They’re not for former judge Elizabeth Coker, thank you very much.
State District Judge Elizabeth E. Coker, who presided over Trinity, Polk and San Jacinto counties before resigning Dec. 6 under fire in a texting controversy, filed Monday to run for Polk County district attorney next year.
Coker will be challenging the incumbent prosecutor, Lee Hon, who was among the witnesses who testified about Coker this year before the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Coker was accused of unethical bias during court proceedings, including sending as many as 40 text messages from the bench to prosecutors, tampering with witnesses and slipping into a jury room to tell those deliberating how to vote.
She admitted no guilt and the commission stopped short of issuing any findings of misconduct.
In October, Coker, who served 14 years on the 258th East Texas bench, agreed to voluntarily resign. As part of a signed agreement with the commission, Coker is disqualified from sitting or serving as a judge in Texas and cannot even officiate at weddings.
But the order does not specifically ban her from other public offices, like district attorney, said commission spokesperson Seana Willing.
“The most the commission can do is remove someone from the bench,” she said.
Local attorney Laura Prigmore is mulling over whether to ask the courts if a prosecutor can be considered a “judicial” position since it is listed under the judicial branch in the Texas Constitution.
Republican chairman Lowell Crew said expects an “interesting match up” between Hon and Coker in the March Republican primary, but said he could not predict the outcome.
Prigmore, the attorney who wants a higher court to investigate Coker’s eligibility to run for district attorney, said in past elections that “Coker’s power was amazing.”
“She had a machine. But I’m not so sure it will still hold together now,” said Prigmore.
Cecil Berg, an attorney who filed complaints against Coker and who is running to replace her as district judge, described Coker’s campaign as “the most brazen thing I’ve ever seen.”
“I’m dismayed by it,” he said. “After all the improper communiqués she’s had with assistant district attorneys while a judge, now she wants to run the department. It’s beyond my comprehension.”
See here, here, and here for some background. Note that the prosecutor Coker was texting is now a judge herself, though she has a hearing with the Judicial Conduct commission pending. As I said before, I thought this punishment was too light. I’d have advocated for disbarment, though I’d have settled for a suspension of her law license for at least a year. Given that there was no stronger remedy available, I’m not at all surprised she chose to run for office again. No one has laid a glove on Elizabeth Coker yet. I saw no mention of a Democratic candidate in this race, not that it likely would have mattered, so it’s up to the GOP primary voters in these counties to decide if they’re the suckers here. Grits has more.