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impeachment

Rep. Al Green’s revelation

Not totally sure what to make of this.

Rep. Al Green

More than a decade ago, Congressman Al Green had a “romantic encounter” with a former aide in Houston, which later led to an allegation of sexual assault and talk of lawsuits and employee discrimination.

As quickly as the incident popped up, it quieted down in a 2008 agreement between the two.

Resolved or not, the episode was back in the news Monday as Green put out a statement explaining that he and the woman, Lucinda Daniels, are “consenting friends” and “regret (their) former claims” – and that there was no payment ever made in the case.

“In the present climate, we wish to jointly quiet any curious minds about our former and present relationship with one another,” Green and Daniels said in a joint statement, which Green signed in trademark green ink. “We are friends, and have long been friends. At an unfortunate time in our lives, when both of our feelings were hurt, we hastily made allegations against one another that have been absolutely resolved.”

[…]

[An] aide said the decade-old allegations were not secret and did not involve Green’s congressional office nor the taxpayer-funded Office of House Employment Counsel.

Green publicly withdrew a lawsuit in December 2008 that he had filed three-months earlier asking a federal judge to find that he never discriminated against Daniels, the former director of his Houston office.

Apparently, this was in response to some stories on a “conservative” “news” site, which didn’t like Rep. Green’s impeachment actions. From the story presented here, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything nefarious – the former aide in question co-authored the statement, after all. I suppose someone else could pop up to dispute the story or add something unsavory to it, or some other incidents could come to light. I hesitate to make any definitive statement at this time, since there is so often more to this kind of story, but until or unless something else comes to light, this doesn’t seem like much.

Rep. Al Green’s articles of impeachment

Gauntlet thrown.

Rep. Al Green

U.S. Rep. Al Green, a Houston Democrat, introduced formal articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on the House floor Wednesday during a session otherwise devoted to whistleblower protection legislation.

In his argument for impeaching the president, Green read out several of Trump’s tweets, arguing that his statements on several recent national controversies had “incited bigotry” against various minority groups, including African-Americans playing in the National Football League, transgender individuals serving in the military and Puerto Ricans recovering from a natural disaster. During his long-shot impeachment pitch, Green also criticized the president’s failure to condemn an August white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and called Trump out for claiming to have won the popular vote in November’s presidential election.

“[Trump] has undermined the integrity of his office, has brought disrepute onto the presidency, has betrayed his trust as president to the manifest injury of the people of the United States of America and as a result is unfit to be president,” Green said. “He warrants impeachment, trial and removal from office.”

See here and here for the background. There’s also the whole nuclear war thing, in case you want something a bit more tangible to hang your hat on. I feel confident saying that this will go nowhere until either the Dems retake the House or Trump does something so egregious even the Republicans can’t ignore it. What that might be, after all we’ve already seen and experienced, I have no idea. But I’d like to think it exists, even if I’d rather not encounter it. The Chron, the Press, and the Current have more.

Rep. Al Green gets death threats

sad, but hardly surprising.

Rep. Al Green

During a town hall meeting Saturday, Congressman Al Green played recordings of threatening voicemail messages left for him after he demanded the impeachment of President Donald Trump on the House floor earlier this week.

“You’ll be hanging from a tree,” one caller said.

The calls use graphic racial slurs, some calling Green the n-word. “You ain’t going to impeach nobody. Try it and we will lynch all of you,” the caller said.

[…]

“It does not deter us,” Green said of the threats. “We are not going to be intimidated. We are not going to allow this to cause us to deviate from what we believe to be the right thing to do and that is to proceed with the impeachment of President Trump.”

See here for the background. There are embedded recordings of the voice mails at the story, if you have the stomach for them. People like this suck, and I wish they’d stay under their rocks, but this is the world we live in. I’m sure Rep. Green is unimpressed, but I hope he has some extra protection for at least the next couple of weeks. The Trib has more.

Rep. Al Green calls for impeachment

He will have company.

Rep. Al Green

Amid multiple Trump-related scandals rocking the Capitol, U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, called for the impeachment of President Donald Trump from the House chamber on Wednesday morning.

“I rise today, Mr. Speaker, to call for the impeachment of the president of the United States of America for obstruction of justice,” he said. “I do not do this for political purposes…I do this because I believe in the great ideals this country stands for: liberty and justice for all.

