Saturday, July 17, 2010

You've Been Warned: Keller gets wrist slap from Judicial Conduct Commission but vows to appeal

Presiding Judge Sharon Keller of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals yesterday received a "public warning" from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, but the panel did not recommend her removal. See their decision (pdf). A public warning may seem weak, but it's not the exoneration Keller was looking for and is particularly unusual for such a highly placed jurist.

Despite the fact that the "warning" amounts to a slap on the wrist, Keller has vowed to appeal. But Chuck Lindell at the Statesman makes the interesting point that "How Keller will appeal the reprimand was unclear Friday. An appeals process was mandated last legislative session, but the Texas Supreme Court has not yet created a process."

I suspect most judges would have resigned their seat long before now rather than rack up endless legal bills and endure the public disapprobation Keller has brought on herself and the court. The fact that she intends to continue slugging it out (she's also appealed her $100K fine from the Ethics Commission, though her attorneys must be costing her more than that) makes me think Keller intends to run for reelection when she's up in 2012. She's looking for vindication, and if she can't get it in the courts I won't be surprised to see her seek it from the voters. CCA races are usually sleepy affairs, but if she's on the ballot again two years from now it could certainly add some zest to the election cycle.

MORE: From Jeff Gamso, Mary Alice Robbins, Kuff, Scott Greenfield, and AP.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

I say we start hanging these judges the good ol' Texas way, by the neck.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that the Commission on Judicial Conduct simply bowed to public pressure from the left leaning media and the anti-death penalty establishment. Clearly Keller did nothing legally or ethically wrong. To the extent there was violation of some nebulous court "custom," clearly it was de minimus. The only "injustice" in this whole ordeal is this "warning." I if there will be any investigation by the state bar of David Dow et al for their incompetence in this matter. I doubt it. Rules evidently don't apply to capital defense lawyers.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:42 writes: "Clearly Keller did nothing legally or ethically wrong."

After this ruling, that is no longer a credible statement, which is why hereafter I predict we will only see such assessments a) anonymously or b) from Keller's attorneys. (See page 18 of the ruling (pdf) under "Conclusions Regarding Binding Obligations.") Ditto for the Ethics Commission fine.

9:33: Don't stoop to their level.

Anonymous said...

Grits, you claim that, after this ruling, the notion that Keller did not thing wrong is no longer credible.

Ok, so what about Judge Berchelmann, the man who presided over her trial and recommended that she not be punished at all?

I guess you'd say that he's just some old judge that was too ticked at the TDS lawyers to do his job properly and that his judgment should therefore be ignored.

On the other hand, one might say that it is somewhat less than surprising that the Commission on Judicial Conduct, the entity that charged Judge Keller, found her guilty.

My point isn't that Judge Berchelmann was right (although I think he was) and the Commission was wrong.

My point is that the Commission's ruling is not dispositive.

I would think that you and the liberals who read you would recognize that and, while continuing to detest Judge Keller for any number of reasons, be a little cautious about what is "no longer a credible statement."

Anonymous said...

10:12, Grits and his liberal buddies have been frothing at the mouth in hopes of getting some kind of adverse finding against Keller. That's why they were so outraged over Berchelmann's findings. And now this is the best they can come up with? This whole claim aganst Keller was contrived at the outset by Dow, the Defender Service and a bunch of anti-death penalty law professors. The whole e-mail/computer issue that precipitated the filing delay was found by Berchelmann to be bogus. I'm not sure why Grits doesn't mention this more frequently. Keller has been in the crosshairs of folks like Grits and Dow for years now. It's just a shame that the commission had to bow from pressure from the liberal left in regard to this minor sanction. I agree with you. Contrary to Grits' sanctimonious assertion, the question of whether Keller committed any actionable violation is still very much subject to debate among interested parties. I sure wish Grits was so willing to accept the finality of jury verdicts in matters of guilt and innocence. Talk about hypocritical! I hope Keller does appeal and is ultimately vindicated. More importantly, I hope she runs for reelection and is vindicated at the polls. I sure wouldn't bet against her if I were you liberals! Wouldn't that just be a real kick in the pants!

Thomas Hobbes said...

