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Commission Admonishes Texas Appeals Judge

McALLEN, Texas (CN) - Texas judiciary regulators admonished an appellate judge for using her position to try to get out of a drunken driving arrest last summer.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished Judge Nora Longoria, of the 13th District Court of Appeals, on March 13.

Longoria was arrested in July 2014 after she was stopped in McAllen for driving 69 mph in a 55 mph zone. She allegedly had slurred speech and smelled of alcohol.

"I observed the driver's movements and noticed that she was opening her wallet to display a medal badge that was inside," Officer Jesus Regalado wrote in his report. "I did not ask the driver what her profession was as she began to tell me that she was a judge."

Longoria became "emotional" and "uncooperative" after flunking a field sobriety test and initially "refused to be handcuffed" when arrested, police said.

"I later observed Ms. Longoria begin to cry as she stated, 'You are going to ruin my life, I worked hard for 25 years to be where I'm at today,'" Officer Roel Garza wrote in his report. "Ms. Longoria advised she was a judge. While making contact with Ms. Longoria, I observed her to have unsteady balance, red bloodshot eyes and slurred speech when she spoke."

Longoria was released on bond after refusing to submit a breath sample in jail. She pleaded no contest to speeding four months later and paid a $500 fine, resulting in the dismissal of the driving while intoxicated charge.

McAllen police provided the 13-member commission a dash cam video recording of the arrest, which showed Longoria "repeatedly pleading" to be issued a warning and allowed to return home. The commission said Longoria's attempt "to use her position as a judge to obtain favorable treatment and escape the consequences of her conduct" was a willful violation of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct.

"Furthermore, the judge's conduct during the traffic stop, her arrest for driving while intoxicated, and her subsequent plea of no contest to a speeding charge received widespread media attention which cast public discredit upon the judiciary and the administration of justice, in violation of Article V, §1-a(6)A of the Texas Constitution," the three-page public admonition stated.

"The commission has taken this action in a continuing effort to protect public confidence in the judicial system and to assist the state's judiciary in its efforts to embody the principles and values set forth in the Texas Constitution and the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct."

Longoria told Courthouse News the public admonishment was issued with her "full and voluntary consent." She said the arrest happened on the one-year anniversary "of a great personal loss."

"I did not conduct myself according to my own standards and values, or according to the level of conduct the public should expect of all elected officials, especially the judiciary," she said in a statement Monday. "I apologize to the public, to my fellow judges, and to the law enforcement personnel who were involved. I have learned a great deal from this experience and pledge to uphold the high standards that the public is entitled to expect of all judges."

An admonition is the least harsh of the commission's available disciplinary measures - it can be either private or public. The commission has the power to warn, reprimand, censure or remove judges under the Texas Constitution.

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