Friday, October 16, 2009

Judge Justice Has Died

William Wayne Justice, a former federal judge, has died. Judge Justice had a great and fitting name. He was passionate about the Constitution and about equality. He stood up to local governments that deprived politically vulnerable people of their basic rights. He is the type of judge the represents a lost generation of judges that took equality seriously. He will be missed.

The New York Times has a good obituary.


fromtexasbygod said...

In response to Justice's infamous Ruiz vs Estelle ruling, the Texas legislature passed laws to reduce prison overcrowding, by making parole and early release more accessible to prisoners. Unfortunately, many of the prisoners who were granted early release made poor use of their freedom. The violent crime rate in Texas rose 31 percent in the first six years after
Justice's ruling. In 1980, the violent crime rate in Texas was 550 per 100,000 population. By 1986, it was 659 per 100,000 population.
The problems caused by releasing large numbers of predators back into society were anticipated by politicians and citizens alike. It seemed
perfectly obvious to everyone - except Judge Justice, that is - that this new revolving-door prison policy was contributing to a great deal
of suffering and death in the state. In attempts to mitigate the damage, officials tried to improvise new ways of following Justice's orders without allowing vast numbers of dangerous prisoners to walk free. They tried housing prisoners in tents, in military barracks, and in county jails. In each case, Justice struck these measures down as unconstitutional, not even acceptable as temporary fixes while new prisons were being built. Impatient with the state's progress and oblivious to the crime wave his rulings were fueling, Justice threatened the state with huge fines, and, in 1987, found it in contempt of his ruling. Texas did the only thing it could do to satisfy Judge Justice - release even more prisoners, faster. In 1990, violent crime jumped up another 15 percent in one year, to 761 per 100,000 population. The next year saw another 10 percent jump to 840 per 100,000 population. Despite all this - despite the fact that during the early 1990s, Texas news media seemed to have a new story every week about a murder committed by a parolee - Justice never let up in forcing his ideals on the Texas prison system no matter what the cost. Even the construction of new prisons was likely to meet with his disapproval. In 1994, he held up the expansion of an Amarillo prison because a softball field was being removed to make room for prisoner housing. In 2002, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the Ruiz lawsuit, finally ending Justice's oversight over Texas prisons.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

FromTexasbygod: Consider posting a link - rather than simply a bunch of unverifiable data.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

PS: The Fifth Circuit approved the earlier rulings in the case, but you treat Justice as a wayward judge.

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