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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Judge's omission may cost her a fortune


The Dallas Morning News analyzed public records and discovered that Sharon Keller, the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, failed to disclose "all beneficial interests in real property" to the Texas Ethics Commission. The commission is investigating her for allegedly refusing to allow a prison row inmate's lawyers to file a plea pass 5 p.m. closing time in order to stop the execution, which occurred within hours. Apparently, the ethics commission doesn't routinely check the completeness of these financial disclosure reports, but The Dallas Morning News did.

The presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, while seeking state aid to defend herself against ethics charges, failed to abide by legal requirements that she disclose nearly $2 million in real estate holdings, according to an analysis of public records by The Dallas Morning News.

Sharon Keller has sought dismissal of the charges on grounds that it would be "financially ruinous" for her to pay private counsel to fight allegations brought by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct that she violated her duties in a death penalty appeal.

Keller, the state's highest criminal court judge, faces possible removal from office if a special master agrees that she blocked a condemned inmate's last-minute effort to stop his execution in 2007 by refusing to extend the court's 5 p.m. closing time to allow his lawyers to file their plea. The inmate, Michael Richard, was executed within hours.

More here.

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