Texas Judge Forced To Resign After Being Caught Texting Instructions To Assistant DA During Trial

from the a-broken-system-suffers-another-set-of-fractures dept

Oh, the hilarity that is the phrase “criminal justice system.” Talk to any defense attorney and they’ll tell you how the deck is stacked against defendants and defense lawyers. The ideal of “innocent until proven guilty” has become little more than a disclaimer tacked onto cop-centered reality shows. Defendants are guilty until the jury is somehow tricked by the defense into handing down a “not guilty” verdict. A lot of effort goes towards dissuading defendants from even making it this far, as prosecutors will present worst-case scenarios comprised of every violation conceivable in order to get an agreement to plead guilty to a lesser charge.

The prevailing perception that the person charged is guilty, with the only answer yet to be determined is how guilty, makes defending arrestees an uphill battle. Judge (former judge) Elizabeth Coker took this uphill battle, increased the grade to 85 degrees, covered it with a sheet of ice and sprinkled it with a 50/50 blend of Teflon and motor oil.

Elizabeth E. Coker may forever be known as the “texting judge,” but her notoriety will soon be all that is left of her days on the bench of the 258th District Court of Polk, Trinity, and San Jacinto Counties. Coker signed an “AGREEMENT TO RESIGN FROM JUDICIAL OFFICE IN LIEU OF DISCIPLINARY ACTION” with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct…

The agreement comes in the wake of a recent investigation revealing Coker texted instructions from the bench to a Polk County Assistant District Attorney who was assisting in the prosecution of a case in Coker’s court.

The good news is that Coker is being stripped of all of her judicial power. Once the resignation goes through, she won’t even be able to perform a wedding. The bad news is that this texting incident was only one of several alleged incidents in which Coker undermined the justice system. [Perhaps someone should have passed her, and any prosecutors dealing with her courtroom, a copy of this letter from a Texas DA warning his staff away from ex parte discussions…]

[J]udge Coker used Assistant District Attorney Jones to privately communicate information about the Reeves case to the assistant district attorney prosecuting the case; to suggest questions for the prosecutor to ask during the trial; to ensure that a witness was able to refresh his memory and rehabilitate his testimony by reviewing his videotaped interview with law enforcement before he took the stand for the second time the following day; and to discuss legal issues pertinent to the case. in an unsuccessful effort to assist the State obtain a guilty verdict in the case…

[t]he Commission investigated claims that Judge Coker allegedly engaged in other improper ex parte communications and meetings with Jones, other members of the Polk County District Attorney’s Office, the San Jacinto County District Attorney, and certain defense attorneys regarding various Cases pending in her court; Judge Coker allegedly exhibited a bias in favor of certain attorneys and a prejudice against others in both her judicial rulings and her court appointments: and Judge Coker allegedly met with jurors in an inappropriate manner, outside the presence of counsel, while the jurors were deliberating in one or more criminal trials…

Add to all the alleged misconduct above the apparent fact that she kept using the same questionable tactics right up to her appearance before the Commission.

[t]he Commission also expressed concerns that Judge Coker discussed the Commission’s investigation and Judge Coker’s written responses to the investigation with a material witness prior to that witness’ testimony before the Commission in an apparent attempt to influence that witness, and that the judge may not have been candid and truthful in her testimony before the Commission when questioned about her contact with the witness…

In addition to stripping her judicial powers, the Commission also leaves her solely responsible for bearing the cost of any litigation arising from her alleged misconduct. The Commission, however, chose not to pursue these allegations in exchange for her immediate resignation. Coker utilizes that out in her public statement.

“The Judicial Commission made no finding or determinations of fact in my voluntary resignation, and I have not admitted guilt, fault or liability in my voluntary resignation. While I could have fought these allegations, it would have involved significant time, significant expense, and disruption to everyone involved. I did not feel that was in the best interests of the taxpayers, our court system, my family or myself” Coker stated.

Yeah, that sounds about right. Coker sacrificing herself for the good of a long list of others, including the taxpayers who paid her salary and the court system she allegedly abused from a position of power. Thanks to the commission’s decision, these will forever remain allegations — the equivalent of “getting off on a technicality.” If Coker ends up in court because of her previous improprieties, I would imagine she’ll have to search well outside her district for a defense lawyer.

