According to the commission, Low was conducting jury prequalification on May 7, 2021 when he referred to COVID-19 as the “China Virus.” He added that he felt the prequalification questions were “stupid” and questioned why he had to ask them.
When an unspecified number of potential jurors applauded his comment, Low “encouraged their behavior by laughing and nodding.”
An Asian American juror told the commission she felt unsafe and uncomfortable due to the judge’s comments, citing reports of hate crimes against Asian Americans.
State Judicial Conduct Commission Vice-Chair Janis Holt issued a public admonishment against Low, writing that after a review of the incident, the judge must undergo one hour of instruction on courtroom demeanor with a mentor. In addition to serving on the State Judicial Conduct Commission, Holt serves on the governing body of the Republican Party of Texas as the Committeewoman for Senate District 3.
“Based upon the record before it and the factual findings recited above, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct has determined that the Honorable Justin Low, 161st District Court, Odessa, Ector County, Texas, should be publicly admonished and ordered to obtain additional education for his unprofessional demeanor during jury selection which demonstrated bias and prejudice against potential jurors through his words and actions, in violation of Canon 3B(6) of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct and casted public discredit on the judiciary in violation of Article V, Section 1-a(6)A of the Texas Constitution.”
Low was elected to his first four-year term in office in 2020 and is one of five district judges whose jurisdictions cover Ector County.
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Matt Stringer is a reporter for The Texan who writes about all things government, politics, and public policy. He graduated from Odessa College with an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and Leadership. In his free time, you will find him in the great outdoors, usually in the Davis Mountains and Big Bend region of Southwest Texas.