Feds Pay MADD to Intimidate Judges

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on August 9th, 2007

Your tax dollars at work:


MADD Wins Court Monitoring Contract

Albuquerque (AP). Aug. 9, 2007 – The New Mexico chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving has been awarded a $400,000 contract to monitor drunken driving court proceedings in six counties…

New Mexico was selected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2003 as one of only two states to conduct a pilot court monitoring program.

State Transportation Secretary Rhonda Faught says the courts are a venue often overlooked by the public in the battle against drunken driving… She says the project will offer a detailed look at what’s happening in the counties on the front line of New Mexico’s anti-DWI efforts.

Do you think maybe judges facing reelections down the road won't be intimidated in their judicial decisions by this tactic?  Or that this is exactly the purpose of the federal grant?  So much for judicial independence in drunk driving cases. 

  • msk

    This issue seems similar to a school of thought on why media should be excluded from courtrooms: (1) Any partial recording of court events is incomplete and may paint a misleading picture of what or why court events takes place, and (2) The presence of the media may cause the court actors (defense counsel, prosecutor, or even the judge) to act differently, i.e., to “play to the camera.”

    These policy concerns apply to this wacky idea of MADD court monitoring. First, what good is it for the MADD court monitors to report back on DWI cases unless the court monitor has full insight and knowledge into the case? A seemingly “light” punishment on a defendant may be the result of the defendant’s stellar character and service to the community, or because the prosecutor faced a problem proving their case and thus made a compromise deal, or some other reason. Any lawyer (or other person intimately aware of the justice system) knows that it’s risky and foolish to compare case results (or to question the motives of the judge or prosecutor) unless you know every fact and issue in that case.

    Second, will judges and prosecutors reject compromise plea deals, out of fear of looking too lenient on DWI defendants? YES. As a DWI defense lawyer in VA, I have dealt with prosecutors in multiple jurisdictions who tell me expressly that they agree that their DWI case has problems, but that they’d rather lose the case entirely than to make a compromise plea deal [in other words, blame the loss on the judge]. I respond by asking these prosecutors “So, you think MADD would prefer that you try but lose a DWI charge, so the defendant gets off completely, rather than doing a compromise plea deal on a lesser charge with some probation and alcohol education?!”

    Finally, the idea of an executive branch agency [NHTSA] monitoring (pressuring?) the judicial branch smells of a separation of powers problem.