District judge required defendant to contribute to Catholic charity

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by REBECCA LOPEZ

Bio | Email | Follow: @rlopezwfaa

WFAA

Posted on May 6, 2014 at 5:53 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 6 at 6:26 PM

DALLAS -- State District Judge Jeanine Howard is coming under more scrutiny.

News 8 has learned the judge is requiring defendants contribute money to a charity of her choice as part of their probation conditions. Experts say that is wrong.

“A judge can not do that," said Lillian Hardwick, a judicial ethics attorney.

Former District Judge John Cruezot said he's never seen it done by another judge.

"She does it, and I have not seen anyone else do it," he said.

Court documents show Judge Howard required a defendant pay $200 to the Society of St. Vincent De Paul Pantry, which is a Catholic charity. Howard is Catholic and a member of Christ the King Church.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct has issued an opinion on this issue in the past.

“Judicial power should not be used to force litigants to provide gifts or services to specified charities or to other organizations; judges should not be choosing among competing charities," the opinion states.

“So if a judge actually selects a particular charity and requires that someone contribute money to it, then the judge is suggesting bias or partiality for that charity," Hardwick said.

The law does allow a defendant to donate to a food pantry instead of community hours, but experts say a judge can't select a specific one.

News 8 has learned St. Vincent De Paul has received tens of thousands of dollars because of the judge's orders.

Howard is the same judge caused a firestorm of criticism about remarks she made last week about a rape victim and her past sexual experiences.

If there is an investigation, the Board on Judicial Conduct could sanction the Judge Howard.

The judge could not be reached for comment.

E-mail rlopez@wfaa.com

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