“Our democracy is at risk…This offense has occurred before our very eyes,” he said, describing Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, who led an investigation of Trump associates’ ties to Russian intelligence.

“We cannot allow this to go unchecked. The president is not above the law,” he added. “It is time for the American people to weigh in.”

As the story notes, Rep. Green had made similar statements the day before in an interview. I trust you can find all the background and news links you want on this – it’s nigh impossible to escape from at this point. I don’t know what the endpoint of this journey is, nor do I know how long it will take to get there. But I’m pretty sure Rep. Green will have plenty of company along the way.

On Mike McCrum and Pa Ferguson

There were two stories from Sunday about special prosecutor Mike McCrum that were worth flagging. First, here’s the Express News with an angle that I think has been underappreciated.

Mike McCrum

People who know McCrum said he is not the type to use a case to play politics. San Antonio defense attorney Patrick Hancock said McCrum is known for spelling out just the facts in court, while Alan Brown said McCrum does not care for politics and tries to steer clear of courthouse politics.

Brian Wice, who’ representing former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, in his appeal of money-laundering and conspiracy charges, looked askance at the indictment. But he simultaneously spoke highly of McCrum, saying he had “the utmost respect” for him.

McCrum, a former assistant U.S. attorney, was considered the frontrunner for a presidential appointment to be the U.S. attorney in the San Antonio-based Western District of Texas, which includes Austin, Waco and El Paso. But he withdrew his name from consideration in October 2010 after more than a year of waiting to be officially nominated by the White House, saying he had to get on with his career.

“I have not been able to take any cases for the past six to nine months, and as a result my practice has dwindled to almost nothing,” he told the San Antonio Express-News then.

At the time, he had the support of the state’s Democratic congressional delegation and both Republican senators, in addition to many local attorneys.

“I heard he was a hands-on kind of guy, kick the tires and get down in the weeds,” former Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn MacTaggart told the Express-News when McCrum was being considered. “He pushed the proper due diligence in order to investigate and determine whether an indictment was justified.”

[…]

One of McCrum’s first jobs as an attorney was at the firm then known at Davis & Cedillo. Ricardo Cedillo described McCrum as “one of the best associates” he had ever hired, echoing others’ comments about McCrum’s thoroughness and analytical skills.

“He had street smarts as well as legal knowledge,” Cedillo said while McCrum was under consideration for the U.S. attorney position. “That’s a very rare combination in young lawyers. That goes to who he is and where he’s from.”

McCrum’s clients as a defense attorney have included former NFL star-turned-drug trafficker Sam Hurd; Dr. Calvin Day, who is awaiting a new trial after McCrum successfully lobbied to have his jury conviction for sexual assault of a patient thrown out; fellow lawyer Mikal Watts, a Democratic Party stalwart who has hosted President Barack Obama at his home; and Mark Gudanowski, the former driver for District Attorney Susan Reed accused — and acquitted — of illegally selling Southwest Airlines vouchers.

We were briefly introduced to Mike McCrum when he was named special prosecutor for this case, but that was much more cursory. What this story reminds us is that McCrum isn’t just a prosecutor. He’s also been a very successful defense attorney. As we saw yesterday, there are a lot of quotable defense attorneys out there poking holes in the indictments. One would think – at least, I would think – that someone like Mike McCrum, who has been on that side of the courtroom, would have analyzed this case and the evidence from that perspective as well, to better prepare himself for the courtroom battles to come. It’s certainly possible McCrum has missed the mark or gotten caught up in the job and focused too much on an end result, but I wouldn’t count on that. If he’s as diligent and as smart as people say he is, he’s got to have considered all this.

The DMN takes a more political angle.

Solomon Wisenberg, a Washington lawyer who has known McCrum since 1989, when they worked together as assistant U.S. attorneys, said his friend is not partisan.

Referring to Perry’s indictment, Wisenberg said: “There are people who are politically motivated who are probably happy about it. There are people on the other side who think it must be politically motivated.

“I know Mike well and I don’t think he would be that way. He is not readily identifiable as a Republican or a Democrat.”

Gerald Reamey, a professor at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, taught McCrum criminal law and procedure.

