These signs were placed outside of the courthouse by supporters of mine prior to infamous “trial.”
Posts by Lori Elaine Laird, J.D.
Did County Court Judge Christopher Dupuy fire his court coordinator just because she was nice to an attorney who has openly questioned the judge’s actions in the courtroom
His former court coordinator says that’s exactly why she was fired by the embattled judge on Thursday.
The termination came shortly after Monica Gracia, who until Thursday was Dupuy’s court coordinator since he took office in 2011, was taken to task by the judge via text message after she extended an apology for keeping attorney Lori Laird waiting while she was taking a phone call in the judge’s office last week.
Laird, who last month was in the middle of a bizarre contempt of court hearing, has been openly critical of Dupuy and his actions after she sought to have the judge recuse himself from a divorce case she was part of.
Dupuy accused Laird of filing an unprofessional pleading that tended to disrespect authority and impede, embarrass or obstruct the court and its personnel and found her to be in contempt. He recommended that an administrative court judge sentence her to 110 days in jail and fine her $250 for each of apparently 14 counts of contempt according to his order, which is being appealed.
In a text message exchange between Gracia and Dupuy obtained by The Daily News, the former court coordinator informed the judge that Judge Olen Underwood, the presiding judge of the Second Administrative Judicial Region of Texas, had sent instructions to Dupuy “if there is a recusal order filed, whether voluntary or involuntary, you may not hear any hearings having to do with that case,” Gracia wrote.
Dupuy replied, “He can notify the (attorneys) directly,” then wrote, “Also, there’s nothing (County Court No. 3) needs to apologize to Laird about.”
Gracia responded with “?,” to which Dupuy replied, “Heard you today apologize to Laird.”
The two exchanged more texts in which Gracia said the judge tried to get her to resign several times because he questioned her loyalty.
“He had accused me of not being loyal because of friendships I had with attorneys he has problems with,” said Gracia, who now works for the county’s justice administration department.
That exchange preceded the process in which Dupuy fired Gracia, who has worked for the county for 16 years. It also sent the courthouse abuzz and is the latest episode in the judge’s two-year tenure on the bench.
Gracia is in the process of filing a human resources complaint against Dupuy.
Dupuy, who calls accusations against him politically motivated and has threatened to sue The Daily News, did not respond to questions for this story.
It’s the latest in what court house observers call “bizarro” behavior by Dupuy, who was elected as part of the Republican landslide in 2010.
Some attorneys led by Greg Enos are building a case to try and have Dupuy forced from the bench. Thus far, despite a lot of bluster, no filings have been made.
“We have two issues,” Enos said. “(First,) the very complex task of drafting this petition because of the many issues we have to describe, and because Dupuy keeps doing new things to add to your petition; and (second,) getting the petition filed by the right official.
“We interpret the law to require our (district attorney) to file the suit. A 2008 case says the (Texas) attorney general cannot file this sort of civil removal suit but can take over for a DA who files the suit and then recuses himself. We truly hope to have a finished product to give (District Attorney Jack) Roady within two weeks.
“However, when (or) if he files will be up to him.”
Roady’s office recently turned over all complaints against Dupuy to the Texas attorney general, recusing the district attorney from the complaints that keep piling up.
Those looking for Dupuy’s fellow judges to take action are likely to be disappointed.
The Daily News spoke with most of the county’s district court and judges, who would not publicly comment, citing an unwritten rule of judicial ethics that judges do not speak ill of other judges.
Privately, however, all expressed concern about Dupuy’s actions and were hoping that either Underwood or Enos’ filing would eventually get Dupuy off the bench.
Two of the judges — both Republicans — called Dupuy “an embarrassment.” Other Republicans refer to Dupuy as “Judge Dopey” and call him “a goofball.”
One thing is for sure, Dupuy, who was able to fly under the radar during the 2010 election season, thanks to the focus on bigger races and the GOP straight-ticket voting effort, will find he has little support during the 2014 election cycle.
Attorney Jack Ewing has declared he’ll run for the Republican primary for the office, and others are considering a run.
“No one likes scandals, and it is unfortunate for Judge Dupuy that he has been embroiled in so many issues,” County Republican Party Chairwoman Barbara Meeks said. “The Galveston County Republican Party is not actively attempting to remove Christopher Dupuy from the bench. He was elected by the voters, whether they did so knowingly or not, and it is up to the voters to remove him. Elections are the checks and balances and the voters will have the final say.”
