DALLAS (CN) – The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct privately reprimanded a Comal County judge for improperly jailing a grandfather in 2009 after the man confronted the judge in the restroom and called him a fool. The commission found that Judge Jack Robison exceeded the scope of his authority by jailing the man for contempt of court without hearing or notice.
Upset about Robison’s ruling on custody of his granddaughter, Don Bandelman, 69, confronted the judge in a public restroom at the courthouse and called him a fool.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, Robison had bailiffs arrest Bandelman on the sidewalk outside the courthouse and sentenced him to a 30-day jail term for contempt.
Robison commuted the sentence two days later after a habeas corpus petition was filed and the 3rd Court of Appeals asked the judge to explain his contempt ruling.
Under federal contempt standards, automatic jail sentences may be issued only for disruption of a court proceeding or challenge to a judge’s authority in court.
People cited for contempt for actions outside of a courtroom must be notified of the charge and allowed to defend themselves at a hearing. Bandelman was granted no such hearing.
The commission said Judge Robison violated two sections of the judicial conduct code, that “a judge shall comply with the law and should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary,” and that “a judge should be faithful to the law and shall maintain professional competence in it. A judge shall not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor or fear of criticism.”
Since the sanctions are private, the commission noted only that an unidentified district judge was reprimanded. But according to the American-Statesman, Bandelman was sent a letter about the reprimand, which confirmed it was for Robison.
Bandelman told the newspaper that the reprimand was a useless gesture.
“How does that build confidence in judicial conduct if nobody knows about it but me and the judge?” Bandelman asked. “I wasn’t really satisfied.”