October 17, 2007
"Views divided" (sort of) on Keller

The Chron has a look at some of Sharon Keller's greatest hits.

A fellow judge once accused her of turning the court into a "national laughingstock" after Keller said DNA tests clearing a convicted rapist were not conclusive because the man could have worn a condom.

And now 20 lawyers have filed a grievance against her with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct because on Sept. 25 she ordered the court clerk's office to close promptly at 5 p.m., denying death row inmate Michael Richard an opportunity to get a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court. He was executed a little more than three hours later.

"This isn't a liberal or conservative matter. No matter what your opinion is on the death penalty, you've got to have due process," said Jim Harrington, a civil rights lawyer who filed the complaint on behalf of the other attorneys. "She's out of control. It's frightening to think of the arbitrary power she wields."

But former Presiding Judge Mike McCormick, who led the court in a conservative direction in the 1990s with Keller's help, said Keller has worked hard to preserve the idea that once convicted, the burden is on the defendant to prove they got a bad trial or that they are innocent.

"Sharon Keller is one of the brightest individuals I have ever known," McCormick said.

You'd think in an article with a headline about how "views differ" on someone, they'd find more than one person to say something nice about her. (Assuming more than one such person exists and is willing to go on the record, of course.) Note also that this one person did not directly address the question at hand, or offer a defense of Keller's 9-to-5 idea of justice. Perhaps, of course, the Chron is just out to get her. And perhaps this is telling us even more about her.

Fellow appeals court Judge Tom Price told Texas Lawyer that Keller had turned the court into a "national laughingstock." Price ran against Keller in 2000 and 2006, losing both times. He did not respond to a request for an interview.

Price ran against her in GOP primaries both times. He led a four-way field with 38% of the vote in 2000 (Keller had 33%), then lost in a runoff. He had a two-way matchup in 2006 and got 47% of the vote.

State Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, this week filed the latest complaint against Keller with the judicial review commission. He said her actions in the Richard case cast doubts on the impartiality of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

"I urge you to take prompt and appropriate disciplinary action against Judge Keller, which should include serious consideration of removal from office," Burnam wrote.

BOR has more on Burnam's complaint, which you can read here (PDF). You can also sign on to another complaint against Keller. Anybody know how long it takes the commission to act on matters like this?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 17, 2007 to Crime and Punishment