Former Judge, Colleague Receive Public Reprimand

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The final penalty for a former Brazos County Court at Law judge has come, more than a year after he was first punished.

Randy Michel has been ordered to pay $400 for attorneys' fees and expenses related to the State Bar of Texas' investigation.

In December of 2005 Michel pleaded guilty to abuse of official capacity.
He was ordered to pay $4,000 and a fine of more than $13,000 to be shared with colleague and lawyer Patricia Bonilla Harrison.

Michel and Harrison were accused of speaking behind closed doors about a case involving a 2002 car accident, a case Michel was behind the bench for, and that Harrison was an attorney for.

Harrison pleaded guilty to improper influence also in 2005, for accusations of having illegal conversations with Michel.
She has also received a public reprimand from the state bar and has also been ordered to pay $400.

T. Gerald Treece with the South Texas College of Law in Houston said the fee may be light, because the state bar did not have to do a lot of work.

He also said the reprimand could have been worse.

"The least punishment you can get is, assuming you are guilty and you are to be punished, is a private reprimand," Treece said. "The next step up is a public reprimand, together with discretionary costs of attorneys' fees and so forth. Above that you could have a suspension or a probated suspension so it's sort of in the middle range of both."

Treece went on to say that even though the fee may seem light, Michel did not get off easy.

"This person had a triple whammy, so I don't think anyone can say he got off of anything," Treece said. "He got hammered from every front possible."

Both Michel and Harrison have within 60 days of the signing of the judgment (October 17, 2006) to pay the amount.