in Houston, Texas
Aransas County judge at center YouTube beating video gets warning from Texas judicial conduct panel embroiled in transparency dispute with legislators
Friday, Sep 07, 2012, 04:21PM CST
By Curt Olson
video

The Aransas County judge at the center of a viral video on YouTube that showed him beating his then-teenage daughter received a “public warning” from a state agency arguably just as embattled as the judge.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct delivered the warning to Aransas County Court-at-Law Judge Williams Adams, whose court hears family law cases, although it is likely he will return to the bench, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports. Adams was suspended with pay about 10 months ago after Adams’ 23-year-old daughter Hillary posted a video of her father beating and cursing at her when she was 16.

During the investigation, Aransas County dropped Adams’ pay 1.6 percent for fiscal year 2013 to $144,000 because his caseload was less than other county judges-at-law making similar pay, the Caller-Times reported.

The decision by the state panel will probably be one of just a few dozen decisions to discipline a judge the commission delivers this year. It has been engaged in a power struggle with the Sunset Advisory Commission over the veil of secrecy that obscures judicial conduct records.

Sunset review occurs for every state agency, and the sunset commission can make recommendations for improvement or suggest shutting down an agency. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct received 1,119 complaints on judges in 2011, issuing just 42 disciplinary decisions, according to the Sunset review.

The Austin American-Statesman revealed earlier this year the judicial disciplinary panel had blocked the sunset commission from access to its deliberations, arguing they are protected under attorney-client privilege.This compelled state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, chairman of the Sunset Commission, to write a letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott challenging the secrecy and asking for an opinion.

It’s hard to imagine that Abbott would go against a prior ruling on this issue from his predecessor, former AG John Cornyn, now U.S. senator. In an April Sunset Commission hearing, state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, displayed that 2000 ruling by Cornyn stating there must be full access and cooperation with the Sunset Commission, the Statesman reported.

***
Contact Curt Olson at curt@texaswatchdog.org or 512-557-3800. Follow him on Twitter @olson_curt.

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Screenshot is of the controversial beating video.

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