This story covers a lot of familiar ground, but it’s worth going over again.
Three judges on Texas’ highest criminal court are seeking re-election in November, including Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, who’s been a lightning rod for controversy since her last test of voters in 2006.
Elected to Texas’ Court of Criminal Appeals in 1994, she is the only incumbent on the court with major-party opposition, facing a Democrat and Libertarian.
In 2007, Keller, 59, of Austin, gained national attention for refusing to keep the court open past 5 p.m. to accept a last-minute appeal of a death row inmate who was executed hours later. Charges were filed by the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, but it ruled that she did not violate any laws or warrant punishment “beyond the public humiliation she has surely suffered,” according to court records.
In 2010, Keller received the largest fine ever levied by the Texas Ethics Commission — $100,000 — for breaking finance disclosure law by failing to report $2.4 million in personal assets. Keller did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Keller’s opponents are Democrat Keith Hampton and Libertarian Lance Stott.
Hampton, a defense attorney in Austin, ran unsuccessfully for the court’s Place 6 in 2010. He said he hopes Keller’s missteps will boost him to become the first Democrat elected to statewide office since 1994.
“We have a judge on the court who has been found to be unethical by every agency in government that can make that determination,” Hampton said. “Her actions have given (the Texas judicial system) a black eye.”
Hampton, 51, Austin, drafted the original proposal of Senate Bill 112 in 2009, which established veterans courts in Texas, and he advocated for a law passed in 2007 that established state prisoners’ right to petition a court to have DNA evidence tested. He counseled against former state Solicitor General and U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz and then won in 2007 in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Panetti vs. Quarterman, which spared from execution a schizophrenic murderer from Fredericksburg.
Hampton said GOP straight-ticket voters should “spend an extra few seconds” to vote for him instead of Keller.
“It’s not a matter of Republican or Democrat, or left and right,” Hampton said. “It’s a matter of right and wrong.”
Like I said, this is familiar ground if you’ve read any of the endorsement editorials for Hampton. But these things can’t be said enough, because we only get one chance every six years to do something about it. Sharon Keller has demonstrated over and over again that she is not fit to be on the bench. It’s time to send her back to private practice.