Bailey County Judge accused of incompetence, misconduct, habitual drunkenness

Published: Jun. 24, 2022 at 5:23 PM CDT
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BAILEY COUNTY, Texas (KCBD) - A petition has been filed in the Bailey County District Court to remove the current Bailey County Judge, Sherri L. Harrison, from her position after allegations were made about “incompetence, official misconduct, and habitual drunkenness,” the petition states.

These alleged actions have had ramifications on multiple legal cases.

The petition, authored by the current Bailey County Attorney Michaela Kee, was filed Tuesday in the Bailey County District Court. Kee was appointed as the County Attorney for Bailey County on Jan. 12, 2022. She was previously employed as the Assistant District Attorney for the 287th Judicial District. She has continued to serve as Assistant District Attorney on a part-time basis.

In the petition, Kee states she is filing on behalf of the public interest and demands a jury trial to “ensure protection of the public and public interest in the execution of the duties of the Bailey County Judge.”

Judge Harrison has been the county judge for 17 years, since March 2005. In the March 1 Primary Election for Bailey County, Judge Harrison lost to Basil Nash by 43 votes. Her term ends in January 2023.

The 30-page petition, along with 55 pages of the state’s exhibits, details alleged incidents going back to 2018.

The misconduct allegations include:

  • Disclosing confidential information as pertaining to intimate details of protection orders and juvenile proceedings to other court employees not privy to this type of information or court proceeding;
  • Texting parties involved in protection orders and hearings;
  • Failing or refusing to review search warrants adequately for probable cause;
  • Not admonishing arrestees while performing as magistrate in the Bailey County Jail;
  • Being intoxicated while performing judicial duties;
  • Threatening, acting aggressive, and/or disrupting the public peace and tranquility in the courthouse, business, conferences, and personal residences of the public;
  • Intentionally impeding another in exercise of their rights for legal representation;
  • Seeking outside information about pending cases she knows she will be presiding over;
  • Interfering with ongoing criminal investigations;
  • Making negative comments on defendants while presiding on the bench; and
  • Intentionally and knowingly engaging in unlawful behavior by providing a minor with alcohol.

Attorney Kee states these acts by Harrison are not only “concerning Constitutional violations but also are intentional unlawful acts that constitute official misconduct.”

As to the allegation of incompetency, Attorney Kee added to the petition:

  • Being grossly careless and/or grossly ignorant of ensuring that confidential information as pertaining to intimate details of protection orders and juvenile proceedings is not disclosed to the public;
  • Being grossly careless and/or grossly ignorant when reviewing search warrants;
  • Being grossly careless and/or grossly ignorant by failing or refusing to provide defendants and arrestees admonishments;
  • Her inability to perform duties due to being intoxicated while performing judicial duties;
  • Exhibiting a serious mental defect by her pattern of behavior of creating public disturbances;
  • Exhibiting a serious mental defect by her presentation of erratic speech that does not follow a logical manner while performing judicial duties;
  • Being grossly ignorant or careless in maintaining impartiality;
  • Exhibiting a serious mental defect by acting aggressively and/or in a hostile manner without provocation towards others; and
  • Neglecting her duties as an officer to perform her duties imposed on her as the County Judge.

KCBD talked to Attorney Michaela Kee about the petition. She said at least three warrants signed by Judge Harrison have been deemed unconstitutional. “After I began the investigation into Judge Sherri L. Harrison about her signing search warrants intoxicated on March 29, 2022, I instructed my local law enforcement to not go to her anymore for search warrants,” she said.

Of those three warrants, Attorney Kee had to dismiss one case. For the other two she was able to prove the cases through other avenues without the search warrants and the evidence gathered from the search warrants.

“I am still reviewing cases to ensure that there are no other pending cases that she has caused to be compromised,” she said.

“All I know is that I cannot allow the citizens of Bailey County to have their constitutional rights violated nor can I allow an elected official to compromise the integrity of our judicial system.”

After reading the petition and the affidavits, KCBD asked Attorney Kee why law enforcement was going to Judge Harrison to sign warrants, knowing many of them had experiences with her where she was suspected of being intoxicated or under the influence.

She said, “After I was made aware of this conduct of Judge Sherri L. Harrison and confronted Judge Sherri L. Harrison with the allegations, I instructed all my local law enforcement officers to stop going to her for signing and reviewing search warrants. Everything else seemed to be mere speculation but no affirmative proof was shown until she was recorded on body camera admitting to being intoxicated while she was signing a search warrant on March 29, 2022. So, after I confronted her with the allegations, my officers ceased going to her for signing and reviewing search warrants.”

KCBD went to Bailey County to get an interview or statement from Judge Harrison. She said she did not want to respond to the allegations today, but said she would address some of the allegations at another time.

On April 1, 2022, after the County Attorney submitted an official complaint to the Judicial Conduct Committee of Texas, she requested a meeting with Judge Harrison. During that meeting, the petitioner states she told Judge Harrison the current Judicial Canons and Texas Criminal Penal Code sections she believed the judge violated. “[Harrison] denied all allegations and instead, tried to deflect and excuse her gross misconduct and incompetence,” the petition states.

