Possible effects of Rosemary Lehmberg civil trial

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by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist DATHAN HULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on December 9, 2013 at 11:18 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 10 at 8:08 AM

AUSTIN -- A civil trial that started Monday is a first for Travis County.

"It's historic in the sense that generally you don't have an elected government official that is, you know, on trial for her job," said civil trial attorney and Texas Bar Legislative Chair David Chamberlain.

The civil lawsuit against Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg alleges she should be removed from office because of her DWI conviction last April.

Deputies who processed Lehmnberg in the jail described her behavior as rude, angry and belligerent. Her blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.

Lehmberg pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. She served 21 days.

"It's once again appalling, and it will always be appalling, and it will always be enough to justify not only her resigning but removing her from office," said Kerry O'Brien.

O'Brien filed the first civil lawsuit against DA Lehmberg. That suit was dropped due to legalities in the suit.

County Attorney David Escamilla and attorney Richard Reed filed subsequent suits. Reed says the suits were combined to create the current lawsuit against Lehmberg, but it is primarily under Escamilla.

"She clearly believed that she was entitled to preferential treatment. And I think an elected official ought to be held to a higher standard of conduct than an ordinary citizen. And in my judgment she has breached the public trust," he said.

The suit is based on a Texas constitutional code that states an elected official can be removed for intoxication on or off duty.

"I'm very confident that the outcome of this trial is going to be fair and just and the correct result," Austin civil trial attorney David Chamberlain said.

The Texas Bar Legislative Chair also believes that if Lehmberg keeps her job, she will likely go into private practice once her term is up in 2016. If she is removed, Governor Rick Perry will appoint an acting DA to serve out the rest of her term.

"If you are inside the district attorney's office, you might see some change in internal policies and you might see some changes in, you know, the upper level management," Chamberlain said.

Lehmberg's attorney pointed out that two Travis County judges and a county commissioner have kept their jobs after DWIs.. He also argues that alcohol has never affected DA Lehmberg's performance.

On Tuesday prosecutors plan to call Lehmberg to the stand.

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