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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Dallas DA Ducks Prosecutor’s Ouster Effort

DALLAS (CN) - A Texas judge dismissed a fired prosecutor's lawsuit accusing Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk of incompetence, official misconduct and mental instability before she took a two-month leave to treat her depression.

Visiting Bexar County District Judge David Peeples tossed the lawsuit at the end of a hearing Friday morning.

Hawk faced the possibility of being temporarily removed from office if Peeples had allowed the case to move forward and he had granted the state's request for an evidentiary hearing. His ruling cannot be appealed.

Hawk was visibly emotional when the lawsuit was dismissed. Flanked by her attorneys and staffers, she told reporters outside of the courtroom that Peeples "saw the truth" and that she is ready to get back to work.

"It was a black cloud that was over our office," she said. "It needed to go away because we are doing fantastic things."

Hawk said she wants to be a crusader for the "stigma" of mental illness.

Her attorney, Douglas W. Alexander with Alexander Dubose in Austin, argued the state law used to try and oust Hawk from office is from the 19th century and should not apply to this circumstance. Drawing a comparison with wheelchair-bound Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Alexander said someone like Abbott would have been considered unfit for office at the time.

"The governor of Texas is paralyzed from the waist down," he said. "No one would ever suggest he suffers from a physical defect."

Alexander said his client should be congratulated for seeking help for her depression instead of being stigmatized and facing ouster. He said President Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression and was still a great leader.

Hawk's former administrative chief Cindy Stormer sued in October, citing Hawk's lengthy absence last year, several controversial firings of longtime staffers and Hawk's allegedly erratic and paranoid behavior indicating a "complete break with reality."

Stormer also accused Hawk of repeatedly asking her to use public funds improperly. She claimed Hawk held a $22,500 check of public money for two months and "claimed that she thought it was her pay stub," asked to use public money to pay attorney association and Rotary dues, and asked for a credit card in her name in violation of county policy.

After the hearing, Stormer told reporters she wishes Hawk well.

Ellis County District Attorney Patrick Wilson intervened in the case last month, appearing on behalf of the state in arguing for Hawk's removal. The Dallas County Commissioners Court had earlier asked Wilson to intervene in the suit on the state's behalf.

One fired staffer was Hawk's former second-in-command Bill Wirskye, who Stormer said was fired after being accused of breaking into Hawk's home and stealing a "blow job shot" photograph. He said Hawk's paranoia paralyzed the office, according to an affidavit filed this week.

"Her tone was both bizarre and aggressive," Wirskye's affidavit stated. "When I asked her what she was talking about, she accused me of calling her mother and harassing her, breaking into her parent's garage, and breaking into her house and stealing a photo of her. (These accusations were all untrue.) It was apparent to me that Ms. Hawk was completely delusional and detached from reality."

Wirskye said he was fired on March 23 and that upon leaving the courthouse, he told Hawk's political adviser that she needed to be placed "immediately" in in-patient treatment.

Judge Peeples' ruling comes one day after several current district attorney employees filed responding affidavits disputing the claims made by the fired employees.

Follow @davejourno
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