August 22, 2009
The New York Times as Reprinted in the Dallas Morning News


It will probably be months before a decision is made on whether appellate Judge Sharon Keller should be censured or forced to resign for closing the court clerk’s doors promptly at 5 p.m., when she knew that a death row inmate was about to file an appeal, lawyers involved in the case said.

“There won’t be any decision, I would say, until December,” said Seana Willing, executive director of the Texas Commission on Judicial Misconduct.

The unusual trial of Keller, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, ended Thursday in San Antonio. In testimony, she denied having done anything wrong.

For many opponents of the death penalty, the judicial misconduct proceedings this week have become a referendum on the career of Keller, a conservative Republican and former Dallas County prosecutor who has a reputation for favoring the prosecution in death penalty cases.

But those calling for her ouster will have to wait. The special master overseeing the trial, Judge David Berchelmann Jr., must wade through transcripts of the four days of testimony, accept objections from both sides and then submit “findings of fact” to a 13-member commission.

The panel – made up of six judges, two private lawyers and five state residents appointed by the governor – then will decide whether to censure or remove the judge, a process that has no time limit.

If the judicial misconduct panel should decide to call for Keller’s removal, a seven-member panel of appellate judges, selected at random, must review the decision. The panel’s decision can be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

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