The Judge was only empowered to make recommendations to the [State Commission on Judicial Conduct], which may still decide whether to dismiss the charges, reprimand Judge Keller, or recommend her removal to the Texas Supreme Court.
So what happens next? According to the Commission’s removal procedures (pdf), the Commission’s examiner (the equivalent of the prosecutor in the case) may file objections to the Special Master’s report within 15 days, which by my count would be Thursday, February 4 (though the examiner is also allowed to request an extension).
This will be a critical moment in the drama. If the examiner files objections to the Special Master’s findings – and I can think of plenty! – the the SCJC will hold its own hearing. Otherwise:
If no statement of objections to the report of the special master is filed within the time provided, the findings of the special master may be deemed as agreed to, and the Commission may adopt them without a hearing. If a statement of objections is filed, or if the Commission in the absence of such statement proposes to modify or reject the findings of the special master, the Commission shall give the judge and the examiner an opportunity to be heard orally before the Commission, and written notice of the time and place of such hearing shall be sent to the judge at least ten days prior thereto.
For sure, as Grits says, there are plenty of good reasons to not end it here. At the very least, a reprimand seems in order. Will we get that, or is the fix in? We’ll know soon enough.