The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for Facebook posts advertising a school supply drive, soliciting donations for an individual, and advertising his donation of a rifle to a charitable raffle. Public Admonition of Metts (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct October 3, 2018). In response to the Commission , the judge said that a member of his judicial staff handles his Facebook page and other social media accounts, that many posts were made without his prior authorization, and that he is often unaware of what appeared on his Facebook page.
In July and August 2017, there were a number of posts on the judge’s Facebook page promoting “Judge James Metts and Constable Rowdy Hayden’s Annual School Supply Drive.” In the posts, the judge asked for donations of school supplies to benefit elementary school students in the county. He also welcomed cash donations in lieu of supplies, asking donors to make their checks payable to him personally. The posts advised that donations would be accepted at the court office and provided the court’s telephone number as the number for questions. Pictures of several donors appeared on the page, with posts thanking them individually by name.
In July 2017, a post appeared on the judge’s Facebook page that stated, “I’m Jamie, with Judge Metts’ office and I’m setting up this page at his request,” with a link to a gofundme.com account that she had established to raise funds to help a county resident repair his driveway. The post included a photograph of the judge working on the driveway.
In April 2017, the judge’s Facebook page reposted an article from the Montgomery County Police Reporter about his donation of an AR-15 rifle to raise funds for Project Graduation, a charitable organization that provides sober graduation parties. Included was a copy of the flyer advertising the raffle and stating, “AR-15 Raffle Ticket $10 . . . . Donated by Judge James Metts and Constable Rowdy Hayden.”
* * *
A 2-part article analyzing the advisory opinions and discipline decisions on social media and judicial ethics was published in the spring and summer 2017 issues of the Judicial Conduct Reporter. Part 1 was a general introduction to the topic and a discussion of issues related to judicial duties: “friending” attorneys, disqualification and disclosure, ex parte communications and independent investigations, and comments on pending cases. Part 2 covered off-bench conduct: conduct that undermines public confidence in the judiciary, commenting on issues, abusing the prestige of office, providing legal advice, disclosing non-public information, charitable activities, political activities, and campaign conduct. Summaries of advisory opinions and cases up-dating the 2-part article are available here.