Texas judge admonished for closing courtroom to protest Kavanaugh confirmation

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A Texas judge has been publicly admonished for closing his courtroom and draping it with black fabric to protest the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct said Judge John Lipscombe of Travis County “cast public discredit on the judiciary” in a manner that was “influenced by partisan interests and public clamor.” Law360 has coverage of the Aug. 8 order.

The Oct. 8 courtroom closure attracted media publicity after a local TV news reporter posted a Twitter photo of the closed and draped courtroom, according to the commission’s findings of fact. The tweet said Lipscombe told the reporter he felt Kavanaugh’s confirmation was a big step backward for the country and the closure was a form of silent protest.

Lipscombe confirmed that he spoke to the reporter and told the commission he was protesting because of Kavanaugh’s “total disrespect for women who have suffered sexual assault and his blatant disrespect for the Senate committee, especially the female senators.”

Lipscombe said he was at his office working when his court was closed. He had 107 matters on his docket that day, which scheduled appearances for 69 criminal defendants. Lipscombe said he tried to get the word out by asking the president of the Austin Criminal Defense Lawyers Association to put out notice of the closure to the group’s membership.

Those who didn’t get word were told of the closure when they arrived at the courthouse.

Asked to explain his conduct, Lipscombe told the commission: “As I watched the confirmation process for Brett Kavanaugh, I became more and more disgusted and concerned for the future of the Supreme Court … not because he comes from a political party different from mine, but because of his character and conduct. I was concerned about the person, but also the process of confirmation. … My feelings about this are anything but political. I strongly felt, and continue to feel, that the Supreme Court and our entire judiciary has been besmirched.”

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