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Hunt Letter to Perkins

Hunt Letter to Perkins

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Published by: The Dallas Morning News on Sep 17, 2012
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09/17/2012

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From:
Hunt, Angela
Sent:
Friday, September 14, 2012 9:22 AM
To:
Perkins, Tom; Bowers, Chris
Cc:
Council Members; Council Assistants; Gonzalez, AC; Suhm, Mary
Subject:
Questions regarding possible conflicts of interest of proposed municipal judgesGonzalez, Williams, and Logan
Mr. Perkins:The four judicial applicants who recently sued the City of Dallas for not beingreappointed are represented in their lawsuit by defense attorney Randall Scott.(
Timeteo Gonzalez, David Indorf, Ruth Logan, and Cheryl Williams v. Rawlings,et al.,
Case No. 12-09605-J.)News reports describe Mr. Scott as a “prominent traffic defense attorney,” and areview of Mr. Scott’s website indicates that his law practice is devoted almostexclusively to traffic tickets and class “C” misdemeanor cases which, as you areaware, are heard by Dallas’ municipal judges.Despite Mr. Scott’s specialty being traffic tickets, he nonetheless represents thefour judicial applicants/plaintiffs in their lawsuit against the city for alleged civilrights violations, appearing at one or more hearings on their behalf before aDallas County District Court. When asked about his involvement by
The DallasMorning News
, Mr. Scott stated, “I’m just a lawyer in the courthouse who sawsome bad stuff go down. When people are being wronged, I’m always happy totry to assist them.”The budget amendment approved earlier this week in a straw vote by sevencouncilmembers and the mayor reinstates three of the four plaintiffs by creatingnew positions for them in the 2012-13 City of Dallas Budget.Several questions arise:
1.
 
What is the current status of the plaintiffs’ lawsuit? Has that suit beenwithdrawn? Have there been discussions with your office indicating that the suit willbe withdrawn pending final approval of the city budget (and their reinstatement)next week? Will the lone remaining plaintiff, David Indorf, continue the lawsuitregardless?
 
2.
 
If the City Council votes to approve the budget with this amendment next week,will the three reinstated judges be required to recuse themselves from cases inwhich their attorney, Randall Scott, is representing defendants in their courtroom?
 
a)
 
On this point, I spoke with Seana Willing, Executive Director of the StateCommission on Judicial Conduct, who referred me to the
Texas Code of  Judicial Conduct,
Canon 2 “Avoiding Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All of the Judge’s Activities.”
 
 
b)
 
After explaining our situation, Ms. Willing indicated that while Mr. Scott’srepresentation of these judges would not be grounds for the judges’automatic disqualification, there could be a recusal concern.
 
c)
 
If Mr. Scott represents defendants in the courtrooms of his clients – Judge Gonzalez, Judge Williams, or Judge Logan – and the city prosecutorbelieves their relationship may impair the judge’s ability to be fair andimpartial, then the prosecutor may request the judge’s recusal.
 
d)
 
If the judge refuses to voluntarily recuse himself or herself, the recusalmatter may be referred to the State of Texas’ Presiding Judge of the FirstAdministrative Judicial Region, Judge John Ovard who will make thedetermination.
 
e)
 
Ms. Willing also stated that if Mr. Scott is providing his services to the judges
 pro bono
or at a reduced rate, such a gift would have to be reportedby the judges in a disclosure (if so required by the City of Dallas).
 
f)
 
Please confirm the above information by contacting Ms. Willing andprovide me and my colleagues with written confirmation of yourconversation and conclusions.
 
3.
 
Please describe any concerns that the City Prosecutor’s Office may haveregarding Mr. Scott’s representing municipal court defendants before his clients, Judges Gonzalez, Williams, or Logan.
 
4.
 
Please describe any liability the City of Dallas may face if Mr. Scott representsmunicipal court defendants before his clients, Judges Gonzalez, Williams, or Logan,if the judges do not recuse themselves.
 
5.
 
Are City of Dallas judges required to complete gift disclosures for submission tothe City Secretary or State of Texas? If so, would any services provided by Mr.Scott
 pro bono
or at a reduced rate to his client judges be required to be disclosed?
 

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