Court filings say Houston-area appeals court judge serves while suffering from Alzheimer’s

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Texas First Court of Appeals Justice Laura Carter Higley has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease but continues to serve on the bench, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The newspaper reported that records show the 72-year-old judge’s sons, Garrett and Robert Higley are attempting to become her legal guardians due to her failing cognitive health.

“Due to the recent (and rapid) progression of her Alzheimer’s disease, Justice Higley’s mental state has deteriorated to the point that she is no longer able to care for her own physical health or manage her own financial affairs,” the Higley brothers court filing said.

The documents said the judge can only carry on brief conversations and struggles to remember information she received just a day before.

The judge did not respond to several calls to her office by the Chronicle on Tuesday. A receptionist confirmed Wednesday that Higley had received the newspaper’s messages.

Appeals court Chief Justice Sherry Radack would not confirm Higley’s mental state, telling the Chronicle, “You know I can’t comment on that.”

The nine justices of the First Court of Appeals hear cases from Houston and much of southeast Texas.

The newspaper reported that it’s unknown whether any official complaints have been filed against Higley based on her rulings but pointed out the state constitution allows for judges to be removed from office due to a disability that interferes with the performance of their duties.

The guardianship filing by the Higley brothers refers to previous efforts to have the judge removed from her position, but the Chronicle reported that it’s unclear who initiated those efforts. The attorneys for the brothers didn’t return the newspaper’s request for comment.

Higley has served as Place 5 justice on the court since 2002 and was re-elected in 2008 and 2014. Her term ends December 2020.

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