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Judge Watch: Tarrant County Judge Tiffany Lewis Pleads Guilty, Goes to Jail

Tiffany Lewis’s life will never be the same now that she’s pled guilty to taking client money — lots of client money — in a probate case … but we’re not too sure how ashamed she is just yet ….

On September 15, 2009, former judge Tiffany Lewis pled guilty just as testimony was about to start.

Must have been dramatic earlier this month, there in the courtroom, with the jury of 12 chosen and empaneled, the pre-trial motions all done and the lawyers having just finished their openings. That’s because just before testimony began, Tiffany Lewis decided to take a plea. 

Tiffany Lewis knows all about courtroom procedure and trial tactics … she was both a Dallas prosecutor and a member of the criminal defense bar before taking the bench as a Tarrant County Municipal Court Judge.  She knew how to pick her moment. 

Former Judge Lewis pled guilty to a felony charge of misapplication of fiduciary funds, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. (She’s alleged to have taken around $70,000).  She was sentenced to 60 days in jail and 10 years probation.  (The State Bar of Texas already ordered her to payback the money that was taken.)

Courtroom Dramatics and Trial Judge’s Warning to Lewis

This was bittersweet for the prosecutors, since they’d spend countless hours tediously going through all the paperwork necessary to prove up a money case like this. Opting for a plea there in the courtroom battlefield isn’t a happy occasion for a criminal defense trial lawyer, either, in most instances (though we’ve got no info on how Lewis’ attorneys felt that day).

The Judge was apparently very displeased with Tiffany Lewis. Visiting judge David Cleveland told his former fellow jurist that she cannot represent herself as an attorney — because since she’s not a lawyer anymore, having been disbarred by the State Bar of Texas back in 2005.  According to those in the courtroom that day, Judge Cleveland also told Lewis that “someone put their trust in you, and you should hang your head in shame.”  Then he sent her off to jail. 

Shame?  Shame Indeed.  Tiffany Lewis has made her mark in Dallas history.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the “Tiffany Lewis Clause.”  This was a change made to the Dallas City Charter all because of Tiffany Lewis.  Seems she refused to resign from her job as a municipal court judge even after she had lost her law license and was no longer legally an attorney.  Not only did the State Bar of Texas disbar Tiffany Lewis, but they ordered her to payback her clients $58,225, plus 5 percent interest accrued since August 2003.  That’s a lot of moola. 

In the face of this public denunciation, Judge Lewis still wouldn’t quit the bench, and there wasn’t anything in the charter to force her to do so.  (Hence the “Tiffany Lewis Clause.”)  Let’s consider the shame quotient here. 

Shame?  Not then.  When she was disbarred and sitting on the bench, Judge Lewis denied that she did anything wrong — someone else “close to her” had stolen the cash.  Her position was the State Bar was being too tough on her, and she sat there on the bench, making legal rulings in the face of the disbarment and not caring about the appearance this gave to the legal profession, the judiciary, or the system of justice as a whole. 

In 60 days, Tiffany Lewis will be out of jail.  She’s probably gonna have a happy Christmas dinner with her family.  You gotta wonder if she’ll get it by then … what all she’s  done wrong here.

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