Judge is sanctioned for rainbow flag and congratulatory Facebook posts

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A judge in San Antonio, Texas, has received a private warning for displaying a rainbow flag in her courtroom and a public admonition for using Facebook to congratulate winning lawyers.

Judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez plans to appeal both sanctions issued by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, according to the Texas Lawyer (here and here), the San Antonio Current and the San Antonio Express-News.

The public admonition says Gonzalez wrote at least eight posts on her judicial Facebook page last year about 12 winning lawyers. The posts “congratulated those attorneys on winning jury verdicts in her court and lauded their results and professional backgrounds,” according to findings of fact cited in the admonition.

Gonzalez did not write additional posts after the State Commission on Judicial Conduct inquired about the matter, but she did not take down the eight posts.

The admonition cites a provision in the judicial conduct code that prevents judges from using the prestige of their office to advance private interests of themselves or others.

The admonition says Gonzalez must obtain four hours of instruction with a mentor.

Gonzalez said she congratulated prosecutors and defense lawyers, but the commission only asked about the defense lawyer posts, according to the Texas Lawyer. She said she didn’t post anything until after the verdicts were issued.

Gonzalez received a separate, private warning over the rainbow flag, according to her lawyer, Deanna Whitley, who spoke with the Texas Lawyer. The commission thought the flag created the appearance that the judge lacked impartiality.

The judicial conduct commission did not confirm or deny the warning.

The private warning also reportedly said Gonzalez should not use a rainbow pen, a rainbow mouse pad and a robe with a colorful strip of Mexican blanket design. Gonzalez said neither the pen nor the robe follow the rainbow flag’s sequence of colors.

She told the Texas Lawyer that another judge wears a camouflage robe and another displays an Irish flag.

Whitley said the commission should be consistent in enforcement. She also argued that there is a constitutional issue at stake.

“Elected officials, including judges, have a First Amendment right, which they do not forfeit upon election,” Whitley told the Texas Lawyer. “If the commission is going to enforce these issues, it should not be limited to an LGBTQ judge. It should be across the board.”

Gonzalez was elected as a Democrat in a “blue wave” after the election of President Donald Trump. She was the first openly gay judge elected in Bexar County.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, the rainbow flag complaint was filed by criminal defense lawyer Flavio Hernandez, who also filed a motion to recuse Gonzalez from his cases.

“I may not be able to turn the dark tide of immorality sweeping through our nation like a virus,” Hernandez told the San Antonio Express-News in a statement. “But in my small way, I voiced my support of traditional American family values.”

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