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‘Hannibal Lecter’ Judge resigns from the [US] bench

gavel_articleBy John Council, From Texas Lawyer
A district court judge who was famously reprimanded after giving a “Hannibal Lecter” speech at a political function has resigned from the bench after jurors in his court alleged he improperly contacted them with campaign solicitation letters.
Michael Thomas Seiler, the now former judge of the 435th District Court in Montgomery County, was reprimanded by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct last year. Seiler was once responsible for hearing nearly all of the civil commitment proceedings for sexual violent predators in Texas.
At a political meeting, Seiler explained that he was the only judge in Texas who regularly deals with people who are “psychopaths” and displayed a photo of the fictional serial killer Hannibal Lecter. He also repeatedly threatened to throw criminal defense attorneys out of his courtroom, causing a rash of recusal motions to be granted against him. [See “Judge Reprimanded Over Comments to Lawyers, ‘Hannibal Lecter’ Speech at Political Function,” Texas Lawyer, May 4, 2015.]
In June, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law that took away the 435th District Court’s civil commitment responsibilities and Seiler was later assigned a felony docket. [See “County Votes to Keep Reprimanded Judge Going,” Texas Lawyer, Aug. 13, 2015.]
But Seiler landed in trouble again this year after the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office received complaints from former jurors in Seiler’s court alleging he used their confidential information to send them mailers about his re-election event.
“Our investigation revealed he had obtained juror information for all the jurors that had served in his court and sent out this literature,” said Joel Daniels, a Montgomery County prosecutor who handled the case against Seiler. “The evidence really suggests—and I’m careful here—suggests abuse of official capacity. That’s the statute that was in play.”
Daniels said Seiler agreed to resign from office and never run for a bench again in exchange for the DA’s Office dropping the criminal investigation.
“We reached a joint agreement in which the investigation would be dropped and no grand jury action would be taken if he would resign immediately,” Daniels said of Seiler. “He’s also signed a resignation in lieu of discipline with the Commission on Judicial Conduct. Once the commission accepts that resignation, that will disqualify him from ever serving as a judge in the State of Texas.”
George Parnham, a Houston attorney who represents Seiler, said the former judge officially resigned his bench in a Feb. 16 letter he sent to Gov. Greg Abbott.
“He has agreed to not ever again seek elected office,” Parnham said, who said Seiler denies any wrongdoing or that he broke any laws. “I know that this was extremely distracting to him. There’s an old adage that you can beat the rap but you can’t beat the ride. And going though this whole process would be too difficult for him. I think he did the right thing and I’m glad it’s over.””
Seiler did not return a call for comment.
While Seiler is now off the bench, his name will still remain on the March 1, 2016, Republican Primary Election ballot, Parnham said. Seiler faces two challengers in that election.
“He cannot take his name off the primary ballot,” Parnham said. “It’s really going to get interesting if he’s the winner of the primary.”
Image: Clipart

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