Popping pills, smoking marijuana, hiring prostitutes and sexting from the bench: The allegations against Houston Judge Hilary Green are juicy — but it just so happens that the Texas Supreme Court found that there's enough evidence to support these claims to justify suspending her without pay.
The high court handed down the order against Green, a justice of the peace for Harris County, on Friday night at the recommendation of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. The commission had been investigating Green for four years, and Executive Director Eric Vinson says this is the first time in at least a decade that a judge has contested formal proceedings against him or her to this extent.
While Green has admitted to some of the scandalous allegations, her attorneys say that most are exaggerated, untrue or stem from bitter ex-lovers, including her ex-husband, Ron Green, and Claude Barnes, whom she had an affair with from 2009 to 2015 and who claims Green hired prostitutes on several occasions. From here, Vinson says the commission will ask the Supreme Court to appoint a special master to do some serious fact-finding to parse what's really true and what lacks evidence. Those findings will ultimately help the commission decide whether to seek Green's permanent removal from office or further sanctions or to dismiss the case. (Green's attorney, Chip Babcock, didn't respond to a request for comment about how Green plans to contest the case going forward.)
So for now, what do we know is true and what are just accusations?
1. Green admitted to smoking pot and taking Ecstasy. Green told the State Commission on Judicial Conduct that her ex-boyfriend Barnes provided her weed "four or five times" between 2010 and 2014. He gave her some Ecstasy twice between 2009 and 2010, she said. In a sworn affidavit, Barnes told the commission he and Green used the codeword "skittles" when texting about Ecstasy and that they did it three times, with Barnes paying for it twice (she denies paying). Barnes even told the commission that Green's courtroom bailiff once took marijuana "off a kid in her courtroom" and gave it to her, but Green denies this.
2. Green admitted to having a dependence on cough syrup. Green told the commission she started taking Tussionex in 2009 to help her sleep at night, and took it about every night that year. She admitted to "doctor shopping" to obtain prescriptions from two or three doctors, though the commission voiced skepticism as to whether Green always had a prescription over the several years she used the drug. In addition, Green also tells the commission that she bought Tussionex from Barnes "three or four times" between 2010 and 2013 "at a gas station on the southwest side of Houston." When she tried to wean herself off the drug in 2013 or 2014, she had to go see a doctor for withdrawal symptoms, including nausea and depression. The doctor diagnosed her with "misuse of a medication," according to the commission's findings. But Green denies that this "misuse" of Tussionex ever affected her professional duties as a judge.
3. She engaged in "extensive sexualized text messaging and tried to buy drugs" from the bailiff in her courtroom. The sexting took place from October 2013 to April 2014, according to the commission's findings. She also admitted to giving the bailiff $500 to buy some Tussionex for her, using code words such as "cookie dough" and "bolts and screws" for the drug in their secret text messages.
4. Buying prostitutes? Says her bitter ex-boyfriend. Claude Barnes claims in his sworn affidavit that he and Green used Backpage.com to hire prostitutes on two separate occasions. One time, Barnes claims, Green paid $150 to a female prostitute in Houston for her services, and another time hired a prostitute in Austin and paid her $200. Green denies all of this.
But see, that's why the State Commission on Judicial Conduct plans to continue investigating the case.
The irony of Green's admissions was clearly not lost on the commission as Green testified before its members in a hearing earlier this year. The commission chose to highlight an apparent favorite excerpt from her testimony:
"You are also involved [in deciding] cases involving Class C misdemeanors, correct?" she was asked.
"Absolutely," Green answered.
"And some of those cases would involve drugs. Correct?"
"And so I'm just thinking, you're the judge and here you are abusing drugs. And you are sentencing people, fining them. And judging these people for the crimes that they have committed and yet you were committing that same crime."
"Yes, ma'am," Green said.
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