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Comments on “Texas Judge Forced To Resign After Being Caught Texting Instructions To Assistant DA During Trial”

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art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

excellent point ! ! !

all these ‘officers of the court’ are SUPPOSED to be REQUIRED to report all these kinds of ethics failures and shenanigans that go on, but HOW MANY EVER DO ? ? ?
(asymptotically as close to zero as you can get, is how many…)

thus eviscerating the ONE and ONLY ‘reason’ the (in)justice system in general, and lawyers in particular are supposedly ‘self-policing’…
bullshit, they close ranks and dare not speak against a fellow parasite, er, lawyer…

same as doctors, kops, military, kongresskritters, etc: ALL these public institutions have become opaque, and their ‘self-policing’ less than worthless, in fact, harmful…

but, i’m certain this was the one and onliest judge/lawyer in Empire who has ever engaged in such egregious behavior…

i’m certain that must be the case, otherwise we would have heard about all the other incidents from the assiduous ‘self-policing’ these public servants are subject to…

one law for thee, no law for meeeeeeeeeeee ! ! !

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Vidiot (profile) says:


So… when a low-level crime lab technician is shown to be chronically incompetent — not dishonest, like this judge — law enforcement wails and rends its garments over the scores and scores of cases that will be thrown out and judgments overturned. And that’s just by association, not by proving actual, individual errors. Seems like this would be a literal get-out-of-jail-free card for an awful lot of convicted individuals… unless, of course, her willful subversion of justice is deemed less serious than the lab tech’s dirty test tube.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Because in exchange for getting her out of the judge’s seat ASAP, they agreed to not investigate further or pursue disciplinary action.

Which avoids lots of time and headaches in removing her, and avoids the possibility of her escaping with a slap on the wrist based on technicalities.

Not exactly optimal, but not a bad trade off all things considered.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

While removing her quickly, and quietly might be a (somewhat) valid reason, the ‘and avoids the possibility of her escaping with a slap on the wrist based on technicalities’ most certainly is not, as that’s exactly what happened.

‘Oh no, she lost her job’… considering she was stacking the deck against defendants, actively working to subvert the legal system by being anything but impartial and directing cases, the fact that she ‘only’ get’s fired is essentially a slap on the wrist ‘punishment’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

If I were a defense attorney that had lost a case in her court I would be filing motions to have the verdict overturned or at least declared a mistrial based on this news and I imagine that there are a lot of defense attorneys that are doing just that right now.

This story needs to be pushed in the press. She may be able to escape criminal prosecution, but she cannot escape the court of public opinion. Also just because they don’t pursue a criminal investigation that doesn’t grant her immunity from civil liability over this. I would expect to see plenty of cases filed on behalf of former defendants in her court that bring civil suits.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Because in exchange for getting her out of the judge’s seat ASAP, they agreed to not investigate further or pursue disciplinary action.

See, right here is where you lose me. In any other profession it wouldn’t be either/or, you’d be walked out the door after having being fired for gross breach of terms of employment straight into the hands of the police there to arrest you for whatever crime it was you were fired for.

RJOGuillory (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Not exactly optimal, but not a bad trade off all things considered”…

I suppose that could be one person’s point-of-view…unless you are one of the dozens of citizens innocently sitting in some horrendous county, state or federal prison because of this corruption ….my mother was a corrupt court clerk back in the old days of ticket fixing and what-not…many in my family were corrupt law enforcement…racist, thieving, counterfeiting… and when the court system more closely resembles “The Price is Right” …with the judge playing Bob Barker…we all know there is something terribly wrong in our country..and has been for over fifty years… I think convicting and publicly hanging this woman would have been a much more effective method of deterrence…as we begin to really root out the political and judicial corruption…we need to remember the tricks and tools these people have used over our lives to lie, cheat, steal and kill us and our families…and we need to continue to make sure as much as possible that this BS doesn’t happen again..


RJ O’Guillory
Webster Groves – The Life of an Insane Family


RJ O’Guillory
Webster Groves – The Life of an Insane Family

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The other “advantage” of the state not investigating this further is it keeps everyone in the dark about what other cases she may have been (probably was) texting during.

Had they looked into this, there would have been countless other cases that would have turned up resulting in automatic cause for appeals and likely overturn of those cases.

Definitely something the state does not want. Better to sweep it under the rug as fast as possible….

Anonymous Coward says:

everyone connected to any of the cases she sat on should be receiving the same punishment, if you can actually call it that! then, all cases she had anything to do with should be retried.
and like in the article, anyone who thinks this is an isolated judge is out of their tree! i bet anything you like, there is all sorts of ‘help’ given to other judges and prosecutors, particularly when dealing with copyright cases

out_of_the_blue says:

Other lawyers protected her as much as could...

because they’re ALL in the same medieval guild, swear an oath to it above all else; it controls their current and future earnings, besides has more or less hidden sanctions including setting State Prosecutors onto one. The “bar association” is the most evil entity around, and not coincidentally, is key to every outrage against civilization from John Yoo’s torture memos to the convenient statutes that allow mega-corporations like Google to dodge nearly all taxes.

“First kill all the lawyers.” That’s Shakespeare.

Where economist Mike brags of hanging out with the really cool kids: lawyers!


