Judge Michael McSpadden

The ACLU of Texas and seven other groups filed a complaint today (Monday, March 5) with the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct against 209th District Court Judge Michael McSpadden in Harris County, asking that McSpadden be immediately suspended and removed from the bench.

The complaint comes in the wake of comments McSpadden has made and a letter he sent to the Houston Chronicle “openly admitting racial bias against young Black male defendants who appear before his court,” according to the ACLU.

In his comments to the Houston Chronicle, ACLU officials said, McSpadden admitted that he instructed hearing officers to deny personal recognizance bonds to young black male defendants because they are “tainted” and “not good risks.” He also said black defendants do not “[get] good advice from their parents,” but rather bad advice from “rag-tag organizations like Black Lives Matter.”

“Such an admission demonstrates that Judge McSpadden is in violation of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct and may constitute grounds for his removal from office,” ACLU officials said.

ACLU Executive Director Terri Burke said, “Black men have always been overwhelmingly and disproportionately targeted for punishment by the police and the courts for no reason other than the color of their skin. This isn’t new, but it’s jarring to hear a powerful figure in the criminal justice system embrace that discrimination so openly.

“If our justice system ever hopes to live up to the ideals that are meant to guide it, we have to stamp out unfairness, injustice and inequality that black defendants face in courtrooms like Judge McSpadden’s,” Burke said.

Sharon Watkins Jones, director of political strategies for the ACLU of Texas, noted that McSpadden “took an oath to administer justice without respect to persons and to do what is right for the rich and poor. He has failed his oath and has violated judicial conduct. It is time for the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct to show Judge McSpadden his words and actions have consequences.”

Pending the outcome of the investigation, the ACLU of Texas and its partners are also calling for McSpadden’s recusal from any case involving a black defendant until that investigation is concluded.

The letter to the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct was signed by the ACLU of Texas, Houston Branch of the NAACP, Texas Civil Rights Project, ImagiNoir/BLMHTX Organizing Collective, Earl Carl Institute for Legal & Social Policy, Texas Organizing Project, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, and Black Lives Matter: Houston.

Read the letter sent by the eight groups to the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct here.

Read McSpadden’s comments here.

Read Judge McSpadden’s letter to the editor here.

— Tammye Nash