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Jefferson County Criminal District judge Layne Walker will not seek a third term

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BEAUMONT -

Sources have confirmed to 12News that Jefferson County 252nd Criminal District Court Judge Layne Walker will not seek a third term.

Walker has been in office since January 2003, and in recent years had been the center of some controversy, and faced several lawsuits.

Walker's decision comes on the eve of the filing deadline for the March primaries.  State records show that Walker had already filed as a Democrat with the office of the Texas Secretary of State.

Candidates have until Monday evening, December 9 to file as a candidate.

Walker comes from a Jefferson County political dynasty.  His grandfather, Ted Walker, and grandmother, Loretta Walker, served as county commissioners.

His father Ron Walker, served as a justice for the Ninth Court of Appeals, and then as Jefferson County Judge.

His uncle Ted Walker was at one point Jasper County district attorney.

Judge Layne Walker has faced criticism for his sentencings, specifically of black young men. 

In 2011, Houston's New Black Panther Party leader Quanell X circulated a petition asking for the removal of Walker from the bench, because of what Quanell X called "a pattern of giving African-Americans harsher punishments".

However, the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas issued a statement in support of the judge.

One of Walker's former political opponents and Port Arthur attorney Stella Morrison sued him earlier this year.

Morrison claimed she was a victim of a conspiracy subjecting her to "an ongoing pattern of harassment, retaliation, unconstitutional actions, grossly negligent conduct and intentional Texas torts."

She is asking for damages totaling $30 million.

It was in serving that lawsuit in May that civil process server Steve Hartman was arrested in Judge Walker's courtroom.

Hartman was charged with interrupting a court proceeding, but he recorded the incident with a pen camera.

The video contradicted statements made by attorneys, court officials and Walker's bailiffs, who are Jefferson County deputies.

One of those bailiffs, Sergeant Steve Broussard, admitted to taking the pen camera home and downloading the video before turning it into evidence.

Sheriff Mitch Woods recommended his termination, but Broussard ended up retiring.

Another deputy involved, Tony Barker, admitted lying in his statement, and he was suspended for five days.

Despite the deputies' admissions, charges against Hartman have not been dropped. 

At the time we contacted Judge Walker about the Hartman incident, he told us we needed to watch the entire video, not just a clip.

And just a few weeks ago, Judge Walker requested special prosecutor Shane Phelps to pursue an indictment against Hartman's employer, Philip Klein.

Klein is a private investigator and political blogger who has published critical reports on Walker.

In response to Walker's action, Klein last week filed suit against Walker claiming the judge had violated his first amendment rights.

Klein was also seeking an injunction to stop Walker and Phelps from pursuing the indictment, but the case is pending because District Judge Milton Shuffield is asking that a visiting judge to preside over the case.

Last week, Orange County court-at-law judge Troy Johnson ordered Walker's court reporter to turn over the audio recording of the proceedings when Hartman was arrested.

In response to Judge Walker's decision not to seek re-election, Klein said, "I wish Judge Walker the best in the private sector."

Stella Morrison told us, "It's in the citizens' of Jefferson County best interest that he has arrived at that decision.  Primarily because our courts need judges with integrity, which he does not have."

12News reporter Vanessa Holmes called Judge Walker for comment, but he loudly expressed his displeasure with 12News, and told her he was not going to talk about the matter.  He quickly hung up before any further questions could be asked.

Nederland attorney Carolyn Wiedenfeld has already said she's running for the seat as a Republican, and is scheduled to make an announcement Monday at the meeting of the Golden Triangle Republican Women.

Sunday morning, shortly after Walker's decision was made public, Beaumont attorney Raquel West announced she would run for the seat as a Democrat.

West is a native of Nome, and is currently a board member for the Hardin-Jefferson Independent School District.

After learning about Walker's decision, Port Arthur attorney Langston Adams told us he was considering running as well, as a Democrat.  He said he'd first talk to his family.

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