Judge's family in turmoil after her Alzheimer's diagnosis

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Should a Court of Appeals Justice remain on the job after an Alzheimer's diagnosis?

That is the question at the heart of a family saga involving the mayor of West University Place and his entire family.

When you walk into the stately First Court of Appeals courthouse in downtown Houston, Justice Laura Higley's smiling face is displayed along with the other justices.

At the city hall of West University Place, her husband Bob Higley's picture is also on display, as its current mayor.

However, it's the court filings in Harris County Probate Court 2 that paints the picture behind the smiling images.

"It's a sad, sad case on so many levels," said Sally McCandless, a West U resident for more than 43 years.

Like many, she was surprised to learn through news reports that Higley's sons have filed an application for permanent guardianship.

In these court filings, the adult sons contend that the judge has Alzheimer's.

In addition, "due to the recent (and rapid) progression of her Alzheimer's disease, Justice Higley's mental state has deteriorated to the point that she is no longer able to care for her own physical health or her own financial affairs ... Justice Higley is mentally 'in the moment' only, meaning that Justice Higley can carry on brief conversations and exchange simple pleasantries."

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The sons also accuse their own father, Mayor Bob Higley, as having "acted as a malevolent enabler in that he has encouraged Justice Higley not to resign or retire from serving as Justice in the First Court of Appeals."

"He's the mayor of West University, but obviously the sons feel like he has not done what he's supposed to do," said McCandless. "She should not be in that position. She needs to have proper care, and it must be very difficult for those sons to say, 'We have to take action.'"

Neither the mayor nor the judge were available for comment at their West U home.

The chief justice for the First Court of Appeals, Sherry Radack, did not return ABC13's calls for comment, and neither did the sons.

When ABC13 inquired at the court about the cases Justice Higley was reviewing, we were told she has not been assigned any cases for November, and it's unknown if any additional cases will be assigned to her.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct would not say whether any complaints have been filed against the judge, citing their rules for privacy.

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