Judge ejects reporters from judicial disciplinary hearings
LOUISIANA–Reporters were ejected in early September from judicial disciplinary hearings held by a federal court investigative committee in New Orleans, and one reporter was threatened with arrest for remaining in the hallway.
The hearings, held to investigate allegations that federal district Judge John Henry McBryde of Fort Worth displayed improper courtroom decorum while presiding, continued in secrecy until early October.
Henry Politz, chief judge of the appeals court and chairman of the five-member investigative committee, ordered reporters removed from the courtroom during the first week of McBryde’s hearing. According to Texas Lawyer, Dallas Observer reporter Christine Biederman was threatened with arrest by federal marshals after she refused to leave the area outside the hearing room.
After Biederman complied with the marshals’ request, Politz issued an order banning everyone from the second floor of the courthouse except for court employees and witnesses. Politz also gagged all witnesses from discussing the proceedings with the press, and sealed most documents filed in the action.
The investigative committee of five district and appeals court judges in New Orleans will report its findings to the Judicial Council, the administrative arm of the federal appeals court in New Orleans (5th Cir.).
The statute under which McBryde is being investigated permits the proceedings to be made public if McBryde consents. Although McBryde has consented to the hearings being open to the public, Politz has ordered that the proceedings remain closed.
The dispute began in 1995, when the chief judge of the federal District Court in Dallas, Jerry Buchmeyer, removed McBryde from two cases for displaying a lack of proper “judicial temperament.” McBryde appealed Buchmeyer’s action to the Judicial Council, which upheld the removal.
However, the appeals court held that Buchmeyer and the Judicial Council lacked the authority to remove McBryde from the cases without evidence of judicial misconduct. The Judicial Council has asked the appeals court to stay its order while it seeks review from the U.S. Supreme Court.
In addition to the disciplinary hearings, McBryde and the Judicial Council have filed civil suits against each other, which Politz has also ordered sealed. (In re McBryde; Judge’s Counsel: David Broiles, Fort Worth)