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.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?
"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.