U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr., who was reprimanded and sanctioned for inappropriate sexual conduct with a former court clerk, likely will run out of criminal cases and should have fewer than 100 civil cases remaining on his docket by the end of August, federal records show.
Smith’s docket is dwindling despite the fact that the beleaguered federal judge has scheduled cases in his Waco courtroom just one day a week for the past month and two days a week for several months before that.
The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judicial Council reprimanded Smith in December 2015 for groping a court clerk in his office in 1998 and trying to mislead investigators about the incident.
The council stripped him from hearing new cases for a year and ordered him to undergo sensitivity training after determining he failed to grasp the seriousness of the allegations.
While Smith continues to draw his annual salary of $203,100, federal Western District of Texas officials have assigned new cases filed in Waco’s federal court to U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, who is known throughout the district as the “I-35 judge” because he also hears cases in Austin and San Antonio.
Smith, 75, who has been a federal judge since 1984, declined comment Tuesday through a court employee.
Smith’s other responsibilities with new cases have been handled by U.S. Magistrate Jeffrey Manske and former U.S. Magistrate Dennis Green, who was called out of retirement to help fill the void left by Smith.
According to Western District reports, Smith had 157 civil cases and 18 criminal cases with 21 defendants pending at the beginning of June. He disposed of 28 civil cases in June and closed out four criminal cases with a total of four defendants.
Smith began May with 179 civil cases and 20 criminal cases with a total of 22 defendants. That month, he disposed of 22 civil cases and two criminal cases with one defendant each, according to federal records.
Court records show that Smith has presided over three criminal trials and three civil trials since January and has two criminal trials set in August and three civil trials set in September.
On average, each of the 19 U.S. district judges in the Western District, which includes Waco, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, Midland-Odessa, Pecos and Del Rio, disposed of 21 civil cases and 31 criminal cases in May and 17 civil cases and 44 criminal cases in June.
Smith was reprimanded based on a complaint filed against him by former Dallas attorney Ty Clevenger, who now lives in New York.
Not satisfied with the penalties imposed on Smith, Clevenger appealed the council’s decision in January and called on the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability of the Judicial Conference of the United States to review the case and recommend impeachment of Smith.
“If I ever get in trouble, I hope the federal government will pay me $200,000 a year to do nothing,” Clevenger said.
Two weeks ago, the judicial conduct committee remanded the case back to the 5th Circuit judicial council for further review, saying the council failed to adequately address all of Clevenger’s allegations, including claims that Smith made improper sexual advances to other women in his chambers.
That renewed investigation is ongoing.
“I know from talking with retired law enforcement officers in Waco that the deputy marshals and federal agents can’t stand Judge Smith, and for good reason,” Clevenger said Tuesday. “Judge Smith knows he is above the law, and he acts accordingly. How many deputy marshals or FBI agents have been found responsible for sexual misconduct and then paid almost $17,000 per month to take an extended vacation?”
The committee remanded the case to the 5th Circuit council with orders to “undertake additional investigation and make additional findings where appropriate and reconsider the appropriate sanction if there are additional findings.”