Texas commission seeks to suspend Harris County criminal judge

Mycah Hatfield Image
Saturday, July 9, 2022
Texas commission seeks to suspend Harris County criminal judge
There are 21 allegations made in a document from the state commission on judicial conduct against judge franklin bynum.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- The state commission on judicial conduct has levied three charges against a Harris County criminal court judge, whom they are now seeking to suspend.

Judge Franklin Bynum was elected to criminal court 8, which handles misdemeanors, in 2018 but lost his re-election bid this year.

The commission is charging him with being biased against the Harris County District Attorney's Office, failing to comply with the law, and providing reasonable doubt regarding judicial impartiality.

The investigation started after a member of the DA's office filed a complaint in 2020 and followed up with several supplemental complaints. The inquiry concerning Judge Bynum also said the commission received an anonymous complaint against him in 2021.

"The vast majority, I would say 99.9% of the complaints, get dismissed," South Texas College of Law Professor Kenneth Williams said. "Obviously this one was not and that means there were pretty serious allegations made against him. I think also the fact that the complaining party is the district attorney's office also made them take a closer look at it. The allegations are pretty serious."

This week, a document filed with the Texas Supreme Court lists 21 "factual allegations" against Bynum.

The document lays out behavior toward the DA's office described as "retaliatory" and "improper and abusive". They found that Bynum made rulings in cases without a motion or notice to the state or defendant for their participation.

They claim he has a bias or prejudice against domestic violence victims.

The commission claims Bynum did not follow the law in several instances, including collecting DNA specimens from defendants convicted of certain misdemeanor offenses.

His behavior outside of the courtroom was also brought into question. In an interview with The Nation magazine, the commission said he expressed a desire to "contribute to the 'demolition" of the criminal justice system as it currently exists.

They also brought up a photo posted to his Twitter account, which has since been deactivated, showing Bynum in a "defund the police" shirt that was given to him by the Chicago Public Defender's Office.

"It looks like what happened he was trying from within to carry out what he said he wanted to do," Williams said. "Judges can't do that. If you don't agree with the law you still have to apply it. You still have to follow the law. That's just the basic duty of a judge. Follow the law."

Bynum provided sworn written responses to the commission's Letters of inquiry in December 2021 and March 2022. In April, he appeared with counsel before the commission to provide testimony regarding the allegations.

ABC13 reached out to Bynum and his attorney for comment but were not able to reach either.

Bynum has 15 days to respond to the allegations before a ruling is made about his potential suspension.

The Harris County DA's Office provided the following statement:

"Judges swear an oath to uphold the law and strive for impartiality. The criminal justice system works only if they adhere to its oath. We trust that the Texas Supreme Court will take appropriate action," the DA's Office said.

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