Lamar W. Hankins : Ted Poe is the Bully with the Booming Voice

U.S. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX). Photo from zimbio.

Politico Ted Poe:
The bully with the booming voice

By Lamar W. Hankins / The Rag Blog / March 24, 2011

The recent article in The New York Times (picked up this past Sunday by the Austin American-Statesman) about Congressman Ted Poe’s inclination to have the first word most days in the U.S. Congress (by speaking on the record when hardly anyone is present other than a presiding official) was more filler than substance.

Poe is a Republican representative from the Houston-Beaumont-Port Arthur area, which includes the town where I grew up. I first encountered him while in my first year of law practice in 1977, when he was First Assistant District Attorney in the courtroom of the Honorable Allen Stilley.

The two were big buddies, having worked together in the District Attorney’s office before Stilley was elevated to the bench. If any defendants ever got justice in that courtroom, it was because of the good work of their defense attorneys and had nothing to do with Poe or Stilley’s living up to their oaths of offices — to their commitment to follow the laws and the constitution.

In fact, prosecutors face a primary and specific duty not to just convict offenders but to advance the cause of justice. Poe did not seem to care about justice, but he liked to humiliate those accused of crime and those convicted. His primary and specific commitments seemed to be to satisfy his anger, disregard normal human sensibilities, and mete out his own retribution.

Poe was often glib with a superficial charm, if innate meanness appeals to you. He struck me as the kind of lawyer who had a grandiose sense of himself (a common characteristic found in abundance in the profession). He seemed to have no shame when it came to the zeal with which he executed his job as prosecutor.

His callousness toward human frailty seemed to complement the tyrannical behavior he displayed toward defendants and anyone else who disagreed with him. The way he did his job seemed to provide him with great emotional satisfaction.

While waiting for a jury verdict one day, I witnessed Poe viciously attack a hapless defendant who wished to withdraw a guilty plea he had entered earlier. The defendant was on the witness stand. Poe was standing near him and shouting as loudly as he could in what the author of the New York Times article called his “booming Texas twang.”

Normally, having someone shouting with the roar of a freight train 12 inches from your face makes a person back away, but the defendant could not. He was confined to a chair in the witness box right next to Judge Stilley, who seemed to delight in the torture being meted out by his friend Poe.

The Code of Judicial Conduct provides that a judge “require order and decorum” in judicial proceedings. This scene was not in any way decorous. Those same canons require that a judge assure that lawyers in his courtroom be courteous. Poe was anything but courteous.

When the worthless appointed defense attorney for the man tried to speak up, Stilley ordered him to sit down and shut up, though the law requires that defense attorneys be given the right and the opportunity to participate meaningfully in the proceedings. The defense attorney would not cross Stilley, however, or he would never get another appointment in his court.

A meaningful way to participate in that situation would have been to lodge an appropriate objection to Poe’s conduct. The rules of evidence provide that the purpose of interrogation of a witness is to ascertain the truth. Both Poe and Stilley seemed to believe that water-boarding would have been effective, but they had to live with the extreme harassment being meted out by Poe.

Stilley failed entirely in his duty to protect the witness from either harassment or “undue embarrassment” in being treated like a witness in a television crime drama. It was the sort of situation that requires one to tighten one’s sphincter muscles to avoid having to change pants.

I learned later that Poe’s style was also Stilley’s style when Stilley became upset with me during a post-summation discussion about my client’s rights. I never raised my voice, but Stilley had the same vocal capacity and ferocious demeanor as Poe. Fortunately, I was at least six feet away from him when he began his shouting at me.

I learned early in my legal career from my friend, employer, and mentor, the late Stuart Kinard, that courtrooms were often hostile environments for defendants and defense attorneys, especially courtrooms in which the attorney had not previously appeared and was not known.

The judge, prosecutors, clerk, court reporter, and bailiffs usually work together day after day and become well-acquainted, if not friends, celebrating birthdays and other special occasions together. A defense attorney is often seen by them as an interloper, who seeks to free the guilty from government control, retribution, and punishment.

My view is that the job of a defense attorney is to hold the government accountable for its accusation against a citizen and for its own behavior.

Fortunately, for both defendants and defense attorneys, not all courtrooms are peopled with close-knit partisans. Many court staff members treat all participants in courtroom activities with respect and dignity. Such public servants deserve gratitude from all lawyers and from all citizens. Ted Poe does not fit into that category.

Politically, Poe believes that America should export our version of democracy much as an evangelical missionary tries to convert foreigners to Christianity, except that our country gets to use its military power to do so even if the costs mount into the trillions of dollars, mortgaging the futures of our children and grandchildren.

