On Wednesday, August 16, 2023, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct reviewed allegations against County Judge Mike Bennett of Goliad County, Texas. The commission subsequently recommended a public reprimand against Bennett for his alleged misconduct involving his interference with the legal service of the process of a warrant for the seizure of cattle.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of Mike Bennett,” with case no. 21-0921, 21-1264, 21-1266, 21-1267, 21-1271, 21-1311 & 22-0072.
The charges cited Code of Judicial Conduct Canons 2B, Canon 4A(1) of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct and Article V, Section 1-a(6)A of the Texas Constitution which states:
A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial ofT1ce to advance the private interests of the judge or others.
A judge shall conduct all of the judge’s extra-judicial activities so that they do not cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to impartially.
A judge shall not engage in willful or persistent conduct that is clearly inconsistent with the proper performance of his duties or casts public discredit upon the judiciary or administration of justice.
The recommendation was issued during a meeting held on June 7-8, 2023, after Judge Bennett appeared before the commission and provided testimony. The allegations against Judge Bennett stemmed from events in May 2021 when Goliad County Justice of the Peace Susan Moore issued a warrant for the seizure of cattle believed to have been mistreated and starved. Subsequently, a team including Goliad County Constables, a Brazoria County Livestock Deputy, the Houston Humane Society Chief Animal Cruelty Officer, and their team began the process of serving the warrant.
Judge Bennett arrived at the property where the cattle were being seized and attempted to interfere with the process, including stopping the workers from loading the trailer. It was also said that he later arrived at a second property in another attempt to halt the seizure of cattle. During the commission’s proceedings, Judge Bennett admitted to contacting Judge Moore by phone twice to request the recall of the warrant. He explained that the cattle in question were owned by an individual who had passed away, and a probate hearing regarding the estate was scheduled in his court for the following week. Judge Bennett stated that he was concerned about the probate case and believed he needed to protect the property of the deceased.
The filing states:
“Judge Bennett testified that the cattle were owned by Darryl Franke, who had died several months prior, and a probate hearing regarding Mr. Franke’s estate was scheduled in his court for the following week.”
Following this, the Goliad County Attorney submitted a request to disqualify Judge Bennett from overseeing the civil hearing regarding the cattle seizure due to his participation in attempting to halt the warrant’s execution. Judge Bennett subsequently opted to recuse himself voluntarily from the case. Based on these findings, the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct concluded that Judge Mike Bennett had indeed violated the abovementioned rules.
The Recommendation states:
“Based on the record before it and the factual findings recited above, the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct has determined the Honorable Mike Bennett, County Judge, Goliad, Goliad County, Texas should be publicly reprimanded for interfering with the legal service of process of a Warrant for Seizure of Cattle, in violation of Canons 2B and Canon 4A(l) of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct. The Commission further concludes that the judge’s actions in these respects constituted willful and persistent conduct that is clearly inconsistent with the proper performance of his duties and cast public discredit upon the judiciary or the administration of justice, in violation of Article V, Section of the Texas Constitution.”
Judge Bennett attended the Yale Law School. Bennett serves as the County Judge of Goliad County, Texas, which is situated at 127 N Courthouse Square #2, Goliad, TX 77963, and can be reached at +1 361-645-3337. His info can be found on ballotpedia.org.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.