Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Former prosecutor, now a judge, discplined by state bar for role in texting scandal

More fallout from the Polk County case where Judge Elizabeth Coker was caught texting suggested questions for witnesses to the prosecution team in criminal cases during trial. In the latest episode,  then-prosecutor, now District Judge Kaycee Jones was the target of the state bar's public disapprobation, receiving one of the state bar's rare public reprimands for exchanging texts with Judge Coker and relaying them to the first chair. Via the Houston Chronicle ("State bar reprimands former prosecutor in texting scandal," May 27):
The Texas Bar Association has issued a public reprimand to state district Judge Kaycee Jones for her role in clandestine texting during a criminal trial while she was a prosecutor and before her election to the bench last year.

Jones, who oversees the 411th court in Polk, Trinity and San Jacinto counties, signed the agreed judgement citing her for "professional misconduct" just before she came in front of the bar's grievance panel for a hearing this month.

Jones, 39, was an assistant Polk County prosecutor for 11 years before becoming a judge in 2013. ...
The agreed judgment documented how Jones had received text messages from state district Judge Elizabeth Coker, while she was seated on the bench during a trial in a child injury case.

Jones, then an assistant prosecutor and observer during the trial, wrote down the message that suggested a line of questioning to bolster the prosecution's case and relayed it to the lead prosecutor.

The improper communication violated the "ex parte rule" which forbids judges, who must remain impartial arbiters, from communicating about a case unless both sides are present. ...
An ethics expert at South Texas College of Law, Jim Alfini, also said the state bar's action was a mere slap on the wrist for a serious violation.

"Jones was an admitted accomplice to a serious judicial ethics violation," he said. "They went very easy on her. I could imagine a much more severe sanction."

But judicial ethics expert and author Lillian Hardwick said Jones will not come through this unscathed as she will be required to disclose the reprimand on her bar record for the next 10 years.
Now that the state bar has publicly spoken, one wonders if the State Commission on Judicial Conduct will follow up to evaluate Judge Jones' fitness to serve on the bench?

17 comments:

Tom said...

I'm not sure the commission has any jurisdiction over this. The act was before she was a judge.

Robert Langham said...

Why in the world would she retain her law license? Or continue as a judge?

rodsmith said...

I'm with you Robert.

can we all say big fucking deal. This isn't a punishment. first nobody but other crooked lier judges and lawyers will ever see it. second it's not much of a punishment. Punishment is supposed to HURT to TEACH. This is useless.

Anonymous said...

She retains her law license because Th eABA and TxBbar refused to revoke them . You will have to ask them why I doubt they have a answer that makes any sense . Rodsmith is right this is not punishment .She will continue to have a well paying job and be the extra prosecutor in the court room . If we were to be fair all of the cases she has over sen and prosecuted would be reopened and investigated by well compensated CDLs for misconduct if so a overturning or dismissing them with prejudice is the only fair actin but it will not happen .
RodSmith there is a way to stop this the way to stop this as voters demand politicians make laws that hold prosecutors, cops and judges civilly and criminally liable in a life sentence for any false conviction they help secure and a good 20 years for any other misconduct on the job, oss of pension and a justice system corruption registry. Just like sex offenders so evey6 one gets to know who and what they are . Would you hire a dirty cop a crooked prosecutor a or judge ? want one living near you? nope me neither . Another solution to a lot of what grits posts about . Term limits and a life time ban on lobbying and a to - 20 year ban on running for any other office . Limit these life time politician s . they too need to work in the dreaded private sector . The other question is are any of the case this woman has been involved with being appealed If so is her abuse of power being looked at ? If she was caught this late in the game you can bet she has been abusing her power and positions for a long time.

Anonymous said...

This is disgusting! Who are the criminals???
The reason she doesn't get what she really deserves is because the commission is probably made up of her cronies, who have done just as bad or worse! Judges are just prosecutors who moved up!

Thomas R. Griffith said...

The Texas State Bar (comprised of nothing but lawyers) has a long running documented and highly vettable record of pretending to investigate instances of judicial related crimes. (Notice that I refused to use the Misconduct label) *We, Us & Them collectively don't refer to the criminal act of robbery as Misconduct for a damn good reason either.

The only reason they doled out this rare WTF? "Public Reprimand" is due to the public being made aware of it via blogs (GFB to be exact) and maybe one media outlet. With the 10 year mandatory disclosure attached to the "P.R.", being the 'punishment' we now know why - Judges, D.As, & ADAs don't give a rat's ass as they knowingly & willingly commit crimes in court rooms. Reprimands devoid of real punishment factors are laughed at as they know will be watered down as misconduct and addressed rarely, if ever.

The Cause & Effect syndrome

Yes, we the public deserve what we are witnessing due to the Cause & Effect Syndrome related to allowing alleged criminal acts committed by public servants to be investigated - IN-House.

