On Thursday, June 13, 2024, the Texas Standard reported that the state of Texas escalated its fight against the federal judge overseeing parts of its foster care system by asking an appeals court to remove Judge Janis Jack from the case.

Judge Jack has presided over the federal foster care lawsuit against Texas for 13 years, during which time she has been highly critical of the state’s handling of the system and found state officials in contempt of court on multiple occasions for failing to comply with her orders to investigate and protect disabled children in care. In its latest filing, Texas argued that Judge Jack has demonstrated hostility toward the state and is not impartial.

The motion asks the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to reassign Judge Jack, claiming she has defied their rulings and gone beyond the scope of the civil trial by fining Texas $100,000 per day. If the recusal request is successful, it would remove Judge Jack from hearing a contempt motion, which could result in further fines against the two state child welfare agencies.

However, recusal requests of a presiding judge are uncommon in civil cases, as the burden of proof on the requesting party is high. One expert said in over 30 years as an attorney, he could only recall one other such request. There is also a risk that denying the request could lead to facing the same judge for future hearings in the case.

While Texas argues it has made improvements, spending over $150 million on foster care reforms, many advocates dispute the state has operated in good faith under Judge Jack’s supervision. She has twice found Texas in contempt previously for failures that resulted in fines. Court monitors also continue to report enduring problems at the child welfare agencies.

With the request now before the appeals court, a subsequent hearing on additional contempt fines scheduled for later this month has been delayed until September.



Source: Texas Standard