Judge Hill and the Appearance of Impropriety [Updated]

“[Judge Belinda] Hill confirmed Tuesday that she will leave the bench in the new year to work as Anderson’s first assistant.” Houston Chronicle, 11 December 2012.

Yet, I have learned, almost four weeks later Judge Hill is still on the bench, still hearing felony cases, still making calls that affect the lives of people being prosecuted by the DA’s Office to which she is affianced.

Did she not think this would be a problem?

Judge Hill is said to have plans to remain on the bench until someone else is appointed. From one perspective this might be seen as dedication to the job she was elected to do. From another perspective it might be seen as grossly improper: she has already committed to be taking the DA’s paycheck, which would give any reasonable person reason to question her impartiality.

Perhaps Judge Hill could, with Spocklike detachment, keep calling the balls and strikes, but a judge’s duty includes the avoidance of even the appearance of impropriety. 

To avoid further appearance of impropriety, Judge Hill needs to step down now, but even now is too late. She should have stepped down as soon as she agreed to take a job with the DA’s Office. Judge Hill has failed, and in failing has sullied her distinguished judicial career right at its very end.

This is—and I say this as someone who likes and respects Judge Hill—truly a shame.

[See ADA’s comment, below. I hope ADA is right, and if he is I’ll be sorry for not having enough confidence in Judge Hill.]

[Judge Hill resigned effective noon today. Her replacement will be announced at 1pm.]

5 responses to “Judge Hill and the Appearance of Impropriety [Updated]”

  1. Mark,

    It is my understanding that she is not hearing cases and visiting Judges have been doing her “bench” work. Judge Hill has been wrapping up some administrative Judge duties while she waits for the Governor to make the appointment.

  2. Judge Hill is the Administrative Judge for the Criminal District Courts. There are a number of important issues for the judges to consider at their meeting next week, including choosing her successor as Administrative Judge. These are matters Judge Hill did not want leave unsettled. In the meantime, if you have a contested criminal matter before her and you think recusal is proper I am sure she will take that seriously.

  3. Brad Hart was appointed to the bench today. Congrats Brad.

    Mark – maybe you jumped to conclusions about Judge Hill?

  4. As to the 248th. No timeline on that is known, but Judge Campbell is expected to step down very soon. There is not the rush to fill her bench (vs. the 230th) as she won’t be going to work for the DA’s office.

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