A state judicial commission recently issued a public warning against a Comal County district judge for his interference with a jury deciding a case he heard in early 2018.
Judge Jack Robison of the 207th judicial district was reprimanded for twice improperly entering a jury chambers during deliberations and telling the panel that God told him the defendant was innocent and that a guilty verdict would be a miscarriage of justice.
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued its ruling Feb. 20.
“The commission has taken this action with the intent of assisting Judge Robison in his continued judicial service, as well as in a continuing effort to protect public confidence in the judicial system and to assist the state’s judiciary in its efforts to embody the principles and values set forth in the Texas Constitution and the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct,” the commission wrote in its conclusion.
The commission is made up of 13 members. Members are appointed by the governor, the state Supreme Court and the state bar, said Eric Vinson, executive director of the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct.
He and his staff of 13 others investigate complaints of misconduct by judges and present their findings to the commission for review. The commission then makes determinations on what actions to take next, Vinson said.
“There are basically six levels of disciplinary sanctions a judge can get: three private and three public,” he said. “A public admonition is the lowest, public warning is the middle level of public sanction, and a public reprimand is the highest level of public sanction.”
The commission is not a prosecutorial body but is set up to help judges remain on the right track and conduct themselves appropriately according to state canon.
Commissioners do, however, have the authority to conduct removal proceedings when deemed a judge no longer is fit for the bench, Vinson said. There are about 3,800 judges across the state and the commission typically threatens or institutes removal proceedings between about one and four times a year, he said.
With such a large number of judges across Texas, there are bound to be some — as there are any many other professions — who make some missteps.
It’s not the commission’s goal to remove those judges, the majority of whom are voted into office by the communities they serve, Vinson said.
“The commission has no interest in incorrectly disciplining a judge,” he said. “There’s no quota. There’s no prize. There’s no anything.”
In its finding of facts, the commission learned from two medical professionals who examined him at his own request that Robison suffered from a “temporary, episodic medical condition referred to as a ‘delirium’” at the time of the trial.
A combination of personal stressors, including undergoing treatment for an unnamed severe medical condition and the death of a close friend days before the trial began helped lead to the delirium, Robison told the commission.
The judge said he had not experienced similar bouts of delirium but he has trouble remembering the incidents of the day that it happened, according to the commission’s report. Members of the commission received 18 complaints from prosecutors, two jurors, and citizens who learned about Robison’s conduct through news media reports.
Jurors said Robison’s actions did not sway their decision-making in the trial.
In January 2018, Robison presided over Gloria Romero Perez’s trial on charges of continuous traffic of a person and sale or purchase of a child. Prosecutors alleged that the defendant sold her teen niece to a much older man and then notified authorities when the man failed to keep up with scheduled monthly payments for the girl.
After both sides rested and closed, jurors deliberated.
At the end of their deliberations, they sent out a note telling the court that they had come to a decision.
Robison then went into the jury room and admonished the panel on what he thought would be an unjust guilty verdict.
Jurors later delivered their split decision, finding Romero Perez guilty of continuously trafficking the girl and not guilty on the other charge.
After hearing the verdict, Robison recused himself from the case, saying his faith led him to do the things he did.
“Thank you for your understanding,” Robison told the jury Jan. 12, 2018, as he left the bench. “I apologize to you folks, but when God tells me I gotta do something, I gotta do it.”
District Judge Gary Steel took over after Robison recused himself from the punishment phase of the trial. In the heat of the turbulent moments of the day, Steel failed to officially pronounce sentence on Romero Perez before bailiffs took her off to jail.
Then Steel declared a mistrial in the case, which resulted in prosecutors appealing his decision.
Legal wrangling continues in Romero Perez’s case and she was back in court as recently as early February, when Steel officially sentenced her to 25 years in prison.
Justices with the Third Court of Appeals in Austin have yet to make a ruling on the district attorney’s appellate case.
Robison did not return a voicemail message left Monday afternoon seeking comment.