Telling a political opponent to go, uh, have sex with oneself isn’t unheard of, but it is somewhat surprising coming from a judge.
That’s just one of the things the State Commission on Judicial Conduct noted in its recent public warning prescribed to Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Jacquelyn Wright.
Wright, who’s held her current position since 1991, will accept the warning without challenge. The commission also ordered Wright to receive three hours of additional judicial training.
“They gave me the option of challenging the complaint or acknowledging the warning of the commission,” Wright said. “I don’t necessarily agree with the commission, but I see their point. It would cost me a great deal of money and more of my time to challenge the complaint. I’d have to hire an attorney and go to Austin, and I have chosen the more logical of the options.”
The Weekly asked Wright why she didn’t contest the commission’s ruling since she disagreed with it. The judge said she had nothing more to say for this article.
Wright earns more than $100,000 a year in salary, but in 2013 she filed for bankruptcy. A local couple sued Wright in 2012 (“Side Gavel,” Oct. 31, 2012), saying she had leased them a house with an option to buy, although she didn’t have clear title to the property. After the bank foreclosed on the property, Ginger and Richard Moore were forced to move out. They demanded $85,000 in reimbursement. State District Judge Wade Birdwell ruled in February 2011 that Wright had violated the property code by failing to provide written disclosures to the Moores regarding a Bank of Texas lien on the property and by failing to obtain the bank’s consent before entering into a sales contract.
Ginger said she’s received less than 10 percent of the debt, doled out to her in small checks over the past few years through the bankruptcy court.
“It’s pocket change compared to what she owed us,” Ginger said.
During an interview with Fort Worth Weekly a couple of years ago, Wright asked the paper to refrain from writing about her situation with the Moores. She worried the story might hurt her chance at re-election in 2014. She needed another year on the bench to qualify for a full pension, she said.
The Weekly wrote the story anyway. The judicial commission included the Weekly story as part of its evidence against Wright.
During her Republican primary re-election campaign, Wright drew a challenger. Vickie L. Phillips complained to Tarrant County GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Hall that Wright shouldn’t be eligible to run because the judge hadn’t listed herself as a Republican on her candidate petition and also fell short of valid signatures. Hall revoked Wright’s petition. Wright sued Hall.
After correcting her petition, Wright was allowed on the ballot.
However, Wright sent a letter to Hall on Dec. 13, 2013, suggesting a “win-win solution” for Wright, Phillips, and the Republican party.
“At the end of this term, I will have completed 24 years,” Wright wrote. “I must have 25 in order to get to full retirment [sic]. So I will fight like the dickens to get there. I must get sworn in January 2015 in order to qualify for the 25 years and full retirement. That doesn’t mean I must fulfill the next term of office.”
Wright would serve a year of her four-year-term, and then she would step down and endorse Phillips as her replacement. This would qualify Wright for full pension, build name recognition for Phillips, and spare the GOP party the controversy of mudslinging candidates.
“The party suffers not,” Wright wrote to Hall. “I will endorse her for appointment in the unfullfilled [sic] term. I will support her in any future elections.”
Wright also refers to criminal problems with Phillips.
“I will make sure her brushes with the law are not an issue, ever,” Wright wrote.
Phillips has no criminal record. She and her husband once appeared in court after a dispute with a neighbor, but they weren’t charged. Phillips said she had no idea what Wright is talking about.
“I haven’t gotten as much as a speeding ticket in the last 25 years,” Phillips said.
Rather than pass along Wright’s proposal to Phillips, Hall instead forwarded it to the Office of the Secretary of State. A resident got a copy of the complaint and published it on her Facebook page along with the message: “I have never seen or heard of such a blatant attempt at bribery and coercion aimed at circumventing the will of the voters who expect their officeholders to actually hold and keep the office they get elected to. If you’re trying to get elected just so you can get your … pension and walk away, you don’t deserve to win in the first place.”
The voting results were leaning in Wright’s favor during the March 4 election when the judge posted a statement on Phillips’ Facebook page: “Thank you god for keeping me right where you think I should be … and to my opponent … here’s an Italian wish … ‘bafongoo’ and that’s accompanied by a flick of the wrist under the chin. My spelling is phoenic [sic], I’ll let you figure out what that means.”
Wright would later tell the commission that “bafongoo” and the chin gesture mean “go jump in the mud.” The phrase, Wright said, was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the mudslinging during the campaign.
A little online research, however, shows that bafongoo is commonly regarded as Italian slang for “fuck off” or “go fuck yourself.”
“As a citizen, I’m deeply troubled that the sitting judge behaved this way,” Phillips said. “I have questions about Judge Wright’s temperament and ability to do her job. As a candidate, it was unfortunate to run against someone who displayed such unethical behavior and to see her rewarded with a victory at the polls for her behavior.”
Wright’s term ends in 2018, when Phillips plans to try and oust the judge again.
At least one other person hopes to keep Wright from being re-elected –– Ginger Moore. She and her late husband, Richard, fought Wright for reimbursement on a housing deal gone bad but were never paid. Richard died of heart problems not long after the dispute. Ginger has no intention of backing off.
“I promised [Richard] that if there was anything I could do to keep her off the bench, I would do it,” Ginger said.
Ginger considers the commission’s public warning too little too late.
“She is getting her hand spanked,” Ginger said. “It’s not strict enough. I still feel like she needs to be removed.”