Monday, June 14, 2010

Sharon Keller Compares State Commission on Judicial Conduct to Soviet Bloc Authorities

 "This course of events would not seem out of place in the old Soviet bloc, where show trials were not really trials, but were degredation ceremonies staged to depose officials who deviated from party doctrine," reads Sharon Keller's latest brief. "Things should be different in this country." (Page 16,PDF)

Part one of Keller's latest filing. Part two of Keller's latest filing.

Sharon Keller could be suspended from office if the Travis County Attorney files misdemeanor charges against Keller for her violation of state law in failing to report millions of dollars in property and income to the Texas Ethics Commission, which already assessed her a $100,000 civil fine. 

The TEC found that there is "credible evidence of violations of section 572.023 of the Government Code", so it is appropriate that criminal charges are filed in addition to the civil penalty assessed by the TEC.

The criminal offense for a violation of section 572.023 of the Government Code is a Class B misdemeanor.
Click here to ask the Travis County Attorney to file charges against Keller since the TEC has said that there is credibile evidence that she violated the law.

The Austin Chronicle has more on Sharon Keller's bombastic rants against the State Commission on Judicial Conduct:
But the bombast doesn't stop there – hells no! Keller goes on to charge that the real motivation behind her persecution is a fundamental disagreement that TDS has with Keller's views on the death penalty. The objections of the SCJC's lawyers "amount to nothing more than an attempt to re-write history simply because" the lawyers don't "like 'Judge Keller's attitude'" and disagree with "Judge Keller's 'viewpoint' about the death penalty," Keller's brief reads. "Judge Keller is not – or at least should not be – on trial because of her beliefs, but because the [lawyers] charged her with denying Mr. Richard access to the CCA on the evening of his execution." Indeed, though for many CCA watchers it might be difficult to separate Keller's feelings about the death penalty from the way she presents in court – need we bring up Keller's amazing performance in the Roy Criner case, on stage for all to see in the infamous Frontline interview? And that's just one example. (There are plenty of other examples out there – just a few can be found here.)
Considering that impartial attitude is one of the canons of judicial ethics, it's not surprising that Keller's opinions about capital punishment have made many attorneys scratch their chins in wonder at some of the opinions Keller has expressed over the years, while sitting on the state's highest criminal bench. (Full list of canons is here.)
Regardless, it seems quite unlikely that the SCJC will derail the Keller hearing process that is already in motion. Indeed, Keller is slated to have her day in court before the Commission nextFriday, June 18, beginning at 9a in the John H. Reagan State Office Building.
Texas Lawyer's Mary Alice Robbins reports:
The judicial conduct commission's executive director and examiner, Seana Willing, and the commission's special counsel John J. "Mike" McKetta, a shareholder in Austin's Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody, argue in their objections that Berchelmann's findings are irrelevant and erroneous. They contend that Berchelmann improperly turned the hearing on Keller's conduct into something resembling a tort case or other similar proceeding in which comparative responsibility or fault is an issue.
The judicial conduct commission will consider both sides' objections in In Re Sharon Keller at a June 18 hearing in Austin.
In her response, Keller argues that the special master correctly found that she did not break any rule, law or canon of conduct. Keller also argues that "this proceeding continues to taint her name and drain her resources," despite the fact that the special master found she violated no laws or rules. She urges the commission to adopt the special master's findings of fact.
Keller argues in her response that the commission's examiner "plays fast and loose with the record" by arguing in her objections that one of Keller's duties was the performance of the CCA's mandatory execution-day protocol. On Sept. 25, 2007, the CCA had an "oral tradition" that communications from outside the court on execution days were expected to be directed to the judge assigned to the case, but there were no court rules governing execution procedures, Keller contends in the response. [See Keller's response: Part 1 and Part 2.]
In the examiner's objection, Willing and McKetta argue that Keller knew and had known for years the details of the execution-day procedures.
The state executed Richard on Sept. 25, 2007. Richard died by lethal injection after Texas Defender Service (TDS), which represented Richard, did not file a motion for stay and an application for writ of prohibition on his behalf in the CCA. On the morning of Richard's execution day, the U.S. Supreme Court had agreed to consider whether the combination of chemicals used in lethal injections constitute cruel and unusual punishment — an issue that Richard's attorneys were trying to address. However, Richard's attorneys did not file Richard's pleadings in the CCA prior to 5 p.m.

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