Dallas Judge Who Resigned During Battle With Alcoholism, Depression Found Dead

By Britni de la Cretaz 06/20/17

His cause of death is currently unknown.

Judge holding gavel

David Lewis, a Dallas judge who resigned from the bench last year after his colleagues complained that he was unfit to serve, was found dead in his home last week. Lewis had struggled with alcoholism and depression, Dallas News reports.

According to reports, police went to his home to do a welfare check and found his body. A police spokesperson said there were no obvious signs of trauma and his cause of death is currently unknown.

Back in 2016, Dallas News reported that the State Commission on Judicial Conduct had planned to ask the Texas Supreme Court to remove Lewis from the 5th Court of Appeals, but he stepped down before he was removed.

Chief Justice Carolyn Wright notified the commission of Lewis' issues and filed a complaint. In her testimony to the commission, she said, "Justice Lewis is too impaired to read, comprehend, or articulate legal issues, and justice is not being served... [Lewis'] behavior has deteriorated to a point where it is hostile, unsafe, violates the oath of judicial office and the rules of judicial conduct and reflects negatively on the judiciary."

Other colleagues of Lewis told the commission that his behavior at work was "erratic, hostile and threatening,” and that his mood would change from "laughing and flippant to hostile, arrogant and seething,” according to Dallas News.

Similarly, earlier this year, a Louisiana judge was ordered to seek treatment for alcoholism after her behavior on the bench was flagged as odd and inappropriate. U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi, 58, was removed from a number of cases. She then moved into an assisted living facility specializing in “memory care” shortly after a criminal trial she was presiding over was cut short with little to no explanation.

Documents obtained by the Associated Press show that Minaldi was diagnosed with “alcohol use disorder” and “severe Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome,” a degenerative brain disorder linked to alcohol abuse. After moving to the assisted living facility, the documents say her condition was so severe that she was “unable to take care of her daily activities” and “unable to safely take care of her personal needs, financial matters, or her property matters.” Signs of trouble for Minaldi began in 2014 when she was arrested for a DUI.

Arthur Hellman is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and an expert in judicial ethics, who told the AP that the federal courts typically try to discreetly encourage judges to resign, as Lewis did, if they’re suffering from substance use disorder issues or other disabilities that could affect their duties. Hellman said that most of the time it is “a very effective process.”

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.