Judges Are Not Supposed to Question Witnesses

25 Aug

Biased Judge ResignsA lesson for Arlington Judges comes from Texas.  There State District Judge Elizabeth E. Coker–who sits on the bench over Trinity, Polk and San Jacinto counties– resigned under fire in a texting controversy, according to a voluntary agreement with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.   Coker, 46, had been on the bench for 14 years and is the third generation in her family to serve on an East Texas bench. Her father and grandfather also served.

Her resignation stems from complaints and media stories alleging that Coker “had engaged in improper ex parte text communications with Polk County Assistant District Attorney Kaycee Jones while Judge Coker presided” over a criminal trial in August of 2012.   With those complaints, “the commission commenced an investigation into allegations that Judge Coker used Assistant District Attorney Jones to privately communicate information” about the case “to suggest questions for the prosecutor to ask during the trial” among other issues. The agreement also said the commission looked into other complaints that Coker allegedly engaged in other improper communications and meetings with Jones, other members of the Polk County prosecutor’s office, the San Jacinto County District Attorney and certain defense attorneys.

The agreement goes on to say “the parties agree that the allegations of judicial misconduct, if found to be true, could result in disciplinary action against Judge Coker.” As a result, the parties sought to resolve the matter “without the time and expense of further disciplinary proceedings.”

Under the agreement, she will be disqualified from sitting or serving as a judge in Texas.

Arlington County court observers have noticed that it is the habit of some Arlington Judges to suggest to a party’s attorney questions to ask a witness (outgoing Judge Wiggins was one judge who was known to do this), engage in ex parte contacts with parties, or, even worse, to directly act as a party to the case before them by asking the witness questions directly.    Such practices are clearly improper under the code of judicial contact and show extreme bias in the cases before them.

If you witness such behavior — or any other irregular behavior — on the part of any Arlington Judge — regardless of which court they preside over — file a complaint about that behavior with the Virginia Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission and send a copy of your complaint to Judicial Watch and the Washington Post Investigations.