Since that meeting, Attorney Kee notes in the petition, “rather than correcting her actions and performing her official duties as a public official, [Harrison] has continued to act in an increasingly hostile, bizarre, disrespectful manner, inside and outside the courtroom.” She continues with, “…if she is not immediately suspended and removed from public office that she will continue to not only humiliate Bailey County residents but that her intentional conduct of abusing her position as public official will cast a permanent shadow of corruption and depravity on the Bailey County community and the judicial system.”

A district judge can remove a county judge from office for official misconduct, incompetency, and intoxication on or off duty caused by drinking an alcoholic beverage.

Attorney Kee asks that the District Court request the presiding judge of the Ninth Administrative Judicial Region of Texas to assign a judge who is not a resident of Bailey County to dispose of this action. Attorney Kee also asks the Court to suspend Judge Harrison from office through the trial and appeal, without pay, and appoint another person to perform the duties of Bailey County Judge. She is asking the Court to set a bond to be executed by the person appointed to serve as the temporary county judge. Also, after trial by jury, enter a judgment that Harrison be removed from office, and all costs be assessed against Harrison.

State’s Exhibits documented in the petition include:

On Tuesday, March 29, 2022, Attorney Nee received a phone call from a person who works in Judge Harrison’s office saying her partner worked the night shift at the Muleshoe Police Department and said Judge Harrison was “completely intoxicated and signed a search warrant for an officer regarding a male suspect.” Nee documents in the petition she immediately went to the police department to review the officer’s body camera footage.

“In the video, it is clear [Harrison] cannot stand without swaying, her speech is slurred, her speech is erratic and difficult to follow in a logical manner, and her attire was disheveled. In the video, it is apparent that [Harrison] did not fully read the search warrant before signing it because she continuously spoke to [the officer] and asked him the same questions repeatedly. When [the officer] first arrived, [Harrison] told him that she had worked out earlier, came home at 10 p.m., and had been drinking ever since,” the petition shows.

After the officer left Harrison’s home, Harrison sent a text message to the wife of the suspect the warrant was for. The texts were to warn the wife she just signed a search warrant for her husband. The wife signed an affidavit stating the judge also disclosed information about other pending cases to the woman.

Because of the circumstances surrounding the issuance of the suspect’s search warrant, Attorney Kee believes the search warrant was invalid, and any evidence gathered from it would need to be suppressed. Also, Attorney Kee would have to inform the suspect’s defense attorney about what had transpired with the signing of the search warrant.

According to the exhibits in the complaint, multiple officers of the law, including the Muleshoe Police Department, the Bailey County Sheriff’s Office, and the Texas Department of Public Safety, have signed affidavits stating there were many times Judge Harrison appeared to be intoxicated or under the influence while signing warrants for them. Many of the affidavits accused Judge Harrison of not reading the documents before signing them as well. In many of the affidavits, the law enforcement officers confirmed Judge Harrison admitted to drinking alcohol or taking Ambien before signing the documents.

Attorney Kee emailed the Local Defense Attorney’s Association on April 27, 2022, stating Judge Harrison may have signed multiple search warrants intoxicated and/or may have been signing search warrants without reviewing the affidavits. She also stated it is unknown how many search warrants this may have occurred on.

Other than Judge Harrison to sign warrants, there is a Justice of the Peace and a retired district judge in Bailey County. If a warrant needs to be signed and no one is available, Attorney Nee says law enforcement would have to go outside the county for a judge to sign.

During this investigation, Attorney Kee uncovered more accusations about Judge Harrison’s conduct over the past 17 years she has been in office, with other community members coming forward.

Judge Harrison is being accused of often talking loudly in the courthouse about sensitive information of individuals she had signed protective orders for and about juvenile cases. She is accused of disclosing the names of individuals and confidential facts about these cases.

In one case, she is accused of receiving a victim’s and perpetrator’s phone number in an assault case with a protective order. She would “openly brag to court employees” about having the phone numbers and then would “pit the parties against each other.” She would send text messages to each party, telling each one what the other person was saying about them to her.

In February, before the primary elections, while attending the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Harrison is accused of disclosing confidential information about a juvenile court proceeding she presided over. Judge Harrison allegedly announced to the congregation that she previously adjudicated a male adult, pointing him out to the congregation, and informing them he was previously a juvenile defendant. Judge Harrison did this without the adult’s permission. He was “extremely upset” that this information was publicly disclosed.

There have also been multiple reports of Judge Harrison being intoxicated when she serves as magistrate at the Bailey County Jail. Reports indicate she smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech, erratic speech with speaking with staff and the arrestees and seemed to get confused easily. The reports from the staff say this is a regular occurrence.

