Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo
IN THE MATTER OF THE MARRIAGE OF LEZLIE SUZANNE RAMSEY AND RAMSAY ALLEN RAMSEY
Appeal from the 361st District Court Brazos County, Texas
Trial Court No. 12-002915-CVD-361, Honorable Steven Lee
QUINN, C.J., and PIRTLE and PARKER, JJ.
C. PARKER JUSTICE
Ramsay Allen Ramsey appeals from a judgment in a divorce
action. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
Allen Ramsey and Lezlie Suzanne Ramsey were married in 1993
and had two children. In 2012, Lezlie filed a petition for
divorce. Ramsay counter-petitioned for divorce in April of
a jury trial from January 9 through January 13, 2017, the
trial court entered a final decree of divorce. Ramsay
perfected this appeal. He raises no complaints about the
granting of divorce or the division of property, but he seeks
a reversal of the judgment and remand for a new trial.
of Motion to Recuse
raises four issues by this appeal. In his first issue, he
asserts that the trial court abused its discretion in denying
his motion to recuse Judge Steven Smith.
18b of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a
judge must recuse in any proceeding in which the judge's
impartiality might reasonably be questioned or where the
judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning the subject
matter or a party. Tex.R.Civ.P. 18b(b)(1), (2). Recusal based
on an allegation of bias "is appropriate only
if the movant provides sufficient evidence to establish
that a reasonable person, knowing all the circumstances
involved, would harbor doubts as to the impartiality of the
judge." Abdygapparova v. State, 243 S.W.3d 191,
198 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2007, pet. ref'd). A denial of
a motion to recuse is reviewed for abuse of discretion on
appeal. Tex.R.Civ.P. 18a(j)(1)(A). "A trial court abuses
its discretion if it acts in an arbitrary or unreasonable
manner without reference to any guiding rules or
principles." Walker v. Gutierrez, 111 S.W.3d
56, 62 (Tex. 2003) (citing Downer v. Aquamarine
Operators, Inc., 701 S.W.2d 238, 241-42 (Tex. 1985)).
filed a motion to recuse Judge Smith on May 23, 2014. Ramsay
alleged that the judge's impartiality could reasonably be
questioned and that the judge could reasonably be perceived
to have a personal bias in favor of Lezlie and against
Ramsay. Judge Olen Underwood conducted a hearing on
Ramsay's motion. At the hearing, Ramsay presented
testimony from four witnesses regarding a phone call that
Judge Smith made to the intermediate school where one of the
witnesses worked as a teacher. Their testimony indicated that
Judge Smith called the school on May 21 and spoke with the
school's receptionist and the principal's secretary
about the teacher's need to attend a hearing on
Lezlie's Second Motion for Enforcement of Temporary
Orders with Contempt on May 23. The secretary testified that
Judge Smith told her that the teacher had to appear in court
on May 23 and that he would send a car from the court to the
school to get her if necessary. The secretary relayed the
message to the school's principal, who then discussed it
with the teacher. The teacher testified that she then called
both Lezlie's counsel and the court for clarification.
She explained that she had been subpoenaed to attend a
hearing on May 1, but that hearing was canceled so she did
not go to court that day. She did not receive any subsequent
subpoena or notice about a hearing on May 23 until Judge
Smith's call. She testified that she felt embarrassed and
harassed by the judge's call to her workplace.
Lezlie's counsel stated that she had "asked the
Court what to do procedurally when a witness doesn't show
up," but that she did not ask Judge Smith to do anything
himself. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Underwood
denied the motion to recuse.
appellate brief, Ramsay argues that Judge Smith's call to
a witness's workplace amounted to "climbing down
from the bench to assist [Lezlie]." He asserts that a
reasonable member of the public, knowing the facts of Judge
Smith's conduct, would question the judge's
impartiality. Therefore, he contends, Judge Underwood abused
his discretion in denying the motion to recuse.
may properly intervene in proceedings to maintain control and
promote the expedition of matters. See Food Source, Inc.
v. Zurich Ins. Co., 751 S.W.2d 596, 600 (Tex.
App.-Dallas 1988, writ denied). However, a judge should not
attempt to expedite matters by departing from accepted
procedures and personally interceding on behalf of a party.
See, e.g., In re Barr, 13 S.W.3d 525, 553 (Tex. Rev.
Trib. 1998) (op. on reh'g) ("We clearly, absolutely,
unequivocally, and unanimously condemn the use of self-help
or other personal intervention on the part of a judge in an
effort to enforce a judicial order when established judicial
remedies are available."). Moreover, a judge should be
fair and impartial and should not act as an advocate for or
adversary against any party. Metzger v. Sebek, 892
S.W.2d 20, 38 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1994, writ
denied); CNA Ins. Co. v. Scheffey, 828 S.W.2d 785,
792 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 1992, writ denied) ("Judicial
decisions rendered under circumstances that suggest bias,
prejudice or favoritism undermine the integrity of the
courts, breed skepticism and mistrust, and thwart the
principles on which the judicial system is based.").
case, Judge Smith's intervention in Lezlie's effort
to secure a witness's attendance at a hearing was
inappropriate and we do not condone such action. However, we
cannot say that this conduct reflects such a high degree of
favoritism that it necessarily would cause a reasonable
person to question the judge's impartiality. When
judicial conduct serves as the basis for a recusal motion,
the movant is required to show a "deep-seated favoritism
or antagonism that would make fair judgment impossible."
Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 555, 114
S.Ct. 1147, 127 L.Ed.2d 474 (1994). Ramsay does not identify
how Judge Smith's actions demonstrate such deep-seated
favoritism toward Lezlie, or antagonism toward him, that a
fair trial was impossible. Judge Smith's conduct, while
unquestionably imprudent, does not reflect the pervasive bias
that requires recusal. Accordingly, we conclude that Judge
Underwood did not abuse his discretion by denying
Ramsay's motion to recuse. Ramsay's first issue is