A.C. Cuellar’s attorney moves to have judge recused

The attorney representing former Precinct 1 Hidalgo County Commissioner Arturo “A.C.” Cuellar Jr. filed a motion seeking the recusal of the federal judge presiding over the case in which Cuellar faces charges of bribery, money laundering and wire fraud.

Carlos A. Garcia, Cuellar’s attorney, laid out an argument for why U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez should recuse herself from the case based on a lawsuit Alvarez filed against one of Cuellar’s companies in 2015.

That lawsuit, filed in Hidalgo County Court-at-Law No. 5, was the result of a car accident on Jan. 29, 2015 involving Alvarez and J-III Trucking Company.

On March 16, 2015, Alvarez made a demand against the insurance carrier hired and paid for by Cuellar, according to the motion, seeking the policy limit or $500,000, whichever was greater. At the time, the policy limit was $1 million.

Then, April 8, 2015, she filed the lawsuit against J-III seeking damages.

Almost a year later, on March 3, 2016, the parties filed a letter announcing they had reached a settlement and on March 21, Alvarez signed an agreement through which she received $60,000.

Cuellar is now one of six defendants accused of taking part in a bribery scheme to involving Weslaco city commissioners and the construction of the city’s water treatment facilities.

In making the case that Alvarez should recuse herself from the presiding over the federal case against Cuellar, Garcia — Cuellar’s attorney — notes in the motion that Alvarez had previously transferred a case involving Cuellar from her court in the past.

That case, Gregorio Trevino Jr. vs. Hidalgo County listed Cuellar as a defendant in his official capacity as he was a county commissioner at the time.

Though it is unclear why Alvarez transferred that case out of her court, at that time — on March 1, 2016 — her lawsuit against Cuellar was still pending at the county court-at-law. Garcia’s motion argues that the stain of partiality wasn’t washed away just because that lawsuit is now settled.

The motion also states that the Code of Conduct for United States Judges states that a judge should avoid impropriety or the appearance of that and that a judge should be disqualified in situations where his or her impartiality might reasonably be questioned.

“ In this case, the Court has a conflict of interest or at a minimum the appearance of partiality,” the motion stated.

“ Eventually, this case will head to a Jury where a Court will be called to make rulings of law,” the motion further stated. “Based on the circumstances of these facts and the law as applied to them, there is no other alternative but for this Court to recuse itself and allow for the normal course of reassignment of the cause at the bar in its entirety.”

The motion states the attorney representing the government in the federal bribery case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Northstein, is opposed to the motion while attorneys for the other defendants were unopposed.