Judge Hill and the Appearance of Impropriety [Updated]

“[Judge Belinda] Hill confirmed Tuesday that she will leave the bench in the new year to work as Anderson’s first assistant.” Houston Chronicle, 11 December 2012.

Yet, I have learned, almost four weeks later Judge Hill is still on the bench, still hearing felony cases, still making calls that affect the lives of people being prosecuted by the DA’s Office to which she is affianced.

Did she not think this would be a problem?

Judge Hill is said to have plans to remain on the bench until someone else is appointed. From one perspective this might be seen as dedication to the job she was elected to do. From another perspective it might be seen as grossly improper: she has already committed to be taking the DA’s paycheck, which would give any reasonable person reason to question her impartiality.

Perhaps Judge Hill could, with Spocklike detachment, keep calling the balls and strikes, but a judge’s duty includes the avoidance of even the appearance of impropriety. 

To avoid further appearance of impropriety, Judge Hill needs to step down now, but even now is too late. She should have stepped down as soon as she agreed to take a job with the DA’s Office. Judge Hill has failed, and in failing has sullied her distinguished judicial career right at its very end.

This is—and I say this as someone who likes and respects Judge Hill—truly a shame.

[See ADA’s comment, below. I hope ADA is right, and if he is I’ll be sorry for not having enough confidence in Judge Hill.]

[Judge Hill resigned effective noon today. Her replacement will be announced at 1pm.]

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