Texas Judge Kicked Lawyer Off 14 Cases. Now Judge Is in the Hot Seat
The judge sua sponte appointed a different attorney for the defendant, but never entered a written order removing the original attorney, or allowing the lawyer to withdraw as defense counsel.
A Texas judge is in the ethics hot seat after he removed a court-appointed defense attorney from several cases.
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct Monday issued a public warning against Judge Navarro Campbell Cox II, of the 145th Judicial District Court in Nacogdoches County.
The discipline stemmed from the judge’s removal of attorney Clay Thomas, whom Cox had appointed as counsel for defendant John Paul Jones in September 2016.
It appears the case against Cox stemmed from a discussion between the attorney and judge before the first pretrial setting. At that time, the attorney said he’d already dedicated 10 hours to the case, and requested a psychiatric evaluation for the defendant.
But the judge was unconvinced.
“In his responses to the commission’s inquiry, Judge Cox explained that he was concerned with the substance of Thomas’s motion for psychiatric examination, and his perception of a ‘nonchalant’ reaction from Thomas regarding his concerns,” the public warning states. “Judge Cox acknowledged that when Thomas told him how much time he had spent on the Jones case, he told Thomas that in 30 years of practicing law, he had never had an attorney ‘[s]pend 10 hours on a case prior to the first setting.’ Judge Cox also stated that he told Thomas at that time that he was ‘off the case.’”
The judge then sua sponte appointed a different attorney for the defendant, but never entered a written order removing Thomas, or allowing the lawyer to withdraw as defense counsel.
But Cox didn’t stop there. He then removed Thomas from 13 cases before another jurist, Judge Edwin Klein.
“In each of the above-referenced cases, Judge Cox removed Thomas as defense counsel sua sponte, and Thomas was notified of such removal either verbally or through e-mail, by Judge Cox or his staff,” the public warning states.
But the commission that disciplines judges found Cox crossed the line. It found the judge violated Canons 2A, 2B, 3B(2), 3B(4), 3B(5), 3B(8) and 3C(4) of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct, as well as the Texas Constitution, when he instructed one of the defendants to “shop around” for another attorney to replace Thomas.
Thomas did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
RELEVANT STANDARDS AND AUTHORITIES
I . Canon 2A of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct provides in relevant part that a judge shall comply with the law.
- Canon 2B of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct provides in relevant part: ” A judge shall not allow any relationship to influence judicial conduct or judgment. A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others.”
- Canon 3 B(2) of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct states in relevant part: ” A judge should be faithful to the law and shall maintain professional competence in it.”
- Canon 38( 4) of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct states in relevant part: “A judge shall be patient, dignified and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity… “
- Canon 38(5) of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct provides that a judge shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice.
- . Canon 38(8) of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct states in relevant part: ”A judge shall accord to every person who has a legal interest in a proceeding, or that person’s lawyer, the right to be heard according to law.”
- Canon 3C(4) of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct states in relevant part: “A judge shall exercise the power of appointment impartially and on the basis of merit.”
- Article V, l -a(6 )(A) of the Texas Constitution provides in relevant part that a judge shall not engage in willful violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct or willful or persistent conduct that is clearly inconsistent with the proper performance of his duties or casts public discredit upon the judiciary or administration of justice.
- Texas Code of Criminal Procedure A 1. 05 I ( k) states: ·’A court or the courts’ designee may with out unnecessary delay appoint new counsel to represent an indigent defendant for whom counsel is appointed under Subsection (c), (c-1), or (i) if: (l) the defendant is subsequently charged in the case with an offense different from the offense with which the defendant was initially charged; and, (2) good cause to appoint new counsel is stated on the record as required by Article 26.040 )(2).”
- Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 040)(2) states in relevant part: ” An attorney appointed under this article shall ; … (2) represent the defendant until charges are dismissed, the defendant is acquitted, appeals are exhausted, or the attorney is permitted or ordered by the court to withdraw as counsel for the defendant after a finding of good cause is entered on the record.”
- Texas Code of Criminal Procedure A 26.04( m) states in relevant part: ‘·In determining whether a defendant is indigent. .. The court or the courts’ designee may not consider whether the defendant has posted or is capable of post in g bail, except to the extent that it reflects the defendant’s financial circumstances as measured by the considerations listed in this subsection: Moreover, while there are no exact standards for determining in digency, ” [t] he court is to consider only the appellant’s personal financial condition, not that of his parents, other relatives, friends or employers·.’ Rosales v. Sta te, 748 S.W.2d 451, 455 (Tex . Crim. App. 1987) ; Ex parte King. 550 S. W.2d 691, 694 (Tex. Crim. App. 1 977).
- Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 26.04(p) states in relevant part: ” A defendant who is determined by the court to be indigent is presumed to remain indigent for the remainder of the proceedings in the case unless a material change in the defendant ‘ s financial circumstances occurs.”