We first told you the tale of Municipal Judge Phyllis Lister Brown in mid-November -- when the city council-appointed judge sued the city to stop from being booted off the bench. Said the 17-year veteran of the muni court, she didn't want to end up like Elizabeth Frizell, who, in 2006, was dismissed by a vote of the city council after Frizell filed to run in the Democratic primary for County Criminal Court No. 11. Because, you see, Brown too aspires to higher office: The Democrat has announced her candidacy for the 162nd Civil District Court. But there is a provision in the Dallas City Charter that prohibits city appointees from running for higher office ... unless they "immediately forfeit his or her place or position with the city."
In court docs filed last month, Brown and her attorney Ray Guy say the ordinance is "inapplicable on its face to the Municipal Court or to a municipal judge." To which the City Attorney's Office later responded: "On December 15, 2011, Brown became a candidate for another judicial office. Thus, on December 15, 2011, Brown forfeited her office of municipal judge." The back-and-forth, of course, is below.
It all comes to a head this morning: During its every-other-Wednesday briefing, the city council will actually hear from Ray Guy and Judge Brown and then from City Attorney Tom Perkins. Brown and Guy will insist, among other things, that:
As a matter of policy, it would be counterproductive to interpret the Charter provision as restricting municipal judges' ability to run for higher office, as we want good judges to be able to move up.
As a matter of policy, considering municipal judges as employees or officers of the city that brings causes of action against citizens before those judges would be abhorrent to our judicial system's fundamental principles of fairness and impartiality.
Update: The council did indeed vote to oust Brown. A new item forthcoming.
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