$3.2M settlement awarded in sexual harassment case
HOUSTON One of the women involved in the case told us the judgement is validation. The civil lawsuit accused the judge of creating a hostile work environment by sexually harassing female county employees. A jury agreed, bringing to a close what one of the victims describes as a scary chapter in her life. For the better part of year, Mikki Kalina says she was fondled and sexually harassed by former Brazoria County Judge James Blackstock. "I felt alone, I felt small, I felt like he was the most powerful man in Brazoria County. I felt like there was nothing I could do," said Kalina. "I felt scared." In 2007, Kalina was a juvenile probation officer in Brazoria County. Kalina says it was after she reported Judge Blackstock's inappropriate behavior she found out she was not alone. Similar claims were made by at least a dozen other female county employees. "You can't treat people any kind of way you want and not have any consequences. He paid a small fine and that was it. He gets his full retirement and can do anything he wants," Kalina said. In 2008, Judge Blackstock was convicted in criminal court of four counts of Class C assault and official oppression. He resigned from the bench. In civil court on Friday, he was found liable for sexual harassment and assessed damages of $3.2 million plus attorney's fees. Kalina was one of three female county employees who sued Blackstock in civil court. The jury awarding each woman $1 million in punitive damages "I don't know in this case if we'll ever see a penny and in this case I don't care. Because we did this to send a message to Judge Blackstock and to every other elected official in this country," said the plaintiff's lawyer, Martin Shellist. Attorneys for the women say Blackstock also sent emails from county computers containing pornographic images. "The common thread with all of the victims was fear. They were afraid of what would happen to them if they came forward," said plaintiff's lawyer Todd Slobin. For Kalina, the verdict sends a message to other victims. "You don't have to go through it alone. You can stand up for yourself," Kalina said. According to court testimony, complaints of sexual harassment against Judge Blackstock began in 1993 involving over one dozen women. Blackstock, while no longer on the bench, retains his law license. Neither Blackstock nor his attorney responded to our attempts to contact them.
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