The State Commission of Judicial Conduct issued a public warning to Kleberg County Judge Rudy Madrid on April 3, following a complaint that was filed in January of 2018 from a “concerned citizen alleging that Judge Madrid has ‘continuously and blatantly endorsed’ Chuck Schultz, a candidate for Kleberg County Commissioner Precinct Two,” the commission record stated.
Leading up to the 2018 primary election, a photo of Madrid standing next to now Pct. 2 Kleberg County Commissioner Chuck Schultz was posted on Facebook, with the judge standing behind one of Schultz’ campaign posters, giving a ‘thumbs up’ hand gesture.
Madrid was asked by the commission to provide a written response to the complaint, in which he stated he was tagged in the photo that appeared on his personal Facebook account.
“He explained that he did not feel the photo was inappropriate because it did not include any written or verbal remarks which could be construed as an improper endorsement under the canons,” the commission statement said.
However, about a week after the photo was posted, County Attorney Kira Talip contacted Madrid about a complaint the county received regarding the photo, and the judge said he contacted the “Ethics Committee” and later decided to delete the photo from his Facebook page.
Madrid said in his statement that he “complied with Canon 5(2) by: (1) not allowing the use of his name to endorse candidates, (2) not displaying political signs on his property, and (3) never endorsing other candidates fundraising activities.”
The Commission concluded Madrid “lent his prestige of his judicial office to advance the private interests of Chuck Schultz,” and that “Judge Madrid’s actions constituted an improper public endorsement of Chuck Schultz for public office (and) constitutes a willful violation of Canons 2B and 5(2) of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct.”
Rudy Madrid said on Tuesday when he takes pictures in any setting, his “trademark pose” is always to give a “thumbs up,” and he doesn’t “discriminate against political parties.”
“I’m friends with everybody in Kleberg County and anyone can tell you that I don’t choose sides,” Madrid said.
Following the initial complaint, Madrid said after he deleted the picture from his Facebook page, he took extra precautions to ensure he did not have a picture like the one in the complaint appear on his Facebook again, and is trying to prevent another “misunderstanding.”
“There were no public comments (that I made) supporting Commissioner Schultz. I did not contribute to his campaign,” Madrid said. “The only thing I’m guilty of is being a good friend to Mr. Schultz, a gentleman who I respect dearly, and I’m guilty of taking a picture with him. And for that, I accept the public warning humbly. And I made sure that I’ve told all candidates from this point forward that unfortunately, I cannot take photos with them. It’s no disrespect to them. That’s just what’s required by the judicial ethics committee.”
In an interview Tuesday, Madrid identifed the person who made the complaint as Ben Figueroa, and described it as a “political attack.”
“It’s pretty sad, in my mind, that someone such as Ben Figueroa would stoop this low, as a direct political attack against the county judge who has devoted his life toward the citizens of Kleberg County.”
In a phone interview Tuesday, Figueroa acknowledged filing the complaint and said he did so as a “concerned citizen.”
“I am just doing my duty as a citizen,” Figueroa said. “There was no other motivation other than he’s a public figure; he’s a judge. He can’t do that, he’s violating several judges’ canons, and I’ve only reported two of them.”
Figueroa said it is “incumbent upon every citizen to look at those things, and be part of the process.”
“He’s a sitting judge, he is a representative of all the people,” Figueroa said. “I was just doing my duty. I thought ‘no, no you just cannot go around doing whatever you want.’ You are an elected official. And I think when you violate a canon and you’re a sitting judge, somebody needs to say so.”