Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller (pictured) faces a hit to the pocketbook. In an order signed April 28, the Texas Ethics Commission levied a $100,000 civil penalty against Keller for multiple omissions on her 2007 and 2008 personal financial statements. Tim Sorrells, TEC’s deputy general counsel, says, “It is the largest penalty.” According to the TEC’s final order in In the Matter of Sharon Keller, Respondent, posted today on the commission’s website, Keller failed to disclose an interest in eight properties, valued on appraisal district rolls at more than $2.4 million in 2006 and at almost $2.9 million in 2007. As noted on the order, on April 28, 2009, after Keller received notice of the complaint filed against her at the TEC, she filed corrected financial statements for 2007 and 2008. Her corrected statements included the following statement: “My father, Jack Keller, over a number of years, has acquired and managed, without input from me, all of these properties.” The TEC’s order also notes that, among other things, Keller omitted from the financial statement she filed in 2008 nine sources of income totaling at least $121,500 and failed in the statements she filed in 2007 and 2008 to disclose 100 to 499 shares in a business. Neither Keller nor her attorney, Austin solo Ed Shack, immediately returned telephone calls seeking comment. Sorrells says Keller has 30 business days from receipt of the TEC’s order to file an appeal in a state district court. The TEC order isn’t Keller’s only problem; she is still dealing with fallout from the execution of Michael Richard. She faces a June 18 hearing before the State Commission on Judicial Conduct on objections to a special master’s findings of fact in Inquiry Concerning Judge No. 96. The special master, 37th District Judge David Berchelmann Jr. of San Antonio, wrote in his Jan. 19 findings of fact filed with the judicial conduct commission that Keller should not be removed from office or be reprimanded for events on Sept. 25, 2007, the day the state executed Richard. But Berchelmann found that Keller’s decision not to keep the CCA’s office open past 5 p.m. on that day to receive a motion for stay of execution and writ of prohibition for Richard was “questionable.” The commission’s examiner and Keller filed objections to Berchelmann’s findings.
-- Mary Alice Robbins
UPDATE: Ed Shack, Keller’s attorney in the TEC proceeding, has issued the following statement, which reads in part: “Judge Keller is very disappointed at the excessive penalty assessed against her by the Texas Ethics Commission. . . . She plans to appeal the decision. As the commission found, Judge Keller voluntarily amended her financial disclosures shortly after she was made aware of the matter.” The statement further notes that Keller’s conduct “was not intentional, but rather the product of her father’s acquisition and management of properties without any input from the judge.”