In December 2005, Elizabeth Frizell, then a municipal judge for the city of Dallas for a solid decade, decided it was time for a change, so she filed to run in the Democratic primary for County Criminal Court No. 11. At which point she was told she would have to resign as a muni judge. The reason: There is a provision in the Dallas City Charter that says "if a member of any board appointed by the council or any appointive officer of the city becomes a candidate for nomination or election to any public office, he or she shall immediately forfeit his or her place or position with the city."
Frizell resisted, then insisted City Attorney Tom Perkins had her back. But on June 28, 2006, the city council voted to remove her from the bench. So she filed a federal lawsuit, which follows for historical context, claiming her constitutional rights had been violated. And, according to her attorney at the time, "such a sweeping restriction would effectively prevent municipal judges from seeking career advancement, absent their willingness to forfeit their existing position." A year later, the suit was dismissed. And Frizell is presently the presiding judge in County Criminal Court No. 11.
That's the back story behind a new lawsuit filed at the end of last week in Dallas County District Court: Municipal judge Phyllis Lister Brown, herself a 17-year veteran of the municipal court, has sued Mayor Mike and the council because she believes the city will try to Frizell her once she announces her intention to take Lorraine Raggio's seat on the 162nd Civil District Court.
According to her preemptive strike, Brown's attorney, Ray Guy, spoke with the City Attorney's Office last Tuesday and was told ...
"... that the City's position with respect to Judge Brown would be the same as it was with respect to Judge Frizell in 2006. Thus, Judge Brown reasonable believes that the City Council will likewise attempt to wrongfully purport to terminate her position on the Municipal Court if she announces her candidacy for the 162nd District Court. Any such adverse action by the City Council will irreparably injure Judge Brown's candidacy by creating negative publicity that will likely be viewed unfavorably by voters."
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Brown wants the court to declare she's not "subject to the Dallas City Charter provisions" and injunctive relief that would keep council from removing her when she announces she's running for district court some time at the end of the month.