The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals wants to get a message out. And so senior Judge Lawrence E. Meyers embarked on a tour to convey it to major Texas newspapers. Here's the gist of his message: We're not as inept and indifferent as you think we are. Yes, Presiding Judge Sharon Keller decided 18 months ago to shut the court down with a death appeal and execution pending, but we have better procedures now. We even wrote them down. See, here's a printout. No more confusion. No, we don't know exactly happened that fateful night, but we're sure the upcoming hearing on Judge Keller will find out. Until then, don't judge us harshly. OK, then. But it's tougher and tougher to keep an open mind.Judge Meyers insisted to the media his colleague Sharon Keller will stay the course and fight the charges against her, but this seems like a no-win situation for her. It's pretty clear Keller actually did all the things alleged, so if the Judicial Conduct Commission does nothing it will look like favoritism for a GOP muckety muck. If she's removed, she lives out her career in disgrace.
If she survives the removal hearing and the Commission only reprimands her, she'll be damaged goods that Democrats will beat on like a piñata until 2012. She'll become the symbolic face of the whole court, to the extent that's not true already.
For those reasons, I'd half-expected Judge Keller to submit her resignation and allow Governor Perry to appoint her replacement, but it's beginning to look like she'll stick it out. There's no accounting for hubris.
Speaking of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, Chuck Lindell at the Austin Statesman has an interesting piece analyzing what actions were taken by the commission against wayward judges last year, when ten judges were reprimanded publicly and another 26 privately. (There are descriptions of the private reprimands, though, that give enough detail where it would be possible to tell if Judge Keller receives one.) Three judges resigned last year rather than face disciplinary procedures.
RELATED: From Capitol Annex, "Giving Cover to Keller."
UPDATE: See this Dallas News piece in which we learn that a) Judge Cheryl Johnson personally filed a complaint against Keller with the Commission on Judicial Conduct in the Michael Richard case, b) Judge Johnson later had to intervene to ensure the new rules Judge Meyers was bragging on to the press were actually followed when the new general counsel tried to reject another last-minute capital appeal, and c) that general counsel's "predecessor retired under pressure because of his role in the Richard case."
MORE: See NY Times coverage of the case (3/8).