EDITORIAL: Shameless

No respect for law, victims in party for convicted judge

A judge who accepts bribes to favor one party over another, with no regard for the facts and the law, shames the judge, the court and the voters who entrusted him with the power to render decisions that greatly affect the lives of all who go before him.

Many members of the Hidalgo County legal community, however, apparently aren’t feeling it.

Several of them recently held a de facto going-away party for former 93rd state District Judge Rudy Delgado, who has been sentenced to five years in federal custody for his conviction on bribery and obstruction of justice charges. Lawyers, fellow judges and even state lawmakers — those who enact and enforce the very laws Delgado flouted while on the bench. They reportedly offered up toasts and praise for their former colleague, despite the disgrace he brought to them and to the entire judicial system in Hidalgo County.

Delgado, who one attorney said had taken his bribes since 2008, is scheduled to report Tuesday to a federal medical facility in Fort Worth, after he told the court he suffers from heart and liver problems. He has asked for a two-month extension to get his personal affairs in order.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with people gathering to wish a friend and colleague well as he begins what could be a difficult term of incarceration. Holding a public celebration, however, could be seen as a slap in the fact to all those victims who went before him over the years and were denied justice because the judge valued a few dollars more than he valued the laws he was elected to uphold or the oath he took before the country, the county and the public he was elected to serve.

Something a little more discreet would have been more appropriate.

It certainly would be understandable if some attorneys or their clients who felt Delgado wrongly ruled against them wonder if the attorney they faced was among those who feted the former judge, and was showing appreciation for past favors.

After all, the judge’s acceptance of bribes is only half of the crime. Someone on the other side was giving them.

Such questions might not be fair, but given the brazen display of a public celebration for someone who’s been found guilty of taking bribes, one can’t fault anyone for calling past cases into question.

To be sure, a simple party should not impugn the integrity of any of those who organized or executed it. It does, however, show little regard to those who forever might believe that their unfortunate outcome in Delgado’s court might have been the result of factors other than an objective evaluation of the facts and informed application of the law.

It would be wrong to expect, or even desire, that a convicted criminal be abandoned by those who know him. Ideally he will have the support of people who will monitor his welfare as he serves his term, and help him reconstruct his life after his sentence is completed.

Public celebrations, however, belie the sense of shame and remorse that most people expect following a conviction. They show, in a word, poor judgment.