On Monday, August 29, 2022, the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly warned and ordered Brittanye Morris, Judge of the 333rd District Court, Houston, Harris County, to obtain additional education for failing to disclose her relationship with a defendant.

The judge was charged with violating Canons 2A, 2B, 3B(l), and 3B(2) of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct, which states:

A judge shall comply with the law’

A judge shall not allow a relationship to influence judicial conduct or judgment… nor shall a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.

A judge shall hear and decide matters assigned to the judge except those in which disqualification is required or recusal is appropriate.

A judge shall maintain professional competence in the law.

On January 8, 2021, an Emergency Motion to Stay the Arbitration was filed on behalf of the Defendants in Mokaram-Latif West Loop, Ltd. v. Ali Choudhri et al. Plaintiff Osama Abdullatif, represented by attorney Rodney Drinnon, immediately filed a Verified Motion to Recuse Judge Morris based on her relationship with the defendant Ali Choudhri.

In the motion to recuse, it is alleged that Judge Morris was working with Choudhri and his entities prior to becoming a judge. The motion also alleged that the judge previously advised Choudhri that she would work “behind the scenes” to advance his interests in the lawsuits; engaged in undisclosed financial and business dealings that reflected adversely on her impartiality; namely maintaining an office in one of Choudhri’s buildings and utilizing Choudhri’s Mercedes minivan for campaign purposes without publicly disclosing same and previously counseled, and advised and assisted Choudhri and his representatives in managing and overseeing Choudhri’s extensive litigation docket.

Administrative Judge Susan Brown granted the motion to move the case out of Judge Morris due to her relationship with Choudhri. According to the court, Judge Morris failed to either disclose her relationship or recuse herself from the cases involving Choudhri with whom she has a relationship.

During her testimony before the Commission, Judge Morris confirmed she met Choudhri in 2018 and formed a casual and platonic relationship with him as they both shared the same faith. She also acknowledged that while in private practice, Choudhri’s employees occasionally sought her assistance in locating attorneys in various practice areas, and that she provided the names of several Houston lawyers and sent text messages to Choudhri’s employees confirming her willingness to assist in locating possible lawyers until she assumed the bench. Additionally, Judge Morris confirmed that, six months after recusing herself from all cases involving Choudhri, she posted $100 in bail for the defendant when he was charged with evading arrest.

The Commission determined that Judge Morris should be publicly warned and ordered to obtain additional education for allowing a relationship with Choudhri to influence her judicial conduct and conveying and permitting others to convey the impression they are in a special position to influence the judge when she failed to disclose her relationship with Choudhri to the parties and their attorneys or recuse from the cases where appropriate. According to the Commission, the judge also failed to comply with the law and demonstrated incompetence in the law when she proceeded in conducting a hearing and ruling on an emergency motion to stay arbitration while a motion to recuse was pending.

The order reads:

“Judge Morris must obtain four (4) hours of instruction with a mentor, in addition to her required judicial education for the Fiscal Year 2023. In particular, the Commission desires that Judge Morris receive this additional education in the areas of recusal (2 hrs.) and conflict of interest (2 hrs.). . .

Judge Morris shall complete the additional four ( 4) hours of instruction recited above within 60 days from the date of written notification from the Commission of the assignment of a mentor. Upon receiving such notice, it is Judge Morris’s responsibility to contact the assigned mentor and schedule the additional education.”

Judge Morris was elected to serve as Judge of the 333td District Court in November 2020
general election and assumed the bench on January 1, 2021.

Judge Morris’ Courtroom is located at Harris County Civil Courthouse, 201 Caroline, Houston, Texas.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.