Brown County Judge seeks appeal after rebuke by State Commission on Judicial Conduct

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
State Commission on Judicial Conduct

Brown County Judge Paul Lilly said he is appealing to the Texas Supreme Court a public admonition as well as a private sanction brought against him by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

The topic was one of several Lilly discussed at a press conference Monday. He said the public and private actions by the commission were the results of complaints by Brownwood resident Joe Cooksey. Lilly said the Texas Association of Counties is representing him in his appeal.

The July 14 public admonition — in which Lilly was directed to obtain two hours of instruction with a mentor in addition to his required judicial education for the 2021 fiscal year — was for setting “no bond” on a misdemeanor probation “without addressing the statutory factors for setting bail,” the commission stated on its website.

Lilly also engaged in “impermissible communications with a criminal defendant and others concerning the merits of a pending or impending judicial preceding,” the commission said.

Lilly said he has completed the two hours of additional education.

In the private sanction, Lilly said the commission determined that Lilly cannot serve as a reserve deputy in Hood and San Saba counties while he is county judge.

“The commission implied that I could not be impartial when sitting on the bench and hearing criminal matters because I was an active reserve police office elsewhere,” Lilly said. “That is absolutely absurd.”

Lilly said the commission’s ruling has been “stayed” pending the appeal.

Regarding the “no bail” situation, Lilly said a man who’d been charged in Brown County was jailed in Runnels County with no bond. “He had already been charged in our county as well so I didn’t set bond,” Lilly said. “There was no need. He couldn’t get out. If he was going to be released from Runnels County they were going to call us and ask if we wanted to put a bond on him or come get him.”

Lilly said the defendant wrote him a letter saying he wanted to come to Brown County and plead guilty. “He was his own attorney,” Lilly said. “He was not represented by anyone.

“For two weeks I tried to contact our county attorney’s office, and I know the man’s very busy … at that time he didn’t have an assistant county attorney. I tried to reach him every way I could because it would have been his job to contact that man and ask him if he was sure he wanted to enter this plea.”

Lilly said there was no one else for him to call, so he called the Runnels Count Jail. Lilly said he spoke with the defendant and asked him, “before I ‘bring you back, do you still want to enter this plea of guilty?”

The defendant answered “yes,” Lilly said.

“I sent a deputy to go get him, we brought him back without a glitch, he entered a plea of guilty and got time served for his crime here in Brown County and it was done,” Lilly said.

“I wasn’t going to let that man sit in jail one day longer than he had to.”

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct said in its public admonition: “Judge Lilly ordered ‘no bail’ while the motion to revoke (the defendant’s) misdemeanor probation was pending, without considering any factors other than that Carter was in jail in another county on the new felony charge.

"Judge Lilly’s 'no bail' order resulted in (the defendant’s) confinement in Runnels County Jail for over 120 days without a hearing.”