There are many jurists competing for that lowly dishonor, but I'm beginning to wonder if Walther's name shouldn't be placed on the short list for discussion. After her petulant display in the courtroom yesterday, it's increasingly clear the judge has taken rebukes by higher courts personally and begun to behave like a pouting 9-year old. Here's how the San Angelo paper described yesterday's events:
So bottom line, Walther demanded MORE restrictions on families than CPS had agreed to, injecting herself as a party in the dispute rather than an arbitrator. After hours of wrangling, the judge backed off her demand that FLDS parents agree to extra stipulations, but insisted that each FLDS mother sign the agreement instead of their attorneys, just to inconvenience them and make their lives more difficult. Then she stormed out without explanation, leaving attorneys to guess what she meant.
A proposed order, which seemingly was approved by CPS and attorneys representing the families, was introduced at the beginning of the hearing that states the department would begin returning the children at 8 a.m. Monday.
The proposal also stipulated the parents would undergo parent counseling and cooperate with the ongoing investigation, and that the parents wouldn't leave the state, at least until Aug. 31.
Technically the order was for just the mothers in the original appeal, but the implications were for all children, Walther said.
Walther took a break and countered with a proposal that put more restrictions on travel and other stipulations.
Her proposal gave the same time frame for releasing the children. However, it also said that if children were to travel more than 60 miles from their designated residence, the CPS must be given at least 48 hours' notice.
It also said case workers should have access to the ranch at "any and all times necessary to the investigators."
As well, it states case workers could interview and examine the children, which could include medical, psychological or psychiatric examinations.
Lawyers for sect members objected to the new proposal, saying it wasn't what they had originally agreed to, and that the court has no authority to impose those stipulations because there is no evidence those sect members broke any laws.
Walther countered that the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the court can put conditions on reunification to keep the children safe.
The Supreme Court ruling seemed to indicate Walther has some latitude to order parents to refrain from removing their children "beyond a geographical area identified by the court" while a thorough investigation continues.
Lawyers argued it does not give her the authority to allow some of the conditions she put in her version of the proposed agreement.
Walther eventually ruled that if each parent signed the agreed-upon ruling, then the court would sign it as well. ...
Laura Shockley, an attorney representing a mother and several children, said attorneys are usually allowed to sign such orders for their clients.
"The effect is that all children will be unlawfully detained for at least 48 hours and probably more," she said.
Andrea Sloan, an attorney who represents several disputed minors, said many mothers are scattered across the state near their children, and reaching them so they can sign the order will put a further strain on attorneys and the families.
Still, she said she is confident in the court system of Texas to get the children home.
Jessop was incensed that Walther didn't sign the order and wanted clarification.
"The judge left the court in total disarray," Jessop said. "There is no way to know when relief will be here to fix what happened on April 3. It's total confusion."
That said, by all accounts, before her abrupt exit, Walthers backed off on the extra requirements and consented to sign the agreement between CPS and parents if they all put their signatures on it. While FLDS could take this to the 3rd Court, their interests might be better served simply by hustling everybody back home and getting them to sign the damned document. If the Judge flip flops again, there's plenty of time to appeal to the 3rd Court. I'd guess that, at this point, the subsequent bench slap wouldn't be long in coming.
There's no justification I can see for Walther's ill-tempered departure nor the arbitrary delay it created - at least none except spite and mean-spiritedness. It's as though she doesn't realize that her actions are playing out on an international stage, that she's in danger of having her name transformed into a verb, like Duke lacrosse prosecutor Mike Nifong, where people whose children have been seized without cause have been "Walthered."
With yesterday's decidedly un-judicial display, Judge Walther disgraced her robes and embarrassed her constituents. Her actions displayed the same brand of disrespect for the law and parents' rights - in the 3rd Court's words, the same "abuse" of her "discretion" - that caused her earlier rulings to get shot down
Judge Walther deserves a lion's share of blame for everything that's gone wrong during this fiasco.