“In his personal life and his professional life, there is some evidence that he is a fairly conservative person,” Reamey said. “He was prosecuting high-profile drug offenses. At the same time, he fits well into the criminal defense role.

“He’s very fair-minded and balanced, the kind of guy who would prosecute something only if he thinks the evidence is there,” Reamey said. “When I think of overzealous prosecution, he is not someone who comes to my mind.”

[…]

According to campaign finance records, McCrum has made only a handful of contributions to state and federal candidates.

He gave $300 in 2007 to Steve Hilbig, a Republican judge on the state appeals court based in San Antonio.

Also that year, McCrum donated $500 to U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, a San Antonio Democrat.

The next year, he contributed $500 to Republican Robert “Bert” Richardson, a Bexar County district court judge. Richardson assigned McCrum as the special prosecutor after a watchdog group filed its abuse-of-office complaint against Perry.

A little history here. When the complaint was filed by Texans for Public Justice against Perry, Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg recused herself from investigating it. That sent the complaint to the district courts of Travis County, where it was assigned to Judge Julie Kocurekof the 390th District Court. Kocurekof, a Democrat, recused herself as well. That kicked the case to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, where presiding Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield got it. Stubblefield then assigned the case to Senior Judge Bert Richardson, who I presume will be the judge from here on out barring anything weird. Richardson named McCrum as special prosecutor, since the Travis County DA had taken itself out, and the rest you know.

Well, actually, there’s one more thing you might not know. Both Judge Stubblefield of the 3rd Court of Appeals, and Judge Richardson, who is a Senior Judge after losing election in 2008, were originally appointed to their positions. By Rick Perry. Quite the liberal conspiracy working against him there, no?

One more piece of history, from the Trib. Rick Perry isn’t the first Texas Governor to run afoul of the law in this way.

A Travis County grand jury’s allegations on Friday that Gov. Rick Perry improperly threatened to veto funding for the state’s anti-corruption prosecutors marked the first time since 1917 that a Texas governor was indicted. That year, Gov. Jim “Pa” Ferguson was indicted by a Travis County grand jury on allegations that he meddled with the state’s flagship university amid a squabble with its board of regents.

In Ferguson’s case, he vetoed $1.8 million over two years (about $34 million in today’s dollars) for the University of Texas; in Perry’s case, it was $7.5 million for the Public Integrity Unit, which is overseen by Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. After Lehmberg pleaded guilty to drunken driving, Perry threatened to pull state funding from her office unless she resigned.

Ferguson’s indictment led to impeachment by state legislators in September 1917. That’s highly unlikely for Perry, a lame duck with an overwhelmingly conservative Legislature who is facing felony charges for his threat — one he made good on — to veto funding for of the unit charged with investigating public offices in Texas, including that of the governor.

But there are striking similarities. Ferguson, a Bell County native who worked as a rancher and a banker before becoming governor in 1914, got in trouble for trying to remove public officials who had opposed him. Two of the articles of impeachment that removed Ferguson from office accused him of having “invaded the constitutional powers of the [University of Texas] board of regents” and “sought to remove regents contrary to law,” wrote Cortez Ewing in the journal Political Science Quarterly in 1933. Ferguson’s veto of the university’s entire legislative appropriation also prompted outrage, though he was not impeached on that point.

And the regents were goading a legislative investigation into embezzlement of state funds and improper campaign finance by Ferguson, while today, some believe Perry wanted the Public Integrity Unit gone because it was investigating possible corruption of state programs — including the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. Perry has adamantly denied that, saying that he was entirely motivated by Lehmberg’s bad behavior.

I wouldn’t read too much into any of that, but it’s an interesting piece of history. We may as well learn as much as we can about this case, because for sure they’ll be teaching it to our kids and grandkids some day.

Texas Monthly on Sharon Keller

Texas Monthly gives the long-form magazine article treatment to Sharon Keller and her upcoming trial before the Commission on Judicial Conduct. It’s well worth reading, and they try their best to humanize her, but I can’t bring myself to care about that. I think she’s amply demonstrated that she’s a bad judge, whose decisions are largely pre-ordained by her self-professed “pro-prosecutor” viewpoint. The Michael Richard “we close at five” affair is just the moldy cherry on the rancid sundae of her judicial career. The sooner she becomes a former judge, the better it will be for Texas.

