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dging that it was aware that a different group of judges had, on the previous day, halted an execution on the same grounds.” By long-standing tradition, circuit court panels are supposed to respect and adhere to rulings made by one another, unless and until the entire court meets to overturn a ruling. Yet Faulder’s panel gave no explanation for why it was refusing to follow suit. The author of that footnote? Edith Jones. \(The U.S. Supreme Court granted In recent years, Jones \(who is now the the conservative lecture circuit, where she has criticized the Supreme Court for decisions in a host of areas, from rulings on family law to pornography. She has gone on the record enough times to ensure some tough sledding if she ever got in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee as a candidate for the highest court in the land. But the word around Houston is that Jones, despite her high profile, has not been a serious candidate for the Supreme Court for a long time. It wasn’t the sleeping lawyer case that did her in, observers say, it was her performance in a case involving a sexual harassment claim. After hearing testimony that a woman had endured, among other things, a co-worker pinching her breast at work, Jones retorted, “Well, he apologized.” Nominating a woman to the nation’s highest court loses some of Edith Jones Newscom its luster when the candidate in question is widely considered to be hostile to women in general. FIDENCIO GUERRA, JR. Edinburg, Visiting State District Judge In 1992, Texas Lawyer reported that there was a new district judge in Edinburg named Fidencio Guerra, Jr. who spoke to attorneys during trial through sock puppets. Puppets are cute when Mr. Rogers uses them, but Judge Guerra is no Mr. Rogers. In a 1991 case described by Texas Lawyer, Guerra heard an application from a woman seeking a restraining order against her husband, who had a history of abusing her. After listening to her harrowing tale, Guerra ordered the abusive husband to hold his wife’s hand and get down on his knees and apologize to her. Then he denied the woman’s request, the magazine reported, saying, “If he hits her again, well, she can always file assault charges, and if he hits her hard enough, she can file aggravated assault. And if he kills her, you can put him away for murder.” Guerra told Texas Lawyer that a local women’s shelter was pressuring women to apply for protective orders, in what he called an “abuse of the system.” In another case, he granted a protective order, but only after taking a poll of everyone present in his crowded courtroom \(the majority of whom were present for result of the vote. It seemed that almost everybody from the district attorney, to fellow judges, to women’s advocateswanted Guerra gone, and the judge failed to win a second term in office. So why, 14 years later, is he still on the bench? Shortly after the voters threw him out, Guerra, who is the son of one of the Valley’s most respected judges, was appointed to a special auxiliary court that handles primarily drug felonies. Such judgeships are common in the Valley, where drug prosecutions clog the docket, and are typically filled not by popular election, but by a board of local judges. Once back in his black robe, Guerra was up to his old tricks. In 1997, his court coordinator accused him of sexual harassment. The complaint was upheld by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but Guerra won a summary judgment in a subsequent lawsuit by his accuser, who is now a local justice of the peace. In court, Guerra is known for making lewd or off-color comments to defendants and witnesses. “He’s just an obnoxious human being,” said one longtime court observer. Last fall, a young probationer named Enrique Vargas appeared before the judge. Noting that Vargas’ wife had come to court with him, Judge Guerra asked the man to tell the court what his wife called him in bed, according to a witness. Judge Guerra told the Observer that he recalled the incident, but that the question was merely part of an effort to determine what conditions to put on Vargas’ probation. “I don’t humiliate anybody,” he said. Last December, after what he considered to be a particularly capricious ruling, District Attorney Rene Guerra \(no Judge Guerra removed from all of his cases. “The losing side is never going to be happy if they feel the rulings are unfair,” the District Attorney said. After a decade of impunity, it seems that Judge Guerra will finally have to face the voters once again. In January he put his name in the ring for an elected county court at law seat. The local board of judges made him step down from his auxiliary court assignment when he declared his candidacy, so Guerra isfor now at leastoff the bench. A seat on a county court is a step down from a district judgeship, but Guerra, who is now 58, has complained that he was not receiving benefits or vacation in his appointed position. Depending on what the voters decide, he may end up with a longer vacation than he had originally anticipated. Former Observer editor Nate Blakeslee is the author of Tulia: Race, Cocaine and Corruption in a Small Texas Town 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER FEBRUARY 10, 2006