Warning the Public About Judge Keller
Posted by kswisher on Saturday, July, 17, 2010
In a surprising, but just, twist, the Texas Commission of Judicial Conduct — contrary to the ambivalent findings of its special master — has issued a “public warning” against Presiding Judge Sharon Keller for the time when she let a capital defendant be executed notwithstanding meritorious grounds for a stay (for a more detailed account of her actions, see the earlier post here). Among other violations, the Commission found that Keller violated Canon 3B(7) (renumbered 3B(8) in the Texas Code), for failing to accord the defendant and his lawyers the right to be heard according to law. She may appeal. In addition to this public shaming, this controversy ultimately caused the Texas Ethics Commission (a separate regulatory body) to investigate Keller’s financial disclosure statements, and on finding significant failures to disclosure, it levied a record fine of $100,000 against her.
UPDATE: In yet another twist, a Texas special court of review dismissed the charging document on the ground that the state constitution does not permit the sanction of “public warning,” only “censure” (and recommendations for retirement or removal). The court did not “express an opinion concerning the merits of the accusations against Judge Keller,” but its disposition effectively precludes the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct from re-charging her. That disposition makes little sense to me in this context, provided that the re-charging and prosecution were to accord her due process (an issue obviously not addressed or perhaps even ripe). The local news station has linked to the full opinion here.