A special court of review Monday threw out an ethics rebuke given to Presiding Judge Sharon Keller for closing the Court of Criminal Appeals at 5 p.m. despite knowing that lawyers wanted to file an appeal for an inmate facing imminent execution in 2007.
Bringing the high-profile case to a swift and stunning end, the review court said the commission committed fatal errors that doomed its punishment of Keller, issued in the form of a July “public warning” that chastised the state’s highest criminal judge for violating court procedures and bringing discredit to the judiciary.
In essence, commissioners chose the wrong punishment, opting for a warning when state law and the Texas Constitution limited their options to a “censure,” a more serious penalty, the court ruled.
The judges said they did not address the merits of the charges against Keller but based their decision solely on the errors committed by the commission.
On Monday, the review court ruled that the type of proceedings used for Keller can only end in censure, not a public warning, and that the error was so fundamental that the only course was to dismiss all charges.
Censure, the court reasoned, requires “a finding of good cause” and seven votes from the 13-member commission, an independent state agency that investigates allegations of misconduct against Texas judges.
“Here, by failing to (authorize censure), the commission implicitly acknowledges that it did not find good cause for its actions or have the required votes to take those actions,” the judges wrote.
The review court also assessed “costs of the litigation” to the commission, which could make taxpayers liable for Keller’s legal fees.
So not only does Keller walk on a technicality, but we the people get to pay her lawyer bills. I’m going to be sick. Don’t anyone ever talk to me about “accountability” again. Grits has more, and Jeff Gamso gives it a proper summation.