GALVESTON — Wednesday began well for Judge Christopher Dupuy with business as usual in County Court No. 3. By day’s end, however, he had been arrested on felony and misdemeanor charges and named in a lawsuit that seeks to remove him from the bench.
Dupuy’s reign since his election in a November 2010 Republican landslide has been wrought with controversy, including allegations from attorney Greg Enos that led to an ongoing state attorney general investigation of the judge.
By midafternoon, attorney Greg Hughes filed with the Galveston County District Clerk’s Office a 49-page lawsuit that gives the history of Dupuy’s two years in office. The lawsuit claims Dupuy betrayed public trust by committing official misconduct, obstruction, retaliation, abuse of official capacity and acts of incompetency.
Many of the allegations in the removal lawsuit mirror those in the eight separate indictments against Dupuy.
The indictments, filed Wednesday afternoon, charge Dupuy with two counts of obstruction or retaliation, two counts of official oppression and four counts of abuse of official capacity.
Dupuy, who remains on the bench despite his arrest at the hands of the sheriff’s office and Texas Rangers, was taken from the courthouse and booked into the county jail about 4:15 p.m. Shortly before 5 p.m., Dupuy emerged from the jail with his attorney, George Parnham.
Dupuy declined to comment on the allegations, but Parnham said he thought his client would be vindicated.
Dupuy posted bail totaling $19,000, and he was smiling as he buckled himself into the passenger seat of Parnham’s car for a short drive back to the courthouse.
The first indictment accuses Dupuy of official oppression or abuse of capacity in retaliation against Enos, who intended to report the occurrence of a crime.
Enos and attorney Lori Laird were among attorneys who filed motions to have Dupuy recused from their family law cases. Dupuy filed motions against them, most recently May 6, accusing Enos of misrepresenting facts in family law cases. Without a hearing, Dupuy ordered Enos to pay a $25,000 fine.
Enos’ December complaint against Dupuy to District Attorney Jack Roady is also referenced in the removal lawsuit and an indictment accusing Dupuy of the misuse of government property. Roady ultimately forwarded to the state attorney general’s office Enos’ complaint that accuses Dupuy of possibly using county equipment to provide legal assistance to a woman in a custody dispute.
Enos, who represents the father in the dispute, claimed Dupuy sent his office faxed documents in the case.
Dupuy’s motion to hold attorney Lori Laird in contempt and to sentence her to 110 days in jail is also referenced in Hughes’ lawsuit and is the focus of another of the indictments against Dupuy, alleging official oppression or abuse of official capacity.
Dupuy appointed a special prosecutor in his contempt order against Laird without stating what gave him the authority to make the appointment.
An indictment claims Dupuy committed official oppression by intentionally subjecting Laird to mistreatment while he acted under the color of his office as a public servant.
Abuse of official capacity
Two other indictments accuse Dupuy of abuse of official capacity by holding Enos and Laird in contempt without proper notice and a hearing in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
The last indictment relates to former Galveston County associate family court Judge Suzanne Schwab-Radcliffe. It accuses Dupuy of subjecting Schwab-Radcliffe to mistreatment in October 2010.
Dupuy was accused of disqualifying Schwab-Radcliffe from a case without a motion, notice or hearing, according to the removal lawsuit. Dupuy subjected Schwab-Radcliffe to mistreatment, arrest or detention by unlawfully issuing contempt orders against her, the lawsuit claims.
Schwab-Radcliffe, however, ultimately resigned as an associate judge in February after an opinion by the state Committee on Judicial Ethics. Dupuy said he requested the opinion, which says a family law jurist cannot also practice family law as an attorney in the same county or surrounding counties that use the same appeals courts.
Hughes dedicated about six pages of the lawsuit to Dupuy’s background, which references his oath of office, in which Dupuy vowed to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States.
The lawsuit references three legal malpractice lawsuits filed against Dupuy before he was elected judge. The lawsuit references Dupuy’s two bankruptcy filings, including one that stayed a pending $500,000 fraud lawsuit against Dupuy.
Hughes’ lawsuit accuses Dupuy of mishandling $30,724 of a former client’s funds. Dupuy represented the client in a divorce case in 2010. The couple sold a house, and half of the money from the sale was ordered held in the attorneys’ trust accounts. Withdrawals from the accounts were allowed only under a court order.
The client fired Dupuy in October 2010. Dupuy then told his former client that he had paid himself $47,441 from the share of the house sale funds. An attorney negotiated a settlement with Dupuy for the return of $30,724, Hughes’ lawsuit claims.
Dupuy had apparently borrowed $25,000, the bulk of the $30,724, from his uncle, John Dupuy, who sued his nephew for repayment in January.
Hughes’ lawsuit accuses Dupuy of committing 20 acts of official misconduct, some based on Dupuy’s filing motions in cases after attorneys in his court filed motions to recuse him. Judges are prohibited from taking further actions after recusal motions are heard by an administrative judge.
Hughes’ lawsuit accuses Dupuy of threatening to hold the district clerk in contempt if he didn’t seal a file in his divorce case.
Finally, Hughes’ lawsuit accuses Dupuy of acts of incompetency in being chronically absent from the bench, some 42 days in 2012 that weren’t accounted for as leave, holidays or continuing education. That’s 16 percent of his workdays in 2012, the lawsuit claims.
Hughes asked for a district court judge to temporarily suspend Dupuy from office without pay and to appoint a qualified person as temporary judge. A hearing on the matter is set for June 7 in Judge Kerry Neves’ 10th District Court.
Roady filed a motion asking that his office be recused from the removal lawsuit, as it is his office’s duty to represent the state in removal cases.
Neves granted the motion and appointed Kent Richardson of the state attorney general’s office to evaluate and make all decisions pertaining to Dupuy.