Justice of the Peace Jacquelyn Wright is like the bad gift that keeps being re-gifted – a stale fruitcake in the local judicial system, re-elected time and again despite her seemingly best efforts to sledgehammer her career. Since 1991, she has been presiding over administrative hearings and civil and criminal cases for Precinct 4, an area that includes portions of 15 municipalities and 10 school districts in Northwest Tarrant County. And in that time, she has also managed to take money unfairly from a couple in a personal house sale, sue the Tarrant County Republican Party, be sanctioned by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct for a quid pro quo offer to a political opponent, call a political opponent an obscene word on Facebook, and file for personal bankruptcy.
Her latest curious action was to stop processing documents for the Lake Worth Police Department. Typically, justices of the peace sign off on warrants, allowing them to be served by police. But Lake Worth’s police chief said Wright put an end to that practice after Detective Christopher Gregory announced plans to run for justice of the peace in 2018.
Police Chief Jimmy Womack said Wright has not signed any warrants for Lake Worth cops in a couple of months.
“She felt like there was a conflict of interest between her office and the candidacy of one of our officers,” Womack said. “I don’t agree with it.”
The police department on Adam Grubb Street is across from the county sub-courthouse where Wright pounds her gavel. Getting the judge to sign off on warrants was as easy as taking a short stroll across the street, Womack said.
Now police are driving more than an hour round-trip to a Benbrook sub-courthouse to get warrants signed by another justice of the peace.
Womack said he has discussed the situation with Wright on two occasions since February, but the judge won’t budge. Her reasoning regarding a conflict of interest with the detective made little sense to Womack, who characterized Wright’s explanation as “convoluted.”
A couple of weeks ago, I called Wright to discuss her alleged refusal to sign warrants for Lake Worth cops. The clerk who answered the phone said the judge would call me back. She didn’t. I called again. The judge, speaking through an assistant, said she had sent me an email saying that she was not refusing to sign warrants.
I have no record of receiving such an email and asked the clerk to ask Wright to re-send it or to give me a call. Instead, the clerk read the email to me over the phone earlier this week. Here is what Wright had written: “I got a message from one of my clerks that you wanted to talk to me about my not signing papers for the city of Lake Worth. That’s not true. You do know, don’t you, that the city of Lake Worth has their own court, judge, and magistrate? I don’t work for the city of Lake Worth. I adjudicate for county and state offices.”
I was confused. I had asked if she was refusing to sign warrants as alleged by the chief and others. She responded with “that’s not true” but then followed by saying that Lake Worth had their own judge and that Wright judicates for the county and state.
Was she signing warrants or not?
I asked to speak with Wright for clarification. The judge did not return the call or provide further clarification via email.
For years, Womack said, Wright has signed warrants on a weekly basis for Lake Worth police but has not signed any since the detective announced his intention to seek election. Lake Worth’s magistrate is contracted by the city to work one day a month, which is too long to wait for warrants to be signed, Womack said.
Charity DeVille has also announced her intention to run against Wright in 2018. DeVille, a paralegal and stepdaughter of former Precinct 4 Constable Dub Bransom, described Wright’s refusal to sign warrants as “an injustice.”