The City Council's Ousted Muni Judge Brown. She's Not About to Leave Bench Without a Fight.

JudgePhyllisListerBrown.JPG
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Municipal Court Judge Phyllis Lister Brown
In the end, the Dallas City Council voted this morning to remove Municipal Court Judge Phyllis Lister Brown from the position she's held for 17 years. But she's not about to go quietly. Far from it.

Brown landed in a legal tangle with the city when she filed her candidacy in December to run for district judge without resigning from her position as municipal judge -- a measure required by city charter, according to City Attorney Tom Perkins, with whom a majority of the council agreed.

"Municipal courts are created by the Dallas city council. They're created pursuant to state law ... they may be removed by Dallas city council ... the salaries are paid by the City of Dallas," Perkins said, defending the position that the city is, in fact, the primary oversight body for municipal judges. Perkins recommended Brown's removal.

Brown's Attorney, Ray Guy of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, called Perkins's interpretation of the charter "flawed" and presented his version, which would give Brown the option of maintaining her position as municipal judge until -- and if -- she is elected district judge. Guy said Brown's position falls mainly under state control, and to argue otherwise would have murky implications, such as people being prosecuted and sentenced by the same body -- a city attorney and a city judge.

"The fact that she's appointed by the city council does not make her an officer of the city," Guy said. "A municipal judgeship is in the city but is not of the city." He added that it seems illogical for a well-regarded judge to have to step down in order to advance her career.

"I love my profession -- a judge for the state of Texas -- and I love the city of Dallas," Brown told the council. "That is why it saddens me today to stand before you at a removal hearing ... I respectfully disagree with the city attorney's interpretation."

But today's decision extends beyond her position, Brown said. "More importantly, it is in fact about the fundamental principles of our legal system, which depends on a judiciary that is independent and impartial," she said.

Council member Vonciel Jones Hill said that having served 17 years as a municipal judge herself, she and others in her position always knew they would have to step away from their post in order to pursue an elected position. "Mr. Guy makes very able arguments, however his arguments are incorrect," she said. "Above all, judges should respect the laws under which they are appointed and under which they serve."

Said Hill: "It is with a heavy heart but a clear mind that I move this council to adopt the ordinance proposed by the city attorney, and I move further that the result of the council's vote be published immediately."

"That gives me heartburn," said Dwaine Caraway, who, along with Carolyn Davis, voted against Brown's removal. They've been here before with muni judge Elizabeth Frizell, and he imagines this won't be the last time the issue surfaces.

After the hearing, Brown's lawyers said they plan to file a request today for a temporary injunction "to restrain the enforcement of the ordinance" and halt Brown's removal. In December, in anticipation of today's council decision, Brown and her legal team filed a separate case against the city, arguing against her removal. [UPDATE: On Wednesday afternoon, District Judge Marty Lowy granted Judge Brown's request for a Temporary Restraining Order, temporarily allowing her to maintain her position. There is a hearing scheduled for Monday regarding the case Brown filed against the city.]

"We believe that the law is on our side," Brown said after the hearing. She told Unfair Park she will continue running for district judge, but that she did not share council member Hill's understanding that to do so would mean she has to leave her post as municipal judge. "Her analysis [of the law] is entirely different than mine," Brown said.

"Overall, I believe we will still be successful in the run for the 162nd District Court," Brown said. And as it stands right now, her future employment could depend on it.

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Halldecker
Halldecker

She's running against one of the most competent Judges in Dallas County,  way way ahead of most of the others.   Judge Lorraine Raggio runs a Court I enjoy going into.  She lets both sides make their cases,  is patient,  actually reads every scrap of paper lawyers file prior to starting a Hearing or Trial,  accommodates her Jurors,  everything I want in a Judge. 

She is a member of Louise Raggio's family,   she was elected as a Dem in an era when Repubs won everything in the Courthouse.  She's not an easy target.

If Ms. Brown wants to do justice a huge favor,   she'd run against two of the County Court at Law Judges,  every lawyer knows who they are,  who are crazy as a s--thouse rat.

Guest
Guest

Last I heard that was an open seat.

NealK
NealK

If Brown is using an attorney from Weil Gotshal, she is either paying him $750 an hour or getting his services pro bono.  And he's not her only lawyer - apparently she has a "team".  Does it seem a bit strange that a sitting judge (which she was at the time Weil Gotshal started representing her) is allowed to accept pro bono services?  Or maybe it's fine, or maybe she's independently wealthy.  Who knows.

El Rey
El Rey

This is just who we want running for office: a judge (politician) who wants the law to bend to suit her own political desires.

james
james

 murky implications, such as people being prosecuted and sentenced by the same body -- a city attorney and a city judge..... that's the way it's always been. our justice system is a bad joke and i for one am dam tired of bein' the butt of it.

james
james

doesn't the public defender get paid by the city, too? get charged in dallas and play with a deck stacked like that?!

Guest
Guest

If only there was a law that said the governor had to resign before he could run for president.

Paul
Paul

And the Governor also said that there should be a law that requires that .... but then he changed his mind ... about the same time he decided to retire and collect his state pension ... so we end up having a retired active governor that is running for another office while we provide him the security detail for his campaign ... so much for fiscal responsibility ...

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