Should Sharon Keller’s name be “cleared”?
13 Oct 2010
This story involves a Texas judge whose conduct is worthy of banana republic’s legal system.
Sharon Keller was asked to extend her courthouse’s hours so that the lawyers for a death row inmate could file an appeal that might have overturned the sentence. The lawyers explained that they were having computer problems, and that this prevented them from filing on time.
Her reply? ”We close at five”.
Courts routinely allow trials and hearings to proceed beyond normal business hours if the matter can be completed that hearing day. There is nothing that indicates anyone would suffer prejudice by extending the day’s hours for a short period to allow filing of the appeal.
Jim Harrington, of the Texas Civil Rights Project, filed a complaint. The hearing panel recommended a public warning. Judge Keller appealed to a special court of review, which is comprised of three judges. The special court of review set aside the warning on the ground that the panel’s options did not include issuing a public warning.
The initial hearing panel could dismiss the complaint, issue a public censure, or make a recommendation for removal from office. The public warning is less serious than public censure.
The Wall Street Journal Law Blog says that Sharon Keller’s name has been “cleared”.
Firstly, her name was in no way cleared. There are very few commentators that have said anything positive about Judge Keller’s intransigence.
Secondly, there is nothing about this story that justifies clearing her name. Remember, this appeal might have revealed a good legal reason why this man should not be executed.
Instead, Judge Keller refused to hold the courtroom doors open another hour to save a man’s life. There is nothing about this that does our system of justice any credit.