Texas Chief Seeks Recusal of Judge in Union Theft Case

A Texas fire chief accused of stealing $8,000 from a union fund, is seeking to have a judge disqualified from ruling on his motion to suppress evidence obtained during a search of his house.

Former Brownsville fire chief Carlos Elizondo is seeking to have District Judge Elia Cornejo-Lopez recused from hearing a challenge to the warrants that she approved that led to his arrest and indictment. Chief Elizondo is accused of making unauthorized ATM withdrawals from the Brownsville Firefighters Association Political Action Committee.

The problem is Judge Cornejo-Lopez is suing the Brownsville Independent School District in federal court accusing administrators and trustees with mistreating her children and retaliating against them after she filed her grievance against the district. Chief Elizondo serves as one of those trustees.

The Valley Morning Star quoted from Chief Elizondo’s motion to recuse as follows:

  • It is Mr. Elizondo’s constitutional right to challenge the search warrant signed by Judge Cornejo Lopez.
  • However, as [Elizondo] is a BISD trustee, his actions as a trustee are a subject of the judge’s pending federal civil suit while she presides over his request.
  • Furthermore, the fact that Defendant had personally opposed the Judge’s request to his Board was made public a month before Judge Cornejo Lopez signed his arrest and search warrants.

Chief Elizondo has been demoted to lieutenant and placed on paid administrative leave. More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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