Texas judges reportedly get in tiff over shared bench after Hurricane Harvey

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Two judges in Harris County, Texas, reportedly clashed while sharing a bench in the civil courthouse after the main criminal court was damaged in Hurricane Harvey.

Judge Jim Wallace wanted Judge Nikita Harmon to step down so he could take some criminal pleas, a story both sides agree is true, report the Houston Press and Click2Houston. But the two sides apparently differ on some of the details.

Supporters of Harmon claim Wallace threatened to have the bailiff arrest her if she didn’t get off the bench. But Kent Schaffer, who is a friend of and spokesperson for Wallace, said his understanding is that Wallace “made a comment you could be arrested for impeding justice and he turned around and left,” according to Click2Houston.

Another spokesperson for Wallace, Brian Wice, said Wallace had asked Harmon to step aside because there was a lull in her docket.

A defense lawyer in the courtroom, Val Zuniga, told the Houston Press that his client waited for more than an hour to enter a plea. When Wallace snapped at Harmon, she appeared to be talking to her bailiff and not doing anything substantial, Zuniga said.

Harmon wouldn’t leave the bench, even temporarily, and Wallace said something along the lines of, “Well I could have you arrested,” Zuniga said. According to Zuniga, Wallace then said, “You’ve been here seven months and you think you own the place,” before he walked out of the courtroom.

“Should Judge Wallace have said that?” Zuniga asked. “No. But she was holding up a person’s ability to complete their case and get out of there a free man because she wouldn’t get off the bench. I think they were both acting irresponsible. They were both acting like children.”

Click2Houston reported Friday that both judges have been paired to share courtrooms with other judges.

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