Judge facing complaint after outing domestic violence victim

  • Claudia Lauer
  • Associated Press
5:51 p.m Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 Texas News & Politics

A Dallas judge previously disciplined for 2014 comments saying a 14-year-old rape victim in her court wasn’t the “victim she claimed to be” is facing another complaint after calling out a domestic violence victim during a re-election event.

The interaction happened Monday night at a candidate forum between state District Judge Jeanine Howard and her opponent in the Democratic primary, Alison Grinter, at the African American Museum in Dallas.

Before her closing remarks, Howard saw Keisha Nixon in the audience, identified her by name, and after a moderator tried to calm the situation proceeded to tell the audience that Nixon’s “boyfriend was sent to prison for assaulting her numerous times.”

Nixon appeared at a news conference Tuesday with a representative from the Next Generation Action Network, a social justice activism group based in Dallas that has sought police and criminal justice reforms. Nixon and the group are calling for Howard to resign over the interaction, and Nixon said she has filed an ethics complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

“I am still shocked, humiliated, embarrassed that a sitting judge would re-victimize me in public and use my status as a domestic violence victim to humiliate and criticize me, to discredit me because she is angry,” Nixon said. “I am not the 14-year-old victim that unfortunately she shamed. I am a grown woman, and I do not deserve to be treated like this.”

From a video of the interaction posted on Facebook, it was unclear whether Nixon had asked a question or interacted with Howard beforehand.

Howard’s court assistant, reached by phone Tuesday at her judicial office, said the judge had no comment.

Eric Vinson, executive director of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, said he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of a complaint against a member of the judiciary. He said the only time he could discuss a complaint would be if the commission had ruled to issue a public sanction.

Vinson confirmed that the commission had issued a public warning against Howard and ordered four hours of additional education after four complaints were filed over the remarks about the rape victim.

According to that warning, Howard had been heavily criticized for a lenient sentence against Sir Young, who pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault after being accused of forcing a 14-year-old girl to have sex with him in a room at a Dallas high school. The judge spoke to a reporter about the case and made the comments about the victim having a sexual history. The warning also notes that she misread the girl’s medical history during an in-chamber meeting and incorrectly thought she had given birth before the assault.

A call to a previous number listed for Howard’s campaign went unanswered, and her campaign website appeared to be taken down Tuesday.