The state’s civil case seeking to remove Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg from office after her conviction for driving while intoxicated is set for trial on Oct. 21. But it might not immediately answer whether she will lose her job.
Also, a hearing on Oct. 18 could affect the evidence and arguments the jury gets to hear. Lehmberg also may argue for dismissal of the case.
“Jury selection is set for Monday morning,” says Visiting Judge David Peeples. He notes that, on Oct. 15, he denied a request by Lehmberg to continue the trial. He says that the trial could take two-to-three days.
Both sides have clashed about the jury’s role: Lehmberg wants the jury to decide if she gets removed, but the state argues that the judge must make that decision.
Peeples says he’s decided that, under Texas Local Government Code §87.013, the jury just decides whether the allegation that Lehmberg was intoxicated — a ground for removal — is “true” or “not true.” If the jury doesn’t find truth in allegation, the case would be over.
But if the jury finds it’s true, Peeples says he would be the one to make the discretionary decision about whether to remove Lehmberg. In that case, Peeples says he would hold another evidentiary hearing later to hear both sides’ arguments.
Lehmberg writes in an email, “Since my trial is set to begin Monday, it would be inappropriate for me to comment.”
Her co-counsel Dan Richards didn’t return a telephone call seeking comment.
Travis County Attorney David Escamilla, whose office represents the state, declines comment.
Escamilla filed the “intoxication” removal suit on April 29. On May 29, Austin solo Rick Reed filed a second suit, seeking to remove Lehmberg for 16 counts of “official misconduct” related to her behavior in jail after her arrest. The two suits were consolidated, but the state is only pursuing the intoxication allegations during the trial.
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