not peace justice and the people he is supposed to serve which is why he should be voted his doom.

The better way for him to have handled this was to come off of his high horse and talk to the girl about her responsiblities and offer to help. His question should have been, what is the best way for me to serve my community, help this brilliant girl stay in school, get a scholarship to college and manage her responsiblities. He should have asked himself how to make this student's situation better and not worse.

Jail should be a recourse for those that are violent, vandals, and harmful to society and she was oviously taking her life in a much more prudent direction than that.

The jugde just showed us he has poor judgment.

Harry Homeless said...

Javert lives!

A Harris County Lawyer said...

The list of things we agree on is growing.

Given the fact that this is JP Court where the law is rarely followed in the first place (there's a reason that an appeal from JP Court is an automatic trial de novo), Moriarity's motivation becomes more sinister.

I think this has very little to do with enforcing the law. More so, it has to do with a Justice of the Peace who doesn't want to be told what to do by the general public.

rodsmith said...

i'd love to see a message sent via this judge when someone uses a baseball bat and turns his body into a pudding!

After all he's just ruled it's perfectly LEGAL to use someone to send a MESSAGE! and not follow the law and sentence those in front of him for the CRIME THEY ARE CHARGED WITH! No MORE and No LESS

Gina Loyd said...

The school had options also. Our school(for all their deficits) did allow my kids to make up time by coming in early and staying late a few days. This should have never gone beyond the school, and where are the community members who want big government out of their lives and believe that welfare should be managed at a local level? Did no one see this coming? I think there have been a lot of failures on the way to our big Texas legal failure that just never seems to change(unless for the worse)

Anonymous said...

A Harris County Lawyer said...
"The list of things we agree on is growing."

Welcome to the defense side of the bar!

Anonymous said...

Gina Loyd is absolutely correct! This process begins at the school level with a letter from the Registrar to the parents (total form letter promulgated by the State of Texas) with the AP's signature. It was the girls school which elevated this. So many people have failed this brilliant young woman, from her parents, her educators and the State of Texas.

With this in the shining media light, we know she will get the help she needs, but it should never have gone this far.

Phelps said...

Compulsory education is incarceration. All the judge is doing is removing the facade from the system.

Natalie Malonis said...

Like "A Harris County Lawyer" -- I find myself agreeing with you more and more. I particularly enjoy your articles about juvenile justice.

Anonymous said...

Judges like this should be removed from the bench. Their only goal is to uphold the written law. To hell with real justice. To hell with common sense.

"There's a darkness upon me that's flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what's wrong and what's right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I'm frightened by those who don't see it" The Avett Brothers

Anonymous said...

The school was losing money because of her absences. Money the motivator of punishing an honor student for not being physically present on the campus so she could be counted for attendance. The judge had the ultimate say and his actions spoke volumes about the man in the black robe. There was nothing just or right about the judgment against this young girl.

Anonymous said...

I remember back around 2001 a Denton County Judge did the samething to young people and most ended up quitting school instead of going to jail on the weekends. Judges like this only complicate the situation with this kind of thinking. It is all about money and I hope the good citizens in this country remember things like this at election time this year.

The Homeless Cowboy said...

Your Honor,

You Sir are a Cretin and a Moron.
Just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

This case illustrates a growing problem in U.S. jurisprudence. In theory, our legal system is based on individualized treatment of a specific case. People are prosecuted one at a time, and sentences are supposed to take into consideration a long list of factors that will help the judge forge a correct sentence for that particular suspect.

But in reality, as in this case, a criminal case is often used to "send a message" or serve some outside purpose that really has nothing to do with the case at hand. The idea of "mandatory minimums" is tied in with this --to heck with individual circumstances, everyone gets tossed in the grinder!

There has always been a conflict between the ideas of "justice" for an individual and "justice" for the public (often called "the greater good"). IMHO our judiciary is rapidly abandoning the former and rushing towards the later, making rulings (including sentencings) based more on bureaucratic categories rather than individualized circumstances.

Michael said...

The two messages I get are that society's efforts to cure its ills by criminalizing everyting continue to fail, and that Moriarty is as dumb as a bag of hammers. Which ensures his reelection in Montgomery County.

Danielle Zora said...

Unfortunately this does not happen only in Texas. I had an internship at an "alternative" program for troubled youth 2 years ago in PA and there was a child there for truancy. He was truant because he was going to dance auditions. They put him in the special school with no dance or anything and totally ruined his chances for the dreams and abilities he had as a youth. Truancy laws have returned because of money? Wow.

Audrey said...

An outstanding work ethic, responsibility for family AND an honor student. This young woman has such a good heart and mind, why is Texas criminalizing her behavior? It sounds as though she needs to go to school and sleep in her classes. It seems the message Texas is sending the world is that our justice system doesn't work. The message to the students is don't trust the justice system because you will be punished for hard work and likely get away with punishment if you just quit. It makes no common sense.

Anonymous said...

We seem to all agree the judge lacks the thought process skills needed to be a judge. My only hope is by receiving some press coverage a benefactor may step forward to mentor and possible sponsor this young ladies future education.

Anonymous said...

This idiot judge also shows no respect for the US flag in his feeble attempt at faux patriotism - http://www.mctx.org/courts/justices_of_the_peace/justice_of_the_peace_pct_1/index.html

"The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. (section 8d)"

Charlie O said...

Ah, Texas, where the solution to every ill is incarceration. Texas just keeps looking dumb and dumber. My mother wants me come visit her in Granbury. I just can't bring myself to set foot in that s**thole ever again.

Anonymous said...

Robert McGuire Stated-
The Judge is an ex cop who has been fined by the Texas Ethics Commission on ETHICS VIOLATIONS. This is an uneducated person who has lived off of the TAX PAYERS his whole life and has never worked in the private sector. This judgement shows that he still thinks like a COP. Everyone is guilty so chop off their heads. I'm sad to read that is Republican because he makes GOOD REUBLICANS LOOK BAD. What a PRIMATE! Get him off the bench and get someone with a moral compass.

Anonymous said...

Robert McGuire Stated-
The Judge is an ex cop who has been fined by the Texas Ethics Commission on ETHICS VIOLATIONS. This is an uneducated person who has lived off of the TAX PAYERS his whole life and has never worked in the private sector. This judgement shows that he still thinks like a COP. He believes everyone is guilty so chop off their heads. I'm sad to read that he is a Republican because he makes GOOD REPUBLICANS LOOK BAD. What a PRIMATE! Get him off the bench and get someone with a moral compass. I corrected my typos! This story is important.

FleaStiff said...

>"The pettiest of our rules are more important than you ...".

And don't forget that the pettiest of our school administrators are more important than you also!

That is the primary lesson taught by institutions and she seems to have forgotten it! I commend the Texas bureaucrats for their steadfast elevation of their own importance. Its good to see them performing their primary job.

sidvicious said...

Really! being truant results in a day at jail. If that judge was looking out for the best interest of the people he serves, he would not have sentenced the young lady to a 24 hour term in jail. As a result, the cost to detain that juvenile was in the area of $60-80, which the people of that county paid for through taxes. Maybe I’ll move to Montgomery County's where money seems to be no issue. Instead of wondering what other truant kids were going to think of you, why didn’t you think about the girls situation some of the difficulties she has to endure as a result of her situation, like going to school. The judge should have called school administration and asked if the girl could be placed on a school/ work program or if alternative educational plan could be formulated given the circumstances. Just realized you really don’t need a law background to become a JP, just enough money to run, would be interested in knowing Judge Moriarty’s background. If his statement was true that he “wanted to make an example” then I would consider filing a suit against JP, just my opinion.