Lawsuit to remove county judge still in limbo

by Anita Miller

“Baseless” was the word a local attorney used to described a lawsuit filed last week attempting to remove Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra from office.

The suit was filed in 207th District Court Sept. 14 by Nathan Kaspar, a resident of Dripping Springs who is represented by Bud Wymore.

In addition to Becerra’s removal, the action asks that during litigation, he be replaced in his role leading the commissioners court.

“In conjunction with the General Counsel’s Office and the Texas Association of Counties, we will put together a team that will work to put this nonsense to rest so that Judge Becerra can continue his work on behalf of Hays County without these distractions,” Chevo Pastrano told the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch.

The suit, which also names District Attorney Wes Mau, alleges that although Becerra accepted a stipend of $25,000 in 2019 and 2020 in exchange for the performance of “judicial functions,” he did not actually perform any.
It includes a statement by Rene Garner, administrator for Hays County Courts at Law #1, #2 and #3. “In my position as administrator, I oversee and have knowledge of all dockets (civil and criminal),” Garner wrote in a declaration filed with the Hays County District Clerk. “Ruben Becerra has never presided over any docket at the Hays County Courts at Law level.”

To perform a “judicial function” in another court, Becerra would have to have coordinated with the county’s justices of the peace, or Ben Moore, the Hays County Criminal Associate Judge responsible for magistration of criminal defendants. The suit says there are no “records or documents reflecting such.

The stipend is available to county judges in Texas who file an affidavit with the judiciary section of the State Comptroller stating that at least 40 percent of the functions he or she performs are “judicial functions,” defined as “exercising criminal or civil jurisdiction as authorized by chapter 26 of the Government Code or sitting as a magistrate.”

In contrast, the lawsuit says Becerra’s predecessor as county judge, Bert Cobb, had an established record of performing “judicial functions”.

Civil jurisdiction would include probate matters and cases appealed from a Justice of the Peace court. The action says that there are “no records or documents” showing Becerra fulfilled any of those functions, nor did he sign or file criminal orders or perform magistration duties.

That omission amounts to criminal misconduct, the lawsuit claims, by violating the Texas Penal Code by falsifying records in applying for the additional salary and “making a record or document with knowledge of its falsity and with intent to affect the course or outcome of an official proceeding.”

Pastrano stopped short of calling the filing a political move, but noted that Wymore is currently general counsel for the Hays County Republican Party and had served as its chairman. Becerra is a Democrat.

“This is about fiscal responsibility, not politics,” said Kaspar, who earlier this year raised questions about the GOP candidate for State Representative District 45 Carrie Isaac, who defeated Wymore in the primary election.

“Both parties should be held to high standards of fiscal responsibility, and I don’t know any Republican or Democrat that could steal $50,000 from their employer and not get fired.” he said.

Kaspar said a sitting judge was assigned to hear the case after all of the county circuit judges recused themselves.

“We are waiting to get a hearing scheduled. We are waiting on a date,” Kaspar said.

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