Judge Behaving Badly

From In re Honorable [sic] Elizabeth E. Coker, a Voluntary Agreement to Resign from Judicial Office in Lieu of Disciplinary Action:

WHEREAS in late December 2012 and early January 2013, complaints and media stories were brought to the Commission’s attention alleging that Judge Coker had engaged in improper ex parte text communications with Polk County Assistant District Attorney Kaycee Jones while Judge Coker presided over the criminal jury trial of State v. David M. Reeves in August 2012; and

WHEREAS based on the above-referenced complaints, the Commission commenced an investigation into allegations that Judge Coker used Assistant District Attorney Jones to privately communicate information about the Reeves case to the assistant district attorney prosecuting the case; to suggest questions for the prosecutor to ask during the trial; to ensure that a witness was able to refresh his memory and rehabilitate his testimony by reviewing his videotaped interview with law enforcement before he took the stand for the second time the following day; and to discuss legal issues pertinent to the case. in an unsuccessful effort to assist the State obtain a guilty verdict in the case;

WHEREAS in addition to the allegations arising out of the Reeves trial, the Commission investigated claims that Judge Coker allegedly engaged in other improper ex parte communications and meetings with Jones, other members of the Polk County District Attorney’s Office, the San Jacinto County District Attorney, and certain defense attorneys regarding various cases pending in her court; Judge Coker allegedly exhibited a bias in favor or certain attorneys and a prejudice against others in both her judicial rulings
and her court appointments; and Judge Coker allegedly met with jurors in an inappropriate manner, outside the presence of counsel, while the jurors were deliberating in one or more criminal trials;

WHEREAS the Commission also expressed concerns that Judge Coker discussed the Commission’s investigation and Judge Coker’s written responses to the investigation with a material witness prior to that witness’ testimony before the Commission in an apparent attempt to influence that witness, and that the judge may not have been candid and truthful in her testimony before the Commission when questioned about her contact with the witness; and

WHEREAS no Findings of Fact or Conclusions of Law have been made by the Commission in connection with the above-referenced matters; and

WHEREAS the parties agree that the allegations of judicial misconduct, if found to be true, could result in disciplinary action against Judge Coker; and

WHEREAS the parties to this Agreement wish to resolve this matter without the time and expense of further disciplinary proceedings.

IT IS THEREFORE AGREED that Judge Coker, upon the signing of this Agreement, agrees that she will officially and formally resign her judicial office ….

Yow. I would hope that the State Bar of Texas is considering disciplinary action against Ms. Coker as well; I also hope that the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct or the State Bar is also investigating proper sanctions against Assistant DA Kaycee Jones, mentioned in the Agreement, who recently became a judge. Jones has admitted wrongdoing in the incident.

Thanks to Bryan Willman for the pointer.

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