Yes, I am asking yet another ethics question, and on the same old theme.
Basic Background: County judge is defense attorney who thinks he can practice law in our county. AG opinion says nothing illegal about it, but get an ethics opinion. After two years of waiting, I finally get an ethics opinion (540)that says he has a conflict of interest, and cannot practice unless he gets the conflict waived by his client and by the county.
Problem: County judge doesn't care, and continues to practice in the courts of his own county.
Where it gets even messier: Ethics opinion 530 deals with the same situation involving a county commissioner, and says that the State must also evaluate it's potential conflict. Now throw in ethics opinion 539, which says that if the State has a conflict, they must get a waiver from their client, the State of Texas.
My current plan: File a Motion to Recuse the attorney, because he has conflict and has provided no proof that the conflict has been waived, then ask for an AG's opinion as to how the county judge gets the county to waive his conflict, and how the State can waive the conflict. Op. 539 implies that there is no mechanism for the State to do so, and I can't find one. I can report the county judge to the bar, but that is a long process that doesn't solve my immediate problem.
The visiting judge assigned to the cases is not going to grant the Motion to Recuse, because he is of the opinion that the ethics opinion didn't contemplate a situation where the judges in the county have recused themselves. (They got a judicial ethics opinion saying that they must to avoid the appearence of impropriety.) I disagree, and think that if he would read the opinion more carefully he would see that when the opinion refers to the "court", they don't mean the judge himself but the actual court.
We recused our office while we waited for the requested ethics opinion, and the county got to pay a special prosecutor. Once we got the opinion, we assumed the question was answered, the county judge would want to keep his law license, and he would get off the cases. (Weren't we silly?) So we take the cases back, and now we are right back in the middle of the mess.
Does anyone have any advice, comments, suggestions, or just want to point and laugh at my county where no one can get along? This has been going on for over three years now, and the only possible relief I see is that he might get defeated in November.
If you want us to actually hear you laughing at us, you can call me at 979.826.7718. Thanks for any input.
I think you dismiss the grievance process too quickly.
Judge Keasler gave a presentation at the recent conference on criminal appeals about professionalism from the bench. He emphasized the value of the Judicial Conduct Commission and repeatedly gave out the telephone number advising attorneys to call with issues such as this. I would suggest at least dicussing your problem with them at (512) 463-5533.
John B., I'm not dismissing the greivance process. In fact, the county judge is going around showing everyone his letter from the bar suspending him for a year. He has appealed. I'm not familiar with that process, and I don't know how long that will take. I'm just assuming that there won't be a resolution within the next month, which is when I need one!
John S., I will give them a call. In the past, they have said that since the county judge has waived his only judicial authority (juvenile and probate), they do not police him. However he does perform marriages, and that might get him back in.
Thanks for your ideas.
Would you call us so we don't have to pay long distance to laugh? Seriously, I think you would be amazed by the number of counties that have problems to the point that yours is not even the worst. In my travels around the state your county has problems but others are striving for the trophy in this regard.
The judge in question made the Houston Chronicle today.
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