Just to clarify, Judge Berchelmann was appointed as a special master. His role was investigatory and advisory; he was not retained to render a judgment or dispose of the matter. Unfortunately, his "Findings of Fact" were not really responsive to the charges leveled against Keller, which was the purpose for which he was retained. While it was relevant as a recitation of what happened, it offered little assistance to the Commission in making its determinations.

Unlike Berchelmann, the Commission has the authority to dispose of the matter, thus its findings are dispostive. Their conclusions regarding the specific charges against Keller were clear and rational under the relevant standards by which her actions were assessed.

Whether TDS provided the appropriate standard of representation in this matter is another topic for another day. The question on the table was whether the actions of a public employee comported with the relevant standards applicable to the situation and her position. The Commission's dispositive answer was "No."

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:12, it's not credible because, unless it's overturned through some appellate process that doesn't exist, right down to her obituary, Keller's bio will read that she was publicly "warned" by the commission over the incident.

Also, forget the Richard case for a moment and consider the Ethics Commission gave her its largest ever fine, and there's really no question she failed to report millions in assets and income. Hell, she still may be criminally prosecuted over that! The Ethics Commission said she'd violated criminal laws.

And 10:43: As TH points out, this was an administrative proceeding and Berchelmann's conclusions exceeded his role as fact finder.

I notice none of y'all are contradicting my earlier prediction that henceforth "we will only see such assessments a) anonymously or b) from Keller's attorneys." Wake me up when somebody not being paid by Judge Keller is willing to write what you're saying and put their name on it. After this, I'm betting you won't find many credible folks willing to do that.

Anonymous said...

Grits, people get to vote anonymously too! And I'd venture to bet that the overwhelming majority of folks in this state are more supportive of Judge Keller than Michael Richard. For that reason, I'd predict that if Keller chooses to run again, her bio will also reflect that she was "re-elected!"

Gritsforbreakfast said...

3:03, that's certainly her last venue for redemption because, like you, most credible people aren't going to be willing to support her under their own names.

And there are a lot more reasons to criticize Keller beyond L'Affaire Richard in an election context. Like, e.g., the ethics fine everybody wants to ignore. But I guess all those Ethics Commission appointees are flaming liberals or Grits readers, too, right? Ditto for the State Auditor's Office that criticized the court's grantmaking. All these Republican appointees would have to be part of this grand liberal conspiracy to keep up with your crackpot idea that Sharon Keller has anybody but herself to blame for her troubles.

Anonymous said...

Wrist slap is probably the best we can hope for.

I don't know why she gets an appeal on this administrative finding of the least consequence.

But oh well, as long as you people in Texas insist on electing your judiciary then you get what you deserve.

Throw the bums out and elect someone to make it right. Or move the hell out of that retarded-ass place.

Maybe if enough people start telling their employers they are scared shitless of the totalitarian government the neanderthals will get the message. I doubt that will ever happen.

Anonymous said...

Wrist slap is probably the best we can hope for.

I don't know why she gets an appeal on this administrative finding of the least consequence.

But oh well, as long as you people in Texas insist on electing your judiciary then you get what you deserve.

Throw the bums out and elect someone to make it right. Or move the hell out of that retarded-ass place.

Maybe if enough people start telling their employers they are scared shitless of the totalitarian government the neanderthals will get the message. I doubt that will ever happen.

Anonymous said...

I guess that what 9:42 is trying to say is that Keller is completely innocent, despite the findings of the commission that she violated the court's rules and several criminal statutes. But all those black people in jail, they're all guilty, because they were convicted, even if the judge and prosecutor were sleeping together, or the cops beat a confession out of them, or their line up procedures were suspect, or their eyewitness identification was shaky, or their fire science was incorrect and we know for a fact that it was based on current science...

Rage

Clean Up Texas said...

Being a former wilco resident, I would swear we have Bradley posting on here in his typical evil manner ranting about liberals, left leaning media and the anti death penalty establishment.

This isn't about right or left, it is about right and wrong. Keller is a disgrace to Texas. I say we take the "elite" few and oust them all. Lets start with Perry.

Anonymous said...

Amnesty for everybody except for her.

