Texas Judge Suspended — to Get Treatment

DALLAS (CN) – A Dallas appeals court judge agreed to a minimum six-month suspension by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to get treatment for alcohol abuse after disappearing from work for 13 months.

Fifth Court of Appeals Court Justice David Lewis and the commission filed an agreed motion for an order of temporary suspension on Nov. 4 with the Texas Supreme Court.

Lewis’s attorneys, Perry Minton and Zooey Wharton with Minton Burton in Austin, said their client will forgo his pay during his leave. Lewis will be reinstated only after a commission-approved physician can clear him after the six-month minimum.

“To be direct, as Judge Lewis insists upon, 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,” his attorney said in a statement. “Justice Lewis chose to take full responsibility for his situation by seeking out and successfully completing an alcohol treatment program and remains in recovery. An additional, and very relevant point that his lawyers insist on making, is that there was not a single allegation presented to the Commission, that Justice Lewis was ever under the influence of alcohol while on the job or that any case or issue before the Fifth Court of Appeals was impacted in any way by his conduct during the relevant period.”

The announcement came hours after ABC affiliate WFAA in Dallas asked Lewis about his purported 13-month absence from the George L. Allen Sr. Courts Building, where the 13-member Fifth Court is based. Lewis collected his $161,000 annual salary during his absence, WFAA reported.

Lewis said through his attorneys that he is “truly grateful” for the compassion and concern of his colleagues and is “eager to return to the bench” when he is medically cleared.

Lewis’s absence is the second-high profile absence of an elected official in Dallas this year. Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk disappeared for two months this summer to seek treatment for depression. Upon returning to work, she was sued by a fired prosecutor who wants Hawk removed from office . The former prosecutor’s lawsuit claims Hawk’s erratic and paranoid behavior since being sworn into office in January indicates “a complete break with reality.”

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