There is widespread outrage across the nation because of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse of others and the accusations again Ben Affleck, Kevin Spacey and even George H.W. Bush, among others, one would expect that a sitting judge with multiple accusations of sexual harassment and other inappropriate activities would be held to account. But not in Texas, which apparently tolerates abusive behavior by judges and the voters of El Paso who keep electing and reelecting a judge who is reprimanded, not once, but multiple times. That is the sad state of affairs in the country that seems to tolerate sexual harassment.
Consider Luis Aguilar, of El Paso. Aguilar is the judge for the 243rd Judicial District Court of El Paso County in Texas. On Monday, November 6, 2017, the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued a public reprimand of Luis Aguilar. According to the reprimand, the Commission received nine complaints against Aguilar. The complaints were filed between July 29, 2015 and December 12, 2016. As if those complaints weren’t enough, the “Findings of Fact” show that the Commission “initiated its own complaint…based on media articles about” Aguilar’s conduct. The investigation uncovered “a number of other complaints” against him, according to the Commission’s report.
Of the numerous complaints made against Aguilar, the following stand out. In one case, although the plaintiff had moved to dismiss the lawsuit, Aguilar issued a warrant for the arrest of the plaintiff’s attorney for not being present in his court when required. Kristy Gabrielova did not attend the court hearing because she was eight months pregnant and had instead sent another attorney in her place. It is a normal procedure for attorneys to send others when they are unable to attend.
In another case, Aguilar held another lawyer in contempt for failing to attend a court hearing. After some back-and-forth about Aguilar’s right to hold the lawyer in contempt and Aguilar’s process, a judge appointed to intervene issued an opinion stating that Aguilar’s “use of contempt” as “ill used.”
On December 1, 2015, Aguilar ordered two probation officers to sit in the jury box for about two hours, after threatening to throw them in jail, because Aguilar was “displeased” by how they handled the automobile of a probationer.
The Commission also heard various complaint about Aguilar’s demeanor towards lawyers and jurors. One prospective juror submitted a complaint to the Commission advising them that they had witnessed Luis Aguilar “treat a woman in the jury pool with disrespect.”
For his part, Luis Aguilar told the Commission “that the complaints about his demeanor are politically motivated or brought by people who simply do not like him.”
The Commission on Judicial Conduct concluded that Luis Aguilar “willfully and persistently failed to comply with applicable law” and that Aguilar “engaged in a persistent pattern of treating those with which he deals in an official capacity with lack of patience, dignity, and courtesy.”
The Commission ordered Aguilar to take, at his own expense, eight hours of judicial education at College of New Judges in Austin as well as to “participate in two hours of instruction in the area of contempt of court with a mentor to be chosen by the Commission.” [emphasis in original] The Commission also ordered that the reprimand be made public.
Before discussing the appropriateness of the Commission’s order, let’s look a little more at Aguilar’s official conduct.
This is not the first time that Luis Aguilar is reprimanded by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. In 2004, the Commission issued another public reprimand of Aguilar. That reprimand found problems with Aguilar’s conduct as the judge of the 120 District Court. The Commission found that Aguilar’s Court Coordinator, Jo Ann Levison, and a former court reporter had testified that Aguilar “made derogatory remarks and gestures of a sexual nature about women. Including female judges, prosecutors, probation officers, and others” that came before Aguilar’s court room. The witnesses testified that Aguilar used terms as “hot tamale,” f****ing bitch,” “fat pig,” “f****ing lazy” and “stupid bitch.” The witnesses also testified that Aguilar referred to one female judge “as being ‘in heat’”.
The Commission’s “Findings of Facts” describe how Laura Franco Gregory, an Assistant District Attorney for El Paso County felt that Aguilar “was so out of control and full of rage that she believed the judge was going to hit her” during a court proceeding.
For this conduct, the Commission ordered a Public Reprimand be issued to Luis Aguilar.
Even though there was ample public coverage of the public reprimand and Luis Aguilar’s actions the led to it, Aguilar was again elected by the voters of El Paso, Texas.
Clearly the voters of El Paso, Texas have no problem electing a judge, like Luis Aguilar, that not only sexually harasses women but is so full of rage that at least one female attorney felt that he was going to beat her in court.
So much for an electorate that supposedly values respecting women and God’s admonition of respect for fellow Christian brothers and sisters. El Paso is predominantly Catholic, and the Catholic Church regularly interjects itself into electoral processes of the city.
But the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct deserves the most wrath because they are fully aware of Luis Aguilar’s temperament and penchant for abusing women and yet all they do is issue public reprimands and order him to attend classes.
In the latest documented incidents, Aguilar was misusing contempt charges against attorneys. Aguilar has the power to imprison and fine lawyers he dislikes. The reprimand lists several instances of his abuse of this power. The problem lies in that lawyers are complaining about Aguilar’s abusive behavior, yet no one seems to be asking what about the everyday citizen that must appear before Aguilar?
What can everyday citizen expect from Aguilar when they go before him?
That’s the fundamental question that the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct doesn’t seem to want to address by keeping Luis Aguilar on the bench.
The voters of El Paso are corrupt for putting Luis Aguilar on the bench and the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct is negligent for putting citizens at risk of Luis Aguilar’s persistent abhorrent behavior.
What is the Commission and the voters going to say when someone is physically or sexually assaulted by Aguilar? Oh well, c’est la vie? Like Weinstein and all other sexual predators, there is always a pattern that is clear to everyone. A pattern that Luis Aguilar has been documented to exhibit.