Muni Judge Phyllis Brown Sues City, Before She's Removed for Running for District Court

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Via.
Hon. Phyllis Lister Brown
In December 2005, Elizabeth Frizell, then a municipal judge for the city of Dallas for a solid decade, decided it was time for a change, so she filed to run in the Democratic primary for County Criminal Court No. 11. At which point she was told she would have to resign as a muni judge. The reason: There is a provision in the Dallas City Charter that says "if a member of any board appointed by the council or any appointive officer of the city becomes a candidate for nomination or election to any public office, he or she shall immediately forfeit his or her place or position with the city."

Frizell resisted, then insisted City Attorney Tom Perkins had her back. But on June 28, 2006, the city council voted to remove her from the bench. So she filed a federal lawsuit, which follows for historical context, claiming her constitutional rights had been violated. And, according to her attorney at the time, "such a sweeping restriction would effectively prevent municipal judges from seeking career advancement, absent their willingness to forfeit their existing position." A year later, the suit was dismissed. And Frizell is presently the presiding judge in County Criminal Court No. 11.

That's the back story behind a new lawsuit filed at the end of last week in Dallas County District Court: Municipal judge Phyllis Lister Brown, herself a 17-year veteran of the municipal court, has sued Mayor Mike and the council because she believes the city will try to Frizell her once she announces her intention to take Lorraine Raggio's seat on the 162nd Civil District Court.

According to her preemptive strike, Brown's attorney, Ray Guy, spoke with the City Attorney's Office last Tuesday and was told ...
"... that the City's position with respect to Judge Brown would be the same as it was with respect to Judge Frizell in 2006. Thus, Judge Brown reasonable believes that the City Council will likewise attempt to wrongfully purport to terminate her position on the Municipal Court if she announces her candidacy for the 162nd District Court. Any such adverse action by the City Council will irreparably injure Judge Brown's candidacy by creating negative publicity that will likely be viewed unfavorably by voters."
Brown wants the court to declare she's not "subject to the Dallas City Charter provisions" and injunctive relief that would keep council from removing her when she announces she's running for district court some time at the end of the month.

Read the whole thing here. Frizell Suit
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18 comments
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I'm stupid
I'm stupid

rules should be challenged or else we have a bunch of rules that are justified by nothing more than their existence.  maybe it'll work out for her, and maybe it won't.  either way, it doesn't seem like a world changer.

Oak Cliff Res
Oak Cliff Res

So I guess we should just go and murder people to challenge the death penalty?...

I'm stupid
I'm stupid

yes.  thats exactly what we should do.  thanks for taking the hannity-limbaugh approach.

Reginaldwilson
Reginaldwilson

Municipal judges are not the only ones subject to a similar rule.  County judges also have to step down to seek other judicial offices, and all judges who work for the state and county have to step down to seek non-judicial offices.  If you are going to change the rules, there ought to be consistency across the board.  Everyone should be able to run.  But right now it's sort of unfair for the courts to ask the city to make an exception in a special case, because there is no consistency. 

A bigger question is why a judge with minimal civil background would seek a civil court office, as is the case here.

Jay
Jay

Should we even consider electing a judge who periodically files lawsuits demanding exemption from rules which govern the rest of us, but in her mind, should not apply to her?

Oak Cliff Res
Oak Cliff Res

The same rule applies to Councilmembers and basically every other public official except Congressmen/Congresswomen, Senators and Governers.  You cannot hold public office and run for another or have your name on the ballot twice... Period.  She just lost my vote...

Bob
Bob

She does not hold a public ELECTED office, so her name would not appear on the ballot twice.  We don't vote for municipal judges--the City Council appoints them.

cp
cp

I thought the City Charter said somewhere that appointed people can't run for elected office without having first resigned from their appointed posts. 

Oak Cliff Res
Oak Cliff Res

And that was my point as I clearly stated you cannot hold public office (which is what a municipal judge is even though it is APPOINTED) and run for another office.  Same goes for Park & Rec Board Members, CPC, Automated Red Light Commission, etc. which are all appointed...  I guess Bob missed that small word "or"....

halldecker
halldecker

If she intends to run against Judge Raggio,   I definitely understand her worry about giving up her day job.

I've tried cases in Judge Raggio's Court.   In 30+ years she's one of the best I've worked with.

Others will likely differ.   That's fine,  tell us how many cases you've tried to a jury verdict in her Court,  then we'll talk.

Huge difference between being measured each month as to how much money you pulled in for the City of Dallas (each Judge is rated,  lower ranked Judges don't get reappointed)  and hearing complex multi-plaintiff/defendant cases that you know are going to be appealed.

Phillip
Phillip

Making her step down from her municipal court judgeship is clearly intended to avoid an appearance of impropriety.

Phillip
Phillip

She's special and therefore deserves to have the rules changed to favor her.If she were mature about it, she'd step down and run her campaign.  Instead, she wants to cover any potential loss by keeping the bird she has in her hand--her current job.  Most egregious in this whole thing is the fact she had to have known this was an issue since the last judge did the same thing.Either our rules/laws/ordinances mean something or why do we have them at all?  This is absurd, it's clear the code ordinance was intended to ensure candidates are not affiliated with their municipal employment anymore if they seek another office.It all goes to ethics--this ordinance is clearly set to avoid any appearances of impropriety...however, some people don't feel as though ethics rules apply to them.

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

I don't have a dog in this fight, but how is a muni judge running for criminal court different from, say, a Governor running for President?  Other than there being an explicit statutory limitation, that is.  Shouldn't that rule be consistent for all elected officials?

DuckDuckGoose
DuckDuckGoose

' rule be consistent for all elected officials '

rule + consistent + elected officials ? ? This does not compute ...

Montemalone
Montemalone

Why don't the rules apply?Didn't she know them when she took the job in the first place?I'm sick of the ruling class continually doing whatever they want.

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