No Thin Mints? No Lawyer

by Rick Wetzel on August 31, 2012

The Brownsville Herald reports the attorney for a Brownsville, Texas, man charged with sexual assault of a child has filed a motion seeking removal of the presiding judge in the case because she has a bias against the lawyer.  Aroldo Cadriel is accused of aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child.

Not the Judge for Me

A person charged with a crime is not allowed to pick the judge assigned to his or her case.   However, sometimes a particular judge should not preside over a particular case.  If a judge will not voluntarily step aside, the defendant may seek the judge’s removal or recusal for a variety of reasons.  Judges should recuse themselves from a case if the judge’s impartiality might reasonable be questioned.  Likewise, a judge should not sit in a case if the judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning the subject matter or a party.

Shout Out

A recusal motion filed by Cadriel’s attorney, Nat Perez, accuses District Judge Elia Lopez of bias against him as well as against defendants who are accused of criminal offenses against children. The motion by Perez cites three cases where he says Lopez removed him from acting as the appointed defense attorney for indigent clients facing criminal charges.

The motion states that in spring 2011, Lopez directed Perez, in person when she saw him at the county courthouse, to speak with her court coordinator. When Perez spoke with the coordinator, he was told Lopez wanted him to buy cookies from the troop that both of their daughters belong to.  Perez declined to purchase the cookies as directed.  Perez further claims: “This conduct is an open, blatant and obvious indication of Judge Lopez’s animosity, dislike and disdain for counsel and her desire to not have counsel practice in her court before her, possibly exacerbated by counsel’s refusal to purchase a case of Girl Scout cookies from her daughter’s troop.”

Do-Si-Do

Another judge will rule on the motion to recuse Judge Lopez from the Cadriel trial.  If Judge Lopez is allowed to preside over the trial and Cadriel convicted, he can complain of her presence in a criminal appeal or habeas corpus application to a Texas criminal appeals court.

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