Denton County Judge Jonathan Bailey received a public admonition from the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct in mid-July for not voluntarily recusing himself from a parental rights case in 2017 after his impartiality was compromised.
The commission found he violated three standards of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct: impartiality, patience with those involved in the case and not recusing when appropriate.
Bailey, who has served as the 431st District judge since 2011, told Denton County Republican officials and volunteers July 18 he wouldn’t run again due to the state of the country’s political discourse. While Bailey announced he wouldn’t seek reelection two days after the admonition was released, he said it didn’t affect his decision to not run again. Bailey said he cited political and personal reasons in a statement to friends, family and colleagues.
Bailey said in a phone interview Saturday that the admonition has already been appealed. He acknowledged he made some mistakes with this trial and said there were things he did and didn’t agree with in the commission’s findings.
In the public admonition, Bailey stated he let his concern for the child’s best interests override his obligation to allow the father to receive due process.
“I was overly zealous in protecting the child’s interests instead of the father,” Bailey said Saturday. “The father was a deadbeat, which the Court of Appeals agreed on. If I’m going to make an error, I’d [rather] make an error on the side of protecting the child.”
The admonition states Bailey held a “deep-seated antagonism” for the father involved based on his conduct throughout the trial, referring to the father’s testimony as “ridiculous” and “crap.” The commission added this impartiality violated the father’s right to a fair trial.
The commission also agreed with Bailey in that he should have voluntarily recused himself from the case after his impartiality to the case was compromised before the second day of trial.
Judges are disciplined with public or private admonitions and suspensions. Bailey said he was never privately admonished and that this is the first time he’s had a disciplinary issue.
Three Texas judges were publicly admonished in July, with 13 total this fiscal year, according to the commission’s website. There were 2,914 judges in Texas as of September 2018.
Former Gov. Rick Perry appointed Bailey as the judge for the 431st District in 2011, and Bailey was reelected twice since then. His current term ends in 2020.
Two Republicans, attorneys Derbha Jones and Jim Johnson, have announced they will campaign for Bailey’s seat. The candidates told Denton Record-Chronicle they wanted to “get the court back on track” and said too many cases returned to the 431st District Court on appeal.
“[That’s] political grandstanding from people who are ill-qualified for the job,” Bailey said about the appeals. “There is no judge that hasn’t been reversed. It’s a part of the [judicial] process.”