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Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Justice Is Not Blind, Just Sleepy

FORT WORTH (CN) - A special education hearing officer who fell asleep as he presided over a family's due-process hearing has resigned, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Myrna Silver of Dallas, the family's attorney in the hearing, said Larry Craddock slept while she presented evidence and witnesses testified.

"He was continuously dozing off, falling asleep," Silver told the Star-Telegram. "If the school district's attorney and I would begin to argue about something, he would rouse himself and make a ruling."

In an e-mail to Silver last week, Craddock apologized for his conduct, saying he "slept one or two minutes at most" during the hearing and is taking medication that causes drowsiness.

"I am writing to apologize for going to sleep during the hearing in this case," the e-mail said. "It was completely involuntary on my part. I meant no disrespect to the parties."

Craddock also told that it is an attorney's duty to wake a sleeping judge.

Parents Donna Harvey and Sheryl Kaminsky say the Keller School District should have provided special-education services for their 18-year-old autistic son. They seek financial restitution for treatment, therapy, legal fees and other expenses.

The parents told the Star-Telegram they tried to keep Craddock awake, that they shot video of him with his eyes closed and an image of him checking his cell phone.

"We tried coughing loudly, dropping water bottles, slamming books, all in an effort to wake him," Kaminsky said.

The video, posted on YouTube, had received more than 5,500 views by Sunday evening.

Silver has filed a motion to remove or recuse Craddock. Another hearing officer denied the motion and the case was postponed until April.

But Texas Education Agency spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson told the Star-Telegram that a new hearing officer has been assigned.

Silver said she did not know how to handle the situation and was concerned about being perceived as disrespectful.

"It was really very, very difficult, so we just let it go," she said.

Silver told the Star-Telegram that she has completed nearly all her case and that the school district has not started. She expects to have a conference call with the new hearing officer to discuss how to proceed.

"I'm certainly very happy. He's not competent, obviously, to sit and hear evidence and decide cases," Silver said.

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