Patterico's Pontifications


Judge Keller Reprimanded

Filed under: Judiciary — DRJ @ 12:17 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct disregarded the findings of the hearing judge and reprimanded Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Chief Judge Sharon Keller for her actions in the “We Close at 5″ death penalty case:

“The State Commission on Judicial Conduct declined to recommend that Keller be removed from office, instead issuing a “public warning” over her behavior in the case of convicted killer Michael Richard.”

Judge Keller’s attorney indicated she will challenge the Commission’s ruling in court.

Prior posts on this story are here, here and here.


17 Responses to “Judge Keller Reprimanded”

  1. how can the failure of the attorneys to follow procedure make her guilty of “interfering”?

    i guess if i understood such torturous thinking, i too could be a lawyer……

    fing idiots.

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  2. Good thing they acted quickly on this.

    Bradnsa (980254)

  3. What was always weird about this case was that the appellate attorneys in the case were experienced and knew how to correctly file late, last-minute filings in these kind of cases.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  4. If memory serves, Beldar has posted on this before. i would bet if he hasn’t posted something on it, he will soon.

    Aaron Worthing (A.W.) (f97997)

  5. As a result of Judge Keller’s actions, a vicious killer received justice. How dare she!

    Kevin Stafford (abdb87)

  6. I read the decision. The part where nobody informed the defense attorneys who the judge on call was is pretty damning.

    nk (db4a41)

  7. She should not appeal — that just keeps the story alive. Instead she should note that the Commission found politics more important than respecting the hearing court’s judgment, and let it pass “for what it is.”

    Kevin Murphy (5ae73e)

  8. The Commission’s report begins “… the State Commission on Judicial Conduct considered the Record of the Formal Proceedings involving Judge No. 96, the Honorable Sharon Keller ….”

    Judge Keller is not a number. She is a person.

    Be seeing you.

    Satta (179333)

  9. Dear nk:

    The “damning” part is where vicious thugs kill innocent people and then languish for years on death row, filing frivolous appeals, wasting taxpayer funds, and making a mockery of justice.


    Kevin Stafford (abdb87)

  10. Well … the Texas taxpayers who want to sleep well at night pay both judges and executioners and each has a different job to do. The executioner did his job — the issue is whether the judge did hers.

    nk (db4a41)

  11. Yes, the judge did her job, NK. The attorneys representing the savage killer apparently did not do theirs. Which should help the citizens of Texas sleep very well indeed, as they and their children will now be safer. (Yes, Texas–where there was an escape from death row a few years ago….cop was killed on X-mas Eve by death row escapee…Google it, NK!). So thank you and God bless you, Judge Keller.

    Kevin Stafford (abdb87)

  12. “Judge Keller amended her personal financial statement in April of 2009 to disclose more than $2.4 million in property and income previously left out. Keller claimed that her failure to fully disclose her financial information stemmed from error and not a deliberate attempt to mislead. She “faces a civil and criminal complaint alleging she violated state ethics laws by failing to fully disclose her financial assets”.

    On April 28, 2010 the Texas Ethics Commission fined Keller $100,000 for failing to fully report her income and property holdings”

    RM (9284aa)

  13. RM–

    Would that this standard applied to everyone. Like, say, the Treasury Secretary.

    Kevin Murphy (5ae73e)

  14. 6. I read the decision. The part where nobody informed the defense attorneys who the judge on call was is pretty damning.
    Comment by nk — 7/17/2010 @ 9:17 am

    — You are exactly right. In fact, I think that “nobody” should be prosecuted for failing to provide that information to the defense.

    Icy Texan (ebf207)

  15. Chalk this one up to “death is different”. David Dow cheated his client out of a few months of life. He screwed the pooch on this and then tried to blame Keller for his own incompetence.

