Aransas County voters recently decided not to return County Court-at-Law Judge William Adams to the bench. This may be in part due to the publicity Adams received two years ago when his daughter released a 2004 videotape depicting Adams striking her.
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct had issued a public warning to Adams on Sept. 6, 2012, concluding that a 2004 videotape depicting Adams striking his daughter “forcefully at least seventeen times with a belt … cast reasonable doubt on his capacity to act impartially as a judge” [See " Jurists Disciplined By State Commission on Judicial Conduct" Texas Lawyer, Sept. 10, 2012, page 1.]
The commission’s public warning to Adams noted that he routinely presides over cases involving allegations of child abuse, family violence and assault. The videotape “prompted an international media storm of controversy” when his daughter Hillary Adams released it on the Internet on Nov. 1, 2011, according to the warning.
Aransas County Attorney Richard Bianchi defeated Adams in the March 4 Republican Primary. Bianchi received 52 percent of the vote to Adams’ 48 percent of the vote.
“I’m sure it was a factor,” said Bianchi, who brought up the commission’s warning to Adams during the campaign, of his victory. “What I tried to do was draw a line in dealing with the negative by only quoting from the Texas Judicial Conduct Commission’s [warning]. That was the approach I tried to use. They had issued a public warning, so statements from that were appropriate. But I tried not to get into the details of the video, if you will.”
Adams did not return a call for comment.
The controversy had implications for the County Attorney’s Office, which represents Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) in a heavy docket of child-removal proceedings in county court, Bianchi said. After the video was released, CPS requested that he not file their cases in Adams’ court, which shares concurrent jurisdiction with Aransas County district courts, Bianchi said.
Bianchi said CPS later amended the request and only took cases to district court that involved allegations of family violence, “which was a small number of cases,” Bianchi said.
“We had many other types of cases in his court at that time. For the most part, it was handled professionally in the courtroom,” Bianchi said of his interactions with Adams.
“We’ll have the opportunity to keep working with each other this year” until Adams’ term expires, Bianchi said.
While the campaign against Adams wasn’t exactly cordial—they had three meetings on the campaign trial and mainly went their separate ways—Bianchi said he gives his opponent his due and doesn’t think the video was the sole reason for his own victory.
“I would agree with the assessment that he is a knowledgeable judge and was capable. Where we disagreed was the manner in which he managed his court,” Bianchi said. “I need to work with the judge the rest of this year, and I don’t want to imply it was solely the video.”
“What I want to say is that I certainly pledged throughout the campaign that I will treat everyone in the courtroom with respect,” Bianchi said.
Bianchi faces no November general election opponent in the heavily Republican county.