THE REAL REASON THE JUDGE STEPPED DOWN?
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JUDGE IN KATIE WERNECKE CASE STEPS DOWN FROM BENCH
Judge Carl E. Lewis of County Court at Law #5 in Nueces County has recused himself in the Katie Wernecke case in Texas. In June of this year Judge Lewis issued orders to remove Katie from her parents and place her in the custody of CPS because of a disagreement Katie’s parents had with a doctor over the type of cancer treatment she should receive.
Peter Johnston, President of Texas Center for Family Rights commends Judge Lewis for making the right decision but questions his motive. According to an article in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times , Lewis wrote, “In light of the substantial attention given this case by the [Texas] Supreme Court, I believe my continued participation would create a distraction of no benefit to the parents or the best interest of the child.”
His action follows on the heals of a decision by the Texas Supreme Court last week to modify orders to allow Katie’s parents to visit her. An order by Judge Lewis on September 20th forbad any contact of Katie’s father with her and permitted contact between the mom and Katie ONLY if the mom would encourage her to go ahead with chemotherapy and radiation.
The Texas Supreme Court ruled on a motion filed on September 23rd by James Pikl, attorney for Katie’s parents to void Judge Lewis’s order. The attorney’s motion also requested for the judge to recuse himself.
Pikl filed the motion for the judge to step down based upon a violation of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct (TCJC) by Lewis when he independently visited Katie and interviewed doctors in Houston on or about September 15th without counsel for the parents present.
Additionally CPS apparently independently visited Judge Lewis in a Corpus Christi hospital to obtain his signature on the orders forbidding contact with the parents. Judge Lewis temporarily adjourned a hearing regarding Katie on September 19th because he was not feeling well. Subsequently he was admitted to the hospital and underwent open heart surgery within twenty-four hours. Sometime between the adjournment and the following day CPS obtained his signature on those orders.
Canon 3 of the TCJC forbids this type of personal contact with a party or witness to a suit without the presence of other parties because it calls into question the impartiality of judges.
Peter Johnston questions the judge’s stated motive for recusal, commenting “What about his violation of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct? Is that not reason enough? Would he have considered his actions proper if it weren’t for the publicity of the Texas Supreme Court?”
“According to the canon if another person could reasonably question the judge’s impartiality based on all the circumstance the judge must step down. It should have nothing to do with publicity related to the Supreme Court.”