On immigration, Poe has no new ideas, only shop-worn pablum about protecting our borders and not rewarding violators of immigration law. He ignores the inherent discrimination that has existed for decades in a system that bases legal immigration on national origin quotas, politicizes refugee status, and splits up families — policies that contradict long-revered American values arising from notions of fairness and equity.

Poe supports the further development of nuclear energy even as we learn anew that it is an inherently unsafe technology, is financially irresponsible, threatens millions of lives with suffering and death, and has an unresolvable waste problem that could make human life on earth untenable.

On health care, Poe continues to promote the false claim that Medicare and other single-payer systems put the government in charge of a person’s health care decision-making.

In short, Poe is a mainstream Republican with nothing new or innovative to bring to the table, and he is quick to wrap himself in a religious cloth and make patriotic noises that may appeal to those whose primary source of information is Fox News.

The only plausible reason I can find for The New York Times to waste a reporter on a non-story about Ted Poe is that the Times has unfavorable ratings among Republicans, according to Pew Research surveys. But, if Poe’s only claim to fame is that he spoke first for more days than anyone else in the Congress, he will at least be doing less harm than he did as a prosecutor and judge.

[Lamar W. Hankins, a former San Marcos, Texas, city attorney, is also a columnist for the San Marcos Mercury. This article © Freethought San Marcos, Lamar W. Hankins.]

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5 Responses to Lamar W. Hankins : Ted Poe is the Bully with the Booming Voice

  1. Anonymous says:

    I would love some day to meet a prosecutor who is interested in advancing the cause of justice. I believe they are as rare as the Snow Leopard. My experience is that they are only interested in rolling up a large body count for the prison system, innocence or degree of guilt be damned.

  2. Ray Hill says:

    When Ted was a district judge in Harris County, he would bulk sign warrants and give them to special crimes division in HC DA's office anf to HPD vice and narcotics divisions in order to circumvent that pesky old constitution's provisions.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I have an experience where the judge and the public defender were yelling at me and I did not want the public defender as he was 500 pounds really creapy guy yelling at me from across the room. I don't even know that guy. It was the arraignment they seemed not to follow the purpose or procedures for an arraignment but instead tried to dig up dirt in my history then called me stupid for not

  4. Anonymous says:

    Also I was molested and entrapped in a police investigation against another cop who was having sex with woman and even threatening them with guns to do sexual things. The police were bad and it is a huge problem. The Seattle Police Department is now being investigated for the murders and abuse of others and their lack of accountability and cover up. During the time they screwed me I tried

  5. Anonymous says:

    Georges Brassens Gare au Gorille

    It was through wide iron bars
    That the females of the district
    Gazed upon a powerful gorilla
    Unworried about what people will say about it
    Shamelessly, these chattering women
    Had their eyes on even one precise place
    Which my mother has strictly
    Forbidden me to name here
    Beware of the gorilla !

    Suddenly the well enclosed prison
    In which the fine animal lived
    Opens up, they don’t know why (I suppose
    That some-one must not have closed it properly)
    The ape, on coming out of his cage
    Said “It’s today that I lose it”
    He was talking of his virginity
    You guessed, I hope
    Beware of the gorilla !

    The boss of the menagerie
    Shouted frantically « Damn it !
    That’s a real drag for the gorilla
    Has never known any female ape.
    As soon as the feminine rabble
    Knew that the ape was a virgin
    Instead of taking advantage of their luck
    They made off like a flash on their spindly legs*
    Beware of the gorilla

    The very same ones who, a short time ago
    Lusted after him with a determined eye
    Ran away, proving that they had hardly any
    Consistency in their thoughts
    All the more empty was their fear
    That the gorilla is a lustful fellow
    Superior to man in the embrace of love.
    A lot of women will put you right on that
    Beware of the gorilla.

    Everybody rushes
    Out of reach of the ape on heat
    Except for an old lady in no fit condition
    And a young judge totally emotionless
    Seeing that all the women are making off
    The four-handed creature accelerated
    His waddling walk towards the long skirts
    Of the old woman and of the magistrate
    Beware of the gorilla

    « Bah » sighed the hundred year old woman.
    That some-one might still desire me
    That would be extraordinary
    And, to be totally frank beyond my wildest hopes. »
    The judge was thinking impassive
    « That I should be taken for a female ape
    Is completely impossible »
    The outcome proved him wrong.
    Beware the gorilla !

    Suppose that one of you might be
    Like the ape obliged to
    Violate a judge or a very, very old woman
    Which one would he choose of the two
    Let a similar alternative
    One of these days fall to me
    It is the old woman, I am convinced
    Who will be the object of my choice
    Beware of the gorilla.

    Didier

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