GALVESTON — The State Commission on Judicial Conduct on Thursday suspended Judge Christopher Dupuy from office without pay, according to an order signed by the commission’s executive director.
The order followed the arrest of Dupuy on Wednesday after he was indicted on eight charges. They included two felonies and six misdemeanors, which accuse him of obstruction or retaliation, abuse of official capacity and official oppression.
Dupuy was also named Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by attorney Greg Hughes and the state attorney general’s office, seeking to remove Dupuy from the bench.
Messages seeking comment from Dupuy and his defense attorney, George Parnham, about the suspension weren’t immediately returned Thursday afternoon. On Wednesday, Parnham said he believed Dupuy would be vindicated.
Dupuy’s reign since his election to County Court at Law No. 3 in a November 2010 Republican landslide has been marked by controversy, including allegations from attorney Greg Enos that led to an investigation of Dupuy by the attorney general’s office. Enos accused Dupuy of using county equipment to help a woman involved in a child custody dispute.
The criminal allegations mirror those in the removal lawsuit, which claims Dupuy betrayed the public trust by committing official misconduct amid acts of incompetency.
Most of the allegations center around motions he filed against three attorneys, sanctioning them thousands of dollars, holding them in contempt of court and ordering 110 days in jail for attorney Lori Laird. The attorneys appealed Dupuy’s rulings, some of which were reversed by an appeals court.
Despite his Wednesday arrest and release from jail that afternoon on a $19,000 bond, Dupuy returned to the Galveston County Courthouse on Thursday morning and took the bench in his courtroom.
Thursday afternoon, however, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct sent an order to Dupuy, informing him of the suspension. The order said the suspension was effective immediately under authority of the procedural rules for the removal or retirement of judges promulgated by the Supreme Court of Texas.
The rule states a judge may be suspended from office with or without pay by the commission immediately upon being indicted by a state or federal grand jury for a felony offense. The same holds true for misdemeanor offenses involving official misconduct.
The suspended judge has a right to a post-suspension hearing to demonstrate that continued service wouldn’t jeopardize the interests of parties involved in court proceedings.
Dupuy has 30 days to request the hearing. The commission will also schedule a hearing on the matter within 60 days. After that, the commission will tell the judge whether the suspension would be continued, terminated or modified, according to the suspension order signed by Seana Willing, the commission’s executive director.
Willing also provided copies of the order to County Judge Mark Henry, Criminal District Attorney Jack Roady, the county treasurer and auditor.
Judge Lonnie Cox, of Galveston’s 56th District Court, said Thursday night that he expected a visiting judge, if one is available Friday, to preside during Dupuy’s suspension.
Henry said he believed county commissioners would appoint a judge to fill the vacancy if Dupuy were removed from office.
A hearing on a lawsuit seeking to remove Dupuy is scheduled for June 7.
Incarceration means disbarment
If Dupuy is convicted of the criminal charges, the State Bar of Texas could take appropriate action, including compulsory discipline, said Maureen E. Ray, special administrative counsel of the bar’s Office of the Chief Disciplinary Council.
The bar seeks compulsory discipline against attorneys convicted of serious or intentional crime, including barratry; felonies involving moral turpitude; or misdemeanors involving theft and embezzlement, among other charges.
Compulsory discipline proceedings are filed with the Board of Disciplinary Appeals, Ray said.
“If the criminal sentence includes any period of incarceration other than as a condition of probation, the attorney must be disbarred,” Ray said.
If the sentence is fully probated, the board has the discretion to either suspend an attorney for the period of criminal probation or disbar the attorney, Ray said.
Ray cited confidentiality rules in being unable to comment on the allegations against Dupuy.