Sharon Keller Cont’d


The Houston Chronicle has not been kind to Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Sharon Keller in recent days. After yesterday’s editorial calling for her ouster the Chronicle published an article today entitled “Views divided on judge in dispute over executed man“. Well, yes. Sort of. The Chronicle dug up exactly one person willing to say something halfway-nice about Judge Keller: former presiding judge Mike McCormick, who said that Keller has worked hard to preserve the idea that once convicted, the burden is on the defendant to prove they got a bad trial or that they are innocent.

The Chronicle notes that Judge Keller ran for the Court of Criminal Appeals in 1994 on promises to be “a prosecution-oriented judge”. Some might think that’s a good thing. It’s not. A judge is supposed to be a referee, calling balls and strikes according to the rules, uninfluenced by an orientation toward one side or the other.

Judicial candidates, like judges, are barred from making “pledges or promises of conduct in office regarding pending or impending cases, specific classes of cases, specific classes of litigants, or specific propositions of law that would suggest to a reasonable person that the judge is predisposed to a probable decision in cases within the scope of the pledge.” Texas Canons of Judicial Ethics, Canon 5. Judges are prohibited from making such promises, and more — for example, a judge may not ethically “be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism” and must “perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice” (Canon 3).

Judge Keller was apparently not grieved in 1994 for her promises of conduct in office that violated Canon 5. I don’t know why; I was in law school in 1994, and don’t have any sense whether the bar had any idea how much of a threat Judge Keller presented to the fair administration of justice. (Query: is it too late now?)

The courthouse shouldn’t belong to one party or the other. Since taking the bench, Judge Keller has kept her promise to reserve the keys to the courthouse for the State. She has proven herself a master of results-oriented jurisprudence — ruling for the government not because the law requires it, but because she is prosecution-oriented. It’s time for her to go.


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