Man ordered to spank stepdaughter in court

June 5, 2008 4:56:32 AM PDT
A family sued a justice of the peace Wednesday, complaining that he ordered a man to paddle his teenage stepdaughter in the courtroom and threatened to convict her of truancy if he didn't.

The lawsuit filed by Mary Vasquez and her husband, Daniel Zurita, described the paddle provided by Gustavo Garza, Cameron County justice of the peace, as 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 (2-by-4) 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," the family said.

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 that Garza told Zurita to strike his 14-year-old stepdaughter repeatedly on the buttocks in open court. It says the judge told Zurita the girl would be fined $500 if she wasn't paddled.

Zurita said in an affidavit that he didn't feel as though he had a choice and that when he was done, the judge told him he had not struck the girl hard enough.