The recusal of a Montgomery County district court judge has been granted in at least eight civil commitment cases since September, according to records at the District Clerk’s office.
Judge Michael Seiler presides over the 435th state District Court — Texas’ only court responsible for handling civil commitment cases of sexually violent predators. Seiler was dismissed from six cases Dec. 11 by Senior Judge Ned Dean for either reasonably questionable impartiality or a personal bias against the subject matter or a party involved in the respective cases, records show.
There are more recusal motions pending, while those already granted call into question whether Seiler can objectively preside over the roughly 50 civil commitment cases heard in the court annually.At issue are a series of of speeches he gave to Tea Party and Republican groups in which he suggested eliminating jury trials for sex offenders and opined that castration would only work to deter sex offenders if it occurred at neck level. He adopted a campaign slogan dubbing himself "a prosecutor to judge the predators" in the GOP primary in Montgomery County, making no apologies for his one-sided approach to judging these cases.
The surprise here isn't so much that a judge holds these views but that he's thick enough to voice them repeatedly in public forums where eventually, inevitably, somebody stuck a video on YouTube. Talk about your unforced errors; that's pretty brazen!
The question becomes, if the only judge in the state hearing civil commitment cases can't be impartial and is routinely recused, how long is the situation sustainable where all those cases are funneled through his court? With the Legislature convening in a month, might they decide to upend the scenario, perhaps shifting civil commitment proceedings back to their county of origination instead of sending them all to Judge
The whole civil commitment program has been a hot mess from the get-go. But capped off with this news, in 2014 its disgrace reached new depths.