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Friday, April 30, 2010

Text of Order from Ethics Commission Fining Sharon Keller $100,000

Here is the text of the order from the Texas Ethics Commission in the matter of Judge Sharon Keller. She was ordered to pay a fine of $100,000 for failing to disclose at least $3.8 million in income and property on two annual financial statements.

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Texas Ethics Commission Order Fining Judge Sharon Keller $100,000

More from the Austin-American Statesman:
According to the ethics commission ruling, Keller failed to list eight Dallas-area properties on financial disclosure statements required of all elected state officials in 2006 and 2007. Appraisal districts valued six of those properties at almost $2.9 million combined in 2007. One property was valued at $750,000 in 2008, and the other property wasn't appraised, the commission said.

Keller's statements also omitted at least $183,000 in outside income, her ownership interest in a Dallas business, 20 certificates of deposit, one money market fund and her participation on five corporate boards and leadership positions, the commission said in an order signed Wednesday but made public Friday.

Keller had revised both reports last year to include the omissions.

The commission gave Keller until Aug. 10 to pay the fine, imposed for violating six sections of the Texas Government Code that regulate what information officeholders must disclose to the public.

Keller, however, will challenge the ruling and the fine, which her lawyer termed "excessive," by filing a lawsuit in Travis County District Court within the next 30 business days — the established method of appealing ethics commission decisions.

"Judge Keller voluntarily amended her financial disclosures shortly after she was made aware of the matter, and her conduct was not intentional but rather the product of her father's acquisition and management of properties without any input from the judge," lawyer Ed Shack said Friday.

Keller's father is Jack Keller, a Dallas entrepreneur and property owner famous for the Keller's Drive-in burger joints in Dallas.

News of Keller's financial form omissions, revealed in March 2009 by The Dallas Morning News, came at a sensitive time for Keller.

A month earlier, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct charged Keller with violating her duty as a judge by refusing to allow an after-hours appeal for death row inmate Michael Richard on Sept. 25, 2007. Richard was executed later that night.

In addition to denying that her actions closed the court to Richard's legal team, Keller asked the judicial conduct commission to pay for her defense lawyers, arguing that she risked a "financially ruinous legal bill."

The commission, a 13-member agency that investigates allegations of wrongdoing against all Texas judges, refused.

A month after making the request, Keller amended her disclosure forms to add several million dollars in assets, providing ammunition for her critics, including Texans for Public Justice, a left-of-center watchdog group that filed the ethics commission complaint against the judge.

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm against the death penalty, categorically. I've tried death penalty cases as a public defender and know how the deck is stacked and how the politics of the judges tilt the playing field. I support all those calling for moritoriums or abolition, and despise what I think Sharon Keller did in the Richard case, even if the ethics findings made thus far withstand appeal and clear her.
However, your website today does a disservice when it posts a photo of a protest obviously about Keller's "Richard" problem next to a headline about her fine for violating disclosure rules, based on an ethical complaint having nothing to do with the Richard case. The use of this photo in juxtaposition to this story misleads people into thinking progress has been made where it hasn't yet.

Anonymous said...

Actually, it's possible that progress has been made, if the SCJC believes that Keller has a pattern of bringing discredit on the Texas judiciary or has violated the law, both of which are violations of the code of judicial conduct. It is likely that the $100,000 fine will be mentioned during the upcoming hearing on June 18 and a criminal complaint has been filed with the Travis County DA, so Keller could be facing criminal charges. At any rate, it looks like progress has been made towards getting Keller removed from the bench.

The code of judicial conduct says:

Canon 1: Upholding the integrity and Independence of the Judiciary

An independent and honorable judiciary is indispensable to justice in our society. A judge should participate in establishing, maintaining and enforcing high standards of conduct, and should personally observe those standards so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary is preserved. The provisions
of this Code are to be construed and applied to further that objective.

Canon 2: Avoiding Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All of the Judge’s Activities

A judge shall comply with the law and should act at all times in
manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.