The city of Dallas and municipal Judge Phyllis Lister Brown have been at odds since November, but as of today she can legally continue serving in her current position as the various lawsuits involving the judge and Dallas City Hall drag out indefinitely. The city intended to kick her off the bench once she officially filed her candidacy for the 162nd District Court, insisting that by running for office she forfeited her current employment; said the City Attorney's Office, that's what the city charter demands. But the judge dug in her heels, and she's making progress.
District Judge Martin Lowy today granted a temporary injunction preventing the city from removing Brown from her position. To do so would mean her candidacy "will be irreparably harmed by creating negative publicity, a negative perception on the part of voters, and the inability to recover back wages," according to the judge's decision.
Lowy also ruled on the city's claim of immunity to the suits filed by Brown. He said that no, the city can't bow out of this legal quagmire simply by virtue of being a city. Brown's attorney, Ray Guy, tells Unfair Park that the city is appealing this decision. "I don't have a definite time table for the court of appeals," Guy says. City Attorney Tom Perkins has not returned our phone calls.
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Brown can keep showing up to work at least until the appeals court rules whether she can continue pursuing her original case, which alleges that her position falls under state and not city oversight, and that the city does not have the authority to kick her off the bench. She filed the suit in advance of a January city council hearing, when there was a majority vote in favor of kicking her off the bench.
That very day, Judge Lowy granted Brown a temporary restraining order, momentarily preventing action from the city while legal jumble was untangled.
At this rate, Brown may be able to ride this thing out until district court elections. The primary is scheduled for April 3, but may be pushed back because of redistricting. So, she may go from one bench to another, stay where she is or have the seat pulled right out from under. And it could be months before it's resolved.