Sunday, October 5, 2014

Houston Court of Appeals Justice Jim Sharp soon to face the voters' verdict for misconduct in office

Judicial Elections as a Remedy to Improve the Judicial System  

Having distinguished himself with a formal reprimand by the Texas Commission of Judicial Conduct, followed by a like resolution by a special court of inquiry assembled by the Texas Supreme Court -- in his very first term on the First Court of Appeals, no less - Houston Court of Appeals Justice Jim Patrick Sharp is facing his forthcoming demise as a public official at the ballot box. Elected in 2008 by a narrow margin, Justice Sharp is up for re-election this election season as his 6-year term ends Dec 31, 2014. He performed poorly in the Houston Bar Association's poll of judicial candidates. 

Jim Sharp: Seeking re-election in 2014 to seat on First Court of Appeals
despite Censure by Judicial Conduct Commission 
Sharp's antics range from jumping on his desk and having his picture taken by a photographer for the Houston Chronicle, removing  furniture under cover of darkness without facility management
approval from his erstwhile chamber in the building of the South Texas College of Law to the newly restored 1910 Harris County Courthouse, and picking a fight with security personnel at said courthouse merely because they were doing their humble jobs and would not let him bypass the metal detector screening without showing his badge.

But nothing exemplifies the complete lack of judicial temperament and decorum more starkly than the tirade Sharp launched against employees of the Brazoria County Juvenile Probation Department when they wouldn't accommodate his intervention, seeking -- with reference to his authority as a member of the court of appeals overseeing the judges of ten counties -- the immediate release of the juvenile daughter of a female friend who had been caught shop-lifting; -- "popped", as Sharp put it.

Sharp's rants against the Brazoria County officers involved in the juvenile matters ran the gamut of appellations from "arrogant little prick" and "son of a bixxx" to "stupid axxhole" to "xxxxsuckers".

In his subsequent disciplinary proceeding Sharp sought to justify his impertinent outburst, and use of gutter slang, by averring -- ironically -- that he had to make sure they understood that he was not just a "Joe Schmo down the street". He also averred that he was just "venting".

A psychiatrist hired by Sharp, Dr. Stephen Tew, offered a mild diagnosis of adult attention deficit disorder, but conceded that it was not the sole producing cause of the wayward conduct that brought Sharp to the attention of the Judicial Conduct Commission. In other words, the man has behavioral issues, and they cannot be chalked up to a mental conditions as some sort of clinical excuse for clearly inappropriate behavior.

Dr Stephen Tew's fee for testimony on behalf of Justice Jim Sharp in his disciplinary case
before a special court as reported to the Texas Ethics Commission
Sharp was not just venting. He was trying to use his official position as a member of the First Court of Appeals to secure special favors for the teenage child of a woman with whom he had some sort of personal relationship; accompanied by a tirade of verbal abuse so vile it makes one cringe merely reporting it.

At the end of the disciplinary process, the not-so Honorable Jim Sharp was not removed from office. Nor deprived of his perch and the power to do more harm to the integrity of the judicial system through his participation in appellate decision-making. But that will likely happen, come November.

Democracy has its quirks. It can get unqualified people into public office, to be sure, but it can also flush them out when they betray the public's expectations, and the citizenry's trust. The ballot box can deliver much deserved justice when the peers that get to pass judgment and censor an errant colleague in the disciplinary process stop short of removing him from the bench he has sullied.

 Public official Jim Sharp's less than judicious choice of words:
The Honorable Jim Sharp's Cursing documented in the course of disciplinary process
Some of the findings on Sharp's verbal abuse of county employees 
Now judicial ethics continuing education material 

Jim Sharp as course material for presentation on judicial ethics


Houston Chronicle editorial on Justice Jim Sharp’s poor judgment (2012)  
Houston judge (Jim Sharp) censored for 'abusive' behavior (2012 Houston Chronicle article) 
Houston Press: Judge Jim Sharp - Rate His Cursing as the tries to spring friend's daughter from jail (9/7/2012) 


Incumbent Jim Sharp's standing with the local bar (HBA Judicial Preference Poll)
Local Bar Poll Results: Jim Sharp lagging behind even though he is the incumbent
with better name-recognition

The Hon Jim Sharp - featured speaker at Houston NORML Halloween ("Halloweed") event. 
Looking for a few last-minute weed-minded votes?

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