Judge Christopher Dupuy’s legal troubles span three different court systems in Galveston County — civil, criminal and family law. Now, the suspended jurist is fighting back in the civil suit that seeks his permanent removal from the bench. He alleges in his response to the removal petition that the removal suit is a "politically charged" proceeding that is "akin to whistleblower retaliation."
George Parnham, a partner in Houston’s Parnham & McWilliams who represents Dupuy, says, "It’s simply an issue of a judge who has, in effect, been removed by felony indictments and who has been held hostage by a group of lawyers whose sole purpose is to remove him from the bench. I’m not going allow this man to be disgraced and to be rode out of Galveston on a rail."
Dupuy, judge of Galveston County Court-at-Law No. 3, was indicted on May 21 on two felony and six misdemeanor charges related to actions he allegedly took on the bench. The felony charges 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.
On May 22 the Texas Attorney General’s Office filed a civil removal petition against Dupuy, in which Friendswood solo Greg Hughes alleges Dupuycommitted numerous acts of "incompetency" and "official misconduct" that mandate his removal from office under Texas Local Government Code §87.013. The next day, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued an order of suspension against Dupuy, taking him off the bench without pay [See "Judge Christopher Dupuy Indicted, Removal Petition Filed" Texas Lawyer, May 27, 2013, page 1].
In his May 27 response to the removal petition in State of Texas, ex rel. Greg Hughes v. Christopher Michael Dupuy, Dupuy alleges the petition was drafted by lawyers currently and formerly representing his ex-wife and should be dismissed. Dupuy currently is involved in a child-custody dispute with his ex-wife in a Galveston County family law court.
Dupuy also alleges the removal petition was a reaction to a judicial ethics opinion he sought from the Judicial Ethics Committee of the Judicial Section of the State Bar of Texas. That decision, which found that part-time judges can’t represent family law clients in district courts in the county where they sit, prompted Suzanne Schwab Radcliffe to resign from her position as a part-time judge for the 306th District Court in Galveston County earlier this year [See "Advisory Ethics Opinion Prompts Associate Judge to Resign," Texas Lawyer, Feb. 18, 2013, page 1.]
"This lawsuit is akin to whistleblower retaliation and all the persons responsible for this malicious action should be held accountable including those who claim credit for the action without taking full responsibility for the same," Dupuy’s response alleges.
A show-cause hearing in the removal case is set for June 13 in Galveston County’s 10th District Court.
Tom Kelley, a spokesman for the AG’s office, declines comment about Dupuy’s response to the removal petition.
"We are going to address those issues at the June 13 hearing. We’ll be glad to get it taken care of then," Kelley says.
"I believe the indictments that were handed down were basically a result of what happened with Radcliffe," says Parnham.
Hughes, who formerly represented Dupuy’s ex-wife, says the allegations in Dupuy’s response have no merit.
"It’s beyond absurd," says Hughes, who says the allegations related to Radcliffe are a "fairly minor part" of the 49-page removal petition.
Radcliffe did not return a call seeking comment. Neither did Lori Laird, a Houston solo who shares an office with Radcliffe and represents Dupuy’s ex-wife in a custody dispute.
Dupuy also alleges in his response that Chapter 87 of the Government Code does not allow for the removal of statutory county court-at-law judges. While the statute lists 13 county-level offices that are subject to the removal statute, Dupuy alleges that his office is "exempt" from the statute.
"This petition has no legal basis, and never has had a legal basis," Dupuy alleges in his response.
Hughes says statutory county court-at-law judges are subject to removal petitions under a catch-all provision in Chapter 87, which states that "a county officer, not otherwise named by this section, whose office is created under the constitution or other law of this state" is subject to removal.
"Clearly, he’s going to meet the definition of county official," Hughes says.
But Parnham points to Government Code §25.0006(b), which is part of the statute that created Galveston’s three county courts-at-law. That section states that Galveston County court-at-law judges are not subject to Chapter 87 removal proceedings.
"If they want to change the law, that will be something they can hold on to," Parnham says.