Rinse & Repeat - (Only the names have changed)

We the public recently witnessed a former HPD Robbery Detective turned Divorce Lawyer turned Judge turn a court room into a mini church. Mr. John W. Clinton, was caught red handed by court room personnel force feeding Harris County Inmates bible lessons from the bench. He escaped the wrath of the Fake-Ass TBA reprimand as he only received a good talking to by other judges on the 9th hole.

Lesson Learned

Text until you puke and slip a bible lesson in on the down low. If you get busted, we got your back.

Voting just to be voting? You should be tarred & feathered.

Shame on you faithful gangsters, as the God fearing candidate touting - "years of experience" that you failed to fully vett, just might be on record (ex: police incident report) blatantly railroading a fellow citizen or two or was it ten? Thanks.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

This 'one' is for the "Experts"

*Mr. Jim Alfini & Mrs. Lillian Hardwick, if & when you decide to drop by and visit with Grits & Co. in regards to this GFB posting. - From time to time when Grits publishes a posting about rogue D.As. and or ADAs, the TDCAA president comes out swinging when and if the posting and or comments is / are devoid of plausible "Solutions" to the problem at hand. Then he turns it into an Us vs Them issue and goes away, as if on que to avoid discussing the solutions provided.

With that, please consider sharing any & all positive solutions you may have that we can implement state wide, this year, (right now).

Thanks in advance & of course thanks to those that have shared the solutions above and to those that may follow suit.

Tom said...

As I recall -- and I could be wrong on this -- is the whole thing became public when then ADA Jones fessed up.
If she had kept her mouth shut, Cokler would still be on the bench texting.
When someone self reports and/or aids the government in prosecutions, it is common to give them a break on punishment. Everyone is familiar with U.S.S.G. sectionl 5K1.1 which allows federal judges to depart downward even below statutory minimums for defendants who cooperate.
If in fact Jones cooperated, she should get the same consideration a drug dealer would get at punishment -- a lower sentence.

Anonymous said...

Tom -

The whistle blower was then Polk County DA Investigator, David Wells (now with the Angelina County Sheriff's Department). Wells was the criminal investigator in the case and reported that he saw Judge Coker, conspire from the bench with the prosecutor.

Wells filed a report five months ago and called Coker's actions unethical.

According to Wells, he was sitting in the audience at the time of the trial when Kaycee Jones (an assistant district attorney at the time) allegedly borrowed his notepad. According to Wells, Jones received a text message from Coker and she wrote word for word the contents of the message on his notepad.

Jones allegedly then asked him to deliver the note to the lead prosecutor...

Anonymous said...

The above was from...

http://www.polkcountytoday.com/coker012413.html

Jan. 2013.

She fessed up because she got caught. Not prior to.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mr Griffith, he has posted many times on this. Lets call the kettle black. Perjury, evidence tampering, false gov't documents are criminal, not merely "misconduct" when perpetrated by the government.

These politicians including judges and DA's constantly run their mouth about "defending the Constitution". Texas courts are a joke, the Constitution is used by the government as a checklist to violate civil rights via criminal behavior.

Judges texting DA's is not criminal?, but certainly goes right to 5th & 6th amendments guaranteeing due process and fair trial.

I like the idea of a legal criminal registry. Not misconduct registry, criminal registry, just like for sex offenders.

john said...

heart-breaking, citizen-crushing abuse. Is it because they're rich, and laughing at We The Poor People? Is it because they are sociopaths, so have neither fear nor remorse; or psychopaths plotting to quietly destroy as many folks as they can? When there is no oversight, humans in power become sicker and sicker; it's Earth. That's part of why governments form, to try and limit natural lawlessness. Once the foxes take over the hen house, there checks and balances are burned down. Lawyers' union "Bar Association" has total conflict of interest. You expect those getting richer to self-regulate?
Captcha: Please prove you're not a politicians or gov employee.

Anonymous said...

Why is anyone surprised? All lawyers, including judges, are privileged licensees of the State, with a State-granted monopoly on appearances in Courts, whose continued privilege depends upon the State. Unfortunately for us, this means that ALL lawyers will kowtow to the judge, who generally is their superior in the Lawyers' Guild. Shakespeare was right.

Anonymous said...

I was in court for a traffic ticket, perhaps not exactly the same as a criminal trial, but no one in the court could use their cell phone. One could have it on vibrate, but use in the court was prohibited. Judges, prosecutors and defenders should also heed this policy and be called out by the officers when not in compliance.

Studying Law said...

Great post! Been reading a lot about different lawyer scandals. Thanks for the info here!

Anonymous said...

Article fails to mention that the elected DA knew of the incident and failed to report it. That elected DA also happened to be president of TDCAA http://www.tdcaa.com/

Legal Whistler said...

This a prime example why the State Bar can no longer be the sole source of discipline for bar members. The attorney grievance process is antiquated and needs to be updated. That's exactly what tech startup the Legal Whistler aims to do. In the next few months, sweeping change will take place with the privatization of the attorney grievance process. Change is about to come.