CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (CN) - The chief judge of a Texas appellate court torpedoed an attorney's job offer because he'd reported the judge was taking "double reimbursements" for travel expenses, the lawyer claims in court.
Bruce M. Anderson sued Rogelio Valdez, chief judge of the Thirteenth Court of Appeals, and the State of Texas, on Tuesday in Federal Court.
Based in Corpus Christi, the appellate court hears cases from 20 counties in South Texas.
Anderson worked as a briefing attorney for Justice Rose Vela, of the Thirteenth Court of Appeals, from 2007 until she retired in December 2012, he says in the complaint.
"In early 2012, Justice Vela asked Anderson to come into her office for a meeting," the complaint states.
"During this meeting, Justice Vela told Anderson that she had concerns about the conduct of Rogelio Valdez, Chief Justice of the Thirteenth Court of Appeals.
"Specifically, Justice Vela told Anderson that she had examined the court's financial records concerning its Filing Fee Fund and Chief Justice Valdez's campaign finance records, and concluded that Chief Justice Valdez had been obtaining double reimbursements from both the court's Filing Fee Fund and his political campaign for the same travel expenses."
Anderson says Vela asked him about it due to his criminal justice background - he'd worked for two years as an Hidalgo County assistant district attorney.
"Anderson was disturbed by the possibility that the sitting chief justice of the Thirteenth Court of Appeals had violated Texas law," according to the complaint.
So, Anderson says, he wrote a letter to the Texas Supreme Court's then-chief justice, Wallace Jefferson, stating he had concerns that Valdez was breaking state law.
Anderson says he asked Wallace to keep the letter confidential, as he "was concerned that he would be retaliated against if anyone at the Thirteenth Court of Appeals learned that he 'was revealing possible damaging information about Chief Justice Valdez's handling of the court's finances.'
Anderson says he sent an identical letter to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which responded in November 2013 that it had launched an investigation of Valdez.
The complaint does not explain what came of that investigation, and no records could be located on the commission's website.
Anderson says Thirteenth Court of Appeals Judge Gregory Perkes subsequently offered him a senior staff attorney job.
"Justice Perkes and Anderson then agreed that Anderson would start on May 12, 2014, and that Anderson's annual salary would be approximately $80,000," the complaint states.
"On or about May 8, 2014, however, Anderson received a call from an agent of the Thirteenth Court of Appeals, who informed him that despite his acceptance of Justice Perkes's offer on May 2, 2014, Anderson did not have a job with the court.
"The agent did not provide any reason for the rescission of Anderson's employment agreement.
"On May 12, 2014, however, Justice Perkes told Anderson in words or substance that, because Anderson gave testimony against the chief, the chief told all of the justices not to allow Anderson to work for Justice Perkes."
Anderson seeks damages for First Amendment violations.
He is represented by Lawrence Morales of San Antonio.
Valdez's staff did not immediately return a request for comment.
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