DALLAS -- Fifth Court of Appeals Justice, David
Lewis, who agreed to a judicial suspension in November 2015 while continuing
treatment for alcohol abuse, signed an agreement to resign Oct. 10, 2016, in lieu of pending disciplinary proceedings over accusations by his colleagues
that he exhibited erratic behavior and failed to prepare for and participate in
In the original suspension agreement instigated in November
2015, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct (SCJC) and Lewis proposed a
minimum suspension of six months.
According to official court documents, the SCJC began
investigating Lewis in October 2014 after other Dallas appellate judges raised
red flags about his behavior and held a hearing that led to his suspension.
Lewis contested the allegations in the complaint from his
peers, explaining there were no allegations that he ever drank on the job
or that his alcohol abuse affected opinions he authored or opinions issued by
Lewis’ attorney, Perry Minton of Minton Burton Bassett & Collins PC,
explained that Chief Justice Carolyn Wright approached Lewis and offered him
the opportunity to take paid medical leave. Lewis chose to take full
responsibility by entering an inpatient treatment program in March 2015 and continued
to work with several different programs in his recovery.
Minton added that Lewis took a paid medical leave because of
diabetes aggravated by alcoholism. He has been sober since March, but agreed
with the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct to accept a suspension without
pay for at least six months.
"His voluntary agreement to stand down for a period is a consequence of an
unfortunate period in his life that included the abuse of alcohol," Minton
said in a statement. "There was not a single allegation ... that Justice
Lewis was ever under the influence of alcohol while on the job."
“After the voluntary suspension period, Justice Lewis agreed
to be evaluated by a medical professional of the SCJC’s choosing — if the
report indicates he’s fit to return to work, he can petition the high court to
lift the suspension, and if the report indicates otherwise, he can contest such
findings,” said SCJC Executive Director Seana Willing said in a November 2015 interview
According to the charging document,
Justice Molly Francis said she knew Lewis when he was an attorney and that
at the time he appeared healthy and capable. Her perspective changed once she
started observing that Lewis seemed unable to perform his judicial duties due
to a “serious illness,” and that she feared for his safety and the safety of
court personnel because of his inability to control himself.
“The charging document laid out the
complaints of fellow justices, who have stated that Lewis delegated his
judicial function to staff attorneys, failed to prepare for oral arguments or
participate in writ panels, interacted with justices and court staff in a
discourteous and hostile manner and indicated his probable decisions to
attorneys during oral arguments, among other indiscretions,” an Oct. 13,
2016 Law360 article said.
Lewis signed the resignation agreement
the same day the SCJC filed a notice of formal proceedings against him
that could have led to his forced removal from the bench. Thus, Lewis will not
be returning to adjudicate cases in the jurisdiction where he was elected to
serve in 2012 and will never again serve as a judge in Texas, according to the agreement.