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The Special Control Court cleared Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, after the Texas Judicial Behavior Commission reprimanded a former Travis district judge for having a pink “cat” at a commissioners’ court meeting and making fun of Governor Greg Abbott’s disability. at the Texas Tribune event.
The commission, which is investigating complaints about judges’ misconduct, reprimanded Eckhardt about the December 2020 incidents and said she had engaged in “deliberate conduct that throws public discredit to the judiciary.” Eckhardt questioned the commission’s jurisdiction, noting that a Texas district judge had no judicial role, despite the title. Texas District Judges serve as the Director General of the County and preside over the courts of commissioners.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Special Court of Auditors sided with Eckhardt and wrote that Eckhardt was a “judge” only by name “and that the commission overreacted when it reprimanded her.
“He won the first amendment in Texas today,” Eckhardt said in a statement celebrating the position.
Eckhardt served as Travis County Judge from 2015 until she resigned in 2020 to run for the Senate in a special election.
Eckhardt was wearing a pink knitted “cat” when she presided over a commission of court commissioners in January 2017. At the time, the cap was a symbol of women’s resistance to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election.
Eckhardt made a joke about Abbott at the Texas Tribune Festival in 2019. When discussing the Republican governor’s support for a law restricting local governments to regulate the removal of trees on private land, Abbott said she “hates trees because one fell on him,” referring to the accident of 1984, which paralyzed Abbott. She later apologized for the joke.
The State Judicial Commission consists of 13 members, including six judges appointed by the Texas National Supreme Court, two lawyers appointed by the Texas State Bar Association, and five citizens appointed by the governor.
The special review court that examined the problem consisted of three judges of the State Court of Appeal. All three were Republicans.
Disclosure: The State Bar of Texas was a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a non-profit, non-partisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial backers play no role in Tribune journalism. You can find their complete list here.