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Bexar County judge 'disrespected, demeaned, frustrated' people in courtroom, reprimand states

Judge Kelly Cross says complaints politically motivated

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SAN ANTONIO – The State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued a public reprimand to a Bexar County Judge Wednesday after she referred to a man as "Mr. Maggot" and "Maggot Man," compared a woman's daughter's IQ to that of a pen and interacted rudely with litigants, the reprimand states.

Bexar County Probate Court 1 Judge Kelly Cross was ordered to complete one hour of additional instruction with a mentor within the next 60 days, preferably relative to "judicial demeanor and courtroom decorum."

The public admonition, which was signed Wednesday, lays out four separate incidents in which individuals complained about Cross' behavior. Attorney Kathleen Whitehead brought three of the incidents mentioned in the complaint to the commission's attention.

Cross told the commission she believes she is the victim of a conspiracy orchestrated by Whitehead and Cross' political opponents. Cross added that their intent is to "ruin her reputation and hurt her chances for re-election."

In the first incident, which was brought to the commission's attention in August 2016 by someone other than Whitehead, Cross allegedly referred to a proposed ward of the state whose wounds had become infested with maggots as "Mr. Maggot" and "Maggot Man." The complaint states that the reference was during proceedings in his guardianship case.

READ THE FULL REPRIMAND

Cross told the commission that she deals with several cases and struggles to remember surnames, so she "might ask 'is this the maggot guy, is this the rat lady case?'"

She added that she only uses that kind of language when speaking with attorneys and other professionals, not the person being discussed and that "she is simply trying to identify the correct case."

In another case, a couple stated that Cross compared their daughter's IQ to that of a pen.

Cross said she used the pen as a reference to challenge the medical expert's assessment of the couple's adult daughter's IQ. Cross felt the IQ assessed was far too low and that the medical expert's assessment was comparable to that of a pen than to the couple's child.

Cross said she used that example in an effort to "educate the attorneys about the importance of accurate IQ assessments when seeking guardianship for an incapacitated person," and that the conversation was not for the couple.

In the third complaint, a woman who went before Cross in a case pertaining to the estate of her deceased parents said that she felt Cross "lacked compassion for (her) family and other families in this process."

The woman also said Cross' demeanor was "apathetic to (her) time, (her) attorney's time and her family's grief after the loss of both of (her) parents."

In the final complaint, a woman who serves as her adult daughter's guardian stated that Cross appeared "agitated" when her daughter became disruptive. The woman and her husband complained that Cross yelled at their attorneys which created a stressful environment for them and their daughter.

"I was made to feel I did the wrong thing seeking guardianship to care for my daughter," the woman said.

The commission concluded that she failed to "treat litigants, lawyers and others with whom she deals in an official capacity with patience, dignity and courtesy," which violates the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct.

Cross is the Republican candidate and incumbent in Probate Court 1 and is running against Democrat Oscar Kazen.

"All of these complaints remind us who we choose to be judge matters, and she is the wrong choice," Kazen said via phone Friday.

Cross released the following statement to KSAT 12, reiterating that she felt the complaints were politically motivated:

I respect the State Commission on Judicial Conduct and appreciate its measured response to what I believe are politically motivated allegations against me.

As I stated to the commission, I have not shown disrespect to any person appearing before my court. I consider myself a passionate supporter of the rights of the disabled community and not a professional politician.

At times, my zealous commitment may have exceeded my skills at diplomacy. However, my main concern has always been the rule of law as it applies to the citizens of Bexar County.

I would like to thank the Commission for its endorsement of my continued judicial service and will continue to do my best to treat litigants and lawyers alike with patience, dignity and courtesy.