Conroe judge resigns, avoids prosecution over campaign flier to jurors

Chron – by Cindy Horswell

Facing possible prosecution over a campaign mailing sent to former jurors, Conroe judge Michael Seiler resigned his post Tuesday as part of an agreement with the district attorney’s office that will prevent him from serving as a judge in the future.

George Parnham, Seiler’s attorney, said the 435th District judge submitted his resignation to Gov. Greg Abbott late Tuesday morning.  

Judge Michael Seiler of the 435th District Court in Montgomery County resigned his post on Feb. 16, 2016. For years, Seiler presided over the sole court for all the state's civil commitment trials for sex offenders.

This photo is courtesy of the Montgomery County Website: / handout“He wanted to get on with his life and legal practice,” Parnham said of Seiler, who’d announced Friday he was ending his reelection bid. “He could not do his public duty because of all the distractions. He just wanted to get everything behind him.”

Montgomery County District Attorney Ligon issued a statement Tuesday that said Seiler had “agreed to resign from the bench and withdraw from his race for re-election in lieu of criminal prosecution.”

The district attorney’s office said in a statement that it had begun investigating complaints from former jurors about a campaign solicitation letter from Seiler. “Inappropriately obtaining juror information could be charged as the misdemeanor offense of Abuse of Official Capacity,” Ligon said.

Ligon said the resignation agreement prevents Seiler from ever seeking a judicial office in the future or sitting as a visiting judge. He will give up his salary and benefits and won’t qualify for a judicial pension.

“Given the need to promptly resolve this in a way that provides voters with clarity regarding Judge Seiler’s conduct, our office has agreed to forego further investigation and prosecution in exchange for the judge’s immediate resignation and disqualification from office,” Ligon said.

Seiler stands by his statement that he did nothing wrong with regard to the mailing to former jurors, Parnham said.

“Even though the State District Attorney’s office saw fit to conduct an investigation alleging abuse of juror information by the Judge, there has been no finding by any court or Grand Jury of any wrongdoing on the part of Judge Seiler…” Parham said in a statement. “The District Attorney’s Office closed its investigation and withdrew the matter from a grand jury consideration.”

Seiler had presided for years over Texas’ troubled civil commitment program for sex offenders. State lawmakers stripped him of sole authority over the program last year, after a state judicial commission reprimanded him for courtroom antics that had provoked repeated accusations of bias.

He was to face Patty Maginnis, a former prosecutor, and Tom Brewer, a state counsel for indigent offenders, in the March 1 GOP primary.

The judge’s dizzying fall comes after a former juror in Seiler’s court filed a complaint with the state judicial commission alleging that he had improperly used her personal information for campaign purposes.

Seiler spent 14 years as a prosecutor before his appointment to the bench by Gov. Rick Perry in 2008.

Seiler’s appointment came after the Legislature changed the law to allow one court to handle all sex-offender civil commitment cases.

Created by the Legislature in 1999, Texas’ program was designed to provide outpatient treatment for violent repeat sex offenders who completed their prison sentences but were deemed to have a behavioral abnormality that identified them as a continuing threat to the community.

A yearlong series of stories by the Houston Chronicle revealed that virtually none of the more than 350 men ordered into the program by the courts had completed treatment and been released. Nearly half had been sent back to prison – some for life – for violating rules, including those as simple as being late for group therapy or failing to recharge ankle monitors properly.

While the courts have upheld civil commitment programs for sex offenders, legal experts and critics had said Texas’ questionable treatment and frequent use of prison time to punish rule-breakers could violate constitutional standards. Texas is the only state with a civil commitment program that imposes such criminal penalties.

Last year, as part of sweeping reforms made in an attempt to right the program, lawmakers changed the law so that commitment hearings would be assigned to judges in each sex offender’s home county instead of all being funneled through Seiler’s court.

2 thoughts on “Conroe judge resigns, avoids prosecution over campaign flier to jurors

  1. So a judge is allowed to resign for mailing confidential jurors campaign crap. Their names and addresses etc. are SUPPOSED to be confidential!

    But a judge is allowed to thumb his nose at the law and send jurors campaign BS? How corrupt is our judicial system?

    Too bad he didn’t send jurors flyers informing them of their rights, he’d have been arrested!

    “I was speechless:” Man charged with felony for passing out jury rights fliers in front of courthouse:

    Denver DA charges man with tampering for handing out jury nullification flyers:

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