Lawmakers Hear Arguments On Keller Impeachment
On Monday Texas lawmakers heard the arguments over whether or not to impeach Court of Criminal Appeals Chief Justice Sharon Keller. Keller has been under fire since September 2007 – when she allegedly closed the court and effectively denied a last-second appeal of a man who was executed later that night.
Fort Worth Democratic Representative Lon Burnam is pushing the resolution that could lead to Judge Keller’s impeachment. He says the resolution is necessary because of the gravity and uniqueness of the situation. “This is the first time in 34 years that the Texas House of Representatives is going to be hearing an impeachment resolution,” Burman says.
Burnam’s resolution would create a Special Committee on Impeachment. That committee would investigate and – if necessary – write up articles of impeachment against Judge Keller. Monday night’s hearing included testimony from legal scholars and ethicists – like Austin attorney Charles Herring. Burnam read Herring’s testimony at a Monday press conference to highlight the serious nature of the allegations against Judge Keller. “First if the published allegations are correct – Judge Keller was personally responsible for killing a man when he should not have died. That is the most sever possible consequence imaginable for judicial misconduct. In affect that appears to be an act of wrongful judicial homicide,” he said.
Judge Keller did not testify Monday night. She appears to be waiting to defend herself until a mid-August hearing before the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Burnam says that process will take too long – and impeachment is the best course of action. James Harrington is director of the Texas Civil Rights Project. He says Monday’s hearing provided lawmakers with the information they needed to decide what should be the next step.
“Well I think the way to look at this is sort of like [if] you would have probable cause on whether to go to trial or not. Is there enough information here and enough allegations here that are serious and substantial enough that we should go to the next step? And that is to have a full House committee and I think that’s probably the best way to look at what’s happening here, Harrington says.
The resolution was left pending in committee. Burnam says he does not need the committee’s support to bring the resolution to the floor of the House. So he plans to bring it up for a vote – win or lose – before the session ends on June 1.
Reported by Ben Philpott