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Judge Walker leaves bench early - 12 News KBMT and K-JAC. News, Weather and Sports for SE Texas

Judge Walker leaves bench early

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BEAUMONT -

Today was the last day on the bench for Jefferson County 252nd Criminal District Court Judge Layne Walker.

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

He announced that he would not seek re-election on the eve of the filing deadline for the March primaries, but he was expected to finish out this term.

Judge Walker has faced criticism for his sentencing, specifically of black young men. He's also been involved in several controversial lawsuits.

Walker said his leaving has nothing to do with any complaints against him.

"I chose today because I'm losing money for every day I stay on the bench," Walker said. "I've started my new endeavor and this was best for my family and me... today is as good of a day as any."

County Judge Jeff Branick said a request was made to presiding District Judge Olen Underwood to appoint a visiting judge to take over Walker's docket, but Governor Rick Perry will make the final appointment, which can take anywhere from two weeks to three months.

"During the general election in November a new judge will be elected to take over," Branick said. "The replacement that the governor puts on the bench will serve until the next general election."

He also said whether the staff members in that court remain there, is up to the new judge.

"Certainly we always think its best that those people familiar with the docket should stay in place but that's a decision that the judge has to make," Branick said.

Some of Judge Walkers staff members said they had no idea today was his last day. They also said they aren't at liberty to talk about anything concerning the judge's resignation.

Walker said his new endeavor is to open his own law firm. He said he would like to serve the people of Jefferson County by helping instead of judging for a while.

Several democrats plan to run for the empty seat, including Beaumont attorney Raquel West as well as Port Arthur attorneys Nathan Reynolds and Stella Morrison.

Morrison was arrested Monday afternoon on a charge of public intoxication and resisting arrest. She has also filed a lawsuit against Walker, on a claim that her civil rights were violated.

The only republican running for the seat is Nederland attorney Carolyn Wiedenfeld.

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