Judge accused of violating defendants' rights

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Friday, June 27, 2014
Judge accused of violating defendants' rights
Several lawyers are accusing a judge not following the law, and as a result, they say, people are being denied their legal rights

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- For anyone heading into Harris County Criminal Courtroom 14 on Friday morning, they were greeted with big yellow warning cards. They read in part "the judge or court staff may try to get you to plead guilty or 'no contest' without a lawyer."

The Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association (HCCLA) was the group passing them out in the halls. They told Eyewitness News they've heard too many complaints against Judge Michael Fields in the past few weeks.

"At this point, we're concerned. It's gone on for too long. We feel like it's appropriate to step in," said group president Carmen Roe. "They have the right to an attorney. They have the right to remain silent, they have the right to a jury trial. We believe those rights are not being given to these clients."

The group accused Judge Fields and court staff with pressuring for guilty and no-contest pleas. They argued that strips defendants of their constitutional rights.

"(Judge Fields) is on one side. We're on the other. I think he's professional to handle it," said Joanne Musick with HCCLA.

In his chambers Friday morning, Judge Fields addressed those concerns directly with Eyewitness News.

"We're not always going to agree, but if we're always trying to do the right thing then the best things happen for the public," said Judge Fields. "I'm following the law to the letter and the spirit as well."

He also said he takes the public trust and his responsibility seriously every single day.

"If you come in Criminal Court 14, you're going to get a fair shake and the judge is going to follow the law," stressed Judge Fields.

HCCLA doesn't plan to file a formal complaint. They did say if Judge Fields continues his behavior, they will be back with the yellow warnings.

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