State scolds judge for comments made from the bench

April 10, 2012 2:56:43 AM PDT
A justice of the peace in Spring has been scolded by the state because of what he's been saying to people in his official capacity. Now, that JP is defending his record on the bench.

Harris County Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace J. Kent Adams says he's in the process of appealing the public sanction. It's one step up from a private one. He says in his 11 years on the bench, it's inevitable that people will be unhappy, but the attorney who filed a complaint believes the judge just crossed the line.

In court criminal, criminal defense attorney Henry Nguyen will answer to a number of titles -- all respectful, except for one, he says, two years ago in Adams court.

"He said, 'Boy these records are none of your g****** business,'" Nguyen said.

It was in response to his request for his client's school records. The teenager was charged with disorderly conduct in Adams' Precinct 4 court in Spring. Without a trial, Nguyen says the judge already had him sized up.

"He called him a little brat nosed punk a** kid with a foul mouth and bad attitude," Nguyen said.

In response, the Heights attorney filed a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

"I was offended," Nguyen said.

On Monday, he shared the results of their investigation which shows his complaint wasn't isolated. In 2011, a mother reported the judge asked an African American parent if "she was on welfare," a Hispanic parent "if she had six or seven kids," and told a Pakistani parent that her son should be "stoned to death."

The judge told the commission he was just misunderstood, that his statements were taken out of context. However, the commission issued a public admonition, concluding he demonstrated a "lack of patience, dignity and courtesy expected of a judge."

"Justice is supposed to be blind, no matter what color your skin is, no matter what your religion is, no matter what you look like," Nguyen said.

Meanwhile, Harris County Justice of the Peace J Kent Adams issued the following statement:

    "I have seen a newspaper account reporting on a matter pending before the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Matters pending before that Commission are required by law to remain confidential until all parties have had their an opportunity to be heard and a final decision is issued. The Commission is not a court of law and it cannot make judicial rulings or findings, and it cannot review the rulings of a judge or consider appeals of cases handled in Texas courts such as mine.

    "Having presided over a court through which more than 1 million cases have passed since I became the judge, it is inevitable that some people in the court will be unhappy with the result of their own case, and from time to time will make a complaint. These complaints are different from an appeal of a judgment of this court, which must be taken to the Harris County Court at Law.

    "I cannot comment on the details of the story, without violating the confidentiality rules of the Commission. It is unclear to me how or why the person quoted in the newspaper story got his information or why he thought he was not bound by the same confidentiality rules. I choose to respect the rules.

    "Since taking the bench, I have always striven to discharge my oath of office, and to carry out my duties as Justice of the Peace, with a clear focus on the law, and to pay close attention to making sure all who appear before my court are treated fairly and consistent with the law."

Obviously, that's different from how the commission saw it.

Nguyen says he plans to never again take a case in Adams' court.

Adams says he plans to return to court Tuesday morning, as he did on Monday.

If the state commission finds evidence of judicial misconduct, it can take one of three different punitive actions -- a private sanction, a public sanction or a suspension.


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