Appeals court sends case back to Harris County judge who urged attorney to ‘hurry up’

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Judge

The Texas First Court of Appeals last week overturned a ruling by a civil court judge who cut off an attorney with the line, “What do I have to do to get y’all to hurry up?” during a 2018 trial.

The case sprang from a contract dispute between homeowner Dean Smith and contractor Lyle Bitner, whom Smith hired in 2015 to repair columns on his home, the Houston Chronicle reported. The two men disagree about what happened and how much work was completed, but what wasn’t in dispute was that Smith stopped paying, which led to the court case.

Bitner sought $20,000 to complete his payment for the work. It was during Bitner’s cross-examination by Smith attorney G. Troy Pickett that Harris County Court at Law Judge George Barnstone urged the attorney to hurry up.

The Chronicle reported that Pickett then asked for the case to be dismissed, telling the judge, “I mean, you asked what we would want, so — and otherwise, I have to ask the questions that establish whether or not he is entitled to the money that he’s asked for and whether or not he is being truthful in his statement regarding that amount.”

Barnstone immediately ruled against Smith, telling Pickett, “You are excused. Judgment for plaintiff. Court of Appeals is right there.” 

“I was shocked,” Pickett later told the newspaper. “Judges generally don’t violate the due process of the people in front of them in ways that are apparent.”

The case now goes before Barnstone again. He told the Chronicle he is barred by judicial rules from commenting on the case.

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