La Feria JP receives public state reprimand

LA FERIA — Following a year-long review of allegations, a public reprimand and order of additional education has been issued against Mike Trejo, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 5, Place 3 in La Feria.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct received complaints Trejo would recommend dismissal of traffic citations as favors for family, friends and other local residents. The commission issued its public reprimand order of additional education on April 26.

Trejo has denied the allegations. Following the reprimand, he released this statement about the allegations.

“I have never dismissed any tickets for any family members. I am not an attorney. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to rely on the County’s legal department,” Trejo stated.

“However, I remain dedicated to dispensing Justice in a fair and Equitable Manner and will comply with whatever procedures are decided upon by the proper authorities. I welcome the additional educational hours the Commission has recommended because I’m committed to being the best judge I can be for the people of Cameron County.”

Canon 2A of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct states, “A judge shall comply with the law” and Canon 3B (2), “a judge should be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence in it.”

Trejo must now obtain 20 hours of instruction with a mentor, aside from his required judicial education for fiscal year 2019.

The 20 hours should be completed within 90 days from the date notified.

Trejo must sign and return the Respondent Judge Survey indicating compliance. Failure to do so will result in further commission action.

Laura Sanchez and Xenaida Zavala, who are Trejo’s former clerks, made the complaint.

The Commission staff reviewed case files involving Felipe Alaniz, Diana Cecilia Ruiz and Joseph Palacios. The three are not identified in the order beyond their names.

After reviewing the case dismissals, the Commission performed a further investigation and interviewed Assistant District Attorneys Rene Garza and Alexandria Salas.

In a statement, Garza said “he never witnessed or participated in any disposition that was out of the ordinary or questionable.”

However, Salas submitted a statement where she testified “on one occasion (Judge Trejo) asked me if I would sign some dismissals for him for some friends or people he knew … I explained to him I wasn’t certain but he could talk to Mr. Garza about that… it was common knowledge that he would ask prosecutors to sign dismissals.”

In sworn written responses Trejo denied he dismissed citations for family and friends.

“All of these have been done based on the facts and circumstances of the specific matter before me and the particular merits and based upon appropriate matters of judicial discretion.”

During the investigation Precinct 5 Constable Eddie Solis testified as well.

“On at least three occasions in 2017, Judge Trejo contacted me by phone and requested that my office change particular traffic citations into warnings,” Solis stated.

Three of Trejo’s former court clerks also submitted statements confirming the allegations, according to the Commission’s order.

In his written responses, Trejo said he did not specifically recall a Ms. Salas or requesting Constable Solis to make any changes.

If he did, he said it would have only been done based on the merits of the individual matter and after considering the specific circumstances.

CASES DISMISSED

• June 8, 2007, Felipe Alaniz was cited for speeding. On Feb. 18, 2016, the State filed a motion to dismiss the case in the interest of justice

• May 20, 2012 Alaniz was cited for not wearing a seatbelt. Nov. 26, 2013 the State filed a motion to dismiss the case. Another unidentified charge was also dismissed the same day by Judge Trejo

• Aug. 21, 2012 Alaniz was cited for driving 77 mph in a 55 mph zone and for not having a valid inspection certificate. On Oct. 14, 2013 the State dismissed both charges in the interest of justice granted by Judge Trejo.

• On Oct. 11, 2012 Alaniz was cited for speeding again and on Nov. 13, 2013, the citation was dismissed.

• Jan. 26, 2016 Alaniz was cited for speeding again. The citation was dismissed March 14, 2016.

• May 8, 2017, Alaniz was cited for not wearing a seat belt again. Late June 2017, he pled no contest and received 15 days deferred adjudication. Aug. 17, 2017, Judge Trejo entered an order of dismissal.

• Nov. 27, Alaniz filed a petition for occupational driver’s license in Judge Trejo’s court. Two days later Judge Trejo granted Alaniz’s request

• Diana Cecilia Ruiz was cited for speeding Nov. 6, 2016, and on Dec. 8, 2016, citation was dismissed.

• Joseph Palacios was cited March 2017 for speeding and June 8, 2017, the case was dismissed and granted by Judge Trejo.

Source: Public Reprimand and Order of Additional Education