Allen West leads drive for Texas-style remedy for soft-on-crime judges: impeachment
Calls mount for removal of several local judges in Houston area.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
Retired Lt. Col. Allen West, former congressman and Texas gubernatorial candidate, is among those leading calls to impeach district judges in Texas who repeatedly released offenders on bond, only to see them commit more violent crimes.
The movement in the Lone Star State, if successful, could eventually serve as a model in other states and Washington D.C. as lawmakers look for solutions to the wave of violent crime, police defunding and releases of rapists, murderers, child molesters and violent criminals sweeping the country.
The Texas cause got a jolt recently when a civil rights attorney sued after a young Latino woman was murdered. He named 26 judges and magistrates for releasing repeat offenders into the community.
Chuck DeVore, vice president of national initiatives at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and a former California state assemblyman, is calling for the impeachment of two judges for violating the Texas Constitution in attempting to block absconding House Democrats from being arrested.
Major cities in Texas have been grappling with astronomical increases in crime, including record high homicide rates in the last year, which many claim is a result of a handful of rogue judges releasing repeat offenders into the community.
Bail reform — a legislative priority of Gov. Greg Abbott this year — failed to pass the legislature during the regular session and the first special session. Legislation that already passed the Senate twice this year but stalled in the House is being prioritized this week during the second special legislative session.
In Houston, which has been plagued by a spike in crime, the Houston Police Department reported a 91% increase in homicides since 2019.
West has called out four judges in Harris County, the largest county in Texas and fourth largest in the United States. All Democrats, they include Natalia Cornelio (351st District Court), Josh Hill (232nd District Court), DaSean Jones (180th District Court), and Chris Morton (230th District Court).
Just the News sought comment from all four judges through their offices. None responded.
"The realization that we have state district judges who are releasing violent criminals on the streets of Texas is unconscionable, these judges are no longer upholding the rule of law but are only advancing a dangerous progressive-socialist agenda," West said. "These judges must be held accountable and removed from their positions."
The judges have all made national news after they released repeat offenders who then committed crimes.
Cornelio, for example, released repeat offender Zacchaeus Rashad Gaston seven times. After the seventh release, Gaston was arrested and charged with shooting and killing his ex-girlfriend and injuring their one-year-old child.
Cornelio also gave Randal Boyd Burton a personal recognizance bond for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon even though he had over 20 felony convictions. After his last release, Burton shot at deputies and was killed by return fire.
Hill refused a district attorney's request to revoke bond for murder suspect Vernon Menifee after the motion was pending for two weeks, after the state lost track of his whereabouts, and the district attorney's office requested GPS records in connection with his involvement in another shooting.
Jones made headlines after he released murder suspect David Cruz, who then stole a car, was pursued by police in a car chase, engaged in a shootout and shot a state trooper before he was shot and killed. Jones had bonded out Cruz nine times in 2020.
Morton has also routinely granted multiple bonds for felony defendants, including habitual defendant Jeffrey Robertson, who has been released on 14 felony bonds. Morton also granted Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston) a writ of habeas corpus blocking his arrest.
Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump sued after Harris County resident Caitlynne Guajardo was murdered, naming 26 judges and magistrates who he argues have ignored state law and established a policy of repeatedly granting personal recognizance bonds.
Many blocking bail reform were Democrats who absconded for 37 days preventing the House from conducting legislative business. Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan was delayed in issuing 52 arrest warrants to truant House Democrats because Democratic State District Judge Brad Urrutia issued a temporary restraining order preventing him from doing so.
"The order is extraordinary for its breathtaking incomprehension of basic constitutional concepts," DeVore said, including "'political questions,' 'separation of power,' and 'co-equal branches of government' as well as respect for longstanding practices."
Urrutia's ruling "subsumed exclusively legislative powers to his own powers as a member of the judiciary" and restrained Phelan from fulfilling his legislative duty and prevented the House from conducting legislative business, DeVore argues.
The Texas Supreme Court stayed Urrutia's order, enabling Phelan to issue the warrants. However, since Aug.10, no House Democrats were arrested or forcibly brought to the chamber. Three Houston Democrats returned on Thursday allowing the House to meet quorum and conduct legislative business. Bail reform is expected to be scheduled for committee review this week.
Because both Morton and Urrutia "clearly exceeded their authority by intruding into an internal matter of a separate branch of government," DeVore said, "it's time for the Texas Legislature or Texas Supreme Court to consider exercising clear powers they possess over judges too "incompetent to discharge (their) duties" under Article 15: impeachment.
"If not," he warned, "judges will continue to exceed their lawful authority, gradually cementing judicial supremacy, on the road to an inevitable judicial tyranny,"
The Texas Constitution states that district judges can be impeached by a governor and two-thirds of the House and Senate for "wilful [sic] neglect of duty, incompetency, habitual drunkenness, oppression in office, or other reasonable cause."
It also provides for the Speaker of the House and 50 state representatives to convene an impeachment trial. It also allows for the Texas Supreme Court and State Commission on Judicial Conduct to take action to remove district judges.