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Texas Judge Removed from Sex Discrimination Case After Questionable Comments

Audrey Miller sued Sam Houston State University after the University denied her tenure and removed her from a faculty committee. Miller alleged the University engaged in these acts because of her gender and in retaliation for complaints she made.

A federal district court in Southern Texas dismissed her claims and granted summary judgment to the University. However, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals revived her claims because of the federal judge’s conduct. The appellate court found Judge Lynn N. Hughes “from the outset…evinced a prejudgment of Miller’s claims.” A reasonable observer could question his impartiality and ability to fairly decide the case, according to the circuit court.

Judge Hughes apparently dismissed Miller’s claims on his own initiative during a case management conference without any discussion. In response to the parties’ decision not to consolidate Miller’s cases, he said, “All right. I will get credit for closing two cases when I crush you.” Hughes denied Miller’s requests for discovery and limited her ability to depose key witnesses. He sat in on part of Miller’s deposition (which took place in his courtroom), interjecting at one point. The circuit court noted, “To put it simply, the court’s discovery restrictions suffocated any chance for Miller to fairly present her claims.” Miller’s case has been reassigned to another federal district court judge. According to news reports, the circuit court has reassigned three of Judge Hughes’s cases in the last several years.