EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Marcos Lizarraga a District Court Judge in El Paso County denies allegations of wrongdoing found in complaints submitted to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Lizarraga, who assumed office of the 168th District Court in 2014, filed a general denial of allegations that he showed bias against prosecutors, had an improper relationship with defense attorneys, and had an improper in-chamber hearing during a jury trial in 2019.
The judge submitted his general denial on Friday after 21 complaints against him were submitted to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct on June 3, 2019.
“Judge Lizarraga denies that his failure to respond timely and factually to the commission constituted willful conduct that was inconsistent with the proper performance of his duties,” he wrote in an answer to the commission. “To the contrary, as judge Lizarraga attempted to point out in October, he is concerned about violating his duty as the presiding judge in the Galvan case to refrain from making public or semi-public declarations about the case.”
Jacqueline R. Habersham, executive director of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, told KTSM Lizarraga is not under investigation. But he is now part of a lawsuit, which will be open to the public.
Lizarraga authored an order declaring a mistrial in a case against Moises Galvan who allegedly shot and killed Rogelio “RJ” Franco, 22, and wounded David Ortega outside of the defunct BarFly bar in 2017.
He became aware of the complaints last year, and a few months later, alleged prosecutors committed a felony by witness tampering during the trial to new District Attorney Yvonne Rosales. He did not notify any law enforcement agency, according to a document from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Among the complaints against Lizarraga included allegations he showed bias against the prosecuting attorneys because of their sex.
“Specifically scoffing at them, rolling eyes at them; yelling at them; laughing at them; trying to embarrass them in front of the jury, talking down to them; demeaning them; implying they were dumb; and generally being disrespectful,” the complaints state.
The complaints go on to allege Lizarraga had an “improper” relationship with and bias toward defense attorneys for Moises Galvan. The complaint alleges Lizarraga appointed criminal defense attorney Francisco Macias to represent Galvan, in contravention of the El Paso District and County Court Indigent Defense Plan. And, allowed Macias to hire another attorney all paid by the county.
“By the conclusion of the Galvan case, Judge Lizarraga had approved court-appointed attorney’s fees for Macias and the other defense counsel far in excess of the standard, fair and reasonable fees for the payment of attorneys representing indigent defendants in El Paso County,” the complaints state.
“Failure to cooperate with the commission’s investigation”
On May 10, the commission notified Lizarraga about the allegations against him. The commission requested a response from Lizarraga by June 7.
On June 4, Lizarraga requested an extension of time to respond and then later asked for a live-hearing with the commission. He intended on “abating” the issue, according to a document from the commission on judicial conduct.
A live-hearing was held on October 27, where Lizarraga “refused to answer the commissioners’ questions concerning the substance of the complaints against him while the Galvan case was still pending in his court,” the document states.
“Judge Lizarraga absolutely denies any bias against the prosecution for any reason, but specifically because they were women,” Lizarraga stated to the commission. “He further denies the allegations of rolling his eyes, yelling, laughing, trying to embarrass them, talking down to them, demeaning them, implying they were dumb and generally being disrespectful.”
In an eight-page response, Lizarraga generally denied all the claims against him. And, said he responded appropriately to the commission when he was asked about the allegations.