Maxey Files Ethics Complaint Against Patterson

Did judge tell the truth?

Judge Jan Patterson
Judge Jan Patterson

Democratic activist and former state Rep. Glen Maxey on Monday filed a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, arguing that 3rd Court of Appeals Judge Jan Patterson violated judicial ethics when she told the Chronicle this fall that Gov. Rick Perry had approached her to apply for an appointment to the Travis County 353rd Civil District Court bench.

Citing our stories in his complaint, Maxey argues that Patterson violated Canons 2 and 5 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which concern avoiding impropriety and the "appearance of impropriety in all of the judge's activities" and refraining from "inappropriate political activity." In part, Maxey argues that in violation of Canon 5, Patterson "knowingly or recklessly" misrepresented facts about herself when she told the Chronicle that Perry had pursued her to apply for the local civil bench made vacant by the untimely death of Judge Scott Ozmun. Patterson initially told us that Perry's office had approached her several times asking her to apply for the seat and that although she turned him down several times, she finally relented, seeing the appointment as a way to shortcut an election. Later, Perry's office told us this was not true and that it was Patterson who came to them seeking the appointment. Patterson's deception raises "important issues of judicial integrity that require a full investigation," Maxey said in a press release. (Interestingly, Patterson is one of 13 members and vice chair of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which would hear Maxey's complaint. If the complaint is deemed worthy of investigation, Patterson will have to recuse herself from hearing the complaint.)

When Gov. Rick Perry’s office sought Austin Sen. Kirk Watson’s approval on appointing 3rd Court of Appeals Judge Jan Patterson to a local civil bench, Watson’s office responded with “N/A,” meaning “not approved.”
When Gov. Rick Perry’s office sought Austin Sen. Kirk Watson’s approval on appointing 3rd Court of Appeals Judge Jan Patterson to a local civil bench, Watson’s office responded with “N/A,” meaning “not approved.”

The 3rd Court is the state's most powerful intermediate appellate bench, because it has jurisdiction over matters of statewide importance – including state ethics cases and all rulings concerning state agencies. The court has become increasingly partisan in recent years, and there is no doubt that giving Perry the chance to appoint a Repub­lic­an to replace Patterson a year before her term would have ended would have helped ensure GOP control of the entire court, which covers 24 Central Texas counties. Perhaps for that reason, Patterson's nomination to the 353rd was not approved by Austin Sen. Kirk Watson, according to documents obtained through an open records request, and Perry ultimately appointed Jeff Rose, former deputy first assistant with the state Attorney General's Office, to replace Ozmun.

Meanwhile, however, Patterson is stepping down from her seat on the appeals court next year to run for Travis County's 201st Civil District bench. Maxey argues that Patterson's conduct in seeking the appointment to the 353rd Court was so out of line that she should step aside in the 201st race and let someone else run. "Not only is this a violation of judicial ethics, this is a stab in the back of the Democrats who have supported her in the past. Jan Patterson should withdraw her candidacy for any judicial contest in 2010 and enable an uncompromised nominee," Maxey wrote in a statement. "[F]or her own political gain, Jan Patterson was willing to just give this court to a Republican majority and this seat to another Rick Perry right-wing appointee. This is the ultimate betrayal of the Democrats who have given her this seat. It does not belong to her to trade for another judicial seat. It belongs to the voters." (At press time, Patterson had not responded to a request for comment.)

So far, Patterson has not drawn an opponent – Democratic or Republican – in the race for the 201st.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Jan Patterson, Third Court of Appeals, Rick Perry, Kirk Watson, Elections, Election 2010

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