Thanks-A-Lot: Texas Attorney Accuses Judge of Pressuring Him To Buy Girl Scout Cookie

Judge Elia Cornejo Lopez has been accused by Texas lawyer Nat C. Perez of a rather unique form of abuse: cookie coercion. Perez has filed an unusual motion for recusal that lists, among other complaints, Lopez’s alleged pressure on Perez to buy her daughter’s girl scout cookies. He suggests that a couple boxes of “Thanks-a-lot” would go a long way with Lopez and that he refusal meant he could not “Tag-a-long” in cases. . . but he did get a judicial “Shoutout”

The motion by the Brownsville lawyer Nat Perez was filed in a child sexual assault case against Perez’s client, Aroldo Humberto Cadriel, 65. Perez accuses Lopez of showing “animosity, dislike and disdain for counsel.” Her alleged wrath he suggests was “possibly exacerbated by his refusal to purchase a case of Girl Scout cookies from her daughter’s troop.”
He alleges that “tThis conduct is an open, blatant and obvious” and “Judge Elia Cornejo Lopez has gone out of her way to remove or prevent attorney Nat C. Perez Jr. from representing clients in her Court whenever possible.”

Before you say that this is just how the cookie crumbles for not supporting some cute girl scout, here is the issue of a defendant’s general right to select his own counsel. It is unclear what the basis is for the earlier alleged efforts to exclude Perez from cases, but such actions raise serious constitutional questions.

Asking lawyers to buy your own daughter’s cookies can be viewed as a bit coercive for lawyers even if meant with the best intentions. It is common for co-workers or bosses to allow their daughters to seek sales. Usually this is taken as innocent and non-threatening. However, it is not a good practice for judges in light of their power over lawyers. It is hard to say no to such a request.

Notably, this issue has come up in Texas in 1988 with the following question and answer to the ethics office:

QUESTION: Is there a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct for the court personnel of a judge’s office to sell Girl Scout cookies or other items to benefit community, school, civic, or community organizations?

ANSWER: This committee’s answer in our opinion No. 110 is applicable to the posed question. Subject to the limitations set forth in that opinion, the committee perceives no violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct in the described activities.

I was unable unfortunately to get access to opinion No. 110.

However, California issued this position on the girl scout cookie dilemma: “3. Judge may accompany her/his daughter selling girl scout cookies, but must not make judicial position known or otherwise use it to advance sales. (Canon 4C[3][d][I]) (IR #136)”

However, Oklahoma says the following:

QUESTION 1:  Should a judge prohibit a member of the judge’s staff from soliciting or offering to sell goods for charitable or religious purposes (e.g., Girl Scout cookies for staff member’s daughter) during office hours at the staff member’s desk?

¶ 1 WE ANSWER:  YES.

The issue, like so many things under ethics rules, generally turns on the context and specifics. I would be surprised if most ethics boards would object to a judge allowing a daughter to sell the cookie. However, when the judge becomes personally involved, ethical issues arise.

Lopez’s campaign site shows a picture of her family, including what appears to be the girl scout culprit involved in this cookie caper.

The site also notably states that Lopez was the first female Municipal Court Judge for the City of Brownsville, making history and

“I began my public service by serving:

1) as a patrol girl at Longoria Elementary School, Brownsville, Texas;

2) a girl scout Daisy, Brownie, and Junior Girl Scout . . .

The hold of the girl scouts obviously runs deep in the halls of government.

Source: Brownsville Heraldas first seen on ABA Journal

30 thoughts on “Thanks-A-Lot: Texas Attorney Accuses Judge of Pressuring Him To Buy Girl Scout Cookie

  1. what a dumb a$$, just purchase a dozen boxes and be done with it.

    It is a good cause and why not? The judge is a putz for asking but so what if it greases the wheels of justice and makes Perez persono grato.

  2. Not me! I don’t think they should even THINK about trying to sell things to attorneys who practice in their court. TOTALLY wrong! So what’s one box you ask? What about 5 boxes? or 100 boxes? Exactly how many cookies is where the line is drawn? And exactly WHAT do you get in return for buying X number of boxes. Like I said. WRONG!!!!

  3. The judge shouldn’t be “asking” anyone to buy cookies and, actually, she didn’t. She sent the lawyer to her court coordinator who indicated it was the judge’s wishes that he buy. She’s in a position of power. It’s inappropriate. But this fits the chickens… bucket.

    Of more import: why would she prohibit a specific lawyer from representing indigent clients? She did this 3 times to this lawyer.

  4. The judge must have been absent from ethics class the day they discussed dual relationships and why dual relationships are a no-no.

  5. Her alleged wrath he suggests was “possibly exacerbated by his refusal to purchase a case of Girl Scout cookies from her daughter’s troop.” -from the article

    So, to be clear, it was a case, not a box. Each case contains 12 boxes, so the total would have been $48.00 (at $4 a box).

    Kids should be selling their own cookies.

  6. anonymously posted:

    “The motion states that in spring 2011, Lopez directed Perez, in person when she saw him at the county courthouse, to speak with her court coordinator. When Perez spoke with the coordinator, he was told Lopez wanted him to buy cookies from the troop that both of their daughters belong to, the motion said.”

    *****************

    Worse than I thought. His daughter was in the same troop and he wouldn’t buy a case. Come on we’ve all done this for our co-workers’ kids. This guy won’t even do it for his own kids. Yeesh.

  7. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 cents or $10,000. It’s the principle of the thing. It is strongarming, and on top of that, it’s conflict of interest, since she’s in a position of power. If she wants chick to sell 100 cases, she can dang well buy 100 cases herself! Everybody is just there to be ordered about by someone else. And Mespo, where did you see that he wouldn’t buy cookies from his own daughter? I missed that part.

