Layne Walker of the Provost Umphrey Law Firm. (Courtesy photo)
Former Beaumont state District Judge Layne Walker has won another ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit throwing out a civil case filed against him—this time by a lawyer and political rival who alleged she was banned from Walker’s courtroom hallway after campaigning against him.
The recent decision in Morrison v. Walker dismisses several tort claims filed against Walker by Port Arthur criminal defense attorney Stella Morrison.
In April, the Fifth Circuit also dismissed a federal malicious prosecution case filed against Walker by a process server who alleged the former judge had him arrested for showing up at the courthouse to serve a lawsuit on Walker while he sat on the bench. Walker left office in 2014 and later joined Beaumont’s Provost Umphrey.
While Walker served as judge of the 252nd District Court, Morrison ran against him unsuccessfully. After her campaign, Morrison, who is African-American, litigated cases in front of Walker and alleged that he repeatedly mistreated her because of her race and her candidacy.
Among other allegations, Morrison claimed that Walker banned her from entering a hallway that lead to his courtroom and that his bailiff Anthony Barker forcefully removed her from that hallway. Morrison later sued Walker and Barker alleging violations of her First Amendment rights and various Texas Tort Claims Act claims.
A U.S. magistrate judge ultimately dismissed Morrison’s claims after determining that both Walker and Barker had government immunity from being sued—a ruling Morrison appealed to the Fifth Circuit.
In their Aug. 9 ruling, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision that qualified governmental immunity shielded both Walker and Barker from being sued by Morrison.
The Fifth Circuit determined that Walker was acting within his judicial capacity in his interactions with Morrison—including when he banned her from the courtroom hallway when she wanted to speak to a court staff member about a case. “Therefore, Walker is protected by judicial immunity,” the court concluded in a per curiam decision.
The court also dismissed Morrison’s claims against the bailiff, finding that she had cited no authority that the bailiff had violated her constitutional rights by physically removing her from the courtroom hallway.
“I am pleased to have once again been vindicated by the federal courts,” Walker said.
Morrison said she would appeal the decision because Walker had made a “mockery of the judicial system.”
“It’s not good at all,” Morrison said of the Fifth Circuit’s decision. “You don’t allow people who are given authority to act like that.”