Videos show an El Paso state district court judge yelling at a prosecutor, saying that the District Attorney’s Office doesn’t “operate with fairness and decency and justice.” Another video shows her yelling at attorneys, telling them that they were being “mean.” In another, she suggests that a sexual assault suspect was experiencing “karma” because he was having medical problems with his groin. In another, she angrily tells a court interpreter you “pissed me off.”
A three-judge panel ruled Friday that the behavior by 171st District Judge Bonnie Rangel was a misuse of judicial power and warranted a public warning and additional training for the jurist, who has been on the bench since 1999.
Watch the video of Judge Rangel’s controversial behavior and remarks
The special panel of judges upheld earlier findings by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct that stemmed from three complaints filed against Rangel over behavior in 2020 and 2021, when hearings were conducted remotely and the videos posted on YouTube. Most court proceedings weren’t videotaped before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The judges dismissed a public admonishment from the SCJC regarding an incident where Rangel responded to a motion to recuse her from a case, a violation of Texas legal standards.
The judges were all from outside El Paso. Chief Justice Brian Quinn of the Amarillo-based 7th Court of Appeals presided. The other judges were Justice Gina Benavides of the 13th Court of Appeals in South Texas and Chief Justice Scott Golemon of the 9th Court of Appeals in Beaumont
In its order, the speciality court wrote that judges should not act like made-for-TV judges such as “Judge Judy.” Although not mentioned in the ruling, Rangel created a video in 2015 that she hoped could lead to a reality television series featuring her as a tough judge.
“Everyone always says, ‘You could be Judge Judy. You could be Judge Judy,’ ” Rangel told the El Paso Times in 2017. “So, I thought about it and this was just a retirement idea. This is not something I wanted to do immediately. I am still passionate about serving my community as a judge and plan to continue that.”
The judges pointedly noted a difference between entertainers like “Judge Judy” and real-life justice.
“We are not entertainers, but rather Texas jurists obligated to abide by actual rules as opposed to a story or show script,” the specialty court wrote.