Ongoing Controversies

Judge Carlos Cortez loses battle to keep allegations of drugs and prostitutes private

Judge Carlos Cortez loses battle to keep salacious allegations private

Judge Carlos Cortez
Judge Carlos Cortez spends his professional and personal time in courtrooms. Judge Carlos Cortez/Facebook

State District Judge Carlos Cortez has lost a years-long battle to keep an ethics complaint against him from entering the public record. The Texas Court of Appeals ruled on April 16 that the documents should not be restricted.

The ruling stems from a 2010 defamation lawsuit that Cortez filed against his former attorney, Randy Johnston. In the process of defending himself against claims of defamation and libel, Johnston filed a number of records alleging proof of Cortez's criminal behavior.

 Chief Justice C.J. Morriss calls the accusations against Cortez criminal as well as "embarrassing and offensive."

In the court's April 16 decision, chief justice C.J. Morriss summarizes the case's circular conundrum thusly:

"Cortez claimed to be defamed, filed suit, demanded proof, and then, when responsive evidence was filed, dismissed his suit and demanded that the evidence be sealed."

As of 3:30 pm on April 16, the documents in question had not yet appeared on the Dallas County courts website.

A representative from the 298th District Court, where the Cortez case was filed, said she was waiting on the mandamus from the court of appeals before releasing the documents, which were filed in 2011 but never saw the light of day due to Cortez's motions to seal them.

In an effort to gain copies of the documents, the Dallas Morning News, Texas Lawyer and judge Marty Lowy joined the suit. According to the DMN, the records include allegations that Cortez sexually assaulted a little girl.

Chief Justice Morriss writes that the accusations are criminal in nature as well as "embarrassing and offensive." In his original lawsuit, Cortez cited "unfounded and dishonest allegations" of "hiring prostitutes and using drugs."

Cortez, who lost a bid for reelection in March, was also involved in a separate, high-profile legal case. Cortez criticized the Dallas police for arresting him after a dispute with his girlfriend in December 2013. A grand jury declined to indict Cortez on a felony assault charge for family violence on February 20.

The very same day, Cortez appeared on Fox 4 news and shared for the first time a November 2013 cellphone video in which his girlfriend appears to throw herself from his moving car and then blame Cortez for the incident. Dallas police said they had never been informed of the cellphone video's existence until it was played on the news.