DALLAS (CBS11) – After months of controversy over her publicized bout with depression, Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk scored a major legal and personal victory:
During a nearly two hour court hearing, a specially appointed judge ruled she can stay in office.
Even before the proceedings began Friday morning, Ms. Hawk expressed confidence. “I’m not ashamed of my mental illness. I’m not going to back away from it because it has made me a better District Attorney.”
But the special prosecutor for the state told the judge her severe bout with depression and erratic behavior last year made her incompetent, and therefore, she should be removed as DA.
Her defense lawyers disagreed, saying she’s feeling better now and that the office is running well.
Judge David Peeples of San Antonio agreed and ruled, “The petition is removed.”
He didn’t explain.
According to state law, his ruling can’t be appealed.
Ms. Hawk hugged her attorneys and on her way out of the courtroom told reporters, “I’m feeling fantastic. Just having this behind me, behind all of us is like a black cloud over our office needs to go away because we’re doing fantastic things.”
Questions began to arise quickly after Hawk entered office.
First about the firing of some of her top people and what some in the office described as her paranoid behavior.
Then last July, she left to seek treatment for her depression without telling the public or most of her employees.
After repeated questions of her whereabouts, Hawk’s political consultant told reporters she was taking much needed time off.
Within the week, Hawk announced she was being treated for depression.
She returned to work in October after nearly eleven weeks.
Hawk revealed she received treatment in Houston and had experienced suicidal thoughts.
The special prosecutor, Ellis County DA Patrick Wilson said in court papers Hawk had abandoned her post.
After the hearing, Wilson said he thought the case to remove her should have moved forward.
But Wilson said he did the job he was hired to do. “I have no emotional stake in the outcome of this. This is Dallas County’s problem, not mine.”
Cindy Stormer, who Hawk hired as her second administrative chief and then fired, first filed the petition to oust her. “I was doing this for the citizens of Dallas and I wish Ms. Hawk the best of luck.”
Bill Wirskye briefly served as Hawk’s First Assistant until she fired him.
This week, Wirskye joined the effort to have Hawk removed from office.
But on Friday Wirskye said, “I wish nothing but the best for everyone in the Dallas County DA’s office. I’m proud to have been a prosecutor there.”
Hawk’s supporters, including Dallas County Republican party chairman Wade Emmert say she and her office can now focus on their mission. “Susan’s been back now for several months, and I think her office has been working. I think we can expect more of the same. She is healthy, she is stable, and her office is running top-notch.”
The Dallas County Democratic party once called for Hawk to step down.
On Friday, chairwoman Carol Donovan said she respected the judge’s decision.
For her part, Ms. Hawk says part of her mission will be to help others with mental illness. “The stigma still exists. I experienced it personally. I understand why it does, and I’m going to do everything I can to be the best district attorney in Dallas and continue to lead Dallas County and to make sure and be a crusader for the stigma to go away because it’s time for it to go away.”
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