Friday, February 5, 2010
Judge Reagan Helm Resigns
Maybe because I feel so personally beleaguered, I just can't bring any snark to the story of Houston, Tx. Judge Reagan Helm, age 68, who abruptly resigned his seat this week after a judicial investigation and intervention into whether he was suffering dementia. It turns out that a court reporter was assisting the Judge with management of his criminal docket and may have actually taken an active role in making rulings!
Not only that this is the Texas Judge from which pretty vile remarks were made to parties in domestic violence proceedings. Fortunately one brave attorney stood up and demanded that he be removed for her cases. You have no idea how difficult this is for a lawyer to undertake and Houston lawyer Vivian King really deserves a big "thank you" from the Houston bar association.
This is from the Houston Chronicle website in a article penned by Brian Rogers:
Harris County criminal Court-at-Law Judge Reagan Helm resigned this week, more than six months after a judicial intervention in which he agreed to retire because was he suffering from dementia, according to the administrative judge over the county criminal courts.
“He acknowledged he was having some medical issues and talked about retirement,” County Court-at-Law Judge Jean Hughes said. She said Helm told her it was dementia. Helm, 68, agreed to retire in September and would have received disability benefits, but changed his mind, she said. News of Helm's resignation came on the eve of a recusal hearing in which the Harris County District Attorney's Office wanted to remove him from “any and all” cases involving accusations of domestic violence because of “deep-seated bias and prejudice.”
Helm, 68, has denied the district attorney's allegations. Calls to Helm's home and courtroom Wednesday were not returned. Hughes said she also discussed the situation with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. A spokeswoman with the state agency declined to comment on any action involving Helm. “It continued to get worse, as you can tell by the motion to recuse,” Hughes said.
Last October, the District Attorney's Office asked Helm to remove himself from two family violence cases because of what it termed a history of inappropriate comments to prosecutors, victims and defendants.
“It's a shame because we tried to intervene and help him go very quietly with dignity and, unfortunately, that didn't happen.” Hughes said. “When you're dealing with someone with his situation, you're never quite sure what they do or what they can quite comprehend, but we spent a great deal of time trying to work with him.”
A friend of Helm's, former U.S. Attorney Ron Woods said the judge consulted him about retirement beginning in December. He said he did not know about an intervention.
Served since 1994
He said Helm retired to be with family and visit his ranch in Colorado. He has been on the bench in criminal Court-at-Law No. 1 since 1994. Woods also said Helm did not know about today's scheduled recusal hearing and did not resign because of it.Helm sent a letter to County Judge Ed Emmett on Tuesday, but made no mention of the district attorney's efforts to remove him from domestic violence cases. He said it had been an honor to serve.
“However, this year 2010 brings my 69th birthday and I do believe it is appropriate to inform you that I am retiring from that position. I am therefore resigning, effective today,” Helm wrote.Hughes detailed the steps she and other judges took after coming under fire from Vivian King, a defense lawyer who said other judges had a responsibility to intervene.
“I think they should have had some sort of intervention, and I don't know that they didn't, but they should have tried to find him some help,” King said. “There is help available to lawyers who need help.” King filed a motion in July to recuse the judge because he granted a mistrial in one of her cases after saying the attorneys were “all too difficult.” Helm appeared to get frustrated and granted a mistrial rather than rule on whether to admit part of King's evidence, she said. Hughes, King and other courthouse observers said Helm's behavior changed after his court reporter, Don Rymer, was indicted last April and retired. The court's day-to-day business usually was handled by Rymer, Hughes said. King said the court reporter also appeared to help Helm with legal rulings.
“I don't think if Don Rymer was there, we would have had a mistrial in my case,” King said.
Rymer pleaded guilty last Friday to a state jail felony charge of tampering with a government record in connection with a missing trial transcript.
He was fined $4,000 and will spend a year on deferred adjudication. King's motion was included in a district attorney's motion for Helm to recuse himself in “any and all” domestic violence cases — specifically 74 cases involving 64 defendants. The office alleged that Helm made “frivolous” comments that “trivialize the seriousness of the proceedings.” Prosecutors cited five specific cases and what they called a general pattern of admonishing men accused of family violence that the women who are accusing them have them “by the balls.
This is the Judge who went too far for fat too long.