20 February 2009

Texas Judge Faces Ethics Charges

Formal judicial conduct proceedings have been commenced by the state's judicial conduct commission against Sharon Keller, the Presiding Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (the highest court of appeals in criminal cases in Texas) for deliberately denying a death row inmate due process through administrative maneuvers on the night he was executed, contrary to the ethical rules that apply to judges.

Keller's actions almost certainly hastened the execution of the inmate who was executed based upon the legal circumstances of the case, and Presiding Judge Keller knew that this was what would happen.

Keller faces sanctions up to removal from office for her actions. She has fifteen days to respond to the charges against her. She has so far resisted public demands that she resign, but those demands have never involved official misconduct charges brought through the proper channels. Her term would otherwise under 2012, although she could probably run again. She very likely has absolute immunity from prosecution or civil liability under Texas and federal law. She deserves a far worse sanction than mere removal from office.

Keller isn't the only Texas judge recently in trouble. About thirteen months ago, I linked to a post summing up the highest profile issues:

This week, lawyers in Texas are closely following the on-going scandal over the indictment of Texas Supreme Court justice David Medina and his wife for arson and other crimes — indictments later quashed by the prosecutors. Click here

Then there is the expanding criminal investigation of U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent for sexual assault and corruption. Click here

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller has been nationally criticized for closing the doors of the clerk’s office to prevent a final death row appeal in violation of court practices. Click here Many are still calling for her removal.

Now, three justices on the Texas Supreme Court are facing serious ethics charges. Click here

The Texas system only recently got over scandals of alleged favoritism, including the state supreme court. Over a decade ago, there was great controversy over how Texas trial lawyers financed the campaigns of Democratic justices and how those justice appeared to favor the same lawyers. A feature on ‘60 Minutes’ in 1989 called “Justice for Sale” helped expose the allegations.In the meantime, Dallas has continued to be hit with criticism for its record number of innocent people cleared by DNA in death row cases[.]


Texas justice, as usual in criminal cases, is far below international standards of due process. This case is just another example of this fact. Of course, this has a lot to do with the fact that so many of the people of Texas are bloodthirsty cretins (see e.g., here, in the comments, and also here).

3 comments:

Ferry County Attorney said...

How about manslaughter charges?

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Kent has pleaded guilty and faces a likely three years in prison to his crimes, he has also resigned from his post.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The indictment against Medina and his wife was subsequently dismissed by a Texas trial court judge over the objections of the grand jury foreman from the grand jury that presided over the matter.