44th State Civil District Court Judge Carlos R. Cortez (Handout photo)
The chairwoman of the Dallas County Democratic Party has called for 44th District Court Judge Carlos Cortez to resign from the bench. The move comes after recently unsealed court documents revealed disturbing allegations by two women—one who alleged that Cortez sexually assaulted her when she was a child and another who alleged Cortez gave her money to buy cocaine.
But Darlene Ewing, a Dallas solo who heads the county Democratic Party, acknowledged that she’s had past political conflicts with Cortez.
The allegations came to light after Texarkana’s Sixth Court of Appeals ruled on April 16 that court documents, including the sworn witness statements of the women and a deposition by Cortez, should be unsealed. [See "Shocking Statements Unsealed in Judge Carlos Cortez Dispute," Texas Lawyer, April 21, 2014, page 1.] Cortez battled for more than three years to keep the documents sealed, arguing that the women’s statements were false and that disclosure of the women’s statements would portray him in a false light and violate his right to privacy.
In a deposition transcript that was also unsealed, Cortez denied ever using cocaine; he denied ever purchasing cocaine; and he denied that he’d ever been charged with indecency with a child, with a felony or with a crime of moral turpitude. Cortez has never faced criminal prosecution in connection with either woman’s allegation, and Texas Lawyer was unable to reach either woman last week to confirm their allegations.
Ewing said that Cortez should resign “for the good of the party and for the good of the county.
“People question his judgment to such an extent that he can’t be effective on the bench,” Ewing said. “And I think Carlos himself needs to get out of the limelight and focus on the issues that brought him to this point.”
Cortez did not return a call for comment. Neither did Pete Schulte, an attorney with Dallas Schulte & Apgar who has represented Cortez in some legal matters. Cortez’s civil attorneys, Andrew Korn, a partner in Dallas’ Korn Diaz Firm, and Frank Gilstrap, a partner in Arlington’s Hill Gilstrap, did not immediately return one call each seeking comment
Cortez was defeated in the March 4, 2014, Democratic primary election, and his term runs until the end of the year. Ewing said she had no power in her capacity as chairwoman of the county party to force Cortez’s resignation. She also noted that Cortez has not been criminally prosecuted for any of the allegations noted in the sworn statements.
“Certainly, as an attorney, I recognize that he’s innocent until proven guilty. But we’re not talking about criminal guilt. We’re talking about how you live your life and integrity in public officials,” Ewing said. “If I’m in his court and he’s passing judgment on me, I might wonder. But he has every right to stay on the bench until Dec. 31.”