DALLAS — A Dallas judge who was reprimanded for saying a 14-year-old rape victim wasn't the "victim she claimed to be" is now being sued for defamation by a woman who appeared in her court in a separate case.
Keisha Pope-Nixon filed a lawsuit Friday against State District Judge Jeanine Howard and Howard's campaign manager, Alvin Green. She alleges the pair inflicted emotional distress by publicly identifying her as a domestic abuse victim, misstating details of her case and falsely claiming she posed a threat to the judge during a public event.
"She needs to clear her reputation, but she also wanted to let judge Howard know that she can't use her platform to bully people or criminalize them without facing repercussions," said Nixon's attorney, Justin Moore.
Howard handled a domestic abuse case involving Nixon's husband in 2014. Nixon had asked that her husband be sent for mental health treatment, but the judge instead imposed a two-year prison sentence.
Then last month, Nixon attended a public forum that included Howard and her opponent in Tuesday's Democratic primary election. Before her closing remarks, Howard saw Nixon in the audience, identified her by name, and proceeded to tell the audience that Nixon's "boyfriend was sent to prison for assaulting her numerous times." Moore said the outburst was unprompted.
Nixon held a press conference the next day calling on Howard to resign. She was joined by the Next Generation Action Network, a social justice activism group based in Dallas. Green responded by issuing a statement that said Howard was pointing out Nixon to security because she might have a weapon or be dangerous.
"The statements were false and they put Mrs. Nixon in a light that completely criminalized her, and a judge making those statements can serve to legitimize them regardless of them being false," Moore said.
Moore noted that Nixon doesn't have a history of violence, hasn't threatened the judge or acted in a way that would have caused her to be deemed a security risk. Moore said Nixon's real estate business has suffered and she has sought counseling.
Green released a statement Monday calling the lawsuit "frivolous" and "baseless," saying it was a desperate attempt on the eve of the primary election. Green also alleged that Nixon "has been a known security risk" to Howard and her staff since 2014, and claimed she was "banned from the court." A message left for Howard seeking comment wasn't immediately returned Monday.
Moore said he had no knowledge of his client being banned from Howard's courtroom. Marilynn Mayse, an attorney who represented Nixon's husband at one point, said Howard told her she never banned Nixon from the courtroom.
Nixon said she also filed an ethics complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct over the incident at the forum. The commission said it couldn't confirm or deny whether it receives complaints.
Howard previously received a public warning and was ordered to undergo additional education after four complaints were filed over the remarks about the rape victim after the 2014 case.
According to the warning, Howard was heavily criticized for a lenient sentence against a man who pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault after allegedly forcing a 14-year-old girl to have sex with him at a Dallas high school. The judge spoke to a reporter about the case, saying the girl wasn't the "victim she claimed to be." The warning also notes that Howard misread the girl's medical history during an in-chamber meeting.