The State Commission on Judicial Conduct has officially found that Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller has cast “public discredit on the judiciary or the administration of justice” and “did not accord Richard with access to open courts or the right to be heard according to law”. They also found that Keller’s conduct constitutes “willful or persistent conduct inconsistent with the proper performance of her duties as a judge”.
In 2007, Texas Moratorium Network filed a judicial complaint against Keller after she said “we close at 5” on the day of the scheduled execution of Michael Richard. Today the State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued its decision and reprimanded Sharon Keller with a “Public Warning”.
The people of Texas have been publically warned today that we have an ethically compromised judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals who did not accord a person about to be executed with access to open courts or the right to be heard according to law, yet she has been allowed to keep her job. Sharon Keller’s actions were not in accordance with the accepted principles of right and wrong that govern the conduct of her profession as a judge. This is the worst case scenario for Texas, because now we know that the problems in the Texas death penalty system reach to Texas’ highest ranking criminal appeals court, and yet the judge who closed the doors to justice remains on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
A public warning is useful, but it is not enough. Sharon Keller should be removed from office. The public warning tells us that if you seek justice in Texas, proceed with caution because Sharon Keller is the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
The Texas Legislature can help restore integrity to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals by impeaching and removing Keller from office. We now have the findings of fact from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, so it is confirmed that Keller has brought discredit to the Texas judiciary by her misconduct hendering access to justice. It is up to the people of Texas now to take the findings of fact and act on them by seeking to remove Keller from office through their elected representatives using the impeachment process or at the ballot box in 2012 when she is up for re-election. Since Keller is not up for re-election for another two years, it is in the best interest of justice that the Legislature removes her from office.
In a post on the Texas Moratorium Network blog on October 3, 2007, we said “Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller should resign or be impeached and removed from office for her conduct regarding the execution of Michael Richard. As long as Keller is in office, the people of Texas can not be sure that justice is being done with integrity”.