Judge Sues Peers for Criticizing Rulings: Colleagues Split on His Conduct in Court, Constitutionality of Removing Him

By Aynesworth, Hugh | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 22, 1999 | Go to article overview

Judge Sues Peers for Criticizing Rulings: Colleagues Split on His Conduct in Court, Constitutionality of Removing Him


Aynesworth, Hugh, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


FORT WORTH - A Texas federal judge, harshly ridiculed and reprimanded, his career in virtual shambles, hopes he will be vindicated if his civil lawsuit against his tormentors comes to trial this fall in Washington.

The suit, filed in the court of U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last year by Judge John Henry McBryde, 67, claims that he has been unjustly accused and unfairly maligned by his peers, and that the whole process detractors used to defame and shatter his legal career was unconstitutional.

Many legal scholars have written about the ticklish situation surrounding removal of a federal judge. Most agree that only Congress can remove by impeachment and that such a proceeding can be instigated only upon accusations of criminal behavior or gross misconduct.

Judge McBryde's lawyers claim he has not been accused of criminal acts but apparently has been punished for his personal mannerisms, with virtually all the evidence used to investigate him emanating from legal decisions he made.

"That clearly seems at odds with the recognized inviolability of judicial independence," said one Dallas lawyer who is not a McBryde fan. "I think he has been far too harsh, particularly with some of those lawyers not well prepared, but I think the government is going to have some difficulty when the record shows many of the early complaints dealt with legal decisions."

This lawyer, like almost all those contacted by The Washington Times, refused to comment unless assured of anonymity.

"I have to work in this district, and things are pretty tenuous about this," he explained.

"He can be discourteous and harsh," ventured a Fort Worth lawyer who often has been in the McBryde courtroom, "but there's nothing wrong with his brain. I think they went too far when they tried to force him into being examined by a psychiatrist. That's `Big Brother' at its worst."

Judge McBryde, named to the federal bench by President Bush nine years ago, has had a tumultuous tenure as one of three federal jurists here.

A cadre of government lawyers and administrators, defense attorneys, litigants, criminals and their friends has called for Judge McBryde's ouster. Though the calls have been made behind closed doors, they have spawned a series of investigations into his actions and deeds.

They've called him mean, arrogant, "out of control."

Secretly, and some claim illegally, one appellate judge ordered Judge McBryde to "submit to a full medical examination and evaluation by a psychiatrist" or be stripped of his judicial robes.

Last September, he was banned from hearing any new cases for one year and told that, for three years, he could not participate in any cases involving 23 lawyers who had testified against him in the investigations. …

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