BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A Los Fresnos family is going to court to try to prevent a Cameron County justice of the peace from ordering spankings in his courtroom.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges that Justice of the Peace Gustavo "Gus" Garza told a 14-year-old girl's stepfather that she would be found guilty of a criminal offense and fined $500 for truancy unless the stepfather spanked her in the courtroom.
The lawsuit filed by Mary Vasquez and her husband, Daniel Zurita, described the paddle provided by Garza as large and heavy and fashioned from a thick piece of lumber.
"The word 'club' could be fairly used as a substitute for the word 'paddle' here as it appears to be something which may have been cut from a (two-by-four) piece of lumber," attorney Mark Sossi wrote in the family's petition. "The paddles provided by the judge are of such heft and weight that an individual striking an animal with one might be reasonably reported for cruelty to an animal."
In a story for Thursday's editions of The Brownsville Herald, Garza declined to comment on whether he has people spanked in his courtroom. He also said he had not seen the lawsuit.
The lawsuit asks a state district court to stop the spankings and remove Garza from office.
The family alleges in the lawsuit that Garza told Zurita to strike his stepdaughter repeatedly on the buttocks in open court.
Zurita said he didn't feel as if he had a choice but to follow the order. When he was through, the judge told him he had not struck the girl hard enough, Zurita said in an affidavit.
Vasquez said she had seen the judge order other public spankings.
"It is unconscionable that a Texas judge would order a parent, much less a step parent, be required to strike a child with such a thing in a Texas courtroom," the family's attorney wrote in a footnote on the petition. "It is equally unconscionable that an argument could be made that such an order would fall within the lawful authority of any Texas judge."