AUSTIN — The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct has issued a public admonition for retired 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart in connection with a felony case in Bowie County.
The admonishment involves Lockhart's decision to grant an early discharge from probation for Robert Lorance. Robert Lorance is a former Redwater, Texas, mayor who pleaded guilty in March 2009 to injury to a child with bodily injury by hitting, according to court records.
The case involves Lorance's adopted daughter, Tiffany Lorance, who claimed in 2004 that Lorance not only beat her but sexually abused her as well.
Robert Lorance continues to deny the sexual abuse allegations.
At the time of Tiffany Lorance's allegations in 2004, Lockhart served as the county's district attorney and the office initially investigated the case. In 2009, Lockhart recused the DA's office from the case, the same year Lorance pleaded guilty and received eight years deferred adjudication probation.
The felony conviction charge was removed from Lorance's record in 2014 when, as then-district judge, Lockhart granted Lorance an early discharge from probation
"The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct has determined that the Honorable Bobby Lockhart, retired judge of the 102nd Judicial District Court, Texarkana, Bowie County, Texas, should be publicly admonished for issuing a judicial order while disqualified from the case due to his involvement in the preparation and investigation of the case as a prosecutor in violation of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct," the commission's order states.
Lockhart is appealing the commission's ruling and said his research shows some case law is on his side and some is not.
"I have appealed the commission's decision and retained John Mercy (of Texarkana) to represent me in a hearing before a panel of three Court of Appeal justices," Lockhart said. "Of the thousands and thousands of criminal cases I've handled over my career as a police officer, district attorney and state judge, if this is all anyone can find I did wrong I'll go to my grave with peace of mind."
Tiffany Lorance's stepfather, Bobby Miller of Louisiana, filed the grievance that resulted in Lockhart's admonishment. Bobby Miller said he hopes the commission's decision will bring additional attention to the case as he maintains his hope that the sexual abuse allegations against Robert Lorance will be prosecuted.
"This public admonition has been a long time coming and we are obviously very pleased with it. However, our ultimate goal is justice for Tiffany. I have been writing letters for 16 years and have no plans to give up just yet," Bobby Miller said. "Our hope is that someone, somewhere in the Texas and/or Federal Justice System will say 'Hey, there sure is a lot of smoke around this case. Maybe just maybe, there is a fire.'"
Tiffany Lorance was 14 when her mother made a report with the Bowie County Sheriff's Office. Tiffany Lorance continues to maintain that the sexual abuse occurred.
Lockhart was serving as Bowie County district attorney when Robert Lorance's case was turned over from the sheriff's office in 2004. Court records show that Lockhart communicated with Tiffany Lorance's mother and stepfather and performed other pretrial work before stepping away from the case.
In 2009, Lockhart filed a motion to recuse the DA's office from the case, which formally transferred management of the prosecution to the Texas Attorney General.
Lockhart cited Robert Lorance's father's status as a former law enforcement officer as cause for the recusal.
In March 2009, Robert Lorance pleaded guilty to felony injury to a child and was sentenced by retired 102nd District Judge John Miller to an eight-year term of deferred adjudication probation. If an offender successfully completes a term of deferred adjudication probation, they do not have a final felony conviction on their criminal record.
Lockhart assumed the bench as 102nd District Judge on Jan. 1, 2011.
In February 2014, Lockhart granted a motion for early discharge from probation filed on Robert Lorance's behalf.
The commission's findings of fact in Lockhart's case notes that Lockhart participated in meetings with law enforcement, Child Protective Services, Children's Advocacy Center and communicated Tiffany Lorance's family. The commission ruled that Lockhart should not have signed off on Robert Lorance's early discharge as judge on the case because he was involved as a prosecutor from 2004 to 2009.