County Commissioner Ryan Dennard said there may be little the GOP leadership could do to convince Dupuy to step aside.
“As a party, we have had very little contact with Judge Dupuy,” Dennard said. “He has not been active in the party, so there isn’t really anyone who would even have influence on him to do what could be considered the right thing.”
Dennard agreed with Meeks that the political process would work its way out.
“I think what you will find is that no one will stand with Dupuy,” Dennard said. “He’ll be cut off and won’t have any support.”
In past interviews with The Daily News, Dupuy insisted he would not step down and said he was confident voters would support him in any election.
Contact Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds at 409-683-5334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Posted on February 24, 2013
I got a text message last week from a friend of mine who is involved in the legal profession in another part of the state.
Normally when he and I talk (or text) it’s about college football or when he and his family might be planning to visit Galveston.
This particular text message, however, simply read:
“What the hell is going on with your judges in Galveston?”
Which is the same question a lot of people locally are asking in light of the controversy involving County Court Judge Christopher Dupuy and District Court Judge Susan Criss.
Criss claims individuals who work at the courthouse consider Dupuy a safety threat and sent an email to that effect to county commissioners recently asking they take appropriate measures to ensure the courthouse is safe.
“Courthouse employees and attorneys are discussing numerous accounts of erratic behavior and mood swings,” Criss wrote. “Media accounts are describing his behavior as bizarre.”
Dupuy, for his part, has denied Criss’ assertions, calling her a “political nutcase” and an “embarrassment” and threatening to sue The Daily News if it published the story.
These are but the latest concerns involving Dupuy, who has been no stranger to controversy since being elected to the bench as part of the local Republican landslide in the 2010 general election.
In fact, Dupuy was under a six-month probated suspension from the Texas Bar Association when he ran for election. The bar found he had committed professional misconduct.
Not long after taking office, questions began to surface over whether Dupuy even met the residency requirement to qualify for placement on the Republican Party primary ballot in Galveston County.
Dupuy has also been named in a $500,000 fraud and malpractice lawsuit that accused him of engaging in conduct that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars of damages against his own clients. A judge sanctioned Dupuy $7,500 in connection to that lawsuit, saying he filed motions solely for the purpose of delay and without evidence.
Earlier this month, Dupuy held an attorney in contempt in connection with motions she filed seeking to recuse the judge from her family law cases. Dupuy ultimately recused himself from one case but held her in contempt and wants an administrative judge to sentence her to 110 days in jail.
Additional complaints against Dupuy, including one accusing him of possibly abusing his official capacity, were recently forwarded to the state attorney general’s office from the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office.
While you could certainly make the argument the allegations from Criss could be politically motivated (Dupuy is a Republican on the ropes, and Criss is a high-profile Democratic), it’s hard to imagine all of the allegations that have been made against Dupuy since he took office have a political agenda behind them.
Just over a year ago, Editor Heber Taylor wrote an opinion piece for the newspaper saying Dupuy should resign from the bench due to the controversy surrounding his relatively brief tenure.
Dupuy has done very little since then to change our position on that. In fact, we feel more strongly than ever that he should resign for the good of the county.
Patrick Graham is president and publisher of The Daily News.
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Controversial judge is target of complaints; DA asks state AG to investigate
Posted Feb 22, 2013 10:00 AM CST
By Martha Neil
The state attorney general has been asked to look into unspecified complaints against a controversial Texas judge.
Galveston County Court-at-Law Judge Christopher Dupuy “presides over one-third of the thousands of misdemeanor cases prosecuted by my office each year,” DA Jack Roady tells the Houston Chronicle, so it would be a problem for his office to handle the complaints.
The DA declined to describe issues raised about the judge, but said he had received more than one complaint.
Meanwhile, KHOU reports that the judge held what the station called a “bizarre” criminal contempt hearing last week, concerning a recusal motion filed by a lawyer who appeared before him in a divorce case.
And the Beaumont Enterprise reports that one recent complaint against the judge was made by a lawyer who contends that Dupuy faxed legal advice to his fiance from his chambers.
The Enterprise reports that Dupuy has called the complaints against him politically motivated. And it appears from a recent Texas Lawyer (sub. req.) article that Dupuy’s efforts to prevent a part-time family law judge from practicing in family law matters in his court is behind at least some of the complaints.
The Chronicle reported last year that Dupuy had sparked a fracas by holding another judge in contempt of court for violating his order not to practice family law.
A judge recently complained to county officials in an email that people are fearful of Dupuy, the Chronicle reports in yet another article. An investigation by the county sheriff, county judge and the DA found no basis to take action.
