In an attempt to convince the Commission on Judicial Conduct to reinstate Judge Christopher Dupuy's pay after suspending him from the bench, his attorney argued during a commission hearing that many of the criminal allegations made against Dupuy are not what they seem.
The commission took its action against Dupuy, judge of Galveston County Court-at-Law No. 3, on May 23, two days after a Galveston County grand jury indicted him on two felony and six misdemeanor charges related to actions he allegedly took on the bench. The felony charges allege "obstruction or retaliation." The misdemeanor indictments include four abuse-of-official-capacity and two official-oppression charges.
Dupuy was indicted on another misdemeanor charge on June 11. A civil petition seeking Dupuy's removal from office has also been filed in state court.
Dupuy has asserted that the allegations are politically motivated and stem in part from his divorce. [For more information on his response, see "Judge Christopher Dupuy Indicted, Removal Petition Filed" Texas Lawyer, May 27, 2013, page 1.]
Dupuy is also involved in a custody dispute with his ex-wife in a Galveston County District Court. A May 29 affidavit filed in that case by Tara Compton, Dupuy's ex-fiancée, alleges that Dupuy planned to "kill his ex-wife and make the children think their mother dead" and "leave the country" for New Zealand with the children.
In an interview, Compton now backs away from the claims in her affidavit, stating that several people who want Dupuy "taken down" told her to embellish her affidavit. "It's a conspiracy," she says.
During a June 14 post-suspension proceeding, Dupuy's lawyer George Parnham told the commissioners he recently asked the Galveston County district attorney to investigate his own client for solicitation of capital murder.
"There have been newspaper accounts that somehow this person [Dupuy] is involved in a solicitation of capital murder. I have asked the district attorney's office to investigate. I have no question in my mind that this is sham set of circumstances as a result of who knows what," Parnham told the commissioners. "I would like the district attorney to investigate, and as a result, let the chips fall where they may."
Galveston County DA Jack Roady confirmed that he met with Parnham about his request but said he referred the matter to the Texas Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting Dupuy. Earlier this year, Roady recused his office from handling the criminal cases against Dupuy. Roady refers comment to the AG's office.
Tom Kelley, a spokesman for the AG's office, declines comment, citing a gag order that was issued in Dupuy's criminal proceedings.
James Hernandez, a partner in Andrews Kurth in Houston who represents Dupuy's ex-wife Adrienne Viterna and attended the post-suspension hearing, says Viterna has "nothing to do" with the startling allegation.
"This is an allegation that was brought to us by Tara Compton. She requested to speak with Adrienne after she received a grand jury summons," Hernandez says. "She made Adrienne aware that Dupuy had talked to her about taking the children to New Zealand and that he could hire a lowlife to kill Adrienne. We had nothing to do with that. Whether that is true or not, only Compton and Dupuy know. But it certainly made us very concerned, and we welcome an investigation that Mr. Parnham thinks is appropriate for his client."
During the hearing Parnham also discussed each of the indictments pending against his client, alleging that many of them are related to a judicial ethics opinion Dupuy 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 where they sit, prompted Suzanne Schwab Radcliffe to resign from her position as a part-time judge.
"This ruling, according to the prosecutors in this case, has wreaked havoc on the family law system in Galveston County, and according to the prosecutors, it's all Chris' fault," Parnham told the commissioners. "He was right on this issue, and the indictments will be defended with that particular position involved."
Schwab-Radcliffe did not return a call seeking comment.
According to Procedural Rule for the Removal or Retirement of Judges 15, Dupuy was entitled to a post-suspension hearing "to demonstrate that continued service would not jeopardize the interests of parties involved in court proceedings over which the judge would preside nor impair public confidence in the judiciary."
Parnham told the commissioners he was not asking that his client be returned to the bench.
"I think that position would be disastrous on the administration of justice. I would not want to appear before a judge who had been indicted," Parnham told the commissioners.
Rather, Parham asked that they consider restoring Dupuy's pay, because Dupuy "has no visible means of employment" — he can't practice law because he's a judge, and he can't receive his salary because he's been suspended.
After the non-adversarial hearing concluded, the commissioners denied Dupuy's request to have his pay reinstated.