As voters head to the polls in February, they should beware of an unethical judge who is running away from his local voters by “falling upward.”

Collin County District Judge Chris Oldner, who appears to have violated numerous ethics rules in orchestrating the outrageous criminal indictment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, has filed for an open seat on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Local observers report Oldner faced a difficult reelection to his seat as a district judge.

Rather than running a real campaign for the state’s highest criminal court, Oldner appears to be running for the court in order to avoid the blemish of being defeated for reelection by his local voters. A defeat would render Oldner ineligible to serve as a visiting judge, cutting him off from future judicial wages.

Oldner recused himself on the same day Paxton turned himself in for booking. Motions filed by Paxton’s attorneys have documented a myriad of ethics abuses by Oldner, including leaking confidential grand jury information to his wife.

Beyond the leak to his wife, the motions describe a litany of abuses, including violating the grand jury empanelment process, unlawfully sealing the names of grand jurors, repeatedly entering the jury room while the grand jury was in session, and unlawfully withholding the indictment from the Collin County Clerk for several weeks. Most disturbing, Paxton’s motions credibly allege that Oldner arranged to have Paxton’s case assigned to his court.

If he had not been forced to recuse himself because of his wife’s leak of the grand jury information, it appears Oldner was prepared to railroad Paxton’s case to a conviction.

Judge Oldner’s behavior has precipitated at least one ethics complaint to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

This is not the first time Oldner has been under scrutiny for abusing his office. In 2008 CBS 11 caught Oldner spending public dollars to take a trip and stay at the Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, prompting calls for his resignation.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.


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