By Chris Antcliff

Judges are neutral, standing outside of and apart from day-to-day politics. They are charged with making right, just decisions whether in the simplest or most difficult and perilous cases. Judges are not permitted to respond when personally attacked.

It is for that reason that District Attorney Yvonne Rosales’ public actions and responses in the Walmart shooting case are particularly disturbing.  Recently, Rosales filed a motion to recuse District Judge Sam Medrano Jr. in that case because, in her office’s words, Judge Medrano sought “to embarrass DA Rosales in front of the members of the media.” 

What were the “embarrassing” questions asked by the judge?

How long does a death penalty trial take?  How long does jury selection in such a case take? Which prosecutors from your office will be trying the case? Why hasn’t your office filed even one pleading in the case since you took office? These simple questions beg simple answers, and Rosales was unable to answer even one of them.

Instead of answering the judge’s legitimate questions, Rosales launched a series of personal attacks against Judge Medrano and the El Paso judicial system as a whole. Why did she do that?

Because since her election to the Office of District Attorney,  Rosales has had more than 900 cases dismissed for failing to timely prosecute; she has had a murder case dismissed, before a different El Paso judge, for prosecutorial vindictiveness – a case in which the prosecutor dismissed the original murder charge and re-indicted the case for capital murder because the defendant asserted his right to a speedy trial; she failed to process, through her intake/screening section, thousands of alleged crimes – leaving those people free to roam our streets.

409th District Judge Sam Medrano is presiding over the state trial of the man accused of murdering 23 people at an El Paso Walmart in 2019. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Rather than working to solve these issues, Rosales lashed out at someone who cannot respond. She’s conducted a furious assault on Judge Medrano knowing full well that as a judge, he is unable to say anything.

Unlike the District Attorney, judges are not allowed to issue press releases or call press conferences to defend themselves. Why? Because their role, their job, their duty, and the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct do not permit them to do so.

When a judge takes an oath of office, they are essentially placed under their own personal gag order. Because of that, there is simply no place for personal attacks against a judge in our justice system, but Rosales persists anyway.

Judges in El Paso, including Judge Medrano, are dedicated, diligent, hard-working public servants. Some even have created secondary courts to help drug addicts, alcoholics, veterans – all with the goal of helping make El Paso a better, safer community. They work quietly in every case over which they preside, from misdemeanors to incredibly high profile felony cases, just like the Walmart shooting case.

Rosales, on the other hand, apparently views judges as targets to cover her own ineptitude.  Rather than concentrating on eliminating the backlog of un-filed cases, rather than actually prosecuting cases for the 34th Judicial District as she was elected to do, she attacks judges and anyone who opposes her.

We, as proud El Pasoans, cannot quietly stand by.  Our community deserves better.

District Attorney Rosales, enough with the personal attacks on judges and the judicial system. It is time for you to step up and do your job.

Chris Antcliff is a former judge of the 448th and 168th Judicial District Courts and a former justice of the Texas 8th Court of Appeals.