Chronicle (2011): “Galveston County judge finds conflict at every turn”
Galveston County Daily News (sub. req.): “Not a matter of cronyism, but necessity”
Criss: People are afraid of Dupuy
By Chris Paschenko | Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 1:00 am
GALVESTON — A district court judge said Tuesday that county employees have told her and others that they’re afraid County Court Judge Christopher Dupuy will become violent and hurt or kill someone.
Judge Susan Criss, of Galveston’s 212th District Court, also said County Court Judge Barbara Roberts asked for armed security for a judge’s meeting in January. Criss claims Roberts made the request because of concerns that Dupuy would act in a manner that threatened the safety of the judiciary.
Roberts, however, said in a Tuesday telephone interview with The Daily News that her request for a bailiff had nothing to do with Dupuy and that she made it for general safety reasons, as all the judges meet in one room of the Justice Center. Roberts said she was positive Dupuy didn’t attend the meeting.
Roberts also said she was not aware of any threats involving Dupuy and had a cordial relationship with him.
In an emailed response to The Daily News, Dupuy called Criss a “political nutcase” and an “embarrassment” and threatened to sue The Daily News if it published the story.
“I wonder what her story would be if she was under oath and subject to perjury,” Dupuy said. “Perhaps she and her ex-husband, (Greg) Enos, should simply grow up in lieu of their recent malicious political lies.”
In a subsequent email to The Daily News, Dupuy said, “Rest assured I will sue you, Criss and the paper if any of her false, malicious lies are published.”
Criss said she sent her concerns in a letter via email to county officials, including Criminal District Attorney Jack Roady, County Judge Mark Henry and Sheriff Henry Trochesset.
Criss claims Dupuy made statements on Facebook, an online social network, and to his children about acquiring and carrying firearms, including a rifle and a handgun, and concealing them in a zipped pocket in his jacket.
“I understand the district attorney has a taped recording of Judge Dupuy’s children discussing this,” Criss wrote in the letter.
Criss says she sent the email to ask what elected officials are doing to protect everyone at the courthouse.
DA to meet with sheriff, county judge
Roady declined to discuss specifics of the email.
“However, please know I do take her concerns seriously and will be meeting with the sheriff and county judge to address them,” Roady said.
Criss claims people she’s known for years have expressed their concerns.
“Courthouse employees and attorneys are discussing numerous accounts of erratic behavior and mood swings,” Criss wrote. “Media accounts are describing his behavior as bizarre.”
Criss said she never expected to have to write an email to elected officials, asking how they intend to protect the public, the other elected officials and courthouse employees from a member of the judiciary.
“When people are coming up to me unsolicited and making those comments, that’s a red flag to me,” Criss said in a phone conversation with The Daily News.
Criss voiced similar concerns with Jason Murray, a former district clerk, who resigned in April 2012 amid criminal charges related to family violence.
“And in the end, those in charge stepped up and did what was necessary to protect everyone from danger,” Criss wrote.
Both Criss and Roberts said they’d be willing to pass through metal detectors to enter the courthouse.
“I think all the judges have said they’re willing to go through that,” Roberts said.
Judge seeks to ‘tighten’ security
Roberts, however, said she believed there were things that could be done to tighten courthouse security.
The sheriff’s office provides security at the Justice Center. A sheriff’s office spokesman had no immediate comment on the matter.
Dupuy has garnered attention for actions both before and after he took office. He was under a six-month probated suspension from the state bar when he ran for election. The bar found he committed professional misconduct.
Dupuy is also named in a $500,000 fraud and malpractice lawsuit that accused him of engaging in conduct that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars of damages against his own clients. A judge sanctioned Dupuy $7,500 in connection to that lawsuit, saying he filed motions solely for the purpose of delay and without evidence.
Dupuy has twice filed for bankruptcy, once in 2004, and again shortly after the sanction, but his last bankruptcy was dismissed in December on his request. Dupuy listed $299,772 as the amount owed to creditors, including attorney fees, credit card companies, four civil suits, two foreclosures, two repossessions and two student loans.
Earlier this month, Dupuy held an attorney in contempt in connection with motions she filed seeking to recuse the judge from her family law cases. The judge ultimately recused himself from one case but held her in contempt and wants an administrative judge to sentence her to 110 days in jail.
