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Judge Says Dallas County DA Can Remain In Office

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - A court hearing was held on Friday, focusing on the future of embattled Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk, and whether or not she should be removed from office. Her opponents called for her resignation as her supporters urged for her to have a second chance.

Judge David Peeples ruled in favor of Hawk by dismissing the case.

Hawk has been criticized during her short time in office after a series of high-profile firings from within her department, and a disclosure that she suffers from depression. She missed work for more than two months last year while receiving treatment for the severe mental illness.

The district attorney has admitted to thoughts of suicide in the past, and either abuse or a dependency on prescription drugs.

Read More About Susan Hawk's Time In Office

According to the lawsuit filed last month by Ellis County District Attorney Patrick Wilson, a one-time Hawk employee claimed that the Dallas County official was not fit for office. That employee, former administrative chief Cindy Stormer, had asked that the Dallas County district attorney be temporarily removed from office pending a jury trial to determine if she could serve.

Stormer's petition asked that Hawk be removed from office for incompetency and official misconduct.

In court documents, Wilson stated that, when Hawk left office to seek depression treatment, she made no other arrangements for the management of her office in her absence. "The fact remains, the defendant essentially abandoned her post," he said.

Lawyers for Hawk explained Friday that she did not immediately go public with her depression due to the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Hawk began her job just last January, and her tenure has been marked by controversy and drama. She fired top managers like Bill Wirskye and dismantled the office's new digital forensics laboratory, designed to speed up criminal cases. Prior to the lab's creation, the county had to rely on similar facilities from federal agencies, which caused delays in prosecuting cases.

Some former employees said that Hawk was paranoid, and accused others of being "out to get her."

Wirskye and former administrative chief Jennifer Balido were once some of Hawk's most trusted employees. Now, they joined the movement of opponents trying to oust her from office.

In an affidavit, Wirskye said, "It was by belief that her incompetency was due to severe mental illness and/or substance abuse, characterized by delusional paranoia, limited cognitive ability, and ultimately a complete break from reality."

Wirskye recalled some of Hawk's bizarre moments. He stated, "She accused me of calling her mother, harassing her, breaking into her parent's garage, and breaking into her house and stealing a photo of her." Hawk later recanted those accusations.

In a statement, Balido said that nobody knew when Hawk would show up for work. "She would not return phone calls or texts. Her attendance at the office and other community functions became increasingly sporadic," Balido stated.

The city's top prosecutor has said that she is feeling better now after battling depression, and is able to lead her office. Hawk is in charge of 450 attorneys and a $50 million budget.

During the Friday hearing, Hawk attorney Brent Walker called the efforts to remove his client from office an "unprecedented, unwarranted attack on her mental health." He added that the lawsuit was brought on by five "disgruntled employees" who had not been around Hawk in months, explaining the situation as "personality conflicts."

Walker also invoked the thought of Texas being run by Gov. Greg Abbott, a man in a wheelchair, as proof that disabilities are not a hindrance when it comes to serving in public office. Wilson called it unfair to compare mental and physical health issues.

Hawk receives more than $210,000 each year. The state provides $140,000 of her salary while Dallas County pays for the rest along with an extra $7,500 car allowance. There is no set amount of vacation days for elected Texas officials -- that is for them to decide -- but most officials follow the policies of their staffers.

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