    I used to be a girl scout, and I sold my OWN durn cookies! And my Pappy never bought one box from me, and I didn’t think a thing about it. I didn’t win awards for selling a trillion boxes, and I didn’t CARE! I just had fun selling what I did (and eating those thin mints I bought myself)!

    I seriously don’t think that anyone who is doing things like this lady is, should be a judge. I think her judgeship should be stripped from her for ethical reasons. If this is the way she thinks, I would NOT trust her legal decisionmaking either.

    I’m sorry, I know most of ya’ll will disagree with me. But I truly feel that all judges should be held to a very high standard when it comes to ethics. And her standards don’t cut it. We need to look UP to our judges. Not overlook their behavior.

  8. Yep, feemeister. I, too, sold my own cookies. Neither one of my parents would have ever considered asking their colleagues and/or subordinates to buy the cookies that I was supposed to sell.

    “However, it is not a good practice for judges in light of their power over lawyers. It is hard to say no to such a request.” -from the article

    Yep… that’s it, in a nutshell.

  9. “When Perez spoke with the coordinator, he was told Lopez wanted him to buy cookies from the troop that both of their daughters belong to, the motion said.”
    ————-
    This is ambiguous. Whose daughter besides the judge’s? It could be the court coordinator’s daughter. So, don’t buy from my daughter, buy from my coordinator’s daughter.

  10. As BK opens it for interpretation, then we have two non-ethical persons.

    And we MAY heve some daughters competing with the lawyer’s daughter. Girlish animosity or parent competitive spirit??

  11. If the request wasn’t crossing the ethics line why did the judge direct the lawyer to her court coordinator? Why not just hit him up for the cookies personally?

    Also, individual Girl Scouts can get recognition for selling cookies so this lawyer may have been asked to work against the direct benefit of his own daughter by helping a competitor Girl Scout (or GS Troop). How is this different from asking for a donation to your kids scholarship fund or class-trip fund or new bicycle fund?

    It crosses the line when persons of greater power and/or status in a business relationship ask for favors and gifts to advance their and their family members own benefit. This IMO crossed the line.

    From the Girl Scout org. web site:

    Q: Why didn’t my Girl Scout receive a cookie patch for selling cookies this year?

    A: Each local Girl Scout council develops all of the procedures and guidelines for conducting its cookie activities. This includes decisions related to all of the rewards a girl might receive for program participation, such as participation patches, t-shirts, etc. Rewards vary greatly from council to council, both in terms of the items a girl might receive, and in terms of what level of participation qualifies a girl to receive rewards. Please contact your local Girl Scout council to learn more about the program established for girls in your community.

  12. You all do know (perhaps) that officers in the Army are forbidden from associating on an “equal” basis with enlisted men/women. Such equality does not and can not exist. And any trensaction, of even personal nature, presupposes a superior-subordinate relationship.

    Don’t pull rank on EMs or WACs. Or YOU will be screwed.
    Punishable by UCMJ I believe, but never looked it up.

    So I thought that judges did not have lesser requirements than lie on an officer. Obviously wrong.

  13. Anonymously, did you get a badge for selling cookies? We didn’t! OH MY GOSH!!! A BADGE FOR SELLING COOKIES!!! If badges had been that easy back then, I might have had more than FOUR!!!

  14. If the Girl Scouts are anywhere near as institutionally homophobic and delusional as the Boy Scouts, buying a box of cookies to protect one’s job from a crooked judge is the moral equivalent of buying a ticket to a support a skinhead Nazi picnic even if one has no intention of attending. A Boy Scout MUST believe in SOME god, any god, they just aren’t allowed to be rational. The Boy Scouts can’t be a 501 (c) 3 because they are so exclusionary. Is this also true of the girls?

  15. ethics? really? People, employees, employers and more have been selling cookies, chocolate, cupcakes, knick-knacks, raffle tickets, and a bazillion other items forever.

    No one thinks it is inappropriate in all the other situations. They may be irritated by it but they spend the $10-$20 and buy some cookies.

  16. Perez accuses Lopez of showing “animosity, dislike and disdain for counsel.” Her alleged wrath he suggests was “possibly exacerbated by his refusal to purchase a case of Girl Scout cookies from her daughter’s troop.”
    ========
    The motion by the Brownsville lawyer Nat Perez was filed in a child sexual assault case against Perez’s client, Aroldo Humberto Cadriel, 65. Perez accuses Lopez of showing “animosity, dislike and disdain for counsel.” Her alleged wrath he suggests was “possibly exacerbated by his refusal to purchase a case of Girl Scout cookies from her daughter’s troop.”
    He alleges that “tThis conduct is an open, blatant and obvious” and “Judge Elia Cornejo Lopez has gone out of her way to remove or prevent attorney Nat C. Perez Jr. from representing clients in her Court whenever possible.”

    Before you say that this is just how the cookie crumbles for not supporting some cute girl scout, here is the issue of a defendant’s general right to select his own counsel. It is unclear what the basis is for the earlier alleged efforts to exclude Perez from cases, but such actions raise serious constitutional questions.

    Asking lawyers to buy your own daughter’s cookies can be viewed as a bit coercive for lawyers even if meant with the best intentions. It is common for co-workers or bosses to allow their daughters to seek sales. Usually this is taken as innocent and non-threatening. However, it is not a good practice for judges in light of their power over lawyers. It is hard to say no to such a request.
    ========
    What if an IRS manager leaves girl scout cookies on a table in Chicago, and almost nobody leaves any money?

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  18. Attorney Perez is not liked by many. This isn’t the first judge who has had issues with him. He is just filing a motion against Judge Lopez for publicity. Perez is a joke.

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