Embattled judge in Bexar County stripped of all court cases
Already under fire after her court reporter filed a complaint against her this week and abruptly quit, County Court-at-Law No. 2 Judge Grace M. Uzomba has been stripped of her court cases by an administrative judge.
A memo by Judge John Longoria, dated Thursday and addressed to all 15 county courts-at-law judges, alleged a “serious and egregious lack of attention” by Uzomba regarding pretrial violation reports, probation matters, family violence cases and other misdemeanors.
The county courts handle misdemeanor cases. Uzomba lost a bid for reelection in the March 1 Democratic primary but her successorwon’t be elected until November, to take office Jan. 1.
In the memo, Longoria said more than 1,700 cases in her court are without current settings.
“As judges, we have an obligation to this community to ensure that justice is served, not only for the victims, but also for the defendants, who have a right to have their cases heard and to get their day in court,” he wrote.
Uzomba did not immediately return a text message and a call to her cellphone Thursday afternoon.
Reached via text on Thursday, Senior District Judge Sid Harle, who oversees a multi-county administrative judicial region and has been a jurist in Bexar County for more than three decades, said he had never seen this type of action taken against a judge here.
Invoking his authority as administrative judge, Longoria ordered 177 pending family violence cases on Uzomba’s docket be “immediately” distributed among county courts-at-law Nos. 7, 8, 11 and 13; and sent the approximately 1,656 cases he says are without current settings to courts-at-law Nos. 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11,12, 14, and 15, amounting to about 166 cases per court.
He also ordered that Uzomba’s court be removed from the arraignment rotation for the criminal courts “as soon as possible.” He added that any outstanding civil matters requiring signature that were sent to her court would be distributed to county courts-at-law Nos. 3 and 10, equally.
Longoria declined to provide a copy of the memo, which the Express-News obtained from a courthouse source.
It came days after Uzomba’s court reporter filed a complaint with courthouse security, alleging that the judge prevented the employee from leaving an office while she scolded her.
On Monday, court reporter Veronica Velez filed a complaint with a Bexar County sheriff’s deputy accusing Uzomba of cornering Velez in her office, blocking the entrance and belittling her because Velez had resigned effective immediately to take another job.
The officer’s report called it a verbal disagreement. Uzomba on Tuesday said that “no sort of altercation occurred.”
Courthouse sources have long said Uzomba was hard to work with and has had three or four court coordinators and about as many court reporters. A retired U.S. Army major, she was elected in 2018.
Court coordinators and court reporters work directly for the judges. Most stay until they or the judge retires, or the judge is voted out of office.
When asked Tuesday about the rumors of staffing issues, Uzomba spoke about her work ethic: “I stay late, I come in early.”
“As far as staff, staff has come and gone,” she said. “They come and go and seek what is in their best interest, or they may not be performing. If they aren’t meeting expectations, that is an issue as well.”
In February 2020, Uzomba clashed with Bexar County Clerk Lucy Adame-Clark, who pulled her deputy clerks and all of the case files from the court and alleged that Uzomba was mistreating the employees and not handling files correctly.
The issue was resolved days later, Longoria said at the time.
Reached Thursday, Longoria said his action removing Uzomba’s court cases was “separate and apart” from the complaint filed earlier this week by her court reporter.
“This is a caseload issue,” he said, adding that his decision to remove the cases from Uzomba came “with significant support from all judges.”
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