Here are a few provisions of the Texas Code Of Judicial Conduct:
- From the Preamble: “Intrinsic to all sections of this Code of Judicial Conduct are the precepts that judges, individually and collectively, must respect and honor the judicial office as a public trust and strive to enhance and maintain confidence in our legal system.”
- “A judge shall comply with the law and should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”
- “Canon 2: Avoiding Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All of the Judge’s Activities”
- “A judge shall not allow any relationship to influence judicial conduct or judgment. A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others; nor shall a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.”
- “A judge shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice.”
- “A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, including but not limited to bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, and shall not knowingly permit staff, court officials and others subject to the judge’s direction and control to do so.”
- A judge shall conduct all of the judge’s extra- judicial activities so that they do not cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge..
- “A judge may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon the judge’s impartiality or interfere with the performance of judicial duties.”
OK, now you’ve read that, as presumably all Texas judges have. Now, if you were Bexar judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez, would your judicial ethics alarms start sounding as you considered displaying a rainbow flag in your courtroom, using a rainbow pen, a rainbow mouse pad and a robe with a rainbow-style strip of Mexican blanket design?
Well, hers didn’t, despite the fact that these are political as well as group support signals. The judge was admonished for the flag and other rainbow items, and she’s appealing the sanction. Among her defenses: Gonzalez argued that neither the pen nor the robe follow the rainbow flag’s sequence of colors. Yes, she really argued that. She is the the first openly gay judge elected in Bexar County.
She should be suspended for that disingenuous statement alone.
She also cited the First Amendment, which is, as she should know, usually irrelevant in matters of inappropriate judicial speech. The judge did have a point when she argued that two other judges have signaled their “team membership” in court, one by displaying an Irish flag, and another by wearing a cami robe. Yes, they should be reprimanded too. It doesn’t excuse her conduct. (She might check the Rationalizations List.)
The judge received a more serious punishment, a public admonition with a requirement of four hours of ethical instruction, for at least least eight Facebook posts she made congratulating winning lawyers for jury verdicts in her court while lauding their results and professional backgrounds. This sort of thing has gotten other judges in trouble as creating the appearance of impropriety, and suggesting favoritism as well as the perception that a judge is cheering for one side or the other.
The judicial ethics rules clearly prohibit such conduct. That this isn’t clear to Judge Gonzalez is not a good sign.
Source: ABA Journal