• 79°

Crenshaw named judge despite minority outcry

BEAUMONT — Despite the objections of a delegation representing Jefferson County’s minority populations, County Commissioners on Monday appointed Corey Crenshaw to fill the unexpired County Court at Law No. 2 judgeship.
The position, which presides over misdemeanor criminal cases, has been vacant since April when former Judge Lupe Flores died unexpectedly.
While those speaking before the Commissioners Court agreed they had nothing against Crenshaw, who is white, the speakers implored Commissioners to not miss an opportunity to appoint a minority judge to better represent the county’s populace.
Commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of Crenshaw’s appointment. Voting against the appointment was Precinct 3 Commissioner Michael “Shane” Sinegal and Precinct 4 Commissioner Bo Alfred.
“When you look at the people being processed through the criminal justice system, the majority are a minority. You have an opportunity to be sensitive to the fact that we are a majority of the community, and yet we are not represented in the courts,” Paul Jones, president of the Beaumont NAACP Chapter, said during a public comment period Monday.
Brenda Spivey, with the Jefferson County Democrat Party, said she would like to see an African-American appointed to the judgeship.
“The city’s judiciary should be a reflection of the make-up of the county at large,” she said.
According to data published by the NAACP which Jones read to the Commissioners, African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated in U.S. prisons.
African Americans are also jailed at nearly six times the rate of whites.
Together, African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the U.S. population.
Five times as many whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of whites.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Eddie Arnold, who placed the item to appoint Crenshaw on the agenda, explained his rationale to those in attendance Monday.
The judgeship, he said, had drawn numerous candidates interested in the position, very few stated they would not seek re-election to the post.
Of those not planning to run for the position when it expires in November 2016, only two candidates sat down and talked with Arnold, he said.
In addition to naming a candidate who has no plans of running for the judgeship, Arnold said he was looking for someone committed to administering the law in an unbiased manner.
Arnold suggested the group “find a great candidate and get them out there and get them elected in the next cycle.”
Crenshaw currently serves as Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney. He was previously appointed by  Gov. Rick Perry to fill the unexpired Jefferson County Criminal District Attorney seat from January 2014 until December 2014.
Crenshaw has also served as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice Houston and Beaumont region from 2010 to 2014.
His first day on the County Court at Law bench is June 29.
After his appointment Monday, Crenshaw said he was grateful for the appointment, and had no present plans to see election to any office.
He said he applied for the position to help the County.
In the months since Flores’ death, 58th District Court Judge Kent Walston has tried cases from both courts, but has indicated this would be his last week to do so.
Crenshaw said he believes anyone appointed to the judgeship should not seek election because it would give them an unfair advantage.
“Since Day 1 with the district attorney’s office, I have built bridges with the minority community,” Crenshaw said, adding that he had the support of several members of the African American and Hispanic communities, as well as the Diocese.
“I am grateful and appreciative to the Commissioner’s Court and believe they made the best decision according to my qualifications and my character….I will be fair, impartial, will give sentences based on facts of the case, and treat everyone who comes in the courthouse with the same respect,” Crenshaw said.
E-mail: sherry.koonce@panews.com
Twitter: skooncePANews