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Maybe we’re not on the hook for Keller’s legal fees after all

Well, at least it’s a small consolation.

Clearing up confusion in its dismissal of an ethics rebuke against Judge Sharon Keller, a special court of review has issued an order that no longer makes taxpayers liable for Keller’s legal costs.

The court’s original Oct. 11 order said Keller could recoup legal costs from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct — estimated by her lawyer to be “in the six figures” but probably less than $1 million.

State law, however, specifies that attorney fees cannot be awarded in judicial conduct proceedings. The new order deletes the reference.

At least that takes a teeny bit of the sting out of this whole debacle. The motion to reconsider is still pending, and that’s the only real hope for some kind of accountability. The Chron calls on the panel to do the right thing:

A possible escape from this absurd conclusion is a motion for rehearing filed with the review panel by the commission’s executive director Seana Willing and special counsel John J. McKetta. They persuasively argue that the commission is empowered by the Texas Constitution to choose from a wide range of options in dealing with judicial misconduct, noting the constitution gives the commission the authority to issue a public warning “after such investigation as it deems necessary.” Also, Rule 10 of the Texas Rules for Removal or Retirement of Judges, used in proceedings such as Keller’s, states that in lieu of removal or retirement, “the commission may dismiss the case or publicly order a censure, reprimand, warning, or admonition.”

If the special court won’t allow the warning, the lawyers argue that the matter should at minimum be remanded to the Judicial Conduct Commission for consideration of one of the alternative rulings. We agree.

I had said before that Keller getting off on a technicality would be the ultimate in bitterly ironic endings. The ultimate in happily ironic endings would be for Keller to wind up suffering a real punishment as a result of appealing the wrist slap she originally received for being too harsh on her. A boy can dream, can’t he? Grits has more.

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