A Fort Worth family law associate judge has filed a federal First Amendment lawsuit against a state district judge and Tarrant County claiming she was subjected to retaliation because of her husband’s political views.
Diane Scott Haddock, who has served as an associate judge for nearly 20 years, alleges that she was subjected to “public and private badgering, threats, back-biting, undermining and maligning” because she refused a direct command from Fort Worth’s 360th District Court Judge Patricia Baca-Bennett to prevent her husband from engaging in political activity.
In addition to naming Baca-Bennett as a defendant, Haddock also alleges that Tarrant County refused to protect her from the retaliation despite being made aware of the hostile work environment it created.
Haddock’s petition details a litany of political accusations involving politics within both Tarrant County’s Republican Party and the Tarrant County family law bar between Aug. 4, 2016, and May 18, 2018, including allegations that Baca-Bennett posted false or misleading posts on Facebook about Haddock’s supposed “resignation” from the bench.
Haddock also alleges Baca-Bennett impugned her reputation as a judge and is preventing her from working until her planned retirement age of 65. Specifically, Haddock alleges that Facebook posts by Baca-Bennett commenting on her employment status caused her harm.
“In short, Diane had not resigned and would never have left her post in such an unprofessional way. To post otherwise was not only false and spurious, it was also embarrassing and abusive. It was also illegal, unethical and unprofessional conduct,” the petition alleges. “Moreover, the active maligning and campaigning against Diane within the courthouse walls by Baca-Bennett, as well as her Facebook posts, have created a hostile work environment for Diane.”
“Although (upon information and belief) Baca-Bennett was cautioned about her conduct by other judges, Baca-Bennett nonetheless continued to badger and slander Diane on her Facebook page, to the point that Diane now lives in fear of continued retaliation,” the petition alleges. “After [Baca-Bennett] harassed Diane on social media, then terrorized her at the courthouse in the lawyer’s lounge and beyond, Diane ceased going to work on the weekends where she would be unprotected, and during the work week, Diane is now never outside the presence of her bailiff.”
Baca-Bennett did not return a call for comment. Sam Jordan, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office who will defend the county in the case, declined to comment on the case but noted that the Texas Attorney General’s Office by statute is responsible for defending Baca-Bennett.
Walter Taylor, a Colleyville lawyer who represents Haddock, declined to comment on the case.
“Diane is a judge and believes that judges should not comment on pending litigation in the media, so she’s asked me not to comment,’’ Taylor said.