Monthly Archives: April 2014

(Questionably Awake) STL Juvenile Court Judge David Mason Defends Marijuana Prohibition

I was very interested to see the recent remarks of St. Louis Juvenile Court Judge David Mason recently to CBS:

St. Louis Juvenile Court Presiding Judge David C. Mason says while the nation is getting soft on marijuana, he sees it as a contributing factor to crime.

Mason believes that pot may be fueling juvenile crime such as break-ins, robbery, and auto theft.

“And I can tell you right now, I can’t think of the last juvenile offender I had in front of me that didn’t have a marijuana-use problem,” Mason says.

Mason says that academic failure makes crime seem appealing to juveniles. He adds that 90 percent of the offenders he has seen have no father in the home.

“There’s something about the impact of effective fatherhood, which makes a huge difference in the outcomes in terms of the behavior of young people,” Mason says.

He hopes that as a nation we do not open the floodgates to something that we are really not expected. He warns for everyone to be careful as we proceed in the direction of legalizing marijuana.

“The impact on children is obvious, it’s quantifiable and I see it every day at my job,” Mason says.

What, precisely, Judge Mason actually sees at his job is debatable. In 2011 complaint to the Missouri Supreme Court, Brenda Smith alleged that:

“Judge Mason constantly sleeps thru the majority, if not all of, the trials in his court. I witnessed this on two occasions when my son was on trial. The Judge slept thru all of the arguments and did not hear any of the evidence presented. Nor did he hear testimony from any of the victims called.”

Nicholas Phillips of the Riverfront Times added:

Yet in the Missouri Bar’s 2010 Judicial Evaluations, in which lay people and hundreds of lawyers filled out surveys, Mason was the only 22nd Circuit judge of ten to receive a failing grade in one of eighteen categories (specifically, he was below the baseline in being “prepared for hearings and trials”). 

He also got low-but-passing marks in efficient docket management and — interestingly — “demonstrating an appropriate demeanor on the bench.” 

Nevertheless, the Missouri Bar recommended his retention.   

Beyond the issues with Judge Mason’s basic credibility as a trial judge, it is also worth noting that this past November the Department of Justice announced it was investigating the St. Louis Family Court:

The Justice Department announced today that it has opened a pattern or practice investigation of the Family Court of St. Louis.  The investigation will focus on whether the court provides constitutionally required due process to all children appearing for delinquency proceedings and whether the court’s administration of juvenile justice provides equal protection to all children regardless of race.

This investigation follows a 2011 report by Pulitzer journalist Kenneth Cooper, “Trying Juveniles as Adults in the ‘Show-Me’ State“:

Despite an unusual state law requiring judges to consider racial disparity when deciding whether to try juveniles as adults, Missouri prosecutes a disproportionate number of black youth accused of serious crimes in regular courts, where they can be sentenced to prison alongside hardened criminals.

In recent years, African-American teenagers have faced trials in adult courts at a rate three to four times higher than their proportion of Missouri’s youth population. They were defendants in 57 percent of such prosecutions in 2008, the latest year statistics are available, even though they make up only 14 percent of state residents between ages 12 and 17.

In other words, the necessary context for Judge Mason’s defense of marijuana prohibition is that he is a criminally incompetent judge who perpetuates a horribly racist juvenile justice system. Does anyone not on Mason’s docket in St. Louis take this guy seriously?

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