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33

Disciplinary Actions

(July 25, 2014 – March 2, 2015)

State Commission on Judicial Conduct

Public Sanctions

Public Reprimand: Municipal Court Judge failed to comply with the law, and failed to maintain professional

competence in the law, when he routinely dismissed citations without a motion from the prosecutor out

of fear and political pressure by other city officials. The Municipal Judge’s actions came to light when the

local newspaper published an article alleging that the Judge engaged in “ticket fixing” and claimed that he

dismissed 839 citations over a 15-month span of time at the request of local politicians and city officials.

The Municipal Judge told the Commission that he could not determine whether the information regarding

the 839 citations was accurate because of inadequate record keeping and data entry by court staff. The

Municipal Judge also claimed that his county had a culture of intimidation and that he feared he would

lose his job if he did not consider/dismiss citations that he was asked to review personally. However, the

Municipal Judge stated that he did look for a “legally permissible way to ‘give consideration’ ” to the tickets

he was given personally. The Commission found that the Municipal Judge violated Canon 2A, 3B(2), and

Article V, §1-a(6)A of the Texas Constitution because “a judge who disposes of cases out of fear that those

in power will terminate him, or to satisfy the political or financial interests of an entirely separate branch

of government, cannot be – nor can he be seen to be – independent.”

Public Admonishment: District Judge failed to comply with the law, and demonstrated incompetence in

performing the duties of office, when he entered a receivership order in a divorce case that granted the

receiver non-delegable judicial powers, including the authority to make payments to himself and his at-

torneys without any court oversight, approval, or intervention. District Judge ordered the receivership at-

torney to take “charge and possession” of a couple’s community estate in a divorce case, and to “manage,

control, and dispose of the property

as he sees fit

.” This language allowed the attorney to pay himself $1.2

million in legal fees over a two year period, as well as $1 million to the attorneys representing the parties

in the divorce case over the same period of time, without and determination by the Court as to whether

the fees were reasonable and necessary. This was in violation to Canons 2A, 3B(2), and Article V, section

1-a(6) of the Texas Constitution. In addition, the District Judge also failed to comply with the county’s In-

digent Defense Plan. The plan required judges to maintain a list of attorneys eligible to represent indigent

defendants, and to appoint those attorneys on a rotating basis. Evidence indicated that in District Judge’s

court, he made a total of 3,568 appointments to 192 attorneys over a five year period. However, 38% of

those appointments went to only three attorneys, which leads to a presumption that District Judge’s ap-

pointment system is not fair, neutral, and nondiscriminatory. District Judge also admitted that he did not

maintain a list of eligible attorneys as required by the plan. His failure to comply with the county’s indigent

defense plan violated Canon 2A and 3(B)(2).

Public Reprimand: Justice of the Peace repeatedly failed to obtain his judicial education hours demon-

strating incompetence in performing the duties of office, failure to comply with the law, and failure to main-

tain professional competence in the law. Over several years, the Justice of the Peace failed to meet the

minimum training hours requirement because “he was busy and had taken on too many responsibilities.”

The Justice of the Peace further engaged in conduct that was inconsistent with the proper performance

of duties and cast public discredit by committing the criminal offenses of public intoxication and driving

while intoxicated over a two year period. The Commission found that his arrests undermined the public’s

confidence, especially because the judge presided over alcohol-related offenses. The Justice of the Peace

violated Canon 2A and Article V, §1-a(6)A of the Texas Constitution. He also failed to cooperate with the

Commission’s investigation, in violation of Article V, §1-a(6)A.

Public Reprimand: The District Judge failed to timely execute the business of the Court by demonstrat-