In another allegation, Judge Harrison is accused of calling a victim of an assault a “frequent flyer” in her courtroom and that he was a “piece of s##t” during a plea hearing for the person accused of the assault. She then demanded to see the victim’s criminal history, but then said “never mind” when Attorney Kee objected. During that hearing, Judge Harrison announced she was changing the plea agreement; however, it is not permissible for a judge to change a plea agreement without the consent of the defendant and the State. At the end of the day, while still on the bench, Judge Harrison is accused of announcing to the courtroom that she “was not wearing a bra” because she did not feel well.

The Muleshoe Area Medical Center staff complained to Bailey County Law Enforcement Officers that on multiple occasions Judge Harrison showed up to MAMC to conduct death pronunciations while “extremely intoxicated.”

On one specific occasion, Judge Harrison was called to MAMC to pronounce a patient deceased. At about 9:15 p.m. a nurse saw a woman arrive at the Emergency Room. The woman was “extremely loud” and seemed to have trouble walking. The nurse stated she had to be told that this was the county judge because her first impression was this was an intoxicated person coming in for treatment. The nurse said Judge Harrison continued to speak loudly and was abrasive when dealing with MAMC staff. The nurse said she and other staff members could smell alcohol on Judge Harrison and she had to lean on the counter to stay upright.

Judge Harrison is also accused of consistently interfering with ongoing investigations with the Bailey County Sheriff’s Office and the Muleshoe Police Department. Law enforcement claims this usually happens when someone from the community approaches Judge Harrison with issues they have already reported to law enforcement. Judge Harrison is accused of conducting her own investigation without law enforcement’s knowledge or assistance.

“This has created a huge risk of [Harrison] impeding with current

. Law enforcement is forced to stop their own investigation to confront [Harrison] and tell her to case her interference with their criminal investigations.”

In one instance, a female adult (Jane Doe) was reported missing and Bailey County law enforcement began a missing person investigation. It was later reported Jane Doe was murdered in Roosevelt County, New Mexico. Before Jane Doe was reported missing, Judge Harrison was presiding over a custody hearing with her and her brother about Jane Doe’s mentally handicapped son. Judge Harrison began conducting interviews with individuals around the community and went to the bank to request Jane Doe’s bank statements. Law enforcement said they were notified about Judge Harrison’s conduct through witnesses they were interviewing.

Law enforcement officers interviewed a 17-year-old male after learning Judge Harrison was accused of furnishing alcohol to the minor. The minor admitted he went to Judge Harrison’s house several times and she gave him alcohol when he was helping her with “moving things around.” He told officers he has known her for about a year and hung out with her twice a week at her house. The minor has been spotted by members of the community driving Judge Harrison’s vehicle while she was in the passenger seat.

The Texas Rangers were contacted and are handling the criminal investigation for providing alcohol to a minor.

After the primary elections and Judge Harrison’s loss for the County Judge seat, she was reported going into the courthouse to get a list of citizens who did not vote. She is accused of going to the homes of several people on the list and confronting and chastising them for their failure to vote.

On one of the visits, a male resident called the Bailey County Municipal Judge, Rodney Baker, to inform him Judge Harrison was on his property by his barn and accusing him and his son of not voting. She reportedly told the two men, “If you people would have voted I probably would have won.” When the municipal judge arrived at the property, he reported Judge Harrison was “extremely intoxicated” and was drinking beer. The municipal judge then drove Harrison to her home.

She is also accused of being intoxicated off duty as a County Judge. The complaint states there have been several reported incidents of Judge Harrison’s alleged off-duty intoxication.

“These types of incidents are so frequent that when individuals from Bailey County attend conferences around the State of Texas, people recognize Bailey County as the county that has the ‘drunk Judge,’ according to court documents.

There are reports of Judge Harrison being intoxicated and belligerent during a State Judge and Commission event that the Texas Association of Counties assisted with in October 2021. The judge was removed by resort security officers.

The judge is accused of being intoxicated while shopping at a Muleshoe hardware store in December 2021. Then again in February 2022, the Judge is reported to have been crying because she “peed herself” while visiting the store.

She is accused of making “crude sexual comments about food to other county employees” while visiting the AgriLife Extension Office in Muleshoe during a healthy county event. She is also accused of discussing which eye drops work best to hide if a person is intoxicated.

In May 2022, Judge Harrison attended a Little League co-ed rookie game for children between the ages of seven and eight years old. During the game, Harrison went into the dugout area to help out by picking up bats for the players. The report claims she was “clearly drunk” because she was stumbling around, slurring her speech, physically pushing the players onto the field, stumbling over players, and stepping on the hand of one who fell down. She also knocked herself down when she grabbed a bat and it caught the fence.

The affidavit from a witness shows when Judge Harrison was asked to leave, Harrison responded with “she is the County Judge and that [she] was to respect her, or she would see that [her] significant other gets jail time.”

After the game, the president of the Little League of Muleshoe contacted the Bailey County Sheriff’s Office about the incident. He requested that a criminal trespass be issued against Judge Harrison to exclude her from entering in or on the Muleshoe Youth Baseball Fields and Muleshoe High School fields to protect the youths and the public from any future disturbances brought on by Judge Harrison during games.

The complaint states incidents like this have been happening more frequently since she lost the election.

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