Complaint filed against Texas judge over 'get married or go to jail' order

By Lisa Bose McDermott

TEXARKANA, Texas (Reuters) - A misconduct complaint has been filed against an East Texas judge for giving a man who pleaded guilty to assault a choice of going to jail or getting married and ordering him to write Bible verses, officials said on Monday.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation filed the complaint with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct on Friday, seeking to disbar Smith County Court-at-Law Judge Randall Rogers.

The judge last month gave Josten Bundy, 21, a choice of marrying his girlfriend Elizabeth Jaynes, 19, and being released on probation or spending 15 days in jail after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault. Bundy, who had gotten into a fight with Jaynes's former boyfriend, chose to get married.

The judge also ordered Bundy to write Bible verses and attend counseling, according to a transcript of the proceedings obtained by broadcaster KLTV in Tyler, Texas.

Rogers could not be reached for comment.

Sam Grover, a staff attorney for the foundation that filed the complaint, said the judge had violated his ethical duties and his behavior was unacceptable.

"It violates the personal liberties of the couple and ordering the writing of Bible verses is clearly a violation of the separation of church and state," Grover said in an interview.

Rogers, who received his law degree from Texas Tech and his bar license in 1974, does not have a disciplinary history, according to the Texas Bar Association.

The couple, who had talked about eventually getting married but did not have immediate wedding plans, are happy that they have tied the knot. But they did not appreciate being forced into it, they told KLTV.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)