there will be a press conference at 1:30 PM Wednesday, Oct 10, in front of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to announce the filing of a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct against Sharon Keller.This couldn't be more justified after the stunt Keller pulled recently, refusing to extend the deadline on a death penalty appeal when the defendant's lawyers' computer malfunctioned. Her fellow CCA judges didn't know about the decision, including the judge assigned to evaluate the case who stayed late after work on the assumption the appeal would be coming. This wasn't just a petty decision by Keller, it was an outright abuse of power in a life or death decision, usurping the rightful authority of both her colleagues and the US Supreme Court. It was not an "incompetent" decision, it was a nasty and mean-spirited one.
Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project and Scott Cobb, of Texas Moratorium Network, will be present, along with others.
The "Queen of Mean" deserves the formal complaint, and if Texas judges are to retain public confidence and credibility in the legal community, the Commission should sustain the complaint and sanction Judge Keller harshly. If I had my druthers, I think she should be removed from the bench because of her consistently bad record over the years. According to the Frequently Asked Questions page on on the Commission's website, the Commission may issue sanctions on its own, but it may also:
request that the Supreme Court of Texas suspend a judge under the provisions of Rule 15(b) of the Procedural Rules for Removal of Retirement of Judges. Rule 15(b) states, Upon filing with the Commission of a sworn complaint charging a person holding such office with willful or persistent violation of rules promulgated by the Supreme Court of Texas, incompetence in performing the duties of office, willful violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct, or willful and persistent conduct that is clearly inconsistent with the proper performance of his duties or cases public discredit upon the judiciary or the administration of justice, the Commission, after giving the person notice and an opportunity to appear and be heard before the Commission (under the provisions of Rule 6), may recommend to the Supreme Court the suspension of such person from office.That course of action sounds like exactly what's needed to restore credibility and integrity to Texas' highest criminal court. Keller is not up for re-election until 2012, but Texans shouldn't have to wait that long to remove this judicial cancer from our midst.
MORE: See initial coverage from the Houston Chronicle, featuring Judge Keller pointing the finger at everyone but the one person who made the decision that ended Michael Richard's life prematurely - herself. Reported the Chronicle:
Twenty lawyers from across Texas today filed a formal judicial conduct complaint against Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, accusing her of violating the constitutional due process of a condemned man.
The complaint to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct says Keller improperly cut off appeals that led to the execution of Michael Richard on Sept. 25 despite the fact the U.S. Supreme Court earlier in the day had accepted a case on the propriety of lethal injection, which had direct implications for Richard's execution.
"Judge Keller's actions denied Michael Richard two constitutional rights, access to the courts and due process, which led to his execution," the complaint states. "Her actions also brought the integrity of the Texas judiciary and of her court into disrepute and was a source of scandal to the citizens of the state."
Those lawyers signing the complaint included former State Bar President Broadus Spivey, Houston criminal defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin, University of Houston law professor Mike Olivas, former appellate Judge Michol O'Connor, state Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, and former Nueces County Attorney Mike Westergren.
UPDATE: The full text of the complaint is now available here.