Politics May Have Led to Texas Prosecutor's Firing
DALLAS (CN) - The Texas Attorney General's Office must face claims that it fired a child-support prosecutor for refusing to besmirch a judge, an appeals court ruled.
Ginger Weatherspoon filed her lawsuit against the office of Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott in Dallas County Court more than five years ago.
The former assistant attorney general claimed that the office terminated her after she refused demands by her superiors to prepare and sign an affidavit regarding Dallas County Family Court Judge David Hanschen.
Weatherspoon allegedly declined because she "never witnessed" the judge commit the behavior in question: treating attorneys general adversely in court and entering prejudicial rulings against them.
The affidavit would have purportedly been used in a judicial misconduct complaint against Hanschen.
After Weatherspoon refused, senior regional attorneys Jim Jones and Harry Monck yelled at and confined her to a room until she complied, according to the complaint.
"Both Jones and Mock, as well as their supervisor, were publicly demoted because of their conduct," the complaint says.
A judge refused to grant the office summary judgment based on its claim that Weatherspoon failed report the alleged illegal activity in good faith to an appropriate law-enforcement authority.
A three-judge panel with the 5th District Court of Appeals affirmed last week, finding that Weatherspoon did report the conduct to the right people.
"The OAG argues that Weatherspoon did not make her report to an appropriate law enforcement authority because she reported the alleged criminal violations only to her division head and others in the Child Support Division," Justice David Evans wrote for the court. "It is undisputed that the Child Support Division does not address allegations against third parties of criminal fraud and abuse of office. It is also undisputed, however, that the Child Support Division is part of the OAG. The evidence presented by Weatherspoon shows that the OAG, through its Office of Special Investigations, has the authority to investigate complaints not only of internal fraud and corruption, but also fraud and corruption by third parties."
Weatherspoon alleges that she was specifically directed to report the alleged violations to her division head, who was then required to forward it to the special investigations office, according to the 11-page ruling.
"Accordingly, there was more than a mere possibility that Weatherspoon's report would reach persons with specific authority to investigate or prosecute the alleged criminal violations," Evans wrote. "Weatherspoon made her report to persons employed by an appropriate law enforcement entity who were required to ensure that her allegations were reported to the proper persons and she was assured that this had been done."
Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Abbott's office, said they are "reviewing the ruling and considering our options."