A Dallas judge has been sanctioned for her behavior toward a woman who supported the jurist’s political opponent.
The jurist called out the woman, identifying her as a domestic violence victim whose boyfriend was jailed for assaulting her.
Judge Jeanine L. Howard of Dallas County’s Criminal District Court No. 6 received a public reprimand that said she violated a provision in the Texas Constitution by showing “willful or persistent conduct that cast public discredit upon the judiciary and the administration of justice.”
The public reprimand was issued Aug. 12, but the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct announced the discipline Friday. The commission also announced discipline against a municipal court judge, two justices of the peace and a county court-at-law judge from San Antonio.
Howard didn’t respond to a call or email seeking comment before deadline.
The reprimand said that Howard was at a candidate forum and that she faced an opponent, Alison Grinter, while running for reelection to her bench.
There was a woman in the audience who was a domestic violence victim. Howard had presided over her boyfriend’s family violence cases between 2011 and 2014. This woman was clapping for Grinter, and during Howard’s closing statement, Howard called the woman’s name.
The woman said, “Judge Howard went on to humiliate her by disclosing that she was a domestic abuse victim in a room of at least 200 people when she stated, ‘Her boyfriend went to prison for assaulting her several times,’” said the reprimand.
Howard’s statements were videotaped and the local media ran stories about them.
When Howard responded to the judicial conduct commission grievance, she admitted she made the statements. But she said she didn’t intend to humiliate the woman. The judge said that this woman had become upset in a September 2014 hearing when Howard revoked the boyfriend’s probation and sentenced him to five years in prison.
When Grinter filed to run against Howard, the judge told the commission that the woman “joined forces with her opponent, ‘in an ugly campaign—in general and on social media,” said the reprimand. The woman “posted ‘negative and untrue’ information about her to the point Judge Howard considered this ‘just another form of harassment,’” said the reprimand.
In her response, Howard defended her conduct. She said her statement about the woman was based on public record, and she said it “because she felt ‘attacked and embarrassed’ that night” and afraid of what the woman would do.
But the commission determined that Howard should be sanctioned for speaking about the domestic violence victim during a political forum. The conduct was willful or persistent, and it cast public discredit on the judiciary, said the reprimand.
PUBLIC ADMONITION AND ORDER OF ADDITIONAL EDUCATION
HONORABLE PAUL FOLEY
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE, PCT. 1, PL. 1
EMORY, RAINS COUNTY, TEXAS
During its regularly scheduled meeting on February 5-7, 2020, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct concluded a review of the allegations against the Honorable Paul Foley, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1, Pl. 1, Emory, Rains County, Texas. Judge Foley was advised by letter of the Commission’s concerns and provided a written response. After considering the evidence before it, the Commission enters the following findings and conclusions:
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. At all relevant times, the Honorable Paul Foley was Justice of the Peace for Precinct 1, Place 1 in Emory, Rains County, Texas.
2. On May 3, 2019, Judge Foley contacted Amanda White (“White”), a middle school teacher, at her place of employment – Commerce Middle School.
3. Judge Foley identified himself as a judge and insisted on talking to White concerning the whereabouts of a horse allegedly bequeathed to her aunt, Jana Titsworth, in the Estate of Ricky Lovvern, Deceased.
4. During the call, Judge Foley insisted that White tell him where the horse was being kept.
5. When White advised that she was in the middle of class and could not talk, Judge Foley responded, “I know where you are!,” in a rude and hateful tone.
6. After White refused to discuss the matter, Judge Foley advised her that he would find the horse and let Titsworth go pick it up.
7. On November 5, 2019, Titsworth filed a small claims suit against White in Judge Foley’s court to recover possession of the horse.
8. In his written responses to the Commission, Judge Foley explained that the purpose of his call to White was to determine where jurisdiction of an enforcement action would be.
9. Judge Foley admitted he raised his voice to White “to emphasize the importance of the call” and because she was abrupt and unwilling to discuss the matter with him.
10. In light of the Commission’s investigation, Judge Foley voluntarily recused from the case arranged for another judge to preside over the matter.
1. Canon 2B of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct provides, in pertinent part, that a judge “shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others … ”
2. Canon 3B( 4) provides, in part, that a judge shall be patient, dignified and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity … “
Based upon the record before it and the factual findings recited above, the Texas Commission has determined that the Honorable Paul Foley should be publicly admonished and ordered to obtain additional education for lending the prestige of his judicial office to advance the private interests of another, conveying the impression that another was in a position to influence his conduct and failing to be patient, dignified and courteous when he made a phone call on behalf of another in order to secure the whereabouts of a horse, when no case was pending in his court, and exhibited poor demeanor during the call, in violation of Canons 2B and 3B(4) of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct.
Pursuant to this Order, Judge Foley must obtain two hours of education, in addition to his required judicial education for Fiscal Year 2020. In particular, the Commission desires that Judge Foley receive this additional education concerning judicial ethics and the use of judicial influence. Judge Foley shall complete the additional two hours of instruction recited within sixty days from the date of the Commission’s final order. It is Judge Foley’s responsibility to schedule the additional education.
The Commission has taken this action pursuant to the authority contained in Article V, § 1-a of the Texas Constitution in a continuing effort to protect the public and promote confidence in the judicial system.
Only in Texas… this Judge thinks he’s a Horse Rustler. Now he’s rustlin’ some educational papers of his own…educator Ms. White must be havin’ a wry smile at that thought.