Who is it that decides whether the punishment fits the crime when the criminal is a judge and the evidence is caught on video?
In the case of Judge William Adams, it is the Texas Supreme Court that will decide his fate. Adams was taped beating his teenage daughter in 2004, and was suspended from his judgeship when the tape finally made its way to YouTube in 2011.
His daughter, Hillary, who was 16 at the time, has ataxic cerebral palsy and was being punished for downloading music and other digital media off of the Internet, according to dialog that can be heard in the video. Adams, previously a family court judge who has presided over dozens of cases involving abuse, can be heard swearing at his daughter while he beats her repeatedly with a belt.
Adams was not charged with a crime at the time of the video’s release because the statute of limitations had already expired on what could have been construed as abuse. To contend that claim, Adams said through his attorney that his daughter had released the video not to expose him, but out of revenge for his decision to withdraw his financial support.
The former judge seemed unmoved by the wave of international criticism directed at him, noting in an interview that the beating wasn’t “…as bad it looks on tape.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hillary’s mother has responded by filing a grievance with the ruling body charged with deciding his fate that asks for his reinstatement request to be denied.
The question of legality regarding Adams’ reinstatement is easy to answer; the moral and ethical propriety of such a decision is much more difficult to measure. Once common practice, corporal punishment has become quite controversial and the line between abuse and punishment has grown razor thin. In many ways, it’s unfortunate that Adams is left to be judged by his peers rather than those over which he intends to preside.