The State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued a public warning to Aransas County Court-at-Law Judge William Adams on Sept. 6, 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.”
On Sept. 5, the commission released a public reprimand to Justice James “Jim” Patrick Sharp Jr. of Houston’s 1st Court of Appeals, concluding that he “lent the prestige of his judicial office to advance the private interests of his friend and her daughter” by trying to “intimidate” Brazoria County employees into releasing the 15-year-old from juvenile custody.
Adams did not return a telephone call seeking comment. Seana Willing, executive director of judicial conduct commission, declines comment.
In a statement emailed by his spokesman, Houston lawyer Brian Wice, Sharp says, “When a young girl who could have been anyone’s child was jailed overnight simply because of Brazoria County policy, I let my heart overrule my head, and for that I apologize. Having learned a valuable lesson, I look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of the First Judicial District of Texas.”
The commission’s public warning to Adams notes 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. On Nov. 22, 2011, the Texas Supreme Court suspended Adams from the bench with pay in response to an agreed motion filed by the commission and Adams.
Osler McCarthy, staff attorney for public information at the Texas Supreme Court, believes Adams or the commission would have to file a motion to lift the suspension before Adams could return to the bench.
The public warning notes that the commission interviewed 15 attorneys who regularly practiced in Adams’ court. The commission does not name the attorneys in the public warning. “All of the attorneys praised Judge Adams for his fairness and impartiality, as well as his knowledge of the law.”
However, six of the attorneys “believed that Judge Adams could no longer be effective in court because the conduct portrayed in the videotape created the public perception that the judge could not be fair and impartial in cases involving allegations of family violence, child abuse and assault.”
The commission’spublic reprimand to Sharp notes that he identified himself as a justice on the 1st Court when he called two officers and the assistant director of the Brazoria County Juvenile Detention Center on Jan. 17, asking what he could do to secure the release of a friend’s daughter from the facility.
When told the girl would be detained overnight, Sharp told the assistant director, “[Y]our county is going to be sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars for this. You’ll have picked the wrong little girl that has friends in high places to mess with,” according to the public reprimand.
Among other things, Sharp also stated to the assistant director, “Well, I can tell you this, things are about to change in Brazoria County. You guys are a bunch of back woods hillbillies that use screwed up methods in dealing with children . . .,” according to the public reprimand.