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The Police News
Judge disqualified from Santa Fe shooting case
Galveson, TX



Administrative Judge Susan Brown announced Monday that Judge Jeth Jones of the 122nd District Court will be disqualified from the case against accused Santa Fe High School shooter Dimitrios Pagourtzis.


Brown’s decision comes after a motion filed April 3 by defense attorney Nicholas Poehl called for Jones’ disqualification based on a previous relationship with an attorney who had been briefly involved in Pagourtzis’ defense.


Poehl also filed a motion for recusal March 14, because Jones attempted to have Dr. Joseph Penn of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston’s Correctional Managed Care program perform a new competency exam on Pagourtzis, which Attorney General Ken Paxton barred him from doing.


“We are pleased with this outcome, but not at all surprised,” Poehl said. “It was crystal clear to us that he should be disqualified. Actions by Jones will be voided and we will need Pagourtzis to have his order redone.”


Houston psychologist Karen Gollaher ruled Pagourtzis incompetent four years ago when he was sent to a state mental hospital, Poehl said.


Pagourtzis was recommitted four times since then.


A meeting was held Jan. 26 among the defense team, District Attorney Jack Roady, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Petroff and Jones, according to Poehl’s court filings. Jones said he would sign a recommitment order and appoint an independent expert to re-evaluate Pagourtzis, according to the lawsuit.


Poehl told Jones it was unlikely Pagourtzis would ever be declared competent if he was not restored to competency within about 18 months of commitment and treatment, according to the lawsuit.


Jones told Poehl he was wrong and that Pagourtzis would be declared competent, according to the lawsuit.


The court signed documents Feb. 1 declaring Pagourtzis mentally ill, likely to cause harm to others and suffering from mental, emotional and physical distress and that this would continue for more than 90 days, according to the lawsuit.


Poehl’s motion for recusal argued that Jones should be removed because he was in legal practice with Jared Robinson, who’s now judge of the 405th District Court, according to the motion.


Poehl, Robinson and attorney Robert Barfield spoke to and provided legal advice to Pagourtzis on May 18, 2018, the day of the shooting, which created an attorney-client relationship, according to the motion.


Robinson at the time was in practice with Jones through the firm Jones Robinson LLP, according to the motion. Robinson and Jones discontinued their association two days later, according to the motion.


“Although Robinson was briefly on the team and in a limited capacity, Jones is still considered a part of that group,” Poehl said. “Jones and Robinson are the same person for these purposes.”


Under Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, a judge must be disqualified from any proceeding in which the judge has served as a lawyer in the matter in controversy, or a lawyer with whom the judge previously practiced law served during such association as a lawyer concerning the matter.


Judicial disqualification must meet two prongs: The judge or the judge’s firm was the attorney for the party in the case, and the matter before the judge is the same matter that was before the judge or judge’s law firm.


The case is set to be moved to the 56th District Court with Judge Lonnie Cox presiding.