Friday, January 21, 2011

Grievance filed against Judge Killer

The presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Sharon Keller, now finds herself the target of a grievance filed by the Texas Civil Rights Project. The grievance alleges that Judge Killer is unfit to practice law (or whatever it is she practices) in Texas.

The group alleges that Judge Killer broke Texas law by failing to disclose her personal finances as required of elected officials. The grievance also accuses Judge Killer of being less than forthright before a tribunal when asked about her role in the execution of Michael Richard.

The text of the Texas Civil Rights Project's press release follows:

Alleges Judge Sharon Keller is Unfit to Retain Her License to Practice Law

AUSTIN – A disciplinary grievance against Judge Sharon Keller, Presiding Judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest court of appeals in the state for criminal matters, will be filed later today with the State Bar of Texas. The grievance challenges Keller’s fitness to retain her license to practice law, citing multiple acts of misconduct by Keller that were revealed in 2010 by the Texas Ethics Commission and the Commission on Judicial Conduct. Keller must be licensed to practice law to remain the Presiding Judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Tex. Const. Art. 5 § 4(a).

Texas Ethics Commission
On April 28, 2010, the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) found that Judge Keller had committed numerous class B misdemeanors in 2007 and 2008 by failing to make personal financial disclosures required by elected state officials in Texas.

Texas state officers and employees must disclose their financial information, swearing under penalty of perjury that each statement is true, to ensure they do not have a direct or indirect interest that substantially conflicts with their duties in the public trust. Tex. Gov’t Code 572.001. However, TEC found that in last two elections years, if not more, Judge Keller failed to disclose a wealth of personal financial information, including:

• Eight sources of income, totaling about $121,500.00;
• Between 100 and 499 shares of stock;
• One money market account, two notes, and 22 certificates of deposit.

State Commission on Judicial Conduct
On July 16, 2010, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct released extensive findings made after a year-and-a-half long inquiry into her conduct leading up to the execution of Michael Richard.

The Commission concluded that Judge Keller knowingly violated Execution-day Procedures of the Court of Criminal Appeals, unlawfully denying Richard the right to be heard, in contravention of the Court’s own rules and Richard’s constitutional rights. Richard was executed at 8:23 p.m. on September 25, 2007.

Lack of Candor to a Tribunal
In addition to the inquiry by the Commission started in the aftermath of Richard’s execution, Judge Keller was sued in federal court by Richard’s next of kin. As the documents included in the grievance demonstrate, Judge Keller’s statements before the federal court and her statements to the Commission were in complete contradiction of each other.

Lack of candor before a tribunal is the most explicit demonstration that an attorney lacks the honesty and trustworthiness to practice law.

Substantial Question as to Honesty, Trustworthiness, and Fitness to Retain Her License Honesty and trustworthiness are the most important requirements for an attorney. The ethical rules governing a lawyer’s conduct prohibit the abuse of positions of public or private trust. This holds even truer for judges, who are “the symbol[s] of both the judicial system and administration of justice.” Texas Lawyer’s Creed, IV.1. Sharon Keller has sullied that symbol.

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