Cleaning up the Lamar County Criminal Justice System

Following Haslam’s several complaints to the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct, Lamar County District Judge Eric Clifford resigned the bench in the middle of his second term and agreed to never run for judge again.

The materials below describe these events.

Cleaning Up the Criminal Justice System in Paris, Texas

ImpactFund.org | November 18, 2016

A fitting conclusion to Haslam’s successful efforts to unseat Lamar County Judge Eric Clifford, this article describes how the Texas legislature changed the law to forbid statewide one of Clifford’s abuses of office: his practice of unlawfully charging indigent defendants for their court-appointed attorney fees.

The article details Haslam’s work with the Texas Fair Defense Project to stop the practice in Lamar County, and then convincing the Texas legislature to change the law to prevent all Texas judges from doing it anymore, anywhere with its amendments to Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Articles 26.05[g].

Haslam’s Second Complaint to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct

November 15, 2015

Second Supplement to First Clifford Complaint

September 16, 2014

First Supplement to First Clifford Complaint

June 1, 2014

Haslam’s First Complaint to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct

April 27, 2014

A disgrace: Former judge should not get a cent

Former judge banned from office could collect disability pay

Posted: July 3, 2016 by Lynn LaRowe

This Texarkana Gazette opinion piece describes Clifford’s $70,000/year retirement benefits as a “tragedy” in light of his agreement to never run for office again to avoid discipline.

Former judge banned from office could collect disability pay

Texarkana Gazette cites Haslam's second complaint

Posted: July 3, 2016 by Lynn LaRowe

The Texarkana Gazette cites Haslam’s second complaint regarding Clifford to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct in this story reporting Clifford’s agreement to never run for judge again to avoid further discipline.

SCJC Letter May 19, 2016

This letter from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct thanks Haslam for reporting Clifford’s false statements under oath during his August 2015 testimony before the SCJC.  The letter is followed by Clifford’s written agreement with the SCJC to never run for judge again in return for the SCJC’s agreement not to discipline him further.

Judge seat waits on governor

Paris News Eric Clifford

Posted: Friday, March 25,2016 10:57 am by Connie Beard

More than 700 cases are pending in 6th District Court, according to District Court Clerk Shawntel Golden.

Clifford may get disability pay from the state

Clifford Resignation

Posted: March 25, 2016 by Lynn LaRowe

Judge who just resigned after being reprimanded could still receive $70,000 indefinitely

Judge submits resignation

Paris News Eric Clifford

Posted: Thursday, March 24, 2016 10:59 am by Joseph Brown

Sixth District Judge Eric Clifford resigned effective Wednesday.

Judge Clifford resigns: Sixth District justice was reprimanded last fall for misconduct

Clifford Resignation

Posted: March 24, 2016 by Lynn LaRowe

Sixth District Judge Eric Clifford resigned Wednesday from the bench that serves Red River and Lamar counties, according to a spokesman for the Texas Office of the Governor.

The Paris News story describing the backlog in the courts resulting from Clifford’s recusals

Paris News Eric Clifford

December 5, 2015

The Paris News story describing motions to recuse Clifford arising from his ethics sanctions

Paris News Eric Clifford

December 5, 2015

Texarkana Gazette Editorial Calling for Clifford’s Resignation

Clifford Resignation

“Judge Clifford needs to bow out gracefully” written by Les Minor, Texarkana Gazette

Dated November 15, 2015.

Lamar County District Attorney Gary Young’s Motions to Recuse Clifford in all Paris Attorney Jeff Starnes’ Cases

Clifford testified to the SCJC that Paris Attorney Jeff Starnes was considering a run for Lamar County District Attorney in the 2016 election.

Citing this testimony and its suggestion of a Clifford bias toward Starnes over Young, incumbent Lamar County District Attorney Gary Young’s office subsequently moved to recuse Clifford from all thirty-two [32] criminal cases pending before Clifford in which Starnes was the defense attorney. This motion was filed Wednesday, October 21, 2015.

Clifford  entered an Order On Friday, October 23, 2015 refusing to recuse himself. A refusal like this means an evidentiary hearing must be conducted to which witnesses are subpoenaed to testify under oath to determine whether Clifford does harbor such a bias.

On Monday, October 26, 2015, however, Clifford changed his mind and entered another Order recusing himself from all 32 of the criminal cases pending before him in which Starnes was the defense attorney.

In the interest of conserving server space, only one of these motions and its two accompanying orders are attached for online inspection.  According to the office of the LCDA, however, all 32 such motions and orders are identical.

