May Judge Talk ''Privately'' 'with Others About a Pending Case ?
In that regard, a judge must make every effort to avoid conveying or permitting others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. TEXAS SUPREME COURT, CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT, CANON 2B.
The Texas Code of Judicial Conduct further provides that, except as authorized by law, a judge shall not directly or indirectly initiate, permit, or consider ex parte or other private communications concerning the merits of a pending or impending judicial Proceeding. TEXAS SUPREME COURT, CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT, CANON 3A(5).
Ex parte communications are "'those that involve fewer than all of the parties who are legally entitled to be present during the discussion of any matter.
They are barred in order to ensure that "every person who is legally interested in a proceeding [is given the] full right to be heard according to law."'" Thoma, 873 S.W.2d at 496 (citing JEFFREY M. SHAMAN, ET AL., JUDICIAL CONDUCT AND ETHICS, 6.01 at 145 (1990)).
The principle underlying such prohibition against ex parte communication, as it regards the disposition of matter pending in the judicial system, is quite simple: the disposition of judicial matters is the public's business and ought to be conducted in public in open court. See Thoma, 873 S.W.2d at 496.
To reverse a judgment on the ground of judicial misconduct, we must find judicial impropriety, i.e., error, coupled with probable prejudice to the complaining party. Pitt v. Bradford Farms, 843 S.W.2d 705, 706 (Tex. App.--Corpus Christi 1992, no writ); Silcott v. Oglesby, 721 S.W.2d 290, 293 (Tex. 1986); see also TEX. R. APP. P. 44.1.
It has been noted that an independent and honorable judiciary is indispensable to justice in our society.
In that regard, a judge should participate in establishing, maintaining, and enforcing, and should observe high standards of conduct so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary is preserved. See In re Thoma, 873 S.W.2d 477, 496 (Tex. Rev. Trib. 1994) (citing TEXAS SUPREME COURT, CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT, CANON 1, Amended to April 1, 1988, reprinted at TEX.GOV'T CODE ANN., TITLE 2, SUBT. G, APPENDIX B (Vernon 1988)).
It is clear then, that a judge should respect and comply with the law and should conduct himself or herself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. TEXAS SUPREME COURT, CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT, CANON 2A.
As further noted in Thoma:
Judiciary has no special privilege to suppress or conduct in private proceedings involving adjudication of causes before it; in fact, such secrecy frustrates the judiciary's responsibility to promote and provide fair and equal treatment to all parties. Individual judges are charged with task of adjudicating claims in manner that protects the rights of both parties . . . .Thoma, 873 S.W.2d at 477.
Nonetheless, given the above admonitions established in In re Thoma, a judge is necessarily allowed discretion in expressing himself while controlling the trial of a case.
Reversal of a judgment should not be ordered unless there is a showing of impropriety, coupled with probable prejudice, and the rendition of an improper verdict. Texas Employers Insurance Association v. Draper, 658 S.W.2d 202, 209 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1983, no writ) (citing Sands v. Cooke, 368 S.W.2d 111 (Tex. Civ. App.--San Antonio 1963, no writ); and Trinity Universal Ins. Co. v. Jolly, 307 S.W.2d 843 (Tex. Civ. App.--Austin 1957, writ ref'd n.r.e.)).