State court of appeals judge Jim Sharp, a Democrat who lost a 2010 race for the Texas Supreme Court, has been publicly reprimanded for using his office to intimidate local officials in January. When a friend's daughter was arrested in Houston-area Brazoria County for shoplifting $188 worth of merchandise, local officials followed county law and kept her in jail overnight until she could see a judge in the morning.
That night, Sharp made threatening, highly insulting phone calls to the local law enforcement officials who had the girl in custody. “You guys are a bunch of backwoods hillbillies that use screwed-up methods in dealing with children, and I can promise you this: Things are about to change in Brazoria County,” Sharp said to the juvenile detention center director over the phone, court records show. “I am a judge in the Court of Appeals. I have authority over your judges along with every other judge in 10 counties in this area.”
Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne filed a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which ruled last week that “Sharp lent the prestige of his judicial office to advance the private interests of his friend and her daughter,” tried “to pressure, intimidate and/or coerce juvenile detention employees into giving his friend's daughter special treatment” and “reached out to several influential friends, colleagues and other public officials in an attempt to enlist their assistance.”
While reviewing the case, the commission banned Judge Sharp from deciding any cases involving the Brazoria County DA's office. That ban is still in effect.
Sharp, who appeared with an attorney in front of the commission in August, apologized for his behavior. “When a young girl who could have been anyone's child was jailed overnight simply because of Brazoria County policy, I let my heart overrule my head, and for that I apologize. Having learned a valuable lesson, I look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of the First Judicial District of Texas,” he said in the statement.