Criminal JusticeJudicialLocal NewsHarris County Criminal Court Judge Arrested on Charges of Official Oppression

Judge Darrell Jordan of Harris County Criminal Court 16 faces charges for punishing investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino without a hearing.
June 28, 2022
Harris County misdemeanor court Judge Darrell Jordan has been indicted on charges of Official Oppression related to a 2020 incident in which he jailed investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino for contempt of court.

Jordan was briefly taken into custody and released Monday on a $500 bond from the 339th District Criminal Court under Judge Teiva Bell. Although Official Oppression charges under Texas Penal Code are a Class A Misdemeanor, such cases are referred to felony courts for prosecution.

On June 30, 2020, Dolcefino entered Jordan’s courtroom to question the judge about his lack of action on a series of complaints of public corruption. Dolcefino was wearing a hidden camera to document the interaction.

According to the video evidence, Jordan at first greeted Dolcefino, but then told the reporter he would not answer his questions and threatened to hold him in contempt if he persisted. Moments later, Jordan had Dolcefino shackled and taken to jail.

The following day, television cameras recorded guards ushering Dolcefino back into the courtroom in handcuffs and a jail-issued orange jumpsuit. Jordan then sentenced him to three days in jail and 180 days of probation. After Dolcefino appealed, Jordan added an alcohol monitor and random drug tests to his probation conditions.

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Although Jordan maintained he had been holding virtual hearings when Dolcefino entered, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals later overturned Dolcefino’s conviction, writing, “after a review of evidence and arguments, the contempt of court allegation is not supported by the habeas corpus record.”

Dolcefino told The Texan he is calling for Jordan to resign. 

“This guy does not deserve to be on the bench, period,” said Dolcefino. “The Fort Bend County prosecutors spent months investigating this.”

Although Dolcefino filed his complaint in Harris County, District Attorney Kim Ogg recused herself, shifting the prosecution to Fort Bend District Attorney Brian Middleton. 

In response to the indictment, Jordan’s attorney told the Houston Chronicle that his client was innocent, adding that if Middleton went forward with the prosecution it would have “an absurd result and a chilling effect on a judge’s ability to maintain order in their courts.”

Last month, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished Jordan due to complaints that Jordan had “repeatedly indulged in intemperate conduct” and had exhibited bias against prosecutors and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office (HCDAO). 

The commission noted that Jordan had summoned several assistant district attorneys to his chambers to threaten them with criminal contempt penalties for showing him disrespect, had referred to himself as the “king” of his court, and referred to assistant district attorneys as “hang ‘em high prosecutors.” He was ordered to participate in two hours of instruction in “judicial temperament and demeanor and a judge’s role as a public servant.”

Jordan was also one of several judges who in 2020 sued to block Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order preventing Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo from ordering the release of violent suspects from jail due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus.

First elected in 2016, Jordan also filed declarations in federal court in support of bail reform, writing that secured bonds do not prevent released defendants from committing new crimes and that even suspects accused of violence or threatening violence against a family member could be released pre-trial with non-monetary conditions.


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Holly Hansen

Holly Hansen is a regional reporter for The Texan living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.