(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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3 thoughts on “(Questionably Awake) STL Juvenile Court Judge David Mason Defends Marijuana Prohibition

  1. Mike says:

    “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.”

    Technically that coincides perfectly with fbi crime statistics that state black people, while making up 20% or less of the population, commit over half of all violent crime and murder,
    both of which will land you adult charges if the crime is bad enough.

    You can (should) fire the sleepy judge but that’s not going to fix the numbers..

  2. Uhm, you are mistaken. And racist? Did you just make that up?

    “White individuals were arrested more often for violent crimes than individuals of any other race, accounting for 59.4 percent of those arrests.”


    No, I did not see any data from 2013 about violent crimes by race. I’m not sure why.

    I definitely think that judge needs to go. And misinformation is not cool no matter what it implies about someone’s character…

  3. Jess says:

    As the former secretary for Judge Mason, I can attest that on more than one occasion he was not exactly prepared, however this was during the transition period in which he came to the Juvenile Court.

    In regards to him nodding off on the bench, Judge Mason is a diabetic, and unfortunately when trials go on a bit and his sugar level drops or spikes, he would get very sleepy. However as stated before, a review of his transcriptions taken by his excellent court reporter would show he pays attention.

    As for this quote: “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.”

    The majority of the inmates at the Juvenile Prison are indeed african american. Usually there are around 30 or so juveniles held over in Detention, and out of these 30 maybe one would be white or hispanic. This is not because of Judge Mason choosing to keep African American juveniles in custody and not prosecute any other race, it is because A) there are a high rate of African American juveniles being brought in by police, as opposed to other races. Remember, the St. Louis City juvenile court only hears cases on juveniles that live in the inner city, not the county. When looking at crime statistics for the inner city of St. Louis, pay attention to the race break down of the offenders. I

    Also in addition to that quote, know that any race and any age in the juvenile court, and offense of Rape 1st Degree and any kind of attempted to murders MUST go before the Judge for a Certification hearing. For those unfamiliar, in these hearings the Judge must decide if the juvenile is old enough to be tried as an adult for the act he committed. If not certified and then sent to the adult court downtown to be tried as an adult by an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT Judge, the other option would be to have that juvenile in the detention center with the other juveniles until a certain age, and then releasing them with probation requirements. If they commited the act of rape, and they’re in their late teens, there is a pretty good chance they’re going to be certified and tried as an adult.

    Short version- yes he gets sleepy, he has diabetes and other health issues. The number of African Americans being jailed has to do with those committing the offenses (and trust me on that, as I use to see the papers every day of the kids who were brought to the court and the majority of those arrested were African American), so if you have any issues with primarily African American children being brought in more than white children for committing offenses, you need to speak to the inner city police department on that one….and to say he is continuing a racist system….you are aware he is African American, correct? And if you had spoken to him you would know he is all about equality for all races.

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