Sharon Keller: Gone baby gone
Fri February 20, 2009 1:05 am

It is amazing what one editorial in the New York Times can do. The outrage of lawyers across the state and nation couldn't awaken the Commission on Judicial Conduct from its long slumber in the case of Court of Criminal appeals presiding judge Sharon Keller. The protests of Texas media outlets couldn't do it. Lon Burnam's effort to impeach her couldn't do it (although it did spur the Times to action). But the editorial in the Times on Thursday morning--after nearly a year and a half of inaction--produced an instant eight-page accusation against Keller from the Commission, based on her instructions to court personnel not to remain open to accept a likely last-minute appeal from lawyers for a Death Row inmate after the Court's closing hour of 5 p.m. The inmate's execution was carried out later that night.

Here are the charges against Judge Keller. I have removed boilerplate langauge, represented by ellipses:

1. Judge Keller's willful and persistent failure to follow the Court of Criminal Appeals' Execution Day Procedure on September 25, 2007, constitutes willful or persistent conduct that is clearly inconsistent with the proper performance of her duties as presiding judge....

2. Judge Keller's willful and persistent failure to follow the Court of Criminal Appeals' Execution Day Procedure on September 25, 2007, constitutes willful or persistent conduct that casts public discredit on the judiciary or the administration of justice....

3. Judge Keller's conduct on September 25, 2007, did not accord Mr. Richard access to open courts or the right to be heard according to law. Judge Keller's conduct constitutes willful or persistent conduct that is clearly inconsistent with the proper performance of her duties as presiding judge....

4. Judge Keller's conduct on September 25, 2007, did not accord Mr. Richard access to open courts or the right to be heard according to law. Judge Keller's conduct constitutes willful or persistent conduct that casts public discredit on the judiciary or the administration of justice....

5. Judge Keller's willful and persistent failure to follow the Court of Criminal Appeals' Execution Day Procedure on September 25, 2007, constitutes incompetence in the performance of duties of office....

Stick a fork in her: She's done. There is no way Keller can survive this. The statute governing the Commission on Judicial Conduct states:

A voluntary agreement to resign from judicial office in lieu of disciplinary action by the commission shall be public upon the commission's acceptance of the agreement. A judge may ask the Chief Justice of the [Texas] Supreme Court for appointment of a special court of review. (There is no ordinary right of appeal.)

Keller has three choices: resign, be removed by the Commission, or be impeached. The odds against her serving out her term, which expires in 2012, are astronomical. My money is on resignation. The sooner the better.

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