Friday, December 26, 2014

Recusals of civil-commitment judge call process into question

The lone Texas judge in charge of "civil commitment" of sex offenders has been removed from eight cases recently over prejudicial comments, probably with more to come, reported the Conroe Courier (Dec. 24).
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 Roy Bean Seiler over in Montgomery County, where apparently they'll be distributed among visiting judges for the foreseeable future?

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.


rodsmith said...

whole "civil sex offender commitment" system is illegal and unconstitutional on it's face. If they legally were eligible for civil commitment they would have used the same system the rest of the country has used for 150 years. Not created a separate one with sections removed.

rodsmith said...

as for the judge involved here. seems he's a two-faced bigoted asshole. No telling how many he has illegally locked up for life using nothing but his hate filled bigotry to guide him while he's been doing this. Wonder if they will even bother to go back and check all the other cases.

Anonymous said...

One thing the news article does not mention is that 10 recusal motions in these civil commitment cases have been denied as well recently. The path to follow is not nearly as clear as it's made out to be.

Anonymous said...

GFB, do you remember a story you posted a couple of years ago about a man who had plead guilty to something like theft but somehow the prosecutor had twisted the charge and they were trying to have him committed under the civil commitment on a fraudulent, trumped-up sex charge? As I recall, the man was up for parole and authorities were using this court to keep him imprisoned. I searched through your past blogs but didn't find it, do you remember the details?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@7:19, I think you're remembering not the civil commitment process but "Condition X" which was placed by the parole board on non-sex offenders without due process, according to a federal court. Is that what you were remembering?

Anonymous said...

Yes, that was it. Whatever occurred with all of that, still happening?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

A federal judge said they now must hold hearings before assigning it, at one point threatening to hold parole board members personally liable if they didn't comply. I haven't looked into it for a while.

Anonymous said...

Give the ole boy a bottle of Pearl beer,a court house west of the Pecos and the hangin tree. Judge Roy Bean all over again!

Nancy Bunin said...

Two other retired judges granted Bill Savoie's and my motions to recuse Judge Seiler. Hon. Sharonlynn Wood on Sept 3, and Hon. Jeff Walker in October 30.

Currently there are 347 men living under a civil commitment order. At least 9 men have died while being confined in private facilities. Approximately 170 men are supposedly in treatment in halfway houses or held in State hospitals. The other 177 are back in prison or jail for "violation of civil commitment rules."

Crimes that are classified as "sexually violent" under the statute are burglary and aggravated kidnapping with the intent to commit a sexually violent act.

There are plenty of opportunities to represent these men and present constitutional challenges to the statute; At the civil commitment trial, appeal, biennial review, petition for review, criminal violation, parole revocations, and in their pending federal civil rights law suit.

Anonymous said...

Obviously this "Judge" is incompetent to be a judge. Every case is different and should be approached accordingly. Many sex offender cases are not true "Sex offender" cases and the DA's can define sex offender in his terms and apply as many counts as he can think of. As in divorce cases, there has been many spouses that have made claims that are not true!

Anonymous said...

The Geo Group and the entire Montgomery County political establishment should be civilly committed for being frauds. Why is the court located in Montgomery County and not Walker County where all the prisons and prisoners are located? Maybe the Geo Group and private prison industrial complex knows they would be run out of Huntsville for being frauds.

Avalon is another group to watch. They have set up a non-profit to run halfway houses, while their company provides so called treatment.

There is lots of fraud in the state's civil commitment system and sex offender halfway houses. Texas needs more ethics disclosures to uncover the relationships between private prisons and some of the key agency administrators.

Anonymous said...

More in-depth report from Houston Chronicle:

rodsmith said...

very nice link 12:10.

this just seems to say it all

"Gary Edward Vines, 60, was sentenced to life in October for civil commitment rule violations that included being six minutes late

Six minutes. That's how late Gary Edward Vines was returning to the east Houston halfway house where he was sent for supervision as a violent sex offender following his release from prison."

so now he's BACK in prison for like for being 6 min's late?

sounds to me like a setup. Therefor legally and morally he now has the legal right to leave the great state of Texas's so-called system any way he can no matter who he has to hurt to kill to do it.

Anonymous said...

Senator Whitmire is going after him.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but the Chron is guilty of lazy journalism here. One story leads with the shocking:

"Six minutes. That's how late Gary Edward Vines was returning to the east Houston halfway house where he was sent for supervision as a violent sex offender following his release from prison."

Was that this guy's only rule violation? Maybe it was, but the story never, ever says explicitly "that was Vine's only rule violation that sent him back to prison." Without that explanation it's kind of like dramatically saying:

"Six dollars! That was how much the unpaid probation crimestopper's fee was in allegation 57 that got John Smith's probation revoked and sent him to prison!"

...without mentioning that the hypothetical guy had 56 other allegations and also didn't pay his $5000 fine and absconded. There's really no explanation of what exactly this guy did that violated his terms, or even what his offense was. There's no mention of any named offender's offenses in any of these articles, none. Public TxDPS sex offender registry records says that he offended against a 15 year old girl, got out on parole, and then offended against either three 9 year old on parole or one 9 year old three times. Can we hear a little bit about what this guy did and why this guy is supposed to be so dangerous? More facts and less "six minutes" drama, please.