How about that CCA’s reputation for fairness?

This is just precious.

The longest serving Judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Lawrence “Larry” Meyers, has announced he is seeking re-election in 2010. The Court has been called a national laughingstock by one of its other members because of the actions of Sharon Keller and that was years before Keller made it even more of a laughingstock by closing the court in 2007 and refusing to accept a legal appeal from a person about to be executed.

[…]

Despite the poor reputation of the Court of Criminal Appeals, Meyers said in his press release, “I am seeking re-election to the Court to continue to be an objective voice and ensure that we maintain our reputation for delivering fair and just opinions,” said Meyers in announcing his candidacy for re-election.

Yes, the CCA’s well-known reputation for fairness and justice, which is somewhat like Wall Street’s reputation for transparency and honest accounting. As Michael Landauer suggests, it is to laugh.

Link via Grits, who notes that Justices Michael Keasler and and Cheryl Johnson will also be on the ballot next year. Only Keasler had a Democratic opponent in 2004, and that was JR Molina, so it really doesn’t count. Last year, the Dems left on CCA judge unchallenged, ran Molina against another, and a good candidate in Susan Strawn against the third. Strawn lost by six points 51.64 to 45.53, in the best showing for a Democratic CCA candidate since then-incumbent Charlie Baird lost with 46.03% in 1998. The Dems have been slowly but steadily gaining ground in these statewide judicial races – Supreme Court candidate Sam Houston did even better last year, getting 45.88% and losing by five points – and it’s not unreasonable to think that some good quality CCA candidates next year could score an upset or two. They’ll have Sharon Keller as an issue whether or not the State Commission on Judicial Conduct boots her off the bench. Grits has suggested before that judicial races will be the spearhead of a Democratic renaissance in statewide elections, and while I don’t necessarily agree with that – I think any reasonably well-funded Dem will have a fighter’s chance in the Governor’s race if Rick Perry survives the primary – I certainly do think that these races are vital and must be taken seriously. The last time the Dems ran three non-Molina candidates for the CCA was 1996. That can’t happen again.

Burnam drops impeachment resolution

I had wondered what would happen with Rep. Lon Burnam’s resolution to impeach Sharon Keller, given that we were coming down to the wire and there was a lot of pressing business that needed to be taken care of in a very short period of time. Now I know.

Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, today offered a “personal privilege” speech noting that his resolution calling for the impeachment of Court of Criminal Appeals Justice Sharon Keller is going nowhere this session (which ends Monday).

Burnam’s resolution has been pending since April 27 in the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee. In his speech today, Burnam said he chose not to try to use the procedure by which he could have tried to get the votes to bring the resolution to the floor despite the lack of committee action.

But he made it clear he still believes Keller should be removed from office for refusing to keep her court clerk’s office open on Sept. 25, 2007 to accept a late filing on behalf of Death Row inmate Michael Wayne Richard, who was executed later that day.

[…]

Burnam said if neither state agency causes Keller’s removal from office he’ll try again in two years if he is re-elected to the House.

Well, I certainly hope that the State Commission on Judicial Conduct has taken some action by then. I know the wheels grind slowly and all, but surely that’s not too much to ask. Floor Pass has more.

Lon Burnam

The Star Telegram has a nice profile of Rep. Lon Burnam of Fort Worth, who we all know was anti-Tom Craddick before it was cool. If he were a baseball or basketball player, you’d say he’s one of those guys who does things that don’t show up in the box score. Burnam doesn’t pass a lot of bills, but he works to kill those that need killing, and he helps provide a much-needed and otherwise often lacking liberal perspective on many issues. And his story for this session has not been fully written yet, as he has promised to bring his resolution to impeach Sharon Keller to the floor for a vote on a personal privilege motion. He has said that will happen before sine die, so it’s got to be coming soon.

Burnam makes his case in the papers

State Rep. Lon Burnam writes an op-ed about his resolution to impeach Judge Sharon Keller.

Last week, a group of 24 national experts on judicial ethics issued a statement that Judge Keller has consistently demonstrated a lack of impartiality in cases involving criminal defendants like [Michael] Richard that violates their constitutional right to due process of law.

