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DA Watch: Dallas DA Watkins’ Wife Works for 7 Judges Watkins Goes Before in Criminal Cases and DMN Is Crying Foul

Different parts of the state do things differently, and here in Dallas the way that criminal case workloads are distributed among the courts is through assigning certain judges to hear criminal cases specifically.  Other judges in other parts of Texas might have a smorgasbord of matters — civil and criminal, probate and family along with felony or misdemeanor.  Not here.  And many say that our Dallas system works just fine. 

The DA’s wife is a paid political consultant for 7 criminal court judges and the media is asking questions

However, the Dallas Morning News is disturbed because the wife of our current District Attorney is acting as a paid political consultant – i.e., working on the election campaigns – for seven judges who hear criminal cases in Dallas County.  Since Craig Watkins is the head prosecutor in Dallas, even if he isn’t personally in a courtroom on a particular day in front of one of these judges, one of his underlings is. 

And the media is suspicious about Tanya Watkins being involved in campaigning for folk who rule on cases her husband is prosecuting.  They’re wondering about it… as are others

Picture it. 

There’s the judge.  He’s paying a nice chunk of change to the wife of the attorney setting in front of him, arguing for a conviction on behalf of the state, so that the wife can get him re-elected.  Does that judge hypothetically have a reason to favor the prosecution? 

Now, Tanya’s campaign work for these judges has been okayed by the Texas Commission for Judicial Conduct. 

In an email that DA Watkins sent to his Republican opponent –not Gromer Jeffers and Jennifer Emily of the Dallas Morning News who are covering this story and bringing it to the public’s attention — Watkins points out that his wife has the okey-dokey of the TCJC.  Nuff said, right?

Well, maybe not.  Long ago in this state we had something we took seriously:  the idea that lawyers and judges both should avoid even the appearance of impropriety in order to keep up public respect and confidence in our efforts. 

Does the above scenario comport with avoiding the appearance of impropriety?  Many are arguing it does not. 

Perhaps Mrs. Watkins would have been wise to take her honed campaigning skills – learned from her husband’s own winning political runs – and used them in legislative and executive races.  Anything but the judiciary that has direct contact with her husband.  

Because by not doing so, this may well become a true Pandora’s box ….

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