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Watchdog’s Scariest People of 2015: No. 11

By   /   December 30, 2015  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 15 of 25 in the series Watchdog's Scariest People of 2015
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Judge Chris Oldner equated his media critics with an assassination attempt on Austin Judge Julie Kocurek.

Now that Christmas is over and the New Year beckons, it’s time for Watchdog.org’s annual parade of malfeasance and miscreants.

The Scariest People of 2015 is a frightening list indeed, filled with bureaucrats and functionaries who, shall we say, do not share an affinity for liberty.

No one can stop them from plying their trade — bad government is as old as government. But we can keep an eye on them, report their misdeeds to the world and once in a while help the good guys win.

Through New Year’s Day, we’ll highlight the most egregious examples of nanny statism, overweening bureaucracy and just plain old bad government from the past 12 months, encompassing local, state and federal officialdom.

Here’s No. 11.

Chris Oldner is a Dallas-area district judge who makes the scariest list based on the dangerous absurdity of a single quote.

He has been in the news because Attorney General Ken Paxton blames Oldner for leading a vendetta against him. The case got Oldner on TV, where he announced an election platform that should chill the bones of anyone who cares about free speech.

Oldner is running for the statewide Court of Criminal Appeals, and his involvement in the Paxton case has put him on the hot seat in his own district. During his TV appearance, Oldner shared his view that independent online journalists are the equivalent of criminals who shoot judges.

“I think we see dark-money special interests that are attacking on social media,” Oldner said. “We see outside groups trying to influence not only through social media and websites but also something as extreme as what we saw in Austin a couple months ago with the Austin Criminal Court judge that was attacked outside of her home. And these groups are trying to influence outcomes and it’s really something that strong judges need to do, stand up for and push up against.”

We’re plenty used to legacy media casting aspersions on new media, questioning motives and methods. That’s fair game. But Oldner goes way beyond that. He’s not just questioning the legitimacy of free speech, he’s equating it with murder, because journalists and murderers are both “outside” forces attempting to “influence outcomes.” Anybody who paints with such an absurdly broad brush has no business sorting out the nuances of the law.

Side lesson: whenever you see “influence” used as a legal standard, beware of treachery. It’s vague enough to endanger everyone.

Part of 25 in the series Watchdog's Scariest People of 2015


Jon Cassidy was a former Houston-based reporter for Watchdog.org.