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JUDGE WATCH: Legal Hotshots From Across the Country Want Keller Removed and Her Attorney’s Response Is Weak

Yesterday, Chip Babcock officially responded to the 24 legal ethicists from across the country — who got together earlier this month and sent their written “declaration” to the Texas Commission of Judicial Conduct, declaring that in their august opinion, Chief Justice Sharon Keller should be removed from her position on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

What did Chip Babcock say?

He was surprised. He thought they would have looked at both sides of the story, but he thinks they’ve only looked at the allegations and the media reports on Justice Keller. He thinks they didn’t look at Justice Keller’s response. And, finally, he thinks they’re doing it for the publicity.

Right. Mike Tigar and Company are such media hounds.

First, here’s what the Declaration says.

1. They aren’t finders of fact, but they believe that her omissions from full financial disclosure are one basis for her removal.

These omissions aren’t a contested issue here. Keller’s attorney, Ed Shack, isn’t denying they exist. Instead, Shack has come forward to argue that Justice Keller didn’t know her father had placed real estate holdings in her name and the omissions are really just a “clerical error.”

2. They aren’t finders of fact, but they beleive that Justice Keller’s ‘lack of impartiality and failure to recuse herself” in the Michael Richard case is another basis for her removal. (Read about the Richard case in our earlier post.)

Who are these legal ethicists?

They are 24 legal scholars from across the country, well-respected among the legal community. Many are law professors. They include Mike Tigar from Duke University (Tigar used to be at UT-Law) and Lawrence Fox, Harvard Law School Lecturer and Former Chair of the ABA Committee of Ethics and Professional Responsibility. (For the full listing of signatories with their credentials, check out the pdf of the Declaration, shown below.)

What are the real estate holdings that were omitted?

According to the Dallas Morning News (link shown below), they included the following holdings:

1. Seven (7) residential and commercial properties totalling in value (according to the county appraisal district records) at approximately $1.9 million. They include 2 houses that together add up to over $1,000,000 in the Keller Family Compound located across from the Dallas Arboretum. Justice Keller is listed as sole owner of these two homes under the name of “Sharon Batjer,” her married name (she divorced Batjer over twenty years ago, in 1982).

2. Two (2) holding that total in value to approximately $823,000. One is a vacant commercial lot in Euless. The other is a commercial property that adjoins Keller’s Drive-In on East Northwest Highway, a landmark in the hamburger restaurant chain which has been operated since 1965 by the judge’s father, Jack Keller.

3. Three (3) pieces of real estate with a total value estimated at $114,000, which are held in the name of Justice Keller’s 27-year-old son, that’s right — 27 — who is going to law school right now. Justice Keller is claiming this adult son as her dependent.

That’s some clerical error.


The Declaration

Dallas Morning News

Dallas Morning News

Austin American Statesman

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