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Stokes v. Corsbie

Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin

July 2, 2019

Brandi K Stokes, Appellant
v.
Christopher Corsbie, Appellee

          FROM THE 200TH DISTRICT COURT OF TRAVIS COUNTY NO. D-1-FM-10-003078, THE HONORABLE TIM SULAK, JUDGE PRESIDING

          Before Chief Justice Rose, Justices Kelly and Smith

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Chari L. Kelly, Justice

         Brandi K Stokes, a licensed attorney representing herself, appeals from the trial court's order modifying her parent-child relationship with her daughter, E.R.C. In her sole appellate issue, Stokes contends that the challenged order is void because the trial judge was constitutionally disqualified.[1] We will affirm the trial court's order.

         "The Texas Constitution provides that '[n]o judge shall sit in any case wherein the judge may be interested.'" Freedom Commc'ns, Inc. v. Coronado, 372 S.W.3d 621, 624 (Tex. 2012) (per curiam) (quoting Tex. Const. art. V, § 11). "A judge is 'interested' in a case-and thus disqualified under Article V, Section 11-if an order or judgment in the case will directly 'affect him to his personal or pecuniary loss or gain.'" Id. (quoting Elliott v. Scott, 25 S.W.2d 150, 152 (Tex. 1930)). "The interest must be direct and immediate, and not contingent, remote, or speculative." Roach v. Ingram, 557 S.W.3d 203, 215 (Tex. App-Houston [14th Dist] 2018, pet. denied). "Discretionary judicial acts by a disqualified judge are void." Coronado, 372 S.W.3d at 624. "Thus, the disqualification of a judge is a jurisdictional issue that cannot be waived." Id. "Whether a judge is disqualified is a question of law that we generally review de novo." Fuelberg v. State, 410 S.W.3d 498, 503 (Tex. App-Austin 2013, no pet.).

         Stokes argues that the trial judge was disqualified because of bribery:

The evidence of undisclosed payments of large sums of money (totaling $150, 000) by Mr. Corsbie to his attorneys during the underlying proceedings along with evidence of undisclosed involvement by Judge Tim Sulak in the pretrial proceedings from 2014 through July of 2015 is sufficient to conclude that the case is tainted by bribery. See Tx. Penal Code Sec. 36.02. At this juncture, no other plausible explanation exists for the ongoing abuses against Ms. Stokes by Judge Tim Sulak. The abuses are so egregious and so devastating to the welfare of the innocent child involved that significant criminal liability having been incurred by the judge presiding is the only explanation that makes sense.
Evidence of an undisclosed payment of a large sum of money brought to the attention of the judge and subsequently ignored is sufficient to support a finding that the judge is "interested" in the case, because a failure to investigate and remediate evidence of criminal activity affecting the proceedings brings upon the judge criminal liability in and of itself. Tx. Penal Code § 7.02(a). As such, Judge Sulak has incurred criminal liability for failing to investigate and remediate the undisclosed payments, even if the evidence is not sufficient to conclude that Judge Sulak personally received any of the undisclosed money.

         In connection with these allegations, Stokes asserts the following:

• "Ms. Stokes has lived for many years under the duress of death threats, rape threats, and pervasive harassment while being maligned mercilessly by Mr. Corsbie, his family, his legal team, and anyone else that Mr. Corsbie could corral to bully up on Ms. Stokes."
• "At the end of what has become a nearly ten-year ordeal, it is now clear that Mr. Corsbie sexually assaulted Ms. Stokes to impregnate her and then embarked upon a criminal course of conduct to gain control of the child."
• "Because of Mr. Corsbie's association with foreign nationals and because of Ms. Stokes' security clearance background, his conduct will eventually need to be investigated as a war crime in a different forum. Multiple appeals are currently pending in the federal court system that deal with the bulk of Mr. Corsbie's conduct."
• "At a pre-trial hearing on July 17, 2015, Judge Timothy Sulak suspended Appellant's due process rights and turned over summaries of Appellant's medical records . . . . Prior to this hearing, there was no indication that Judge Sulak was involved in the case, and Ms. Stokes did not receive any notice of assignment for this case in 2014 or 2015."
• "On July 21, 2015, Sam Bassett[2] requested $50, 000 in attorney's fees for his work ...

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