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Petition to remove DA can proceed, judge rules

El Paso Matters logo: MainLogoEl Paso Matters 9/28/2022 El Paso Matters

The petition to remove El Paso District Attorney Yvonne Rosales from office can move forward, according to a judge’s order issued Wednesday afternoon.

The order from Judge Tryon D. Lewis of Odessa granted defense attorney Omar Carmona’s application for a citation and ordered that Rosales be formally served with that citation. After this, she’ll have 10 days to respond to the petition. In previous motions, Rosales has said the removal petition is political. 

In his order, Lewis also gave County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal 10 days to decide if she will prosecute or dismiss the removal petition. Bernal can request additional time to weigh that decision. Under state law, the County Attorney must represent the state in this type of case. 

Depending on Bernal’s decision, the petition could move to a trial, where a jury would ultimately decide whether or not to remove the El Paso DA.

In his original Aug. 24 petition, Carmona asked that Rosales be temporarily suspended from office while the removal petition – which alleges incompetency and official misconduct by the DA – was being considered. The judge did not address this part of Carmona’s request on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Lewis dismissed all pleadings beyond Carmona’s original petition and application for citation, saying they’d come too soon in the legal process for removing county officials.

In one of these dismissed filings, Rosales’s attorneys contended that Bernal should be disqualified from representing the state in removal proceedings because the County Attorney’s office employs at least four attorneys that Rosales had not re-hired when she took office in January 2021; one of these attorneys is married to Carmona, according to the filing.

“The El Paso County Attorney should have immediately recognized this conflict and recused herself,” it reads.

Bernal did not recuse herself. She instead submitted a now-dismissed motion affirming that she was “ready to fulfill her statutory mandate.”

An amended version of Rosales’ filing also alleged that El Paso Matters and its CEO, Robert Moore, are part of a “political conspiracy” to oust her. Moore said the filing is an attempt by Rosales “to use the courts to intimidate and suppress a news organization whose coverage she doesn’t like.”

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