The filer is a former colleague as well as a former opponent of Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg.
Rick Reed, who ran against Lehmberg in 2008 and is now a defense attorney in Austin, filed the petition with the district clerk’s office Wednesday. In all, it claims 16 counts of official misconduct ranging from coercion of a public servant to retaliation.
On Friday, one of Lehmberg’s attorneys said the petition appears to be another attempt to remove her on grounds that already have been rejected by a judge.
Her attorneys also have responded to a separate lawsuit seeking Lehmberg’s removal, asking the court to dismiss it and calling it unconstitutional, saying that the state has singled her out in a way it hasn’t male office-holders.
Reed’s petition was submitted under a state law that allows the removal of a district attorney on grounds of incompetency, official misconduct and intoxication on or off duty. He said Friday that he filed the petition in part because the already existing lawsuit to remove her from office only addresses intoxication.
Reed cites Lehmberg’s request for the sheriff throughout his petition, among other actions, as examples of her alleged official misconduct.
“She committed numerous criminal offenses when she was detained by deputies, and this is someone who is the chief law enforcement officer of Travis County,” he said.
The first petition was filed by Austin attorney Kerry O’Brien in April. O’Brien, a former assistant state attorney general, sought Lehmberg’s removal on grounds of intoxication, incompetency and misconduct. Judge Lora Livingston granted O’Brien’s request on intoxication grounds but denied his application for a citation issuance in the case on grounds of incompetency and misconduct.
Later that month, Travis County Attorney David Escamilla dismissed the lawsuit, which had procedural problems, but immediately refiled a new civil case with himself as the plaintiff.
Then on Tuesday, Austin resident Matt Murdock also filed a petition for Lehmberg’s removal, but he said a district court judge attached his case to Escamilla’s.
Reed’s petition is still pending.
Things had been a bit quiet in Lehmberg land lately. This was the first new news I’d seen since she was released from jail three weeks ago, though I can’t say I’d been paying especially close attention with all that had been going on in the Legislature. As with the other petitions, this one requires approval from a judge in order to proceed, and it may wind up being joined with the Escamilla lawsuit. What all this suggests to me is that the political heat on Lehmberg has simmered down a bit, but it has definitely not begun to cool off. She’s still very much in jeopardy. I think she’s more likely to survive now than she was when this all first blew up, but she’ll never be in the clear.