Elizabeth E. Coker
|Elizabeth E. Coker|
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|Current Court Information:|
|Texas District 258|
|Law School:||Baylor University, 1992|
Elizabeth E. Coker was the judge for Texas District 258. Coker took a voluntary leave of absence from her position on October 21, 2013. On December 6, 2013, she officially resigned from her position as a judge.
In the news
Coker agrees to resign after texting prosecutor during trial (2013)
According to a settlement agreement between Coker and the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, Coker has agreed to step down from her position as a district court judge for Texas District 258. The voluntary agreement allows her to avoid disciplinary action. Once she resigns, she is banned from ever serving as a judge in the state of Texas again.
The settlement stems from an incident which took place on August 8, 2012. Coker was presiding over a trial in the case of State v. David M. Reeves. While on the bench, Coker sent a text to Judge Kaycee L. Jones, who currently serves on the 411th District Court. (At the time of the incident, Jones was a prosecutor for the Polk County District Attorney's Office.)
The defendant, Reeves, was charged with a felony count of injury to a child. In text messages, Coker suggested questions the D.A.'s office might want to ask a witness in the case, and she mentioned other legal issues which she thought might help ensure a guilty verdict for the prosecution. The defendant was ultimately found not guilty of the charges. Prior to the start of the trial, the prosecutor in the case and Reeves' attorney, Ryan Deaton, negotiated a plea agreement to allow Reeves to plead guilty and serve a six-month jail sentence. However, Coker would not accept the plea, and the parties were forced to proceed to trial.
David Wells, an investigator for the D.A.'s office wrote a letter to complain about the texting incident. He indicated he saw Coker and Jones texting each other, and then saw Jones write something on a legal pad which she showed to the prosecutor.
According to Jones, she was not the prosecutor for the Reeves case. She received the text from Coker and wrote down exactly what the text said on a legal pad. She then passed the note to an investigator from her office, who gave it to the prosecutor for the case. Jones admitted her role in the incident and says she ". . .now fully appreciate(s) the importance of the impartiality of a judge in a trial and (her) responsibilities as an attorney not to engage in such conduct. . ." The State Bar of Texas conducted an investigation regarding Jones' role in the incident and acquitted her of any wrongdoing.
Deaton, told the Houston Chronicle, in January 2013, he had no comment on the matter. However, he indicated he did not find out about the texting incident until five months after the trial ended. Laura 'Sissy' Prigmore, an attorney who had cases in Coker's court, said
|“||I believe this judge was texting constantly, something that can't be known without getting the phone records. . .This makes me sick.||”|
The settlement agreement notes Coker engaged in ex parte communications in other cases which involved the Polk County D.A.'s Office, as well as other attorneys. The investigation determined Coker favored some attorneys, for both the the prosecution and the defense, who came before her. However, Coker appeared to be prejudiced against other attorneys. She also allegedly met with jurors when attorneys for the parties involved in the case were not present. Due to the settlement, a full investigation into these allegations was not completed by the Commission.
The Texas Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits judges from having ex parte communications with the parties and attorneys who come before them. An ex parte communication takes place when one party in a legal matter meets with a judge to discuss a case or related issues, but the other parties involved in the matter are not also present.
Coker submitted her letter of resignation to Governor Rick Perry on October 21, 2013. Neither Coker, nor her attorneys have offered a statement regarding the settlement. The settlement also allowed Coker to avoid potential impeachment proceedings. The Texas House of Representatives passed a resolution, in August 2013, authorizing the 83rd Texas Legislature to begin an investigation and prepare articles of impeachment to present to the Texas State Senate.
Coker was re-elected after running unopposed.
- ↑ 258th District
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Before the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, "Voluntary Agreement to Resign from Judicial Office In Lieu Of Disciplinary Action," October 19, 2013
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Your Houston News, "Disgraced judge steps down as part of commission agreement," October 21, 2013
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 Houston Chronicle, "Judge accused of texting prosecutor to aid in case, January 18, 2013, accessed October 21, 2013
- ↑ ABA Journal, "Judge texted during trial to help state, prosecutor says," July 9, 2013
- ↑ Gavel to Gavel, "Texas House considers impeachment proceedings against judge," August 19, 2013
- ↑ www.martindale.com, "Judge Profile: Elizabeth Evelyn Coker," accessed October 21, 2013