    Last I checked, judges weren’t there to tell attorneys how to file their cases. If we want that, then the rules have to be made clear. Additionally, let’s assume Keller was obligated to inform the duty judge–Dow and his crew knew about the procedures, it was incumbent upon them to remind the judge about those procedures. Judges screw up the law and procedure all the time–are they going to be reprimanded each time?

    It really is funny–victims’ families have to deal with the judicial system bending over backwards to give these capital defendants numerous appeals. Often, capital defense attorneys game the system by filing last minute appeals so as to win a last-minute stay. And now the capital defense bar wants to have judges help them with their filings?

    spo (62ac45)

  16. The Commission’s report is badly-written and poorly-organized hackery that misconceives the Commission’s proper role in this matter, which is emphatically NOT to substitute its own “fact findings” for those of the duly appointed Special Master. The Special Master was supposed to — and did — make factual findings to resolve disputes and draw appropriate inferences after actually hearing and seeing the witnesses in person. The Commission’s order, without ever quoting from or citing to the extensive record of testimony and exhibits from the evidentiary hearing, simply comes up with its own version of the facts, and many of the facts the Commission purports to find are contrary to those recited by the Special Master’s written findings.

    From the day this story was first reported, I’ve pointed out again, and again, and again, that the key fact is that the paralegal for the Richards defense team asked the wrong question. “Will you keep the courthouse open?” was not the right question, but that’s what was asked. The correct answer to that question, which Keller (through Marty) gave, was “No, we close at 5 p.m.”

    The Commission’s order entirely ignores, then, the compelling and — so far as I can tell from reading reports of the evidentiary hearing, the entirely undisputed and indisputable factual explanation for what happened.

    The Commission’s order instead pretends — disingenuously, even fraudulently — that the question asked was by the paralegal was: “How can we make an after-hours filing after the courthouse is closed?” The answer to that question, however, was already very well known by the senior lawyers, including David Dow, on Richard’s defense team. They didn’t use — or even try to use — the procedures for after-hours filings directly with a member of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

    The Commission’s order also insists that Keller, dealing third- or fourth-hand with the paralegal through Marty and other TCCA staff, actually intuited what the paralegal intended to ask, or rather, what the paralegal should have asked. The Commission’s order also insists that Keller knew who the question was being asked on behalf of; if there is evidence from the evidentiary hearing to prove that, I haven’t seen it discussed or quoted in any press coverage (and my own attempts to secure a copy of the transcript have failed so far).

    Instead, the Richard defense team pretended that their paralegal had asked something different than what she actually asked — and then they pretended, and continue to pretend today, that Judge Keller’s answer somehow prevented them from using the knowledge (i.e., how to successfully make an after-hours filing even with the courthouse closed) that they actually already had.

    Ultimately, their case comes down to the premise that faced with a stupid and inappropriate question, Judge Keller should have figured out what the paralegal really meant, and on whose behalf the paralegal was asking, and that Judge Keller then should have volunteered the answer to the question which the paralegal should have asked (which her bosses already knew the answer to). And the defense team further pretends that that Judge Keller’s failure to mind-read and volunteer procedural advice — which would in fact have been contrary to the canons of judicial ethics, which prevent judges from instructing the lawyers before them how those lawyers and their staffs should do their jobs — led to some grand miscarriage of justice.

    What actually happened was that a guilty man who fully deserved to be executed was indeed executed, using a lethal injection procedure subsequently approved by the SCOTUS, notwithstanding the fact that some other guilty people received a windfall and undeserved delay of their own executions while Baze was pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

    [I mistakenly published this comment on the previous thread, and republish it here on DRJ’s invitation so that she may delete it on the previous thread.]

    [Fixed it. Thanks, Beldar — DRJ]

    Beldar (3f7dae)

  17. Beldar points out something that I noted above … but of course as usual does so with far greater eloquence and precision.

    That this commission never deals with the fact that the appellate attorneys knew exactly how to file an after-hours petition and have attempted to blame Keller for their failure to do so.

    SPQR (26be8b)

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