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JUDGE WATCH: Court of Criminal Appeals Chief Justice Sharon Keller Wants the State to Pay for Her Attorney

First things first: here is the actual response that Chief Justice Sharon Keller has filed in her defense to the trial proceedings before the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct (for details, see earlier post).

Please, take the time to go read that .pdf document. Heck, you might even want to print it. Why?

Justice Keller is asking that the State of Texas pay for her legal fees.

That’s right. It’s public record that the Chief Justice of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is paid an annual salary of $152,500 – which takes her a long, long way from indigent. So, what’s her argument?

And, remember, this is a woman who graduated Rice University with a degree in philosophy, and went on to become the presiding justice of the highest criminal court in the state.

You’d think she’d have a really, really good reason for this. Right?

Here are her arguments.

1. She argues that she is being forced to choose either to “defend herself pro se or risk a financially ruinous legal bill to defend against these charges which are without merit.”

2. She argues that she cannot take up Charlie Babcock of Jackson Walker’s offer of representing her for the fee of one dollar because the ethical rules prohibit this — judges don’t get to take that kind of help from attorneys.

3. She argues that the Commission should pay her attorney’s fees because they’re doing something that’s unconstitutional anyway.

Here are some things she doesn’t point out.

1. She’s been the presiding judge of the highest court for criminal cases in this state since 2002. Before that, she worked in the appellate section of the Dallas prosecutor’s office. If she has to represent herself, well … she’s not exactly inexperienced in the ways of legal representation here.

2. She’s not just getting that nice salary, public records also reveal that (a) she comes from a wealthy Dallas family (ever had a Keller’s Hamburger?) and (b) she owns a lot (a LOT) of income-producing real estate. Would paying Jackson’s full fees really and truly break her? Really?

3. Lots of poor people have to take the attorney they can get, or can afford, and not the attorney that they would like in a Perfect World. There’s no legal right to the attorney of your choice.

4. This isn’t a criminal case, it’s a civil one. There’s no right to counsel in a civil case.

5. If she really and truly wants to take up Charlie Babcock on his offer to work for free, she can. She just has to resign as judge first. Easy.

Sources:

Keller’s Hamburgers
http://kellershamburgers.com/

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
http://www.cca.courts.state.tx.us/court/justice_skeller.asp

Judgepedia
http://judgepedia.org/index.php/Sharon_Keller

New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/08/us/08judge.html?hp

Texas Observer
http://www.dallasobserver.com/1999-11-18/news/judge-shake-it-baby/


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