Article XV of the Texas Constitution clearly establishes that the Legislature has the power and responsibility to impeach. Section 4 of that article states that an impeached official is also subject to “indictment, trial and punishment according to law.” The impeachment of Judge Keller would neither pre-empt nor interfere with the commission’s investigation, and the commission’s investigation neither pre-empts nor interferes with impeachment.

Impeachment is a serious process reserved for only the most extreme derelictions of the duties of public office. The Texas Legislature has investigated only four state judges since the state’s Constitution was adopted in 1875; Judge Keller is the fifth. The taking of human life without due process is an extreme dereliction of duty. For the most trivial of reasons — a narrowly missed deadline — Judge Keller callously dismissed a clearly relevant appeal to spare a man’s life. That’s unacceptable.

Because death penalty cases exemplify the state at the zenith of its power, those who adjudicate these decisions must be held to the highest ethical standards. That’s what the impeachment of Judge Sharon Keller is about — ensuring that those who wield power over life and death have the integrity and sound judgment necessary to make such decisions.

We cannot allow a judge with a self-declared bias against capital defendants to continue deciding execution appeals. The best way to promptly get Judge Keller off the bench is through impeachment. That would avoid an additional 18-month deliberation by the commission during which Judge Keller would continue to make life-or-death decisions.

You know how I feel about this. Maybe, just maybe, if we send a message to Judge Keller that we won’t tolerate such indifference and contempt for constitutional rights, we won’t get any more judges like her. It’s a nice thought, isn’t it?

In the meantime, Judge Keller has filed an amended financial disclosure statement, which should put to rest once and for all the idea that she can’t afford to pay for her own damn attorney.

In a sworn statement filed in Austin earlier this week, Sharon Keller said she omitted more than two dozen properties, bank accounts, income sources and business directorships because her elderly father in Dallas had not told her about them.

“My father, Jack Keller, over a number of years has acquired and managed, without input from me, all of these properties,” Keller wrote in a filing with the Texas Ethics Commission meant to correct the annual report she made in April 2008.

The “Daddy didn’t tell me” defense. Well, at least she didn’t claim her dog had eaten her portfolio or something.

Her attorney expanded on her explanation Friday, saying that Keller, the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals since 2001, misinterpreted what she had to disclose and lost track of holdings she had disclosed in earlier financial reports.

“We’re not saying she is excused. She is at fault,” Ed Shack said. “But she wasn’t trying to deceive anybody.”

Fine. I believe her. Just a mistake, no intent to deceive, could happen to anyone with a rich yet conveniently forgetful daddy. These things happen. But let’s get real about what the issue really is.

Andrew Wheat, research director of Texans for Public Justice, an Austin watchdog group that filed the complaints over Keller’s nondisclosures, suggested that the judge would not be swayed by others’ pleas of sloppiness.

“If a defense attorney in a death penalty case before Judge Keller’s court filed briefs as carelessly as Keller filed her financials, the client in question already would have been executed,” he said.

Damn straight. As far as karma is concerned, she deserves the same “justice” she’d routinely impose on any appellant that tried to pass this off. Because she has the good fortune to not be appearing before herself, she’ll do better than that. And that’s how it should be. For everyone, which is why she needs to be an ex-judge as soon as possible. It won’t solve everything – indeed, as Grits reminds us, the rot at the CCA goes far deeper than Sharon Keller – but nothing can get better as long as she’s wearing the robe.

Followup on Keller impeachment resolution

I had a brief conversation with Rep. Lon Burnam about HR480, the House resolution to impeach Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, which had a hearing on Monday. He’s working on getting enough support in the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence to get it voted out of committee and brought to the floor of the House for a vote; he’s also talking to Members and answering their questions about this arcane and seldom-used procedure, and securing their support for an eventual vote. If the Jurisprudence committee does not vote HR480 out, Burnam can and will bring it to the floor on a personal privilege motion. So one way or another we will see a House vote on this.

Because of the nature of this kind of resolution, the only deadline Burnam faces is sine die on June 1. Only the House must take action for impeachment to move forward. What HR480 does is authorize the creation of a select committee on impeachment, which would be chosen by Speaker Straus and which would meet in the summer to investigate the charges and potentially refer articles of impeachment back to the full House for another vote. The House would then convene for that vote, and if they accept the articles of impeachment, the matter then passes to the Senate for a trial. A two-thirds vote in the Senate would be required for a conviction, with the penalties including removal from the bench and a ban on holding public office in the future.

