Legal Ethics

Judge accused of texting prosecutor about case during trial will step down from bench


A Texas judge hasn’t admitted any wrongdoing concerning her claimed texts to a prosecutor during trial.

But 258th District Judge Elizabeth Coker will give up her seat on the bench effective Dec. 6 and she is taking a voluntary leave of absence in the meantime, according to the Houston Chronicle and Your Houston News.

The settlement agreement also will preclude her working as a judge elsewhere in Texas.

Meanwhile, it isn’t clear whether any ethics investigation is being pursued against another judge who, while working as a prosecutor on Aug. 8, 2012, is accused of relaying Coker’s texts to another prosecutor trying a child-injury case before Coker. An investigator working for the district attorney’s office who was present in the courtroom reported the claimed communication.

A settlement agreement contains no specified facts, but notes that Coker has been accused of improper ex parte communications with a number of lawyers, notes Your Houston News.

“The commission investigated claims that Judge Coker allegedly engaged in other improper ex parte communications and meetings with Jones, other members of the Polk County District Attorney’s Office, the San Jacinto County District Attorney and certain defense attorneys regarding various cases pending in her court,” the agreement says. “Judge Coker allegedly exhibited a bias in favor of certain attorneys and prejudice against others in both her judicial rulings and her court appointments; and Judge Coker allegedly met with jurors in an inappropriate manner, outside the presence of counsel, while the jurors were deliberating in one or more criminal trials.”

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Judge texted during trial to help state, says ex-prosecutor”

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