Judge in Hot Water Over Racial Column

The top judge in Dallas' municipal court system is receiving criticism for writing that "black folks have been cleaning up white folks' messes for hundreds of years" in his column in a weekly newspaper with a mostly black readership.
Administrative Judge C. Victor Lander apologized Tuesday. A member of the Dallas City Council, which appoints all municipal judges, has called for his resignation.
Lander, who is black, said he wrote his column earlier this month to praise the reform efforts of Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, the state's first black DA.
Watkins has gained national attention for allowing the Innocence Project of Texas to systematically review post-conviction requests for DNA testing, which has helped Dallas County toss aside the guilty verdicts of 20 wrongly convicted men, a national high.
Lander, a municipal judge for 12 years and the court's administrative judge for the last 10 months, said he has written for the Dallas Weekly since about 2004 or 2005.
In a February column about Jeremiah Wright, President Barack Obama's former pastor, Lander told his readers to "be forever suspect of the mainstream media." He has also called for former President George W. Bush, now a Dallas resident, to be prosecuted.
"I wanted to make sure that you who read this and other African-American newspapers know that the only place you will get the truth is from your own people ... ," Lander wrote.
Lander told The Dallas Morning News that his newspaper column is independent of his judicial role and should not reflect upon the rulings he makes from the bench.
"While we do serve as judges, we maintain our independence," he said. "We are still members of the community, and we are persons who have a duty and a responsibility that if you see wrong, you try to right it."
Lander's remarks have divided city council members. Mitchell Rasansky, who is white, wrote a letter asking Lander to resign, saying he was "extremely offended and hurt by these unwarranted comments."
But council member Angela Hunt, who is white, praised Lander's competence on the court, which mainly deals with traffic citations and other violations of city ordinances.
"He's new to this job and new to having this much focus on his words," Hunt said. "He needs to be more thoughtful in the future, and I'm hopeful he'll clarify his statement."
Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, who is black, defended Lander, saying society is more comfortable discussing issues of race.
"People are able to put more on the table and discuss it without feeling like they're being slapped in the face," he said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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