The State Commission on Judicial Conduct has issued a public admonition of Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Bob Wall in connection with allegations from a court case in 2004 and from two cases in 2005.
The commission concluded a review of allegations against Wall during its meeting of June 13-15, 2007, and issued the public admonition on July 13, according to the commission’s Web site.
The commission is an independent state agency created by an amendment to the Texas Constitution in 1965 for the investigation of allegations of judicial misconduct and for disciplining judges.
Disciplinary action includes orders for additional education, private and public sanctions and suspensions. Sanctions are issued “when sufficient evidence supports a finding of judicial misconduct,” the commission’s Web site states.
“As it deems appropriate, the commission uses, by order of severity, admonitions, warnings and reprimands to publicly sanction judges. If the commission votes to issue a public sanction, the appropriate order is prepared, the offending judge and the complainant are provided a copy of the order, and the order is publicly disseminated to ensure public awareness.”
“I think if you read the allegations, any reasonable person could probably discern it’s pretty ridiculous,” Wall said. “If those particular circumstances presented themselves again, I’d make the same decision.”
The commission concluded that Wall “failed to comply with the law and demonstrated a lack of professional competence in the law” by:
Finding a defendant guilty in absentia.
Wall was scheduled to conduct a bench trial on Jan. 4, 2005, but the defendant’s attorney and County Attorney Shane Britton, the prosecutor in the the bench trial, were tied up in another courtroom, the commission reported.
Steps were taken to notify Wall of the conflict and a request was made to reset the case, the commission reported. Wall appointed a special prosecutor and convicted the defendant, who was not present.
Wall’s decision to go forward with the trial was “a manifestation of the judge’s bias or prejudice against (the defendant’s attorney), who he felt had routinely treated him without proper respect.”
Wall said he was not notified that the defendant’s attorney was tied up in another court. He said the attorney had “a pattern of no-shows” and he took the Jan. 4 no-show as “an insult to the system.” Wall said the attorney was already angry with him because Wall nearly held him in contempt of court in an earlier case and the attorney had to apologize to him in open court.
Failing to provide adequate notice for the show cause hearing in a contempt case against a defendant in a June 22, 2005, hearing or allowing the defendant the chance to find a lawyer to represent him on such short notice. Issuing orders and fines that Wall had no authority to enforce against the defendant.
On May 26, Wall convicted the defendant after he was cited for violating the Texas Health and Safety Code by discharging waste water onto the ground under a mobile home. Wall did not assess a fine and gave the defendant additional time to comply with the law, the commission reported.
On June 22, Wall learned the defendant was still violating the law. Wall ordered the defendant to appear in court the next day on a contempt of court summons. The defendant’s lawyer was unable to make it to court on time or convince the court to reset the hearing, the commission reported.
Wall found the defendant in contempt and assessed sanctions including a $500 fine.
Wall said “nobody showed” for the contempt hearing and he assessed the fine.
Issuing a subpoena to compel County Judge Ray West to appear before Wall when no case or proceeding was pending.
On Dec. 9, 2004, West heard an appeal from Wall’s decision to suspend a defendant’s driver’s license for 180 days following an administrative hearing, the commission reported.
Following a hearing, West probated the suspension for 180 days. Several months later, Wall learned that West had probated Wall’s sentence. Wall wrote a letter to West requesting a meeting to discuss Wall’s concerns in the handling of the appeal.
After West declined to meet with him, Wall issued a subpoena ordering West to appear in his court. After a meeting with the county attorney, Wall withdrew the subpoena, the commission reported.
Wall said he believed the defendant was “a hazard to human life. I just assumed he’d had his license suspended.”
Wall said he learned West had probated the suspension. He said according to state law, an administrative hearing must be appealed to the county court-at-law, not to the county judge. He said he issued West a subpoena after believing that West was avoiding him.
West declined to comment. “It’s unethical for me to comment,” he said. “I believe the code of ethics of the Texas Commission on Judicial Ethics prohibits me from making a comment.”
The commission concluded that “Judge Wall’s actions in all of these matters constituted willful or persistent violations of Canons … of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct.”