The Field Review - Local

Two Public Admonishment Issued for
a Bexar County District Judge, Sitting by Assignment, for “Racial Slurs” and Ex Parte Communication

On December 4, 2020, the State Comission on Judicial Counsel (SCJC) issued a Public Admonishment and an Order of Additional Eduction over the Judges verbiage towards Mexican Nationals.

Judge Mark Luitjen, was overheard, in open court, reminiscing on the “olden days,” where Mexican Nationals were commonly referred by derogatory slurs.

It turns out the SCJC does not think the “olden days,” of conducting business is appropriate for this era in time.

The background (copied directly) from the SCJC, is as follows:

“On August 7, 2019, Judge Luitjen dealt with a docket in which he magistrated several “illegal aliens,” or undocumented immigrants. After closing the docket, Judge Luitjen was reviewing paperwork in the courtroom while court was in recess and engaged in a conversation with court reporter Mona Arevalos about the shooting that had occurred in El Paso the previous weekend, and the different phrases that were used to refer to Mexican citizens in discussions or news stories regarding the shooting. Analyssa Solano, a Bexar County Pretrial Bond Officer, made an incident report regarding this conversation in which she indicated that court staff had informed her Judge Luitjen’s comments that day included the statement, out loud and in front of the courtroom, “Things were easier back then when we called them [English and Spanish derogatory slurs for undocumented immigrants from Mexico].””
“In his written responses to the Commission, Judge Luitjen stated he and Ms. Arevalos discussed political correctness in today’s “hyper-sensitive environment,” and that “what was appropriate yesterday can be scandalous today.” Further, the judge disputed Ms. Solano’s characterization of his statement to Ms. Arevalos, clarifying what he actually said as, “It was much easier in the old days when they used to call them all [English and Spanish derogatory slurs for undocumented immigrants from Mexico].””
“Judge Luitjen explained that he was talking about how people referred to undocumented immigrants in the past and that he has never used those slurs to refer to anyone. The judge acknowledged that “today” those terms are considered inappropriate slurs, but when he was in high school, they were not. Other people were present in the courtroom when Judge Luitjen made the statement, including court staff, and some attorneys and defendants.”

The ruling provides for six hours of education, in addition to being publicly admonished.

On the same day, of December 4, 2020, Judge Luitjen was also issued a separate Public Admonishment for a “consultation,” with the District Attorney’s Office, related to what he was allowed to do; when it comes to modified pleadings.

In this case, the Judge did not know if he was allowed to accept the modified pleading, so he recessed the court and contacted the District Attorney’s Office. He returned and advised he talked with such office and they agreed with the Judge; that he was unable to allow the pleading to be changed because he lacked jurisdiction. The Defense Counsel objected to the Ex Parte communication and the SCJC agreed it was Ex Parte.

In review of the second admonishment, we believe there are factors which allow the Judge to use his discretion with such matters. It appears, the consulting with any party, when all parties are not present becomes the bigger issue.

The second Public Admonishment is posted here: Ex Parte