Monday, 29 October 2007

Attorneys' Organization Files Judicial Conduct Complaint Against Texas Appeals Judge

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) has filed a judicial complaint against the Presiding Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Sharon Keller (pictured), the first time the group says it has ever filed a complaint against a judge.

NACDL has asked the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct to review Judge Keller's decision to turn away the last appeal of a death row inmate because the rushed filing was submitted past the court's 5 p.m. closing time.

Attorneys for Michael Richard, who was executed on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would review the constitutionality of lethal injection practices, said they were experiencing computer problems as they prepared their client's lethal injection-based appeal just hours before Richard's execution. The appeal was being filed right after attorneys had learend that the Supreme Court would take up the issue.

They asked Judge Keller for 20 more minutes to deliver their appeal to Austin because the court does not accept computer filings. They were told, "We close at 5." Without a ruling from the state court, the lawyers could not properly appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to block the execution. At least 150 attorneys have filed similar complaints against Judge Keller with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which can impose sanctions ranging from additional education to suspension or a trial.

More than 300 lawyers - including two former Texas Supreme Court justices and other former judges, the head of the Texas Commission for Lawyer Discipline and partners of leading Texas law firms - have signed a petition calling for the court to accept electronic filings in the future. Two days after Richard's execution, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked another lethal injection in Texas after attorneys had filed, and lost, an appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

The following execution date in Texas was stayed by the state court. There have been no executions in the country since Michael Richard was executed in Texas. (New York Times, October 25, 2007).

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