Anonymous said...

Amnesty for her, but not for anyone else.

Rage

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No kidding, Rage! How ironic our friends here can't see that!

Anonymous said...

They see it, they just don't care.

Rage

Anonymous said...

Grits, at 11:48, you wrote, "10:12, it's not credible because, unless it's overturned through some appellate process that doesn't exist, right down to her obituary, Keller's bio will read that she was publicly 'warned' by the commission over the incident."

What you think is "not credible," as you stated in your 9:42 post, is the notion that Judge Keller did nothing wrong.

Do you realize that you just said that the judgment of a tribunal precludes any doubt as to the facts of a case?

I kind of doubt it. That's why I thought I'd mention it.

Shoot, that's so fascinating that I might as well mention it again:

You think a guilty verdict makes the accused's claims no longer credible.

Amazing.

TDCJEX said...

The annon pro Keller person seems to have a fixation obsession with both Keller and David Dow that are unhealthy and very stalker like . That being said Keller and her ilk have no one but themselves to blame it is not a liberal or conservative ideological issue .We are talking about human lives that those people have tremendous power over and near total immunity form any responsibility or accountability. I sincerely hope the annon wingnut finds themselves in the defendants chair andd found guilty then sentenced to LWOP a fate worse than death and their pleas are gone unheard in the name of finality and procedure ,.

There is not a liberal conspiracy That is just irrational . You do realize as Grits pointed out the people who are questioning Keller's behavior and suitability to be a judge are not liberals they are conservatives in the true sense of the word and what it once meant .


Clean Up Texas, is right this is about right and wrong not a ideological difference on how somersaulting hold be done . It is wrong to convict a person who is innocent it is wrong to create a crime to get more convictions where few if any should have happen . It is wrong to use discredited forensics and continue to do so or allow those . Convictions to stand this evidence to remain in prsin if they do not belong there .All but a few fanatical wingnuts truly doubt that we have executed innocent people and I have no doubt that in far more than one case those who prosecuted or “investigated” the case knew damn well the person was innocent . That is premeditated murder and evil far beyond anything I have seen in prison ! .That puts them at a whole new level that is far removed from all but the likes of Bin Laden and the rulers of places such as Iran ,China and North Korea not good company


I have come to believe those “tough on crime” types know that if it is known just how many people are in TDCJ wrongly that it will open the flood gates. Maybe they should have thought of that before they acted .When you incarcerate at the rate Texas does eventually people are going to talk about your misdeeds do they still arrogantly believe that they can continue to act with impunity and that they are always right? Do they not understand it is2010 going on 2011 and that society has moved on leaving them in them both in the dustbin of history and a disgrace on our nation . When we look back at the “tough on crime hysteria” with sadness and recognize it for what it is . A I hope one day places such as Polunsky , The Walls and The women's Units in Gatesville are somber, solemn places that remind us of a shameful past when we went horribly wrong . I suggest the book Texas Tough . It answers many questions and hopefully opens up minds and also has us thinking what we can to to right this wrong


Keller's behavior and it is far morer than on case . She is a reprehensible being who will uphold convictions that are clearly false and allow a innocent person to be executed or remain in prison is a evil being she belongs in prison never to be free again for her crimes .

I can see clearly that Keller believes she is is above the law and she is not held to the same standards she demands others are held to she has been treated with more fairness and hoines than those who have been before her court . That should not be hard to grasp .I have been in her court and met many others who have . Irrefutable proof of innocence or wrong doing on the states part is not enough for that evil woman .What is clear to most reasonable humans is not to her it until it is her. Then she and hrr few supporters think she I s being treated unfairly an does not like more than fair justice ! She got more than she ever allowed those who went before her in court That is a big part of the anger and issue !

Jules said...

How about slapping some cuffs on Judge Keller’s wrists? The irony of this situation is unbelievable when the presiding judge of the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals commits a felony by lying about her personal assets and has yet to be charged. She plans to appeal a ruling from a commission that does not have procedures for the same. Bearing in mind the nature and purpose of the TCCA this is ludicrous. Defendants ask this court to review trial error or new evidence, frequently without the case being heard or a reason given for the court ignoring their request and yet Judge Keller wants a new procedure put into place so that she can be “right” about something the commission said was wrong. How does this feel Judge Keller?

