Politics & Government

Texas ethics panel fines state appeals judge $100,000

AUSTIN — Judge Sharon Keller, the state's highest criminal appeals judge, said Friday that she plans to fight a $100,000 civil penalty for failing to disclose on state-required personal finance statements more than $2.4 million in property, as well as income and other holdings.

The penalty against Keller, the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, was the highest ever leveled by the Texas Ethics Commission, surpassing an earlier record assessment of $75,000, according to commission spokesman Tim Sorrells.

Keller's attorney, Ed Shack of Austin, said Keller "is very disappointed at the excessive penalty" assessed by the commission and plans to appeal. The appeal, which Keller has 30 days to file, will likely result in a trial before a district judge in Travis County.

Keller is also embroiled in an unrelated 15-month-old dispute with another state agency over her refusal to accept a late-hour Death Row appeal in 2007. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which initiated an inquiry against Keller in February 2009, has scheduled a June 18 hearing in the case.

The ethics penalty renewed calls for Keller's removal.

"Clearly with this size of fine, she should not be the chief justice of the court of appeals," said Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, who has called for Keller's impeachment. "What kind of ethical standards is this setting for the state? It adds an arrow in my quiver, as it were, for why she should be off the bench."

Read more of this story at Star-Telegram.com

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