By Rachel Totten Keith
In the WFAA news article Attorney: ‘Nothing to stop’ judge’s extended absence By Tonya Eiserer, order is enforced according to an unspoken code of loyalty amongst the players in the Texas District Courts judiciary, particularly the appeals court justices. In this situation, Republican 5th Court of Appeals judge David Lewis was asked by other appellate judges to voluntarily take a leave of absence due to an alcohol problem. That was in September of 2014. Judge Lewis has continued to collect his full salary for over a year while rehabilitating. Another judge has stepped in and taken over the court, but it wasn’t until last week that the judge’s pay was suspended, after a motion was filed on behalf of other judges and the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct. The other appellate judges did not have authority to suspend him or determine he should have been paid or not, and, according to Eiserer, judges and staff members are reluctant to report issues with other judges to the commission.
The entities identified in the article are judge David Lewis, his attorneys, the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Texas Supreme Court, Chief Justice Carolyn Wright, the 13-member Fifth Court of Appeals (the other appellate judges), public commentators, Dallas attorney and former federal prosecutor John Helms, executive director of the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct Seana Willing, and two unidentified public commentators.
Because no well-defined standards exist other than the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct, it is up to other judges to initiate an investigation on behalf of the Commission by filing sworn affidavits. Judges and other staff members appear to be reluctant to report on one another. Because formal investigations must be initiated by other judges, it is their actions I will be evaluating.
The Judges’ Actions and Corresponding Values
- The other appeals court justices asked Lewis to go on leave and he voluntarily agreed (Integrity, Proaction, Loyalty).
- Chief Justice of the Fifth Court of Appeals Carolyn Wright files a sworn complaint with the Texas Commission of Judicial Conduct, initiating formal investigative process (Integrity, Professionalism).
(See fig. 1.)
Integrating Value Support
While it may appear that loyalty is the number one integrating value, the actual integrating value is integrity. The reason why it took so long to initiate the formal investigative process is the lack of defined standards set forth in the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct. Also, the Commission only meets six times a year, further prolonging the investigative procedure. Helms and others are now advocating for new laws and standards that define what constitutes disability and other standards for which wide loop holes have been cast.
Figure 1. Values Hierarchy
Values Relationships and Color Coding
Integrity to Proaction-Integrating
Integrity to Professionalism-Integrating
Integrity to Loyalty-Competing
Proaction to Integrity-Utilitarian
Proaction to Professionalism-Complementary
Proaction to Loyalty-Competing in this case
Professionalism to Integrity-Utilitarian
Professionalism to Proaction-Complementary
Professionalism to Loyalty-Competing in this case
Loyalty to Integrity-Competing in this case
Loyalty to Proaction-Competing in this case
Loyalty to Professionalism-Competing in this case
Values Relationships Support
In the United States Air Force Core Values, “integrity” is defined as doing the right thing even when no one is looking. It is also determined to be the first of the three core values, and I agree. The relationship from Integrity to Professionalism is integrating because I believe integrity often defines what is considered professionalism and the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct agrees. In fact, according to the Code, Canon 1 is listed as “Upholding the Integrity and Independence of the Judiciary.” Rummel defines an integrating relationship as, “the value that will always be acted out when it becomes involved in a situation” (paragraph 4.1.2).
In the case of Loyalty to Professionalism, however, I determined that relationship to be competing in this case. A competing relationship involves “two ‘right’ values about which a person has to make a decision for action” (Rummel, paragraph 4.6). Both values are considered “good,” commendable, and are prized in organizations. However, in this case, the loyalty the judges appeared to have in favor of protecting the privacy of Lewis’ situation competed with the value of Integrity. Ultimately, Integrity was valued higher than Loyalty, as demonstrated when the other appellate justices, led by Chief Justice Wright, filed the motion. Although this took a year, the evidence needed to be gathered and at six months, probable cause did not yet exist to file the motion due to lack of defined standards in the Code.
Perspective of the Justices
The perspective of the Justices is “Tolerance,” because the Justices have to accept the standards of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct and live and act upon those laws. The Judges did not act on their own personal conduct. They acted according to their adopted standards required of them when they were elected as judges and required to act upon those standards.
Eiserer, Tonya. “Attorney: ‘Nothing to stop’ judge’s extended absence.” WFAA. American Broadcasting Company, 5 November 2015. Web. 4 November 2015. <http://www.wfaa.com/story/news/local/2015/11/05/attorney-nothing-stop-judges-extended-absence/75253910/>.
Rummel, Stan. “Values-Analysis Guide: Values and Value-Systems.” TxWes. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 November 2015. <http://faculty.txwes.edu/csmeller/Human-Experience/Exp09Start2007.htm>