Boyness said...

Jules said...

How about slapping some cuffs on Judge Keller’s wrists? The irony of this situation is unbelievable when the presiding judge of the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals commits a felony by lying about her personal assets and has yet to be charged.
-----------------------------------
She is untouchable by Texas standards Jules. She is in bed with almost anyone and everyone who would sit in judgement on her. It's the Texas way! I am shocked that the Judicial Conduct Commission dared to warn her, they must be fools!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

4:18, only you, not me, said "a guilty verdict makes the accused's claims no longer credible." I'm speaking of a specific case where there's no confusion about identify or even really the facts at question, and no existing appellate process to pursue it any further.

That said, for example, if DNA evidence surfaces proving someone else was really Presiding Judge when she steered the Richard case away from her colleague and concealed millions in assets and income on her ethics disclosure, I'll gladly eat my words. Until then, Keller already received more mercy from the SCJC than the vast majority of defendants whose cases come before her.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

And btw, Boyness, nobody I know has accused Keller of a "felony." The Ethics Commission did find she'd violated misdemeanor statutes at least 13 times by concealing assets and income.

Anonymous said...

That said, for example, if DNA evidence surfaces proving someone else was really Presiding Judge when she steered the Richard case away from her colleague and concealed millions in assets and income on her ethics disclosure, I'll gladly eat my words.


Blogslapped!

Anonymous said...

Individuals like Keller or any other government "life-screwer" will find themselves at the back of a long line heading into the depths of HELL.

In the end, for all the lives they have ruined, they must answer to the good man above. He cannot be bought, an no buddy-system exists.

Nipper

Grandmom said...

Many of those executed in Texas have professed their innocence. Myth: "They all say they're innocent" No, they don't. Not at the end of a needle, not moments before meeting their maker, in their last statement. And not prior to 1990. After the year 2000, nearly 20% of the executed said they were innocent. Before 1990 and after 1982, no one did. Last statements can be found in the book: Texas Death Row. Isn't it interesting that during that same time frame, the CCA rate of overturned capital murder convictions dropped from 36% to 3%? I don't want to mislead anyone. Prior to 1990, several persons thought to be innocent were executed, but said nothing.

Anonymous said...

Grits, at 6:53 you wrote, "4:18, only you, not me, said 'a guilty verdict makes the accused's claims no longer credible.'"

Uhhhhh, nope.

At 9:51, you'd written, "9:42 writes: 'Clearly Keller did nothing legally or ethically wrong.' After this ruling, that is no longer a credible statement. . . ."

Quick recap for anyone who can't follow along: you said that after the commission's ruling, the claim that she did nothing wrong is no longer credible.

Accordingly, I absolutely CANNOT WAIT to hear what you think about the Forensic Science Commission's findings in the Willingham case.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

This was an administrative proceeding, not a criminal trial. There has been no "guilty verdict." Try as you might to put words in my mouth, I simply did not say what you claim. Nice try, though, for a troll.

Anonymous said...

Your defense is that you didn't use the word "guilt," which matters because this is an administrative rather than a judicial process?

Completely hilarious.

The word "guilt" is not used to refer exclusively to judicial determinations. Accordingly, my point had nothing to do with whether this was a judicial proceeding. Of course it wasn't a judicial proceeding and I'll happily stipulate that you understood this.

My point was that you used the commission's opinion to decide that an opinion to the contrary was "no longer credible."

That is a silly thing for anyone to do.

It is--rather, one would have thought it would have been--downright inconceivable for a progressive critic of the Texas justice system to do so.

As I've said several times before, Grits, I sincerely appreciate what you try to do. Thanks for keeping an eye on things. However, if you're going to do this, you've got to go about it in a more rigorous, thoughtful way. The role of people like me is to point out when you haven't been rigorous enough. I concede that I could be more polite in doing so and I'll try to be. In return, you should listen to people like me and correct your errors and misstatements. You'd only get better. Not only would that be great for you, it'd be great for those of us who appreciate what you're trying to do, too.