Second Texarkana Gazette Story on the Public Reprimand

Texarkana Gazette Eric Clifford Reprimand

Dated October 15, 2015.

Paris Police Department Officer Clifford Bigler’s audio of his meeting with Clifford

This is audio made by Officer Bigler of his meeting when Clifford summoned him to his office to demand he manage a neighborhood dispute or he would send juvenile probation officers to his home.

The SCJC issued written questions to Clifford about this encounter and Clifford originally denied even speaking to Bigler about it. [See the written denials in the last two pages of the 300+ written pages of materials considered by the SCJC in evaluating the complaints about Clifford].

When confronted with the audiotape Clifford admitted the meeting but denied calling the juve officers.  During his Austin testimony, Clifford admitted he called juvenile probation. [The audio of Clifford’s testimony is attached, as well.].

ABA Journal Story on the Clifford Public Reprimand

September 22, 2015

ABA on Clifford Reprimand

First Texarkana Gazette Story on the Public Reprimand

Clifford Reprimand

Dated September 16, 2015.

Texas Lawyer Story on the Public Reprimand

Texas Lawyer on Clifford Public Reprimand

 

Dated September 16, 2015.

The Public Reprimand of Eric Clifford Issued September 5, 2015 By the State Commission on Judicial Conduct

This is the nine-page Public Reprimand of Judge Eric Clifford issued by the SCJC.

Motion to Recuse Judge Bill Harris in Cause 25679

September 5, 2015. A second felony case in which Clifford’s testimony under oath leaves Lamar County Court at Law Judge Bill Harris to defend Clifford’s allegations Harris has inappropriately involved himself in the investigative and warrant affidavit drafting functions of local law enforcement.

Motion to Recuse Judge Bill Harris in Cause 25612

September 5, 2015. Clifford’s testimony under oath leaves Lamar County Court at Law Judge Bill Harris to defend Clifford’s allegations Harris has inappropriately involved himself in the investigative and warrant affidavit drafting functions of local law enforcement.

Supplemental Materials Tendered to the Commission

August 14, 2015

Written statements of two Lamar County Assistant District Attorneys, Laurie Pollard and Jill Drake, submitted to the SCJA describing Clifford’s unethical discussions with Paris defense attorney Dave Turner.

These are the 300+ pages of Written Materials considered by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct

These documents include the complaints submitted to the SCJC and Clifford’s written responses to written questions he submitted before his August 14, 2015 testimony under oath in Austin. Other materials are included, as well.

Complete Audio of Clifford’s 90-minute August 14, 2015 testimony under oath to the SCJC

Clifford testified under oath to the panel of SCJC members about the complaints.  This is the entire hearing.

Transcript of Clifford Testimony Before the SCJC, August 2015

The Paris News Story on Clifford’s Scooter Accident

Paris News Eric Clifford

Dated June 16, 2014.

Past haunts 6th district judge candidate

Paris News Eric Clifford

Published: September 7, 2008 10:59 am by Mary Madewell

Former Paris mayor and Republican candidate for 6th -District Judge Eric Clifford spent time in an Austin jail and served a probationary sentence for solicitation of prostitution in 1995, according to Travis County court documents.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Opinion in ex parte Walsh [2007]

In his testimony to the SCJC, Clifford explained his disproportionate allocation of Lamar County criminal case court appointments to Paris attorney David Turner by testifying that Mr. Turner is the most capable attorney available to him for such work. Court appointments are paid for out of a dedicated county fund of approximately $700,000.

Clifford narrowly defeated Mr. Turner for the bench in 2008.  Mr. Turner did not oppose Clifford for re-election in 2012.

The attached two documents conflict with Clifford’s testimony.  First, the five-page Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law authored by Fannin County District Judge Blake describe her assessment that Mr. Turner’s 2005-6 representation of Randall Eugene Walsh in a murder case was so legally inadequate that his conviction was insupportable. She submitted this pleading to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and urged the conviction be set aside.   Second, the one-page Texas Court of Criminal Appeals opinion was the last word on Mr. Walsh’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim: this Court opinion set aside and remanded the murder case back to Fannin County to litigate the murder charge anew.

The standard for reviewing an ineffective assistance of counsel claim was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 [1984].  The standard emerging from Strickland requires the defendant to show that there is a “…reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.”

Nonetheless, Clifford testified in August of 2015 that his disproportionate allocation of court appointments to Mr. Turner is sound.