The Houston Chronicle is reporting that “the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said Tuesday it will accept emergency e-mail filings in death penalty cases in an effort to avoid a repeat of the nationally controversial execution of Michael Richard.”
This is a good development and will probably prevent a rogue judge like Sharon Keller from unethically and unilaterally refusing to accept an appeal on the day of an execution in the future without consulting the duty judge.
The new rules say that the decision to accept will be made by the “duty judge”, who will “decide whether to accept delivery of the pleading on an emergency basis pursuant to TEX. R. APP. P. 9.2(a)(2).”
The duty judge for the Michael Richard execution was not consulted on the day of his execution. The decision to close the court at 5 and refuse to accept his appeal was made unilaterally by Sharon Keller, which is why she should be removed from office. She should have applied a basic set of ethical standards as is required in the Code of Judicial Conduct. By acting alone, and by not cooperating with the other judges on the court, she denied Richard his constitutional rights.
There will be a protest at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday, November 14, starting at 4:45 pm to call for the resignation of Sharon Keller. Her resignation or removal from office is the only way to restore integrity to the office of Presiding Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Here are the new CCA rules in death penalty cases and other emergency filings:
In the event that an emergency e-mail filing is necessary, you must follow the steps listed below:
1. You must first phone the Clerk’s Office of the Court of Criminal Appeals between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at (512) 463-1551, to inform the Clerk that you will be sending an emergency e-mail pleading. Pleadings sent by e-mail may not exceed 5MB.
2. You will e-mail your emergency pleading by clicking this e-mail link: CCA Emergency E-Mail and attaching the pleading. In your e-mail, you must include your name, address, telephone number, and Texas State Bar Card number. You must also e-mail the pleading to all those who must be served under TEX. R. APP. P. 6.3 or any other applicable rule.
3. You must confirm by phone that the e-mail filing was received by the Clerk of the Court of Criminal Appeals or the Clerk’s designated agent. A representative of the Court will then send a reply e-mail verifying that your filing has been received by the duty judge who will then decide whether to accept delivery of the pleading on an emergency basis pursuant to TEX. R. APP. P. 9.2(a)(2).
4. You must file your pleading in standard paper format, with the required number of copies, in the Court of Criminal Appeals Clerk’s office by 9:30 a.m. Central Time the next business day.