Rep. Burnam’s office sent me the 1975 Select Committee on Impeachment report (PDF), which was the last time a resolution was brought forth to impeach an officeholder, in that case a district judge in Duval County, and which makes for some interesting reading. The Committee, whose members included former Speaker Pete Laney, Sarah Weddington, and still serving Rep. Senfronia Thompson, likened the role of the House to that of a grand jury, offering no judgment on the guilt or innocence of the accused or exploration of possible mitigating factors; that was left for the Senate, which was the trial court. They were there to determine if there was cause for further action.

One other point of interest is that the impeachment resolution of 1975 was brought to the floor by a privileged motion. Rep. Burnam is taking the longer way by having this go through the normal committee process, though as noted he can still go the privileged motion route if need be.

The Keller impeachment resolution

Rep. Lon Burnam’s resolution to impeach Judge Sharon Keller was scheduled to get a hearing Monday. Burnam vowed that it would come to a vote on the House floor.

If that resolution does not move in committee, Burnam said he will seek a majority vote for impeachment on the House floor. But he said he will make an impeachment motion even if he is not sure of winning.

“I’d rather lose the vote than not have the vote,” Burnam declared.

Burnam said a House vote on impeachment would immediately remove Keller from the bench while she awaited a trial in the state Senate.

He said the judicial conduct commission could take another 18 months to act. Even if the commission finds against Keller, Burnam said, the punishment could range from a slap on the wrist to removal from office.

Burnam said immediate action is needed when life and death matters are at stake in the judicial system.

The hearing started at 10 PM and ran until 12:30, so there isn’t much news coverage about what happened in the hearing. The Star Telegram has some information.

[Rep. Burnam] presented witnesses to reinforce his claim that Judge Sharon Keller, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, committed “a gross neglect of duty and willing disregard for human life” by refusing the keep the court’s office open after hours to accept a Death Row appeal. The inmate, Michael Richard, was executed hours later.

“What she did was so outrageous,” retired state appeals court Justice Michol O’Connor of Houston said as she waited to testify on behalf of Burnam’s motion.

[…]

Burnam told reporters that he plans to force a vote by the full 150-member House even if the committee rejects his motion. He says he has the right to do so under House rules. “I can bring it up at any time,” Burnam said.

Austin attorney Charles Herring Jr., an expert on legal ethics issues who has advised the Texas Supreme Court, said in written testimony that Keller’s behavior “clearly meets the constitutional standards for impeachment.”

“I submit that if that type of egregious judicial misconduct, with the most serious possible consequences imaginable, does not require removal from office, nothing does,” Herring wrote.

[…]

If the Legislature gives the go-ahead for impeachment, the process would likely not start until after the session ends June 1. House members would return to Austin to consider articles of impeachment. If adopted, the Senate would then convene for a trial. No action by the governor would be necessary, Burnam said.

Grits, from whom I got that link, also has a report:

[Judge O’Connor declared] that three things justified her impeachment – her actions in the Michael Richard cases, her stated partiality toward the prosecution, and her incompetence as a judge. In the Richard case, she said, the court wasn’t closed “in any real sense” at 5 p.m., she said, since the assigned duty judge was waiting there to hear the appeal. She said she’d never heard of a capital case when a request for a 20-minute delay was denied by an appellate court.

Judge O’Connor particularly emphasized Judge Keller’s partiality toward the prosecution, declaring that alone should be enough to justify her removal. This to me is an even stronger argument for her ouster than the Michael Richard debacle. Imagine a family court judge who declared themselves “pro-husband”!

Judge O’Connor went through all the various reasons judges had been removed from office in Texas, arguing that Judge Keller’s behavior was worse than any of them. She said she doesn’t know anyone who believes Keller should stay in office.

The hearing lasted nearly three hours with most of the testimony favoring impeachment.

Mark Bennett was there for the hearing, though his report is from before it started. The DMN, Statesman, and Daily Texan have more, and you can watch the archived video of the hearing if you’ve got a few hours to kill; Burnam’s stuff starts about three hours in. I’ve put a call into Rep. Burnam’s office and am awaiting a statement from them about the hearing. I’ll post it when I get it.

