BELTON — A trial date of Oct. 1 was set for a court petition that seeks to remove Justice of the Peace Claudia Brown from her elected position.
The jury trial is set for 9 a.m. on Oct. 1, Bell County Attorney Jim Nichols said Tuesday.
State District Judge Stephen Ables of the 216th District Court in Kerr County is assigned to preside over the trial. He was the visiting judge who heard arguments in March 2017 concerning the first removal petition filed by Killeen lawyer Brett Pritchard. Ables cited Brown and ordered a trial with Nichols as the prosecutor.
In a Facebook post, Brown claimed that the reason for the complaints against her was because she is a black Democratic woman who holds elected office in a Republican-majority county.
“If it is true what lawyers have said in the press that I will surely lose my job as judge if I go to jury trial, then we will see, because on October 1, 2018, I will be the victim of a jury trial.”
In another post made Sunday, Brown said, “I am certain that my current character assassination is not only political in nature but also a judicial precedent. The State of Texas vs. Claudia Brown. Really? Could it be because I am the only Black Democratic woman out of 30 elected positions ever in the history of Bell County? Well, duh!”
Brown was not available Tuesday at her office. She did not return a phone call by press time.
Brown, the JP for Precinct 4, Place 1, was publicly remanded in December by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct after the previous removal petition was addressed.
Under that decision, the state judicial panel let Brown remain in office and required her to have two hours of additional judicial education under the guidance of a mentor.
The second amended petition — filed by Nichols on July 27 — claims that Brown is “unfit and unable to promptly and properly discharge her official duties because of a serious physical or mental defect that did not exist at the time of her election.”
Bell County has been negatively impacted by Brown’s official misconduct and incompetency, Nichols said in his petition.
Brown made national headlines in February 2017 after the Telegram reported she set a U.S. record $4 billion bond for a Killeen murder suspect, Antonio Willis, as her way of protesting against the legal system. In setting that bond, the petition says she violated the U.S. Constitution, the Texas Constitution and the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
In addition, Brown set other bonds below the recommended amounts for some defendants who were charged with violent felony offenses — insufficient “when considering the safety of the victim and community,” the petition said.
Brown’s son, Kevin Anton Davis, was arraigned by Brown in June 2017 after he was charged with driving while intoxicated while involved in an accident. She set a bonder lower than what she normally set for other defendants with similar charges. It violates judicial conduct rules to make decisions about relatives.
She refused to conduct two death inquests, according to the petition, even when she was on call for the pronunciation of deaths.
Brown didn’t correctly fill out 48 of the 53 death certificates for which she was responsible, according to the petition. The death certificates reportedly had to be redone by Justice of the Peace Bill Cooke.
Facebook posts about police officers who were said to be racist were shared by Brown. That and the framing and matting of a newspaper article about Brown’s judicial reprimand led to Nichols’ claim that she violated Canon 2 of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct.
On July 7, Brown publicly endorsed a County Commissioner candidate and contributed to his campaign fund — violations of Canon 5 of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct, the petition said.
‘We are gaining ground’
Brown addressed the petition’s claim about the death certificates in an Aug. 6 Facebook post.
“The battle is the Lord’s and we are gaining ground,” Brown said. “Lie number 4 printed by Deborah McKeon … stated on 7/28/18, that 48 of the 53 death certificates I did had to be corrected by Judge Cooke. I have successfully completed death certificates from number 3,919 to 4,150 with excellence and without correction from anyone.”
Some of Brown’s supporters responded on Facebook to her statements.
Patricia Irene Thomas Reynolds said, “Keep the faith,” while Bruce Thomas said, “Annihilate with the truth!” Rhonda Brown wrote, “The victory is already won.”
Belton lawyer Jeff Parker, who filed a complaint against Brown with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, posted his reaction to the jury trial date.
“On Judge Brown’s Facebook page she claims that she will be a victim of a jury trial,” Parker said Tuesday. “My innocent clients look forward to their day in court with a judge.”