Court docket overturns rebuke towards Eckhardt for sporting cat-themed 'pussyhat' as county choose – Austin American-Statesman

The State Fee on Judicial Conduct, which enforces moral requirements for Texas judges, went too far when it rebuked Sarah Eckhardt for actions taken when she was Travis County choose, a particular court docket of evaluate has dominated.
The state company admonished Eckhardt in December 2020, saying she introduced “discredit upon the judiciary” by sporting a pink knitted “pussyhat” whereas main a Travis County Commissioners Court docket dialogue on reproductive well being care and for making a joke about Gov. Greg Abbott’s paralysis at a public discussion board.
The issue, nevertheless, was that as Travis County choose, Eckhardt was working because the county’s high govt officer — a job that has no judicial operate.
“She loved the title ‘choose’ however had none of its duties,” the three-judge court docket of evaluate, convened to weigh Eckhardt’s enchantment, decided in a ruling issued Tuesday.
Learn extra:Eckhardt disputes ethics company’s rebuke for actions as Travis County choose
Moral guidelines are supposed to protect the general public’s belief in truthful and unbiased judges, however these guidelines weren’t supposed to police the actions that Eckhardt took in her political position, the evaluate panel stated. Along with tossing out the general public admonition towards Eckhardt, the court docket barred the state company from taking additional motion within the matter.
Eckhardt, now a Democratic state senator representing Travis and Bastrop counties, known as the ruling a victory for the First Modification.
“Free speech, particularly political speech, is a proper on which our democracy relies upon. I’m proud that we fought on and gained this enchantment moderately than accepting the harassing censure of the Texas Fee on Judicial Conduct,” she stated.
It its public admonition, the least extreme of three ranges of rebuke obtainable to the company, the fee criticized Eckhardt for:
In her enchantment of the admonition, Eckhardt argued that sporting the hat was a protected political expression as a result of she was protesting statements that Donald Trump had made previous to turning into president.
The particular court docket of evaluate agreed, saying “politically symbolic garb” has been acknowledged as protected speech “for innumerable years.”
As well as, Eckhardt’s joke a few tree falling on the governor got here throughout a public panel dialogue on issues of public curiosity and concern, the court docket stated.
“Her supposed ‘joke’ could also be injudicious and callous; certainly, she admitted as a lot. But, First Modification protections don’t apply solely to those that communicate clearly, whose jokes are humorous, and whose parodies succeed,” the court docket stated. “Jokes, parody, and satire typically shine gentle on problems with public curiosity and concern. … They continue to be protected expressions, nonetheless.”
The court docket warned, nevertheless, that county judges can nonetheless run afoul of the State Fee on Judicial Conduct on disciplinary issues. However given the circumstances of Eckhardt’s case, this time the fee exceeded its authority, the panel concluded.
The particular court docket convened to listen to Eckhardt’s enchantment consisted of Chief Justice Brian Quinn of the seventh Court docket of Appeals, Justice Charles Kreger of the ninth Court docket of Appeals, and Justice W. Stacy Trotter of the eleventh Court docket of Appeals.