Elizabeth Coker, Another Case of Blackrobe-itis: Texting Texas Judge Steps Down

Judge (now former) Elizabeth Coker, who serves the people of San Jacinto, Polk and Trinity Counties, comes from a long line of judges: her father and grandfather also sat on the bench. It appears the power of the black robe may have gone to her head.

According to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, Coker was texting with prosecutors during a criminal jury trial, including giving advice to the prosecutor on what questions she should ask a witness. Coker even went so far as:

to ensure that a witness was able to refresh his memory and rehabilitate his testimony by reviewing his videotaped interview with law enforcement before he took the stand for the second time the following day.

This is, as you might imagine, tipping the scales of justice with a heavy, heavy hand.

But it gets even worse: when Coker found out about the investigation, she reached out to a witness in the Commission's investigation, "in an apparent attempt to influence that witness."

The Commission was not pleased. Coker agreed to resign effective December 6, 2013, and take a leave of absence immediately. Coker will also no longer be able to be a sitting judge in Texas ever again.

So how did Coker's inexcusable behavior come to light? Media stories (and complaints to the Commission). Good for the local reporters who kept after this.

At least she won't be presiding over any more trials. Coker, by the way, is only 46, but has been a judge for 14 years, which means she's been a judge since she was 32. This is exceptionally young for a judge, and this texting episode shows what looks to be an unfortunate mix of entitlement, nepotism and good-ol-boy (girl) network. Sadly, another reason to end judicial elections in Texas.

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