You have a chance to tell the State Commission on Judicial Conduct what you think about their suspension of County Judge Joel P. Baker without pay. Do it now!
Smith County Judge Joel P. Baker was suspended without pay by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct on June 21 after a Smith County Grand Jury handed up an indictment on three counts of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act. If convicted, Baker will automatically be removed from office. (Baker is to be arraigned in Smith County on August 25.)
Baker’s three-count indictment by the grand jury is the result of an investigation by Attorney Pro-tem Daniel Brody, Assistant Texas Attorney General, from the White Collar Crime & Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Prosecution Division of the TX AG’s Office. The investigation was the result of the official complaint and request for investigation filed by Grassroots America on May 12, 2015. If not for Grassroots America, the whole ATS traffic camera scheme would NEVER have been investigated, let alone violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act prosecuted.
Baker had 30 days to appeal his suspension without pay (effective June 21). He filed his appeal on July 20. On appeal, the burden will be on Baker to prove to the SCJC that he should be allowed to serve and can do so by presenting evidence or witnesses to prove his case.
If you care one whit about accountability, take the time NOW to weigh in on Baker’s post-suspension hearing, scheduled for Thursday, August 11 in Austin. The hearing is open to the public and will be conducted at 9 a.m. in room 402 of the WPC Building, 300 W. 15th Street in Austin. At the hearing, members of the public can submit statements or questions.
If you plan to attend the hearing and would like to carpool, please e-mail Becky@gawtp.com by Tuesday, August 9 at noon. We will attempt to put those who desire to travel to the Austin hearing in connection with each other; but we will not be able to guarantee any person a ride.
Mrs. Fleming has submitted written testimony on behalf of the Grassroots America Board of Directors and will not testify in person, saying, “I believe it is in the best interest of this case to decline public testimony until such time I may be called to testify at trial, but make no mistake, we strongly believe it is in the best interest of the citizens of Smith County that Judge Joel P. Baker remains suspended from the Office of Smith County Judge without pay. The Texas Open Meetings Act is not complicated, and unlike many who serve in the capacity of County Judge, Joel Patrick Baker is an attorney. Since he is an attorney, we find it highly disturbing that Judge Baker would ignore how clearly TOMA defines precisely how official meetings must be conducted, specifying the few subjects lawfully exempt from public view. We therefore asked the SCJC to uphold the order of suspension without pay.”
For those who cannot attend, please send your comments or testimony online. It’s easy to do. Just click here www.scjc.texas.gov. Go to the “contact us” bar at the top right of the webpage.
I know it sounds terribly naïve and Pollyannaish, but did you know that at one time it was understood that those with the title of “judge” conducted themselves as “always under oath,” meaning a judge is supposed to never say or write anything that isn’t true? We desperately need a return to that time. Get started today. Contact the SCJC. Speak your mind.