383rd District Judge Mike Herrera apparently sees nothing wrong in his action that led to a sanctioning by the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct. Herrera kept his own divorce case on his docket for months but insists that it “made no difference” that the case was before him even though he was one of the litigants. In reality, there may have not been any action taken but Herrera’s utter failure to see the conflict (and appearance) issues is rather shocking. The case itself shows a real mess in representation and conflicting accounts.
Herrera filed for divorce on June 6, 2012 and the case was randomly assigned to his court. He said that he was still trying to work things out with this wife, Melissa Carrasco. He said that they had emails trying to avoid litigation. However, on July 16, 2012, a lawyer representing Carrasco, Angelica Carreon-Beltran, filed a counterpetition for divorce. Herrera insists that Carreon-Beltran is a political enemy of his who improperly solicited his ex-wife as a client to retaliated against him. However, Carreon-Beltran insists that she is a long-time friends of Carrasco. She added that Carrasco told her that no one in the town would represent her because of her husband’s position. She also said that the wife said that she was being “railroaded.”
So Herrera kept control of his own case while trying to get his wife to do what he recommended for the divorce. That would seem more serious than just a reprimand-worthy offense.
In issuing a reprimand, the Commission found that Herrera “failed to comply with the law, demonstrated a lack of professional competence in the law, and engaged in willful and persistent conduct that was clearly inconsistent with the proper performance of his judicial duties.” Yet, Herrera insisted that “The fact that it was in this court made no difference. It stayed there. I wasn’t actively doing anything. Me and my former spouse were working on everything. She and I were working on everything carefully.”
While he admitted that it may have been “poor judgment” he concluded to insist “at that time there was no issue, there was no rush. There was nothing.”
What is particularly bizarre, Carreon-Beltran filed a motion for discovery on Sept. 11, 2012. Herrera let the deadline to respond pass. That created the need to file a motion to compel to a judge who was the subject of the motion. Herrara insists that the case had been transferred before the deadline passed. However, the commission said that on Sept. 27, 2012, Regional Presiding Judge Stephen Ables requested that the case be transferred, but an order doing so wasn’t signed until Oct. 17, 2012. Herrera insisted that the request date should be controlling in reviewing his conduct. However, the Commission noted that “[d]uring his testimony before the commission, Judge Herrera acknowledged that, technically, he had petitioned himself for relief when he filed the motions; however, he believed he had done nothing inappropriate since he never ruled on the motions.”
Now it gets even weirder. Carrasco ended up signing a final divorce decree without the knowledge of Carreon-Beltran. Herrera then produced an affidavit from June 14, 2013 that said “I reject (Carreon-Beltran’s) statements that I was intimidated, that I was coerced, that I was threatened . . . That is why I am making the declaration that Angelica Carreon is no longer my attorney.”
Herrera is a Democrat who does not stand for reelection until November 2016.
However, while he has a reprimand, he has no opponent heading into election.
Source: El Paso Times