Even so, I was fascinated to learn via CNN that the State Commission on Judicial Conduct is not only investigating the old abuse allegations but has convinced the judge to accept a paid suspension while it does so:
Judge William Adams, who made national headlines after the release of a 2004 video of him beating his then-teenage daughter, has been suspended by the Texas Supreme Court.
Adams, while not admitting guilt or wrongdoing, agreed to the suspension. He will be paid during the suspension.See the order (pdf) and the commission's public statement (pdf) in Judge Adams' case, and the commission's rules (pdf) for disciplining or removing judges. What interests Grits in particular are possible parallels to Williamson County District Judge Ken Anderson, the prosecutor in the Michael Morton case who 25 years ago apparently hid exculpatory evidence from both the defense and the court to convict an innocent man, allowing the guilty one to remain living free in Bastrop County for the intervening decades. Just as the statute of limitations has run out on any possible offenses in the video from Adams' years-ago incident, the statute or limitations on any prosecutorial misconduct in the 25-year old Morton case have also likely expired. But if the Commission on Judicial Conduct can investigate Judge Adams over old abuse allegations, and even facilitate his suspension while they do so, why can't or won't they do the same for Judge Anderson in Williamson County?
The judge's lawyer, William Dudley, said his client proposed the suspension motion with input from the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, which is investigating the incident. Adams already was on voluntary leave, Dudley said in a statement to CNN.
I've been told privately that, even though the statute of limitations on Adams' conduct may have expired, there's an argument to be made that the commission could pursue him under its constitutional authority to discipline judges who engage in "willful or persistent conduct that is clearly inconsistent with the proper performance of his duties or casts public discredit upon the judiciary or administration of justice." A family law judge who engaged in that kind of behavior in his own family life, the argument goes, willfully engaged in behavior that cast discredit on the judiciary.
Similarly, assuming withholding exculpatory evidence from the judge was a willful act (instead of an act of extreme, near-unfathomable incompetence), it's hard to argue that Judge Anderson's recently-revealed shortcomings aren't "inconsistent with the proper performance of his duties or casts public discredit upon the judiciary." If the Commission on Judicial Conduct found a hook to justify intervention on older charges in Adams' case, Judge Anderson's should be similarly fair game.
Ken Anderson hid evidence and misled the judge in perhaps the biggest trial of his prosecutorial career. His alleged misconduct was primarily responsible for a false conviction which ranks among the worst injustices in the state's history, threatening to elevate him to Mike-Nifong status in the pantheon of convict-at-any-cost prosecutors willing to cheat to win. He's an embarrassment to his county and his profession - yet he still sits on the bench in a Williamson County District Court, dispensing what passes for "justice" in that jurisdiction. Why? Anderson's past misdeeds weren't violent but they discredit any claim he might make to integrity or impartiality on the bench in much the way that Judge Adams' tumultuous family life discredits his family-law credentials.
Grits suspects Anderson himself has insufficient capacity for self-reflection or shame to himself contemplate stepping down; his failure to accept responsibility - apologizing for "the system" but insisting he himself was blameless - surely demonstrates that. But if the Commission can find a hook to go after Judge Adams regarding years-old charges, they should find a way to do the same thing in Williamson County. Much as with Judge Adams, every day Anderson remains on the bench taints and demeans not just the integrity of Texas' judiciary but the entire legal profession.
Opportunity for activism
Speaking of the Commission on Judicial Conduct, they're up for Sunset review along with TDCJ and the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and you can see their self-evaluation report here (pdf). (More soon analyzing that document.) Anyone frustrated with the impotence of judicial oversight in Texas should view the Sunset process as an excellent chance to suggest improvements to the process.