The Austin Chronicle

Lehmberg Removal Trial Begins

By Jordan Smith, October 18, 2013, News

A civil trial to determine whether elected Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg should be removed from office as a result of her April drunken driving conviction will begin next week in county district court.

At issue is whether Lehmberg's conduct on April 26 – when she was arrested for drunk driving, was found to have a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit, spent a night in jail, and was at times combative with county jailers as evidenced by video of her stay – rises to a level to trigger her removal from office under a relatively obscure provision of the Local Government Code that allows citizens to initiate a removal proceeding for certain county officials for official misconduct, incompetency, or "intoxication on or off duty caused by drinking an alcoholic beverage." Local attorney Kerry O'Brien initially filed the suit, saying he felt he had a "moral duty" to do so; his action was later replaced by a similar suit filed by County Attor­ney David Escamilla, who has the responsibility under law to carry such an action.

Lehmberg was also facing possible criminal indictment in connection with her behind-bars behavior, but those charges – brought by former D.A. candidate and prosecutor Rick Reed – were discarded late last month by a specially called grand jury who considered and rejected an opportunity to indict the county's top law enforcer. With Lehmberg out from under the possibility of criminal prosecution, which likely would have hit the pause button on Escamilla's civil action, the removal suit is set and ready to go and expected to start Monday morning, Oct. 21.

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