Roady announced Monday that his office is forwarding complaints against Dupuy to the state attorney general’s office, including one from Enos that accused Dupuy of possibly abusing his official capacity. Enos accused Dupuy of using county equipment to provide legal assistance to his fiancée, who was involved in a custody dispute. Enos represents the father in the dispute.
Dupuy has said there is no merit to the allegation.
Judge blasts judge: He could ‘hurt or kill someone’
By Harvey Rice | February 19, 2013 | Updated: February 20, 2013 1:48am
GALVESTON – The veil of decorum that normally shrouds the judiciary at the Galveston County Courthouse slipped away again Tuesday as one judge accused another of posing a violent threat.
The email from state District Judge Susan Criss urged county officials to take action to protect others from County Court-at-Law Judge Christopher Dupuy. Criss said Dupuy could “become violent and hurt or kill someone.”
The email to top county and courthouse officials led to an emergency meeting of the sheriff, district attorney and county judge, who were unable to find enough evidence to take action.
“I can’t see where he has threatened anyone, I can’t see where he has made any acts of aggression against anyone, at least at this point,” Sheriff Henry Trochessetsaid.
Criss, however, wrote that Dupuy is a feared presence at the courthouse.
“County employees, family members of county employees, litigants and attorneys are expressing concern to those in authority, such as judges, the sheriff, the district attorney and to me that they are afraid Judge Dupuy will become violent and hurt or kill someone,” Criss wrote in her email, provided to the Houston Chronicle by one of its recipients.
Dupuy responded via email: “Ah, Judge Criss. What a political nutcase and embarrassment. I think that completely sums up her ridiculous statements to you in six words. I wonder what her story would be if she was under oath and subject to perjury?”
Dupuy said he would file an ethics complaint against Criss for making knowingly false statements. Criss could not be reached for comment.
The email prompted District Attorney Jack Roady to call a meeting with Trochesset and County Judge Mark Henry. Roady confirmed that others had expressed concerns similar to those mentioned in Criss’ email.
Criss said in her email that Dupuy had published remarks on Facebook and made statements to his children “about carrying and acquiring firearms, including a rifle and handgun, and concealing them in a zipped pocket in his jacket.”
Dupuy unlocked his personal Facebook page to allow the Chronicle access. The only reference to a weapon was about a gun show in Houston “for my munchkins.”
Criss’ email also said that a judge asked the sheriff’s office for armed security during a meeting of county judges at the courthouse in January because of concerns about Dupuy.
However, County Court-at-Law Judge Barbara Roberts said she had made the security request because all the judges would be in one place and “easy to take out,” not because she feared Dupuy, who did not attend the meeting. “I’m not worried about Judge Dupuy at all,” Roberts said. “I have a very cordial relationship with him.”
Other courthouse regulars feel differently.
Attorney Tad Nelson said he asked the sheriff to appear at a hearing last week because he feared for his safety and that of his client.
“I was nervous about him being in there,” Nelson said. “He scares me.” The sheriff said several other attorneys expressed similar fears.
Trochesset said he searched the judge’s bench for a weapon, finding none, before the trial at Nelson’s request. The sheriff said he agreed to the search because it was a reasonable request, not because he believed the judge was a threat.
Trochesset said he ejected Nelson from the courtroom during the hearing at the judge’s request.
Dupuy has clashed previously with Criss and other judges. Early last year he threatened to have a bailiff yank an attorney out of Criss’ court for a scheduled appearance in his court. Criss retorted by email that attorneys believed Dupuy treated them with disrespect.
‘Family court secrets’
Dupuy in October sent an email titled, “Investigation of Galveston County’s Dirty Little Family Court Secrets,” accusing Family Court Judge Janice Yarbrough of benefiting financially from her appointment of an associate judge. Dupuy never produced evidence backing up his allegations against Yarbrough.
Dupuy also raised eyebrows by citing Associate Family Judge Suzanne Radcliffeand a lawyer sharing her office for contempt. His ethics complaint that Radcliffe should not be a family court judge while practicing family law was upheld and Radcliffe resigned.
Roady previously confirmed that Dupuy was the subject of multiple complaints meriting criminal investigation. Roady asked the Texas attorney general to take over the investigations. Dupuy called the complaints politically motivated.
Dupuy has been accused of improper behavior since his election in 2010 in a Republican sweep. His controversial actions include phoning an attorney at home and threatening judicial consequences for calling the judge’s wife to testify in a hearing. A judge fined Dupuy $7,500 in January 2012 for improperly trying to remove the judge overseeing a malpractice suit against him.
A group of attorneys is trying to oust Dupuy.