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Visiting judge presides over ‘show cause’ hearing: County judge seeking appointment of attorney to prosecute contempt charge against county attorney
by Joe Baker
Sep 20, 2012 | 1205 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KARNES CITY – Visiting District Judge Dick Alcala presided over Karnes County Court on Sept. 13 to consider an order to show cause issued by County Judge Barbara Shaw that was served on County Attorney Robert Busselman.

Busselman was represented by Assistant County Attorney Betty Yarter in his appearance before Judge Alcala.

Judge Shaw was also present at the hearing before Judge Alcala.

After reviewing documents related to the matter, Alcala asked for a broader explanation of the circumstances.

Betty Yarter explained that a trial was set for Sept. 5 – two criminal cases that had been rescheduled from June 6. Yarter explained the show cause order was issued to Busselman for failing to appear in court on that date.

“That makes it constructive contempt, by which he would be entitled to counsel – the requirement is to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt,” Yarter said. “No order was attached, which he accused him of violating, and the transcript of the oral – alleged order...”

“You are going to have to give me a little bit more background about what is really going on here please,” Alcala said to Yarter.

“Well we have an allegation that the county attorney has contemptuously refused to show up for trial,” Yarter said. “The punitive measure of the complaint states that he is to be held in contempt if he doesn’t have sufficient reason for why he wasn’t present, and jailed or fined.”

County Judge Barbara Shaw also told Alcala about the circumstances that led up to the show cause order. Shaw said Busselman agreed to appear in court for the jury trial on Sept. 5, but no one from his office appeared in court on that date and as a result the cases had to be dismissed.

“That’s why we are here today, because I want to know why no one showed up,” Shaw said.

“Doesn’t this render this all moot, then?” Alcala asked. “Since you dismissed the cases?”

“My concern is why I’m not having anybody show up,” Shaw said. “That was my concern. That was my only concern here because I had 50 jurors and taxpayer money out and county money out and all I want to know is what I need to do because I can’t keep getting in this same situation, your honor.”

“Did you hold him in contempt at that time?” Alcala asked.

“I filed the show cause order later – no, I did not,” Shaw said.

Alcala explained that normally in contempt matters, where a judge holds someone in contempt, someone has to be appointed to hear it and then evidence is heard such as transcripts or live testimony.

“I have the alleged contemner here, but I don’t have anyone to prosecute it,” Alcala said. “Normally an attorney is appointed to present evidence, so we are not at that point.”

“The only thing I can do, judge – I guess what I am trying to avoid here, but I can do, I can appoint an attorney to prosecute this case, if necessary,” Shaw said.

“Well, I think that is what the law requires,” Alcala said. “We need to reset this until such time as someone is appointed to do that. The presiding judge of the region, I think, is the only person who has the authority to do that, and that is Judge Peeples.”

Betty Yarter asked if the court should stand in recess until such time as Judge Peeples is contacted to proceed with the appointment of a prosecutor.

Alcala agreed.

“We’re in recess until such time as an attorney is appointed to prosecute this contempt matter,” Alcala said.
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