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judge recused for dissing pro se gang defendants


judgeAngry  Texas district court Judge Mark T. Price Judge was removed from a Witchita Falls gang control proceeding, yesterday, because of his demeanor toward defendants who were appearing pro se.   In the civil proceeding, the district attorney was seeking an injunction to require defendants, described as members or associates of the Varrio Carnales gang, “to abide by a set of rules in a specified part of town, known as a gang-free zone.  The rules include a curfew at night.”  Judge Price had presided over the case since it began last summer.  Witchita Falls [TX] Times Record News “Price recused from case,” Jan. 31, 2007.

The motion to have Judge Price removed was heard by Judge Bob Brotherton, who rejected several claims of impartiality, but focused on the treatment of the pro se defendants at a hearing for a temporary injuction in September.  According to the Times Record News, a number of attorneys (public defenders not connected to the case but present in the courtroom) testified in support of the Motion:

” ‘From what I saw, it appeared that the hearing was more of a formality,’ one testified. . .  

In his Order, Judge Brotherton noted that Judge Price also “appeared to those attorneys to be abrupt and impatient with the pro se defendants in a manner not exhibited to the State’s attorneys.” 

“Brotherton also pointed out that Price held a bench conference with the state’s attorneys and an attorney who represented two of the respondents in the injunction case. That bench conference did not include the defendants who did not have legal representation, the order stated.” . . .

In his order, Judge Brotherton explained the relevant rule of civil procedure, saying “The Court hearing a recusal motion must determine whether a reasonable member of the public at large, knowing all the facts in the public domain concerning the judge’s conduct, would have a reasonable doubt that the judge is actually impartial.”  Looking at the evidence in Tuesday’s hearing, he concluded “that such a reasonable doubt does exist.”  

The newspaper article states that “Price did not sit in on the proceedings Tuesday and said he did not hear any of the evidence or testimony.  ‘I respect him. I respect him as a jurist,’ he said of Brotherton. ‘He’s a fine judge’.”  [Any bets on whether Judge Price has read the newspaper coverage yet?]

The case will go forward with another judge, but the district attorney and police are probably a bit anxious, as the temporary injunction runs out today, Jan. 31, 2007.  Nevertheless, when leaving the courtroom yesterday, the attorney who handled their motion for recusal told a group of young men sitting in the front rows, ‘Nothing changes, guys. You’re still under the injunction’.”


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