The Special Court of Review of the Supreme Court of Texas dismissed the State Commission on Judicial Conduct’s public admonition of Audrey Moorehead, Judge of the Dallas County Criminal County at Law No. 3, Dallas, on Thursday, November 17, 2022. The case is styled as ‘In Re Inquiry Concerning Honorable Audrey Moorehead’ with case #CJC No. 21-0784.

The public admonition of Moorehead was a result of her arrest on December 8, 2020, for Driving While Intoxicated. Moorehead’s arrest was disclosed to the public, by the Dallas media, and she was indicted and thereafter entered a no contest plea to one count of DWI, a misdemeanor on June 29, 2022.

In January 2022, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct (“the Commission”) initiated a complaint and started informal proceedings against Judge Moorehead. The proceedings ended with the commission’s issuance of a public admonition against Moorehead on June 9, 2022, following the June 8, 2022 hearing at which Moorehead testified.

Judge Moorehead sought a review of the commission’s public admonition and requested the appointment of a special court of review to hear and determine this matter.

Moorehead was charged with violating Article 5, Section 1-[(6)(a)] of the Texas Constitution.

Moorehead was alleged to have engaged in will conduct that cast public discredit upon the judiciary or the administration of justice.

At the trial de novo, the commission recounted the evidence the commission relied on reaching its decision to issue a public admonition. Moorehead’s counsel, on the other hand, pointed out that the commission released the public admonition too quickly, just within 24 hours after its June 8, 2022 hearing. According to Moorehead’s counsel, respondent was not made aware of the sanction until about a week later when she received a media inquiry. The premature release of the public admonition to the media deprived Moorehead of the opportunity to ask the commission for reconsideration before the matter was made public. Moreover, Moorehead through counsel was concerned about the issuance of public admonition before the criminal case was resolved, and pointed out that the decision “implicated constitutional rights, including the presumption of innocence.”

The Special Court of Review, in ruling against the commission stated in the Judgment:

“First, in a departure from standard practice, the commission issued a public sanction against respondent before her DWI case was resolved. Second, in another departure from standard practice, the commission notified the media of its public admonition of respondent prior to notifying respondent or her counsel. We find both of these departures troubling. We agree that the timing of the commission’s public admonition created a serious dilemma for respondent with respect to her decision to proceed to trial or enter a plea in her DWI case.”

The Judgment continues:

“The commission was afforded the opportunity to prove its allegation that respondent caused the accident, but it did not present any evidence on this topic. Respondent testified that the accident occurred when she took evasive action to avoid another vehicle veering into her lane, the vehicle’s auto-correction and braking systems engaged, she lost control of the vehicle, and the vehicle hit a light pole. The commission presented no controverting evidence. Accordingly, we conclude that the commission failed to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that respondent caused the accident.”

Based on the foregoing facts and discussions, the Special Court of Review ruled in favor of Judge Moorehead.

The disposition reads:

“Having considered the charge, the evidence, the arguments of counsel, and the parties’ pre-trial and post-trial briefing, this special court of review finds that the commission did not meet its burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, the elements of the charge in this case. We, therefore, dismiss theState Commission on Judicial Conduct’s public admonition in CJC No. 21-0784, In re Inquiry Concerning Honorable Audrey Moorehead, and find the Honorable AudreyMoorehead not guilty as charged in this proceeding.”

Judge Moorhead earned a law degree from Texas A&M School of Law. The Judge’s Courtroom is at 133 N. Riverfront Boulevard, 3rd Floor, Dallas, Texas.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.