‘My Wife Is Dying’: Lawyer’s Complaint Claims Judge Demanded Court Appearance
“It almost brought tears to my eyes that anybody, any elected official, much less a judicial officer, would behave in such a manner,” said Waco solo practitioner Doug Froneberger, who filed a judicial complaint against Bell County Justice of the Peace Pct. 4, Place 1 Judge Daryl Peters.
Texas attorney Doug Froneberger has filed a judicial misconduct complaint against a judge who allegedly demanded him to appear in court as his wife was hospitalized with terminal cancer.
“It is a shame that you do not understand family who are fighting for their lives,” Froneberger wrote in an email to Bell County Justice of the Peace Pct. 4, Place 1 Judge Daryl Peters.
Froneberger’s complaint alleged that Peters violated judicial ethics rules that require judges to be professional and courteous.
“Right now my wife is in the hospital dying,” Froneberger wrote to Peters’ clerk.
Peters didn’t respond to a call or email seeking comment before deadline. The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct is reviewing and investigating the allegations.
Froneberger, a Waco solo practitioner, said this case was his first experience in Peters’ court. Yet he said he has a reputation for going after misbehaving jurists. For example, out of law school, he sought mandamus relief from an appellate court, claiming a justice of the peace had falsified a court document. He’s challenged another judge’s actions in a landlord-tenant case where the judge evicted the tenant even though he was in bankruptcy, he said.
“I’ve got the nickname ‘judicial hammer’ up in East Texas,” Froneberger said. “I’m very much against JPs who are not lawyers.”
As Froneberger’s wife lay in the hospital last month, he said nothing could take him away from her bedside. Just 52, his wife went to the emergency room on July 10, unable to breathe because cancerous fluid was filling her lungs, he said in a message to the judge. The terminal disease was also in her stomach, liver and bones, Froneberger said.
“I’m caretaker to her,” he wrote in an email to the judge, noting that doctors had said his wife had two to five years left to live. “We’re all going through counseling right now.”
Froneberger represented the debtor in a creditor-debtor case pending in Peters’ court. The case was set for a July 15 trial, but he and opposing counsel had filed a joint motion for a 90-day continuance due to Froneberger’s family emergency.
On July 11, Froneberger received a call from a clerk in Peters’ office who said the judge was requesting both lawyers’ appearance at a hearing on the motion to continue. Froneberger explained that he needed to stay with his wife, but the judge still demanded his appearance. He asked if Peters would hold a telephone hearing instead, but the employee said that he needed to file a motion for a telephone hearing, and would still have to appear in court on that motion, Froneberger said.
“It almost brought tears to my eyes that anybody, any elected official, much less a judicial officer, would behave in such a manner,” Froneberger said.
Enraged, Froneberger wrote an email to the judge, saying he felt violated and harassed by what he saw as Peters’ inconsiderate refusal to accommodate his situation.
“You truly should be ashamed of yourself as a person, but especially a judge. Your actions shame the office,” he wrote.
Froneberger copied the judicial conduct commission on the email, and the commission on July 12 responded that it had received the complaint against Peters and planned to review and investigate the allegations.
Also on July 12, Froneberger filed a motion in Peters’ court, asking the judge to recuse himself from the case because of the complaint. But that same day, opposing counsel nonsuited the case, and the court dismissed it.
That lawyer, Peter Newman, an attorney at Midland Credit Management Inc. in Houston, didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.
Bell County Commissioners have appointed Daryl Keith Peters to replace Claudia Brown as Justice of the Peace for Precinct 4, Place 1.
Peters tells FOX44 he was in the Army for 32 years. He is 56 years old and is ready to get started in the new position.
Below is the original text from this story:
The Justice of the Peace Precinct 4, Place 1 is expected to officially be filled Tuesday night after being vacant for nearly five weeks.
Tuesday morning, Bell County Commissioners conducted interviews and the decision is expected to be announced during a special meeting at 4pm.
“We had a good morning and we appreciate all the time and effort that the candidates have put in to preparing for the interviews, and the interview process went well,” said David Blackburn, Bell County Judge.
The Bell County Democratic Party submitted the names of four candidates interviewed on Tuesday: Ernest Lee Wilkerson, Louie Minor, Nicola James and Daryl Keith Peters.
“The Justice of the Peace position is a, it’s an extremely important position for the county, it’s also a very difficult one. Requires long hours, dealing with lots of different circumstances and so it really is a position that requires a well rounded individual, character, integrity were important factors. All of the things that you would normally associate with a judge’s position go into that mix,” said Judge Blackburn.
This, after a jury removed Claudia Brown from the bench on February 13, after finding her incompetent for setting a $4 billion bond on a Killeen murder suspect.
The new Justice of the Peace will take over Brown’s responsibilities like presiding over cases, marrying couples and declaring time of deaths.
“My hope for the new Justice of the Peace is success, my hope is that they are provided the resources that they need to do the job, the training, the education that they need to do the job and that the court and I think they’ll find the county is here to support them in any way that we can,” said Judge Blackburn.
Once appointed, the commissioners expect the new Justice of the Peace to jump right into the position and begin work immediately.