Rest in Peace
William Kilgarlin, a former Texas Supreme Court justice who served from 1982 until 1988 died on Nov. 5 in Santa Fe, N.M. He was 79. Services were scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10 in Austin at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home at 3125 N. Lamar Blvd. Kilgarlin was active in Democratic politics for decades before voters elected him to the high court, notes a press release from Osler McCarthy, the high court’s staff attorney for public information. He served as a state representative in the late 1950s, as Harris County Democratic Party chair from 1962 through 1966, and as a district judge from 1978 to 1982. While on the Supreme Court, Kilgarlin also become one of the only high court justices to be admonished by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Kilgarlin received a public admonishment in June 1987 for soliciting donations from attorneys, including some who had cases pending before the high court, to finance a suit he filed against the Judicial Affairs Committee of the Texas House of Representatives and a former briefing attorney who testified against Kilgarlin in a 1986 House committee hearing. No appellate review was available in judicial conduct commission disciplinary cases at that time, says Seana Willing, executive director of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Kilgarlin lost re-election to the court to Nathan Hecht in 1988. Hecht, who still holds the seat, won election that year along with then-Chief Justice Tom Phillips and then-Justice Eugene Cook by campaigning on a reform platform, and they became the first Republicans since Reconstruction to be elected to the Texas Supreme Court, Hecht says. Despite their differences, Hecht and Kilgarlin became friends, and Hecht took over Kilgarlin’s responsibilities as the high court’s rules liaison. “And we felt very similarly about the procedural rules — that they ought to be simple and more efficient and effective. He had worked on jury charge rules and discovery rules and made some real improvements,” Hecht says of Kilgarlin. Hecht became the first high court justice since 1987 to receive a public admonition from the judicial conduct commission in 2006, after he spoke publicly in favor of his friend Harriet Miers’ nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hecht appealed the public admonition, and it was overturned in 2007 by a Special Court of Review — a possibility not available to Kilgarlin by statute at the time he was admonished.
On Nov. 6, the Texas Supreme Court lifted its one-year-old suspension of Aransas County Court-at-Law Judge William Adams. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct had issued Adams a public warning Sept. 6, concluding that a 2004 videotape posted on Youtube.com 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.” The high court noted in its Nov. 6 order that it had suspended Adams from his judicial office with pay on Nov. 22, 2011, while the judicial conduct commission completed its investigation into allegations of judicial misconduct. After the judicial conduct commission concluded its investigation and issued its public warning against Adams, Adams filed an “Agreed Motion to Lift Order of Suspension of Judge,” requesting that he be allowed to return to office, according to the high court’s order. The court order states that Adams is allowed “to return to office without delay.” The Supreme Court cited its authority under Texas Constitution Article 5, §1-a(6)A and Texas Rule for the Removal or Retirement of Judges 15(b). Neither Adams nor his lawyer, Corpus Christi solo William Dudley returned one call each seeking comment. The judicial conduct commission’s Sept. 6 public warning of Adams notes that he routinely presides over cases involving allegations of child abuse, family violence and assault.