EeeDee says:

Re: Other lawyers protected her as much as could...

You should learn something about Shakespeare before quoting him. The kill all the lawyers line is uttered as part of a plot to subvert the law and install a new king. It is a compliment and acknowledgement that lawyers are vital to rule by law, not men (or despots).

Ima Fish (profile) says:

I just left court this morning where the judge was criticizing an attorney because his client wanted a trial. In open court, on the record, and in front of his client, she criticized the defense attorney for not having “sufficient client control” in his failing to talk his client into a plea deal. The defense attorney responded that his client believes himself to be innocent and wants his trial.

And that’s the real problem with the plea process. It turns the criminal justice system into an assembly line process. But when someone wants to get off the line and actually protect his rights, e.g., demand full discovery, interview witnesses, have a trial, the whole process goes of whack and it really pisses off judges and prosecutors who are used to doing it the easy way.

To such judges and prosecutors, exercising your rights is a waste of everyone’s time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I just left court this morning where the judge was criticizing an attorney?

Face facts, counsellor.

The system is incapable of giving a fair trial to everyone who wants one. You know, I know it, and everyone else knows it, too.

But the system can’t be allowed to just break down. It’s vital. So face facts, counsellor?and do your job: Help keep the system groaning and creaking along for another day, another week, another year. That’s what you’re paid for.

Kitty Antonik (profile) says:

Re: Ima Fish's observation in court

How about publicizing the name of the judge in that case you observed. More of these actions need to be outed so that more people are aware of them. By IDing those involved others can know and then negatively Social Preference – reduce/cease or not establish voluntary association with – these individuals such as the judges, lawyers committing the acts as described (and cops most of all since they do the actual physical harm).

Bergman (profile) says:

If someone tells a juror the truth about the law (jury nullification, for example), they go to prison for tampering with the jury.

But if a prosecutor or a judge makes a complete mockery of the court and populates it with marsupials, they get to resign and are never charged.

There’s a reason people are saying we’ve got a high court/low court system theses days.

Sketch says:

I find it strange that an article espousing the “innocent until proven guilty” tenet is just as quick to declare her all but guilty of all the OTHER charges even though they are just “alleged” as of this point.

As of right now, the vast majority of the posters are screaming “do as I say, not as I do”, a tenet even MORE common in this country.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Most of the posters are noting that a normal citizen would be charged. Charged doesn’t imply a guilty verdict.

You’ve also got to look at the facts. She did resign in lieu of disciplinary action (FACT). You don’t do that sort of thing when you’re innocent unless you expect to lose the battle. So there are two possibilities either she did what they claim, or she is being forced out for other unspecified politics and she doesn’t believe she can win or isn’t interested in fighting it.

At the very least you have a very obviously corrupt justice system. One that has not been kind to the citizens it’s supposed to be protecting.

Brady (user link) says:

Corrupt Judge


polk county resident says:

I agree with many of the people that have posted on here…Judge coker has also ruined my families life. She sentenced my 37 year old brother 99 years for allegedly sexually abusing his own daughter. There was no evidence presented that he committed this crime that he was accused of and the examiner that examined the child stated in court that the child had not been touched. But yet her and Lee Hon can ruin someone’s life behind false accusations. On top of that the whole court proceedings were unethical. For instance all during the trial there were jokes and laughter going on from Coker as well as the district attorney (Lee Hon). Another thing that took place that I was uncertain about was the fact that my brother asked for another attorney instead of the present court appointed lawyer and she told my parents that the only way that he could change lawyers is if a new lawyer is present before the trial the next day. I don’t give credit to Karma, I give all credit to God because he said in his word that “you will reap what you sow.” In my opinion Coker was able to get off easy but her judgement day is coming and she will have to answer to the almighty God for all of the many lives in Polk County, San Jacinto County, Trinity County, and other counties that she have destroyed behind her coruptness!!!

Tommy says:

Objectively speaking...

…the burden of proof is on the State, and they have to prove their case “beyond any reasonable doubt” before a jury can convict…jury is composed of average citizens, either from voter rolls or drivers license rolls – so the accused does get a jury of folks from the community to determine the verdict (how likely is it that common folks will sign off on purely vindictive prosecutions?)…and almost a million different ways for defense attorneys to have charges dismissed or evidence suppressed – often turning on the issue of what police did procedurally, not substantively…add to this the “CSI effect” – where jurors have become accustomed to tv versions of “justice” and expect video/dna evidence and/or a taped confession as proof of the crime (so very rare)
And yet somehow the defense has the uphill battle? Either the author is stupid or intentionally misrepresenting the truth in order to push an agenda…namely, encouraging unwarranted suspicion of the justice system. Shameful. And so many of these responses seem to buy it! Idiots!

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