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Judge Phyllis Lister Brown Will Soon Get a Shove Off the Bench or a Day in Court

The city of Dallas wants Municipal Judge Phyllis Lister Brown to leave her job as soon as possible, as evidenced by the city attorney's latest petition, which says the temporary restraining order allowing her to keep working is "void."

Judge Brown, a municipal judge for 17 years, announced her candidacy for the 162nd District Court in December. A month later, city council voted in accordance with the city attorney's opinion that Brown must leave her post as municipal judge to run for office, as outlined by a disputed section of the city charter. Anticipating the city pushing her out the door, Brown's attorneys had filed a lawsuit saying that the state, not the city, oversees her position, and therefore the section of the city charter cited in her ouster is inapplicable.

After city council's January 18 majority vote to force her to step down as municipal judge, her lawyers requested a temporary restraining order to prevent the city from enforcing the decision. District Judge Martin Lowy granted the TRO, and the city appealed it later that evening, effectively putting a stay on all procedures until the appeals court makes a ruling.

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Now, the city's filings say that the TRO is void because it was granted without an expiration date and in violation of the stay on proceedings. Brown's lawyer, Ray Guy, filed a response yesterday and says the TRO was meant to last until a January 23 hearing, which was cancelled because the city's filings halted the proceedings. "In essence its a self-inflicted wound," Guy says. "We had no expectation that it would extend beyond five days." We've left many messages for City Attorney Tom Perkins. Many.

Now, Brown's employment -- at least until the election -- lays in the hands of the appeals court, which is expected to release a ruling in the next few days.

UPDATE: The Court of Appeals published a decision Thursday lifting the stay on proceedings and "allowing the trial court to: 1) render an order on appellee's application for a temporary restraining order; 2) hold a hearing and render an order on appellee's application for a temporary injunction; and (3) rule on the remainder of appellants' plea to the jurisdiction." This means Brown will have her day in court to determine whether the city has the authority to kick her off the bench.

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