Now Playing: da Texas Judge is "Right On"
Denton Co. Judge Jake Collier, a Flower Mound resident, takes top honors in poll of peers, calls for drug policy reform, regulation, control, rehabilitation
Jake Collier, 67, of the 158th District Court in Denton, Texas, is riding the only tidal wave of fame afforded to judges outside of the rising insanity of celebrity justice. Since being named “Best Judge in Denton” by the Denton County Bar Association for his conservative viewpoints, efficient use of court time and strict interpretations of the law, Judge Collier has been the toast of the county’s legal community.
When this reporter called for an interview about bench time, legal philosophy and the dark humor one acquires from a life in legal practice, it was more than a little surprising when Collier began to solicit his views on America’s Drug War.
To begin, however, the judge reinforced the principal requirement of his job.
“It does not matter whether a judge agrees or disagrees with the law,” he said. “We must know it and uphold it, and that’s what I do.”
In the state of Texas, election to District Court Judge requires at least five years as bar-certified attorney. Judge Collier, currently serving in his fifth year with the court, has been a legal professional since 1969, when he first moved to Lewisville. A graduate of the University of Texas, Collier has worked in almost every sector of the legal world, from corporate and real estate law to family law to criminal defense. The father of two children, and grandfather to three, Judge Collier feels his service to the county and the court reflects his respect for the American system of justice and his philosophy of civic duty.
However, he said, there is one frequented issue in his court that causes him a great deal of moral turmoil.
“My experience is the War on Drugs that has been waged by America for all these years is an absolute, total disaster … A failure,” he said. “We’re putting people in jail for possession, and we seldom if ever really run across a dealer. I don’t think, since I’ve been in office, we have not had more than four or five dealers come through my court.”
Judge Collier said he looks at countries such as England and the Netherlands as having a more intelligent approach to substance abuse, especially pertaining to the dangerous and addictive drug heroin.
“[Regulation and control] seems to work in countries that regulate the dangerous drugs,” said Judge Collier. “They do not have the criminal problem with heroin that the Untied States has. I believe Texas is one of just four or five states that do not have a free needle exchange program. In almost every other state, if someone is going to shoot up, they can get a clean needle. Now, we know they’re going to shoot up, and nothing we’ve ever done has made a bit of difference with that, but at least we’re going to help prevent a disease such as AIDS. But Texas doesn’t do that. We’re hell bent; by God, that’s a crime and we ain’t gonna help you do it.”
As for America’s number one cash crop, Judge Collier does even go as far as batting an eye at marijuana.
“Marijuana is well on its way, even in the state of Texas, to not being much of a crime,” he said. “I don’t hear marijuana cases. The only marijuana cases I hear is when somebody has four ounces or more. In other words, they’ve already reduced possession of a couple of joints to the level of a throw-away misdemeanor. I would not be surprised to see it be treated more like a parking violation, where you’d have to pay a fine for being caught with it in public.”
Judge Collier reinforced his belief in incarceration as a tool for reform, or to protect society at large, but continued his insistence that drug policy must be reformed.
“I don’t believe in violent crime,” he said. “Give me a chance and I’ll put you in jail for the rest of your life if you’re violent. But I truly do think we’re making a terrible mistake, locking up all these people for possession of drugs, even serious drugs, especially if they’ve only physically hurt themselves. There’s a philosophical point that says it is not the government’s business what someone puts in their body. Everybody says, ‘Oh, but it ruins lives.’ Well, hell, so does liquor! Liquor is the worst drug in the world. There are more people’s lives and family’s lives that have been ruined and more deaths each year from drinking alcohol than from all the drugs combined.”
However, just because he opines a progressive stance on drug policy does not mean he is somehow soft on crime. This is especially true when confronted with intoxicated drivers, for whom the judge has zero tolerance.
“Within six months of me taking the bench, word was out in the legal community that you do not want Judge Collier to set the penalty in a DWI case,” he said. “By the time I see them, they’re on their third DWI, making it a felony. And to be perfectly honest, at that point, I just do not know what to do other than put them away for their entire lives. You can do what you want to with your body in your own home, but when you drive without clarity of mind, you risk others’ lives and that is unacceptable.”
Finally, Collier concluded: “We’re getting our butts kicked. That’s all there is to it. The Mexican drug mafia is about to move across the Rio Grande into Texas. It’s real simple. If I can buy a pencil for a penny, walk across the street and sell it for a dollar, there’s no way in hell you’re going to prevent me from buying a bunch of pencils and walking across the street. The money is too good. The same is true in the drug trade. There’s no way we’re going to prevent all these people from growing all these drugs and manufacturing methamphetamine and all these things. There’s too much profit. We’ll only reduce drug use if we take away that profit from the bad guys, and put funding into really educating our children that you ought not to do this. That’s the only way we’ll ever stop being a user nation.”