On July 6, 2023, the Houston Chronicle reported that the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct recently made a decision regarding Judge Allen Amos, who made a derogatory remark about Latino defendants during a conversation with defense attorney Emily Miller. While the commission acknowledged that Judge Amos’ comment was “not necessarily appropriate,” they deemed it not punishable.

It was reported that during a casual conversation between Judge Amos and Miller, the former referred to the defendants in his court as “wetbacks.” Miller, shocked by the racial slur, filed a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Miller shared Amos’ remarks about the defendants having phones, clothes, and various belongings, which suggested that he perceived them as wealthy rather than financially disadvantaged. However, Miller held a different perspective, aware that many of the defendants had invested their life savings in pursuit of a better life in the United States. Despite this, she decided not to relay Amos’ statements to her clients, as she did not wish to contribute to their already burdensome stress.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct dismissed the complaint against Judge Amos in a letter dated June 13. The Commission did not provide a clear explanation as to why the comment did not rise to the level of sanctionable misconduct. Instead, they assured Miller that the Commission had made Judge Amos aware of her concerns and expressed confidence that such conduct would not occur in the future.

Miller expressed her disbelief that such language was not considered sanctionable in 2021.

“It tells us there is very little oversight, Miller said. “It’s a hideous commentary on this judge, on the commission, and the fact that he was ever allowed to serve in an OLS panel,” Miller added.

Miller plans to file a request for reconsideration and believed that the ruling reflects a lack of oversight and raises concerns about the judicial discipline system.

Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, called the decision “inexplicable” and expressed disappointment in the system’s failure to protect against bias in judging.

The Commission’s decision contradicted its previous ruling in 2020 where they disciplined a judge for using the same racial slur.

In addition to the controversy surrounding Amos’ comments, questions have been raised about his eligibility as a judge. A legal opinion by the since-impeached Attorney General Ken Paxton found that constitutional county judges, like Amos, were ineligible to serve as visiting judges under state law.

However, this year, a bill was passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Abbott, contradicting that opinion and confirming that county judges are eligible. The bill aims to address the limited pool of available judges for temporary appointments. County judges have various responsibilities depending on the size of the county, including overseeing the commissioners’ court and handling policy matters.

Being a lawyer is not mandatory to be a county judge. Under the bill, attorney county judges must serve for four years before acting as visiting judges, while non-attorney county judges need eight years of experience.

 

Source: Houston Chronicle