Family court judges admonished after shackling attorneys and erupting in “fits of rage”.

Judge Clinton “Chip” Wells in the 312th Family District Court and Judge Barbara Stalder in the 280th Family Protective Order Court

According to documents at the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, Judge Barbara Stalder and Judge Clinton “Chip” Wells were reprimanded.

Judge Barbara Stalder in the 280th Family Protective Order Court was admonished for holding an attorney in contempt during a February 2020 hearing and ordering a bailiff to shackle him to a chair in the jury box. The next week Judge Stalder had another attorney shackled after she charged him with contempt.

Judge Clinton “Chip” Wells in the 312th Family District Court was admonished and required to undergo two hours of education on how to appropriately conduct himself for courtroom outbursts of anger aimed at lawyer Teresa Waldrop during an April 2019 divorce trial.

Wells acknowledged that his actions were wrong, but Stalder could not be reached to make a comment.

Judge Wells who is facing Waldrop in the Democratic runoff election said, “I made a mistake and I’m not hiding from that. My behavior was not acceptable”.

The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct said that that Stalder’s behavior casts “public discredit upon the judiciary and on the  administration of justice”.

Judge Stalder lost her primary bid in March after she threatened to hold lawyer Derrick Saulsberry in contempt for not answering questions about a conversation with a mother-in-law outside of the courtroom. Stalder then had the bailiff take Mr. Saulsberry into custody.

“The bailiff handcuffed Saulsberry to a chair, in full view of the courtroom — including his client. Judge Stalder continued the hearing and Saulsberry remained shackled for about 20 minutes. In a written response to the commission, Stalder confirmed that she told her bailiff to escort Saulsberry to the jury boxBut she “did not(?) deny that she ever asked him to take Mr. Saulsberry into custody or that Mr. Saulsberry in fact was shackled at any time,” reported the Houston Chronicle.

The investigating committee found that lawyer Samuel Milledge was shackled a week later in Stalder’s courtroom after words were exchanged with a court employee. “After Milledge was shackled in the jury box, Judge Stalder stated to him he would sit there and that she would address a contempt hearing on the matter after the remainder of her morning docket, the commission continued. A contempt hearing never happened”.

Milledge was let go only after calling his son, Samuel Milledge II, also a lawyer, to represent him. The son also exchanged words with the bailiff and “Judge Stalder called (Milledge’s son) back to the bench and told him to never step foot in her courtroom again.

The original story was reported in the Houston Chronicle, Harris County civil judges sanctioned for shackling lawyers, irate courtroom outbursts, by Nicole Hensley.

Minding Hearts is building advocacy and peer support groups in each state.  The groups are created to raise awareness, educate, and advocate for those that might not otherwise be heard. We are here for encouragement, education, and support. We cannot give legal advice, but we can try and direct you in the right direction with your case. Links to legal services are listed with their states. Please share and let’s grow our groups. We are here to support families and develop resources that maintain family integrity. We look forward to your support. If you would rather become active by donating, then visit the donation page.

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