Texas bankruptcy judge questioned over relationship with local lawyer
A Texas bankruptcy judge has acknowledged being in a romantic relationship with a lawyer whose former law firm brought major cases before him. Image from Shutterstock.
A Texas bankruptcy judge has acknowledged being in a romantic relationship with a lawyer whose former law firm brought major cases before him.
Judge David R. Jones, who has overseen several large Chapter 11 cases in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston, told the Wall Street Journal during a recent interview that he has been in a relationship with bankruptcy lawyer Elizabeth Freeman for several years. The couple also live together.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Jones said he and Freeman agreed that she would never personally appear in his courtroom. He also said he didn’t think that he had a duty to disclose their relationship because he and Freeman are not married, and he did not receive economic benefits from her work.
“If for any reason I thought that I should have done something more, I would have done it,” Jones told the Wall Street Journal. “I’m certainly not afraid of my relationship, I just simply think I’m entitled to a certain degree of privacy. I and I alone made the call that so long as she never appeared in front of me, that was sufficient.”
Freeman was a partner in the Houston office of Jackson Walker, a Texas bankruptcy firm that filed Chapter 11 cases that were assigned to Jones. The Wall Street Journal reports that she left in December 2022 to start a firm, the Law Office of Liz Freeman.
Jones did not respond to requests for comment. Jackson Walker and Freeman declined to comment on this matter.
The relationship between Jones and Freeman became public after a plaintiff brought a lawsuit against the judge over rulings that he made in a 2020 bankruptcy case involving offshore drilling company McDermott International, the Wall Street Journal reports. The plaintiff, Michael Van Deelen, alleged the relationship was a conflict of interest.
Reuters interviewed several legal ethics experts, who argued that Jones should have previously disclosed the relationship or recused himself from cases involving Jackson Walker.
“It shouldn’t be a hard call,” Adam Levitin, a bankruptcy professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, told Reuters. “If anyone could reasonably question your impartiality, you shouldn’t be involved.”