The Commerce Journal

January 13, 2014

District judge voluntarily recuses himself from county jail lawsuit

By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — In a letter to attorneys representing plaintiffs and defendants in a civil lawsuit regarding the Hunt County Jail’s construction, 196th District Judge Steve Tittle announced he was recusing himself from the case.

“After this Court denied the second motion for continuance in this case, and maintained the May trial setting, the Court began searching for proper accommodations to conduct a several week jury trial that will involve approximately twenty attorneys and their clients while still properly administering the Court’s heavy docket over the next few months,” Tittle stated in his announcement.

According to       Tittle, he requested that the case be assigned to another judge in December.

“While finalizing the details for the assignment, the Court received the motion to recuse filed yesterday,” the announcement read.

Tittle denied the allegations of former 196th District Court reporter Kelly Bryant, whose affidavit was used as the grounds for the motion to recuse filed yesterday. Tittle noted that Bryant had been fired by the court.

“The court does find that since the Court was already transferring the case, there is no harm to any party for the Court to voluntarily recuse itself and continue its request that the First Administrative Region Judge proceed to make an assignment of the case,” the announcement read.

First Administrative Region Judge Mary Murphy will now appoint another judge from the region to hear the case.

Attorneys representing Hunt County filed a motion to recuse Monday with the Hunt County District Clerk.

According to the motion, the attorneys received information indicating that the “impartiality of Judge Tittle might reasonably be questioned.”

Bryant signed an affidavit alleging that Tittle told her “The (Hunt County) Commissioners are too stupid to understand they have a big lawsuit pending in my court, and they will pay one way or the other.”

Hunt County formally filed suit against two Fort Worth firms in January 2009, accusing the engineers and architects behind the construction of the jail of failing to adhere to warnings the structure was being built on unstable soil.

The building has reportedly experienced numerous problems with cracks in the walls and other damage since shortly after it opened.

The county was originally seeking up to $10 million in damages.