A Dallas County judge up for re-election has received a harsh sanction for the second time from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Etta Mullin’s management of cases and her treatment of people fell below the standards required of judges, the commission wrote in a public reprimand issued last week.
Mullin presides over County Criminal Court 10, which handles misdemeanor cases with a special focus on domestic violence.
She drew two opponents in her bid for re-election this year: Monique Bracey Huff and Elissa Wev. Bracey Huff garnered the most votes during the March 1 primary but didn’t get enough to avoid a runoff with Mullin. The two will face off in May, and the winner will not face a Republican in November.
The state’s judicial conduct commission documents judges’ violations so a public record can exist, but it does not have authority to remove or fine a judge.
It reviewed complaints stemming from three cases between 2019 and 2021 and, after hearing testimony from Mullin last month, found her deserving of its highest form of sanction.
“The Commission has taken this action pursuant to the authority conferred it … in a continuing effort to promote confidence in and high standards for the judiciary,” wrote Janis Holt, the commission’s vice chairwoman.
The commission also issued a reprimand to Mullin in 2015 after finding she displayed similar conduct.
Mullin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Timothy Zorka case
Mullin caused excessive waiting times for a man named Timothy Zorka and set court proceedings that he and his lawyer were required to attend with little advance notice in December 2019 and January 2020, the commission found.
Mullin punished Zorka for his lawyer’s absence in a hearing, the commission found, by revoking his bond. During Zorka’s trial, Mullin publicly accused his lawyer of “playing games” and of “being a consistent problem in court.”
Raymond Greer case
In December 2019, attorney Ashkan Mehryari and his client, Raymond Greer, appeared in court to request a trial date. Mullin required the prosecutors be present, so Mehryari and Greer waited for hours before Mullin ultimately moved on to other cases.
Mehryari said he submitted paperwork requesting to be notified of the date the trial would be set for.
On Dec. 30, 2019, Mullin revoked Greer’s bond because he did not appear for a hearing that the commission found he received no notice of. The commission noted that Mehryari’s paperwork disappeared from the court clerk’s record.
Mullin was removed from the case after Mehryari filed a motion seeking her recusal.
Matthew Phillips case
Mullin unnecessarily caused a man to stay in jail over a weekend by delaying his hearing, the commission found.
Matthew Phillips was jailed on Aug. 25, 2021, — a Wednesday — for violating one of the conditions of his bond and had a hearing the following day to discuss a plea deal. The judge informed lawyers she intended to require Phillips wear an electronic monitoring device.
But Mullin released court staff for lunch without completing Phillips’ case. Later that afternoon, Mullin rescheduled Phillips’ hearing for the following Monday, meaning he had to stay in jail four extra nights.
When Mullin was judge of another court, the commission found that she threatened to restrain a pregnant prosecutor in the courtroom, refused to allow a defense lawyer in her courtroom because he was wearing shorts after having knee surgery and required some people to pay court costs before she would accept a plea deal, which is a violation of the law.
For those findings, the commission issued a “public admonishment” — its lowest level of public sanction. When Mullin appealed, the commission issued the harsher public reprimand.
Mullin lost her bid for re-election in 2014, before the commission’s findings came out. She was elected to Court 10 in 2018.