Did U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith, Jr. send a threatening email to another judge?

Judge-SmithA few hours ago the Justice Department ordered the U.S. Marshals Service to start producing emails and other records about U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith, Jr. of Waco, including any records about whether Judge Smith threatened another judge.  That’s only the latest bad news for Judge Smith, who was reprimanded and partially suspended by the Fifth Circuit Judicial Council after I filed a judicial misconduct complaint against him in 2014.

Back in March, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request after receiving a tip that Judge Smith sent a threatening email to another judge, but the Marshals Service reflexively denied the request within 48 hours.  As I reported on March 30, 2016, I made requests for information in six categories, but here’s the one that got tongues wagging:

All records or emails concerning whether Judge Smith made derogatory or threatening comments to or about U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman or any other judge. This request includes, but is not limited to, any emails or records suggesting that Judge Pitman was not welcome in Waco. This request further includes, but is not limited to, added security costs related to Judge Pitman’s travel to Waco.

Judge Pitman normally holds court in Austin, but he is handling Judge Smith’s cases in Waco during the one-year partial suspension, and I am reliably informed that Chief Judge Orlando Garcia directed the Marshals Service to provide an escort for Judge Pitman during his trips to Waco. According to my sources, Chief Judge Garcia gave the order after Judge Smith sent a hostile email to Judge Pitman stating that Judge Pitman was “not welcome” in Waco.

Judge Pitman is gay, and Judge Smith is a jerk, so I have to wonder whether that’s why Judge Smith told Judge Pitman that he was unwelcome in Waco.  According to the letter that I received this afternoon from Sean R. O’Neill, chief of the administrative appeal staff in the Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy, he remanded my requests back to the Marshals Service for “further processing.”

“If USMS locates releasable records,” he wrote, “it will send them to you directly, subject to any applicable fees.” Stay tuned.