Public testimony to address State Commission on Judicial Conduct (TX)


Recent Estate of Denial® postings reported on the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission’s dismal findings in its staff report on the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.  Here’s how the Austin American-Statesman described the Sunset Advisory Commission’s effort:

Still in time for Sunshine Week, which celebrates open records laws, a new report reveals a Texas agency so secretive that even state investigators were refused access to most of its records.

When the Sunset Advisory Commission, which is legislatively charged with determining if state agencies are operating efficiently, asked for records of meetings of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, the commission refused. The commission, which hears misconduct complaints levied against the state’s 4,000 judges, argued that “its meetings are closed to everyone, including the Sunset Commission and its staff,” according to the sunset agency’s report on the judicial conduct commission, released this month.

Not only that, the report said, but the judges’ commission refused to grant state investigators permission to read any of the memoranda about its rulings because of attorney-client privilege.

The denials, in effect, prevented the auditors from determining not only if the commission operated efficiently, but also if its deliberations concerning judges — most of whom are elected — were fair or impartial.

“As a result, staff could not assess the commission’s primary duty,” the report concluded. “By preventing a full review, the Commission on Judicial Conduct seriously limits the ability of the Sunset Commission and the Legislature to assess the oversight of judges in Texas, as required by law.”

Read more.

A staff presentation and public testimony is scheduled at 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 10, in the Senate Finance Committee Room (Room E1.036, Capitol Extension).

In our years of following questionable probate court activities, probate judges such as Bexar County’s Tom Rickhoff and former Denton County Probate Judge Don Windle have been referred to the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Rickhoff’s 2009 referral spawned legal action that included the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirming a prior ruling against the judgeWindle received a public reprimand in 2006.  Questions continued to surround Windle’s court up through his 2010 retirement.

And any false sense of security that judicial retirement brings an end to legal case influence is completely misplaced.  EoD has heard that Windle will serve as a visiting judge in Collin County presiding over a probate dispute later this week.

Click here for live internet access to Tuesday’s hearing.