Jackson Walker secured a victory for Judge Michelle Slaughter of the Texas 405th District Court in Galveston as a Special Court of Review appointed by the Texas Supreme Court dismissed all charges stemming from a public admonition issued by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct on Judge Slaughter’s use of Facebook to inform the public about proceedings in her court.
The Special Court of Review concluded that – rather than violating the Code of Judicial Conduct – “the credible evidence overwhelmingly preponderates in favor of a finding that Respondent did not violate Canons 3(B)(10) and 4(A) of the Code of Judicial Conduct or Article V, Section 1- a(6)(A) of the Texas Constitution” and that Judge Slaughter “was motivated by the admonition of the Preamble to the Code of Judicial Conduct for judges to ‘strive to enhance and maintain confidence in our legal system,’ as she sought to educate the public of the events occurring in her Court.” Further, the Special Court of Review found that the State Commission on Judicial Conduct failed to show Judge Slaughter’s extrajudicial statements would suggest to a reasonable person the judge’s probable decision on any particular case or that would cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially.
The ruling clarifies the application of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct to the widespread use of social media by the Texas judiciary and provides much needed guidance on the appropriate use and benefits of using social media to inform the public.
Jackson Walker lawyers Chip Babcock, William Powers, Amanda Zimmerman, and Luke Gilman represented Judge Slaughter at trial, supported at trial by expert testimony from John Browning, an expert on social media and the law, and Renee Newman Knake, a Professor at Michigan State University College of Law and expert on the First Amendment and Legal Ethics.
The victory for Judge Slaughter is one of a number of recent cases in which Jackson Walker partner Chip Babcock has successfully represented Texas judges in judicial conduct proceedings and is another in a long line of cases defending the First Amendment rights of all citizens.