House hearing set on Keller impeachment resolution

Mark your calendars for Monday, April 27, for that’s when HR480, the resolution filed by State Rep. Lon Burnam back in February that called for the House to begin the impeachment process against Judge Sharon Keller, gets a hearing. From Burnam’s press release:

“It is important that the committee be made aware of the public’s desire for impeachment,” Mr. Burnam said. “I encourage anyone who wishes to see justice done in this matter to come to room E2.010 in the capitol on Monday afternoon and register ‘for’ House Resolution 480.”

The impeachment resolution stems from Judge Keller’s alleged violation of the Court’s practice of remaining open on scheduled execution nights. On September 25, 2007, the judge instructed court staff to refuse appeal filings from lawyers for death row inmate, Michael Richard.

Richard’s appeal was based on announcements made by the United States Supreme Court the morning of they scheduled execution. Although Richard was executed that night, the Court of Criminal Appeals (over which Judge Keller presides) later granted two stays of execution based on the same arguments Richard’s lawyers attempted to present.

If passed, HR 480 calls on the House of Representatives to form a committee to investigate Judge Keller for “gross neglect of duty and willing disregard for human life.” If the House finds cause for impeachment, a trial would then be held in the State Senate.

The State Ethics Commission is also currently investigating Judge Keller; a hearing has been scheduled for August 16th to investigate the judge’s actions in the Richard Case. In addition, the Ethics Commission is investigating Judge Keller’s omission of 20 million dollars in Dallas area real estate holdings from mandatory disclosure forms filed with the Commission.

Something to tide you over till August, if nothing else. I’ll be interested to see how the debate goes on this one, that’s for sure.

Impeach Jay Bybee

The only thing more revolting than the just-declassified torture memos is the realization that one of their authors is now a federal judge with lifetime tenure. I have to believe that if we knew then what we know now, this despicable excuse for a human being would not be polluting the bench. But since now we do know, I say impeach Jay Bybee.

Judicial conduct commission moves against Keller

About damn time.

The state judicial ethics commission has charged Sharon Keller, the presiding judge of the state’s highest criminal court, with violating her duty and bringing discredit upon the judiciary when she declined to allow a death row prisoner to file an after-hours appeal in 2007. The inmate, Michael Richard, was executed about 3 1/2 hours later.

Keller will face a public trial to answer the charges and could be removed from office, reprimanded or exonerated.

A complaint against Keller, who presides over the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, was filed with the commission more than a year ago. An editorial in the New York Times this morning said the commission’s failure to act during that time was inexcusable.

State Rep. Lon Burnham (D-Ft. Worth) filed a resolution in the Texas House earlier this week calling for Keller’s impeachment.

That complaint was filed on October 11, 2007. They sure do take their time on the Judicial Conduct Commission, don’t they? I have to wonder, if Rep. Burnam had not filed his resolution to impeach Justice Keller, would we still be waiting on them? The timing looks awfully convenient to me. I mean, better late than never and all that, but c’mon. Why in the world did it take nearly a year and a half for this?

The Times editorial is here, by the way. Patricia Kilday Hart applauds it, while Grits is starting to think that impeachment is appropriate. I say if there’s a legitimate way to get her off the bench now, it should be pursued. I just hope we don’t have to wait another 16 months for an answer to that.

UPDATE: Mark Bennett has the notice of formal proceedings (PDF) against Justice Keller.

Burnam files resolution to impeach Justice Keller

State Rep. Lon Burnam (D, Fort Worth) has dropped a little bomb called HR480, the text of which calls for “House of Representatives of the 81st Texas Legislature [to] adopt the following procedures to consider the impeachment of Judge Sharon Keller, Presiding Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, for gross neglect of duty and conducting her official duties with willful disregard for human life”. I’ve got his press release beneath the fold. I’ve no idea how likely this is to get anywhere – this is still a Republican-controlled legislature, so my guess is that it’s highly unlikely – but I applaud the move and hope we get to have a nice thorough airing of grievances against the chief culprit of Texas’ worst court. Vince has also noted this. Scott? Mark? Murray? What do y’all think about this?

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