A Galveston County grand jury has indicted Judge Christopher Dupuy on two felony and six misdemeanor criminal charges related to actions he allegedly took on the bench. A civil petition seeking Dupuy’s removal from office has also been filed in state court.
The two felony indictments against the sitting judge of Galveston County Court-at-Law No. 3 allege "obstruction or retaliation" — specifically that Dupuy did "intentionally or knowingly harm or threaten to harm" two attorneys, Lori Laird and Greg Enos, through:
Official Oppression or Abuse of Official Capacity, in retaliation for or on account of the service or status of[Laird and Enos] as an informant or a witness or a prospective witness or a person who had reported the occurrence of a crime or a person who the defendant knew intended to report the occurrence of a crime.
The six misdemeanor indictments include four abuse-of-official-capacity and two official-oppression charges. All of the indictments were filed in Galveston’s 405th District Court on May 21.
The following day, the Texas Attorney General’s Officefiled State of Texas, ex rel. Greg Hughes v. Christopher Michael Dupuy in Galveston’s 10th District Court. In that civil action, Friendswood solo Greg Hughes alleges in a 49-page petition that Dupuy has committed numerous acts of "incompetency" and "official misconduct" that mandate his removal from office under Texas Local Government Code §87.013.
The petition also describes legal-malpractice allegations filed against Dupuy before he took the bench on Jan. 1, 2011, disputes he allegedly had with lawyers over his divorce case after he became a judge, and various actions he purportedly took against attorneys who were adverse to Dupuy in his own divorce proceedings, including holding them in criminal contempt.
In an emailed statement, Dupuy described the allegations against him as a "political witch hunt."
"The very few attorneys that have made it their life goal to attack me professionally or personally are all associated with my ex-wife," Dupuy writes. "The petition for my removal was filed by my ex-wife’s attorney Greg Hughes. It was timed to cause embarrassment, and it is . . . frivolous." Depuy asserted that he would seek sanctions against Hughes in response to the filing.
Hughes denies the allegations and says Dupuy’s troubles are of his own making.
"He’s a horrible judge. . . ," Hughes alleges.
On May 23, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued an order of suspension against Dupuy, taking him off the bench without pay effective immediately. Under the Texas Constitution and Rule 15 (a) of the Texas Procedural Rules for the Removal or Retirement of Judges, the commission is permitted to suspend a judge from the bench, with or without pay, upon being indicted for a state or federal felony offense or being charged with a misdemeanor involving official misconduct.
Laird, a Houston solo, says her dispute with Dupuy began when she also represented Dupuy’s ex-wife in divorce proceedings.
"It’s not courthouse grudges, but this is a judge who has an ax to grind with anyone who doesn’t do what he wants."
In February, Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady referred complaints filed against Dupuy to the AG’s office to avoid a conflict. Dupuy presides over hundreds of criminal cases filed by the DA’s Office. [See "DA Refers Complaints Against Judge Dupuy to Texas AG's Office" Texas Lawyer, Feb. 25, 2013, page 7.]
Tom Kelley, a spokesman for the Texas AG’s office, declines to comment about the removal petition or the criminal indictments filed against Dupuy.
On Dec. 21, Houston’s 1st Court of Appeals reversed Dupuy in In Re Cecelia Marie Ryan and Suzanne Schwab-Radcliffe, after he disqualified attorney Suzanne Schwab-Radcliffe from representing a client in his court without proper notice or a hearing. At the time of the disqualification, Schwab-Radcliffe was serving as a part-time associate family law judge for Galveston County’s 306th District Court. Dupuy disqualified Schwab-Radcliffe after ruling that it was a conflict of interest for Schwab-Radcliffe to appear in his court as an attorney and also serve as an associate judge [See "Family Feud: Order Allowing Associate Judge to Practice Law at Issue" Texas Lawyer, Jan. 28, 2013, page 1.]
Schwab-Radcliffe later resigned her position as an associate judge on Feb. 8 after an advisory judicial ethics opinion indicated that part-time judges can’t represent family law clients in district courts in the county where they sit. [See "Advisory Ethics Opinion Prompts Associate Judge to Resign" Texas Lawyer, Feb. 18, 2013, page 1.]
Schwab-Radcliffe did not return a call for comment.
Five of the misdemeanor official-oppression indictments are related to actions Dupuy allegedlytook against Schwab-Radcliffe, Laird who shares an office with Schwab-Radcliffe, and Enos, of Webster’s Enos Law Firm. The allegations include that Dupuy held those lawyers in contempt without proper notice or retaliated against them.
Enos says he served as the arbitrator in Dupuy’s divorce case and awarded him custody of his children. Enos, who says he helped draft the removal petition that was later filed by the AG’s office, alleges that Dupuy’s abuse of lawyers and due process is part of the reason for the civil and criminal actions pending against the judge.