Redacted records offered, rejected
Abbott has weighed in. In an opinion issued last week, the state’s top lawyer sided with the judicial conduct commission, saying that strict confidentiality rules written into the state constitution did legally shield the inner workings of the agency responsible for disciplining Texas judges, not only from the public, but also from investigators working on elected lawmakers’ behalf.
“Papers filed with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, along with the Commission’s proceedings, are made confidential unless the Legislature enacts a law establishing an exception to the constitutional confidentiality requirement,” Abbott’s opinion said.
Sunset officials are legislatively charged with investigating the efficiency of agencies every 12 years and had evaluated the judicial commission in 2000. The recent dispute between the two agencies began when Sunset officials asked to sit in on its meetings during which governor-appointed commissioners — six judges, two attorneys and five public members — hear disciplinary cases against judges.
Judicial commission officials responded that “its meetings are closed to everyone, including the Sunset Commission and its staff,” according to the Sunset agency’s subsequent report.
When Sunset auditors next requested permission to view memorandums about disciplinary rulings, they were again rebuffed. Such papers are